Archive for December, 2009

Meanwhile, life goes on

Apart from the Mars thing, I haven’t had a single substantive blog post this month. Sorry about that.

In mid-December we spent five days at Walt Disney World. We had a blast. My favorite part of the trip was the Animal Kingdom, which is basically a world-class zoo with thrill rides and shows; my favorite ride was Mission: Space at Epcot, a simulated trip to Mars (and at the time I had no idea I’d be taking the next step on that trip in January). I’ve posted pictures from the trip over at Flickr.

By going to Disney World halfway between Thanksgiving and Christmas we avoided crowds almost completely. Between the lack of crowds, willingness to hit the parks right when they opened, and cunning use of The Unofficial Guide and RideMax software we could basically do whatever we wanted without having to stand in line for more than ten minutes. And unlike 1992, the food was excellent — our dinner at Jiro, in the Animal Kingdom Lodge, was a standout.

This was the first time I’d ever tried one of those package vacations and it worked really well. Southwest Airlines had a special of “buy one airfare, get one free” and “buy one Disney ticket, get one free” which meant that the whole trip cost ony $1800: two people, five days, including airfare, hotel, and car. We stayed on-property at Port Orleans French Quarter and it was lovely and oh so convenient. I’d do it again, for sure.

Even while we were at Disney the writing has continued. I haven’t missed a single writing day this year, though in December I’ve bumped my words-per-day quota down from 500 to 250. It’s become rather a chore, unfortunately, and so I am going to continue this regime for only one more day (365 days in a row) and then take January 1 off. Having broken the streak I will then be free to try something different in the new year.

I made a sale last week… well, I say “sale” but it was really only that I received the contract for a submission that had been informally accepted some weeks ago. My novella “Second Chance” will be in Alembical II from Paper Golem LLC, appearing some time next year.

Much of this week has been consumed in Mars prep. I bought a bunch of stuff, such as a new sleeping bag and gloves, which will be necessary for the cold dry desert. I’ve been reading a lot; maintenance and operations of the simulated Mars habitat are complicated and tricky. And I’ve already started my work as crew journalist by copy-editing the crew bios which have just been posted. It is an impressive bunch of people and I feel rather as though I’m just along for the ride. I hope that I can pull my weight by assisting in the science and engineering as well as doing my primary job which is to document and publicize the mission.

Life goes on. Chop wood, carry water.

David’s Index for 2009

Novel words written: 16,426
Short fiction words written: 51,887
Notes, outline, and synopsis words written: 10,153
Blog words written: 34,281
Total words written: 112,747

New stories written: 9 (8 fiction, 1 non-fiction)
Existing stories revised: 1

Short fiction submissions sent: 63
Responses received: 61
Rejections: 42
Acceptances: 8 (6 pro, 2 semi-pro)
Other responses: 6 (rewrite requests)
Other sales: 5 (1 reprint, 1 translation, 3 audio)
Non-responses: 4 (2 magazines folded, 2 never replied)
Awaiting response: 6

Short stories published: 12 (5 pro, 1 semi-pro, 2 reprint, 1 translation, 3 audio)

Novel submissions: 0
Rejections: 1
Acceptances: 0
Awaiting response: 1

Endeavour Award nominations: 1
Endeavour Awards won: 1

Happy New Year!

I’m going to Mars!

Well, not the actual Mars. But pretty darn close.

As faithful readers will no doubt recall, back on December 7 I posted a blog entry in which I listed my space travel wish list, starting with an actual stay in orbit ($35 million) and ending with a zeppelin ride ($500). #2 on that list was to participate in a simulated Mars mission (cost unknown, time commitment substantial).

See, the Mars Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the exploration and settlement of Mars, maintains a couple of simulated Mars habitats — the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Utah and the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS) in Canada — where volunteers perform real research on geology, astronomy, and medicine in a simulated Mars environment (complete with space suits).

Well, my old college friend Steve Sywak commented on that post that he knew someone in the Mars Society. We exchanged emails about this, the end result of which was that on December 22 I sent an email to one Ed Fisher wondering if there was any possibility of me spending a week or two on “Mars”. He replied on December 23 that he was no longer involved with the Mars Society but “I’m sure they would be interested in your application for a crew position. … The current season is underway, so you would probably need to wait for next season; however, it can’t hurt to apply now, because sometimes there are crew cancellations for various reasons.”

