Good to Go – Vaughan Stanger reveals what’s behind his recent climate change story

Earthrise NASALittle Blue Marble – an online journal publishing climate change fiction and factual articles – has recently reprinted my SF story Good to Go.

What follows summarise my thoughts about this story, which was originally published in Electric Athenaeum in 2018. Please be aware that it contains some mild spoilers.

Good to Go was a lot of fun to write, partly because of the narrator’s voice (it’s definitely a “voice” piece) but also because there were so many science, technology and socio-political angles to explore. I hope I’ve done them justice in the 3000 words I used.

The story’s concept came about from the argument I’ve had with myself (and others) over the decades about whether humanity should explore space or sort out our ailing planet first. Or can we do both? For context: I’m 58 and a child of the Apollo era.

Obviously, I wanted to be an astronaut or failing that then take a vacation on the Moon. Despite the best efforts of Space X and Bigelow Industries, that’s unlikely to happen soon enough to suit me. Ah well! Or, as a famous writer once wrote: “So it goes”.

But yes, we do need to sort out our planet. That cannot wait. I do think we can pursue some goals in space at the same time, but securing our home must have top priority. The characters in my story eventually understand that, but need a lot of prodding.

But having terraformed Earth back to a viable state doesn’t mean we should then terraform other planets to suit humanity’s needs. The story’s narrator learns that we may have to change what it means to be human if we want to live on other worlds.

As for the mechanism that boosts humanity into orbit… You can blame Jaine Fenn for that! My good friend and fellow member of the One Step Beyond writers’ group once wrote that every SF novel (or story) is improved by the presence of a space elevator. Discuss!

I wanted my narrator to be a project manager rather than a scientific genius or engineering wizard: someone who has to get other people to do her bidding, but who is (of course) stymied at every step along the way. Yes, I used to be a project manager….

Please visit the Little Blue Marble to read my story and reflect on these issues.

 

Vaughan Stanger 300Vaughan Stanger. Formerly an astronomer and more recently a research project manager in a defence and aerospace company, Vaughan Stanger now writes science fiction and fantasy full-time, a career development that seems appropriate for someone who remembers watching the Apollo 11 moon-landing on television. He still craves that holiday on the Moon he claims he was promised as a child. His stories have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Abyss & Apex, Postscripts, Nature Futures and Interzone, amongst others. He has published two collections, Moondust Memories and Sons of the Earth & Other Stories, which are available as ebooks and print-on-demand paperbacks. Several of his stories have been translated into foreign languages. You can follow Vaughan’s writing adventures at http://www.vaughanstanger.com and @VaughanStanger.

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What Can I Say? by Sue Thomason

What can I say?

That’s the big question, isn’t it? With all the words in the world at my disposal, what kind of interesting pattern can I make on the page?

I can’t begin to tell people “how to write”, when most of you are already better at it than I am. Nor can I tell people “what to write”. We write what’s in our hearts and minds, and peoples’ hearts and minds are different.

I can, however, tell you what I want to read. I’m an avid reader. Some of my peak experiences are in books – stories that stay in the mind forever, stories that make me want to jump with joy, stories that make me want to grab all my friends and say “Read this! Read this!” I want more of those stories. I want you to write those stories – many of them.

I want you to take me somewhere new. Hard SF writers: you do realise, don’t you, that I get most of my science from you? You are the people who present me with Big Ideas cut up into bite-size pieces and sugar-coated. I do read original research papers in my field of work – but there’s an awful lot of science out there; field after field, a whole landscape of knowledge. I am happy to explore – I love exploring – but I need a not-too-challenging half-day walk through new terrain before I take the 60-day trek to the summits of current understanding. You are my guides. I’m following you.

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I want you to show me something interesting. Speculative writers: you are the people who ask the hard questions; what if… what if? You push at the boundaries of the possible; you’re always trying to think the unthinkable. I’m relying on you to break down my prejudices. I’m relying on you to point out to me the stuff I’m overlooking. I’m relying on you for vision; show me something I could never have found for myself. Show me something you care about, something I need to see.

I want you to introduce me to someone I don’t know. I’m looking for friends, and I know friends are found in unlikely places. Can I understand an alien? Could an alien be my friend? Maybe even the aliens who live next door? Can you help me understand why this person is thinking/feeling/doing that? This is fiction; it’s a safe zone for empathy practice. And I need the practice. Keep writing, please.

