So, the local Kansas City ABC affiliate did a nice piece on Surviving Tomorrow that ran on three prime time newscasts yesterday. It’s my first time on local news (bucket list, check!) and I thought it’s be fun to share it with you. So here it is.
Titan released the cover of my next anthology, releasing November 5th I hardcover, at the Barnes and Noble blog today. The follow up to my bestselling Infinite Stars, this is another collection of the best space opera and military science fiction, a big, thick book titled Infinite Stars: Dark Frontiers.
Again, it features 27 stories, 15 of them brand new, including authors writing in some of their most famous and bestselling universes alongside some of the genres most award-winning and classic tales. A complete list of contributors follows. Names marked with an asterisk have contributed new stories exclusive to this anthology.
George R.R. Martin
*Susan R. Matthews
*Orson Scott Card
E.E. “Doc” Smith
*Curtis C. Chen
*Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
*Larry Niven and Steven Barnes
Alan Dean Foster
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
*Kevin J. Anderson
Arthur C. Clarke
This series is designed to be a must have for space opera and military science fiction fans or anyone looking for a good survey of the sub genres as well as libraries and educators wishing to teach on the topic. I was able to get a few stories I hadn’t managed for the prior volume, including the only known short piece from E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensmen series. Considering he is regarded as the grandfather of the space opera sub genre, I am immensely pleased to finally include him. There’s another new Ender tale from Card, as well as a new Wayfarers from Becky Chambers, the newest star to space opera, alongside a number of other key writers (and franchises) not previously represented.
As you can see, Julia Lloyd’s cover is quite stunning as well.
With pleasure, I announce the final table of contents for the first anthology of works by other authors set in Larry Correia’s New York Times bestselling Monster Hunter International universe. This will release from Baen Books sometime next year (cover and details pending).
THE MONSTER HUNTER FILES
Edited by Larry Correia & Bryan Thomas Schmidt
TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION by Albert Lee, MHI Archivist
“Thistle” by Larry Correia
“Small Problems” by Jim Butcher
“Darkness Under The Mountain” by Mike Kupari
“A Knight Of The Enchanted Forest” by Jessica Day George
“The Manticore Sanction” by John C. Wright
“The Dead Yard” by Maurice Broaddus
“The Bride” by Brad R. Torgersen
“She Bitch, Killer of Kits” (a Skinwalker Crossover Tale) by Faith Hunter
“Mr. Natural” by Jody Lynn Nye
“Sons Of The Father” by Quincy J. Allen
“The Troll Factory” by Alex Shvartsman
“Keep Kaiju Weird” by Kim May
“The Gift” by Steve Diamond
“The Case of the Ghastly Specter” by John Ringo
“Huffman Strikes Back” by Bryan Thomas Schmidt & Julie Frost
“Hunter Born” by Sarah A. Hoyt
“Hitler’s Dog” by Jonathan Maberry
The stories involved not just Owen Z Pitt and his usual team, but Agent Franks and lesser known monster hunters from history, including stories set in the Revolutionary War and World War I periods as well as a crossover with Faith Hunter’s New York Times bestselling Skinwalker series.
Well, it’s been a really busy month, and so I have not managed to blog as intended. But it’s for good reasons. I’ve been booking SFFWRTCHT’s final six months, as it’s regular weekly Twitter incarnation will be ending this Fall. I have been working on lots of editing and packaging anthologies, and I sold two anthologies–one I can’t yet announce details on, and the other of which I will detail here. I already announced on Facebook but here’s the details for those who missed it.
My fourth science fiction anthology will be my second anthology for Baen, my first as solo editor there. Inspired again by my grandmother’s and my shared passion for NASA’s space program, this one caught the interest of some amazing talents. I have fourteen headliners attached here, and thirty other people vying for the remaining six to eight slots. There will be two reprints, both by Grandmasters, and the rest will be original to this project.
Toni Weisskopf bought it within a few days of receiving my pitch. Ironically, I had so many proposals on her desk, I had been pitching it elsewhere for six months before finally trying her. Perhaps from now on I should just go to Baen first. Contractually, given the options, I rather have to. In any case, it’s been a great experience working with Baen so far, and I look forward to a long and healthy relationship there.
