The First Two Pages: The Mimicking of Known Successes by Malka Older

In April 2015, B.K. Stevens debuted the blog series “The First Two Pages,” hosting craft essays by short story writers and novelists analyzing the openings of their own work. The series continued until just after her death in August 2017, and the full archive of those essays can be found at Bonnie’s website. In November 2017, the blog series relocated to my website, and the archive of this second stage of the series can be found here.

Back in October, Tor Books emailed with a pitch about Malka Older’s then-forthcoming book, The Mimicking of Known Successes. The subject line was an eye-catcher—”A sapphic, Sherlockian space mystery!”—but I was equally pulled in by the book being tagged as a novella and by the the mention in Older’s bio that she “teaches in the genre fiction MFA at Western Colorado University.” Last year, my new year’s resolution focused on novellas—read a new one each month—and in early November, I was also pulling together the reading list for my spring course in “Crossing Genres,” so the email drew my attention on several levels. I requested an advance read of the book, admired and enjoyed it start to finish, and now…

And now it’s pub week for The Mimicking of Known Successes—launch day, in fact! And one thing leading to another, I’m pleased not only to have the book on the syllabus for “Crossing Genres” (part of a book-ending with the Sherlock Holmes we read at beginning of the semester) but also to be hosting Malka Older at the First Two Pages, with a glimpse at some of the decisions she made in the prologue for the book—and the decision to have a prologue at all.

An aid worker and sociologist in addition to her writing, Malka Older is also the author of the science-fiction political thriller Infomocracy—named one of the best books of 2016 by Kirkus, Book Riot, and the Washington Post—and the short story collection And Other Disasters, among other writings. She’s now a Faculty Associate at Arizona State University, where she teaches on humanitarian aid and predictive fictions, and hosts the Science Fiction Sparkle Salon. Find out more about her writing here.

Please use the arrows and controls at the bottom of the embedded PDF to navigate through the essay. You can also download the essay to read off-line.