About My Hugo-Award-Nominated Story

I’m not going to talk about the Great Hugo Award Controversy in this post. If that disappoints anyone, then in the words of my former teacher, Dave Haasl, “For this I apologize, but this apology is in no way sincere.”

Hugo Award Logo

One additional note: This post is adapted from what I sent out today in my newsletter. Usually I give my newsletter friends a longer period of exclusivity, so to them I offer a sincere apology.

For family and friends who don’t follow science fiction and fantasy news, last Saturday the nominees for the 2015 Hugo Awards were announced, and my story, “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium,” which appeared in Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show online magazine last May, is a finalist for the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novelette.

If you already know what the Hugo Awards are, you can skip this paragraph, but for family and friends who are not immersed in SF&F culture: the Hugo Awards are given for “excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy,” and have been called the “most prestigious award in science fiction” — so this is a pretty big deal. You can think of the Hugos as something of a cross between the Academy Awards and the People’s Choice Awards, in that they’re voted on by a fairly small group (members of the World Science Fiction Convention) but anyone is welcome to join that group.

My first reaction to the nomination was a profound sense of gratitude, which I hope will become clear as I tell you a bit about the story and how it came to be.

My “novelette” — which simply refers to a story between 7500 and 17,500 words long — revolves around human settlers on a distant planet trying to end years of subjugation by an alien species. Here’s the opening:

The door leading to the Tephrist’s studio reminded Cerna of a clam’s shell turned on its side, except it was grossly oversized, indigo-painted, and steel.

“Let’s go back, Phil,” Cerna said. “Why do you want to go in there? They’re the ones making you sick.”

Keller would hear none of it. His hand shook a little as he pushed against the damaged identi-plate. The plate and the imperfectly patched wall around it bore the imprint of the only human revolt to have reached this far into town.

As the door-halves swung apart on smooth tracks, Cerna resisted the urge to pull his friend away. The interlocking flutes were sharp edged and equipped with heavy-duty pins as long as his forearm that secured it in the off-hours.

The front room was square, and stark in its simplicity. It smelled pleasanter than Cerna expected, faintly of cinnamon. Not like death at all.

The ceiling was mostly open to the afternoon sky, typical of Peshari construction, but buttresses rose from the corners that were interconnected with steel bars. Shadows from the bars made patterns on the rough, pale, orange tiled floor and the sand colored brick walls. A few bricks were adorned with dead Peshari in miniature bas-relief.

A heavy-beamed archway roughly opposite the entrance led back into the work area. In between, a holo-pillar took up about a square meter in the center of the room, but it was turned off. Otherwise, the room was bare, with not even a plant to break up the uniform color. Cerna guessed that a place devoted to death might not be the best environment for living things.

If you’re curious and want to read more, I’ll put the link at the bottom of this post.

So, then, why was gratitude my first reaction when the committee told me I’d been nominated? Because I give credit to a number of other people for the story’s success — and even for its very existence!

First off, I wrote the story as part of the annual Halloween contest in the Codex Writers Group, and the two “seeds” I started with came from fellow writers Aliza Greenblatt and Eric James Stone. The story took second place in the contest, and James Maxey liked it so much that he called it to the attention of Edmund Schubert, the editor of InterGalactic Medicine Show. Ed asked me to send it to him, which of course I did. Just a few months later the story went online.

So I am deeply grateful to each and all of them for their contributions to and faith in the tale.

The story of the story (if you will) might have ended there. IGMS’s readership is smaller than the traditional powerhouse magazines like Analog and Asimov’s, and while it’s nice to think that some of the readers liked my story, I don’t remember it being reviewed or getting any other attention. But as “award season” started warming up my friends Brad Torgersen and Larry Correia decided to recommend the story, and others followed suit. For my part, I was quite happy that a few more people might read the story than would have ever heard of it otherwise; even with the widespread attention Brad and Larry and their “Evil League of Evil” could give it, I doubted it would make the cut.

Turns out I was wrong.

So here I am, with a story nominated for one of the most significant science fiction awards. From the moment I opened the e-mail with the news, I’ve been and remain most grateful, to the people named above and to everyone who read my story and liked it enough to nominate it.

Voting will take place this summer. I’ll find out in August if my story passed muster with the voters.

