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The MISSION: TOMORROW Interviews: Michael F. Flynn, Brenda Cooper, and David D. Levine

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 second 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.


Michael F. Flynn

Michael F. Flynn is a frequent contributor to Analog, but his short fiction has also appeared in Fantasy and Science Fiction and at TOR.com. A multiple Hugo nominee and winner of the Sidewise Award for Alternate History, his novels have included the Spiral Arm series and the Firestar series. A statistician, he lives in Easton, Pennsylvania.

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

Michael F. Flynn: “In Panic Town, on the Backward Moon” is a detective story that begins on Phobos and ends on Mars.

SFS: What gave you the idea for your story?

MFF: The idea came from two sources. First, a story by Lawrence Block entitled “When the Sacred Gin Mill Closes”, which is a retrospective tale of a remembered investigation involving a group of casual acquaintances. The second was a problem-solving exercise called “Murder One” which I used in training classes.

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

MFF: The main character, Mickey, last name unknown, is a troubleshooter for Phobos Port Authority. His main job is to unsnarl production problems in various operations conducted by the Ares Consortium, but he gets involved in recovering an item stolen from a pair of shady characters on Phobos. This takes him down to Port Rosario, where he teams up with Tiki Ferrer, the marshal of The Groin.

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

MFF: I was invited.

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

MFF: The story is set in the Firestar universe some while after the end of Falling Stars, but well before The Wreck of The River of Stars. Eugenie Satterwaithe, who is 3rd officer on The River of Stars, appears in the story as a courier for the Red Ball/Green Ball service; and Port Rosario is named of course for Jacinto Rosario, one of the heroes in the series. The Visitors are mentioned in the background of the story. There is also a passing mention at the end of “the People of Sand and Iron,” who figure in the Spiral Arm series, thousands of years later.

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

MFF: Mickey has been called to Luna to troubleshoot a problem with one of the magnetic catapults that send raw materials out to Mars. This will tie in with a grotesque death that had been ruled an accident some while previously. I am also involved in a novelette called “Nexus” and a novel titled The Shipwrecks of Time, as well as a short story “Laminated Moose Zombies.”

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

MFF: I stop sooner. Ho ho. What I mean is that a short story focuses more on a single incident and a single character, while a novel typically involves a greater spread of incidents and character.

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

MFF: Either way would do; although I doubt my health would permit such a trip. Realistically, it would have to be a quick trip.


Brenda Cooper

Brenda Cooper is a working futurist and a technology professional as well as a published science fiction writer. She lives in the Pacific Northwest in a house with as many dogs in it as people. In addition to her several novels, her short fiction appears regularly in Analog and other venues. Her latest novel, The Edge of Dark, released from Pyr in early 2015. Find out more at www.brenda-cooper.com.

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

Brenda Cooper: “Iron Pegasus” is a bit of a murder mystery that unfolds when a minor and her robot companion answer a distress call.

SFS: What gave you the idea for your story?  

BC: I wrote it specifically for this anthology, and I wanted to think of a story line that would fit Bryan’s vision without being very similar to other stories in the book.  I haven’t finished reading the book yet, so I don’t know if I succeeded, but he almost didn’t buy the story.  So maybe I tried to be a little bit too hard to be different! I have been writing about robots and the man/machine interface a lot lately because it intrigues me. As a futurist, I’m fairly sure that a world inhabited by a much larger number of robots is coming pretty quickly. In fact, I keep expecting that one morning I’ll wake up and find one in my kitchen (well, another one — we already have Zeke the mad-vacuum-machine in there).  I think I’m trying to prepare myself for the moment when my car, my house, and maybe even my doctor are robots.

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

BC: My solo asteroid miner, Cynthia, is betting that she can make enough money as a miner that she can live the rest of her life as a well-off dancer.  This is a common bet – many people go into the asteroid belt to get rich.  Some of them succeed.  Her only companion is a robot named Harry.

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

BC: Frankly, Bryan asked, and since I loved his idea and I enjoy working with Bryan, I said yes.

