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).
“RAYGUN CHRONICLES breathes supercharged life into the space opera genre with exciting and inventive new tales by a superb line-up of writers. This is why science fiction will live forever!”—Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of PATIENT ZERO.
“RAYGUN CHRONICLES is an impressive anthology with an impressive list of contributors, a real showcase of the color and scope of what science fiction can be.”—Kevin J. Anderson, New York Times bestselling author of the Saga of Seven Suns
“Wonder, adventure, romance, humor–space opera delivers all of these, and this anthology brings together some of the finest talent in the business. Strange new worlds await. So lower your shields, engage your thrusters, and prepare to jump to warp speed!” — Dave Wolverton, New York Times Bestselling author of Star Wars: The Courtship of Prince Leia
“These stories bring the reader back to the days when we dreamt of blasters and flying cars. Golden age space opera fun with a strong Western feel.” — Alex Shvartsman, Editor Unidentified Funny Objects and Official Ken Liu Hugo bearer
Now I just have been mailing out review copies for Raygun Chronicles. It takes a while, but those efforts for Beyond The Sunhave landed us two major reviews and a major podcast appearance this month. The two major reviews are out this week in LOCUS’ October 2013 issue which is THE industry zine and thus a huge boost for us. These are also my first Locus reviews EVER. The first comes from Gardner Dozois, year’s best editor, award winning anthologist and writer:
There’s nothing really exceptional in Beyond the Sun, a mixed original/reprint anthology edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt, but it is a fun read, with some solid core SF work, although a similar concept was explored better last year by Jonathan Strahan’s Edge of Infinity. The theme appeals to me, as stories of exploration and adventure in space beyond the bounds of Earth remain one of the foundation stones of SF, but don’t expect to find hard science and rigorously worked-out physics here, as this isn’t that kind of book. Instead, it belongs to the old Pulp Adventure school, where spaceships flit between planets in days and sometimes even hours, and there are lots of exotic alien races to interact with and/or battle with. The best of the original stories here is probably Nancy Kress’s ‘‘Migration’’, a compelling look at the power instinct can hold over even the most rational minds, but also good are Brad R. Torgersen’s ‘‘The Bricks of Eta Cassiopeiae’’, Jaleta Clegg’s ‘‘One-Way Ticket to Paradise’’, and Nancy Fulda’s ‘‘A Soaring Pillar Of Brightness’’. There is also solid work by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Cat Rambo, Mike Resnick, and others, as well as good reprint stories by Robert Silverberg and Jason Sanford.
Also from October Locus, Karen Burnham reviews BEYOND THE SUN for Diverse Hands:
KAREN BURNHAM Beyond the Sun, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, ed. (Fairwood Press 978-1-933846-38-5, $17.99, 296pp, tp), August 2013. Cover by Mitchell Davidson Bentley. [Order from Fairwood Press, <www.fairwoodpress.com>.]
There are many reasons people may want to settle out beyond our solar system: religious freedom, economic opportunity, exploration, contacting other life, or simply the desire to be left alone. A little bit of all of these can be found in Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s broadly themed anthology Beyond The Sun. There are aliens, religious fanatics, soldiers, and plenty of people just trying to get by in this diverse volume.
One story about going to the stars in search of a simpler life is ‘‘Respite’’ by Autumn Rachel Dryden. In it a more-or-less Puritan couple are trying to reach the main settlement by wagon while the wife is in labor and the local fauna is about to launch into a feeding frenzy. Ann’s internal perspectives on events gives us a wonderfully dry take on a very tense story, and the troubles between her and her husband are deftly sketched. What I found particularly interesting is that the story ends up admiring a particular view of father- hood that is directly critiqued in the anthology’s strong opening story, ‘‘Flipping the Switch’’ by Jamie Todd Rubin. Rubin uses a trope similar to Joe Haldeman’s classic The Forever War to describe a father who is providing for his family but is fundamentally detached from them. The story effectively portrays the increasing tension the man feels as he drifts farther and farther away from his loved ones.
Returning to religious themes, Jean Johnson’s ‘‘Parker’s Paradise’’ depicts a colony that’s been vastly oversold by its religious leader; the acerbic perspective of a soldier tasked to protect the first contact group makes me want to go read some of her military SF, because this was hilarious. Jason Sanford’s ‘‘Rumspringa’’ gives us the space Amish, with a team of post-humans looking to manipulate an Amish colony through one of their own that went out into the world and came back. ‘‘The Far Side of the Wilderness’’ by Alex Shvartsman depicts a man driven by religious faith to hijack a ship and try to find Earth; his single-minded pursuit leaves him dissatisfied with a most amazing journey. Maurice Broaddus’s ‘‘Voice of the Martyrs’’ gives us an interesting blend of military, religion, and colonization – no easy answers in this one.
