In Sputnik’s Orbit

A few thoughts to tide you over…


Taos Toolbox

In its ten years of operation, Taos Toolbox has become one of the best-regarded Milford-style advanced novel writing workshops in the country. With Worldcon in Europe this year and a major novel rewrite on my agenda for the year, I decided to apply. I consider myself very fortunate to have gotten in, as George R.R. Martin is teaching this year and while Walter won’t tell me how many applicants he got, he did confirm it was a record.

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My story, For All Mankind, about the Apollo Program, the Tsar Bomba, and two women who save the world, appears in the July/August 2017 issue of Analog Science Fiction & Fact. Rocket Stack Rank calls it “meticulous and moving…quite an accomplishment…a Hugo Award worthy story.” And here’s the cover:

Meet the Winners! – C.L. Kagmi

Stuart: Introduce yourself. Who the hell are you? What might surprise your friends?

CL: Hi there! I’m C. L. Kagmi. Wandering writer, armchair scientist (I used to assist actual scientists before striking out on my own), and adventurer competing for Most Interesting Woman In The World Title.


Stuart: Ah, yes. That’s like…one of the x-prizes isn’t it? So what’s your entry?

CL: I was very predictable for the first 25 or so years of my life. Obtained a degree in Neuroscience and served as research coordinator in a children’s hospital. It was great work – but I’d never shaken my love for writing, or my desire to voraciously study any subject I chose.

Stuart: I hear you. I was much that same. I used to write radio plays and put them on with my sister. One day it occurred to me that I was still working on them but hadn’t done anything concrete in years.

CL: I’m told that I used to tell stories in stick figure comic form before I could properly pick up a pen. I believe at one point I filled a blank notebook with hilariously-spelled attempts to write Land Before Time fanfiction

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How Did Apollo Astronauts Get Through The Van Allen Belts?

Speed and trajectory.

It is a common misapprehension that all radiation is some sort of magic death ray. It isn’t. Type, dose, and duration of radiation make all the difference. We evolved on a radioactive planet. Sunlight is a type of radiation. Nuclear radiation can kill–or be stopped by our outer layer of dead skin cell. Even our bones are weakly radioactive, and we evolved to handle the gamma rays they produce within our bodies just fine.

Long before Apollo, NASA launched a fleet of probes to map and characterize the Van Allen belts. The belts primarily consist of an inner band of energetic protons and an outer band of electrons, all trapped from the solar wind by the Earth’s magnetic field.

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Comicpalooza 2017


Comicpalooza 2017 is upon us!

I will be in booth 2632, in the middle-rear of Hall C, smack in the middle of the convention center, right next to NASA:

It’s going to be a great year.Image result

This Felicia Day will be there talking about the new season of MST3K, cosplayers will abound, and there will be something for everyone, from celebrity audographs and photo ops to art, to “working” light sabers. If you’ve never been, come on out, it’s a thing to behold.

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Meet The Winners – Ziporah Hildebrandt

Next in this year’s interview series, say hello to Ziporah Hildebrandt, who joins us from Hollywood during her workshop week.

Stuart: Ziporah, hello, and welcome to the Writers of the Future family!

Ziporah: Hi Stuart, thanks for inviting me to visit.

Stuart: To start us off, what can you tell me about yourself that would surprise your friends?

Ziporah: Well, I don’t know about friends, but I have a Post-it with “Surprise!” written on it that I move around the house to make my husband laugh when he opens a drawer or picks up the dustpan.

Stuart: (Laughs)

Ziporah: I grow heirloom garlic, breed tree peonies, and dye silk with homemade plant dyes from my garden, using traditional Japanese shibori methods as well as my own designs. I also like to take photos of flowers and ice and clouds.

Stuart: Neat!

Ziporah: I grew up down the road from the estate used in The Philadelphia Story with Katherine Hepburn.

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Our National Bird on the Mend

As a science fiction author, I spend more than my fair share of time thinking of all the ways the world can go to hell in a hand-basket and ruin everything for everybody–that makes for dramatic stories.
But in fact, science is about understanding and progress, and we need to take time for that too.

This morning, just as I was sitting down with my second cup of coffee, a bald eagle flew past my 35th floor window, not twenty feet away

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Meet the Winners – Andrew Roberts

Readers! Friends! Countrymen! Lend me your…er..please welcome Writers of the Future winner, Andrew L Roberts to Meet the Winners!

Stuart: Andrew, congrats and welcome to the family. Tell us who you are.

Andrew: I am from San Lorenzo California. I live in the house I grew up in. When I was growing up, I had a backyard with a huge tree and an older brother with which to share it. My favorite hiding spot was and remains my imagination. You should come and visit sometime. It has lots of interesting rooms.

Stuart: (laughs) Do you have any hobbies?

Andrew: I’m an experienced potter and used to play ice-hockey at the most ungodly hours of the night.

Stuart: Ice hockey? In San Lorenzo?

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How to Handle a Telemarketer


Silence. Sounds through a mistreated microphone..Related image


“Oh, sorry. My headset was giving me problems. Is this Mr. Hardwick?”

“Speaking, and with whom do I have the pleasure?”

“My name is Emily! and I’m calling on behalf of–[some outfit or other that sells something unwise to businesses who have just registered to pay taxes to the state of Texas, like the credit card processor who pretends to actually be the state of Texas and gets around to offering an “absolutely free of charge” credit card reader (skimmer included at no extra charge) and “for a limited time” credit card processing at the “special low price” of three times what Square or Paypal charge for exactly the same service]–“and we’d like to offer you–”

“Emily! Stop!”

“a– um…”

“Before you go any further, Emily, you have to pay.”

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Meet the Winners — David VonAllmen!

Greetings readers! You may or may not know that frequently, one or two of Writers of the Future contest finalists are selected to appear in the anthology even through the didn’t win, per se. It’s a high honor, because it basically means the contest judges thought they were pro quality, even if another story edged them out, and they still get to attend the prestigious week long workshop in LA.This year, the published finalist is my good friend, David VonAllmen.

Stuart: David, welcome. Thanks for dropping by. Why don’t you start by telling my readers a little about yourself.

David: Okay. I live in St. Louis with my wife and two kids, and I am the only person ever to be Collegiate National Cycling Champion in all three disciplines: road, track, and mountain bike.

Stuart: Wow! That’s amazing!

David: Two of my former teammates rode on Lance Armstrong’s team in the Tour de France, and yes, one of them got suspended for performance enhancing drugs after winning an Olympic gold medal.

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