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 »


Coming to Town: David Weber and Timothy Zahn for HonorCon

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Article and Interviews by The Exploding Spaceship (Angela and Gerald Blackwell)

This weekend (Oct 31-Nov 2) HonorCon is being held at the Hilton North Raleigh/Midtown. This is a science fiction convention celebrating military science fiction literature and Honor Harrington’s birthday. Most of the events feature David Weber’s Honorverse which now has a new participant, Timothy Zahn. A Call to Duty by David Weber and Timothy Zahn was released on October 7 (see review here). This is the first volume in a new series about the early days of the Royal Manticoran Navy.

The convention will include events about all aspects of the Honorverse including some panels led by fan groups as well as the expected Weber panels, events about writing and getting published, and some panels on other science fiction universes like Star Wars, Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica. You can see a full schedule of events here. Online tickets have sold out, so if you don’t have yours already, then you must buy them onsite, where there are weekend passes as well as Saturday- and Sunday-only passes, as well as reduced-price children’s tickets.

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Interview with Timothy Zahn

You have a new book out which is set in the Honorverse. Can you tell us how you went about this collaboration? Did you interact with BuNine as well as David Weber?

David, Thomas Pope, and I first hash out the story, after which I write it all down in a general outline. David and Tom read the outline and we tweak it until we’re all satisfied. I then write the preliminary draft, which is then again filtered through David and Tom (and, via Tom, through BuNine). They send me their comments/suggestions/changes, and I do the rewrite. One final pass by everyone, a final (hopefully final) polish, and we’re done.

What are some of the events you are looking forward to at HonorCon? Read the rest of this entry »


Release Day: The Collected Kessel

When Baen associate editor Laura Haywood-Cory sent me the following, my first response was an expletive. Not only has Baen re-released John Kessel’s novels in DRM-free ebook formats, which would be noteworthy enough, they’ve also just published a huge collection of Kessel’s short fiction, The Collected Kessel, comprising 42 of Kessel’s stories including Nebula winners “Another Orphan” (novella, 1982) and “Pride and Prometheus” (novelette, 2008), and brand new story notes. My favorite of these so far comes from his notes on “Pride and Prometheus”, which after giving the germination of the idea behind the Austen/Shelley mashup novelette, also says something quite interesting: “My career, in retrospect, has been to cross the sensibilities of literary fiction with those of pulp fiction, and this story is one way in which that impulse has expressed itself.” Well, here are 42 stories (and the novels, too) which are the career, so far, of one of our American writing treasures. Cheers, John, and one of these days I’ll get somebody to give me a little warning when something like this is coming…

Here’s the press release from Baen: Read the rest of this entry »


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