I want you to connect fantasy and reality. Show me what delights you, what fascinates you; show me all the stuff you care about. I love an enthusiast. If it’s team sports, show me why I should cheer. If it’s interstellar banking practice, show me why I need to understand the interaction of FTL and economics to get a handle on why these people do this. Show me that rocks are people, too. Grab me by the quirk and show me all your curious, fascinating thoughtways.

What will you say?

I can’t wait to find out…

Sue ThomasonSue Thomason

Sue Thomason is a runner, climber, walker and cat-herder. She worked for the NHS until recently, but is still surprisingly sane. Past chairperson of Milford, she has had several short stories published.

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NASA’s Photo Library by Jacey Bedford

Great news. NASA has a treat for you. They have made their entire collection of images, sounds, and video available and publicly searchable online. It’s 140,000 photos and other resources available for you to see, or even download and use it any way you like. Yes, copyright-free. For those of us who blog and write, this is a gift!

Here are some samples that took my fancy. You might lose a day to this website, or even more, but it’s so worthwhile for story ideas and illustrations. Enjoy.

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NASA image release April 22, 2010 NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captured this billowing cloud of cold interstellar gas and dust rising from a tempestuous stellar nursery located in the Carina Nebula, 7,500 light-years away in the southern constellation Carina. This pillar of dust and gas serves as an incubator for new stars and is teeming with new star-forming activity. Hot, young stars erode and sculpt the clouds into this fantasy landscape by sending out thick stellar winds and scorching ultraviolet radiation. The low-density regions of the nebula are shredded while the denser parts resist erosion and remain as thick pillars. In the dark, cold interiors of these columns new stars continue to form. In the process of star formation, a disk around the proto-star slowly accretes onto the star’s surface. Part of the material is ejected along jets perpendicular to the accretion disk. The jets have speeds of several hundreds of miles per second. As these jets plow into the surround nebula, they create small, glowing patches of nebulosity, called Herbig-Haro (HH) objects. Long streamers of gas can be seen shooting in opposite directions off the pedestal on the upper right-hand side of the image. Another pair of jets is visible in a peak near the top-center of the image. These jets (known as HH 901 and HH 902, respectively) are common signatures of the births of new stars. This image celebrates the 20th anniversary of Hubble’s launch and deployment into an orbit around Earth. Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 observed the pillar on Feb. 1-2, 2010. The colors in this composite image correspond to the glow of oxygen (blue), hydrogen and nitrogen (green), and sulfur (red). Object Names: HH 901, HH 902 Image Type: Astronomical Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI) To read learn more about this image go to: <a href=”http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/science/hubble20th-img.html&#8221; rel=”nofollow”>www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/science/hubble20th-img….</a> <b><a href=”http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/home/index.html&#8221; rel=”nofollow”>NASA Goddard Space Flight Center</a></b> is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

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iss059e072234 (May 23, 2019) — Expedition 59 Flight Engineer Commander Oleg Kononenko (left) and Alexey Ovchinin ready a pair of Russian Orlan spacesuits inside the Pirs docking compartment’s airlock. Ovchinin and Kononenko are due to conduct the fourth spacewalk of 2019 for space station maintenance on May 29.

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iss059e074538 (5/27/2019) — Photo documentation of the DreamKit: Plants in Space investigation in the Copula module of the International Space Station (ISS). The DreamKit: Plants in Space investigation is a student investigation that studies plant growth and direction in a microgravity environment.

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Astronomers are using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to study auroras — stunning light shows in a planet’s atmosphere — on the poles of the largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter. This observation program is supported by measurements made by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, currently on its way to Jupiter. Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, is best known for its colorful storms, the most famous being the Great Red Spot. Now astronomers have focused on another beautiful feature of the planet, using Hubble’s ultraviolet capabilities. The extraordinary vivid glows shown in the new observations are known as auroras. They are created when high-energy particles enter a planet’s atmosphere near its magnetic poles and collide with atoms of gas. As well as producing beautiful images, this program aims to determine how various components of Jupiter’s auroras respond to different conditions in the solar wind, a stream of charged particles ejected from the sun. This observation program is perfectly timed as NASA’s Juno spacecraft is currently in the solar wind near Jupiter and will enter the orbit of the planet in early July 2016. While Hubble is observing and measuring the auroras on Jupiter, Juno is measuring the properties of the solar wind itself; a perfect collaboration between a telescope and a space probe. “These auroras are very dramatic and among the most active I have ever seen”, said Jonathan Nichols from the University of Leicester, U.K., and principal investigator of the study. “It almost seems as if Jupiter is throwing a firework party for the imminent arrival of Juno.” Credits: NASA, ESA, and J. Nichols (University of Leicester)

