Here’s a tiny excerpt of the big excerpt:
Chico and the portal guy were waiting for me outside FDA Annex D. Chico was smoking a cigarette. If this was a screenplay, his entire character description would read “sinister Mexican.” The portal guy was just standing there, hands in pockets, staring up at the stars and whistling that “Yakkety Sax” song from Benny Hill. He abruptly cut off as I climbed out of my car.
“This is your New Guy?” he asked Chico. The portal guy was one of those cheap-blue-oxford-&-khaki-pants cubicle drones, but younger and skinnier than the stock character. He looked pretty damn rumpled—not just “it’s three a.m.” tired, although it was three a.m. It was more the “I’m tired of my whole stupid life” kind of tired. Chico blew twin streams of smoke out his nose, flicking away his cigarette butt without acknowledging the portal guy’s question.
“New guy?” I mugged like a vaudevillian, joining them at the glass door, “What happened to the old guy?”
“Gal,” the portal guy answered as he waved us in through the glass doors of FDA Annex D. “She got burned as a witch.” . . .
If you dig actors, gastropubs, meth dealers, heists, Early American Material Culture, academia, mobsters, or Mexican food then this is the novella for you!!! Read more: “Where There Is Nothing, There Is God” by David Erik Nelson
— David Helder (@dhelder) December 7, 2016
For those with a taste for “inside baseball”: The original working title of this novella was “Colonial Meth.” That is an awful title—but still an improvement over “Time-Portal Crystal Meth Missionaries,” which is what I scrawled at the top of the first index card. If you squint, you can see that the first legal-pad draft is already titled “Where There is Nothing, There is God”—a title I cribbed from William Butler Yeats by way of my old pal Fritz Swanson.
I’m not sure when I started the index cards for this story (these tend to get carried around in my pocket and taped to the bathroom mirror for a few months while I mull a story over) or the long-hand legal-pad draft, but I’ve got typed draft pages with creation dates as old as November 2013. My submissions log indicates I first sent this out in November 2014—so I guess it took a year to write/revise—and then basically another year-and-a-half to sell (the story was actually accepted in March of 2016), and several more months to revise to everyone’s satisfaction, proof, etc.