Matt McHugh, the winner of the 2019 Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award for “Burners,” was born in suburban Pennsylvania, attended LaSalle University in Philadelphia, and after a few years as a Manhattanite, now calls New Jersey home. Find his website here. The National Space Society and Baen Books applaud the role that science fiction plays in advancing real science and have teamed up to sponsor this short fiction contest in memory of Jim Baen. The contest occurs annually and looks for stories that demonstrate the positive aspects of space exploration and discovery. Over the years, the contest has developed an international character. In addition to the United States, entrants have hailed from Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Argentina, Algeria, Spain, and Morocco. "Moon bases, Mars colonies, orbital habitats, space elevators, asteroid mining, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, realistic spacecraft, heroics, sacrifice, adventure—that's what we're looking for," says Contest Administrator William Ledbetter. "And once again we believe we've found writers, and an ultimate winner, who deliver just that." Find more information on the JBM here.
Fiction Short Story
Winner of the 2019 Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award
Given in Partnership with the National Space Society
"So how'd that happen?"
From the cockpit of her runner, in orbit two-hundred kilometers over a blue-white swizzled Earth, Linda Ballard aimed her exterior cameras downward. She focused on Maureen's runner, drifting just a few meters below. The runner was a single-pilot spacecraft, shaped like a flattened diamond, resembling a kite—or some said a stingray, an image reinforced by the long, trailing tail. The two vehicles were identical, except Maureen's had a seventy-year-old Russian weather satellite the size of a minivan stuck to its nose.
"You know me," came Maureen's voice over Linda's headset. "Sometimes I have trouble letting go of the past."
Linda zoomed in. Runners were designed to push orbiting debris to re-entry burnup over the ocean, and had the equivalent of a bulldozer scoop on the front with manipulator claws to grip and release payloads. Maureen had opened her claws, but the defunct satellite refused to budge.
"Ah," said Linda. "I see your problem. Take a look at my video feed."Read More