Tim Stevens’ first time reading Analog was as an astounded ten-year-old; his first time appearing in Analog‘s pages is now, with “Alone in the Cold,” in our May/June issue [buy it here]! We’re delighted to play host to Tim’s debut as a professional author, and to have chatted with him about “Alone in the Cold,” his writing process, and what he’s learned from his careers in computer science and journalism.
Analog Editor: What is the story behind this piece?
TS: “Alone in the Cold” is the story of a lone geologist sent as part of a first-wave, explorational colonization. The extrasolar system around Proxima Centauri has been licensed for corporate development. Our geologist is assigned one of the lesser-desirable planets and told to find some sort of resource worth mining. He’s very motivated, as he’s become frustrated with his work back home: helping to exploit Earth’s last remaining resources.
Suffice to say, things don’t quite go according to plan on his designated planet.
AE: How did this story germinate?
TS: A lot of my stories start with single images or phrases that seem to come from nowhere and get stuck in my brain. In this case, it was an image of an explorer standing on a sandy riverbed in the middle of a canyon made of ice. It took the better part of a week’s worth of pondering to wrap a story around that image, then another week to get the first draft hammered out.
AE: Is this piece part of a greater universe of stories?
TS: I hope it will be, yes. The extrasolar system referenced in the story is composed of several other habitable and semi-habitable planets and moons, each of which has its own small colonization party. My goal is to explore what happens to each in a series of loosely interconnected stories. “Alone in the Cold” is the first.
AE: What is your history with Analog?
TS: As a reader, Analog and I go way, way back. When I was maybe 10, a coworker of my mother’s was cleaning out their book collection. One day, my mother brought home two garbage bags full of wonderful novels, like Dune, The Cat who Walked Through Walls, and an almost complete collection of Kurt Vonnegut’s works. If that weren’t enough, mixed in were dozens of back-issues of classic science fiction and fantasy magazines, including Analog. Suffice to say my young mind was suitably blown, and I’m truly honored to now be part of that history myself.
AE: How much or little do current events impact your writing?
TS: Honestly, current events are so morbidly depressing right now that I’m leery to stir too much into the recipe. However, many trends like commercial space exploration and climate change are impossible to ignore. I also find the current state of the media industry fascinating (and disconcerting), so I occasionally play with that thread in my other tales.
When your career revolves around deadlines there’s really no time for writers’ block. I can always find words, so for me, it’s more about knowing when I am and am not properly engaged. If I find my mind wandering while I’m at the keyboard, what I’m putting on the page is probably not working.
AE: What is your process?
TS: The formative seeds of my stories tend to float into my brain at about four a.m., when I’m lingering in a hypnagogic state. If something sticks, I’ll take a week or a month or more to develop it in my head before I start to put anything down in a word processor.
My day job is quite demanding so I don’t have as much time for my own stuff as I’d like (does anyone?), but Sunday morning is my designated writing time. That’s when I find my mind is clearest. I get up at about five or five-thirty a.m. and write until I start to lose momentum. During the week, early mornings and evenings I work through the endless critique/revise, depression/optimism cycle.
AE: How do you deal with writers’ block?
TS: I’ve been a journalist of some sort since the late nineties. When your career revolves around deadlines there’s really no time for writers’ block. I can always find words, so for me, it’s more about knowing when I am and am not properly engaged. If I find my mind wandering while I’m at the keyboard, what I’m putting on the page is probably not working.
AE: What inspired you to start writing?
TS: Growing up on a hearty diet of weird tales gave me the bug for writing at a young age. I used to write little short stories and give them to my friends at school. I never really stopped. However, it’s only in the past few years that I decided to get serious about trying for an audience as such. This is my first professional publication.
AE: Many of our Analog authors are interested in science. Do you have any scientific background, and does it impact your fiction?
TS: I studied computer science, and that was my primary career for a good while, so that’s always there in the back of my mind. In my more recent journalistic endeavors, I was lucky enough to meet with and profile companies and teams defining the future of commercial space exploration. Those fascinating conversations with fascinating people had a huge impact on my vision for the future.
AE: What careers have you had and how do they affect your writing?
TS: I started with a career in computer science, which carried me all the way up to Enterprise Software Architect before I decided I’d had enough. I moved from there to journalism, in which I’d dabbled part-time since college. I’m lucky now to be a full-time automotive and technology journalist. Through the course of my software career I learned a lot about corporate dynamics and that anything is possible with the right code and coders. My journalism career, on the other hand, has taught me a lot about writing discipline, while also providing me with some amazing opportunities for travel and learning.
AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing?
TS: I’m most active on Twitter, @Tim_Stevens, and on Instagram @TimStevens. My personal site is http://www.timstevens.me.