I’m back sleeping in my own bed after the whirlwind that was Chicon 8, the world science fiction convention in Chicago. Among many fascinating conversations swirling around me, was one that took place in a small gathering of writers and editors for a particular publication. Someone said our group felt like family, to which everyone immediately agreed.
The observation got me thinking how fortunate this little group is. In our field, it’s common for writers, and not only newbies, to feel adrift in the-changeable seas of the publishing industry, despite the fact that some periodicals and publishers have been around longer than most authors have been writing or have been alive. Editors, agents, publicists, and publishers move on to other positions and sometimes leave our field entirely. Moreover, writers soon learn not to count on any editor snapping up their latest story or book, even if earlier related works did nicely. It’s easy for authors to feel like we’ve been cast adrift.
Rather than grousing to each other and bemoaning our fates, it strikes me that the solution is twofold: 1. Write something new. 2. Search out a suitable market where a welcoming publisher may be receptive to more of your work.
For me, Analog Science Fiction and Fact feels like a home. I’ve been reading it as long as I can remember, not just the short fiction, but the multi-issue serials, the fact articles, reviews, editorials, etc. It’s been around for over ninety years. Importantly, it’s a comfort to know that my work has always been given serious consideration by the former editor and the current one. This doesn’t mean they’ll want to run everything I turn in. By no means! However, Analog is a market that will treat my work seriously. In our competitive field, this means a lot.
If I could grant one wish to all my writing friends and the many talented authors whom I don’t know but whose work I admire, it’s this: May you find a corner of our field that is a good home for the pieces dearest to your hearts.
Frequently, when authors hear that I write for Analog Science Fiction and Fact, they say they wouldn’t try to write hard science fiction. As much as they may love this sub-genre, they are put off by the degree of difficulty they perceive.
So how does an author go about writing SF that draws heavily on physics, chemistry, astronomy, or biology? I tried tackling this question with a group of hard science fiction writers on Go Indie Now, which you can watch. Our astute moderator, Joe Compton asked a bunch of insightful questions of Sean Hillman, Jan Kotouk, Bruno Martins Soares, and me.
We explored balancing the time you need to do the research vs. the time you have available for the writing. We also shared some thoughts on how the writer moves from initial premise to a mass of specialized knowledge to an intriguing story. Joe boiled what we do down to three handy rules:
- Know your thesis.
- Do your research.
- Don’t be afraid of what you are going to discover.
Come to think of it, that’s good advice for anything you set out to write.
For a short time, the stories Analog readers voted the best of 2021 are yours to read right here. I’m so honored to have The Last Frontier on this list with these fine stories. I had a great time creating an alternate timeline featuring a woman in the Apollo space program. Hope you’ll give all these stories a read!
ZOMG! Look! My novelette, “The Next Frontier,” is a finalist for the AnLab Readers’ Award! It was published in the July/August, 2021 issue of Analog. It also features a two-page interior illustration. For a short period of time, you can read it for free here. And who wouldn’t want to read alternate history about a woman astronaut in the Apollo space program?
I want to extend my gratitude to all those Analog readers who thought my story was worthy. I am deeply honored to be among such talented writers including my pals Lettie Prell and C. Stuart Hardwick. Also, my thanks go out to astute editor, Trevor Quachri for doing vital behind-the-scenes work to improve stories way more than many readers ever suspect and well as Managing Editor Emily Hockaday. Lastly, take a close look at that illustration done by Eldar Zakirov.
I’m pleased to announce that I had a couple of stories and several articles published in 2021:
- The Next Frontier: an alternate-history novelette about the 1960s space race in the July/August issue of Analog (link is to current issue, not previous one)
- The Holy Wars of Mathematics: A Secret History of the Calculus of Chicanery appeared in 99 Tiny Terrors. It’s my first published flash fiction (under 1000 words).
- Monumental Thinking was in the January/February 2021 issue of Analog, is my take on suitable replacements for statues being torn down these days. (Link is to current issue, not previous one)
- Astounding Analog Companion: Q & A in which I talk about writing alternate history
- My first SFWA blog post: Reasons to Publicize Your Award-Eligible Works
My Virtual Appearances:
- World Fantasy Convention panel on dreams and nightmares in fantasy and horror
- Go Indie Now panel on alternate history
- Go Indie Now panel on writing short stories
Most Enjoyable New Novels I Read:
- Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Garcia Moreno
- Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
- Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
- The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
Most Unexpected Pleasure:
- Being solicited for a hot new anthology to be assembled next year. I can’t tell you or they’d have to shoot me. (Wait…is this how that sentence is supposed to end?)
- June excursion to the Big Island of Hawaii in June. Have a look at some of my photos from it.
