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The MISSION: TOMORROW Interviews: Jack McDevitt, Jaleta Clegg and Jay Werkheiser 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 fifth 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.


Jack McDevitt

Jack McDevitt has been described by Stephen King as “The logical heir to Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke.” He is the author of twenty-two novels, eleven of which have been Nebula finalists. His novel, Seeker, won the award in 2007. In 2003, Omega received the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best science fiction novel. McDevitt’s most recent books are the Priscilla Hutchins origin adventure Starhawk, and Coming Home, an Alex Benedict mystery, both from Ace. His latest novel from Ace, the first in a new series, Thunderbird, releases in December.

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

Jack McDevitt:  “Excalibur.” A reporter working on a history of the space agency notices some inconsistencies in NASA reports that are twenty years old. As he looks into the matter, it becomes evident that there has been a cover-up. But of what?

SFS: What gave you the idea for your story?

JMcD:  Edward Snowden. I’ve always enjoyed cover-up stories. All I needed was the purpose for it all.

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

JMcD: Gordon Kerr is the perfect journalist. He knows how to make friends, and he’s loyal to people who’ve helped him over the years. His connection with Tom Morrison, director of the JPL lab, is the reason  he started working on the NASA project in the first place. Morrison has been largely responsible for Gordon’s successful career. In a time when NASA needs some visibility, he’s undertaken to write the agency’s history. And like any good journalist, when he senses a cover-up, he becomes a bloodhound. But going with the story becomes difficult for him when it becomes clear that Morrison’s career might be put at risk if he proceeds.

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

JMcD: Editor’s invitation, and a topic –the future of space travel—that is especially interesting.

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

JMcD: It doesn’t, but it leaves me with an interest in doing a follow-up story.

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

JMcD: I’m in the process of starting another Priscilla Hutchins novel, which will probably consume my life for the next year. I’ll take time to do a couple of stories in the meantime, but at the moment I’m concentrating on Priscilla.

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

JMcD: I can’t see that there is any substantial difference. I construct a general plotline, which means that I know where the narrative will begin, and where it starts. I decide who the principal characters will be. Then the narrative pretty much writes itself.

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

JMcD: I was in the Navy when NASA was launched in 1959 and there was a call for volunteers to sign on as prospective astronauts. I’d have been happy to apply for a flight to Mars, had there been any such thing in the plans. (And if there hadn’t been a color vision defect that had kept me out of flight training.) At this point in my life, I’m content to let others head for Saturn’s rings.


 

Jaleta Clegg

Jaleta Clegg loves to tell stories about all sorts of fantastical things, from rockets and aliens to ogres and unicorns to green gelatin blobs and evil collectible figurines. When she’s not spinning stories, she’s figuring out how to teach kids about science and astronomy. She enjoys playing the piano and organ for her local church, crocheting monsters and cute little cthulhus, and cooking weird vegetables for the fun of it. She lives in Utah with a diminishing horde of children, too many pets, and a very patient husband. Find more of her work at http://www.jaletac.com.

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

Jaleta Clegg: “The Ultimate Space Race” is a reality show, a race in space of sorts.

SFS: What gave you the idea for your story?

JC: Watching too many reality game shows. Lots of money, lots of determination, and lots of chutzpah sound like the perfect combination to get us to the stars. Writing it from the perspective of the contestants just wasn’t working, though, so I did what I imagine most of humanity will do: experience it vicariously on TV.

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

JC: Ethel is an older housewife, just like millions of other housewives. She enjoys watching her shows with her husband. She’s not a fan of all the new-fangled and new-flavored snack foods, and she hates all the commercials blasted constantly on the channels, but the premium subscriptions just cost too much. I have to stop now or she’ll go on for pages about her latest shopping trip to the grocery store and her friends and the hairdresser appointments and how she wants to go to Fiji someday, or maybe just Omaha.

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

JC: I was invited to submit a story. I’m honored and pleased to be part of this great collection. (This is Jaleta’s first pro-sale.)

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

JC: Not really. I’ve got a lot of random people in my head begging me to write stories about them. Henry and Ethel were happy to finally get their turn, but now they want me to write the adventures of their dog, Poopsie. And their neighbors, George and Martha, are getting antsy about their contributions to my writings.

