On January 1st, 2013, I sold Jump the Black to Rick Klaw’s Texas-themed sci-fi anthology Rayguns Over Texas, which was my first pro-level genre sale.*
I haven’t ever really talked about the story itself, as it didn’t seem appropriate when I first sold it.
When it was coming out, it made more sense to talk about the anthology as a whole.
I should preface this by saying I’m really not a short-story writer. It’s just not a format I have a lot of affinity for, and I don’t tend to write them without a specific purpose or plan. However, “invited to submit to this anthology” works very well as a specific purpose or plan.
So, I received the invite and remembered a nugget of an idea that I had had for a sci-fi story. It was little more than this: A sci-fi future with a large interstellar, multi-alien community, but Earth isn’t a part of it. Earth is the place you leave to have opportunity. Earth is Mexico.
I did some research into border crossings, the lengths people go to in order to get in the States. I thought about “coyotes”– those who “help” others get across the border, and the methods they use to do it. The conditions people will submit themselves to, the trust they will place on those bringing them, and the hope that when they emerge on the other side that an opportunity will be there that will make it all worth it.
And I wanted something in there that could be a direct allegory to swimming across the Rio Grande. Thus “jumping the black”– where the smuggled humans, freshly awoken from the paralytic “sleep” they were put in to avoid getting noticed by the scans– have to leap through empty space from the smuggler’s cargo hold to a port left open on the space station, so that they’re off the smuggler’s ship before his cargo gets inspected. If the humans jumping don’t make it safely… that’s their problem. Also, if they get caught right when they get in the station, their problem.
I really enjoyed writing this, and it definitely clicked one big button for me: I could write a lot more of it. I kept it at 4000 words to make it fit easily in the anthology, but I could easily expand the story to novella length, building out what happens next once the humans make it off the rock.
But, as I said, selling that on January 1st was an excellent way to start 2013, and I was quite pleased to see it in print in September.
*- My story for The Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction was paid at over a dollar per word, but it was only 21 words long. Twenty-two with the title. But it wasn’t genre.