Updates From the Edge: March 16

The Science of Social Distancing

Earlier this week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said gatherings of 50 or more people are strongly discouraged over the next eight weeks. This is to help contain the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. Tons of other stuff is closed down, such as many schools, libraries, colleges, places of worship, etc.

All of this is to help create and enforce distance between humans, a proven way of slowing the progress of pandemics.

We have been hearing the term “social distancing” quite a bit lately. But why is it important? And what does it really mean?

Why Social Distancing Is Important

Even those who become only mildly ill, and those who never show any symptoms at all, can still carry the virus and be a big problem when it comes to the exponential increase in the virus in our population.

Even if you are young, healthy, and have no risk factors, you should still not be socializing. Certainly older people and those with other health conditions are most likely to catch the virus, but young people are not at all immune, and may even be carrying the virus without realizing it.

For example, actor Idris Elba recently said he tested positive for COVID-19, but he said he wasn’t feeling sick at all. This is a prime example of why experts urge everyone to practice social distancing, not just those considered at high risk or who are seriously ill.

What Does Social Distancing Really Mean?

At its most basic, social distancing is the concept of keeping a distance between you and other people. Right now experts suggest at least six feet.

In practical terms, it’s important to minimize contact with all people as much as you are able. So avoiding public transportation when you can, don’t travel, work from home if you can, and definitely and skip social gatherings—ideally even small ones like coffee visits.

Since people weren’t staying out of crowded bars and similar places, many governments have closed down restaurants (other than for takeout), bars, and clubs. And pretty much all sports are shut down at this point as well.

This distancing strategy saved thousands of lives both during the Spanish flu pandemic a little over 100 years ago, and much more recently in Mexico City during the 2009 flu pandemic.

Note that you may have to be physically distant, but be sure to check in with friends and family on the phone or online. People can get lonely out there!

So Can I Go Outside?

Yeah, you can totally go outside. Get some air, go for a walk alone or with your pooch, read on your patio or in your yard. All of that is great. Just don’t do it with a group of neighbors or friends. Do it by yourself.

And you can still get groceries and prescriptions and the like. Just minimize the number of trips you make. If it isn’t important, wait until you need a few more things and go shopping then.

If your grocery store offers disinfecting wipes for your grocery cart use them, and if not, feel free to bring your own.

Just keep practicing good hand-washing and disinfecting, and not touching your face, whenever you go out for any reason.

One expert noted that you should not use your cell phone when out shopping because you may transfer the virus to your phone if you touch it before you’ve washed your hands. You can mitigate this somewhat with hand sanitizer, however.

The Math of Infectious Disease

There is a COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planner created by the Georgia Tech quantitative biologist Joshua Weitz which you can check out here. In an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Weitz, along with co-authors Richard E. Lenski, Lauren A. Meyers, and Jonathan Dushoff, gave some real-world examples to help us understand.

They use the example of March Madness basketball games to illustrate the point. What are the odds that none of the 75,000 attendees are affected? They use statistics to determine that there is a 99% chance that one ore more attendees would have arrived infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

If you’re into mathematical models you can get the full story and all the math here.

What’s Happening at CAEZIK SF & Fantasy Publishing

The Pursuit of the Pankera: A Parallel Novel About Parallel Universes comes out in just over a week! It’s the previously unpublished work by Robert A. Heinlein that is a parallel to his 1980 novel, The Number of the Beast.

Check out this recent review here and if you think it’s for you, definitely reserve your copy right away.

Of course there’s also Robert J. Sawyer’s new novel, The Oppenheimer Alternative, which is being published by CAEZIK in paperback on June 2 in the United States. Read an advanced preview here (link opens a PDF) and be the first of your friends to have a peek inside Sawyer’s latest work.

Also, The Oppenheimer Alternative is now available for pre-order, so be sure to get on the list right away.

Follow news from CAEZIK and all of ARC Manor’s imprints on Facebook and Twitter.

Updates From the Edge: March 6

Perseverance: A New Mars Rover

NASA’s new rover, previously called Mars 2020, finally has a name: Perseverance. There was a huge contest that got about 28,000 entries and the winner was a middle school student named Alexander Mather.

In an example of why he won the contest, here’s a powerful line from his essay: “We are a species of explorers, and we will meet many setbacks on the way to Mars. However, we can persevere.”

