We’re actually a week into the third and final month of the Rocket Science reading period, but I was at Fantasycon over the weekend when the first of the month fell due. So this has been a little delayed.
Some statistics… Most submissions have stayed close to home, with Earth and the Moon as the most popular locations for stories. Although, strangely, interplanetary space is equally popular. A number of submissions were set on alien planets, which I’ve politely labelled “exoplanets” on the pie chart. Too many, however, were alien worlds of the traditional sf variety, named according to no known star cataloguing system. That’s not what I want for Rocket Science. Mars has proven less popular than I’d expected, but perhaps there is more than enough fiction about the Red Planet anyway. The moons of the various gas giants are fascinating places, so it came as no surprise to be sent some stories set on them.
Most writers seem to be writing characters of their own nationality (“unknown” means it wasn’t categorically stated, but is likely to match the writer’s). It may be “write what you know”, but since most of the submissions have come from the US, UK and Canada, this does lead to a lack of diversity. Several people, however, made an effort and tried something different. Not always successfully, but at least they tried.
However, submissions have been more diverse in regards to gender of protagonists. It’s far from equal, but the numbers do demonstrate that some stories by male writers featured female protagonists. The “non-gendered” shown on the pie chart refers to either AIs or aliens.
Finally, themes… Not all of the stories fit quite so neatly into the themes shown on the chart, and in several cases it was a judgment call on my part. I’m a little surprised that “first contact” is the most popular theme, given Rocket Science‘s remit. Microbial life may be a distinctly possibility on another moon or planet of the Solar system, but anything more sophisticated is unlikely. And, to my mind, there’s enough wonder, and enough opportunity for exploring the other, in that reachable and lifeless corner of the universe surrounding Earth. Also, given the anthology’s theme, I shouldn’t have been surprised to receive so many Analog-type puzzle stories, despite specifically asking not to be sent them in the guidelines. I’ve labelled these as “fix problem, or you die” on the pie chart, although “rescue” is a close thematic relative. “Lonely spacer” is new to this past month. I suppose I could equally well have used the term “big empty”. It’s not a trope I find especially convincing. I’ve received several family/work dramas, but only one political one. Some more of the latter would not go amiss. “Exploration” and “mystery” are similar, as the exploration stories also seemed to hinge on something which needed resolving to reach the end.
To date, I’ve bought six stories and two non-fiction pieces, totalling some 37,000 words. I’m expecting the final product to contain between 85,000 and 100,000 words, so there’s plenty of room left. Anyway, congratulations to Stephen Gaskell, Sam Kepfield, Deborah Walker, Eric Choi, David L Clements, Carmelo Rafala, Gary Cuba and Martin McGrath. I still have half a dozen stories in hand, on which I need to make decisions, so I expect the number of acceptances to go up by one or two over the next day or so. There are three weeks left until the reading period closes, so if you’re planning to submit you should do it soon.
I’m hoping that Rocket Science will be a varied anthology – within the limits of its remit, of course – so I’m open to interesting approaches to the theme, and even to stories that are not traditional science fiction. In fact, to be honest, I’d rather submissions weren’t traditional sf. If I intend Rocket Science to prove anything, it’s that science fiction doesn’t need to contain magical technology in order to be excellent fiction. We have all the sense of wonder we need in the real world, we have all the drama we need in the real world. This doesn’t mean Rocket Science will be Mundane science fiction, though some of the contents may be. Creative invention is perfectly acceptable.
But not too much. After all, any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from authorial wish-fulfilment…