“Guard Dog” now out in Space Battles, plus two interviews with The Host

I’ve got a new interview out today. Writer (and friend) Alex J. Kane was kind enough to hit me with some very good questions. Since being nominated for the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Campbell awards, I’ve had a number of invitations to do such interviews. Sometimes the questions are general, and you can’t really give much more than a few sentences. Sometimes the questions really make you think. Alex’s were of the latter variety — truly thought provoking — enough so that I stayed up way past my bed time to answer them. Click here to read the whole thing. Thanks, Alex, for the chance to do a little pontificating about how I write what I write, and why.

Also fresh to the market is editor and writer (and friend!) Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s anthology Space Battles, a rock-em-sock-em book with a bevy of talent in it. This is the latest in the Full-Throttle Space Tales series from Flying Pen Press. My friend and collaborator Alastair Mayer had a story in Full-Throttle Space Tales #4: Space Horrors, so I am proud to be joining him in this delightful series. Mike Resnick and I co-wrote “Guard Dog” last summer. I am rather pleased with this short story. All credit to Mike for the ending. Also, my friend (and fellow Utahn) Jaleta Clegg has a story in it too. I love sharing tables-of-contents with my buddies.

See the anthology cover and the blurb below. Click the links for either Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com to get your copy!

Amazon.com — or — Barnes & Noble

Red alert! Battle stations! Incoming enemy craft! Come join the fight against all odds to protect life, liberty and property in the far reaches of space. You and a few loyal crew members have one choice: fight or die together. The outcome depends on your skills, your speed and your wits, because your craft alone won’t be enough.

Would a sentient ship sacrifice itself to save its occupants? Would you risk your life to save those who arrested you and scheduled you for trial? Is there redemption for a failed soldier leading a ragtag crew? These questions and more lie at the heart of this collection: seventeen such tales of soldiers, pirates, smugglers, miners and civilians in over their head against both known and unknown enemies.

With brand new tales from Hugo and Nebula winner Mike Resnick, Hugo, Nebula and John W. Campbell nominee Brad R. Torgersen, Philip K. Dick Award nominee Jean Johnson, and Hugo nominee Patrick Hester, this collecton also includes tales from David Lee Summer, C.J. Henderson, Matthew Cook, Jaleta Clegg and nine more authors.

Also, please check out the Functional Nerds podcast interview I did with Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Jean Johnson. It was a fun interview, and both Patrick Hester and John Anaelio were gracious in having the three of us “on the air” as it were. I did radio back in the day — I love podcasts as a result! Jean was a peach. I hope I get to meet her at a con some time.


“Sheep Dog” now out in The Gruff Variations

I recently had the chance to contribute a story to a wonderful little project called, The Gruff Variations, edited by my friend and Nebula award winner Eric James Stone. Here’s the official anthology release blurb from the Amazon web site:

The proceeds from this book go toward buying books and school supplies for underprivileged children through Writing for Charity (www.writingforcharity.com).

The stories and poetry in this anthology were all inspired by the legend of the Three Billy Goats Gruff. But you won’t just find goats and trolls in here. You’ll also find xenoarchaeologists hunting a legendary burial ground, a harried troll who wants nothing more than peace and quiet, star-traveling cities in search of resources, a cloaked warrior of prophecy, an honest politician, princesses on vacation, interstellar probes, superheroes (and villains), cursed princes, necromancers, fairies, bikers, aliens, violinists… the list goes on.

Contributors to this anthology include New York Times best-selling author Shannon Hale, award-winning children’s picture book author Rick Walton, Hugo Award winner (and Nebula Award nominee) Mary Robinette Kowal, Edgar Award finalist Dene Low, Nebula and Hugo Award nominees Brad R. Torgersen and Nancy Fulda, and many other authors such as Dan Wells, Kristen Landon, Lisa Mangum, Kristyn Crow, Clint Johnson, and Dean Hale.

My particular story is a noir-esq gumshoe mystery with fairy tale flavoring, entitled, “Sheep Dog.”

Do please pop over to Amazon or Barnes & Noble and contribute to a worthy cause? I think you may get your money’s worth!