NASA’s Thomas Zurbuchen added during the announcement ceremony, “Perseverance is a strong word: it’s about making progress despite obstacles.”

The rover is supposed to launch aboard an Atlas V rocket in July of this year and, if all goes according to plan, will arrive on Mars in February 2021. It will have with it an array of scientific instruments such as ground-penetrating radar, spectrometers to measure soil composition, as well as cameras for both close-up and panoramic views of the surface of the Red Planet.

There’s also going to be a tiny helicopter, which is going to be the first heavier-than-air aircraft on another planet. Finally, there will be an oxygen-producing device that will be able to work with the CO2 in the Martian atmosphere.

There are two main goals to the Perseverance mission. First, it is is to take scientific measurements that help us make sense of the Martian environment both past and current. Did it ever host life? The second mission is to collect samples that another rover, planned for 2026, will pick up and return to Earth.

The six-wheeler will land on Mars in the dry river delta in the Jezero Crater in February 2021.

Space Tourism, Coming Right Up

SpaceX plans to send three tourists up to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2021. They’re doing this along with a Texas start-up called Axiom Space.

This announcement came after NASA said last year it would open up the ISS to a bit more commercial activity.

Axiom CEO Michael Suffredini said in a press release, “This history-making flight will represent a watershed moment in the march toward universal and routine access to space.”

There have been civilians on the ISS before, but they all went up on Russian Soyuz ships. This trip will be the first launch of private citizens on a private spacecraft, however. They plan to use a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and a Crew Dragon capsule.

How much will it set you back to go to the ISS? A pass for the 10-day trip reportedly runs about $55 million.

What’s Happening at CAEZIK SF & Fantasy Publishing

The Pursuit of the Pankera: A Parallel Novel About Parallel Universes hits the streets on March 24! It’s the previously unpublished work by Robert A. Heinlein that is a parallel to his 1980 novel, The Number of the Beast.

Check out this recent review here and if you think it’s for you, definitely reserve your copy right away.

Of course there’s also Robert J. Sawyer’s new novel, The Oppenheimer Alternative, which is being published by CAEZIK in paperback on June 2 in the United States. Read an advanced preview here (link opens a PDF) and be the first of your friends to have a peek inside Sawyer’s latest work.

Also, The Oppenheimer Alternative is now available for pre-order, so be sure to get on the list right away.

Follow news from CAEZIK and all of ARC Manor’s imprints on Facebook and Twitter.

Updates From the Edge: February 28

A NASA Legend

Katherine Johnson passed this week at the impressive age of 101.

For those of you who may now know who she was, Johnson was an American mathematician who worked for NASA. Her calculations of orbital mechanics were crucial to the success of the first (and following) American spaceflights. NASA says she had the “historical role as one of the first African-American women to work as a NASA scientist.”

In 2015, President Barack Obama awarded Johnson the Presidential Medal of Freedom and in 2019 she was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

The 2016 movie Hidden Figures was in part about Johnson. She was portrayed by actress Taraji P. Henson.

Henson portraying Johnson in Hidden Figures

A Mini-Moon

In space-related news, Earth seems to have picked up an orbiting object.

Last week astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona noted a dim object that moved quickly across the sky. Skywatchers at several observatories kept an eye on the object, which is now designated “Temporarily Captured Object 2020 CD3”. It’s been orbiting the earth for around three years.

Scientist Kacper Wierzchos, who works with the Catalina Sky Survey, shared an animation of the object, which you can check out below.

The announcement (which you can read here) was posted by the Minor Planet Center, which monitors small bodies in space. It says “no link to a known artificial object has been found,” which tells us that it’s a naturally-occurring body such as an asteroid.

They also noted that 2020 CD3’s orbit is unstable so it will eventually escape orbit and away from Earth once again.

It’s quite small at around the size of a small car, so don’t get too excited for naked-eye sightings of 2020 CD3.

What’s Happening at CAEZIK SF & Fantasy Publishing

Less than a month to go until The Pursuit of the Pankera: A Parallel Novel About Parallel Universes hits the streets! It’s the previously unpublished work by Robert A. Heinlein that is a parallel to his 1980 novel, The Number of the Beast. It’s coming to you on March 24, 2020, so reserve your copy right here.