There’s one final story that features a religious colony: ‘‘The Dybbyk of Mazel Tov IV’’ by Robert Silverberg. Unlike most of the stories, which are original to the anthology (there are two other reprints, both from the 2000’s), this is a reprint from 1973. This is the second anthology I’ve read this year that has done this: taking a solid selection of contemporary stories and adding in a cherry-picked story from many decades past. Inevitably, the reprint by an old master (it was a Le Guin story the last time, I recall) blows the others away. Robert Silverberg’s story seems fresher, livelier, and more three dimensional than so many of the stories here – not that any of them are bad, but simply that they don’t get over a bar set that high. Some of them do; I would put Rubin’s story in that category along with Cat Rambo’s ‘‘Elsewhere, Within, Elsewhen’’ (a lovely tale of alien contact that literalizes the metaphor of being trapped in a shell of bitterness and resentment). But it really seems unfair to most of the authors involved. I understand the incredible temptation when you’re offered a Silverberg or Le Guin reprint that perfectly suits your theme, but in a mostly-original anthology I wish the editors would stop and reconsider.
That said, there are plenty of solid and enjoyable stories here. Various forms of libertarianism feature in Nancy Kress’ ‘‘Migration’’ and Brad Torgersen’s ‘‘The Bricks of Eta Cassiopeiae’’. Massive miscommunications with and about aliens feature in Simon C. Larter’s ‘‘Inner Sphere Blues’’ and Jennifer Brozek’s ‘‘Dust Angels’’. Jumping to conclusions is ill-advised in Nancy Fulda’s ‘‘A Soaring Pillar of Brightness’’. Luckily, aliens can be just as quick to misjudge a situation when Mike Resnick depicts them examining our television broadcasts in the concluding story ‘‘Observation Post’’.
Overall, this is a collection of solid stories in the somewhat neglected outer space exploration genre of science fiction. Post-humans are rare and garden variety humans occupy center stage, which feels a bit unusual these days. I worry that it seems that aliens in this volume are so difficult to communicate with: it often takes personal sacrifice to do so, or something improbably hand-waving to do with biology and telepathy. Compared to Silverberg’s 1973 story, in which communication with aliens is not terribly more fraught than communication with a rival human religious sect, this anthology seems a little discouraging about the real potential for relating to and communicating meaningfully with the Other.
Nonetheless, these are enjoyable tales with serious themes, worth the time spent reading them.
Well, I’ve been away from blogging for a month due to various reasons, with apologies to those who follow the blog. And so I’m going to try and get back into the swing of it with this report on my recent trip to San Antonio for World Con. As those who’ve seen my pictures on Facebook can already tell, I had the trip of a lifetime.
This year’s World Con brought my first solo sit down meal with a Big Five editor. My first sit down meal with a Grand Master and writing hero. And my first chance to sit in the front rows at the Hugo Awards. Amongst other things. I met so many people, built on preexisting relationships, laid foundations for new relationships, and explored new possibilities in so many ways.
For me, World Con is the most important business meeting of my year by far. So many publishers, authors, editors, booksellers and others come together in one place that it just creates tremendous opportunities. So I plan my trip accordingly. I arrange meals in advance, focusing mostly on people I want to do projects with, friends or not. I try to get on panels and a reading and signing. But then I leave the rest of time free to just mingle and network.
Although this year’s trip started rough with a lost cell phone (a bit of a handicap when trying to meet up with people at a con spread over 3 buildings with 3500 attendees), I quickly shoved it aside and launched into my second day by having lunch with Toni Weisskopf, who was delightful. I remembered chatting with her in 2010 at ConQuest in Kansas City, when she was Editor GOH, but this time we met as publisher and author, as I am coediting an anthology for Baen. We mostly talked about life, ourselves, and anything but business but she did inquire how the anthology is coming and wound up inviting me to pitch another, so I offered two ideas. I’ll be more formally presenting them soon. One is an immediate follow up to Shattered Shields, the military fantasy anthology I am editing with Jenn Brozek for Baen right now. (We just closed our Table of Contents and are doing final edits now). The other is a collaboration with the delightful Cat Rambo.
I also got to finally meet Lezli Robyn for lunch. She’s been my online friend for ages and we had missed each other completely in Chicago, so we made a point of getting together this year. She’s delightful. We sat on a Mexican restaurant’s outdoor patio overlooking the River Walk and were soon joined by Kay Kenyon. Two lovely ladies. Such fun.
In between I had done my first panel, a science panel titled “My Favorite Dinosaur” and had fun with Elizabeth Bear and the other panelists, including artist-author Spring Schoenhuth, a paleontologist, and a scientist from Japan. Later that night, I did a panel with the flawed question: “Do SF Stories have Fewer Happy Endings Now?” which the panelists and I basically deconstructed for an hour. When you name panels, narrow questions work best. Broad ones so dependent on people’s perspectives, tastes, etc., generally don’t work as well, at least for writing panels.
My moderating seemed to go over well, so I was excited for my last panel with Gail Carriger, Robin Hobb and Amanda Downum the next day on “Intricate Worlds.” But first, I spent the evening at parties and BarCon, then did a little crit work for my Writer’s Workshop session that Sunday.