“The Exchange Officers” sold to Analog Science Fiction and Fact

I am pleased to announce that my novelette, “The Exchange Officers,” has officially sold to Stanley Schmidt and Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine. And if I may butter Stan up a little, I’d like to lobby (again) for Stan as Best Professional Editor, Short Form, on the Hugo award ballot for World Science Fiction Convention 2012. That’s Chicon 7 for those in the know. Stan’s worked with me on several short stories and novelettes, and in each instance I have found his edits to be precise, technically apt, and they always improve the piece. He is patient, gentlemanly, and a pleasure to work with. How many careers has he helped usher into the field? How many of us continue to enjoy his effort on our behalf? How long has Analog provided us with a home for our work? Surely, at some point, the mass aggregate of Stan’s astounding (pun intended!) editorial accomplishment must be recognized. Please, give Stan your vote this year. He absolutely deserves it. I felt that way before working with Stan, and I feel twice as strongly about my opinion after working with Stan. He is, quite simply, a wonderful professional. When we don’t have him anymore, we will regret it deeply. I am certain of this in my bones.

It’s the trifecta of awards nominations!

The news is official now, from the lips of George R.R. Martin and Dave McCarty: I am a nominee for not only the Hugo award, for best novelette, for my story, “Ray of Light,” I am also a nominee for the Campbell award for best new professional science fiction and fantasy writer. Honestly, considering how long I languished in the land of the unpublished, it’s quite shocking to see myself on these lists! Nebula, Hugo, and Campbell. All at the same time. I am told only a handful of writers have ever been on all three at once. (gulp) No pressure, right? My enormous thanks go out to all the readers and writers who chose to give me their vote of confidence this year. You had a very large, very deep field of writers from whom to choose. Many, many excellent stories. It’s humbling, heartening, and gratifying to know that I made the cut. I hope to do all of you proud, but win or lose and perhaps more importantly, I hope to continue producing material that is worthy of your support and capable of providing you with both satisfaction and enjoyment. Thank you, everybody!

Edit to add: the home page has been revamped, to include a web store for e-book versions of my material, including the award-nominee, “Ray of Light.” Click here to jump to the store! Lots of stories available for Kindle and Nook, including links to some of the anthologies I am featured in.

Three new novelettes up for Kindle and Nook

It’s been a little while since I released anything new on either the Kindle or the Nook. So to celebrate my Nebula award nomination I’ve put three new novelettes up, for both devices. “Ray of Light” is the nominated story, and first appeared in Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine as the cover story for the December 2011 issue. “Exanastasis” is my L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future winning story, now available for e-devices for the first time since it was published in the Contest’s 26th volume. Finally there is “Gemini 17,” an alternative history story about the United States’ space race with the Soviet Union — this is an original and all new novelette that readers can only find on Kindle and Nook. All three items are bargain priced at 99-cents US through the end of March, so if you’ve got a Nook or a Kindle and you’d like some good science fiction, click the links below and nab some copies while it’s cheap to do so.

Amazon Kindle or B&N Nook

Amazon Kindle or B&N Nook

Amazon Kindle or B&N Nook

And of course, “thank you,” in advance! And if you liked what you read, do please leave a short review in the Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble section for reviews? Those really do help, for authors trying to make an impact in the new world of e-publishing. Especially since there’s a heap of material now being pushed to the e-reader platforms — not all of it worthwhile. If you’ve found any of my stories to be enjoyable, I’d certainly appreciate your saying so on Amazon or B&N. Much obliged. And I hope these novelettes — indeed, all of my stories — are to your liking!

“Ray of Light” nominated for the SFWA Nebula award!

The first time I became aware of the Nebula award — the official literary prize of the Science Fiction Writers of America — was in 1989 when I read Orson Scott Card’s two novels, Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead. The covers of those paperbacks were emblazoned with the words, NEBULA AWARD WINNER on one corner, and HUGO AWARD WINNER on the other corner. Wow, I said to myself, I don’t know what those are, but they sound pretty cool. And because the books themselves were engrossing and entertaining, I guessed after-the-fact that the Nebula and Hugo wins were well-deserved. Thus I started paying attention to the Hugo and the Nebula as markers of exceptional quality. Which did not always bear out — taste being taste, not everything with a Hugo or a Nebula to its name will match your appetite. But because of the large number of books and stories published professionally each year, to earn a Hugo or a Nebula is a rather remarkable thing. A badge of competence and excellence, as it were.

