Brad R. Torgersen is a multi-award-winning science fiction and fantasy writer whose book A Star-Wheeled Sky won the 2019 Dragon Award for Best Science Fiction Novel at the 33rd annual DragonCon fan convention in Atlanta, Georgia. A prolific short fiction author, Torgersen has published stories in numerous anthologies and magazines, including several Best of Year editions. Brad is named in Analog magazine’s who’s who of top Analog authors, alongside venerable writers like Larry Niven, Lois McMaster Bujold, Orson Scott Card, and Robert A. Heinlein. Married for over twenty-five years, Brad is also a United States Army Reserve Chief Warrant Officer—with multiple deployments to his credit—and currently lives with his wife and daughter in the Mountain West, where they keep a small menagerie of dogs and cats.
His story, “All Quiet on the Phantom Front”, appears in the Weird World War III anthology.
What kinds of stories do you write? Why?
I tend to focus on stories which emphasize the everyman, who through determination and no small amount of courage and principle is able to forge a victory—despite the most overwhelming or dire predicaments. Too much fiction these days—be it books, stories, screenplays, you name it—seems to glory in the “complicated” character. Who is a morally ambiguous individual at best. I rather favor the idea that ordinary people are capable of extraordinary things (including extraordinary displays of honor, decency, integrity, and morality) when push comes to shove. I believe this is something we see in the world around us, and it will also be true in the future. Regardless of how advanced our technology may be, or when we eventually voyage to other planets and other stars.
Which of your short stories is your favorite? Why?
I’m going to echo the spoken word performance group Celestial Navigations and state that the best one, is the next one. I’ve enjoyed all of the stories I’ve published, and am especially proud of those which have won readers’ choice awards in magazines like Analog. But each new story is a new adventure in discovery. Because I am usually going to new places with new characters and exploring some facet of the human equation I’ve not necessarily explored before in that specific way, set against a canvas I’ve not necessarily explored before either. So, I take great joy in this activity, and am always pleased with how the characters and their stories evolve organically beneath my fingertips as I type.
What authors have had the greatest influence on your writing? Why?
Of all the living authors who are still with us, award-winner and science fiction Grand Master Larry Niven is the one who has had the greatest single influence. It was reading Larry’s short fiction (when I was still a teenager, thirty years ago) that inspired me to try to write my own professional stories. Up to that point I’d simply dabbled in fan fiction for franchises like Star Trek or Mad Max but it was while reading Larry’s short fiction that I said to myself, “I want to try to write this well, and publish myself!” It took me a lot of work and a lot of practice—including a lot of heartache and failure—before I finally broke in with my Writers of the Future winning story, ten years ago.
What is your favorite speculative fiction genre? Why?
I tend to favor the “hard” variety of science fiction, simply because I’ve always been fascinated by stories which try to imagine how humanity might actually voyage to the planets and the stars. Versus the numerous examples of Earth-bound dystopias which have been ironically popular in our era of fantastic opportunity, wealth, and material comfort. When I was child, movies and television series which depicted humanity journeying to other worlds, and conquering the literal final frontier of space, most captured my imagination. Which is not to say I don’t enjoy a very good fantasy story, such as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings saga. Because I do. But my interest inevitably returns to stories that are well-grounded in known physics, chemistry, biology, etc., while projecting the human adventure into environments which—while potentially quite hostile—offer their own wonder and mystery, as well as challenges. To include potentially magical realms. I mentioned Larry Niven earlier. On those occasions when I approach a fantasy project of my own I tend to go at it “hard” in that the mystical or otherwise magical component is rigorously bounded, with rules and structure such that it’s an additional natural phenomenon, as much like gravity or electricity as anything else.
If you could live in any time period, when would it be? Why?
I don’t have a particularly favorite period, mostly because each period has its plusses and its minuses. I do consider myself to be a student of history, however, and am very concerned with how little many people in 21st century America seem to be paying attention to the lessons of history. Especially when it comes to utopian activism. Millions of Americans seem bound and determined to scuttle everything about our world which makes it clean, comfortable, and abundant, for the sake of some as-yet-to-be-realized fantastic vision of a “fair” society. Which—if people understood their history at all—is where all the greatest and most terrible human disasters of the 20th century began. We make a fatal flaw when we sacrifice what’s good on the altar of trying to achieve perfection. Otherwise? History is replete with amazing people and amazing events, some of the astoundingly inspired, others dreadfully awful. And all of it adds up to who we are now, in our time. Both good and bad things. Like I said, I wish more Americans especially in the 21st century paid attention to the lessons we should have learned from what happened in the 20th century especially.
Each of the stories in this volume evoked certain themes and emotions that can sometimes be approximated with music. The below video is the editor’s best interpretation of the feelings and themes that this author’s story evoked. Please note that this is only the editor’s interpretation. The author did not know this portion of the blog post existed until the editor published it.
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