In the picture above, I’m standing in front of my childhood home in Wilmington, Delaware on the Weird World War III launch date, October 6, 2020. It feels nostalgic to be at the place it all started. Weird World War III is my first traditionally published book as an editor or author. I’ve had short stories that have appeared in others, but this book is the first traditionally published project for which I was directly responsible and accountable. Without me, it would never have existed, but without others, it would have have gotten off the ground.

Author Tim Waggoner writes a blog post every time he has a new book coming out. I’d like to do the same, and what better time to start than now.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

“Never forget where you came from.”

— Fred Collier

In my early twenties, a junior officer named Fred Collier gave me some of the best guidance in life. Right before he left the Army, he told a group of officers to “never forget where [they] came from.” For me, it was not only a call to be humble, but also it reminded me that nothing I ever accomplished was truly done on my own.

The experience of producing this anthology was no different. I am thankful that Toni Weisskopf at Baen took a risk on me as a first-time editor. Without Mike Resnick‘s guidance and support, this anthology would never have been possible.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Alex Shvartsman, and David Boop were instrumental in helping me deal with the business side of the anthology, sharing their knowledge of pitches, contracts, and editorial etiquette. Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Peter J. Wacks also produced one hell of a story, as did Alex Shvartsman.

Without Nick Mamatas, I would never have been introduced to writers and friends like T.C. McCarthy and Erica Satifka. Nick was also instrumental in graciously answering all my random editorial questions. And to top it all off, he wrote an amazing story for the anthology.

I am also thrilled to have had the opportunity to work with writers I am in awe of like David Drake, John Langan, and Mike Resnick. None of them needed to participate in this anthology, but I’m damned pleased they did.

I’m also grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to not only give Baen’s audiences stories from authors they know and love like David Drake, Mike Resnick, Sarah A. Hoyt, Brad Torgersen, and Martin Shoemaker, but also amazing authors with whom they might not yet be familiar like John Langan and Erica Satifka. I also really enjoyed the opportunity to work with many of the folks who appeared with me in Writers of the Future Volume 33 like C.L. Kagmi, Stephen Lawson, and Ville Meriläinen.

It was an honor to receive stories from other up-and-coming authors like Xander and Marina Lostetter, Brian Trent, T.C. McCarthy, Eric James Stone, and Deborah A. Wolf as well as extremely talented veteran writers like Kevin Andrew Murphy.

Throughout the journey of producing this anthology, I also got to collaborate with folks I’ve known for over thirty years like Greg Schauer, who runs Between Books in Wilmington, Delaware. Greg worked with Baen to set up one of only two of my signing events in this post-COVID world. It seems like only yesterday when I discovered his store as a twelve-year-old kid playing Dungeons and Dragons.

I would be remiss to not thank Corinda Carfora at Baen for helping me with all the marketing and coordination for birthing my book into the world. I’d also like to thank John Goodwin and the folks at Author Services for helping me set up interviews to promote the anthology. I want to thank Michael Wilson and Bob Pastorella at This Is Horror and John Scalzi for using their platforms to help me promote my work (Weird World War III is tentatively scheduled to appear on The Big Idea tomorrow). I am also grateful to have worked with Tony Daniel through a seamless and organized editing process. I also couldn’t be happier with the cover Kurt Miller delivered for the anthology. It truly captured the essence of Weird World War III.

The Road to Success Runs Through Failure’s Gauntlet

“Life ain’t fair.”

— Theodore J. Hazlett, Jr.

It couldn’t have been a crazier year to launch this anthology, but it’s certainly been a weird one. Each month could’ve been a standalone geopolitical thriller: a once-in-a-century pandemic that swept through the United States, killing over two hundred thousand souls to date; one of the most contentious election cycles in US history muddied by conspiracy theories and Russian intrigue; the adverse economic impact of COVID-related business shutdowns driving the highest US unemployment rate in decades; civil unrest in major US cities resulting in the most costly riot damage in US history; Western wildfires causing billions of dollars and destroying millions of acres that turned the sky blood-red; increasing tensions between the world’s two most populous nations over the contentious Line of Actual Control in the Himalayan foothills; and now a proxy war between Armenia and Azerbaijan with Russia and Turkey lurking in the shadows.

My father gave me the best advice you could give a child to prepare for a world filled with such adversity and capriciousness: “life ain’t fair.” It was great advice because it’s not only true, but also it helps one steel oneself against the vagaries of life; to never count on good fortune. It taught me to make my own luck; to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

It was a long road to get to this point in my writing career. I’ve been writing and submitting stories since 2011, and it oftentimes feels like an endless stream of disappointment and rejection. In fact, unless you are one of the incredibly talented and lucky few, as a writer and/or editor, you should expect an astonishingly daunting number of rejections before you succeed. In my opinion, the only thing that separates a published author from an unpublished one is a published author never quits. Writers speak of this rejection so often it might be easily discounted as hyperbole. It’s not. My personal experience is empirical proof of it.

Since 2011, I’ve:

  • Written 65 original short stories
  • Written 2 novels
  • Entered the Writers of the Future Contest 17 times
  • Submitted those 65 short stories 2,381 times
  • Received 2,151 short story rejections
  • Haven’t sold a single novel yet

And yet I persisted. I didn’t quit. If I had thrown in the towel, I would have missed out on the joy of selling stories I created from nothing.

Since I finished and submitted my first short story on December 17, 2011, I’ve:

  • Sold 44 original short stories (68% of short stories written)
  • Sold 9 reprints, including 4 stories to various “Best of” anthologies
  • Been a winner in the Writers of the Future Contest
  • Edited the Weird World War III anthology

There’s still a long road ahead, but when I look back on the last 9 years, I’ve definitely made a ton of progress. And for that, I am thankful.

Support the Authors

Working with authors I admire was one of the most rewarding experiences of putting together this anthology. Reading the stories they created really brought my vision for Weird World War III to life. If, after reading their stories, you’d like to see more from them, I’ve included a list of some of their current or upcoming publications you should definitely check out.

As for me, all I ask is that you: 1) buy a copy of Weird World War III using any of the links below and 2) post a review on Amazon (the more reviews Weird World War III receives, the higher Amazon’s algorithm ranks it). Thank you. And I hope you enjoy the anthology.

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Brad R. Torgersen

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.

Story’s Soundtrack

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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