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Black-hole-powered galaxies called blazars are the most common sources detected by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. As matter falls toward the supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s center, some of it is accelerated outward at nearly the speed of light along jets pointed in opposite directions. When one of the jets happens to be aimed in the direction of Earth, as illustrated here, the galaxy appears especially bright and is classified as a blazar. http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA20912

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S65-34635 (3 June 1965) — Astronaut Edward H. White II, pilot on the Gemini-Titan 4 spaceflight, is shown during his egress from the spacecraft. His face is covered by a shaded visor to protect him from the unfiltered rays of the sun. White became the first American astronaut to walk in space. He remained outside the spacecraft for 21 minutes during the third revolution of the Gemini-4 mission. He wears a specially designed spacesuit for the extravehicular activity (EVA). In his right hand, he carries a Hand-Held Self-Maneuvering Unit (HHSMU) with which he controlled his movements while in space. He was attached to the spacecraft by a 25-feet umbilical line and a 23-feet tether line, both wrapped together with gold tape to form one cord. He wears an emergency oxygen supply chest pack. Astronaut James A. McDivitt is command pilot for the Gemini-4 mission. EDITOR’S NOTE: Astronaut Edward H. White II died in the Apollo/Saturn 204 fire at Cape Kennedy on Jan. 27, 1967.

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During its flight, NASA’s Galileo spacecraft returned images of the Earth and Moon. Separate images of the Earth and Moon were combined to generate this view. http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA00342

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How to Sell a Lot of SF/F Short Story Reprints – Part 2, by Deborah Walker.

This is the second part in a two-part blog post by Deborah Walker. You’ll find the first part here: How to sell a lot of SF/F Short Story Reprints – Part 1. See the original on Deborah’s Blog here.

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Deborah writes:

This is the second post on reprints. The first post can be found here. The take home message was more submissions will probably lead to more sales.

This post comes with the same proviso. Every writer is different. Your mileage will vary. And if you disagree with me, do feel free to comment, because I’m interested in different opinions.

So after having made 67 reprint sales this year. (Yes, it’s gone up from the last post). I thought I’d share my process with you. This is how I make my reprint sales, I hope you’ll find it interesting.

Selecting a Reprint Venue

Once you’ve found your reprint venue, you’ve got to make a decision where to submit to first. I think about these things when I’m deciding (and probably some more, which I’ve forgot):

  • Pay*
  • Speed* of editorial response
  • Acceptance rate*
  • Fit
  • Reprint rights requested
  • Prestige
  • Story illustration (I love, love, love someone illustrating my work)
  • Whether or not you’ve sold there before

* You can sort a Grinder search for these three criteria

On pay

Some writers feel strongly about pay. I don’t mind what you do. I say do what you must to keep your writing life happy and motivated. I tend to like to get paid. Exceptions might be when it’s for a charity anthology, or for a friend, or there’s good art, or its a poem or micro work, or I feel like it. It’s your call.

But my pay for reprints has ranged from 0-7 cents per word or a set amount (f’instance $25 for any story length). 1 cent a word is what you might get paid if you get published in a anthology from a reputable publisher. Personally, I consider 3 cents and above to be a very good rate for reprints.

On fit

One criteria you will probably use, is your sense of how well your particular story will sell at a venue. If you’ve sold to that venue before, it means that the editor likes your work. So send them so more. Otherwise, I can offer no help.

I’m particularly bad at judging whether or not my stories will sell. A fact that I find peculiar. So I’ll say this. Of course, send appropriate material to appropriate venues. Don’t send high fantasy to a hard SF venue. But don’t self-reject.

If I see a themed anthology that accepts reprints, I’ll often spend some time looking through my list of available reprint and thinking really hard about what might fit. No kidding. It’s not always immediately obvious. I’ve certainly made sales for stories that I’ve had to think hard about before deciding it fits the theme.

On rights

It’s not unusual for a venue to state in their guidelines that they accept reprints but not to specify what kind of reprint rights they’re looking for.
When you get the contract the venue might have asked for:

  • Exclusive reprint rights (meaning that you can’t sell the reprint again for a determined time)
  • Non-exclusive reprint rights (meaning you can sell the reprint again immediately).

