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The MISSION: TOMORROW Interviews: Alex Shvartsman, Mike Resnick and Curtis C. Chen on MISSION: TOMORROW

Hugo-nominated editor Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s latest anthology, Mission: Tomorrow, a hard science fiction anthology of near future stories about space travel in a post-NASA age, released Tuesday November 4th from Baen and has been getting great reviews in Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal and more. Here’s the fourth in a series of SF Signal interviews with some of the contributors about their stories.

Here’s the synopsis for the upcoming anthology Mission: Tomorrow:

NEW STORIES OF THE FUTURE OF SPACE EXPLORATION. Original anthology of stories about near-future space exploration from top authors. Includes stories by Jack McDevitt, Michael F. Flynn, Sarah A. Hoyt, Ben Bova, Mike Resnick, and many more.

In Mission: Tomorrow, science fiction writers imagine the future of space exploration with NASA no longer dominant. Will private companies rule the stars or will new governments take up the call? From Brazilians to Russians to Chinese, the characters in these stories deal with everything from strange encounters, to troubled satellites and space ships, to competition for funding and getting there first. Nineteen stories of what-if spanning the gamut from Mercury to Pluto and beyond, assembled by critically praised editor Bryan Thomas Schmidt.


Alex Shvartsman

Alex Shvartsman is a writer and game designer from Brooklyn, NY. Over 70 of his short stories have appeared in InterGalactic Medicine Show, Nature, Galaxy’s Edge, Daily Science Fiction, and many other ‘zines and anthologies. The best of these are collected in Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories. He’s the winner of the 2014 WSFA Small Press Award for Short Fiction and the editor of Unidentified Funny Objects annual anthology series of humorous SF/F. His fiction is linked at www.alexshvartsman.com.

What is the name of your Mission: Tomorrow story and what’s it about?

Alex Shvartsman: “The Race for Arcadia” is about the rekindled space race between Russia, the United States and India, as told from the point of view of a Russian cosmonaut. Each is trying to be the first to land a manned mission on Kepler-452b, which has been proven to be (theoretically) habitable. I believe “Arcadia” is the first professionally published story to feature this Earth-like planet, which NASA has talked about in their exciting announcement this summer. I’m very proud that this story was a finalist for the Canopus Award for Excellence in Interstellar Fiction.

What gave you the idea for your story?

AS: I wanted to explore how nationalism and cultural identity play into the decision-making process. Each of the three nations approaches the race and the potential dangers and sacrifices it implies in a very different ways. Russian approach to personal sacrifice on behalf of its nation plays a significant role in the plot.

Tell us a bit about your main character(s) please.

AS: The story centers around Nikolai Gorolenko, a mathematics professor from the St. Petersburg State University. I don’t want to spoil too much of the story, but he’s the lone cosmonaut sent by the Russians, and the scenes alternate between his conversations with his handler at Baikonur and flashbacks to how he ended up on this mission.

How did you come to be a part of Mission: Tomorrow?

AS: Bryan invited me to submit a story. I panicked, because hard SF isn’t something I’m known for writing, but he really enjoyed the story and I hope the readers will, too.

Does your story tie in to other works or worlds you’ve written? How?

AS: There is a small, almost an Easter-egg level link between this story and “Doubt” which was published in Galaxy’s Edge last year. Both feature the Antey corporation, which is a semi-fictional Russian version of Halliburton.

What are other projects you’re working on that might interest us?

AS: My latest anthology, Unidentified Funny Objects 4 was released in October. I’m currently working on Humanity 2.0, an anthology which explores ways in which interstellar travel changes humanity both physically and sociologically.  As writer, I continue to slowly work on my grimdark fantasy novel Eridani’s Crown whenever I can pull myself away from writing short stories.

How does your approach to writing short stories differ from your long form process, if it does?

AS: Since the above-mentioned novel is my first long-form project, I shall demur from answering this one. I will, however, say that I have a very specific process for writing my short stories: before I write word one, I have to know where my story begins and, very specifically, how it ends. I can do a lot of exploratory writing in the middle, but each scene needs to drive the story toward that intended ending.

If you could go into space, what would be your preference: personal or public? Long term or just a quick trip?

AS: I take my cue from Jules Verne in that I prefer thinking up space adventures from the comfort of my own home rather than experiencing them for myself. If I were to go off-planet, a comfortable TARDIS would do nicely.


Mike Resnick

Mike Resnick is, according to Locus, the all-time leading award winner, living or dead, for short science fiction. He is the winner of five Hugos from a record 36 nominations, a Nebula, and other major awards in the United States, France, Spain, Japan, Croatia, Catalonia and Poland. and has been short-listed for major awards in England, Italy and Australia. He is the author of 74 novels, over 250 stories, and 3 screenplays, and is the editor of 41 anthologies. His work has been translated into 26 languages. He was the Guest of Honor at the 2012 Worldcon and currently edits Galaxies Edge magazine. He can be found online as @ResnickMike on Twitter or at www. mikeresnick.com.

What is the name of your Mission: Tomorrow story and what’s it about?

Mike Resnick: The title is “Tartaros”, and it is an updating of an ancient myth that occurs in a number of cultures.

What gave you the idea for your story?

MR: I figured everyone else would be telling “hard science” stories of exploration and the like, and since I like to write “against the grain” I looked for an idea that would fulfill the guidelines I’d been given and yet almost certainly differ from all the others.

Tell us a bit about your main character(s) please.

MR:  My main character, on the surface of it, appears to be a notorious outlaw and murderer, wanted by the authorities all over the solar system. But in reality, as he discovers, he is something much more.

How did you come to be a part of Mission: Tomorrow?

