Feb 21 2009 2:42pm

Weekend Getaway: Diamonds in the Sky

This weekend I send you away to Diamonds in the Sky, an online anthology of astronomy-based science fiction stories. The entire anthology is available for free, and features the work of Alma Alexander, Mike Brotherton, Jeffrey A. Carver, Kevin Grazier, Dan Hoyt, Valentin Ivanov, Mary Robinette Kowal, Geoffrey A. Landis, Alexis Glynn Latner, David Levine, Wil McCarthy, G. David Nordley, Jerry Oltion, Ges Segar, and Jerry Weinberg. The anthology contains both original work and reprints.

The anthology is edited by Mike Brotherton and was funded by the National Science Foundation. As he states on the anthology’s website:

The purpose of the anthology is to provide stories with ample and accurate astronomy spanning a range of topics covered in introductory courses. Instructors in high school and college may these stories useful, as some students may learn concepts more easily through story than from lecture. Fans of science fiction with good science should also enjoy these stories.

The concept came to Brotherton in 2004, and it’s taken until now to get the project organized and online. I think this is really exciting. I’ve always thought that there should be a way to get funding for short fiction projects via grants, and I have proof right here. There’s no reason to think that more projects couldn’t achieve funding through these means, too.

I don’t think this is the type of thing that could save/bolster existing genre short fiction markets, but it could be a way to create new markets. And I find new markets exciting, but that could be just me.

Michael Brotherton
1. Michael Brotherton
Thanks for spreading the word. I thought I might elaborate on how this comes about and how to make it happen more often in the future.

There is often money for public outreach and education tied to research grants. Not a lot, in comparison, but plenty to fund short fiction online certainly. There are two types of this. There are grant programs where you can just apply for it as its own project to do in competition with other educational outreach programs. Be sure to have an education specialist on your proposal and work with them to develop the proposal.

The other way, which has its own pros and cons, is to pitch it as part of a research grant. The National Science Foundation very much wants a public outreach and educational component included in research grants, and as a part of $300k grant, asking for an extra $5k or $10k to fund a project like this isn't a big deal. It will sink or swim with the quality of the research portion.

So, there aren't that many scientists like myself also so deep into fiction, but there are a few, and there are certainly sf fans among scientists.

I bet at the appropriate time each year, say a month or two in advance of the major NSF deadlines, scientists proposing to the NSF who also like sf could be identified and contacted. I know a few who would probably love to have a strong outreach component and someone volunteering to do it for some reasonable fee. I'm not an editor at heart and the thing took me forever, even when I was able to pay for help with the website and copyediting.

I also have funded Launch Pad through NASA ( which lets me teach astronomy to writers (currently open for applications for the July workshop, BTW). Again, a fraction of the research money and well spent in my opinion.

Anyway, I hope readers enjoy the stories and learn a little bit while doing so.

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