Until then, as I noted above there is more than a little controversy over my nomination, because it was part of the recommendation list that was passed around. But I hope you’ll forgive me for leaving that discussion to another day.

Because all I really want to say today is: Thank you, one and all.

___

Here’s the promised link, if you’d like to read “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium”.

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My Friend Brad Torgersen Suggests One of My Works for Hugo Award Consideration

Award-winning author Brad Torgersen included my novelette, “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium,” which appeared in the May 2014 issue of Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, as part of the Sad Puppies 3 campaign to encourage people to read and consider works that might otherwise be ignored.

I like the crew-patch-style logo:


(Sad Puppies 3 logo.)

Some Background, if You Need It. If you haven’t been following the recent controversy surrounding the Hugo Awards — and if you’re not a convention-going science fiction and fantasy fan, why would you? — bestselling author Larry Correia started the “Sad Puppies” campaign two years ago as a reaction to the tendency for the major genre awards to ignore (if not actually shun) popular works by conservative authors, with the result that nominees often represented highly “literary” works that were experimental or edgy or otherwise inaccessible to wide audiences, or “message” fiction that seemed more concerned with waving the flag for progressive issues than with being entertaining. In addition, there had there been reports of authors being blackballed and suspicions of vote-tampering by World Science Fiction Convention staff members.

Larry, who plied his trade as an accountant and auditor before he started writing full-time, saw that the threshold for making the Hugo ballot was relatively small — as low as a few dozen nominations in some categories — and encouraged people to nominate specific works. By comparing the numbers of people who reported their nominations to him with the figures reported by WorldCon, Larry showed that accusations of fraud were unfounded. The nomination and voting processes appeared to be operating above-board, which speaks well for the volunteers who organize and staff the conventions.

Tongue-in-cheek, Larry called his program the Sad Puppies campaign because some people love to be part of causes on behalf of the downtrodden. He wrote that

The ugly truth is that the most prestigious award in sci-fi/fantasy is basically just a popularity contest, where the people who are popular with a tiny little group of WorldCon voters get nominated and thousands of other works are ignored. Books that tickle them are declared good and anybody who publically deviates from groupthink is bad. Over time this lame ass award process has become increasingly snooty and pretentious, and you can usually guess who all of the finalists are going to be that year before any of the books have actually come out or been read by anyone, entirely by how popular the author is with this tiny group.

This is a leading cause of puppy related sadness.

Of course anything that is voted on is de-facto a popularity contest, and the fact is what I like may not be popular with very many people. The only way to make your vote count is to actually vote, and in the case of the Hugo Awards, not all of the people who buy books are interested in buying convention memberships or voting for awards. So it is that, just as with film awards in which movies that do well at the box office are often overlooked during award season, authors who are popular enough to sell thousands if not millions of books are often shut out of what has long been considered the premiere science fiction award.

Back to the Main Topic. I very much appreciate Brad including my story among his recommendations. You can see all of his suggestions at the Sad Puppies link at the top, where he wrote that he is carrying on the campaign to recognize

entirely deserving works, writers, and editors — all of whom would not otherwise find themselves on the Hugo ballot without some extra oomph received from beyond the rarefied, insular halls of 21st century Worldcon “fandom.”

Which is where YOU guys come in. Everyone who’s signed up as a full or supporting member of either Loncon 3 (last year’s Worldcon) or Sasquan (this year’s Worldcon) or MidAmeriCon II (next year’s Worldcon). If you agree with our slate below — and we suspect you might — this is YOUR chance to make sure YOUR voice is heard. This is YOUR award (as SF/F’s self-proclaimed “most prestigious award”) and YOU get to have a say in who is acknowledged.

I’m pleased that he considers my little story to be deserving! And even if folks find other novelettes to nominate, I’m pleased that some more people might read it now who otherwise may not even have heard of it.

If you’d like to read “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium,” here’s a link to it on the IGMS site.* Hope you like it!

___
*If you can’t afford to buy the online magazine and still want to read the story, drop me a line and I’ll see about getting you a copy.

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I’ll Have a Story in an Upcoming Baen Books Anthology

The press embargo lifted yesterday! I’m excited to announce that my short story, “Lightweaver in Shadow,” will appear in the Shattered Shields military fantasy anthology coming out from Baen Books.