Saturday I slept in then worked on panel prep and workshop stuff before meeting Dave Farland to get Raygun Chronicles bookplates signed. We had chatted the night before for ninety minutes at the Writers and Artists of the Future panel and wound up hanging and chatting again for a while, with David Brin even stopping in at one point. Dave is a really nice guy who is in two anthologies for me this year, and I am very glad, after hearing about him for years, to finally get to meet and work with him.
Mid-day, JM McDermott took Maurice Broaddus, Django Wexler and I off site for a signing and panel on faith in fiction. We had a small crowd but a great discussion, then Django and I hit the food court for a quick meal before I headed to the worldbuilding panel. The ladies and I had decided in advance to not do the stereotypical worldbuilding panel, so I launched us off with worldbuilding pet peeves and we went for there. In all, I was told, it was a favorite and very helpful panel for many. We covered the under valued areas of worldbuilding, favorite examples and more. And the hour simply flew by. Fun people, and, of course, sitting between Carriger and Hobb, I was fanboying the whole time.
After that I just took a nap and worked on my crits so I could print them, then hit a couple parties. The Baen party was a priority, and due to all the rushing around and walking, wound up being my sole stop for the night, though I did grab dinner for a “date” with my pals Jay Werkheiser and Lisa Montoya, whom I met last year and joke around with now constantly on Facebook. Jay is in Analog a lot as a writer and has generously beta read for me a couple times. Just delightful folks.
Sunday I had my Bucket List breakfast with Robert Silverberg and my roommate, Alex Shvartsman–fellow editor and author, tagged along. Silverberg was a blast, as usual, being funny and a great conversationalist, and soon his wife Karen Haber joined as well, and she is a similar delight. Alex and I both got the All-You-Can-Eat buffet but ate only one plate because we didn’t want to go back and miss any of the conversation.
Then it was off to print my crits and lead my two hour Writer’s Workshop session. I think at least two of the writers were quite receptive. The third was polite but didn’t seem to agree with an assessment all four of the rest of us made of his work. But I hope all of them found benefit in it nonetheless. Time will tell, as always.
At one, I met Patrick Swenson, publisher of Beyond The Sun, John A. Pitts and Brenda Cooper and we had lunch and discussed our mutual book launch at OryCon. These are three of my favorite people in SFF. Normally, I see them once a year at World Con. Excited that I’ll see them again, and that working on books has had me in touch with them a lot more this year than normal as Patrick published Beyond The Sun and Brenda and John each wrote stories for others.
The last bit of official duties was to record SFSignal podcast with Patrick Hester, Patrick Swenson and Beyond The Sun contributors, including authors Jean Johnson, Cat Rambo, Jamie Todd Rubin, Alex Shvartsman, Maurice Broaddus and artist Mitch Bentley. It flew by but was fun and I hope brings more attention to our collaboration, a project we’re all very proud of. Good reviews keep coming in and Gardner Dozois is reviewing it for Locus next month. Mitch also gifted me an original canvass of his cover art, which was a nice surprise I’ll treasure. I’ve worked with Mitch on four books now and his cover for Beyond The Sun is getting him accolades from Toni Weisskopf, Jack McDevitt, Robert Silverberg and more. Since I do anthologies to help myself and others build our careers, it’s nice to see it paying off for friends like that.
The night was taken up with Hugo Awards, where Alex accepted for Ken Liu and we spent the night carrying around a Hugo.
It was delightful to be together with the community and see recent conflicts and kerfluffles not interfere. That was probably the best surprise of all. Even Silverberg had confessed his fear that there would be a dark cloud over the proceedings but I was as warmly received by all as anyone, and clearly those who matter don’t pay much attention to rumors based on assumptions and innuendo, thankfully. We all had better things to do than discuss such overwrought unpleasantness. And I was relieved.
I am not naming everyone I met, but I did also meet several fans and Kickstarter backers, as well as other top people in the field. It was just an all around delight, and I wish I could afford to go to London. At this point, it appears World Con will be out for me, but we’ll see. It sure is a once a year time of greatness I’d hate to miss. The trip of a lifetime, as I said in the title to this post, and I look forward to many more to come.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is 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. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. In addition to Shattered Shields, he edited the anthologies Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012), Beyond The Sun (2013) and Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age (2013). He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter as @BryanThomasS.
We wound up with typical attrition of 20-40% of writers not coming through with stories. Luckily I had some name writers who asked to contribute but weren’t on my original list so we wound up with a stellar TOC.
You can click the link to see the full thing but in addition to our headliners: Silverberg, Kress, Resnick and Rusch, we also had names like Sanford, Fulda, Broaddus, Rambo, Torgersen, Brozek, Rubin and Johnson. Very exciting!
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.