So I am very pleased to announce that my novelette, “Ray of Light,” which was the cover story of the December 2011 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine — with cover art from Hugo winner Bob Eggleton — has been posted to the final ballot for items published in 2011, for its respective category. There was a time not long ago when I wondered if I would ever be published — period. It took many years (and many humblings) before I was able to attain my goal. Those things have taught me to value the successes when they come, both large and small. So I am quite glad to have earned the respect and enthusiasm of enough SFWA members that “Ray of Light” now competes with a rather elite group of fiction — while being featured on a grand roll call of some rather talented, extraordinary, and hard-working writers.

I want to especially congratulate some of the current nominees whom I consider to be friends and/or fellow travelers: Mary Robinette Kowal, Jake Kerr, Adam-Troy Castro, Rachel Swirsky, Ferret Steinmetz, Tom Crosshill, Nancy Fulda, and Aliette de Bodard. I was able to meet most of these people for the first time at the 2011 Superstars Writing Seminar, or last year’s Nebula awards weekend — when my friend Eric James Stone won his Nebula award for his Analog story, “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Has Made,” — or at World Science Fiction Convention in Reno, Nevada. Those I have yet to meet, I know fairly well due to our chatting in the on-line social fora.

Tom Crosshill’s Nebula nomination, for his story, “Mama, We Are Zhenya, Your Son,” is especially noteworthy in that Tom and I were both winners in the 26th annual Writers of the Future contest. I’m not shy about expressing my admiration for Tom’s skill and subtlety as a writer, and while I very much expected him to be on a Nebula ballot soon after our attending the WOTF workshop and gala in Los Angeles, I did not expect both of us to be sharing a ballot in the same year — thankfully for different categories, otherwise I’d have to declare Tom’s piece the out-and-out superior story, and recuse myself entirely from the ballot! (grin)

I also want to congratulate Carolyn Ives Gilman. She doesn’t know me, but in 2008 I was still a struggling, unpublished author trying to figure out how to take my stories from, “almost good enough,” to “really damned good!” I read Carolyn’s story “Arkfall” in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and was so overwhelmingly pleased with it, I swore to myself one day I too would write stories with such scope, emotional impact, and reader satisfaction. When I then sat down to write my stories, “Outbound,” and, “Exanastasis,” I had “Arkfall” percolating in the back of my mind. Not the specifics of the story as much as the emotional power and resonance. “Outbound,” would become my first Finalist with Writers of the Future, while “Exanastasis,” went on to win Writers of the Future — with “Outbound” going on to sell to Analog magazine, and attain that publication’s AnLab (readers’ choice) award for the 2010 calendar year; a high honor for a first-time Analog author! So I am definitely happy to share the ballot with Carolyn, who has been quite influential in my progress from almost-pro to Nebula-nominee-pro.

If anyone wants to read “Ray of Light,” the bulk of the story is still available for free on the Analog web site. I think Dell Magazines may make the entire story free once news of the Nebula nominations gets around — the more people able to read a thing, the more likely it is that thing will have a fighting chance to win enough votes during the final prize tally.

Many, many, many thanks to all the members of SFWA who saw fit to give “Ray of Light” their nod of approval. I have a lot of friends and mentors who helped get me onto the ballot, but I like to think that the story won them over first and foremost. Like Eric James Stone’s, “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made,” my novelette, “Ray of Light,” was an assignment story that came out of a Lincoln City workshop run by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith, featuring editors Denise Little and John Helfers. The story got good marks from the workshop panel, the other workshop attendees, and it sold immediately to my editor Stan Schmidt at Analog. Stan liked it so much, in fact, he put it front-and-center on the December 2011 issue, with a marvelous and fantastic cover painting by Bob Eggleton.

My humble and most heartfelt gratitude to one and all!

“Strobe Effect” sold to Analog magazine!

Alastair Mayer and I have known each other since we first met at the “Kris ‘n Dean Show” workshop in Lincoln City, Oregon, in 2009. We were both unpublished at that point, but we’d also both been working at it (to varying degrees) for many years. Al and I discovered we were at that workshop for largely the same reasons: to re-orientate ourselves, shake the rust out, gather new professional information, and basically get things moving in the right direction. Being fans of hard science fiction in general, as well as admirers of the long-lived science fiction magazine ANALOG in particular, we both quipped that it would be fun to share a table-of-contents in ANALOG some day.