Of course there’s also Robert J. Sawyer’s new novel, The Oppenheimer Alternative, which is being published by CAEZIK in paperback on June 2 in the United States. Read an advanced preview here (link opens a PDF) and be the first of your friends to have a peek inside Sawyer’s latest work.

Follow news from CAEZIK and all of ARC Manor’s imprints on Facebook and Twitter.

Updates From the Edge: February 21

Things have been busy at ARC Manor’s CAEZIK SF & Fantasy imprint lately.

First up is The Pursuit of the Pankera: A Parallel Novel About Parallel Universes, the previously unpublished work by Robert A. Heinlein that is a parallel to his 1980 novel, The Number of the Beast. It’s coming to you on March 24, 2020, so reserve your copy right here.

Next up in the good news train is that esteemed author Robert J. Sawyer’s new novel, The Oppenheimer Alternative, is being published by CAEZIK in paperback on June 2 in the United States.

The novel imagines Oppenheimer’s physicists combining forces with Albert Einstein, computing pioneer John von Neumann, and rocket designer Wernher von Braun — the greatest scientific geniuses from the last century racing against time to save our future.

Read an advanced preview here (link opens a PDF) and be the first of your friends to have a peek inside Sawyer’s latest work.

It has been busy in the field of astronomy lately, too, what with the clearest ever photos of the sun’s surface and the mysterious dimming of Betelgeuse (Orion’s right shoulder). Stuff like this really gets our imaginations going.

What’s got your imagination going these days? Are you looking forward to either of these new books? Let us know in the comments.

Latest GALAXY’S EDGE issue highlights

Issue32CoverRGB400PXOver at the Galaxy’s Edge website, issue #32 has been released this month. Here are some highlights:

If it is an interview with an award-winning author you are after…


Joy Ward is the author of one novel. She has several stories in print, in magazines and in anthologies, and has also conducted interviews, both written and video, for other publications.

Catherine Asaro is the author of numerous award-winning science fiction and fantasy works. She holds a doctorate in chemical physics and directs the Chesapeake Math Program. It might be easier to list the awards she has not won than those she has won. Dr. Asaro has served twice as president of SFWA. She was a jazz and ballet dancer and is still a musician.

Joy Ward: How did you get into writing science fiction?

Catherine Asaro: When I was a kid I used to make up stories. When I was really little they were about this sort of nebulous girl who was, when I was five, she was seven, and she’d go out and save the galaxy. I didn’t know I was making up stories. I thought everybody did this. I would daydream.

Then I found science fiction. Space Cat was my first set of science fiction stories. I thought this was just cool, the idea of these kids going to the moon or this cat going with this astronaut to Venus and so I started reading science fiction voluminously.

I had a brother and a father who liked it so I’d steal their books—until my father found out I was stealing books with sex scenes. Then the books all disappeared. I didn’t quite get them (the sex scenes). But I just loved the science fiction, and I always made up stories. I didn’t know at first why many of the books didn’t quite work for me. All I knew is that when I made up stories, the central character, and I didn’t think about it for many years, but she was always a girl.

Around the time I was twelve or thirteen, I started making the connection. There are no girls that play substantial roles in these books. Even when they are, they’re usually there to support a male character. It wasn’t that I was making some great statement by stopping reading. I just kind of lost interest. I couldn’t find books that spoke to me since I was becoming a teenager and I’d figured out that boys were different than girls, in very interesting ways, ways I wanted to explore more. The books didn’t really speak to me, but I did keep making up the stories in my mind. I never made the connection with that and the fact that I was making up stories about very strong female characters who ruled civilizations and went out on adventures until the boy next door—actually it was the boy across the street. We were down in the park, you know, doing that sort of flirting thing that teenagers—thirteen, fourteen year olds—do. He said, “Tell me your stories.” So I started telling some and he listened, and he goes, “Well that’s cool.” Then he said, “But how come all the main characters are girls?” Until that point I hadn’t made the connection. Then I thought, well should I make main characters the guys? I thought, well sure yeah, but then I thought I don’t have to do it; it’s my stories. But I did. I mean it wasn’t on purpose. The guys are in there, the romantic interest. So the cats got replaced with handsome young pirates….