In case you haven’t heard, I finalized a deal last week with Patrick Swenson for Fairwood Press to release Beyond The Sun next summer. Going into their 13th year, Fairwood has released titles by authors such as Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Michael Bishop, Laura Anne Gilman, Daryl Gregory, Jay Lake, Ken Scholes, Jack Skillingstead, Louise Marley, Paul Melko, William F. Nolan, Patrick O’Leary, Ray Vukcevich, Devon Monk, Tom Piccirilli, James Van Pelt, Ken Rand, Alexei Panshin, James C. Glass, Mary Rosenblum, and Bruce Taylor and I’m humbled and honored to join their ranks (as editor at least). Stories from Fairwood publications, which included the semi-pro zine Talebones, have been nominated for major awards. Scheduled for July 16 release, Beyond The Sun should debut at ReaderCon and World Con next year and I have no doubt some of the awesome authors will be in attendance at one or both. So far authors include: Robert Silverberg, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mike Resnick, Nancy Kress, Jamie Todd Rubin, Jennifer Brozek, Jason Sanford and Autumn Rachel Dryden. The cover is done by Mitch Bentley, who did the Davi Rhii covers, and Sarah Chorn is assisting me with edits. Expecting some great stories to come in for this now through the January 15 deadline and I’ll be posting updates.
In other news, I have signed with Every Day Publishing to edit SAGA: Space Age Golden Adventures from Ray Gun Revival, an anthology collecting the best of stories from the former space opera ezine with new stories by headliners. Signed up so far are Allen Steele, Sarah A. Hoyt, Mike Resnick, Paul S. Kemp and Robin Wayne Bailey, with more invitations awaiting responses. Doing the cover is artist Writer’s Of The Future winner Paul Pederson. The deadline is May 2013, so this one won’t be available until Fall 2013. But it’s going to be quite fun and thanks to Peter J. Wacks for the perfect title! Every Day Publishing publishes the zine Every Day Fiction as well as Every Day Poetsand Flash Fiction Chronicle, anthologies and novels. They are Vancouver, BC Canada based. I’m very pleased to be collaborating with them on this with the support of Ray Gun Revival‘s founding Overlords.
Beyond that, gearing up for Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter “Lost In Legends'” holiday release. This first in what Delabarre Publishing and cocreator Jeff Rutherford and I hope will be a series of chapter books to help get boys excited about reading again is one of my more fun projects this year. Looking forward to starting a second book soon.
Lots of stuff going on. For more projects and a Works In Progress report, click here.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is 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 Exodus will 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, headlined by Robert Silverberg, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress, a Ray Gun Revival Best Of Collection for Every Day Publishing and World Encounters and Space & Shadows: SpecNoir with coeditor John Helfers, all forthcoming. He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
“Ever since I was a child, I’ve dreamed about exploring the stars. What’s out there? What strange planets and beings might we encounter?” Schmidt said. As he watched NASA’s budget downsized and space travel, at least in the United States, get turned over to private enterprise, he recalled sitting on his grandmother’s lap as a child and looking at scrapbooks she’d kept of all the NASA clippings. “We used to dream together, to imagine. It fascinated both of us, and it was so fun to just speculate about what it might all mean or bring about.”
Space colonization has been a popular topic for science fiction writers. From Orson Scott Card’s Enderand Shadow series to Frank Herbert’s Dune and more, authors have written millions of words imagining the possibilities. Kim Stanley Robinson (Mars series), Allan Steele (Coyote series), Robert Silverberg (Majipoorseries), Mike Resnick (Kirinyaga and Chronicles Of A Distant World series), and many more novels and stories have been inspired by the subject.
“I love the ideas people come up with, and I wanted a chance to fill the need left by NASA’s downsizing to inspire that sense of wonder in future and present generations,” Schmidt said.
Such was the inspiration for his anthology project Beyond The Sun. “Beyond The Sun is going to feature stories by some amazing legendary science fiction writers, some established writers and some new writers on the subject,” he says. His headliners are all Hugo and Nebula winners: Robert Silverberg, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress. All have written novels and stories on the topic before and look forward to exploring it further. Joining them are familiar names such as Cat Rambo, Jason Sanford, Jennifer Brozek, Brad R. Torgersen, Jean Johnson, Erin Hoffman, Jamie Todd Rubin and Guy Anthony DeMarco.
“The writers included are some of my writing heroes and good friends,” Schmidt says. “It’s a thrill to have the participation of such notables as well as giving new writers the opportunity get more exposure for their own work by appearing alongside others with such respected reputations. Plus, you can just tell from the list of names how amazing the anthology is going to be!”
Just between them, the four headliners have 12 Hugo Awards, 5 Nebulas and a slew of other awards. Several other invitees have nominations and awards as well. Schmidt has even lined upaward-winning artist Mitchell Davidson Bentley to do the cover as well as several experienced and up and coming artists to add images for the stories themselves. “It’s rare these days to have artwork inside books, but I think it inspires the imagination,” Schmidt says. “I know that, as a writer, it’s intriguing to see what artists get as inspiration from my own work.” With the project aimed at being family friendly and applicable for educational use, Schmidt also thinks this will add value and interest.