We did that last year.

Now we’ve done something ever better.

I am pleased to announce that Al and I have sold our collaborative novelette, “Strobe Effect,” to Stanley Schmidt of ANALOG.

It’s been said that the sign of a good collaboration is a story which could not have been told without both authors bringing their strengths to the table — to create a tale neither of them could have done very well on their own. When Al and I sat down to talk about this story (both in person and over e-mail) it seemed he’d crafted a delicious “scientifiction” conceit which only needed some character arc “oomph” to take it from a story which Stan already liked, but could not buy, to a story Stan liked and most definitely would buy.

I won’t give away the goods. Hopefully the story shows up some time later this year, so interested folk can read it then. For my part, I think it’s absolutely the “hardest” science fiction story I’ve ever put my hand to, and this I owe entirely to Al Mayer — whose technical and scientific chops are much superior to mine; and I am no slouch! It was a delight being able to combine Al’s ideas and my ideas into a coherent whole. I think both of us will be trying to do it again in the not too distant future.

After all, it’s hard to argue with results.

“Ray of Light” now appearing in the December 2011 issue of Analog magazine

Way back in 1992, when I first conceived of becoming a professional science fiction writer, it seemed obvious that there would be important benchmarks. The first rejection from a professional editor. The first personalized rejection from a professional editor. The first sale. The first publication — book or short work. The first magazine cover….

That the very first cover would be an Analog Science Fiction & Fact cover, and that the artist doing the work would be award-winner Bob Eggleton, and that I’d get to share the cover with one of my mentors and friends, Kris Rusch, are all stupendously exciting for me. Because this is an ‘arrival’ moment. If breaking in with Writers of the Future established my capability to be a pro, getting the cover for the December 2011 issue of Analog establishes my bona fides as a pro. Dilettante no more.

Stan Schmidt, editor, is saying to the world: this is my new guy, he’s worth my time, and he’s worth your time too. That cover with my name on it is now going into the great repository of covers stretching back across Analog’s vast history.

I’d known this was going to happen since Bob Eggleton facebooked me in April to let me know he was doing the cover art for my novelette, “Ray of Light,” which was a workshop story I’d done for one of Kris Rusch’s and Dean Smith’s workshops up in Lincoln City, Oregon. I’d sold the story in March, but hadn’t dared dream of a cover until Bob let the cat out of the bag. Since then I’ve been quietly anticipating the moment I can walk into my local Barnes & Noble store, and see copies of Analog on store shelves — with my name and story displayed prominently for the world to see.

A lot of very successful and prominent authors have been in the pages of Analog, and/or seen their names grace the covers, including Kevin J. Anderson, Greg Bear, Gregory Benford, David Brin, Lois McMaster Bujold, Orson Scott Card, Michael F. Flynn, Frank Herbert, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Robert J. Sawyer, and Vernor Vinge. Being able to count myself among these names — as an Analog Man — ranks as one of the highlights of my writing life. Perhaps one of the highlights of my life, period? These are serious names, and this is a serious magazine, and if early reviews are any indication, I’ve acquitted myself well with, “Ray of Light.”

I won’t spoil the story. Those of you with subscriptions will have a chance to read it — have had a chance to read it? — for yourselves. Everyone else is cordially invited to pay a visit to their local Barnes & Noble sometime this month and pick up a copy. The cover is a beautiful cover. And not just because it’s “my” cover. Bob’s done marvelous work — the same caliber as displayed in Juliette Wade’s magnificent cover for her story, “At Cross Purposes,” from January of this year.

9-11… Ten Years Gone


It’s a little strange to be staring at that paragraph on the weekend of the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 terror attacks against the United States of America. I am what my friend Larry Correia calls, “a cake eating civilian,” at heart. I really am. I was a geek and a science fiction writer long before I joined the military. In fact I can plainly remember in my late teens and early 20s thinking that I’d never, ever wear a uniform. That ship had sailed. I had no interest. And at that particular time in my youth, I had the usual youthful political pretensions that made the military seem unpalatable.

Then four airliners were turned into cruise missiles by Islamist scumbags — who think their greatest service to God is to slaughter innocent men, women, and children — and the world changed forever. Or, at least, my world changed forever. I can still clearly remember that Tuesday when the Towers imploded, the Pentagon burned, and I sat watching TV with my mouth open and saying to myself, how is this possible?

