2017 N3F Short Story Contest- 1st Place Winner!

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I have exciting news!

I’ve won another contest!

This one happens to involve three of my short stories. In December, during my vacation, I came across a writing contest by The National Fantasy Fan Federation (N3F), the oldest international Science Fiction and Fantasy fan club on Earth. They’ve been publishing stuff since 1941. Per contest rules, I could submit up to three short stories. It just so happened that I had some sitting around, waiting for a publisher to snatch them up. I submitted all three, and a month later, I received an email that went something like this (excluding story-specific feedback):

“To the Author of Nautilus:
[…] Great story! Exquisite pacing, excellent construction, a beautiful dramatic build-up to the climax, a strong and active climax, flawless narration, and good dialogue. […]
Your story did not win in the 2017 National Fantasy Fan Federation Short Story Contest, but was one of the nine Finalists.

“To the Author of “Icarus Drowned”:
[…] Everything about this story is great. There is absolutely nothing I could teach you about writing!
Your story did not win in the 2017 National Fantasy Fan Federation Short Story Contest, but was one of the nine Finalists.

“To the Author of “Quantum Quietus”
[…] Wow! This is a totally nifty story! It brings new ideas to the table, in new ways. The protagonist is well developed, the narration is strong, the dialogue is mature, and the *ideas* are just staggering! […] The story is a gem and a joy.
This story has won First Prize in the 2017 National Fantasy Fan Federation Short Story Contest!

So in addition to taking up a third of the finalists’ slots, I also got 1st place!

True, I have no idea how many people entered the contest, but I’ll get some prize money out of it and a shot at getting another of my stories published.

The inspiration behind the winning story:

I was inspired to write “Quantum Quietus” after researching the strange and instantaneous communication of quantum-entangled particles, even over large distances. The only way to make sense of the phenomenon was to conclude that time itself did not apply to entangled particles. By acting on one, that action would reach back in time to the moment of entanglement, and define the properties of its partner. I envisioned a day when the pharmaceutical industry could make a drug that entangles our minds, allowing us to receive Feedback from seconds into the future. The story also delves into the dangers of playing with quantum uncertainty. In the words of the antagonist, “If humanity continues to allow the principles of quantum uncertainty to direct our future, it will discover just how uncertain that future is.”

Summary of the story:

Joe is one of the handful of people allergic to Quantanax, the latest drug from Prescience Pharmaceuticals. It gives people the near supernatural ability to see into the future. With just a few seconds of foresight, their reflexes become quick, their actions unerring, and their mistakes erased before they ever happened. They called it Feedback, the new sixth sense. Had things turned out different, Joe could have been like them. His life would be free of unpredictability and hardship, better in every way.

When television broadcasts are hijacked, and a man with a mask and synthesized voice walks onto the screen, Joe realizes he’s more fortunate than he first believed. The masked man has placed a nuclear device in the city, one triggered by a Quantum Random Number Generator. As the man activates the device, nearly everyone drops to the ground, catatonic, and overwhelmed as they experience their deaths second after second. Unaffected, Joe is the city’s only hope to find the bomb and shut it down.

 

I’ll be sure to supply the link to the award announcement as soon as the N3F newsletter is released, and another link to the story if/when it gets published.

I apologize to my readers for yet another writing update. I promise to get back to my regular Science in Sci-Fi posts soon. I do quite a lot of science writing for my day job, so my brain has been over-saturated lately.

Until next time, write well and science hard! (I think this will be my new slogan).

 

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“Feldspar” is now published

I’m happy to report that “Feldspar,” the story that won me the 2017 Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award, has officially been published on the Baen website, where you can read it for free!

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Screenshot of the Baen main page’s listing of “Feldspar.” Click the image to be redirected there.

Here’s the blurb they wrote for the story in their newsletter:

“In the future, a gaming company is accomplishing what governmental space agencies tried and failed to do: they’re slowly making Mars suitable for human habitation. But to do so they’ll need the help of a team of gamers back on planet Earth. One such gamer is Blake; his remote-controlled rover is Feldspar. But not all Martian exploration is done from the safety of an ergonomic chair in front of a computer desk back on Earth. Astronauts still make the dangerous trip to the Red Planet. And where human space flight is concerned, things can go very wrong very quickly. Now, Blake and his intrepid rover are all that stand between one astronaut and certain death in “Feldspar,” the grand prize winner of the 2017 Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award.”

Last month I flew to St. Louis to attend the International Space Development Conference to receive the award, and to meet with Baen editor, Tony Daniel, and the contest administrator, William Ledbetter. I had the chance to meet with several other authors at the conference, including the runner up, Stephen Lawson, and the third place winner M. T. Reiten. Baen also published Stephen’s story, Bullet Catch. It is a story stuffed with fascinating characters, science, and suspense. It is well worth the read.

