AE Micro 2013 - Elements

I've loved the whole concept of the AE Micro anthologies since coming across them at the Friday night party of SF Contario 2: A collection of five very short stories (all less than 200 words) printed in a tiny point-size onto a sheet of 8.5 x 11 that could be cut and folded into a tiny booklet.

So, I was more than delighted when I found out the other week that my story "Dig for Fire" was to be included in AE Micro 2013 - Elements. The theme was open to interpretation: classic elements, periodic table, fundamental particles or the more general idea of things being reduced to more abstract essences. For my story, I chose the made-up element of phlogiston. Hardly my own creation, phlogiston theory was all the rage for explaining heat in the 17th century, prior to the discovery of kinetic-molecular theory. Phlogiston itself was allegedly a flammable substance that was otherwise undetectable essence inside things. When it was released it transformed into heat and fire. This attempted to explain why phlogiston-rich substances like wood and coal would weigh significantly less after burning, having just lost their reserve of phlogiston. It's all very quaint in light of current knowledge, but the question rose: What if this were actually true? How might the pursuit of energy (particularly on the scale of a country or empire) change as a result of this...especially if certain astronomical theories of the time also held?

It's a similar approach to an idea I first encountered in the too-obscure Celestial Matters by Richard Garfinkle. His conceit was to take Aristotelian physics and Ptolemaic astronomy and write a novel within those constraints.

Suddenly, I had pages upon pages of notes about alternate histories, scientific theories and Austro-Hungarian navy vessel names. There was more information that would fit into a 2000 word story that was heavy on exposition, much less fit comfortably in a 200 word piece.

So, there was "process" and after leaving behind many darlings--like descriptions of calculating the epicycles on epicycles of the different spheres' rotations and the physical conditions on the island-like sunspot--the story was hewed to be within limits and submitted with a few minutes to spare.

And so it's here and readable in less time that it takes to listen to its namesake Pixies song.