To read the rest of the interview go to the website, but if it is a column about science fiction you are after, here is an excerpt out Robert J. Sawyer’s latest offering for Galaxy’s Edge #32…


Robert J. Sawyer is the Hugo, Nebula, Campbell Memorial, Heinlein, Hal Clement, Skylark, Aurora, and Seiun Award–winning author of twenty-three bestselling science-fiction novels, including the trilogy of Hominids, Humans, and Hybrids, which won Canada’s Aurora Award for the Best Work of the Decade. Rob holds two honorary doctorates and is a Member of the Order of Canada, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the Canadian government. Find him online at sfwriter.com.

One of my proudest moments came at the Toronto Public Library’s Book Lover’s Ball in 2007. The conclusion of that fundraising banquet was the presentation to me of the annual Toronto Public Library Celebrates Reading Award—and yes, I was happy to receive this honor, but my pride was not in the trophy but rather in the zinger I was able to deliver as it was about to be handed to me.

See, it was incumbent upon the previous year’s winner to present the award to the new recipient, and the year before the winner had been none other than Margaret Atwood. In bestowing the award, Margaret concluded her comments with “…and I’d just like to say how pleased I am to be seeing this go to a science-fiction writer.”

To which I immediately responded, “And Margaret, I’d just like to say how pleased I am to be getting this from a science-fiction writer.” My quip brought the house down.

Then and now, Atwood was most famous for her 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, the story of a future America in which a far-right Christian group has seized power and is subjugating women. But Margaret had always denied publicly that her book was science fiction. In fact, there was an old TV interview between her and her publisher, the late great Jack McClelland, on this very point, with them both agreeing at once that referring to her then-forthcoming novel as SF would have been marketing suicide.

Fair enough. Michael Crichton’s publisher had earlier made the same decision, and that had propelled him out of the SF sales ghetto onto bestsellers’ lists worldwide; I don’t begrudge anyone their marketing strategies in this parlous business of books. (Still, the world knew better: The Handmaid’s Tale was nominated for the Science Fiction Writers of America’s Nebula Award and won the first-ever Arthur C. Clarke Award from the British Science Fiction Association.)

But soon Atwood went beyond merely denying her work was science fiction to dumping on the science-fiction genre as a whole—and that I could not abide. On the BBC One TV program Breakfast News, Margaret dismissed SF as merely “talking squids in outer space.” (One of these days, I really must ask Ted Chiang if the talking squids from outer space that feature in his 1998 Nebula Award–winning novella “Story of Your Life,” later filmed as Arrival, were a gentle rebuke of Ms. Atwood.)

I knew that Margaret knew better. She’d been a customer at Toronto’s Bakka Books, now the world’s oldest extant science-fiction specialty bookstore, when I was a clerk there in 1982; I regret not having saved the carbon paper with her autograph from the credit-card slip she signed when I sold her a book…

To read the rest of this column, go to the website, or continue on to read some book reviews appearing in the latest issue…


Jody Lynn Nye is the author of forty novels and more than one hundred stories, and has at various times collaborated with Anne McCaffrey and Robert Asprin. Her husband, Bill Fawcett, is a prolific author, editor and packager, and is also active in the gaming field.

Though Hell Should Bar the Way
by David Drake
Baen Books
April 2018
ISBN-13: 978-1481483131

David Drake’s RCN books featuring Captain Leary have been a top-selling series for years. The Republic of Cinnabar Navy universe is one of star empires and full of shifting alliances and cutthroat espionage. David Drake has commented that it is modelled on the period between the two Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage. Interestingly, both heroes serve in the navy of a mercantile oligarchy similar to Carthage. Which is not as dark as it sounds since his characters are unaware of their historical precedent. It is not beyond Mr. Drake to find a way for the merchant princes to win this time.

What makes Though Hell Should Bar the Way noteworthy is not only the writing and great story, but—and this is something rare in our era of twelve-book trilogies and never-ending series—it’s the first book of a new series set in the same RCN universe. It introduces a new character, Roy Olfetrie, who becomes a member of Leary’s crew and then things happen to him, lots of things, mostly very unpleasant.

The book focuses on this new character. Olfetrie was a cadet but had to quit when his father is discovered to have been stealing massively from navy contracts. When the book opens, Olfetrie is struggling at an unskilled job at a shipyard. He is provoked into decking the obnoxious son-in-law of the owner. Fortunately he does this in front of several of Leary’s crew, who are impressed by his guts, and soon finds himself as the captain’s third officer on a ship carrying a diplomatic delegation to a minor star empire.

