The Game was the first short fiction that I wrote and successfully sold. It appeared in the speculative fiction e-zine Quantum Muse and I recieved a grand total of $11 ($10 for publication plus a $1 tip from the Paypal donate button on the story's page). Whoever gave me that tip, thank you.
It's not a very long story, about 4000 words, which is seriously pared down from the initial novel I had envisioned this story running into. But my first novel was already bogged down and I wanted to get my name out there, get some credits under my belt, and see what I could do if I put my mind to it. I stripped the story of all but its most basic chassis and found that it kept on rolling along, at a brisker clip without all the weight. It is not a particularly creative story - the premise is a staple of speculative fiction: what if a computer system grows too powerful and wreaks havoc on the world? In this instance, the computer system was a seemingly benign operating system that a hapless geek found himself on the beta program for - in a Faustian deal that granted him the perfect job and perfect life in exchange for simply giving his blessing to the program. As with most things that come so easy, he found this life less than fulfilling, and in the end was horrified to find the system he had been happy to endorse was now responsible for missile attacks across the planet, plunging the world into chaos.
And that's where I left things. Once the world was burned, there was little to explore, at least as far as a short story was concerned. For the novel, a lot of soul searching, regret and redemption would be the order of the day, but who has time for that in a few thousand words? Better to let the character rise and fall, burning brightly but briefly.
So that was The Game - a story that shrank to be (somewhat) successful. If I learned anything from this, it was that you should never be afraid to take advantage of a good idea, even if you do so in a rush. Sure, I could have used the premise to write another novel that I teased out of the word processor over a period of ten years, but what would that really accomplish? I was afraid at first to let that idea go for cheap, but the fact is it went for something, and that's a good start. Well, it's a start of some sort, at least. And plenty more ideas popped into my head later, so much so that even if I were to become a prolific full-time writer for the rest of my life, I have my doubts I could get every kernal of a novel off my ever expanding to-do list.
I'll be putting up a free link to The Game shortly.