So here’s the scoop:
MISSION : TOMORROW – A NEW CENTURY OF EXPLORATION
Edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Mission: Tomorrow is a pro-paying anthology of 95,000 words in which Science Fiction writers imagine the future of space exploration in a world no longer dominated by NASA. What might it look like? Private or public? Stories of space exploration, travel and adventure. Coming from Baen Books in 2015.
Headliners: Catherine Asaro, Robin Wayne Bailey, Gregory Benford, Ben Bova, Michael Capobianco, Brenda Cooper, David Farland, Michael F. Flynn, James Gunn, Sarah A. Hoyt, Jack McDevitt, Mike Resnick, Robert Silverberg, Jack Skillingstead
Yep, so a mix of hard and soft science fiction for this one, adventure and real science blended to make for some interesting near future tales of space exploration. Silverberg’s reprint is a story about the exploration of Venus, and Gunn’s is about exploring a wormhole. Ben Bova has written a new Sam Gunn story that features a Chinese female astronaut as the protagonist encountering Sam Gunn. Beyond that, I am waiting to see what comes in, but with the people involved, I’m quite excited about it.
Meanwhile, I sold a Young Adult anthology, a mix of science fiction, fantasy and horror, all reprints except for three new stories, but filled with huge names, to a foreign publisher, my second non-US sale, after Raygun Chronicles. I’ll release details once contracts are signed, as it’s all verbal now, but expect to see it and Mission: Tomorrow both released in 2015.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author whose debut novel received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble’s Year’s Best Science Fiction of 2011. He’s written novels, children’s books and short fiction and edited several anthologies, including two for Baen, Shattered Shields, coedited by Jennifer Brozek (November 2014) and Mission: Tomorrow( forthcoming Fall 2015).
UPDATE: Sad to say I quit this project due to the unprofessionalism and lack of integrity shown by the publisher. I’ve never looked back. BTS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Bram Stoker and Black Quill award nominated editor Maurice Broaddus and editor Bryan Thomas Schmidt are teaming with Steven Saus and Alliteration Ink for Streets Of Shadows, an urban fantasy crime noir anthology headliner by New York Times Bestselling authors Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Kevin J. Anderson, Glen Cook, Tim Lebbon and Seanan McGuire. Other contributors committed include Alex Bledsoe, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Diana Pharoah, Adrian Phoenix, and Chuck Wendig.
One of the most popular genres of speculative fiction today, urban fantasy involves stories in urban settings, usually with a dark feel much like crime noir settings, which include fantastical elements. It’s similarities make it a natural fit to combine with the long popular crime noir detective story. Streets of Shadow’s stories will include stories set in popular universes like Glen Cook’s Garrett PI, Alex Bledsoe’s Eddie LaCrosse, and Kevin J. Anderson’s Dan Shamble, P.I. along with new settings by other authors.
The project will be crowdfunded on Kickstarter in January and release in late Summer 2014 in trade paperback and ebook editions. Open submissions will be accepted for one month after the Kickstarter in March 2014, with stories also due in March from an invited list of top names and up and coming writers.
Maurice Broaddus has written hundreds of short stories, essays, novellas and articles and had fiction published in numerous magazines and anthologies including Asimov’s, Cemetery Dance, Apex Magazine, Black Static and Weird Tales. He coedited the Bram Stoker and Black Quill award nominated Dark Faith anthologies for Apex Books, several stories from which were honored with mentions in annual Year’s Best anthologies. He also authored the urban fantasy series Knights of Breton Court from Angry Robot Books.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s first novel, The Worker Prince, received Honorable Mention on Barnes and Noble’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases of 2011. His short fiction has appeared in Tales of The Talisman magazine and anthologies like Triumph Over Tragedy, Wandering Weeds and Of Fur and Fire. His anthologies as editor include Beyond The Sun (Fairwood Press), Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age (Every Day Publishing), and the forthcoming Shattered Shields, coedited with Jennifer Brozek (Baen, 2014) and Gaslamp Terrors coedited by Tim Marquitz (Evil Jester Press, 2014). Three of these have been funded using Kickstarter and picked up by small presses.
Alliteration Ink is a small press specializing in speculative fiction which has published anthologies like The Crimson Pact 1-3, Sidekicks, Dangers Untold, from editors like Paul Genesee, Jennifer Brozek and more.