Group photo

From left to right: M. T. Reiten, Me, Stephen Lawson, and Bill Ledbetter

Tony surprised us with a request for an interview at the conference to discuss our short stories and our backgrounds. You can listen to the interview below, which was aired on the Baen Free Radio Hour Podcast on May 26th.


The talks at the conference were amazing, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a huge nerd. I heard talks on space elevators, space beacons, space medicine, planet colonization and exploration, Mars simulations, and new ways to harvest asteroids and solar energy. I even got to share the award banquet with Linda Godwin, a former astronaut and recipient of the Missouri Space Pioneer Award. Needless to say, I came away from it with all kinds of new story ideas.

Linda Godwin presentation

Presentation by Linda Godwin

I don’t believe my own acceptance speech was recorded, but I’ve transcribed it for you below. To hear the introductory speech Tony gave, listen to the above podcast.

“Thank you, Tony.
It is an honor to receive this award as both a writer and a scientist, and to be here at this amazing conference.
I’d like to thank all those who helped make it happen, especially my family and friends who gave me valuable feedback on the story,  Bill Ledbetter, the contest administrator, and all the judges who chose my story from all the other entries. It couldn’t have been an easy decision. Finally, I would like to thank Jim Baen, for the impact he had on science fiction, and the legacy he left behind.
It would be difficult to find a scientist here who was not in some way inspired by science fiction. I think we’ve all dreamed of a future where traveling to space becomes no more routine than getting on the bus to work each morning. The part of me that’s a writer can only dream of this future; it’s up to the scientist in me, in all of us, to make it a reality.
Thank you.”

Last but not least, I got to explore St. Louis with my girlfriend, Megan. First on our to-do list was to RE-explore the City Museum. The last time we went, we lost a large number of our photos due to a cell-phone malfunction, so we had to re-document the amazing place. We felt like kids again.


Now for my regular readers, I’m happy to tell you that I’ll be getting back to my regular science in sci-fi posts. I have a big one planned for next month, so stay tuned.

Writing Update-December

For those of you who didn’t notice, I failed to write a single post during the month of November. I didn’t forget about you. November was packed with all kinds of distractions. The first half of November was spent preparing for and then attending a science conference (Society for Redox Biology and Medicine) in San Francisco. I had a blast and learned a lot, but couldn’t get a whole lot of writing time in. The conference ended the weekend before Thanksgiving and I stayed in San Francisco to spend it with some family in the area. Because this post is light on visuals, I made this little squirrel to represent how I felt after the week of Thanksgiving:

thanksgiving-squirrel

November, as many of you know, was also National Novel Writing Month. I never participate in NaNoWriMo, but I did plan on getting my book edited. Sadly, after spending weeks without any creative outlet, I couldn’t bear the thought of editing. Instead, starting Thanksgiving week, I began a short story project. The story has been bouncing around in my head for a while, but I now had a reason to get it out on paper.

That reason is the Jim Baen Memorial short story award. I stumbled on to this contest last year, but couldn’t meet the deadline (Feb. 1st). The thing I love most about this contest, besides the fact that it is free to enter, is that they allow short stories of up to 8000 words in length. I have a hard time writing stories shorter than 4000 words, which is the norm for most contests. The other thing I love about this contest, is its mission. Not only is it requesting strictly science fiction stories, but stories that can help inspire scientific progress. This isn’t just meaningless propaganda either. They will give the top three finalists free admission to the 2017 International Space Development Conference as well as a bunch of other prizes.

I am almost finished with the short story and hope to share more details in the near future. In short, it is about a Mars rover operator who finds himself in a position to save the life of a Martian astronaut. I am tempted to call it brilliant, but I am still coming down from a creativity high. Its true quality will be determined during editing.

For my last bit of news,  I participated in the Twitter SFFpit event for a few hours earlier today. I had one acquisitions manager from a small press show interest in Quotidian but I am holding out for a literary agent who can get me the best deal. For those of you who don’t know, SFFpit is very much like other Twitter pitch contests. Summarizing your book in 140 characters is no easy feat. To give you an idea of how short that is, this sentence is 132 characters long with spaces, and I haven’t even included the hashtag. You can check out my twitter feed on the bottom of the page to see what variations I tried. The SFF pitch event was hosted by Dan Koboldt. If you recognize his name, it’s because I recently wrote a guest post for him on Enclosed Ecosystems and Life Support.

December will be a bit light on posts as well as I will be in lab for 10+ hours a day trying to crank out some data before the holidays. Speaking of holidays, I will be in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, so there is little to no chance of me blogging during that time. I will be on a beach somewhere drinking cocktails and soaking my pale Seattle skin in sunlight.

With that, I am behind on editing and have a lot more to do before I can send my book to beta readers early next year. I’ve already put together a beta-reader book cover (below)! Wish me luck.

cover-quotidian

Beta-reader cover for Quotidian. It depicts a scene from the book.