“A fascinating way to see how different authors of speculative fiction approach a similar theme… This was an enjoyable collection of speculative fiction presenting several interesting takes on WWIII scenarios between the US and Russia. The overall quality was high.”— Kevin P. Hallett in Tangent Online
“The stories go off in all directions. Torgersen’s ‘All Quiet on the Phantom Front’ involves NATO forces who cast a magic spell that goes wrong; John Langan’s ‘Second Front’ brings World War III to the Moon; Shoemaker’s ‘The Ouroboros Arrangement’ provides a quantum physics explanation for why the Cold War didn’t turn Hot. The other stories are all equally interesting, ranging from hard SF to magical fantasy to dark horror-adjacent tales.”— Don Sakers in Analog Science Fiction and Fact Magazine
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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.
- David Drake: To Clear Away the Shadows is available now.
- Mike Resnick: The Hex Is In: The Fast Life and Fantastic Times of Harry the Book is available now.
- John Langan: Children of the Fang and Other Genealogies is available now.
- Nick Mamatas: Wonder and Glory Forever: Awe-Inspiring Lovecraftian Fiction will be available on November 18, 2020, but you can preorder it today.
- Brad R. Torgersen: A Star-Wheeled Sky is available now.
- Sarah A. Hoyt: Trade Winds is available now.
- Dr. Xander Lostetter.
- Marina J. Lostetter: Noumenon Ultra is available now.
- T.C. McCarthy: Tyger Bright will be available on February 2, 2021, but you can preorder it today.
- Martin Shoemaker: The Last Campaign launches today.
- Deborah A. Wolf: The Seared Lands is available now.
- Brian Trent: Ten Thousand Thunders is available now.
- Erica L. Satifka: Busted Synapses will be available on November 3, 2020, but you can preorder it today.
- Kevin Andrew Murphy: Knaves Over Queens is available now.
- Stephen Lawson: Leaders Taste Better and Other Stories is available now.
- Ville Meriläinen: The Post-Apocalyptic Tourist’s Guide to Joensuu, Finland is available now.
- Peter J. Wacks: Caller of Lightning is available now.
- Bryan Thomas Schmidt: Common Source is available now.
- Alex Shvartsman: Eridani’s Crown is available now.
- C.L. Kagmi: Twiceborn is available now.
- Eric James Stone: The Humans in the Walls: and Other Stories is available now.
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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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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