Okay, I have a treat for all of you who have been so patient with my absences here lately. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and now seems as good a time as any. I’m going to occasionally post a very old story that I wrote. When I say “old” I mean old. Like from when I was just starting out to write stories and submit them in my junior year in college.
It is difficult for me to look at these stories, let alone read them, but I think that posting them here serves a couple of good purposes:
- Geniuses excepted, almost no one starts out writing brilliant, publishable prose. If you feel like your writing is crap, wait until you get a load of mine, circa 1993.
- Practice (lots and lots of practice, in my case) really does help. I’m not one of the great writers of the science fiction/fantasy genre, but I do write publishable fiction, and I feel like I’m getting better at it.
- Whenever I don’t feel like I’m getting better at it, just look at one of these stories.
And so, without further delay, here is the very first story I wrote for submission after deciding I wanted to be a writer. The story was written sometime in December 1992. It is called “The Stone”
THE STONE by Jamie Todd Rubin Flint made his way across the freshly settled snow, his cold feet covered in the skin of a black bear. He walked, lifting his feet high to step briskly across the snow. He watched curiously as his breath became visible in the cold air. It was a cold afternoon, but Flint intended on making it to Ryszard, Asha's cave by night fall. He came to a point in the plain where a dead tree stood at the top of a slope. The snow sloped down steeply, and Flint warily made his way down the slope to the banks of a river that had frozen over in the cold. He glanced down at the ice and upon seeing his reflection, was reminded of how he had gotten his name. He was born near a river such as this one, and his people were named for the sight of their birth -- thus Flint meant "by the river". A sparkle caught his eye. There was something just beneath the level of the ice -- something shining in the depths of the warmer water. He looked closely and saw a perfectly smooth, violet stone. What luck! It was currently the Season of the Fox, for it was during this season that the Fox shed its red skin and became white like the snow. His people celebrated this metamorphosis by making a sacrifice of their own. This stone, coming from a frozen river, was certainly special and represented and excellent sacrifice and his part. Flint was sure that Asha would enjoy it. He looked around. There did not appear to be any spears in the vicinity and he had left his own behind. Walking through the plains without a spear was risky, but it was also a symbol of truce with other tribes, and truce was important for survival at this time of the year. Well, he could melt the ice with fire -- but he didn't have the proper stones to create the required heat. This was a difficult problem indeed -- but he had to get the stone. Then he remembered the dead tree. Quickly, Flint ran back up the embankment and stopped in front of the tree. He knelt down before the tree, and began to pray: Eternal Creator, he prayed, Like the Fox sheds his skin, so may You allow this tree to shed a stout limb for me. He closed his eyes and concentrated. In a moment, there was a rustling in the brush off to the side. Flint looked up and saw a small, red fox peak through. Curious, the fox took a step out onto the plain and Flint watched it cautiously. The fox began to trot toward him, and then it broke into a run. Flint stood up, his heart racing, and took a step back. The fox growled, and the growl frightened some birds nesting in the dead tree. The birds spread their wing and broke into flight, startling both the fox and Flint. The fox stopped in its tracks and began chasing the birds. In a moment he was lost in the brush. Flint stood up and brushed the snow off himself. He looked back at the tree -- and found that in the commotion, the birds must have knocked off a branch, and apparently a sturdy one. He picked up the branch, knowing his wish was granted, and headed back to the river. The stone was still in the river. With stick in hand, Flint raised his powerful arms above his head and smashed a hole in the ice, big enough for his hand to fit through. With a bit of maneuvering, he got the stone. Satisfied, he continued his journey to Ryszard and Asha. They would surely enjoy the stone, no less the story behind it.
I won’t embarrass myself too much by pointing out every last horrific thing about this, but you can see some obvious ones in the first paragraph. I used the word “feet” twice in rapid succession. Ditto “cold.” Or the clichés like, “a sparkle caught his eye.” Or that the story lacks dialog of any kind.
What I will say is that, while I don’t remember what the idea behind this story was, the names in it: Ryszard and Asha, were variants of my roommate and his (at the time girlfriend, and now wife), Rich and Tricia.
But perhaps the most significant thing about this story was that I wrote it. It was the first. To be a writer, you have to write.