Up until that event, I’d more or less absorbed the cotton candy conceit that with the Iron Curtain down, and the so-called End of History upon us, there would be no more wars of the sort we’d seen in the past. All that mattered was uplifting the rest of the world to America’s socioeconomic level, and things would be peachy keen. No more fighting, no more men shedding each others’ blood on the sands of foreign countries. Everyone everywhere would more or less get along and if there was competition, it would be like we were just fans of rival football teams: whatever ill will we harbored between us, it wouldn’t go much farther than jerseys and slogans and having a beer together after the big game.

Sadly, no. History was not at an end. And there were men in the world still dead-set on slaughtering people like me, and my wife, and my daughter. For no other reason than that we weren’t of the Islamists’ particular tribe, their particular strident and bloodthirsty monotheistic code. It wasn’t about economics or freedom. It was about evil. Pure, determined evil. The sort of stuff that left mass graves in Cambodia and sent Jews to the gas chambers at Auschwitz and Sobibor.

9-11-2001 left me something of a mess. Cherished presumptions I’d harbored since my late teens, began to unravel before my eyes. How to grapple with a world that is not, in fact, the warm’n’fuzzy multicultural melting pot that I’d been told it was? That not all societies and their ethics and morals could be made to coexist peacefully? That my society in particular was under threat from a fanatical enemy prepared to do anything and everything possible to reduce America to ashes?

It took me a few months, wandering in the ideological and emotional wilderness, before I realized what I should do. I was sitting at my desk in Seattle — not too different from the desk where I now sit in Utah writing this — and it occurred to me that I needed to become more than just some guy who gets pissed off on the internet.

I knew I wasn’t Rambo material. I was and still am a, “cake eating civilian.” But I was able-bodied and smart, and I had technical skills. Surely the United States military could use a chap like me? After a brief conversation with my spouse — whose only response to my (shocker) of an announcement that I wanted to join up, was, “So how many years do you have to be in before you can retire with a pension and benefits?” — I dialed up the United States Air Force. My Dad had been an officer in the Air Force Reserve shortly after he graduated from college in the early 1960s. The Air Force needed technical guys, right?

Unfortunately I discovered that the Air Force had medical standards I couldn’t meet. I’ve got an old abdominal surgery from infancy that flagged me on the Air Force’s entry test, and so I went back to my desk at work deflated: no service for me. It had been something of a longshot anyway, with that surgery in my history. And if the USAF didn’t want me, surely none of the other “tough” branches of the service would, either.

Then a chance acquaintance through the Utah Jazz ESPN sports forums informed me that the US Army would happily take me. He was an active-duty Army medic. We conferred a bit on how best to ‘tactically’ answer the exhaustive entry questionnaire, and face the touch-your-junk humiliation of the medical exam. Reinvigorated, I phoned up the local Army recruiting station in Seattle and said, “Does the Army Reserve have room for one more patriot?” Yes, they did.

In hindsight, it was a nutty proposition. I am a laid-back guy. I like to take it easy. I am not an exercise nut nor am I into physical combatives. An old martial arts injury to my left knee had ended my budding karate aspirations, and my bad eyes and poor reflexes would prove — in the fullness of time — to be a tremendous stumbling block in the marksmanship department. What kind of soldier can’t run, can’t shoot, and doesn’t like to pump iron in the gym?

Well, this kind of soldier, apparently.

Basict Combat Training was hell. Pure. Hell. And amazingly, at that time, Advanced Individual Training proved worse. More crazy punishment from the Drill Sergeants, less overall cohesion and discipline among the Privates. There were many times during those months at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, when I laid in my bunk at night and asked myself why I’d ever thought it was a good idea to put on a uniform. BCT and AIT were the closest I’d ever come to experiencing something akin to prison. I still have bad dreams about both of them.

I probably could have quit if I’d wanted to. I watched other men do it. But I was too terrified of slinking back home, defeated. I knew it would be a terrible failure of mettle and I’d never, ever be able to forgive myself. Much less look my wife or father in the eye. I’d committed myself before God and country. I’d told myself that cake eater or no cake eater, I wanted to contribute to the defense of these United States — in some way more meaningful than running a blog. And so I toughed it out, and I barely made my run times on the APFT, and I lived for those letters and occasional packages from home — mail call, every bit the sanity lifeline any war movie has ever made it out to be.

