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Josh Pachter, 2020 Derringer Finalist

I'm a member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society, an informal association of writers, publishers, and fans that has kept mystery & crime short stories in the public eye since 1996. The SMFS's 2020 Derringer Awards voting ends April 29 and winners will be announced in May. In the meantime, I've invited the finalists for interviews.

Josh Pachter
Author and translator Josh Pachter's "The Two-Body Problem", from the October 2019 issue of Mystery Weekly, is up for Best Flash.

Describe your story in up to 20 words.

When two academics are up for the same one position, the "two-body problem" rears its ugly head.

What were the most difficult and most enjoyable parts of writing your story?

The academics in this story really wanted to be scientists, and, although I am a college teacher, I'm not a scientist. So the most difficult part for me was getting the story's science right. Fortunately, my friends Malvika Talwar and Casey Dillman are married biologists who have themselves wrestled with the two-body problem, and they came to my rescue. I think the most enjoyable moment was when I told them I was looking for a biological metaphor for the tightness of the job market in academe and said, "I don't know, something like 'tighter than an unshucked oyster,' and Casey — who is in fact a marine biologist — told me that was the perfect metaphor right there.

Do you have a juicy story about how your story came to be published?

Chuck and Kerry Carter are doing a great job with Mystery Weekly, and one of the things I really appreciate is how quickly they respond to submissions. SMFS members know that it can takes months to get either an acceptance or a rejection — I'm waiting now for decisions on stories I submitted as long ago as last August — and Kerry usually responds within a couple of weeks at most. That's not especially juicy, but I'm happy to take this opportunity to give them a shout-out for their kindness to their contributors.

How does it feel to be a Derringer finalist?

Like Rodney Dangerfield, short-story writers often don't get no respect. When we do, it feels extra specially good. So it feels extra specially good to have the selection committee pick my story as a finalist for this year's Derringer in the Flash category. Thanks to all involved!

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