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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Analog Magazine, November 2012

Yes, that really is my name on the cover of the November issue of Analog Science Fiction & Fact, which goes on sale next week.

And yes, I am still stunned every time I look at it:

It seems so strange, seeing my name there. I am honored, and humbled, and overwhelmed.

My novelette, “SEAGULLs, Jack-o-Lanterns, and Interstitial Spaces,” began as my entry in the Codex Writers Group Halloween contest. The story prompt was a set of quotes from five different sources, following a meme that had been making the rounds during National Book Week of selecting certain lines from specified pages of nearby books. Just to be obstinate, I used each of the sources in some way, even if only a phrase or a name.

Finally, yes, I am also stunned because the story has a fetching illustration by Vincent Di Fate, one of the all-time-great SF&F artists. Last year he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, which is part of the EMP Museum in Seattle.

The whole table of contents is listed in this SFScope post.

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

if you want to read my novelette, “The Second Engineer,” it’s in the October-November issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction which goes on sale next week. Ask for it at your local bookseller.

The history of this story demonstrates how s-l-o-w-l-y I write. It began as an entry in a contest to write a short story in a weekend. I didn’t finish the story that weekend; in fact, it took almost 18 months — and wise council at a con — to produce the version that was a “Writers of the Future” semi-finalist, and another few months of subsequent clean-up to get to this version.

For the contest, the story prompts were, “Think of a human body part and a physical object that should never, ever come into contact. Write a story about the day when they do,” and selections from three poems, one of which was Sylvia Plath’s “Tale of a Tub” which includes the lines “when the window, / blind with steam, will not admit the dark.” I can’t remember how my brain went from there to here … but there is a window in the story that won’t admit the dark.

The entire table of contents is laid out in this SFScope post.

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Space History Today: Scott Carpenter and Mercury-Atlas 7

A half-century ago today — May 24, 1962 — astronaut M. Scott Carpenter became the second American to orbit the Earth when he launched from Cape Canaveral.

(Mercury Atlas 7 launch. NASA image.)

Mercury Atlas 7, also known as Aurora 7, carried Carpenter on three orbits before returning him to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean.

During the mission, Carpenter solved a mystery that had occurred on John Glenn’s earlier spaceflight. Glenn reported seeing what he described as “fire flies,” and Carpenter reported the same thing after he “accidentally tapped the wall of the spacecraft with his hand.” This led analysts to conclude that the “fire flies” were particles of frost dislodged from the reaction control system.


The pilot was originally planned to be Donald K. Slayton but was changed to be M. Scott Carpenter after a medical examination of Slayton revealed an irregularity in his heartbeat.

“Deke” Slayton is an important historical figure in my alternate history story, “Memorial at Copernicus”, from the August 2010 issue of Redstone Science Fiction. You can listen to the story here, if you like.

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Retreating … to Write

Beginning about midday, I’m taking myself on a writing retreat. As we used to say in mobile C2, I’ll be at an “undisclosed location.” (Thank goodness for Marriott Rewards points.)

(TYPEWRITER by HeavenlyCabins, on Flickr, via Creative Commons.)

Over the next couple of days, my goal is to write the improved opening I thought of for my novel. Wish me luck.

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