DC Comics artists and acclaimed editors Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Tim Marquitz are partnering in 2014 for Gaslamp Terrors, a steampunk horror anthology from Grant-Day Media to be released through their Evil Jester Press Imprint. The project will be an anthology of prose stories with illustrations by comic book artists, not a comic or graphic novel.
One of the most popular subgenres of speculative fiction going today, steampunk is as much an aesthetic as a genre, and involves stories set in the Victorian Age in which science and steam power go hand in hand. With top authors from science fiction, fantasy and horror, Schmidt, Marquitz and company will be presenting stories of the terrors that haunt the streets, stalk the shadows, and lurk in alleys. Headliner by New York Times bestselling authors Jonathan Maberry and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Gaslamp Terrors will also include stories by Weston Ochse, Jody Lynn Nye, John Skipp, Esther M. Freisner and Mike Resnick, amongst others.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s prior anthologies include Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales 6 for Flying Pen Press in 2012 and the critically acclaimed Beyond The Sun (Fairwood Press, August 2013) and Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age (Every Day Publishing, December 2013) as well as a forthcoming anthology for Baen Books. Schmidt’s prior Kickstart anthologies have received good reviews in Locus and Analog, amongst other sites. Tim Marquitz’s anthologies include Fading Light, Manifesto and the Kickstarter success Kaiju Rising (forthcoming). His anthologies and work have gotten frequent mention in Ellen Datlow’s The Best Horror of the Year anthologies. Both editors have had prior Kickstarter successes between them and both are also successful authors.
The editors and Owners of Grant-Day Media, Charles Day and Taylor Grant will be crowdfunding the project on Kickstarter in February and March 2014 with the goal of releasing both hardcover and trade paperback editions in Fall 2014. We will be showcasing and selling this at many of our conferences and venues throughout the country. Rewards will include signed editions, signed artwork, multiple copies and more. Details to come.
“I couldn’t be more excited to partner in this endeavor with such a great team as Charles and Taylor,” Schmidt said. “Their enthusiasm is infectious and their love of genre unparalleled. They have the experience to really make a great book, and we have a ton of experience to bring them great stories. It’s the perfect combination.”
“We look forward to working with them closely,” Marquitz added, “And hope this is the first of many collaborations to come.”
10 Introduction • Bryan Thomas Schmidt 13 Migration • Nancy Kress 30 The Hanging Judge • Kristine Kathryn Rusch 45 Flipping the Switch • Jamie Todd Rubin 61 The Bricks of Eta Cassiopeiae • Brad R. Torgersen 77 The Far Side of the Wilderness • Alex Shvartsman 85 Respite • Autumn Rachel Dryden 97 Parker’s Paradise • Jean Johnson 111 Rumspringa • Jason Sanford 132 Elsewhere, Within, Elsewhen • Cat Rambo 146 Inner Sphere Blues • Simon C. Larter 161 Dust Angels • Jennifer Brozek 169 Voice of the Martyrs • Maurice Broaddus 185 One Way Ticket • Jaleta Clegg 200 The Gambrels of the Sky • Erin Hoffman 206 Chasing Satellites • Anthony R. Cardno 219 A Soaring Pillar of Brightness • Nancy Fulda 236 The Dybbyk of Mazel Tov IV • Robert Silverberg 253 Observation Post • Mike Resnick
Colonists take to the stars to discover new planets, new sentient beings, and build new lives for themselves and their families. Some travel years to find their destination, while others travel a year or less. Some discover a planet that just might be paradise, while others find nothing but unwelcoming aliens and terrain. It’s not just a struggle for territory but a struggle for understanding as cultures clash, disasters occur, danger lurks and lives are at risk. Eighteen stories of space colonists by both leading and up and coming science fiction writers of today. Mike Resnick spins a tale of aliens who find Earth future diverse and surprising as they plan an invasion. Grandmaster Robert Silverberg examines what happens when Jews tired of fighting for their homeland start over on a planet then must deal with a dybbuk (spirit) and aliens who wish to convert to Judaism. Autumn Rachel Dryden has colonists threatened by alien animals which burst out of shells on the ground like piranhas ready to feed on flesh. Jason Sanford has Amish colonists on New Amsterdam finding their settlement and way of life threatened by a comet and the English settlers who want to evacuate them. And a new story from Hugo and Nebula-winner Nancy Kress.