Roy finds himself approached to become a spy. He is shanghaied, then enslaved, but through nerve and a bit of financial cunning soon changes not only his situation, but an entire planet’s future. Along with Drake’s typically great action, gritty realism, and well-drawn characterizations, you also see more of a fascinating universe from a new perspective.

Whether you have read the rest of the RCN novels or not, this book is a quick, fun read. If you are new to the series, this is a great place to start, knowing that there are half a dozen more good books set in the same worlds already available.

Once it starts rolling, you cannot put Though Hell Should Bar the Way down. In other words, it’s exactly what we expect from any military science-fiction novel by such a master of the field. Highly recommended for hard SF readers, action junkies, military SF fans and those who enjoy a multi-world jaunt fraught with betrayal, heroism, and desperation.

by Michael David Ares
TOR Books
March 2018
ISBN-13: 978-1250064806

If you are a fan of Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade, this is a book you will really enjoy. A police detective is on the hunt for a serial killer across a dystopian New York City that is facing its first real sunny day in forty years. The concept was obviously inspired by the exact opposite situation in the classic Isaac Asimov story Nightfall. But here, due to an atomic war in Asia complicated by massive global warming, the sun has been obscured for decades over much of the Northern Hemisphere. A somewhat shrunken Atlantic Ocean has flooded half the borough, and Manhattan is in the middle of political and social unrest with a serial killer enhancing the near panic any change, even a return to sunlight days, often brings. The mystery works, the main character is very human while still being as hard-edged and determined as any pulp detective. If you will enjoy an urban murder mystery, cutthroat politicians, and the seamy underside of a dystopian New York City, don’t miss Dayfall.

by Kristen Simmons
TOR Teen
March 2018
ISBN-13: 978-0765336637

This dystopian story is one of the best and most colorfully drawn dark futures out there. More importantly, the book does not preach but simply uses the setting as the basis of a really well told action story with suitable doses of both romance and coming-of-age troubles and angst.

With a dramatic increase in carbon dioxide the oceans have risen not a few feet, but hundreds. All that remains of California are mountain-top islands. Humanity has been driven up the sides of the Rocky Mountains. Thousands huddle at the base of the last real city, mostly facing starvation and oppression on the shores of an enlarged Pacific Ocean wracked by massive storms.

Ron Torres is the sheltered son of the charismatic president of this last city. He and the elite live opulent lives. Ron and a friend, who is the token underprivileged student at his private school, decide to sneak out and see one of the almost daily riots. Neither youth is ready for either the sheer hopelessness of the poorer areas or the dangers of the reality of desperate people rioting and police putting them down using extreme force. The friends are separated, and Ron finds himself imprisoned by mistake, then fleeing with a fellow prisoner, the street- and ocean-savvy Marin. It soon turns out that Marin was the daughter and is now sister of a pirate leader whose base is an island that is really a gigantic floating aggregation of plastics and waste. The young protagonists fall into a series of adventures, betrayals, romance, and sea-faring saga all involving with a plot to relocate the poor to an island paradise that does not really exist.

One of the strengths of this book is the excellent portrayal of the emotions of the characters. The resentment of the oppressed and their desperation, the courage of the young heroes, and the greed and arrogance of those who just want to get rid of the annoying masses are an integral part of this very dark dystopia. This is a very readable cultural and high-seas adventure.

Chasing Shadows: Visions of Our Coming Transparent World
Edited by David Brin and Stephen W. Potts
TOR Books
January 2017
ISBN-13: 978-0765382580

The subtitle of this anthology is “Visions of Our Coming Transparent World.” All the stories relate to communication and human interaction as modified by technology, and privacy. There are over thirty stories by many of the top writers in SF. Each is categorized under such sections as Big Brother, Surveillance, No Place to Hide, and Lies and Private Lies. Some of the stories and short essays included were written from as far back as the 60s, though more than half of the stories are new.

In a way, it was hard to review this anthology. The usual approach doesn’t apply. At the risk of frightening off readers, I have to say that this is a collection of stories that has something important to say about an issue that is vitally important to your world today, not something you can very often say about a SF anthology. Each story in each topic shows how SF authors have been concerned about the questions of privacy, control of one’s own data or even oneself, and the consequences of technology that will affect the coming decades. More importantly this rather large anthology is brimming with excellent, well-written and sometimes frightening or uncomfortable stories.

