The Hardest Part: David Afsharirad on The Year’s Best Military Science Fiction and Space Opera

I think that I first met David Afsharirad at an NCSU MFA get together a year years ago now, ahead of fall classes getting started one late summer. With his trademark thick-black-rimmed glasses and friendly, casual air, I looked forward to seeing him around at readings and other events, catching up on what he was reading, how his writing and teaching were going. I was beyond thrilled when he joined Baen Books as a consulting editor and copywriter, and still, my eyes opened pretty widely when Baen announced Afsharirad as the editor for a new annual anthology series for The Year’s Best Military Science Fiction and Space Opera — as the press release put it, he was certainly a “newcomer” to that level. Still, Afsharirad had his life-long interest in short sf to lean on, his (by then) two years copy editing for Baen, his work with John Kessel at NCSU, as well as the support of rest of the Baen brain-trust in this area of short sf literature. (No shortage to be had, there, as he notes in his acknowledgements.) You can get a further sense of Afsharirad’s passion for short sf in his preface, which along with David Drake’s excellent introduction (offering a brief survey of both space opera and military sf) is available in the sample chapters at Baen’s website, and you might get a sense as to the book’s success by a short snippet from Publishers Weekly‘s starred review: “Every story takes the reader on a fascinating, thought-provoking, enjoyable journey into the militarized future.”

Here, Afsharirad writes about the hardest part of putting this first annual edition of the anthology together, work that included scouring the hundreds (thousands) of stories under his remit, resulting in an anthology which draws from online magazines (Clarkesworld, Galaxy’s Edge, Lightspeed, and Baen.com), print magazines (with “the big three” of F&SF, Analog, and Asimov’s all represented), and themed anthologies (War Stories, Extreme Planets, and Monstrous Affections) alike. But how to pick the best from the good? That’s the question at hand.

The slush pile, that quagmire of stories that clutters every editor’s desk. It’s full of dreck, of course, but it must be read. Because occasionally one finds among the detritus a truly worthy piece of writing. Editors complain about reading slush all the time, and it is true that working your way through all those manuscripts can be a slog. But really, it’s not that tough. You can usually tell within a page or two (or less, let’s be honest) if a story has what it takes to make the cut. Read the rest of this entry »


The Hardest Part: Ian J. Malone on Red Sky Dawning

Durham author Ian J. Malone‘s 2013 science fiction debut Mako introduced a team of five “thirty-something” friends who become the first-ever group to beat the (fictional, at least for now!) video game “Mako Assault”. Flown to meet the game’s mysterious designer, they learn that the game’s intent was far more than entertainment: the game was designed to train and identify just such a group of human players, desperately needed in an interstellar war. (If you’re thinking of The Last Starfighter you may be on to something.) Two years later Malone returns with Red Sky Dawning, a sequel set five years after the climactic battle of his debut, and here writes about the hardest part in expanding the adventure-scoped story from Mako into a star-spanning web of politics, worlds, and characters. Sort of. You’ll see. Read on!

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By Ian J. Malone:

Hola gang! Greetings from the Bull City!

On the whole, I’d dare say Red Sky Dawning was a harder book to write than its predecessor, Mako, in nearly every way. Whereas Mako was, at its core, the story of five college friends fleeing their thirty-somethings lives for one last grand adventure, Red Sky Dawning is a true coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of an interstellar civil war. There was political intrigue to write, plus tons of new characters, ships, tech, and worlds to introduce — all of which had to be explained and fleshed out while advancing the stories of everything and everyone that came before it in the series’ book one. That’s A LOT of juggling, people. We’re talking Barnum & Bailey, here. So was any of it the “hardest part?”

Nope. Read the rest of this entry »


The Hardest Part: Piper Kessler on Frequency

On Thursday, April 23, 2015, Motorco will screen three seasons of the immensely popular lesbian sci-fi original series Frequency, which features cast, crew, and settings from the Triangle area. Fans will be treated to scenes and storylines from the first three seasons, including unreleased episodes from the current season (three) and exclusive content from the upcoming fourth season. The event will be emceed by Tracey and Matthew Coppedge of The Lowdown Show. Produced by KV Works, Frequency boasts over four and a half million views on YouTube worldwide and was an Official Selection at the Los Angeles Web Series Festival and Miami Web Fest. The series is written by Durham’s Piper Kessler, produced by Monique Velasquez, and stars Meredith Sause (“Foodie”) and Lisa Gagnon (“Disengaged”), along with Tony Hughes, Kat Froelich, and Jenn Evans.

The (free, $5 suggested donation) screening begins at 6:42, although doors open at 6. Q&A, series trivia, and general good times are expected. Cast and crew will be on hand to meet and greet, including Kessler, who here writes about “The Hardest Part” of putting this all together.

