Click here to purchase Symbiography by William Hjortsberg

I had expected to dip my toe into the turbulent ocean of science fiction only a single time, but after the success of Gray Matters in Playboy the fiction editor there asked me to risk the undertow once again. Lured by the potential of a lush paycheck, I plunged in, writing a first draft during the winter of 1971 in a house overlooking the Caribbean at Playa Bonita in Costa Rica. When I submitted the piece, Playboy rejected it, as did subsequently a dozen other magazines. Even the pulp rags didn’t want it. I felt like the captain of a sinking ship.

A year or so later, Dan Gerber (poet, fiction writer, essayist, small press publisher) read the novella in Montana. He asked to publish the piece as the first in a series of short fiction Sumac Press planned on releasing. There was a modest advance and a beautiful limited edition. “Another short story done up in hardcover,” sniffed the N. Y. Times review. With only a thousand copies in print, we weren’t expecting a best seller

Another year went by. Penthouse ran a condensed version of Symbiography, calling it “The Dreamer.” Later, Embassy Pictures optioned the little book and hired me to develop it into a script. The L. A. Times named “Nomad” as among the ten best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood. Recently, Symbiography was optioned again for three years. It went from rejection and failure to one of my most financially successful projects. Recently, the book was optioned again for three years. There’s a moral in here somewhere.

With my daughter, Lorca, on the porch of the house at Playa Bonita, in the winter of 1971. It was on a beautiful Caribbean cove and fronted directly onto the beach. The Symbiography cover art is by Juhana Blomstedt, a wonderful Finnish artist who became a friend when we both lived on Formenterra, the smallest of the Balearic Islands off the Spanish coast in the Mediterranean. Juhana is the grandson of the composer, Jean Sibeleus.