(Gray is going to be a Baen author!)

Editors Jennifer Brozek and Bryan Thomas Schmidt put together the anthology, and I was thrilled to learn that they selected my little story — first, because I still get excited when any of my stories are accepted for publication, and second, because this means that I will soon enough be a Baen author! After being connected to Baen as the “Slushmaster General” for the past few years, to have one of my stories picked for a Baen anthology feels terrific.

The anthology will be released as a trade paperback in November 2014, and the full Table of Contents features some wonderful authors:

  • Introduction by Jennifer Brozek and Bryan Thomas Schmidt
  • “Ashes and Starlight,” a Runelords story by David Farland
  • “The Fixed Stars,” an October Daye story by Seanan McGuire
  • “The Keeper of Names,” by Larry Corriea
  • “The Smaller We Are,” by John Helfers
  • “Invictus,” by Annie Bellett
  • “Rising Above,” by Sarah A. Hoyt
  • “A Cup of Wisdom,” by Joseph Zieja
  • “Words of Power,” by Wendy N. Wagner
  • “Lightweaver in Shadow,” by Gray Rinehart
  • “Hoofsore and Weary,” by Cat Rambo
  • “Vengeance,” a Frost story by Robin Wayne Bailey
  • “Deadfall,” by Nancy Fulda
  • “Yael of the Strings,” by John R. Fultz
  • “The Gleaners,” by Dave Gross
  • “Bonded Men,” by James L. Sutter
  • “Bone Candy,” a Black Company story by Glen Cook
  • “First Blood,” a Paksenarrion story by Elizabeth Moon

 

Since my story holds down the middle slot, I expect it’s the weakest of the bunch — but it made the cut! That’s good enough for me.

I’ll post more information as we get closer to the release date.

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New ASIMOV’S, with My Story, ‘What is a Warrior Without His Wounds?’

Here’s a look at the cover of the July issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction, which should be available on newsstands and/or in bookstores later this week:


(Asimov’s, July 2013.)

As noted in the title, I have a novelette (i.e., a story of a certain length) in this issue. The story opens as follows:

Miroslav did not expect to find a Colonel waiting for him when he returned from physical therapy. The officer was looking out the window; Miroslav came to sluggish attention, unused to his ill-fitted prosthetic leg.

The stranger turned away from the window and regarded Miroslav’s awkward pose. “Please, Captain,” he said, his voice heavy though he smiled and nodded, “stand at ease, or sit if you prefer.”

Miroslav shifted his single crutch a little, careful not to throw his balance off. He would not sit unless the Colonel did so, even though his muscles quivered as if he had just completed a twenty-kilometer forced march.

Would they send a high-ranking officer to discharge him? Any nurse could have delivered the paperwork; it would be less humiliating.

“How is your recovery?” the Colonel asked. “Are you receiving adequate treatment? Are you progressing well?”

Miroslav acquiesced to the small talk. “I am stronger,” he said. He stood on his own for a second and tapped his false leg with the crutch. As he put the crutch back down, he lifted his prosthetic left arm. “I am not … as capable as I once was.”

If you get a chance to read it, I hope you find the story worth your while.

___

Related Posts:

New Issue of LORE, with My Story, ‘A Star That Moves’

My Story, The Second Engineer, in Asimov’s Science Fiction

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Some Perspective on Fan Mail

Or on fan e-mail, as it were.

Having only published a few stories, I don’t get much in the way of reader feedback, whether by e-mail, or here on the blog, or in person. When it does come — as when a young fellow asked for my autograph at a recent convention, or yesterday when a young lady wrote in about one of the stories I had in Asimov’s last year — it can be both refreshing and humbling.

I must be getting old...
(“I must be getting old…” by idogcow, from Flickr under Creative Commons.)

It just so happens that last night, barely an hour after reading yesterday’s very complimentary e-mail, I read something else that helps put such things in perspective. My leisure reading of late has been The Best of Gene Wolfe, a collection of his short fiction, and in the afterword to “The Detective of Dreams” Mr. Wolfe writes,

I will not lecture you on Jesus of Nazareth, but I advise you to find [G.K.] Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man. In [“The Detective of Dreams”] I asked you to consider that everlasting man’s short fiction. Fans have written me to say that this or that story stayed with them for days. Each letter makes me proud and happy. In my happiness and pride, I am prone to forget that there was once a storyteller from Galilee whose stories have stayed with us for millennia.