The application process was quite simple but it did call for a resume, and for a variety of reasons I hadn’t updated mine since 2001. However, with the benefit of distance and a “what the hell” attitude, the usual resume-updating angst was absent and I was able to update it (and shorten it from three pages to two) in only about an hour. I sent off my application to the Mars Society on the evening of December 23.

I awoke on December 24 to an email from Artemis Westenberg of the Mars Society. Even the little snippet of the message I could see in my inbox made me go “Guh?!”

I have no idea how flexible in dates you are
but for crew 88 we indeed have an opening (9-23 January 2010)
the lady who was supposed to be part of that crew works at Johnson Space Center in Houston
and her bosses told her very recently that she can not be part of that crew this season
I have read your resume and would like to invite you to be part of that crew

I took a few hours to think about it, but really there was no question. I accepted the invitation at noon on December 24 and bought my plane tickets that night.

So in less than two weeks I will be on my way to “Mars” (actually a stretch of desert near Hanksville, Utah), where I will spend two weeks as a member of MDRS crew 88. The other members are Commander Stephen Wheeler (Professor at DeVry University, Texas); Health Officer Bianca Nowak (High School Teacher, Belgium); Astronomer Paul McCall (Graduate Student at Florida International University, Florida); Biologist Diego Urbina (Electrical Engineer, Bogota, Columbia); and Engineer/XO Laksen Sirimanne (Biomedical Engineer, California). My own crew position is Journalist. I don’t yet know what experiments this crew will be performing or exactly what my duties and responsibilities will be. This has all happened so very fast and I don’t anticipate it’s going to slow down soon. I’ll keep you posted.

You know the character who joins the mission at the last minute? The non-expert — under-trained, ill-prepared, and in over his head — who gives the reader someone to identify with and the author a perfect excuse to info-dump? Well, that’s me.

I am excited, honored, and rather stunned.

For more information on MDRS, please see the MDRS web page, especially the press kit and photos. Laksen has a blog and has posted information on the location of the MDRS.

My mind is strangely bifurcated. On the one hand, I have two weeks to prepare for a two-week camping trip in the desert with five people I’ve never met, and there are lots of practical details to arrange.

On the other hand…


David’s Space Travel Wish List

Word count: 10524 | Since last entry: -1216

In honor of today’s unveiling of SpaceShipTwo, the first commercial spacecraft, here’s a wish list I’ve held in my head for some years:

  1. Actual stay in orbit (e.g. via Soyuz to ISS – $35,000,000)
  2. Simulated Mars mission (e.g. FMARS – cost unknown, substantial time commitment)
  3. Sub-orbital flight (e.g. Virgin Galactic – $200,000)
  4. Zero-G experience (e.g. ride on the Vomit Comit – $5000)
  5. Simulated astronaut training (e.g. Space Camp – $500-900)
  6. Zeppelin ride (e.g. Airship Ventures – $200-500)

It’s not all about me

Word count: 11740 | Since last entry: 2849

Finished the first draft of… um, this thing I’m working on. Which definitely isn’t a short story, at almost 12,000 words, but I don’t think really deserves to be a novelette… it’s not a novelette-sized plot. I think it must have a lot of stuff that can be removed. But it isn’t really meant to be an independent story anyway, it’s meant to be a chapter of a novel, or to be more accurate a story in a book that’s a collection of stories about the same characters. (This is all new to me and I’m still figuring it out.) It’s probably too long for a chapter anyway. I’ll see what I can do about editing it today.

I don’t think this is the first story/chapter in the book, either. Nor do I have even a vague idea what I’m going to write next. Whee!

Also: celebrated the Endeavour Award win by buying myself a new MacBook Pro. Shiny! I now have an iBook G4, in great shape, for sale at a reasonable price.

In other news…

  • Applications open today for next summer’s Taos Toolbox workshop, a two-week master class for SF/F writers taught by Walter Jon Williams, Nancy Kress, and Carrie Vaughn.
  • Applications are already open for next summer’s Clarion West workshop, an intensive six-week workshop for SF/F writers taught by Michael Bishop, Maureen McHugh, Nnedi Okorafor, Graham Joyce, Ellen Datlow, and Ian McDonald.
  • The current Wild Cards trilogy wraps up with Suicide Kings, the concluding volume of the Committee Triad, which will be released on December 22. To celebrate, Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist is having a contest to win copies of the first two volumes. (I’m not in this trilogy, but Wild Cards is too cool not to blog about.)