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By Piper Kessler:

When folks tell you the hardest thing they’ve ever done rarely does it fall under what is truly difficult. I’m sure people would think producing an original sci-fi series with lesbian main characters in a state not known for it’s love of “the gays” is a hard undertaking. Nah. I’ve lived in North Carolina all my life. I’ve heard, well, they’re the good kind of Lesbian, Gay, Black, Mexican Yep, fill in the blank with an other of your choosing. Hard times are given to strangers, not the odd uncle, sister and beer drinking buddy. Cause my buddy? Well, he’s different. Read the rest of this entry »


The Hardest Part: Robert Creekmore on Afiri

North Carolina author Robert Creekmore‘s initially self-published his first novel Afiri through Amazon.com last year, but quickly withdrew it from commercial publication when he discovered that he could not make it continually available for free. After considering his options, in late February he elected to simply make the novel available as a PDF download from his website. With readers from North Carolina to Saudi Arabia, the move has paid off in more ways than one. Creekmore describes the novel as “polemical, narrative driven, mid-twentieth century science fiction” and it is written in a style “specifically geared toward young adults with Aspergers and High Functioning Autism”. The author is a veteran special needs teacher, who himself has Aspergers, and along with themes of social relationships and autism/neurotypical interaction the book presents a story of oppressive theocracies and segregation. After short introductory chapters dealing with death and hospital bills, young and soon-to-be-homeless Aksel Lauht sets off for the Linville Gorge Wilderness to make it on his own. Before long, however, he stumbles into a star-spanning narrative of genetic engineering and artificial intelligence. Here, Creekmore writes about developing the greater science fictional allegory for his thoughts on our own peculiar species.

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Afiri by Robert Creekmore; cover design by Juliana Creekmore

 

By Robert Creekmore:

“The hardest part” wasn’t writing, rather, it is being “me” in a tidal pool of “yous”. First off, there is certainly nothing wrong with being a “you”, rather I’d deem it desirable. The “yous” have an amazing ability: they can read the minds of other “yous”. Then there is “I”. “I” am abnormal, a closed looped mind in a world of clairvoyants. “I” am autistic and you’re probably not. My front row ticket to the Homo-Sapien show has taught me a great many things about the “yous”. The problem is, I have a tendency to be rather intense and talk at people about my ideas, which can give one an air of lunacy. Read the rest of this entry »


The Hardest Part: Uri Kurlianchik on Tales from an Israeli Storyteller

Israeli author and game designer Uri Kurlianchik was the first person with whom I had a Google audio chat, way back when we were discussing edits on his short story “The Sad Story of the Naga” in Bull Spec #2. (Or it might have been about his choose-your-own-adventure project I never figured out how to publish in a magazine?) Over the years now, I’ve enjoyed hearing his stories of teaching kids to play roleplaying games — the foolish or genius things that “his” kids try both in and outside of the rules and their understanding thereof has proven quite entertaining, as has watching him develop his own RPG, RATS, about “the rat holy war against humanity”. And his photos of the various landscapes in his travels are mind-blowing. Back in early 2012, he launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund an illustrated 20-story cycle of stories generated from those travels and those landscapes, and from the many peoples who have and still inhabit them. Last fall he e-published the collection as Tales from an Israeli Storyteller, but it took until January of this year for Uri to wrangle a print edition. That epic struggle with margins and fonts is only part of his essay on the hardest part(s) of putting this collection together.

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By Uri Kurlianchik:

I have written numerous adventures and locales for various role playing games over the years. I often had to deal with rather capricious clients who insisted on reasonable deadlines, some semblance of readability, and not making offensive remarks about their mothers. This experience made me think that crowd-funding and self-publishing a story collection of my own should be a piece of cake.

In retrospect, I have no idea why I thought this. Read the rest of this entry »


The Hardest Part: John G. Hartness on Raising Hell

Charlotte author John G. Hartness is a larger-than-life figure in our world, so it’s no surprise that his characters are bold, colorful, and (quite often) either from out of this world or dealing with the things that aren’t. From his first novel The Chosen in 2010 to his “Bubba the Monster Hunter” and “Black Knight Chronicles” urban fantasy series, Hartness has a knack for giving a distinctive — and usually southern and profane, and funny — voice for his characters as well. For his new book, Raising Hell: A Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter Novella, Hartness looked to repeat some of those winning formulae while also creating something new, and in less space than a full-length novel would have allowed.

By John G. Hartness:

Like Darin last month, I’m an old rock and roll fan, so my immediate inclination was to go all Tom Petty on you and say that the waiting was the hardest part. But there were two things stopping me. First, Darin did it better, and second, it just wouldn’t have been true. Read the rest of this entry »


The Hardest Part: Darin Kennedy on The Mussorgsky Riddle

Charlotte “doctor by day, novelist by night” Darin Kennedy‘s debut novel, The Mussorgsky Riddle, is squarely right up my alley. “The Great Gate of Kiev” (part of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition) is one of my favorite pieces of Russian symphony, and Kennedy turns the mythopoeity up to “11” combining music, paranormal mystery, and classical mythology in a heady, panpsychic mix. All set in Charlotte — and the infinite mindscapes therein. Here, Kennedy writes about the hard part of discovering the first person present tense voice of psychic Mira Tejedor, as she struggles to unravel the riddle of 13-year-old Anthony Faircloth’s catatonia. In person, in addition to appearances at MystiCon, ConCarolinas, and ConGregate on the regional convention circuit, Kennedy will take part in the Bookmarks Movable Feast – Winston-Salem, NC on Sunday, January 25 from 3 pm to 5 pm.

By Darin Kennedy:

Tom Petty said “The waiting is the hardest part,” and I have to agree with him. The writing process does seem to be fraught with lots of hurry up and wait. Read the rest of this entry »


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