“Jack Williamson used to say that spaceflight was to science fiction what the Trojan war was to the Greeks. In recent years, myth is being replaced by the pragmatic, and this insightful anthology demonstrates that truth.”
—James Gunn, SFWA Grandmaster
“Beyond the Sun mixes courage, redemption, and stark terror in tales of distant worlds. Buckle in.”
—Jack McDevitt, author of Firebird
“Thomas Wolfe said, ‘You can’t go home again,’ but in this thoughtful, exciting collection of stories about mankind’s push to the stars, we see that we take the attributes with us that make us human. A wonderful collection of space-faring stories that reminds us that all we can depend on when we explore the universe is the unexpected.”
—James Van Pelt, author of Summer of the Apocalypse
“This is science fiction doing what only science fiction can do—pushing us out past the warm envelope of our biosphere,exploring our ultimate destiny as a species. A truly phenomenal collection.”
It’s a big week for me. Amidst making final choices of stories for my first Kickstarter Anthology: Beyond The Sun, and awaiting my first book contract from a major, I am launching, with Every Day Publishing, a Kickstarter for Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age. This anthology, headlined by Mike Resnick, A.C. Crispin, Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Seanan McGuire, Allen Steele, Robin Wayne Bailey, Sarah A. Hoyt and Brenda Cooper, features contemporary space opera with a classic feel. 13 reprints, 10 new stories, great artwork from Paul Pedersen, an Artists Of The Future Winner, this will also be my first hardback release when it’s published in November–launched at OryCon–provided we fund.
As you can see from the artwork, and the very cool video, this story is about the dreams we all have of rayguns, heroes and heroines, space ships and more. And these stories will take you into that warm, fuzzy dreamscape again and again. All of the stories are fun and provide a nice variety. And I haven’t even seen what our awesome headliners have come up with yet. But with three Star Trek writers, a Star Wars writer, award winners, and fans of space opera, I sure can’t wait to read it. You can sponsor us and preorder everything from signed copies, ebooks, hardbacks, and tradepaperbacks, to t-shirts and a trip to OryCon for the launch. So be sure and check out the Kickstarter! Thanks for helping make dreams possible. All writers will be paid pro-rates. And I receive pro compensation as editor of my third anthology project, one of three for 2013.
Meanwhile check out the Kickstarter and the awesome video here, and thanks for your support!
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the editor of Blue Shift Magazine and an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. 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 Exoduswill appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Land Of Legends from Delabarre Publishing. 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 for Fairwood Press (July 2013), headlined by Robert Silverberg, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress, and Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age for Every Day Publishing (November 2013). He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
Well, I’m getting a slow start on blogging in 2013. In fact, I was so busy the last half of the year, it was hard to stick to even my steady schedule of two posts per week (Mondays and Thursdays). But 2012 ended with the sale of another children’s book and 3 anthologies to publishers, including 2 which involve Kickstarters, and the marketing of several more anthologies and a fantasy trilogy. I’m still working on prepping the fantasy trilogy for agent queries, in fact. Just a few more polishes. Add to that steady editing and blogging work for a number of clients, and I was pretty exhausted.
But at this point, some of that is moving to the next stage, which is a good thing. Abraham Lincoln Dinosaur Hunter: Land of Legends, the first early reader chapter book in a new adventure series is due out this month (delayed due to cover art issues), and stories for Beyond The Sun, the colonist SF anthology I funded on Kickstarter, are rolling in (with the January 15th deadline fast upon us). So far I have great stories from headliners Robert Silverberg, Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress, along with stories from Jamie Todd Rubin, Jennifer Brozek, Autumn Rachel Dryden, Jason Sanford and Maurice Broaddus. In the queue awaiting decisions are stories by Cat Rambo, 2012 Philip K. Dick Award nominee Jean Johnson, Dana Bell and Anthony Cardno. It looks like I’ll have a harder time choosing whose stories to reject than finding good ones to fill the remaining 9-10 slots here. It’s a nice problem to have, as they say, but I hate rejecting writers, especially friends. Comes with the territory though.