Normally you pick out a few outstanding entries that justify the collection. But who to pick from this one is a problem. There are classics such as William Gibson’s “The Road to Oceana,” emotionally evocative classics such as Damon Knight’s “I See You,” and Robert Silverberg’s “The Invisible Man.” There are stories with an open warning such as Jack McDevitt’s “Your Lying Eyes” or David Brin’s “Insistence of Vision.” (You will never look at Apple glasses the same way again after reading David’s story.) The original stories in the volume are of equal quality and impact. There is no way to avoid one clichĂ© phrase when describing these stories: thought provoking. Read this just after signing off from Google, or looking up someone on Facebook…

To read another four book reviews, or the short stories featured in this issue, go to the website. Here is the table of contents for GALAXY’S EDGE #32:


POLL: What is your favorite Superhero movie?

With the recent successes of solo superhero movies like Wonder Woman and Black Panther, the soon-to-be Box Office hit Deadpool 2, and the ongoing popularity of the ensemble hero movies The Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers, it is not surprising to discover Marvel and DC Comics are turning as many of their comics into movies as they can, in the coming years.

One of the reasons these movies are so successful is due to the experience that we–the normal muggles of the world–feel like we’re being let in on the secret lives of the superheros we dreamed of being when we were children. The sense of wonder these films evoke is just as thrilling as the exciting action scenes and amazing special effects.

But is there such a thing as too many superhero movies? With at least two movies coming out every year–Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2 have released this year alone, and it is only May!–will the superheros lose their shine? Generation X has already been alive for three re-imaginings of Superman, Batman and Spiderman,with all new actors portraying the lead roles each time they bring out a new version. How many times can we see an origin movie of Superman (even if the sets and actors and aesthetic is different), before we our jaw drops, not in a sense of wonderment, but to yawn?

One thing is certain, superhero movies have outlasted many other popular sf/fantasy fiction sub-genres of the last few decades. It is safe to say the separate, but somewhat overlapping, Vampire and Zombie-centric books, movies and TV shows are waning in popularity now–but they were the biggest hit five years ago. Somehow Superhero movies have only gotten more popular.

It makes me wonder if in a day and age of so much stress, terrorist attacks, political disappointments and personal loss, that we all find comfort in the thought that there could be someone, some hero, out there that could rescue us all.

The only thing left to wonder is, what is your favorite superhero movie? (Fill out the poll below!)

[polldaddy poll=9992736]

Poll: Star Trek Discovery First Season

The first season of new CBS television series Star Trek Discovery just came to a close. And whether you in the camp who dislike CBS restricting access to the show by only making it available to their “All Access” pay viewers, or not, for those who watched it the last closing moments of the first season were seen as a great capper to a season that might have had a rocky start, but is now in ascendance. Without giving away spoilers (some of our readers have not been able to view the episode yet) the ending was also seen as a great nod to Gene Roddenberry’s original creation, building excitement for what is to come for the second season.

Which makes us wonder…. So much of the conversation this season centered around whether the show was Star Trek enough. Well, obviously it is Star Trek by license. What we mean to say is how authentic to the canon and original Roddenberry vision was Discovery‘s portrayal? How successful was it in both standing on its own and staying true to its origins?

Based on the conversation we have read online, the answer varies greatly, and invariably leads to a discussion about all the Star Trek series, and how successful they were at various stages of their original showing. We decided to do a poll to gauge our readers mileage (or should that be warpage?) on the level of impact Discovery had in its first season. We look forward (as Roddenberry literally did) to seeing the results!

[polldaddy poll=9937650]

Read an insightful GALAXY’S EDGE interview with Nancy Kress!

Tomorrows-KinNancy Kress is one of science fiction’s crown jewels. She is a writer of powerful science fiction, having won Hugos and Nebulas. She also is known as a talented writing teacher.

September’s issue of sf and fantasy magazine Galaxy’s Edge has an insightful interview by the wildly talented author. To read her own personal thoughts on her career (and to access the full interview) you can click the magazine link to see the many options available for buying this wonderful 28th issue.

To whet your appetite here is an exclusive excerpt:

Joy Ward: How did you get started writing?

