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[INTERVIEW] Analog Writer Bud Sparhawk on Editors, Hard Science, Sam Boone, and SIGMA

Bud Sparhawk sold his first story to Analog in 1977. He has been nominated for the Nebula 3 times.

In addition to 60 short stories in Analog, his work has appeared in Intergalactic Medicine Show, Baen’s Universe, Daily Science Fiction, Abyss and Apex, Dark Matter, Frequency, Absolute Magnitude, and Radius, among others. He has also been included in various anthologies and Year’s Bests.

His most notable series was Sam Boone. His first novel, Vixen came in 2008. His latest novel, Distant Seas, came out in 2015.

Sparhawk serves on the SFWA board of directors as Chief Financial Officer and occasionally writes for the SFWA’s bulletin. He is a member of SIGMA, a government advisory science fiction writers think tank.

In this interview, Sparhawk talks about hard science, Analog editors, Sam Boone, and SIGMA.

CARL SLAUGHTER: Analog is a hard science magazine. Exactly how hard is your hard science fiction?

BUD SPARHAWK: I try to keep within the bounds of scientifically possible, albeit I do stretch the engineering applications of such unmercifully at times.

CS: What is your hard science writing strategy?

BS: I make stuff up as I go along and only later research the real facts. Doing research in advance or while writing sends me down a rabbit hole and, a half hour later, I’m watching a cat in a box somewhere in China.

CS: How did your background as a professional scientist affect your career as a science fiction writer? Help, hinder, or neutral?

BS: I am not a scientist. My undergrad degree was Mathematics and my Masters was Finance. Nevertheless I’ve had a lifelong interest in matters scientific and use my experiences to feed my stories. Three years ago i attended LaunchPad – the astronomy course for SF Writers – and that resulted in at least two Analog stories.

CS: What’s it like working with Stan Schmidt?

BS: Stan never directly edited anything I wrote although he occasionally dropped subtle hints that led to slight adjustments. He was a knowledgeable guide who insisted on scientific accuracy (except for the Sam Boones, of course; the Sam Boone series contained not one scintillion’s worth of solid science, which might have been a first for Analog.)

CS: Schmidt retired a few years ago. How did you fare during the regime change?

BS: I first met Trevor a few weeks after Ian Stock quit Analog and we kept a casual convention friendship. I found that he edited more “hands-on” than Stan.

CS: SIGMA founder Arlan Andrews said, “I formed SIGMA because I had heard more original and appropriate futurism on panels at any given science fiction convention than in all the forecasting meetings I ever attended while in D.C.” Exactly how influential is SIGMA?

BS: Who knows? We are generally told not to mention specific assignments or agencies. We have not yet been speaking to anyone about alien invasions (except Jerry, but that’s understandable.)

CS: Does Washington need science fiction writers?

BS: The state of Washington is replete with good writers. The city of Washington DC has a handful but could use more. And yes, the Washington government does need writers unafraid to step outside the boundaries or violate organizational protocols.

CS: Give us some examples of SIGMA members and the contributions they made to policy.

BS: See above. In general we advise on breaking down bureaucratic and ideological walls. At xxxxxxx we spoke to xxxx agency workers in order to help them xxxxxx xxx xxxxxxxxxxxx,

CS: Got any advice to aspiring hard science writers?

BS: I write a weekly blog ( on the pain of being a short story writer and the fact that although you will never get wealthy doing it you get to meet some fascinating people and hob-knob with better writers. And that makes your life very rich indeed.

CS: What’s on the horizon for Bud Sparhawk?

BS: Who knows? I keep writing novella lengths even though there is little market for such. I’ve placed five stories so far this year and have two novels in circulation. Maybe my Amazon collections with take off, or there will be another sale or two. Regardless I write on, always seeking to perfect the form.

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