The Kickstarter for Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age is supposed to launch next week, and we are working on the Kickstarter page now. That will run for 6 weeks with hopes we can start finalizing story contracts and get the headliners working on some great new tales. Plans include an OryCon 35 launch this November, and it will be my first hardback release. Some great writers involved (see the link under the title).
Additionally, Jennifer Brozek and I are awaiting a contract on a military fantasy anthology which sold to one of the big pro publishers. We can’t announce until the contract is final, but for me, it’s my first pro-qualifying book sale, and we have some amazing authors involved. Can’t wait to get that going. It will be turned in by December and released in 2014.
I also am getting gamma comments in on Duneman, my epic fantasy, book 1 of The Dawning Age trilogy, and I am going to do some clean up and polishing and query agents later this month. One of my writing heroes, AC Crispin is kindly helping me polish my query, so that’s also a thrill and quite good fortune. I’m hoping to enter the next phase of my writing career quite soon.
I have a story out tomorrow (1/08/13) in Triumph Over Tragedy, which is raising funds for Red Cross efforts to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy. An ebook only release, it will be available for only a limited time but has stories by Robert Silverberg, Timothy Zahn, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Elizabeth Bear, Michael J. Sullivan, yours truly and 20+ others. Some great stuff in there. I was one of four editors helping put the project together. My story is titled “Duncan Derring & The Call Of The Lady Luck” and is a tongue-in-cheek science fiction story about a demolitions expert who must help a starliner escape space tumbleweeds. Originally written for Wandering Weeds, which came out in November, it’s an updated, more polished version. My first resold story.
The Exodus, Book 3 in The Saga Of Davi Rhii, is 3/4ths done first draft but I’ll have to get back on that as soon as Duneman is finished. I may not send it out to a publisher if I can get a mass market deal explored via agents. That all has to wait on that process. I had already decided, for various reasons, not to go with Diminished Media Group for this one. I have interested from another small press, but since The Returning is not selling very quickly, it may just have to wait a while so I can focus on that.
Speaking of The Returning, I will be doing a review blog tour for that soon. I really need more reviews on Amazon to boost sales. Book 1, The Worker Prince, is getting regular sales via Amazon now because of it’s 24 reviews, and so I need to catch up The Returning and get that moving as well. The more people who discover and like The Worker Prince, the more likely it will be to sell, of course, so I’ll be continuing to promote that as well.
Last, but not least, I am marking a future Olympics themed anthology called Galactic Games, which the publishers I approach all seem to like but which no one has bought yet. It’s headlined by Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mike Resnick, Esther Friesner and Robert Reed. I’m hoping to push it out for release during or just after the 2014 Winter Olympics, but for that to happen, I suppose I’ll need to find it a home first.
In any case, lots going on here. I’ll do my best to get the first Write Tipgoing for 2013 on Thursday. And be sure and check Finish The Story, my editing site, where we have new 2013 rates and some specials going on, including a nice coupon or two on our Facebook page for $100 off. Three published authors and editors at your service with a good track record and developing client list. It’s what we do to support ourselves while writing, so we’d love to help you if we can.
Recently, I had a first, when my humorous Science Fiction story, Duncan Derring & The Call Of The Lady Luck, was picked up by Triumph Over Tragedy, R.T. Kaelin’s brilliant project to raise funds for the Red Cross’ Hurricane Sandy. Featuring stories from the likes of Robert Silverberg, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Michael Stackpole, Timothy Zahn, Elizabeth Bear and many more, it’s an honor to have my name included. The e-anthology will release near the end of 2012 and be available for a limited time. All stories are donated and so is editing time by Kaelin, Sarah Chorn, Rob Bedford and myself. The goal is to raise $10,000 for the Red Cross. You can participate and get a copy of this fine anthology for just $7 here. For a full list of contributors, see the Goodreads listing here. While some writers offered reprints, many of the stories are brand new. I highly recommend getting a copy. You can learn more on Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat Wednesday, December 27th at 9 p.m. ET, when Kaelin, Chorn and others come on to talk about the project.
Meanwhile, I thought I’d give you a preview of my story. This tale also appeared in print in Wandering Weeds: Tales Of Rabid Vegetation edited by Frances Pauli & Jaleta Clegg. You can read about that on Goodreads here. Besides it being the first time I’ve shared a Table Of Contents with my favorite writer of all time, Silverberg, and had a story in a charity anthology, it’s also the first time one of my stories has been published twice, and I’m glad Duncan gets a chance to reach a wider audience, as I’m hoping this is the first in a series of adventures for him.