“What better way to get future generations not only reading but excited about science and science fiction than by creating something teachers can use as a resource to stimulate dialogue, discussion, and imagination?” Schmidt explains. “I would have loved to get to read something like this for class as a kid. And I hear from teachers and parents how much they wish they had more quality stories with age appropriate content they could share with their kids.”
Schmidt’s previous anthology as editor, Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales 6, which also featured stories by several authors involved with Beyond The Sun, including a headline story by Mike Resnick & Brad R. Torgersen, has garnered positive reviews and steady sales. Schmidt says, “That publisher has been very supportive, but most small presses struggle to find the money to pay writers pro-rates for stories. On top of that to pay artists and editors. With the Kickstarter, we can package those costs in advance and allow the publisher to put their resources into producing a really good quality, edited, copyedited and laid out final product. Several small presses have already expressed interest. But the project has to happen first.”
If all goes well, Beyond The Sun will be released in late Spring 2013 and available at all major online retailers as well as local bookstores. A number of great incentives from signed art to signed books and even personalized thanks yous and tuckerized names are available to backers via the Kickstarter.
“Mostly I’m doing this because I love the concept and I love helping and working with other writers,” Schmidt says. “What better way than to offer them a great concept and good pay to do what they love?”
Slated to include 20 stories, only 3 of which would be reprints, backing Beyond The Sun is possible through October 17th at the project’s Kickstarter Page, which includes a project video and regular updates. A native of Salina, current resident of Ottawa, and former resident of Kansas City and Olathe, Schmidt is an active convention speaker and instructor. He has had four books published in print and several in ebook as well as short stories featured in magazines and online, all in the last two years. A freelance editor, he regularly edits books and stories for small presses and authors. He also is a regular contributor to blogs at Hugo winning www.sfsignal.com, www.adventuresinsfpublishing.com, www.tobereadbooks.com and www.graspingforthewind.com as well as running his own blog and hosting the live Twitter interview series SFFWRTCHT (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET. More information can be found on Schmidt’s blog here. And you can also find him onFacebook or follow him on Twitter. He can be contacted at 314-781-9120.
Welcome to the Beyond The Sun Anthology Project. Launched Monday, September 17, 2012 at Kickstarter! It ends Wednesday October 17, and we have some sneak peeks at artwork stories and even one more big name headliner coming if everything goes well! Please join us!
This is a labor of love for myself and a bunch of fellow dreamers, including Robert Silverberg, Mike Resnick, and Nancy Kress, our headliners, along with up and comers like Jason Sanford, Jamie Todd Rubin, Autumn Rachel Dryden and more. Submissions are coming from people like Cat Rambo, Jennifer Brozek, Matthew Cook, Brad R. Torgersen, etc. All the details can be found on this video and at the Kickstarter. The mock cover by artist Mitch Bentley is looking pretty cool, too!
Check back here for regular updates!
Beyond The Sun
Edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Assistant Editor: Sarah Chorn
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.
20 stories of space colonists by both leading and up and coming science fiction writers of today. Mike Resnick revisits the Hugo, Nebula and Homer winning universe of his Africa stories. Grandmaster Robert Silverberg examines Jews who left the contention of a wartorn holyland to settle on their own planet when faced with a dybbuk (spirit) and asking whether aliens can be allowed 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. A fourth big name female headliner has agreed to come aboard when we reach funding.
These and 15 other writers join author-editor Bryan Thomas Schmidt for tales of action, humor, and adventure amongst the stars.
Length: approximately 92,000 words
Estimated Date of Publication: Summer 2013
Like most of my work, this anthology will be family friendly in focus. I want it to be something people of all ages can read, enjoy and discuss. Remember when space exploration filled you with awe? Do you remember sitting around dreaming about what it might be like if you too could go to the stars? That’s the sense I’d like to capture with these stories. I’m deliberately choosing writers with diverse backgrounds, interests and styles with the hopes of getting a diverse selection still united around a common theme.
Authors invited to submit: Hugo and Nebula nominee Brad R. Torgersen, Jean Johnson writing in her Philip K. Dick Award nominated novel universe, Jamie Todd Rubin, Cat Rambo, Jennifer Brozek, Matthew Cook, Erin Hoffman, Jason Sanford, Patrick Hester, Sarah Hendrix, Anthony R. Cardno, Johne Cook, Simon C. Larter, Grace Bridges, Jaleta Clegg, Anna Paradox, Gene Mederos, Dana Bell, Anne-Mhairi Simpson, Selene O’Rourke, Mike Resnick, Nancy Kress, Autumn Rachel Dryden and Robert Silverberg.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is 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 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- Lost In A 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 World Encounters and Space & Shadows: SpecNoir with coeditor John Helfers and developing another project with co-editor Rich Horton, both forthcoming. He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
I respect George R.R. Martin as a writer. He’s immensely talented. I’ve met him. He’s a nice guy. I respect the achievement that is regarded as one of the greatest fantasy series of all time. I read the first two books. I enjoyed them for what they are. But I couldn’t finish book 3. A Storm Of Swords just lost me. I have wrestled with that for a couple of weeks now and finally sorted out why.