- August runner-up: time spent at a lake in the Adirondacks
Best Educational Opportunities:
- Virtual Humans to Mars conference: three days of inspiring, uplifting presentations by remarkably clever humans from all over the world. You can attend in 2022 and find out how these people from around the globe are making future trips to Mars a real thing!
- Close Runner-up: The Rambo Academy classes for writers at all skill levels featuring many different aspects of our craft. They even have gift certificates if you are stumped by what to give the writer in your life.
Best Pandemic Antidote:
- Occasional flower deliveries for creating beautiful arrangements via ReVased.com. Have a look at some of my creations here and on Instagram.
Most Fun New Series:
- Tie: WandaVison, For All Mankind (season 2)
Things to come in 2022: Watch this space for new announcements:
- Etruscan Afterlife is a short story appearing next year in The Reinvented Heart, edited by Cat Rambo and Jenn Brozek (preorder now!)
- Branching out into two new projects I can’t disclose yet!
- Moar dinosaurs!
What were some of your favorites in 2021?
On the day after Wally Funk successfully completed her flight on the Blue Origins rocket ship, what could be more appropriate than some thoughts about how the 1960s space program could have really included at least one woman astronaut? My Analog story, “The Next Frontier,” explores this possibility. For readers and writers, here’s how I took my initial idea all the way to the completed story, which I hope you will read, too!
Hey, you can watch my second appearance on Joe Compton’s Go Indie Now. Our panel of all women had a great time discussing what draws us to alternate historical events and how we go about turning these “what ifs” into stories. We look at how we weave together real events and historical figures with made up ones. Turns out, we’re all quite willing to discard some of what historians tell us when it gets in the way of a good story. Joe asked a bunch of insightful questions of Madeleine Holly-Rosing, A.F. Stewart, Nikki Nelson-Hicks, Jenn Thompson and me. Check us out!
In case you missed my alternate history of space exploration during the 1960s, it’s available in the July/August 2021 issue of Analog Science Fiction.
I’m excited to announce that not only is my new story, The Next Frontier, in the current July/August issue of Analog Science Fiction, but you can read an excerpt! I hope you’ll love the heroine of my alternate history tale of the competition to reach the Moon. I had so much fun inventing her!
You get to read my story, “The Next Frontier,” in Analog Magazine beginning June 15. I branch out into one of my favorite topics: the early days of humans venturing out beyond our home world. It’s an alternate history tale that I hope you will have as much fun reading as I did writing. Ah, it’s so tempting to say more, but nope. You’ll have to find out for yourself. Check out the July/August issue of Analog in print or digital.
I’m pleased to announce that I had several articles published in 2020, all of which you can read for free:
- Monumental Thinking, which is in the January/February issue of Analog, is my take on suitable replacements for statues being torn down these days.
- Elections Past, Present, and To Come is a reprint plus update of an article from the March 2016 issue of Analog talking about what it’s like to serve as an election official/poll worker. I’ve done this a bunch of times, including the 2020 Presidential primaries. (Do those ever seem like a lifetime ago!).
- What I know about writing about dinosaurs was posted on Cath Schaff-Stump’s Fantastic History blog.
My year end retrospective would normally include a list of my fiction that also appeared in print. Alas, 2020 has not been kind to the publishing industry. I was slated to have three science fiction stories make their print and/or on-line appearances. None of them did. Writers: This is why it’s important to make sure your contract addresses rights reversions and provides a kill fee if publication doesn’t happen within a stated time period. Sigh. These stories are all out to other markets once more.
Most Unexpected Pleasure: Serving as a judge for the Endeavour Award. It’s great to have a role in recognizing fine work by my colleagues who don’t make the choice easy!
Best Trip: Philadelphia Flower Show in early March. Have a look at some of my photos from it.
Best Educational Opportunities: Smithsonian classes went on line. You don’t even have to be a member (a/k/a Smithsonian Associate) to take them. I loved learning about how birds talk, parent, and think. I also sank into lectures on Paleolithic Cave Art, Santorini, Apollo 13, the Etruscans, Machu Picchu, and the Art of India.
Best Pandemic Antidote: Monthly flower deliveries for Zoom arranging with friends. If you are interested, check out revased.com. Or just have a look at some of my creations on my Flowers page and on Instagram.
Late to the Party: This summer I read and binge watched Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
Most Fun New Series: The Queen’s Gambit. This show reminded me so very much of my own days as a kid and high school student when I threw myself into the world of competitive chess tournaments. While my experiences took place somewhat later in time, the gender disparity had not changed much from the 1960s depicted in the series.
Guilty Pleasure: Tiger King. The less said the better.
Things to Come: What will the weeks and months ahead bring? Watch this space for announcements of:
- The Next Frontier: my novelette forthcoming in Analog.
- My first flash fiction (under 1000 words) to be published in a horror anthology.
- My first blog post on a different site aimed at professional writers.
- More good things I can’t disclose yet!