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

JC: I’m currently up to my neck in academic writing, working on a master’s degree in instructional design. Unless I add in zombie attacks or possibly alien abductions, I doubt that would interest most readers. It’s pretty dry. I’m also working on three different fantasy series in my spare time. One is a middle-grade story my daughter is co-writing with me. The other is a high fantasy save-the-world-from-evil story I’ve been writing off and on for over twenty years. The last is the prequel story for Dark Dancer which I released August 2014. I’ll be posting updates on these and other projects on my webpage: www.jaletac.com.

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

JC: I’m a lot wilder in my short stories. I can play with ideas that I couldn’t sustain over an entire novel. I can let my really wild and weird characters loose. In a novel, they’d get too overwhelming much too fast, kind of like eating hot peppers. Too many is bad news. But in a short story, they can really shine as main characters. So I let them out to play and let them loose to create whatever chaos they can in those short pages.

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

JC: I’ve always wanted to go to space. Watching Star Trek only made me want it more. If space travel could be like that, or like in StarGate or Andromeda or FarScape or Star Wars or like in most of the TV shows and movies about space travel, I’d be gone in a heartbeat. But real space travel? I get motion sickness just sitting on a porch swing. So I dream about it and write stories about it and pretend whenever I’m doing a planetarium show at work.


Jay Werkhesier

Jay Werkheiser teaches chemistry and physics to high school students, where he often finds inspiration for stories in classroom discussions. Not surprisingly, his stories often deal with alien biochemistries, weird physics, and their effects on the people who interact with them. Many of his stories have appeared in Analog, with others scattered among several other science fiction magazines and anthologies. You can follow him on twitter @JayWerkheiser or read his (much neglected) blog at http://jaywerkheiser.blogspot.com/.

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

Jay Werkheiser: My story is called “Around the NEO in Eighty Days.”  It’s about using a new technology, lighter than air spacecraft, to reach orbit and, ultimately, to visit a near-Earth asteroid.  More, it’s about people facing the flaws in their nature against the backdrop of space exploration.

SFS: What gave you the idea for your story?

JW: I wanted to do a near future story using realistic space technology.  In my research, I happened upon JP Aerospace’s “Airship to Orbit” plan.  The balloon-like airships reminded me of the iconic hot air balloon scene in Around the World in Eighty Days (the movie, if not the actual novel), and that got me thinking in terms of a SF retelling of the story.  It quickly became clear that, in a short story, I would have to focus in on one major incident of the journey.  The characters themselves suggested the nature of the incident and drove the plot.

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

JW: My two main characters are John Keyes, assistant to the eccentric billionaire Phil Foggerty, and Detective Felix, determined to sabotage Foggerty’s plans to be the first to visit a near Earth object.  While Foggerty’s plans set up the conflict, Keyes’s loyalty and Felix’s redemption move the story along and lead to the ultimate resolution.

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

JW:  Bryan asked me to submit a story to him for Mission: Tomorrow.  I was thrilled to be invited and started working on my story right away.  I was lucky enough to have my story selected for inclusion in the anthology.

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

JW: This is a standalone piece.

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

JW: I have several more stories due out in Analog in the upcoming months.  Also, I’ve recently begun working on my first novel.

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

JW: So far I’ve only published short stories.  I’m early in my attempt to tackle a longer work, so I’m not the best one to ask about it.  The most obvious distinction is that in a novel you have a lot more space to explore an idea.  It requires more depth and the ability to weave together several related subplots into a coherent whole.

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

JW: I would prefer private industry.  I think public, government funded space travel was necessary early on because the cost of developing the technology from the ground up was well beyond the R&D costs that private industry could sustain.  But I think commercial development and cost-reducing innovation is not something that government does well, and so private space companies are better suited to taking us down that road.  There will always be a role for government in pushing the technological boundaries and tackling the really ambitious deep space missions, but if we’re ever going to get the average person into space, private industry is where it’s going to happen.  With current technology and the radiation exposure of a long trip, I’d want to limit myself to a short jaunt.  Once they come up with a way to protect me from radiation, I’d be happy to take a longer trip.

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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