When I checked my notes for "Cutting It Fine" I was surprised to find that it was the first science fiction story that I wrote, where by 'wrote’ I mean that I completed a first draft. However, it had such a long revision period that other stories came and went before this one reached the final version that you can read here.
I’ve always had a fascination for the people in the background of space-faring tales: the janitors, the barmen, the clean-up crews. One of my favourite episodes of Babylon 5 was "A View from the Gallery," which focusses on two maintenance workers, and let’s us see the space opera action of an attack on the station through their eyes.
I decided to get serious about writing back in 2011, and "Cutting It Fine" started life as a warm-up exercise. I plucked a topic from the air (a barber on a space station) and sat down and wrote without any preparation. That file—called 'Barber Musings’—became the first scene of the story.
My barber character then languished in his orbital salon for over a year, until I fleshed out the story to its first draft of 6,900 words in October 2012, with a revision trimming it down to 5,900 words in February 2013.
My day job as an IT project manager intervened again. Throughout all this I’d been running projects first in Seoul and then in Sydney, and I didn’t get back to the story for another year. In the spring of 2014 five of us from the MobileRead forums decided to put an anthology together, and "Cutting It Fine" was one of my contributions. We acted as beta readers for each other, and their helpful criticism saw the story revised, and cut still further to 5,350 words.
We didn’t get enough material for the anthology, sadly, and the process eventually stalled. A year later, I ran the story past the eyes of a good friend—the editor of a science journal—who found yet more fat to cut, and I arrived at the final version of about 5,000 words that appears here.
One more thing.
Although I’ve had other full-length science fiction stories accepted in the meantime, they’ve yet to appear. So my first science fiction short story has also turned out to be the first that I’ve had published. So, it’s a big thank you from me to the team at Electric Spec.
I hope you enjoy the story.
Everyone check it out May 31, 2016!