MR: I was invited. I’ve been in several anthologies for the editor.

Does your story tie in to other works or worlds you’ve written? How?

MR: No.

What are other projects you’re working on that might interest us?

MR:  I’m writing The Castle in Cassiopeia, the third book of The Dead Enders trilogy for PYR, and long before this comes out Eric Flint and I will have delivered our collaborative novel, The Gods of Sagittarius, to Baen Books. The Prison at Antares, book 2 of Dead Enders, is out next month.

How does your approach to writing short stories differ from your long form process, if it does?

MR:  When I sit down to write a novel, which is a commitment of a few months, I know the outline and characters, of course, but it is not outlined to the Nth degree, because more notions and characters will occur to me during the course of it. Whereas when I sit down to write a story, it’s always a matter of a few days at most – I did this one in one evening – and of course I have to know everything that’s going into it, and how, and where, and why, before I start writing.

If you could go into space, what would be your preference: personal or public? Long term or just a quick trip?

MR:  I’m an Old Guy, and there are still a few exotic and interesting places on this planet I’d like to see. Let the kids – those under 60 – go see the rest of the universe.


Curtis C. Chen

Curtis C. Chen writes speculative fiction, puzzle games, and freelance non-fiction near Portland, Oregon. His short fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Leading Edge magazine, and SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror. He is a graduate of the Clarion West and Viable Paradise writers’ workshops. Curtis is not an aardvark. His debut novel, Waypoint Kangaroo, is forthcoming Summer 2016 from Thomas Dunne Books. For a complete bibliography, visit his Web site: www.curtiscchen.com/stories.

What is the name of your Mission: Tomorrow story and what’s it about?

Curtis C. Chen: I would never describe “Ten Days Up” as “GRAVITY on a space elevator,” but that’s not entirely inaccurate. 🙂

What gave you the idea for your story?

CCC: I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of a space elevator—which would basically be a high-tech vertical railroad–and as I imagined how that would actually work, I started thinking about all the things that might go wrong during its operation. My professional background is in technology and engineering, so I have firsthand experience with “systems integration” debugging and how unexpected interactions between even small components can snowball into critical problems.

Tell us a bit about your main character(s) please.

CCC: Kenna Belecky is a middle-aged woman who’s been doing blue-collar construction jobs for her entire adult life–except she works in outer space. I like the idea of people in the future doing “normal” things that seem completely fantastic to us here in 2015. And Kenna still has to deal with the personal issues of being away from her home and family for weeks at a time. (My mother-in-law was a long-haul trucker for a few years, so I know a little bit about that situation.)

How did you come to be a part of Mission: Tomorrow?

CCC: I first met the editor, Bryan Schmidt, at the Rainforest Writers Village retreat in 2011, and subsequently saw him at OryCon and other conventions. He invited me to submit a story in March of 2014, and I was able to send him something the next month. He helped me edit my piece down from a more contemplative 7,800 words to a much tighter, 6,900-word adventure tale.

Does your story tie in to other works or worlds you’ve written? How?

CCC: Not directly, but I’ve written several stories that deal with near-future space travel, depicting technologies just beyond what we can make today. I think of it as “plastic science fiction:” not rigorous at the level of airtight-math “hard sf,” but plausible enough that you might want to build a toy model of the spaceship. 🙂

What are other projects you’re working on that might interest us?

CCC: My debut novel, Waypoint Kangaroo, will be published by Thomas Dunne Books next summer (2016). It also deals with privatized space travel in that most of the story takes place aboard a commercial space liner traveling from Earth to Mars: the Princess of Mars Cruises flagship Dejah Thoris. But in this case, the main character is a passenger–and
he doesn’t really want to be there.

How does your approach to writing short stories differ from your long form process, if it does?

CCC: I’m a total pantser when it comes to novel-length work, but with short fiction, I’ve been disciplining myself to do a good “story break” outline before starting a first draft. Hopefully those skills will eventually transfer to my longer projects and reduce the amount of rewriting I have to do.

If you could go into space, what would be your preference: personal or public? Long term or just a quick trip?

CCC: If we’re talking right now, I’d prefer to catch a ride with NASA just because they’ve been putting humans into space and returning them safely to Earth for a long time. I’m not paranoid about safety issues, but there’s a reason people still compare difficult tasks to “rocket science”–it really is hard to get right. And I wouldn’t want to stay up there too long, partly because of the physiological issues (e.g. muscle and bone loss in zero gravity) but also because I’d miss my family and friends after a while.

About Bryan Thomas Schmidt (68 Articles)
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and Hugo-nominated editor of adult and children's speculative fiction. His debut novel, THE WORKER PRINCE received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club's Year's Best Science Fiction Releases. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. As book editor he is the main editor for Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta's WordFire Press where he has edited books by such luminaries as Alan Dean Foster, Tracy Hickman, Frank Herbert, Mike Resnick, Jean Rabe and more. He was also the first editor on Andy Weir's bestseller THE MARTIAN. His anthologies as editor include SHATTERED SHIELDS with co-editor Jennifer Brozek and MISSION: TOMORROW, GALACTIC GAMES (forthcoming) and LITTLE GREEN MEN--ATTACK! (forthcoming) all for Baen, SPACE BATTLES: FULL THROTTLE SPACE TALES #6, BEYOND THE SUN and RAYGUN CHRONICLES: SPACE OPERA FOR A NEW AGE. He is also coediting anthologies with Larry Correia and Jonathan Maberry set in their New York Times Bestselling Monster Hunter and Joe Ledger universes. From December 2010 to June 2015, he hosted #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer's Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter as @SFFWRTCHT.
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