I hope you enjoy this snippet of Duncan’s first adventure. Inspired by love of pulp characters and Mike Resnick’s Catostrophe Baker and Lucifer Jones tales. And please support Triumph Over Tragedy.
DUNCAN DERRING AND THE CALL OF THE LADY LUCK by
Bryan Thomas Schmidt
he mission sounded simple: head out to the edge of the solar system and save the Princess Line’s Lady Luck from the Andromedan tumbleweeds. It was the sort of mission I was made for, and I fully expected to wrap her up in less than a day and be on my way. For once, my expectations were wildly out of synch with reality. Happens to everyone sometime, I suppose.
Duncan Derring, weapons and demolitions expert—what do you mean you never heard of me? Where have you been? It wasn’t exactly the kind of profession you’d expect tourism ventures to call upon, I know, but the galaxy held all kinds of odd dangers for these passenger ships. They weren’t outfitted with any weapons and only the barest sorts of shields. In fact, if I’d been the one hired to approve the design, they never would have made it out of concept. But no one asked me.
The Lady Luck was one of the newer liners, “a five star resort amongst the stars,” the brochures said, and they weren’t talking about the kind of stars you see in movies. She could carry a load of up to five thousand passengers, not counting certain odd-sized alien species, and provided all the dining and entertainment options anyone could imagine. She contained twenty-seven restaurants, eighteen bars, ten nightclubs, eight ballrooms, thirty-five shops, fifteen cinemas, and any number of other recreational and entertainment facilities. If I hadn’t been aboard a liner once myself, I’d have thought it absurd, but Princess Ltd. specialized in making absurdities reality.
I’d never seen the Andromedan Tumbleweeds, although I’d heard a lot about them, of course. Kinda goes without saying that, in my profession, you stay abreast of the latest developments. Floating in deep space between Neptune and Uranus, the tumbleweeds were freshly arrived from Andromeda, where the locals tired of the toll they took on ships and planets and used a fleet’s worth of force fields to drag them to the edge of their solar system and push them off on us. How nice of them, you might think, and you’d be right, but then you don’t know the Andromedans. No one ever called the Andromedans nice.
It took about two days at full on ultra-light engines to make the journey from my previous assignment, Ganymede Colony just off Jupiter. Why anyone had wanted to build resort towns in the Galileans was beyond me, but some people like looking at cool, gaseous masses, I guess. I certainly prefer them to some warm gaseous masses I’ve known. I was able to set the nav computer to auto for much of the route and catch some much-needed sleep. Despite my distaste for the location, the Ganymede Colony was a busy place and sleep had been more of a rarity than I’m used to. The custom-made feather mattress I’d installed in my quarters molded itself to the contours of my body as I slept. It took three tries and its sexiest feminine voice for the nav computer to awaken me. I warmed quickly as the heaters in my sleep pod brought my body temperature to normal and the blood raced through my veins again.
Yawning, I sat up, rubbing at the aches in my neck as I put my feet on the cold deck. The sensation got me moving faster as I slid out of my sleep jumpsuit and began strapping on my demolitions gear. At least as much of it as I could and still move around with speed and conduct ship’s business. You have to be ready to jump at a moment’s notice in this business, for both economic and literal survival, and the better prepared you were, the more successful you’d be.
As the Trini, short for Trinitrotoluene—aka TNT—slipped out of hyperspace, I found myself immediately at the heart of the problem. Until I’d encountered her, I would have never thought a nav computer could be programmed with a sense of humor. I figured a jealous woman of some sort must be behind her, because she was always pulling this sort of thing on me, and for once, I wasn’t in the mood. As accustomed as I am to dangerous situations, the sight of three tumbleweeds rotating seeming inches from my cockpit view screen stopped my heart.
I requested a location on the Lady Luck herself and found her frozen in space just inside the edge of the field. The report said she’d come upon the tumbleweeds unexpectedly and figured staying put and keeping pace was her only chance. Given the tumbleweeds’ propensity for random changes in direction with the slightest shift in gravitation, I’d say the Lady Luck lived up to her name. The readings my computer took upon arrival showed little influence from planetary gravitation at that particular moment. It was enough to make me relax again, which would turn out to be a regrettable mistake.