And when I got back to my pregnant wife — my scalp buzzed; a lighter, leaner, tougher, meaner version of the self that had departed Seattle MEPS — I realized that 9-11 had changed me far more than I could have ever suspected when it happened.

Since then I’ve gone through three different Army Reserve units in two states. I’ve moved up through the junior-enlisted ranks, gone to the NCO Academy and become a Sergeant, and eventually transitioned into the Warrant Officer program when my dear mentor CW3 (ret) Michelle Niesen called me in 2008 and said, “Sergeant Torgersen, now it’s your turn!” I said, “Yes ma’am,” and in September 2009, my successor mentor CW3 Michelle Hartley — whose skill and guidance as my TAC officer can never be fully appreciated — pinned my WO1 bars on my shoulders and said, “I expect you to do good things with these, Mr. Torgersen.” Again, the only response possible was, “Yes, ma’am!”

So now I’m making CW2, the rank at which all Army Warrant Officers become officially commissioned by the President of the United States. I joined under Bush, and will be commissioned under Obama, and will doubtless serve through several more presidencies before I retire. One thing about Chiefs: we can stay in the service longer than just about anyone else. If ever you see some ancient dude sitting around in an Army uniform with white (or no) hair, wrinkles on his face, thick glasses, and a bit of a shake in his hands, chances are very good he’s a Warrant Officer. Probably a CW5 who was appointed to the job in the Vietnam era, or shortly afterward, when they didn’t even have an entry school for us yet.

Warrant Officers are the “geeks” of the US Army: we are ‘subject matter experts’ charged with maintaining all of the Army’s technical systems, as well as flying much of the Army’s rotor-wing and auxiliary fixed-wing aircraft. In my own case — true to cake eater form — I am what’s called a Personnel Technician. I’m trained to know my way around the Army’s equivalent of HR. It’s not a glamorous nor macho job. But it’s portable, and it’s allowed me to do what I think I do best: help other soldiers get their jobs done without having to worry that their paperwork and records and other necessary vitals aren’t being taken care of. Additionally, because Warrant Officers are generally smart people, whose rank affords us respect up and down the chain, I’ve been able to jack-of-all-trades my way through various support missions that have kept me far, far more occupied than the requisite one weekend a month, two weeks a year.

In 2010 alone I was away from home for over four months. And that’s not even being deployed.

Something, by the way, that’s yet to happen to me, for reasons I can’t quite discern, and yet which I am in no hurry to question. As one old chaplain put it to me once, “Son, I was in for 23 years before they sent me to Iraq. My first war. For you, if not this war, the next one. If not now, eventually. Don’t rush for it. It will find you when it finds you.”

Which works for my wife and daughter, who are happy to have me around as long as they can have me around.

Meanwhile, how’s the world doing ten years on? What’s going to become of Iraq and Afghanistan, and Libya, and Iran, and everywhere else in the Islamosphere that’s problematic or in which the United States has inserted itself? I fully supported both the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns, but even I am wondering how much longer Americans are going to be expected to expend blood and treasure in those lands. Some of my friends have gone over multiple times. Iraq and Afghanistan are not like Germany or Korea. They are not fun. And they are, even ten years later, still quite dangerous. Depending on where a person gets sent and what job he’s expected to do.

We got Osama bin Laden. That feels pretty damned good. And even though it’s un-Christian of me to relish another man’s demise, I have a smile on my face knowing that Binny sleeps with the fishes. Bada-bing-bada-boom. Serves him right. We can’t kill enough al-Qaeda for what happened on 9-11-2001. These are not men to be empathized with, nor understood, nor reasoned with. They are killers of women and children, with evil in their hearts — so black they make the devil’s look pale. You can’t do anything more for them than to put a bullet between their eyes and let God sort them out. And if that makes me a moral monster in the eyes of some people with more refined sensibilities than I have, well, I am prepared to live with a few contradictions. And not care if some lifer civilian somewhere thinks less of me for it.