I like that very much.

So as much as I appreciate knowing that someone has read and appreciated something I wrote, I must recognize that, as Audio Adrenaline sang, I’m “never gonna be as big as Jesus.”

And that’s okay.

___

P.S. I also recommend The Everlasting Man, which is interesting and at times fascinating. I listened to the audiobook, but I admit that to me the text came across as almost too complex for audio. I would like to find a good print copy, in order to consider Chesterton’s arguments in their proper depth. GWR

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New Issue of LORE, with My Story, ‘A Star That Moves’

Now available at an Internet near you: the latest edition of LORE with one of my short stories in it!


(Lore, Volume 2, Number 3.)

Here’s the opening:

A little paranoia is healthy in a soldier, and Gaius Antonius Marcellus was a good soldier.

Marcellus did not question the prickly feeling of being targeted. He reacted to it. That reflex had left him with scratches instead of gaping wounds as he rose through the Legion ranks; it saved him from many Gallic spears in his campaigns as a Centurion; and it even warned him of political dangers through this first year as Legatus Legionis, the garrison commander. It had never failed him.

For half a month he had felt it — the hairs alert on the back of his neck — but he could not find the source. And facing the unknown was worse than facing an enemy’s sword.

And, just so you know that this is science fiction rather than fantasy, a tiny spoiler: the alien spacecraft shows up in the next paragraph.

If you want to see the other issues of LORE, check out their online store; otherwise, you can go straight to this CreateSpace page to order your copy of the magazine.

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LORE to Publish ‘A Star That Moves’

I signed the contract and submitted the final edits to my science fiction short story, “A Star That Moves,” which is set to come out in the next issue of LORE (volume 2, issue 3, available in late March).

LORE Tomb by Wayne Miller
(LORE Tomb by Wayne Miller, from the LORE “About Us” Page.)

Here’s the story opening:

A little paranoia is healthy in a soldier, and Gaius Antonius Marcellus was a good soldier.

Marcellus did not question the prickly feeling of being targeted. He reacted to it. That reflex had left him with scratches instead of gaping wounds as he rose through the Legion ranks; it saved him from many Gallic spears in his campaigns as a Centurion; and it even warned him of political dangers through this first year as Legatus Legionis, the garrison commander. It had never failed him.

For half a month he had felt it–the hairs alert on the back of his neck–but he could not find the source. And facing the unknown was worse than facing an enemy’s sword.

And, yes, it really IS a science fiction story.

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Galleys for Asimov’s, Nebula Nominations, and MystiCon Schedule

Nothing like news of a meteor strike to put the day in perspective, eh? No matter how busy you are today, or what you happen to be going through, I hope you can take some time to enjoy yourself … but keep watching the skies!

As for me, today I need to review the galleys for my novelette, “What is a Warrior Without His Wounds?” and send any changes back to the good folks at Asimov’s Science Fiction. The story is scheduled to appear in their July issue. (As an aside, I’m thinking of donating my payment for the story to the Wounded Warrior Project. Do you think that would be appropriate?)

Asimov's Science Fiction

 

Today is also the LAST DAY to nominate for the Nebula Awards, so I need to do that, too. Over the past few weeks I’ve read a LOT of terrific short fiction, which makes it hard to decide what to nominate. Guess I’d better get to it.

Nebula Award Logo

 

Finally, in the “upcoming events” category, next week I’ll be at MystiCon in Roanoke, Virginia, where I will play a concert (yes, really), moderate some panels, and generally make a nuisance of myself. My schedule looks like this:

Friday, 22 February

  • 5 p.m., A Musical Hour with Gray Rinehart
  • 6 p.m., Writing Space Battles (I’m moderating this panel)
  • 10 p.m., Koffee Klatch … Reading with Peter Prellwitz

Saturday, 23 February

  • 1 p.m., Grasping for the Stars (moderator)
  • 2 p.m., How Military Technology is Catching Up with Military SF Tech (again, moderator)
  • 4 p.m., The Baen Traveling Road Show
  • 8 p.m., Remembering Uncle Orson’s Literary Boot Camp

Sunday, 24 February

  • 9 a.m., Worship Service
  • 12 p.m., No Shirt, No Shoes, No Entry — Business Etiquette

So, as long as we don’t get smashed by rocks falling from space, it should be a good time!

