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Press Release

January 25, 2012

Sex and Violence in Zero-G: The Complete "Near-Space" Stories, Expanded Edition

Hugo-Award winner Allen Steele's stories of the seamier side of space development have been wowing readers and drawing in fans for nearly a quarter of a century, presenting a "lived-in" type of space unknown in movies and television productions. Now, for the first time, Fantastic Books has collected all of the Near Space stories—everything from 1988's "Zwarte Piet's Tale" and "Live from the Mars Hotel" to 2010's "The Emperor of Mars"—in one complete volume. This 520-page book, with cover art by Ron Miller ($19.99, ISBN: 978-1-61720-358-9), is a must for every fan and collector's shelf.

Along with a new-for-this-book introduction, talking about the genesis and growth of his near-future universe, this expanded edition carries Steele's 1999 introduction (for an earlier, partial collection). And in addition to the 20 stories, also included are Steele's own drawings, upon which several of the stories are based.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Robert A. Heinlein grabbed readers with his coherent view of mankind's future in space, his "Future History." He was the first writer to lay out such a vision coherently and graphically. Steele's "Near Space" (an homage to Larry Niven's "Known Space") is even more appealing, immersing the reader in not only the thrill of spaceflight, but the nuts and bolts (and bootlegged stills, sex, and violence) of our real growth into a space-faring civilization.

Originally published as a stand-alone volume in England, Steele's short novel The Weight was optioned for film production, and appears in this book for its first US publication. Also here are:
* "The Death of Captain Future," which won the Hugo Award in 1996 and the Seiun Award in 1998.
* "Zwarte Piet's Tale," which won Analog's AnLab [readers' choice] Award in 1999.
* "The Emperor of Mars," which earned Steele his third Hugo Award in 2011.

And "Live from the Mars Hotel" may be the most "out of this world" story in this collection. It was chosen for inclusion on a DVD called "Visions of Mars," which was designed both to provide a library for future Martian colonists and as a tribute to the generations of writers, artists, and filmmakers who foresaw the exploration of the red planet. That DVD is currently aboard NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander, exploring the arctic plains of Mars.

As Steele says, the past is prelude. The Space Age is about to begin.

Allen Steele writes about Sex and Violence in Zero-G: The Complete "Near Space" Stories, Expanded Edition:

In his introduction to the 1998 version of this collection, Steele wrote: we've come to recognize the ultimate objective of our [space travel] efforts: the establishment of humankind as a spacefaring species.

The past is prelude. The Space Age is about to begin.

This collection is the complete short fiction of my "Near Space" series, a future history I began developing over a decade ago with my first novel. Orbital Decay was originally intended to be a one-shot endeavor which would stand by itself, but when I finished the book in June, 1987, I realized that I had more to say on the subject of space exploration. Three more novels—Clarke County, Space, Lunar Descent, and Labyrinth of Night—and about a half-dozen short stories followed Orbital Decay, all set in what I eventually came to call "Near Space," in homage to Larry Niven's "Known Space" series.

I didn't map out this future history in advance, so the stories and novels weren't written in chronological order; I made things up as I went along, using short fiction to fill in the gaps between novels. An odd approach, perhaps, in this era of trilogies and never-ending epics. One former British editor, frustrated that I couldn't tell her exactly what I intended to do next, told my agent that I wasn't "serious about my career" when I rejected her advice to write a multi-generation interstellar saga—Star Wars meets The Waltons, something like that. I don't enjoy reading that sort of thing, though, so why should I want to write one? My agent, bless her, let me follow my instincts.

He also explains the genesis of this collection: in order to maintain internal consistency while writing A King of Infinite Space, I found it necessary to create the very thing which I'd steadfastly refused to do earlier: a timeline of key events in this future history. So I sat down at my desk with a stack of novels, short stories, maps, diagrams, and loose-leaf notebooks and, over the course of the next several days, tied together all the major developments of a chronology which started in 2010 and ended in 2101. When I was finished, I looked at what I had done and realized, to mixed horror and delight, that I still hadn't written about half of the events I'd charted out.

On one hand, I consider "Near Space" to be finished. Five novels and fifteen short works should be sufficient; time to move on. On the other hand, I'd be crazy to swear that there won't be any more. I never intended to write a sequel to "The Death of Captain Future," yet "The Exile of Evening Star" came three years later. My file cabinet contains a fragment of a novella about the Moon War which begs to be completed, and although I once believed I had covered Mars to my own satisfaction when I wrote Labyrinth of Night, Mars Pathfinder inspired me to write "Zwarte Piet's Tale"… and when that was done, I found that I'd created a half-dozen aresian colonies, along with sufficient backstory to allow me to create a mini-series about them. And I still haven't written about Mercury, or the outer planets of the solar system, or the Kuiper Belt, or the Oort Cloud, or the Sun itself…

Whether or not I continue this future history, only time will tell. The stories have been arranged in chronological order; you may discover minor inconsistencies as you make your way through the book, as may be expected of a project which has taken ten years to complete. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

As I told that editor, I'm making it up as I go along. That's the way the future is, really. The best science fiction stories won't be science fiction, and they've yet to be told.

Introducing this expanded edition, he writes: It's been over a decade since I wrote the first introduction to this collection, and while quite a bit has changed since then, almost just as much has remained the same. Although the purpose of science fiction is not the prediction of the future, it's interesting to see how the realities of the early 21st century stack up against the events portrayed in some of the stories in this book.

When I wrote the first introduction to this book 12 years ago, I stated that humankind was on the verge of a new space age. I'm sticking to that conjecture; it may seem as if it's taking awhile to come around, but I've seen little to suggest that it won't eventually happen. Yes, there have been setbacks—the loss of the shuttle Columbia being the most obvious—yet the technology exists and the will is there, and I think it's only a matter of time before we become a spacefaring species.

So perhaps it's appropriate that this collection, which has been out of print for several years now, gets a new lease on life. In 1998, I wrote that it was possible that I'd eventually write more stories in the Near-Space series. This has come to pass; as a result, the second edition of Sex and Violence in Zero-G has been expanded to include five stories written in the last decade. I've also revised the timeline in Appendix 1 so that it tells where the various novels and stories of the series occur in the chronology.

I'll never claim that these stories are prophesy. If anything, they represent the work I did in the early years of my career. All things considered, though, I think they've stood up pretty well. As before, I hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as I enjoyed writing them.