Beyond The Sun: A SF Dream Come True With A Little Help From My Friends

This is the cover mock up. Fine tuning and details will change once we get funded based on publisher, artist and editor needs

I grew up a novel fan. I read tie-ins to my favorite TV shows and then tore into Silverberg, Asimov, Card and others. I read short fiction at school and on occasion in magazines but long form is where I spent most of my time and, as a result, where I tend to be most comfortable writing. But then two years ago, Flying Pen Press’ David Rozansky invited me to edit an anthology. I had been pitching a concept for an anthology of first encounter stories from non-Western cultural perspectives (one I still want to do), but being unknown as both writer and editor, no one showed much interest except writers. Mike Resnick and several others immediately got excited with the concept. But with Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales 6, Flying Pen Press offered me the chance to prove myself. I had so much fun working on that and with great writers like Mike Resnick that I began envisioning other ideas.

I pitched ideas to people, signed to do a couple with John Helfers, including World Encounters and Space & Shadows: Spec Noir. But then I saw my friend Matt Forbeck’s success on Kickstarter and realized an opportunity might exist. My dad was, by all definitions, a workaholic, and, as much as we mocked him as kids, I inherited that. I don’t sit still. And I also believe if you work hard, you can create opportunities for success. Recalling a favorite story I’d read by Autumn Rachel Dryden in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show anthology about space colonists and deadly alien animals, Beyond The Sun was born.

Since I don’t like to do anything halfway, I decided I was not going to pay shares, I was going to pay people decent wages. The headliners would get pro rates and I’d do my best to fund enough to pay the rest 3 cents a word bottom. I might be creating an opportunity for myself, but why not create opportunities for everyone else, too? The next thing I did was make a list of favorite SF writers on various levels: names, pros, semi-pros, new. Wrote up a brief description and the submissions requirements and started asking. I chose four of my writing heroes, expecting to be turned down by at least a couple. All four said yes–Mike Resnick, Robert Silverberg, Nancy Kress and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. I mean, I own more books by Resnick, Silverberg and Rusch than almost any other writer except Card and Zahn and my Kress library is growing fast. Wow! After that, bringing aboard writers was easy. Only a few said “no” and that was due to other obligations. And so I wound up with an incredible list of names like Jennifer Brozek, Cat Rambo, Jamie Todd Rubin, Jean Johnson, Brad R. Torgersen, Jamie Todd Rubin and so on, many of them friends.

I assembled the list just before World Con then sought Kickstarter advice from Matt Forbeck and Alex Schvartsman, who have prior experience. I found a video editor on Fiverr, recorded the audio narration and sent it to her. $15 later, my two minute video came back looking fabulous. Only a couple of edits requested. Artist Mitch Bentley whom I have worked with since my first novel jumped at the chance to work with these headliners and did artwork demos for me. Another friend. And here we are.

I quickly discovered, while watching the project flounder, that having a PR plan with Kickstarter is vital. I came to the game unprepared. Quick emails to several bloggers I know brought me a string of guest posts at SF Signal, Grasping For The Wind, Jennifer Brozek’s blog and more. Even writers in the pool with no firm guarantee passionately pitched the project and backed the Kickstarter. Once again, my friends came to the rescue.  Are you seeing a pattern?

Then Monday we were less than half funded, but I made a push and asked others to. We wound up with John Picacio, Lynne Thomas, Kris Rusch, Fireside Magazine, Joe Hill, Jason Sanford and more helping spread the word and in the final three hours yesterday we not only doubled funding, we added 70% to surpass our goal. Jamie Rubin, Johne Cook and I watched it and chatted on FB. “It’s hard to get any work done with this Kickstarter today,” Jamie commented. It was like watching a sporting event. The numbers went up every few seconds. I had my parents standing by to push us over if we fell short. They didn’t need to bother.

Writers will get 4 cents a word. The artist gets paid. Backers get a great anthology and so will you next Summer. And I get another step up the career ladder working with writing heroes and a lot of cool friends. Who could ask for a better miracle than that for a week? It all goes to show that if you work hard, believe and pursue your passions, and, I’d add, treat others the way you want to be treated, good things can happen for you. Nice guys don’t have to finish last, you might say.

We look forward to bringing you some great new space colonists stories and revisiting three great reprints as well. We have excerpts up at SFSignal, Grasping For The Wind and the Kickstarter page. And we look forward to enjoying the ride as we begin production.  Thanks so much to good friends! I’m so honored and thrilled to have many of them along for the ride.

