Bringing my Writing and Astronomy Careers Together – #SFWApro

Keplers Dozen

This week, Hadrosaur Productions released the ebook edition of A Kepler’s Dozen: Thirteen Stories About Distant Worlds That Really Exist. I co-edited the anthology with Steve B. Howell, project scientist of NASA’s Kepler Mission. Both of us also contributed stories to the anthology. I’m especially excited about this anthology because it allowed me to bring my passions for astronomy and science fiction together in one place.

Steve and I have been colleagues since I returned to Kitt Peak National Observatory in 2008. At the time, he was serving as the scientist for the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope. I was hired to be an observing assistant for the 3.5-meter, along with other telescopes on the mountain. Observing assistants operate the telescopes and help visiting observers get the best use out of the telescope time they’re granted. Soon after I returned to Kitt Peak, Steve learned about my interest in science fiction and fantasy and even bought a copy of the anthology Human Tales, which features my story “The Griffin’s Tail.” Here we see Steve enjoying his copy at the console of the WIYN telescope:


A couple years later, after Steve took the job at NASA, he suggested assembling a collection of short stories set in the planetary systems discovered by the Kepler probe. I thought it was a great idea and took it to my colleagues at Hadrosaur Productions. They agreed and we decided to move forward with the project.

Hadrosaur’s primary publishing venture for the last decade has been Tales of the Talisman Magazine. Naturally, I approached a number of writers whose work has appeared in the magazine over the years to write stories for the anthology. We handled this as an invitation-only anthology simply because we wanted to make sure each story featured a different planet. We also approached other astronomy professionals with a strong interest in science fiction, including the University of Wyoming’s Mike Brotherton and my Kitt Peak colleague Doug Williams.

Our goal for this anthology was simple. The Kepler mission has been discovering hundreds of planets around other stars. We wanted to envision these systems as the real places they are and imagine what they might be like, just like H.G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs once imagined the planet Mars. Much as our understanding of Mars has evolved over time, we expect our understanding of the Kepler planets will as well. We may be wrong in some of our assumptions about what these planets are like, but we hope to challenge the young and young-at-heart to dream about these places and take a closer look for themselves.

Katy Garmany of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory wrote a very nice press release about the book that even shows you where the book’s planets are in the sky. You can read that here:

The ebook edition of A Kepler’s Dozen is available at Amazon and Smashwords. The print edition is available at many online retailers including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and direct from the publisher at Hadrosaur Productions.

Shortly after the book was released, it was announced that the Kepler spacecraft had lost one of the reaction wheels that keep it pointed accurately at one place in the sky. Despite that, Kepler has already produced more data than scientists have been able to keep up with. Steve and I are already talking about a possible second anthology that imagines even more of Kepler’s worlds.

2 comments on “Bringing my Writing and Astronomy Careers Together – #SFWApro

  1. Mack says:

    I’d say get on it, a second anthology would be very neat 🙂 There’s something I can’t put the finger exactly, about immersing yourself in stories where you know there’s something real right on the edge of them.

    It fills the gap between “seeing is believing” and “reading is believing”.

    • Thanks, Mack. Yes, once I finish up my next novel, the new anthology is next in the queue. I get your point – there’s something about telling a story about something that somehow adds a new dimension to the reality of a thing. It’s hard to quite say why that happens, but I think it’s part of the magic of story.

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