Threnody was the first story I ever sold.
It was published in an Australian journal called Eidolon, and it was illustrated by Shaun Tan, I still love that picture, and there's a copy of it on my study wall.
I was twenty-one when I wrote it, and a naive twenty-one at that. I don't think I could write this story now, but it isn't one I am ashamed of. In fact, Sal puts in an appearance in the book I am writing, and this story is set in the same world as my novel Day Boy, though it didn't know it then, and I could hardly dream that I would have books published (I'd never managed to actually finish a novel).
This story set the tenor for my writing life, I was deeply sad when I wrote it. I felt like I was going nowhere. I was young, I had just finished an Arts degree, was still living at home (all my friends had moved out of town), and I had no idea who I was, or who I wanted to be, other than someone who wrote stories (and not just stories but Science Fiction stories, and Fantasy stories). But that was a no-brainer, I'd been writing them since I was five. It was the selling of them which was the trick.
I'd been trying since I was eighteen, the first year or two without even owning a computer (I had a horrible old golf-ball typewriter that clunk, clunk, clunked out stories). Fortunately Australia was going through a bit of an SF magazine flourishing. Selling a story to the US or the UK felt like an impossible dream in those relatively unconnected times, especially to a kid who lived in a country town in Northern NSW. However, Eidolon and Aurealis seemed like a better chance.
It took a while (and it's certainly helped take the sting out the many rejections I've had since) but I got there.
I'm a slow short story writer. I started this in the summer of 1992/3, finished it in the summer of 1993/94.
I was already thinking about global warming, the story is set on the North Coast of NSW, I imagined that when things started to really heat up, the deadly stinger jellyfish might migrate south. Something that's started to happen.
So this was my first story, and certainly my first sale. I'd published a few poems, but my heart was in prose. I'm so grateful that it ever saw the light of day, and that it was given such a wonderful illustration. Eidolon and Aurealis started a lot of careers and I was definitely one of the lucky ones.
I think I made around $90.00 for this story (not much has changed with SF in Australia) but I invested it wisely and soon had a small real estate empire (HA).
I don't think I could write this story now, but I don't think I could change it. It is what it is, the work of a young, sad man who really didn't have much of a reason to be sad. It's where most of my stories sit, bittersweet, but hopefully it's a little beautiful. There might even be a line or two that is lovely here, I can't really say.