Why would I want to read a book that deals with heroes like reality does? GRRM takes all the archetypes and knocks them off one by one. Killing any admirable heroes and leaving us with mostly unlikable scum. Oh Jon Snow and Arya and even Tyrion still have likability, despite flaws. But you know, I get this kind of depressing reality on the news daily and the internet, I don’t need it in my fiction. I read fiction to escape. I read it to hope for a better world. I read it to see possibilities, not realities that are depressing and sad or reminders of that.
Maybe I’m more thoughtful than some people. I’m painfully aware of my frailties, failures and inadequacies. My life’s quest has been to try and conquer them or at least counter them by living a life that makes a difference. From teaching to volunteering to mission work, I have sought to help and encourage others and myself by seeking to make a better world, at least in the portion that I touch. And when I write, that’s why I write old fashioned heroes where the good guys are good and admirable, despite being flawed, and the bad guys are bad. You know who you want to see win and that’s okay because it’s natural. It doesn’t have to weaken the characters to have them be people who make us want to be better people ourselves; to make us hope people, including ourselves, can rise above our depravity and lead better lives, lives of significance that make a better world.
As my friend and editor Randy Streu states it: “It’s like, somebody decided that ‘nuance’ meant that, to be a real hero meant to be so flawed and depraved that actual heroism was dead. Acts for the greater good are a biproduct of self interest.” I guess some people do probably believe that. But I don’t. I think heroism is alive. I sometimes think the media wish it wasn’t. They go after anyone with character or fame like sharks at a steak cookout, tearing them to shreds, cutting them down to size, poking and probing at every potential weakness or flaw to tear them down. Reality TV thrives on this. It’s a celebration of mediocrity and failure. It’s about taking people we admire and bringing them down a notch. That’s why it’s so wonderful when someone actually survives the reality TV feeding frenzy and comes out shining. Take Clay Aiken on the current Celebrity Apprentice or even Arsenio Hall. Arsenio lost it once, but then apologized and let it go. And he showed himself to be the class act most of his fans always hoped he was.
But Song Of Ice and Fire as well written as it is, as deep as it can be, just leaves me cold. Are people really this bad? Probably. But why are we celebrating it? Why are we putting that out there as a tale of fantasy when it’s really more a tale of sad reality? Don’t get me wrong, GRRM has a right to write what he wants. I stand up for his freedom of speech. I’m just saying that the alternative to A Song Of Ice and Fire appeals more to a lot of people and that’s not bad or wrong. I wish there were more of it.
I recently interviewed Robert Silverberg about the rerelease of the incredible Majipoor books which changed my life. The hope and excitement they inspired not only in the possibilities of what one man can do but what one writer can do have been formative in my life. Are there bad guys in that? Yes. Is the hero flawed? Yes. But there’s an underlying sense of wonder and optimism which is inspiring and moving. Lots of books used to have that. Less have it today and I wonder why. Is our nihilistic age destroying our ability to hope? My childhood memories are filled with books which so inspired me: from Winnie The Pooh to Dr. Seuss to Huckleberry Finn and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Some of these books, like Finn and Wilder dabble close to the vest with reality. It’s not that characters don’t face real problems or flaws but that they triumph and grow into better people and the overall theme is hopeful and makes you want to do the same in your life. Is that such a bad thing? Does anyone who has kids really want them reading books with the tone of A Song Of Ice And Fire to set their expectations for the world and their lives?
Again, I am not saying A Song Of Ice and Fire is bad. I am just suggesting that another type of literature has its place and its importance and is still needed and wanted by many readers today and that, perhaps, the focus on moving away from that is misplaced. Rowling’s Harry Potter books are popular for a reason. They celebrate the triumph of flawed heroes over strong forces and great odds. And the protagonistic characters are admirable and likable.
It’s funny to me that so much of Christian literature took it to the opposite extreme. There, heroes are so whitewashed and villains so tame that readers living in the real world quickly grow bored and frustrated. The books don’t engage their reality enough, rather than the opposite of perhaps engaging too much. Instead of lacking heroes, they lack realistic people. The characters are cardboard and perfect and don’t resemble anyone we know and the world is too neat with too many rounded edges and not enough jagged ones. If that makes any sense. Whereas the Bible is filled with powerful heroes who are flawed men and woman fighting to rise above their flaws and facing incredible odds. Those character types still have power and meaning for audiences today. I think that’s why so many classics continue to be reprinted again and again, like the Majipoor series. I’ll continue trying to write it, and I hope others will as well. I really hope the kids of tomorrow can find books to inspire them like I used to. And I’ll continue to seek an alternative to A Song Of Ice And Fire. Not that I refuse to read such things but that I’ll visit them sparingly. They offer me less of what I seek and need and thus don’t satisfy my cravings. The HBO version has just made me feel stronger about it as they ditch the story and important POV characters like Arya for any scene where they can show more flesh and more gritty sex, violence, etc. They emphasize even more the darkness and they’re losing their way with the story in the process.