I’m often not in a position to sell exclusive reprint rights, because I’ll have sold these with the first sale (some venues take first rights and non-exclusive reprint rights so that they can produce an end of year anthology)

This has happened to me a few times. I’ve always written back to the editor, explained, and the contract has been amended in an amicable way.

 

How to Make a Reprint Sub

In the normal way. I prefer to write a very succinct cover letter. Don’t forget to add when and where the story was first published and that you own reprint rights.

Submission Strategy Suggestions

Some things you might find useful. Mileage will vary for some of these.

  • Keep good records. I just keep lists in a Word document, but other people like databases
  • Decide the number of reprint subs you want out, then never allow yourself to drop below that number.
  • Make reprint submissions frequently, so that you don’t miss venues and so that you have to have a whole day subbing.
  • Do your writing first. Make subs when your brain is firing on a less creative setting.

Here’s one I made earlier: ‘Sibyl’ in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination 2014

 

WALKER-bio shotDeborah Walker grew up in the most English town in the country, but she soon high-tailed it down to London, where she now lives with her partner, Chris, and her two teenage children. Her stories have appeared in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Nature’s Futures, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and The Year’s Best SF 18 and have been translated into over a dozen languages.

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How to Sell a Lot of SF/F Short Story Reprints – Part 1, by Deborah Walker.

Please welcome Deborah Walker to the guest spot on the Milford blog for the first of a two-parter on selling reprint stories. Subscribe to the blog so that you don’t miss Part 2 which will be up in a couple of weeks.

What’s a reprint?

When you sell a short story to a venue you’ll usually sell first rights with or without an exclusivity period. This means that once any exclusivity period is over, you’re free to sell the story to another venue as a reprint. Between zero and 12 months are common exclusivity periods.

Occasionally a venue will ask for all rights. That means you won’t be able to resell your story as a reprint. That’s your call. But remember that you can negotiate. I know of one short story publisher who requests to buy all rights as standard, but who will immediately offer a first rights contract if the writer queries.

Once the period of exclusivity is over, you’re free to sell your story again. Now the fun begins.

How to Sell Reprints: What do I do?

I used to think that reprints were a hard sell. I’d send out an occasional reprint submission, get rejected and wait a few months before I sent another. But this year I’ve made 64 reprint sales. That’s about double the amount of original stories I’ve sold.

These two blog posts discuss how I make reprint sales. Every writer’s different. But I hope you find it interesting to read a jobbing writer’s process.

So, how do I do it? I make a lot of reprint submissions. That’s the take home message. More submissions means, for me, more acceptances.

Following a submission challenge from writing group I’ve upped my number of subs this year. At any one time I’ve got out 40-50 original stories on sub and 40-50 reprints.

You know that every writer is different, right? I’m prolific. I have a big bag of stories to offer as reprints. But if you have less stories, fret not. There are still things you could do, particularly sending to non-English subs where you can send the same reprint to more than one market. I’ll do a case study in part II.

You can’t sell if you don’t sub, except when you:

Sell without Subbing

  • Editor request: Sometimes editors will contact me and ask for a reprint. For pity’s sake make sure you have contact information on your blog so that an editor can contact you. (I speak from experience here) A bibliography with links is nice, too.
  • Count everything. Sometimes I’ll sell a story and the venue will request non-exclusive anthology rights. I always count these. That’s your call. It motivates me to tally up the number of sales.

What kind of story sells as a reprint?

  • I don’t know. I only know what I’ve sold. That’s: science fiction, horror and fantasy short stories and poems, drabbles and tweets, stories at flash length <1000 words, and at short story length (in my case 1-5K)
  • Test assumptions. I recently heard a writer say: ‘Reprint flash is an extremely hard sell.” And I thought: Not really. Most of my reprints sales have been flash.
  • Once I’ve found a story that sells at reprint, I tend to send it out again. My story ‘Unmovable Sky’ f’instance has been sold around half a dozen times (podcast, English language and non-English language venues, science fiction and literary venues, sold as part of a gallery show). The fact that I’ve sold it as a reprint before doesn’t seem to stop it selling again #nojinx

 