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Launch of a Satellite I Babysat for Over 8400 Miles

Ten years ago today — December 29, 2002 (GMT) — the Nimiq 2 communications satellite launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome atop a Proton rocket. Before that, though, it had to get there …


(Antonov AN-124 ‘Condor’ ready to on- or off-load cargo. Image by Mike Young, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Nimiq 2 was a Canadian satellite, built for Telesat by U.S. manufacturer Lockheed Martin and launched by ILS — International Launch Services — on a Russian booster. I got involved in the program as a space technology security monitor, responsible for making sure no U.S. technology or satellite design methodology was transferred to the foreign companies.

As part of the monitoring effort, I had the task of escorting the satellite from the San Jose, California, factory to Baikonur. The spacecraft was loaded onto a Russian Antonov AN-124 cargo aircraft, and I rode with it for the entire trip — including eating Thanksgiving tuna-and-crackers en route.

Because the spacecraft and its support equipment made the aircraft so heavy, we could not fly directly to Baikonur. Instead, we made the trip in several hops, stopping for fuel each time:

  • San Jose to Winnipeg, Canada (1490.11 miles / 2398.1 km)
  • Winnipeg to Goose Bay, Canada (1605.93 miles / 2584.49 km)
  • Goose Bay to Shannon, Ireland (2118.3 miles / 3409.07 km)
  • Shannon to Ulyanovsk, Russia (2320.05 miles / 3733.76 km)
  • Ulyanovsk to Baikonur (909.67 miles / 1463.98 km)

Most of the stopovers were short, except for the stop in Shannon where the aircrew enjoyed the RON (rendezvous overnight) in a local hotel while I got to stay aboard the aircraft with the satellite. So much for my first trip to Ireland! I never strayed from the tarmac at the Shannon airport.

Once we arrived at Baikonur, I spent the early part of December 2002 observing the launch preparations, including mating the satellite to the Proton rocket and enclosing it in the payload fairing. Some of that experience went into my short story, “The Rocket Seamstress,” which was published in the literary magazine Zahir in 2007. (The story is now available on Anthology Builder.)

I did not stay at Baikonur long enough to see the Nimiq 2 launch, however. My boss flew in to take over monitoring the final prep and the launch itself, and I flew home (via Moscow and a couple other stops) in time for Christmas. But it was good to know that I had a part in the first commercial launch of a Proton with the Breeze-M upper stage.

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The Final — No, the Most Recent — Lunar Mission

Forty years ago today — December 7, 1972 — Apollo 17 lifted off aboard a Saturn V rocket out of Cape Canaveral as the last Apollo lunar mission.


(Gene Cernan, the most recent man to walk on the Moon. NASA image.)

Astronauts Eugene A. Cernan, Ronald E. Evans, and Harrison H. Schmitt comprised the Apollo 17 crew. On their first day in space, the crew took the iconic “Blue Marble” photograph with a hand-held Hasselblad camera.

Cernan and Schmitt landed the Lunar Module “Challenger” in the Taurus-Littrow region of the Moon on December 11. Evans stayed in lunar orbit aboard the Command and Service Module “America.”

Apollo 17 focused on surveying surface features and sampling geological materials in a region selected because it would yield both older and younger samples than previous Apollo missions, and featured Schmitt as the first scientist to land on the Moon. Schmitt and Cernan drove the lunar rover a total of 30.5 kilometers during their 75-hour stay on the Moon, and collected 110.4 kilograms (243 pounds) of lunar material.

When Cernan climbed aboard the Lunar Module to depart the moon, he said, “We leave as we came and God willing as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind.”* Usually he is referred to as the last man to walk on the Moon, but I prefer to think of him as the most recent man to walk on the Moon.

And even though I won’t get to be the next person to walk on the Moon, I hope someday to see another person walk on the Moon, and Mars, and even other worlds.

___
*Shameless plug: I made that sentiment a key part of my short story, “Memorial at Copernicus.”

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