Yes, I still believe real heroes exist and the world can be a better place if we do our best to rise above our flaws and make a difference. I still believe story telling even on film doesn’t need to be darkly discouraging and total depravity, that there can be hope in its midst. And I hope I always will. 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, andThe Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories featured in anthologies and magazines. He edited the new anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. His children’s book 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids from Delabarre Publishing. As a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
I read a lot of books for my author interviews on SFFWRTCHT and blogs like GraspingForTheWind.com, www.SFSignal.com, and Ray Gun Revival, as well as my own blog. In fact, reading for those dominates my reading time. I rarely squeeze in books for fun or learning anymore. Most of the time, I’m excited to read the books because I love discovering new authors and for years I didn’t read speculative fiction at all, so I am way behind in my genre knowledge. But every once in a while you come across one that makes you think “I probably won’t enjoy this” for various reasons. Isn’t it wonderful to instead discover you adore them? Here’s Eleven series I had that initial reaction to which are now among my favorites:
1) The Majipoor Books by Robert Silverberg–WHAT?! You say? Well, I’d never heard of Robert Silverberg when my twin sister gave me Lord Valentine’s Castle for Christmas at age 15. It was not a book on my Christmas list, and, frankly, I was annoyed that she would dare deviate from my carefully prepared list. The cover intrigued me though with its aliens juggling and such. And boy, this book knocked my socks off. Other than The Hobbit (I had yet to read Lord Of The Rings), this book had the most amazing world building I had ever seen. It absolutely knocked me out. And I adored it. I snagged Majipoor Chronicles as soon as that came out, and the alien sex scenes certainly stimulated my young teenage boy mind (HEY! I’m only human people!) It took years for me to get the rest and read them, but I finally did and reread the first two as well. My favorite novel series of all time, hands down. Amazing characters, amazing world building, masterful storytelling in every sense. True classics. Not to be missed. His second series surrounding Presimion is maybe even better than the first, but Lord Valentine’s Castle remains my favorite. They are all getting released starting this month by ACE/ROC Books, too.
2) Black Blade Blues by John A. Pitts–An urban fantasy with dragons and a Lesbian heroine with romance. Dragons are overdone. They’ve been done a million times. And I’m straight, not gay. To each his or her own, but when I do read romance, I just prefer male on female. Also, this just sounded like a teen set, girly appeal book to me. Not because John himself is all that girly. He’s really not. In fact, he’s become a good friend. But this was one I expected to not enjoy and instead turned out to be one of my favorite series ever. Pitts writes really good characters and action. He also does some unique POV things, with all Sarah Buehall’s chapters in 1st person, and 3rd person for the supporting POV characters. He takes old tropes like dragons and the blacksmith and breathes new life into them. He also takes modern SCA reenactors and throws them into their living fantasy and mines it for humor skillfully. Just a delight in every way and should not be missed. SERIOUSLY. Straight guys too!
3) Greywalker by Kat Richardson–I read this after meeting Kat at Rainforest Writers. She was delightful. But urban fantasy had never sounded like much of anything I’d enjoy. Instead, I’m hooked. And I have Kat to blame. At first, it sounded too Sixth Sense-like for me. As one of the few people who didn’t care for that movie, this was not a draw. But man, I love this series. I’m hooked. I went out and tracked down copies of every one. I’ve since read another and interviewed her. And it inspired my own idea for an urban fantasy detective noir series I am working on. Love these books. They are even better than you’ve heard.
4) Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole–Military fantasy? Military anything really. Okay, I like John Ringo. And I am pro-military. But it just sounded odd, although I adore the book cover. I could not have been more wrong. I absolutely got my socks knocked off, and I still can’t find them. Cole is a master at world building and working old tropes inventively into the modern world. He also knows his military and it shows. It’s like an inside view of military life in so many ways, and I think it makes you respect all the more, the sacrifices our troops make in serving our country. Sure to make you patriotic in a good way but also challenges the idea that obeying orders strictly is an ideal rule of thumb. Cole infuses his characters with humanity, even the goblins, yes, and makes you care about them and root for them. Really fun and exciting possibilities with this one. And women, you’ll love it just as much. He writes good, strong females as well. I can’t wait to read the rest. And I am telling you, this one is for everyone!
