Category Archives: general

Mission over

In its year-long mission to explore– On second thoughts, let’s not go there. Rocket Science, an original anthology of hard science fiction and non-fiction, was launched on 9 April 2012 and now, one year later, it’s time to say goodbye to this blog. The book still exists and continues to sell – and yes, an ebook edition will be made available sometime during 2013.

Source: NASA

Source: NASA

Rocket Science has done well. It published some excellent fiction and non-fiction – even if I say so myself. One of the non-fiction articles, Karen Burnham’s ‘The Complexity of the Humble Spacesuit’ was even shortlisted for the BSFA Award in the non-fiction category. Sadly, it didn’t win, and the award went to the World SF Blog (a worthy winner, nonetheless). Given that one of the stories in Mutation Press’s first anthology, Music for Another World, was also shortlisted for a BSFA Award, that’s quite an achievement for a small press.

I had fun, and I learnt a lot, editing Rocket Science. I tried to make the selection process as transparent as possible and, from the comments I received, many people found that useful. I also had fun writing posts on relevant topics for this blog. But Rocket Science News has served its purpose and now it’s time to roll it up. It’ll stay up for the time-being, but I won’t be adding to it or posting anything new.



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BSFA Award Shortlist

Excellent news! Karen Burnham’s ‘The Complexity of the Humble Spacesuit’ has been shortlisted for the BSFA Non-fiction Award.  The shortlists were announced today, and the winners will be announced at EightSquared, the 2013 Eastercon, Cedar Court Hotel, Bradford on 30 March 2013.

Congratulations to Karen. And fingers crossed for the night.

Source: Mirriam-Webster Visual Dictionary Online

Source: Mirriam-Webster Visual Dictionary Online

Novels, short stories, artwork and non-fiction are nominated by the members of the British Science Fiction Association. The shortlists will also be voted on by BSFA members, and by attendees at EightSquared.


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The Best Hard SF Anthology of the Year?

Which hard sf anthology did the Guardian newspaper describe as “superb”? Was it Edge of Infinity, the “sequel” anthology to 2010’s Engineering Infinity, both of which were edited by Jonathan Strahan? I think not.

It was Rocket Science.


Rocket Science cover art

If you’re going to throw around a term like “the best hard sf anthology of the year”, and you think it’s a toss-up between Edge of Infinity and Baen’s Going Interstellar, well, you’d be wrong. It’s not about the marquee names on the cover or in the TOC. It’s about the stories.

So if you’re a fan of hard sf short fiction, and you don’t own a copy of Rocket Science, then you need to rectify that immediately. Because you can’t make any claims to “best of the year” if you’ve never bothered to read the first hard sf original fiction anthology to be published in 2012.


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Rocket Science in America

Rocket Science contributor Eric Choi was at Capclave, the Washington Science Fiction Association’s annual convention, during the weekend 12 – 14 October. He had copies of Rocket Science with him, and was signing them for buyers. He’s sent me a photograph:

credit: Eric Choi

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Award season

Nominations for the British Science Fiction Association Awards are open – in fact, they’ve been open for a couple of weeks, so I’m a little late with this reminder. But they’ll remain open until January 11 2013. If you’re a member of the British Science Fiction Association, feel free to nominate your favourite stories from Rocket Science for the short fiction award, and your favourite non-fiction pieces for the, er, non-fiction award.

The BSFA Award won this year by the SF Encyclopedia (from Ansible)


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More reading

This weekend, editor Jonathan Strahan announced the table of contents of his new anthology, Edge of Infinity, a sequel to 2010’s Engineering Infinity, and due late November from Solaris Books. He describes Edge of Infinity as an anthology of “hard SF/adventure set in an industrialised, settled pre-starflight solar system. It gathers stories set everywhere from Mercury to Neptune, the nooks and crannies of the asteroid belt, to the wonders and beauties of Jupiter. At a time when interstellar travel seems ever more impractical, these stories breathe life into our dream of the future by showing us the romance and challenge of what is achievable here on our own doorstep”.

The anthology will contain fourteen stories – no non-fiction – by Paul McAuley, Pat Cadigan, Gwyneth Jones, Stephen Baxter, Bruce Sterling, Hannu Rajaniemi, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, An Owomayela, and others.

Source: Solaris Books

I’m glad that more realistic science fiction is appearing in print, but I can’t help pointing out to prospective buyers of Edge of Infinity that Rocket Science is available now and covers a similar vein of sf – though perhaps with more of an emphasis on exploration and early steps into the Solar System. So if Edge of Infinity looks as it might appeal to you, then Rocket Science certainly will.

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Red Stars in Orbit

Shenzhou-9 landed safely on 29 June, bringing back to Earth three taikonauts, including the first female one. The taikonauts had spent thirteen days aboard Tiangong-1, the Chinese space station. The name means “Heavenly Palace”, which I must admit is a more poetic name than “International Space Station”. China plans to send up another module to their space station in 2013, and then further modules over several years. The finished space station will be smaller than the ISS, perhaps similar in size to the US Skylab of the 1970s.

While the US tries desperately hard to create some sort of libertarian commercial space capability, the Chinese are just cracking on with an ambitious government space programme. You can’t help but wonder if they’d been doing this thirty years ago, they’d have put a taikonaut on Mars by now.

CNSA, the China National Space Administration, clearly has ambitions, which is more than can be said for the US Administration, or indeed the ESA or Roscosmos. True, a number of private sector firms in the US have proposed expansive plans – SpaceX wants to go to Mars, Planetary Resources wants to mine near-Earth asteroids… But I’ve yet to be convinced that the profit motive is a powerful enough driver for the exploration and exploitation of the Solar System. In these days of “shareholder expectation management”, the only true motivation for business is generating sufficient EBITDA to keep investors and shareholders happy so they continue to keep the whole financial house of cards propped up. None of this money is going toward anything socially, technologically or scientifically useful. It requires government intervention for that to happen. Like in the Apollo programme; and the pre-Glasnost Soyuz programme; and the CNSA’s current Shenzhou launches.

Space is not the Wild West, it is not the Final Frontier. It may well be the future of the human race, given our present willingness to destroy our biosphere in the name of an economic system which plainly doesn’t work and is unsustainable. Sadly, there’s no running away from the mess we’re making. We can’t simply chuck our worldly goods into a Conestoga wagon and head out into the wild blue yonder. Space isn’t a survivable environment – technological assistance is an absolute necessity. Even on the shores of Earth, so to speak, in LEO, the safest off-Earth place in the universe – if you fall, you land on Earth; plus, you have the Earth’s magnetosphere to protect you from all the nasty radiation – even in LEO, it’s a constant battle to stay in place and survive. The ISS was originally intended to deorbit in 2016, though it’s likely it will last much longer. All those billions of dollars spent on something that won’t even last twenty years…

What’s needed is a steady and regular programme of small steps which will take us out to the other planets in the Solar System. A monolithic government agency is the only way this will happen. People may baulk at the cost… forgetting that the US put twelve men on the Moon for a cost of approximately $10 per year per taxpayers over a decade. How can that not be a useful and noble way to spend tax revenue? Instead, western nations would sooner spend trillions on military adventurism. How is that justifiable?

It seems to me the Chinese have got their priorities right. And if it’s a taikonaut who first lands on Mars, then don’t be surprised if you see me cheering along and waving the Wǔ Xīng Hóng Qí.


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