Martin L. Shoemaker is a programmer who writes on the side… or maybe it’s the other way around. Programming pays the bills, but a second-place story in the Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest earned him lunch with Buzz Aldrin. Programming never did that! His work has appeared in Analog Science Fiction & Fact, Galaxy’s Edge, Digital Science Fiction, Forever Magazine, Writers of the Future, and numerous anthologies including Year’s Best Military and Adventure SF 4, Man-Kzin Wars XV, The Jim Baen Memorial Award: The First Decade, and Avatar Dreams from Wordfire Press. His Clarkesworld story “Today I Am Paul” appeared in four different year’s-best anthologies and eight international editions. His follow-on novel, Today I Am Carey, was published by Baen Books in March 2019. His novel The Last Dance was published by 47North in November 2019.
His story, “The Ouroboros Arrangement”, appears in the Weird World War III anthology.
Tell me about yourself. Where are you from? What’s your background?
I’m a software developer from Michigan. I’m also a lifelong writer, starting my professional fiction career in 2010.
What kinds of stories do you write? Why?
I dabble across genres: mostly science fiction, but occasional fantasy or mystery. I also have a habit of mixing mystery in my science fiction. I prefer near-future, near-space hard science fiction, but I go where the story takes me. I tend to write middle-length works, novelettes and novellas; but I write a lot of shorter work as well, and I’ve written two novels. A third should be released at the same time as Weird World War III.
Why? is a more difficult question. A lot of my writing process is subconscious. Tomorrow I might wake up with the urge to write a historical adventure story. But what would probably happen is that I would realize how much research that would involve, since I’m not much of a historian, and I would set it aside. I don’t like to work that hard! With science fiction I need less research—in part because I can make up many details, and in part because this is where I live as a reader. It’s familiar territory for me. I’m a child of the Apollo era, of Star Trek and 2001, of Heinlein and Asimov and McDevitt. So as the old cliché goes: Write what you know.
Which of your short stories is your favorite? Why?
“Today I Am Paul”, the basis of my first novel, Today I Am Carey (Baen books, 2019). First it’s my most successful story. It was nominated for a Nebula, it won the Washington Science Fiction Association Award, and it was in four year’s best collections. But more important has been the reader response. Readers tell me that they saw themselves in this story of an Alzheimer’s patient, her family, and her android caretaker. They tell me that they feel better because someone understands what they’ve been through with their own loved ones. That’s a high compliment for an author.
What authors have had the greatest influence on your writing? Why?
How much time do you have? A could list dozens, but I’ll restrict it to two.
I was an early subscriber to Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, so I was there when Barry B. Longyear sold his first story. And his second, and his third, and… And not only was he a great writer (“Enemy Mine” is one of my three favorite short works ever), but he was the first emerging writer I knew of. Prior to Longyear, all the writers I read seemed to be established by the time I found them. Like they had always been there. But I watched from the sidelines as Longyear became a professional writer, and so I knew it could be done! It took another four decades for me to follow; but I would never have known how it worked without his example.
But during that forty years, I built a successful career as a software developer; and as a result, much of my reading time was devoted to the science and craft of software. I didn’t make as much time for leisure reading, for science fiction. But a random trip to a bookstore led me to Jack McDevitt’s A Talent for War, and Jack reignited my science fiction flame. That book is one of my favorites, and I’ve gone on to read and reread everything Jack has written. My first Finalist in Writers of the Future, the story that persuaded me to keep writing, was inspired by Jack McDevitt’s Echo. And I was honored when Jack asked me to write the foreword to his collection, A Voice in the Night; and then honored again when he wrote a very kind blurb for my first novel, Today I Am Carey.
And because of my involvement in the writing community, I’ve gotten to meet both Barry and Jack. Some rewards can’t be measured in dollars and cents.
Besides yourself, which other contemporary authors would you recommend?
Here are recent books I’ve enjoyed:
- The Art of Madness by A.j. Mayall. He has a talent for mixing and matching tropes from multiple genres and turning them into something fresh and uniquely his. I first saw this in an anthology story in Cursed Collectibles, and I immediately went out and bought this book. I didn’t regret it.
- Spine of the Dragon by Kevin J. Anderson. I am sorry to say that I’m mostly burned out on epic fantasy. I’m sure there’s a lot of it that’s very good, but it just doesn’t engage me. This book did.
- A Star-Wheeled Sky by Brad Torgersen. Brad wrote a very exciting space opera here, with a nice twist on both science and empire. I’m looking forward to the sequel.Simon Says by Bryan Thomas Schmidt. This is like a classic 70s/80s buddy cop film, only set in the future with one of the buddies being an android. It’s the first in a series, and I’m enjoying all of them.
- Split Feather by Deborah A. Wolfe. This book was a delight from start to finish, with a vivid protagonist who discovers her roots in the native communities of Alaska—and in a unique folklore and magic system that Wolfe makes very real.
- Level Five by William Ledbetter. This was my absolute favorite book of 2018, a sweeping tale of artificial intelligence, space exploration, and a conspiracy to bring about the end of the world.
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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