Nancy Kress: By accident. I had never planned on being a writer. When I was a child, I thought all writers were dead because the writers I was reading were Louisa May Alcott. I really did not realize that writing was a commodity that was still being produced. I thought it was like oil, there was a finite amount of it.

Then I discovered that there were actual writers living and this completely shocked me, but I come from a very conservative Italian-American family, and I grew up in the 1950s. So my mother sat me down when I was 12 and said, “Do you want to be a teacher, a nurse, or a secretary?” Because those were the only possible things she could think of, and I thought it over and I said, “Okay, I’ll be a teacher.” So I became a fourth grade teacher, and I was for four years. I enjoyed it. Then I got married and had my children. I was pregnant with my second child. We lived way out in the country. There were no other women at home. They were all older and had gone back to work. My then husband took our only car to work, and he was taking an MBA, so he often didn’t come home for dinner; he stayed for classes. I was there with my one-year-old- 18-month-year-old, very difficult pregnancy, and I was going nuts.

I started writing to have something to do that didn’t involve Sesame Street, and I didn’t take it seriously. It was a thing I was doing while the baby was napping, to try to have something of my own. I would send them out. They’d come back. I’d send them out they’d come back. After a year, one sold. After another year, a second one. After another year a third one sold, then it started to pick up and I began to take it more seriously, but I didn’t plan on doing this.

I remember (selling the first story) very well. It was to Galaxy, which is a magazine long-defunct. What I didn’t know is that everybody else had stopped submitting to Galaxy because it was trembling on the verge of bankruptcy. I had no connection with fandom. I didn’t know it existed, I didn’t know SFWA existed. I didn’t know conventions existed. When I first sold it, it turned out that nobody else was submitting anything, and they were desperate. So they published my story immediately then it  went bankrupt. It took me three years to get my $105. I wanted it, and I kept writing and I’d say, “This is my first sale. I want my $105.” And for that eventually I think he had pity and he sent me the check.

I did it. I did that was what goes through my mind. Three words, “I did it.” I didn’t think I could, but I did it.

To read more go to Galaxy’s Edge for options on purchasing issue 28!


Poll: Who is the most influential science fiction writer?

For many years science fiction got a really bad rap. It was fantastical fiction of no substance, a poor relation to literary fiction, or to any other kind of fiction (except maybe romance); it was often considered a flight of fancy. But mainstream readers are starting to realize that science fiction novels, TV shows and movies are often social commentary on the human condition. And not only that, they can often be thought-provoking and moving allegories of our current lives, helping us confront the parts of ourselves we probably need to work on and improve if we are ever to have a successful future as individuals or a species.

While SF movies have always evoked a sense of “what if” in terms of considering how we could end up if we made X choice instead of Y (The Planet of the Apes films are perfect examples of this!), when you read SF novels you are free to picture the future the author’s presents with your own imagination, often making the resulting lesson more profound.

So, who is the most influential SF author in your opinion? We’d love to find out whose writing affects our readers the most!

[polldaddy poll=9801823]


Poll: If Earth were dying, would you stay or would you go?

I’m going to play Devil’s Advocate here. There are many people willing to raise their hands up when NASA asks, “Who wants to be one of the first 100 colonists of Mars?”, even knowing that means they are leaving all their loved ones behind, to go on what would certainly be very risky–possibly one way–trip to the red planet. When NASA introduced us to their newest Astronaut trainees last week, they all were emphatic when asked by a reporter if they would go, if asked.

But what if you were to find out that Earth was dying, in some irrevocable way that would most probably destroy the entire solar system. Would you be just as eager to be one of the very few people who could get on humanity’s Noah’s Arc, the only Starship leaving the solar system, in the hopes of finding a new world, knowing there was only a slim chance of success?

Or would you prefer to spend your last moments on Earth with loved ones, knowing you will certainly die, but being able to have the most time possible with friends and family before the end?

With either option, you lose your family, you lose your friends, regardless of what choice you make. Their lives are destined to become ashes in a destroyed Solar System. But you, you could have a chance to help humanity start anew in another star system, on another world. Is it worth the seemingly selfish choice to leave everyone else you love behind, to have the chance to start a new life, and ultimate a new family?

Humanity might technically survive with that second option, but will we lose our ability to be humane–something integral to our species’ identity.

[polldaddy poll=9766638]