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

BC: This one stands alone, other than – as I mentioned above – I’ve been a little obsessed with robots lately.

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

BC: Spear of Light, which is the sequel to my recent novel, Edge of Dark (which is about – what else  – robots and post-humanity) will be out in 2016.  I’m also currently writing poetry, and there is kind of a long story about that.  Maybe I’ll sneak that into a guest blog somewhere.

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

BC: They aren’t that different actually.  I’m a light outliner who then tells herself the actual story by writing about it.

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

BC: Either – any way I could go.  I would want to come back, though.  I love the Earth.  But I really, really want to see it from space.


Michael F. Flynn

David D. Levine is the author of over fifty published science fiction and fantasy stories. His work has appeared in markets including Asimov’s, Analog, F&SF, and Realms of Fantasy and has won or been nominated for awards including the Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, and Campbell. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife Kate Yule, with whom he co-edits the fanzine Bento. His first novel, Arabella of Mars, comes out in 2016 from Tor.

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

David D. Levine: “Malf” is the story of an asteroid miner — or, to put it more prosaically, a work-from-home contract system administrator — who has a very bad day.

SFS: What gave you the idea for your story?

DDL: I had this idea some years ago — I have administered some systems, and have attended some talks by NASA people responsible for debugging space hardware when it goes wrong. The challenges of administering a complex system at a very long remove in a difficult environment are fascinating, and I always thought it would make a good story if I could just find a way to raise the stakes enough.

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

DDL: Jorge is someone who is in a unique position — what some might call an enviable position — because his skills are obsolete. Tech is like that. It’s easy for someone to start off with skills that are rare and valuable and, with the passage of time, find that they are now expert in a system that no one uses any more, but don’t have the spare time to learn anything else. Also, Jorge comes from poverty and has a great sense of loyalty to his fabulous uncle Roberto, who bankrolled his education after his parents kicked him out.

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

DDL: I was invited by the editor, and was happy to have a market that was perfect for an idea I’d had some years previous but never worked up into a story.

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

DDL: I worked as a technical writer for over twenty years, in a career that also included software engineering and user interface design. I’m retired now, but every once in a while I come up with a story that uses some of those old skills. So, in a way, this story takes place in the same universe as my earlier book “Paragon XP/S System Administrator’s Manual.”

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

DDL: My first novel, Arabella of Mars, comes out from Tor in July 2016. It takes place in an alternate 1813 in which the solar system is full of air and it’s possible to travel to Mars and Venus (which are of course inhabited) by sailing ship. It features zero-gravity aerial ship battles with black powder cannon, mutiny among the asteroids, and an insurrection by the native Martians. Although the premise is pure fantasy (a solar system full of air would be unstable and uninhabitable), I’ve tried to approach this impossible universe with a hard science fiction attitude, and I’ve worked out how the ships can fly and navigate using 19th-century technology.

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

DDL: My process in both cases is similar: idea, noodling, writing notes-to-self and then an outline, drafting in order from beginning to end, feedback, revision, submission. Novels take much longer to draft and typically get more revisions — in particular, I usually rework the beginning and ending several times each — but in both cases I start with a concept and/or setting and develop the characters second.

As I’ve become more experienced (Arabella of Mars is my first novel to sell, but the fourth one I wrote) I’ve become much more of a seat-of-the-pants or “discovery” writer — it’s almost impossible for a novel-length work to have the ending I thought it would when I started writing the first draft, whereas for a short story it’s typical (but not inevitable) that it will end up pretty much the way I envisioned it when I first had the idea.

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

DDL: Personally, I would prefer a first-class voyage with all the bugs worked out and other people to do the messy, difficult bits — just let me have the experience without risking life, limb, or lunch. I’m a pretty independent traveler, but not a backpacker and certainly not a camper. That being said, space is really big — even little Mercury has as much surface area as the United States and Europe put together — and even a very long trip would barely scratch the surface. I suppose that as long as I’m imagining a first-class space voyage, I might as well throw in immortality and an unlimited budget.

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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