On Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy
The very first science fiction story I ever read was Robert Heinlein's juvenile novel, Have Spacesuit, Will Travel. It was 1962, and I was eleven years old. From that moment, I was hooked on the genre. I did not at first make any distinction between fantasy and science fiction. I spent most of one summer in bed, reading all the L. Frank Baum "Oz" books. I read E. Nesbit's Five Children and It and The Phoenix and the Carpet. Over my father's protests — he thought them drivel — I collected every Edgar Rice Burroughs book I could find.
I wanted more. Dad provided. One whole bookcase in my father's study was devoted to a complete set of back issues of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, the magazine, still extant today, which Dad had helped start in the late Forties. I set out to read them all, one after another, starting with the earliest issue. The short story format delighted me. So much wonder packed into so little space, world after world like pearls on a string! I devoured them like brownies, those in F&SF and in anthologies Dad later bought me through The Science Fiction Book Club. Some I remember still, though it has been decades since I read them: "The Roads Must Roll"; "By His Bootstraps" (one of the best time travel stories ever written); "The Ugly Little Boy"; "A Boy and His Dog"; "Old Hundredth" (which still brings tears to my eyes when I recall it); James Tiptree Jr.'s "The Women Men Don't See"; Zenna Henderson's tales of The People. I longed to create such worlds of my own for me, and others, to be lost in. I wrote a few stories, quickly and mercifully discarded.
Then, in 1971, my father dropped dead of a heart attack. I had a nervous breakdown resulting in a religious conversion. I spent seven years trying to make sense of life as a Fundamentalist Christian, abandoning most of my pre-Christian enthusiasms as suspect, trying to fulfill my appetite for wonder through the glories of the Cross. It didn't work. I couldn't feel what the others in my church claimed to feel, though I prayed on my knees the night through. So I turned for solace to Christian imaginative fiction: Tolkien; George MacDonald; C. S. Lewis's "Narnia" books and his Space Trilogy. (I consider The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Magician's Nephew, and The Last Battle the best of the former, and That Hideous Strength the strongest of the latter, though I cannot read it today; its homophobia angers me too deeply). I started writing a Christian fantasy novel of my own, which I entitled The Morning Knight. I finished it; sent it out to as many publishers as I could find; it was rejected by all of them; and I put it, and my novelist's aspirations, aside. (I have not been able to complete a novel since.)
Finally my emerging homosexual identity demanded expression, and finding it incompatible with the teachings of the Bible and my church subculture, I left both my church and Christianity in despair. I started reading science fiction again. Sympathetic to the feminist movement, I scared myself with the stories of Joanna Russ and the feminist S.F. anthologies Women of Wonder and More Women of Wonder. I had been sexually abused by my mother, and something in these anthologies triggered rage and grief I had not realized I possessed. So I wrote "Full Fathom Five My Father Lies," a story set in an all-male society of star-castaways who reproduced by cloning and pair-bonded template to scion. It was actually a story about my unconscious attempts to escape the enforced pair-bonding with my mother, but I did not realize this for many years. All I knew was that I wrote it in two drafts and, certain no one would want to touch its covert homoerotic theme with a ten-foot-pole, sent it off to Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. One of the editors returned it with enthusiastic suggestions for revision. Shocked, I took his suggestions; rewrote the piece; sent it back; and was flummoxed when I received a contract and a cheque not long after. It was my first published short story.
— Rand B. Lee, June, 2010
Over the years, Rand has been a semi-regular contributor to Asimov's Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. His story, "Knight of Shadows," was featured in The Year’s Best Science Fiction: First Annual Collection, edited by Gardner Dozois (New York: Bluejay Books, April 1984); and in The 1984 Annual World’s Best SF, edited by Donald A. Wollheim (New York: DAW Books, June 1984). The first story he ever sold, “Full Fathom Five My Father Lies,” originally published in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Vol. 5, No. 2, Whole No. 36, 16 February 1981, was later reprinted in Isaac Asimov’s Wonders of the World (London: Robert Hale Limited, 1983); and in Worlds Apart: An Anthology of Lesbian and Gay Science Fiction and Fantasy (Boston: Alyson Publications, Inc., July 1986).
Be sure to stop by Amazon.com and pick up your copy of the Kindle edition of Rand's short story collection, The Green Man & Other Stories, for only $3.99!
For a listing of Rand's Science Fiction and Fantasy publishing credits in PDF format, click here.