Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to spotlight speculative fiction author Joelle Presby. Joelle, could you please tell us briefly a little about yourself and your writing? How would you like us to introduce you?
I’m a former U.S. Navy nuclear engineering officer and recovering corporate consultant who grew up in West Africa. I don’t know how make mile-long carbon nanofiber. My first reader husband works for NASA. We live in Ohio with our two kids. I will neither confirm nor deny getting a book deal through a quid pro quo arrangement with Mami-Wata.
Where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester–though they should totally check here first!)
Readers should absolutely go to Annie’s Book Stop or their own local indie bookseller. My books are also available at the large retailers and through my publisher, Baen Books, at baen.com. For The Dabare Snake Launcher release, I’ll be signing copies at Fiction Addiction (Greenville, South Carolina), Mac’s Backs Books on Coventry (Cleveland Heights, Ohio), and The Book Loft of German Village (Columbus, Ohio).
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
I’m happy to connect on social media, but the best way is to go to my website, joellepresby.com, and sign up for my newsletter. That way you can get some free fiction and be connected on your own terms.
What kind of research went into writing The Dabare Snake Launcher? What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the book, but you loved discovering?
On a surface level, The Dabare Snake Launcher is about what it takes to build two spaceports in Africa.
I had a research advantage for this book in that I lived for twelve years in Cameroon (West Africa), so I got to use personal experience to judge the accuracy of setting description documents I found.
For the scientific aspects, I again have a background in engineering which helped, but I couldn’t have written this book without the confidence I gained from reading the International Academy of Astronautics’ 2013 study titled “Space Elevators: An Assessment of the Technological Feasibility and Way Forward.” A lot of the fine details didn’t make it into the novel because they were too dry, but I was delighted to learn how close to possible the engineering side of getting a space elevator built has become.
The thing I learned about space elevators which isn’t in The Dabare Snake Launcher is that we will probably build the very first space elevator somewhere besides Earth.
The biggest reason for trying the engineering concepts out somewhere else first is danger to our planet from an industrial accident. The construction phase of turning this marvelous idea into a reality is extremely complex. There’s no guarantee we’d have the right combination of heroism to do it perfectly on the first attempt.
The other reason is gravitational forces. It could be that we won’t ever invent DiamondWire nanofiber of unlimited industrial lengths. If we were to build a space elevator on the Moon, the central tether only has to withstand the forces of approximately one sixth Earth gravity. So, if we get a bunch of people living on the Moon during our lifetime, don’t be surprised if they build themselves a space elevator or three to make it inexpensive to get off Luna and out to stations in orbit around Earth.
What character did you love or hate the most while writing? And why?
Ethan Schmidt-Li. Sometimes I loved him, and sometimes I hated him. This man was all the worst aspects of an effective corporate shark, but he’s also so extremely good at his job. And in his own villainous way, he’s something of a hero too.
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
I am blessed with an abundance of upcoming releases. I not only have The Dabare Snake Launcher coming out now, I also have contributions in two anthologies coming out in January and February.
When I was in high school before going to the U.S. Naval Academy, I read a bunch of editor and writer Esther Friesner’s humorous anthologies in the Chicks In Chain Mail series.
There was this one story about chain mail bikinis. The woman fighters were organizing and putting up a fight, because the tax on the bikini chain mail was double the tax on the codpiece armor. It was funny and delightful and stuck with me even though I’m not sure what the exact title was or who the author was for that specific short story.
Some years later, I graduated high school and got admitted to the U.S. Naval Academy. I learned that my required dress uniform cover (translation: hat) would cost me four times as much as the one that my male colleagues would be wearing.
I recognized this story.
And, yup, there were already a group of woman fighters (naval officers and officer candidates) organizing and putting up a fight. Chicks In Chain Mail prepared me for the real world military. So, thank you to Esther Friesner for her support of the troops.
In January, there’s a new Chicks anthology coming out: Chicks In Tank Tops. Esther Friesner has a story in it. And so do I.
You’d think that would be more than enough, right? But no, there’s more. My cup of blessings truly is running over.
I got my start in publishing writing stories in David Weber’s Honorverse. I signed a contract way back in 2015 to provide a short story for a Worlds of Honor #7 anthology. I wrote it, but David Weber had to prioritize other things. Years passed, and I thought it would never be published.
Early this year I heard from another writer friend who had also been contracted to write for that anthology back in 2015. He’s revising his story and would I please give it a once over for him? Of course, I would, but why is he working on that?
I learned that the anthology is back in the publishing queue. And my story is going to be included. If I want to, I can see if I’d like to revise it. Also, there’s room in the book for a higher word count story. I reread that old story, and, oh yes sir, I absolutely want to revise it. I’ve learned a thing or two about writing in the last seven years, and I’ve got some ideas about what can make this a lot better.
A short story that used to be titled “Space Trash” became the novella “If Wishes Were Space Cutters.” It will be coming out in February in What Price Victory?: Worlds of Honor #7.
Joelle, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, and good luck with The Dabare Snake Launcher!