5) The Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger–Okay, parasol in the title. Pretty much said it all. Romance. Also, vampires and werewolfs AGAIN?????!!! Not my favorite. No one can top Anne Rice in the vampires, if you ask me, although Charlaine Harris is giving her a run for the money at the moment. I read it because Carriger is a leading steampunk author, a genre I love. And I’d heard good things. I am in love with this series, too. Went out and tracked them all down. Carriger is hilarious and she uses old tropes in new ways while making absolutely fantastic use (and fun) of her Victorian setting. She even gets the Old Queen herself involved. Yes, there’s romance, but not in a sappy, smarmy way. (Well, not too much.) Her lead character is not one of those sappy females with dreamy eyed looks and emotions at all. She’s a bit rougher around the edges, and, as such, a bit of an outcast. She also has gifts which set her apart. I won’t spoil it for you. But I adored the first book and can
6) The First Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson–I picked these up because the Darrell Sweet covers were so intriguing and I wanted something fantasy to read. I had been reading a lot of science fiction but not as much fantasy. Then the main character was not so nice and he raped a young girl. I almost put it down right then. So glad I didn’t. The redemption journey of Thomas Covenant is so worth the effort and Donaldson is so masterful a writer. I am thrilled to have met him and had him sign my copy a couple of years ago. And we have an interview coming up for SFFWRTCHT with him where I focused on this series. He’s got two trilogies and a 4 book final cycle in this universe now, and they are rightly regarded as classics of the genre. Also, the later cycles have a female lead, so if you women are turned off by Covenant’s behavior, you really should still give this a chance. The world building is rich and unique and the journey is one that touches the heart. I promise.
7) The Retrieval Artist series by Kristine Kathryn Rusch–I read these because I had read her first Diving book and several great short stories, but the idea of a noir detective in science fiction didn’t sound like my thing. I have never been a huge mystery reader. I think Rusch changed all that with these books. I adore this series and her mix of genres. She also does some really fantastic world building in here as well. Her use of tropes in new ways, her alien species, etc. are so well thought out, with real cross cultural conflicts and consequences arising from their different world views. Authors don’t always think it through that far or even strive to incorporate it all, and she’s challenged me as a writer to go further as a result. Highly recommended. Kris has become a friend and one of my favorite authors.
8 ) The Ender Series by Orson Scott Card–This one I had hesitancy for silly reasons. I wasn’t reading science fiction at the time and I’d only heard bad things about this author’s strong opinions. But my cousin David and his wife insisted I’d love these. They even gave me their copies, so I felt obligated to give them a chance. After all, David and I have always been close and our mutual love of speculative fiction is one reason. David introduced me to D&D, Star Wars and so many things. He was right. Ender’s Game is called a classic with good reason. No matter what you think of Card’s religion or opinions on politics, he’s masterful at writing and those themes don’t come into it with this series (at least so far). This is really good militarySF and space opera. And not to be missed by genre fans.
9) The Chronicles Of A Distant World series by Mike Resnick–I am now a huge Resnick fan and he’s become a friend and mentor. He even blurbed my forthcoming novel and wrote a story for an anthology I edited. But full disclosure aside, I read this when I really had no idea who this Resnick guy was. I just knew he’d won a lot of awards and was a big shot amongst writers (everyone said). He also had a passion for Africa and so do I. But could a white guy from Ohio really do the African cultures I adored justice? I think he did splendidly, frankly. This series of science fiction inspired by African history and imagining what the future might look like has been a touchstone for me. In fact, the predictions Resnick made came true in some cases. Very unique and not like most other SF you will read but that’s all the more reason you shouldn’t miss it. Masterfully done and really deep world building and cross cultural explanation. No preaching. No judging. He just lays it out there like the expert he is and lets readers to the rest.
10) The Posleen War Series by John Ringo–I am not a big military story reader. I support the military. But reading military books is rare. I love political intrigue like old school Tom Clancy and WEB Griffin, but the idea of war books didn’t appeal. But people kept raving about MilitarySF. And people said John Ringo was a great place to start. Plus I heard an interview with the author that impressed me. A Hymn Before Battle blew me away. I went out and bought the series and can’t wait to tear into the rest. Reading schedule, as mentioned above, has so far prevented me, but they are on the shelf where I can see them and one of these days, soon, I’ll pick them up and tear into them again, and I can’t wait!
11) Pathfinder Tales by various–D&D tie-ins, really? I imagined characters stopping to roll the dice during attacks, and more silliness. I just couldn’t wrap my mind about it. What I never expected to find was good sword & sorcery/fantasy novels, but these are a real find. I have read four so far and enjoyed them thoroughly. This is some great stuff. Don’t let the tie-in stigma scare you off. Editor James L. Sutter is doing some great stuff with some great authors like Howard Andrew Jones and Dave Gross. If you enjoy fantasy and magic, even if you’re not into RPGs, you’ll love this. If you are into RPGs, that’s just a bonus.
Okay, there’s eleven series I loved in spite of initial reservations. I’m sure I’ll discover more, but what about you? Please post yours in comments. I’m sure we’d all love to discover more!’ll be tearing back into this. Military culture is well handled, of course, but the alien invasion and character drama is fascinating too. He really is the Clancy/Griffin of SF writers. His tension and the intrigue level is far more than I’d anticipated. It really keeps you hooked and turning the pages. I really enjoyed these.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novelThe Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012 along with the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 which he edited for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Rensick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited a novel for author Ellen C. Maze (Rabbit: Legacy), a historical book for Leon C. Metz (The Shooters, John Wesley Hardin, The Border), and is now editing Decipher Inc’s WARS tie-in books for Grail Quest Books. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SF Signal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.