Bob shuffled into his editor’s office with all the confidence of a cat venturing into a kennel.
“Peter,” he nodded.
Peter waved him over. “Come in, come in. Have a seat.”
“I got your message,” said Bob. “What’s the bad news?”
“Why do you presume it’s bad news?” asked Peter.
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” said Bob as he balanced himself on the edge of the chair. “An editor doesn’t summon a writer for an urgent meeting less than a week after a new manuscript has been turned in just to say how much he enjoyed it. So what is it, Peter? Is the publisher culling the herd again? Am I getting dropped?”
“Relax,” said Peter. “It’s nothing like that. I read the book, and it’s mostly good stuff. I wanted to discuss some minor changes that would make the story just a little more realistic.”
Bob settled deeper into the chair. “Realistic how? It’s an adventure yarn with faster-than-light spaceships and laser guns.”
“I get that,” said Peter. “As you know, Bob, space fantasy is hotter than ever. It’s the small stuff, some details in the worldbuilding that could really stand to be fleshed out. Today’s readers are more sophisticated. They want everything to make logical sense.”
“OK, I’ll bite,” said Bob. “What sort of details?”
“Your carnivorous space manatees, for one.”
“What about them?”
“Manatees aren’t carnivores, Bob.”
Bob processed this for a few seconds. “But they’re space manatees,” he declared.
“Then they should eat space algae. Because there aren’t enough hot babes in skimpy space suits available in the space manatee eco-system for them to evolve as predators.”
“I see,” said Bob. He pulled out a notepad and began scribbling furiously. “This is an easy fix. I can change it into a space shark. Which evolved feeding on the space manatees, but won’t turn down an occasional astronaut-sized snack.”
“Fine,” said Peter. “But this brings me to my next point.”
“No. Skimpy space suits. Who in the world would design a space suit for fashion instead of utility?”
“Hey, that one isn’t my fault,” said Bob. “You guys have been putting pictures of anatomically improbable women in skimpy spacesuits on the covers of my books for years. I’m just trying to remain consistent.”
“Touché,” said Peter. “I can’t argue with the fact that sex sells. Or with the head of the art department. Moving on,” he scanned through the notes on his desk. “Ah, yes. There’s also the jungle planet orbiting Epsilon Indi.”
“The one with the pirate base, yes. What’s wrong with it?”
“Aside from the fact that no habitable planet can have just one climate? Epsilon Indi is a K-type star, colder than our sun. And since your jungle planet is described as being,” Peter glanced at his notes, “seventh from its sun, it should by all rights be way too cold to support vegetation of any kind.”
“I see.” Bob craned his neck to glance at his editor’s notes. “How many more of these have you got?”
Peter held up twelve pages of handwritten text.
“Why don’t I take that list home and work on some revisions,” said Bob. “I’m sure I can fix things up by the end of the week.”
“Great,” said Peter and handed over the papers.
“You know,” said Bob as he was getting up, “it occurs to me that if this were a science fiction story, the twist would have had to be that everything in my book is accurate, and that at least one of us is an actual laser-wielding, manatee-hunting space pirate from the jungles of Epsilon Indi Seven.”
Peter chuckled. “Too bad it’s not. That sounds way more exciting than real life.”
“That’s exactly why people buy space operas,” said Bob. He said his goodbyes and left.
Peter looked at his watch; it was almost five. He checked the crystal ball. It predicted heavy magical storms throughout the evening with a slight chance of a dragon attack. Peter groaned, then went over to the broom closet and pulled out his ride.
The commute home was going to be hell.
Alex Shvartsman is a writer, translator and game designer from Brooklyn, NY. Over 100 of his short stories have appeared in Nature, Galaxy’s Edge, InterGalactic Medicine Show, and many other magazines and anthologies. He won the 2014 WSFA Small Press Award for Short Fiction and was a two-time finalist for the Canopus Award for Excellence in Interstellar Fiction (2015 and 2017). He is the editor of the Unidentified Funny Objects annual anthology series of humorous SF/F. His latest collection, The Golem of Deneb Seven and Other Stories, is forthcoming in 2018. Find out more on his website.