As I rotated the Trini and took in the view, I noted damages on the Lady Luck’s hull from unlucky encounters with a few of the surrounding tumbleweeds. The fact the liner was still functional and in one piece indicated the impacts had deflected the offending tumbleweeds away without disturbing any others. Such a disturbance would probably have caused a sizable enough chain reaction that my mission would have been pointless.
The Lady Luck hailed me as soon as I arrived. “Lady Luck Liner calling craft Trini,” the comm officer said in that annoying formal style they have.
“Yeah, I’m here,” I responded. “Just checking out the damages.”
“None necessitating more than a change of five thousand shorts so far,” she said. The Lady Luck had full on laundry facilities, too, so I figured that didn’t pose them much of a problem.
“How is it you came to be inside the field?” I asked, thinking only an idiot could have made such a colossal blunder.
“We were at full stop, under night crew. The weeds came upon us faster than we could bring her up to full and take evasives,” the Captain answered. “Our nav computer malfunctioned and the scanners read them as small debris.”
Given my own experience with nav computers, I didn’t bother to delve any further. When they weren’t in motion, the tumbleweeds always appeared smaller than their actual size to scanners. Pilots relied on nav charts and computers to pinpoint their location when they travelled this part of the system. But they always verified their presence with human eyes.
“Can you back her out the way you came in?”
“It’s not so easy to move a one hundred thousand ton liner,” the Captain said. “It’s a bit like backing Saturn through one of her rings. We don’t have the maneuverability. Backing up’s rarely called for.”
I checked my computer’s readings again. “For the moment, it appears you got lucky, but when the field reaches the influence of Neptune’s gravity, it could change in a hurry.”
“Can you try and have us out before then?” the Captain replied, as if I needed some amateur questioning my competence for the mission. But the thought of four thousand five hundred passengers suffering for the ignorance of their crew wasn’t something I could live with, so I set about my calculations for clearing them a path.
As I flew along the field’s edge, it became obvious I’d have to go in manually and set the explosives. My jetpack was quicker and I a far smaller target than my ship. The odds I would avoid entanglements with any of the weeds would greatly increase if I went alone. The catch was that I hadn’t used my pack in over a year and never in a situation rife with the risks I’d face here. All it would take is one wrong move, one wrong placement of an explosive, or one disturbance of the field to send the weeds into chaos, haphazardly spinning like their Earthen namesakes across space, colliding with each other or anything else in their way.
To complicate things further, Neptune’s gravitation was coming into range. Planetary gravity started influencing objects millions of kilometers out. On paper, the figures looked ridiculous but this wasn’t on paper. Even a slight gravitational pull could send the tumbleweeds into chaotic motion, which would be the end of the Lady Luck, the Trini, and me.
Finishing my calculations with due speed but proper care, I slipped into my suit and jetted out the Trini’s passenger airlock, making my way into the field. The tumbleweeds were even more intimidating up close than they had been through the Trini’s ports. The temperature inside my suit rose as adrenaline coursed through my veins. Spying my first target, I used the suit’s jets to swing left and approach, taking care not to lose control or come in too fast.
I reversed my jets’ thrust, slowing my momentum as I reached each tumbleweed’s surface. Then I could set each charge and use my boots to push free before jetting off to the next target. Firing the jets too close might start the weeds spinning. The Trini’s calculations determined it would take twenty-two charges to both clear a path for the liner and deflect nearby tumbleweeds away from the Lady Luck. My plan included setting five more just in case something went wrong.
Thanks to my experience and skill, the execution came off without a hitch. As I released the last charge and clicked the activation button, ready to push off and head back to my ship, a motion over my right shoulder drew my attention. A door was opening on the Lady Luck. It appeared to be a garbage chute.
I punched the button on my radio. “Captain, don’t jettison anything, until you’ve cleared the field!”
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the editor of Blue Shift Magazine and an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. 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 Exoduswill appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes 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 for Fairwood Press (July 2013), headlined by Robert Silverberg, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress, and Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age for Every Day Publishing (November 2013). He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.