Finding Reprint Venues 

  • Submission Grinderis my first port of call. You can search by reprint markets. A search on SF reprint paying token rate and above gives me 44 results. But I’d also suggest that you:
  • Check guidelines. Sometimes the information on reprints is incorrect on Grinder, or has been supplemented, or has changed. If I find incorrect information, I’ll drop Grinder a note.
  • Sometimes Grinder states that a venue doesn’t take reprints because the venues guidelines don’t mention them. In which case I’ll drop the editor a polite e-mail and ask. Then I’ll drop Grinder a note.
  • Consider also going outside your genre. I’ve sold genre fiction sales to literary and to general reprint venues.
  • Consider podcasts.
  • Doug Smith’s Foreign Market List.A resource for non-English venue markets who will translate and publish your story. Because you are offering different language rights, you can send the same story to many different venues.
  • Keep your ears open. If I hear about a reprint sale, I’ll often go to the venue and check it out.
  • Reach out to editors. If you know of an anthology that’s perhaps invite only, you might like to contact the editor and ask if you can send them something. I’ve done this a few times, with reasonable success. I ought to do it more.

Here’s one I made earlier: ‘Drink Deep and Long the Circean Poison’ in Strange Constellations 2014

In Part II, I’ll talk about how to select a venue, pay, rights and subbing strategies.

 

WALKER-bio shot

Deborah Walker grew up in the most English town in the country, but she soon high-tailed it down to London, where she now lives with her partner, Chris, and her two teenage children. Her stories have appeared in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Nature’s Futures, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and The Year’s Best SF 18 and have been translated into over a dozen languages.

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Braincells in Motion by Jim Anderson

My mind is awhirl

Over the past month, I’ve had the pleasure of attending both Eastercon 2019 and the Milford Writing Retreat at Trigonos, and my mind is awhirl with ideas. I find enormous benefit in talking to other writers, not necessarily about anything in particular, but I find that each conversation opens windows and doors that I want to wander through.

Retreat 2019 coffetime group

My list of possible projects and story ideas is always a bit, sometimes significantly, longer, and that’s what I’m finding now.

It’s that little bit dangerous as well; I often find myself in the position of that now classic internet meme, distracted from my current projects by all of the new and shiny ideas.  But then, I find talking to writers helpful here as well, because I’m clearly not the only one; witness the popularity of that particular meme in all its myriad variations.

One thing that I found especially interesting about the Writing Retreat was watching other people work.  We each came with our own list (pile?) of things to do, and unlike the Milford SF Writers Annual Conference, with its focus on critiquing, the Retreat was time significantly less structured.

Lightbulb ID-100401888I had a good week; I did more than I’d feared, including both writing and thinking through plot issues in the Infinite Project, as it can have no other name. And while I did less than I’d wildly optimistically planned, the wildly optimistic plan did carry me forward.

And in both places, I found new ideas that might make their way into one of the current projects or might some day stand on their own.  And though I’m sure you weren’t asking yourself this question, but I do find the same thing in the day job.  Math conferences are always fertile ground for new math ideas, and even in administrative away days, I find myself making note of the thoughts that result from random ideas fissioning off each other.

The very interesting ideas are the ones that keep coming up, often in different disguises, and in fact it’s one of those that’s distracting me at the moment.

jim_andersonJim Anderson (on-line at http://www.multijimbo.com) is a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Southampton, and is also the Associate Dean (Education and Student Experience) for the Faculty of Social, Human and Mathematical Sciences. Beyond mathematics, he practices the traditional Japanese martial art of aikido and writes science fiction and fantasy.

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Dolly Garland: Live Blogging from Milford Writing Retreat

Day 1 – May 6, 2019

It’s my first time at Milford’s writing retreat, but second time attending Milford altogether. My first was in 2017 when I won a bursary to attend the Milford conference. That experience was so productive and energizing that I was determined to come back.

When Milford started doing these writing retreats from 2018, I was immediately interested. But 2018 was one in freezing February so I chickened out and signed up for much milder May 2019 retreat instead.

I’ve been here a day and already I feel the writer in me taking the centre stage as rest of the life, chores, to-do lists fades away into the background.

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LEAH DAVID AND DOLLY AT COFFEE TIME

My plan for this week is to edit (basically re-write) a short story and edit my novel. There is, of course, reading involved, because when you are done writing, you want to be inspired by good words. Hanging out with fellow Milfordians is awesome as ever. It’s amazing how close you feel to people you barely see when brought together in a right (write) setting.

It also happens to be my birthday today, and of course, whatever you do on your birthday is what you will do for the rest of the year. So this seems like a good day to be productive as a writer.

 

Dolly GarlandDolly Garland writes stories that are a bit like her – muddled in cultures. Having lived in multiple countries and several cities, she now calls London her home, though the roots of her stories have returned to India where she was born. Find her at www.dollygarland.com or on Twitter @DollyGarland

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