Because I’m in a brotherhood now. A brotherhood of arms. I have been and will continue to meet current and prior service members of all ages, across many wars and many eras, and I have discovered that there is a near-instant bond: no words need be said, the bond is tacit. I am not sure it’s easily explained for those who haven’t had to go through what you go through when you serve, whether deployed or doing time state-side. I’ve also learned that the best soldiers — the ones who have seen the craziest things and fought in the craziest places — are the quiet and unassuming people who look and act as ordinary and humble as anyone, taken out of uniform and placed on the street. They have gone above and beyond, and yet they absolutely do not brag or make a show of it. That’s considered gauche, and is simply not done.

I am humbled and privileged to be able to stand in the ranks with these men and women at formation and answer, when the Commander or the First sergeant calls my name, “I am here!” For I am nobody’s hero. I eat cake, remember? And yet I am permitted to be in the company of heroes who eat bullets and face death. And while the terrible atrocity of 9-11 can never and must never be forgotten, I am actually grateful that this event forced me to stop playing the boy, and made me man up in a way I’d never thought possible.

For my daughter, 9-11 is liable to never be much more than a fascinating historical event. She was born after it and it won’t be a mark on her heart the way it’s been a mark on mine. In many ways I think that’s good. Because 9-11 ripped the world away from me in a fashion that nothing else probably could have. It made me more cautious and more cynical about a lot of things than I’d ever been before. Watching how some so-called ‘liberal’ Americans carried on after the event — disgracing themselves, disgracing the country, disgracing the flag, disgracing the proud accomplishment of these great United States — made me a political orphan. I couldn’t identify with that group anymore. If ever I’d identified with them. Which I sometimes question, as I get older and even less inclined to buy some of the shit I’m fed by my intellectual betters.

Appropriately, I have drill this weekend. Or what they call these days in the newfangled Reserve, Battle Assembly. Horse piss. It’s freakin’ drill. Always has been, always will be. Maybe now that they gave us back our patrol caps, we can get the word ‘drill’ back too. I’m just glad it’s getting cooler outside. Not like the six weeks I spent at Ft. Dix earlier in the summer, where the heat and humidity threatened to slow-cook my Mountain West ass. I honestly don’t know how people east of the Mississippi do it. Ft. Dix made Ft. Jackson look good, and that’s not easy. Though 90-degrees and 90-percent saturation is a cakewalk compared to Kuwait and southern Iraq, where you can get 2nd-degree burns if you leave your wrench sitting for more than a few seconds in direct mid-day sunlight. Now that’s gottdamned hot.

But this article isn’t about the weather. It’s about how an awful day left its teeth-marks in the ass of everyone who experienced it, across an entire nation. I don’t know why some people want us to forget it. I don’t know why the media has spent the last ten years keeping footage of the carnage safely off our televisions. Why do we sanitize? For my money, it would be right and proper to make every school child sit and watch the Towers fall and the Pentagon burn, every 9-11 anniversary going forward. To try and remind them, and the rest of us, that our freedoms and our culture and our way of life cannot be taken for granted. That we are not free without cost. That all of us are hated by someone somewhere in the world, and that liberty’s price truly is eternal vigilance. We forgot that once. And it cost us dearly. I pray we never forget it again. Ever.

“The Bullfrog Radio Astronomy Project” now appearing in the October 2011 issue of Analog

I’m pleased to announce that the October 2011 issue of Analog — containing my story, “The Bullfrog Radio Astronomy Project” — is now available for general public purchase. Barnes & Noble tends to have paper copies on the magazine racks, though you can always grab a Kindle or Nook issue electronically.

This story was a treat to sell, if only because it had such a long genesis. Its roots go all the way back to 2002 when I was noodling around with the (not terribly new) idea that maybe the problem with SETI (the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) is that we’re spending all of our time listening, when what we maybe ought to be doing is talking?

I won’t spill any more beans, because I’m inviting you to grab the issue and take a look. Though I will say up front that this is one story that Stan Schmidt, in his acceptance letter, said tacitly implied a sequel. And so I shall write it, though probably not for a month or so yet. I’ve got other writing work piled up to my eyeballs — nice problem — and there is WorldCon starting tomorrow.

ETA: I should also mention that award-winner Mike Resnick and I sold our collaboration, “Guard Dog,” to Bryan Thomas Schmidt, who is editing the SPACE WARS anthology for Flying Pen Press. Big thanks Bryan, I am glad — we are glad! — that you enjoyed the story. Hopefully the readers will too.