I went back to writing short stories this past year as a way to start over, to get back to my roots as a writer. (As a grad student, I'd have said I never intended to write a novel in my life.) What I really needed was a time away from writing, completely. But I'm incapable of the fallow fields approach so I went into the fields and took soil samples to see what the land offers, stories.
Around that time, my manager said something that made me speculate on the future uses of virtual reality. I was sitting in my office, trying to think, completely annoyed by my 16 year old son who was yelling while playing a video game with friends of his who were likely yelling at the same game in their own bedrooms throughout town. I thought what I usually think -- Please God, I hope they're learning something in those games -- one good thing. Then I thought, Maybe it's therapeutic. Then I thought, What if we could use VR gaming for therapy instead of talk-therapy?
I then created Klaus Han -- the self-proclaimed bad boy of virtual reality gaming therapy. The short story is up at Amazon now -- for,99 cents through Tor.com -- and I'm working with a producer on the a half-hour TV comedy version. In the show bible, I describe Klaus like this: "Think of the boyish cockiness of 30 ROCK’S Jack Donaghy cross-pollinated with the psychological fuckery of James Spader’s Robert California from THE OFFICE."
So, despite the small robot on the cover, it's not for kids. I'll have three stories coming out with Tor over the next three months -- all strange in their own ways. I suppose I'm still trying to pace out the plots of land, still plotting.
My main job as a writer -- mid-career at this point -- is finding ways to keep coming back to the page. I suppose that's true, in one way or another, for most people, no matter what career you're in the middle of.
Here's "The Virtual Swallows of Hog Island."