You may be shackled to your desk, counting chits, while you finish your space-war saga — but you've got it easy. Check out some of the really crap jobs science fiction writers have held.
Some of these day jobs are just your standard drudge work, some are bizarre and colorful, and a few are especially awful. Just remember — as annoying as your brain-grinding day job is, it could always be worse!
Iain M. Banks was a non-destructive testing technician at the Nigg Bay oil rig for British Steel. The claustrophobic, isolated setting inspired the "pyrotechnic sadism" of his first published novel, The Wasp Factory.
Douglas Adams was "moon-lighting as a hotel security guard" in London when he came up with the idea for Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy. The job, which paid him to sit and watch the hotel elevators for hours, gave him time to brainstorm and come up with bizarre ideas... like the useless security guards of Golgafrincham, for example. Phil Darnowsky also claims Adams worked as a chicken-coop cleaner, and bodyguard to a Qatari sheik, thanks to his immense bulk.
Jack Cady was a truck driver, auctioneer, landscaper, gardener, warehouse worker and refrigerator repairman. While a truck driver, he had an old typewriter balanced on the seat and typed his stories (while he drove, I think.) Said Cady: "My first novel (though not the first published one) was rough drafted on an old Royal typewriter that sat on the seat of a 750 Ford." Eventually, he sold one of his stories to the Atlantic Monthly, and later won the Nebula, Philip K. Dick, World Fantasy and Stoker Awards.
Octavia Butler swept floors and worked as a telemarketer.
Theodore Sturgeon's day jobs included "door-to-door refrigerator salesman, circus roustabout, resort hotel manager (in Jamaica), bulldozer driver (Puerto Rico), and gas station operator and a tractor lubrication center operator for the Army."
It's not really such a terrible job, but it's hard to imagine — Kurt Vonnegut had his own Saab dealership in the 1960s, after he'd already published Player Piano. Imagine buying a car from Kurt Vonnegut!
Jack McDevitt held a host of unsavory jobs — including motivational speaker. And worst of all, Philadelphia taxi driver.
Philip Jose Farmer spent a dozen years working for the Keystone Steel & Wire Company.
Pat Murphy worked for years as a guide and producer at the Exploratorium science museum in San Francisco, which she described as "an enclave of artists and oddballs and renegade scientists." She created weird science exhibits and demonstrations by day, and wrote even weird science fiction in her spare time.
Nancy Kress worked for an ad agency, writing training manuals for Xerox, until she finally became a full-time author and writing teacher.
Thomas M. Disch was the night watchman at a funeral parlor — which would creep me out, I have to say. He also carried a spear for the Metropolitan Opera.
David Drake was a bus driver as well as a lawyer and a Vietnam veteran.
Frederik Pohl was a literary agent, whose clients included Isaac Asimov as well as half the genre's other writers at the time — but he couldn't make a living at it.
L.E. Modesitt, Jr. was a real estate agent, a lifeguard and a disk jockey, as well as working for the EPA and a congressman.
Richard K. Morgan taught English as a second language in Istanbul for ages before he finally sold Altered Carbon.
Holly Lisle has sung in restaurants, taught guitar lessons, flipped burgers at McDonald's and worked as a registered nurse.
Several science fiction writers made money writing porn — back in the days when porn was still a source of income, in the days before alt.sex.stories and such. One of my friends whom I asked for suggestions mentioned Robert Silverberg — who supposedly wrote a porno book every two weeks, under pseudonyms like Don Elliott. Also, Rina Weisman quotes Barry N. Maltzberg as saying one porn book paid for his house.
So whom did I leave out?