I encourage you to pursue the impossible and make it possible when you can. It’s quite rewarding. For what it’s worth…

Accra, Ghana, West Africa, Summer 2000 with Eyram Gbewonyo

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s science fiction, fantasy and humor books, short stories and articles. His debut novel, The Worker Prince (2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exodus will appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Books For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Land Of Legends (forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012.  His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on Beyond The Sun, forthcoming. A frequent contributor to blogs like SFSignal, Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind, he also hosts Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat under the hashtag #sffwrtcht on Twitter and blogs about writing and creativity on his own blog at Connect With Bryan On Google+

Journey Through The SFF Classics: A Beginning

Okay it’s time. For two years now, I have amassed a library of classic SFF books but have not managed so far to tear into reading them. To be fair, I read 52 books a year just for SFFWRTCHT. And I do get requests for other interviews now, so I read another 20-40 for those throughout the year. That’s a lot of reading for a guy who takes about 5 days to go through a 350 page novel. That amount of reading will not change. I am still committed, happily, to that and grateful for the way it has allowed me to read a broad spectrum of SFF contemporary works by a wide variety of authors.

But I have this gap in knowledge that keeps coming back to haunt me, and, as time goes on, I fear it only deepens. As I go to Cons and participate in panels, as I talk with other writers about craft, not being familiar with some of the very classic works everyone so often talks about is a handicap and I must overcome it. So I am challenging myself to a Journey Through The Classics. I’m starting with a few core books and will expand as I can.  I am going to read these, most of them fortunately much shorter as older novels used to be, and then add more to the list, with the hopes that I can start catching up my knowledge of the SFF field through history. I have also acquired a number of older magazines, some pulp, some 20-year-old issues of magazines like F&SF, Analog and Amazing. I am going to work my way through those as well. But first, I need to get going on these books, so here’s my list, most of which I have not yet read, some of which I  may have at some point but don’t remember.

The Dying Earth by Jack Vance
The Skylark Of Space by EE Smith
To Open The Sky by Robert Silverberg
Do Androids Dream Of Electronic Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
The Caves Of Steel by Isaac Asimov
The Listeners by James Edwin Gunn
The Weapon Shops Of Isher by A.E. Van Vogt
Nerves by Lester del Rey
Necromancer by Gordon R. Dickson
The Triumph of Time by James Blish
Swords Against Death by Fritz Leiber
Neuromancer by William Gibson
Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein
Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert Heinelin
Dune by Frank Herbert
Doc Savage: The Thousand Headed Man by Kenneth Robeson
Stands Of Zanzibar by John Brunner

It should be noted before someone suggests it, I have already read the entirety of Asimov’s Foundation. I realize Van Vogt has more noted books but so far I have not found them so I will read one of the ones I have. The Silverberg and del Rey are personal choices. I have never read del Rey and feel I should since he is an icon. Silverberg is my favorite of all SFF authors and I have not read his early work and want to do that. A friend recommended To Open The Sky as one with faith (not just religious) themes, and since I have done panels on this to great reception I feel it’s time to start reading source material for those so I can only increase their value.

I am also not committing to read these books in any particular order. Honestly, I likely will attempt the shorter ones first, because of my reading time and just to get in a flow. I plan to do reviews/commentary on these as I finish for my own value more than anyone else’s, although I will share that here. These will not be full on reviews but really more my own ponderings and interactions with the texts. They’re classics. What do I have to add that hasn’t been said before by many people? Not much as a reviewer, but as a fan and writer interacting with them, I hope there will be some nuggets of learning and discovery worth sharing.

I certainly reserve the right to update my list at my own discretion. In other words, I will allow you to suggest books but I feel no pressure about which I choose to read and when. I have left A Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams off the list because I read half and didn’t care for it. I do need to read it again but I’ll have to get in the right mood. And before the smart alecs show up, I do have a sense of humor. I love comedic books. I just found this one odd, not all the funny. But I do respect its place and regard amongst fandom and I do feel I should give it another chance at some point so I’d expect it to come on the list at some point during this Journey which may last several years because it takes as long as it takes.

For a good list of some of the books I’ve read in  the past, including many considered classics, I posted my 70 Most Memorable SFF Books I’ve Read here.

I hope some of you will engage with me on this journey and perhaps even join me. Who we are today is very much informed by the past. And often whom we become and the strength, value and character of it is determined by our knowledge of the past. After all, we not only learn from our mistakes but those of our forefathers.

I very much look forward to the education of this journey and to your thoughts and my own along the way. For what it’s worth…

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, the children’s book 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids from Delabarre Publishing and editor of the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 which he edited for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction.  An affiliate SFWA member, he also hosts Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter and is a frequent contributor to Adventures In SF PublishingGrasping For The Wind and Hugo nominee SFSignal. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via