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Some people (like my beloved wife, Sharon) don't believe that I can write "short" stories. Her theory is that my idea of short doesn't quite match that of other people's. I suppose some of the so-called short stories in this anthology would seem to prove her point. "Ms. Midshipman Harrington," for example. Or "Miles to Go." And, let's face it, this is a fairly hefty tome. In fact, it would probably be fair to go ahead and agree that I'm actually more at home writing novellas than I am writing really short short stories.

Well, I suppose that's reasonable enough. I like to tell big stories, which is the reason I usually write novels, after all. But despite that, I do really enjoy sometimes turning my hand to something a bit shorter than, oh, 285,000 words, let's say. And what you have in this collection is some of those "less than 285,000-word stories."

Actually, shorter pieces of fiction are a better fit for filling in the corners in something like the Honor Harrington series. I made my mind up when I began writing about Honor Harrington that there would never be a novel about Honor set earlier in her life than On Basilisk Station. There were several reasons for this, but the biggest one was that I expected the character to grow and my writing style to develop over the duration of the series. (At least, I certainly hoped both of those things were going to happen!) Because of that, I didn't want someone reading the novels in chronological order according to their internal events, rather than the order in which they were written, who would experience a more fully developed Honor Harrington (and my later writing style) before they read Basilisk Station. That sort of thing can happen all too easily when someone starts writing prequels to a successful series of novels, and it can be very jarring for a reader.

That left me with both a problem and an opportunity. There are details in Honor's earlier life in which readers are interested and which may really need to be told in order to "fill in the blanks." Short stories covering time periods before Basilisk Station—or, in some cases, periods which fall between novels—were one way to do that. And, in addition, writing short stories about those episodes in her life would both let me write some shorter fiction (which I really do enjoy) and also give me the opportunity in the Honor Harrington anthologies to invite other writers whose work I really liked to come and play at my house. In the process, not entirely to my surprise, the viewpoints and contributions of those other writers, most of which I've incorporated into the overall Honor Harrington series and its backgound, have greatly enriched and broadened the "Honorverse."

I really wish I had more time away from the novels to spend working on short stories. I've turned down invitations to several anthologies simply because my delivery schedule was so tight that I didn't believe I could get a story done in time. Or not, at least, a story whose quality I would have been happy about. I have managed to fit a few of them into the schedule, though. For example, of the pieces in this anthology, "The Captain from Kirkbean" was the result of an invitation to contribute to one of the Alternate Generals anthologies, and "Sir George and the Dragon" (which was later expanded into the novel The Excalibur Option) was the result of an invitation from David Drake to contribute to his Ranks of Bronze anthology. The genuine short story "The Traitor," and the novella "Miles to Go," resulted from invitations to contribute to the Bolo anthologies Baen Books has been producing. And "A Certain Talent" was chosen by Roger Zelazny for the anthology The Williamson Effect, which was intended as an homage to Jack Williamson. Both of the Honorverse pieces are from anthologies in the Worlds of Honor series, also from Baen, although there I was doing the inviting for the other writers involved. In fact, I think the only story in this collection that wasn't written for an anthology is the novella "Sword Brother," which was specifically written to be included with a reissue of the novel Oath of Swords.

I enjoyed writing all of them, and as time and opportunity allow, I'll continue to write short stories. Well, my version of "short" stories, at any rate.

Another good thing about short stories, from a reader's perspective, is that they are often an opportunity to sample a writer's work without committing to diving into one of those 285,000-word novels. If you've read some of these before, I hope you recognize old friends. If you've read some of my novels, but missed the short stories, I hope they'll give you another perspective on both my writing and on the series in which some of them are set. And if you've never read any of my stuff before, then I hope you enjoy this offering.

And now, having said that, come on over to my house and let's play.



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