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My story “Potosí” recently came out in Analog, and it’s gotten lots of the positive and negative attention that I had hoped it would. In the case of this story, I looked forward to some negative attention, as “Potosí” is a not-so-veiled indictment of the Trumpian worldview, and some readers of science fiction, unfortunately, are also white supremacists. (This is not to say, by the way, that everyone who hated the story is a white supremacist. People could have any number of reasons for disliking the story; however, a few people who hated it had objections which were rooted in a white supremacist worldview).

I’ve also been happy with how the story looks in Analog. Even though the magazine is print-only, it’s still nice in this internet age to see one’s name in print. However, I do have one regret about how the piece looks: my bio was omitted from the end of the story. That’s normally not a big deal at all for me–I suspect the editors left it off for space-saving reasons, and the folks at Analog have done more than just about anyone to promote my work. They were even kind enough to run a full page biosketch on me a couple of years ago. But there was a line in my bio for this story that I really wanted to appear in the magazine. Here is is:

“The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Phil Ekstrom in working out the physics of this story.”

Phil is a friend of mine whose knowledge of physics not only exceeds my own (that’s an exceedingly easy accomplishment), but his knowledge of physics also exceeds my knowledge of any field at all, including writing. He’s a man of great accomplishment in a wide number of fields of physics and engineering; while it’s hardly his greatest achievement, some will recognize his work in the photo below: Phil was one of the people who wired up the young Bill Gates’ and Paul Allen’s first computer.

young gates and allen

A teenage Bill Gates looks to the top of an imagined stack of 100 billion dollar bills –Getty Images

“Potosí” involves a decent amount of classical mechanics–most of the story takes place in the microgravity of a small asteroid being pushed this way and that by space tugs, mass drivers, and the imaginary forces of human greed and anger. I’m reasonably good at describing  the greed and anger part, but I needed a lot of help with the physical forces. I can tell Phil has years of experience explaining things to undergraduates of varying talent; he certainly needed to call on those skills in order to explain my story to me.

The story has some (I hope small) violations of physical laws, where I did a little handwaving in order to accomplish an artistic goal. But to the extent that “Potosí” is any example of hard sci-fi–as opposed to the science fantasy of Star Wars or the kilomoles of handwavium in Star Trek–I have Phil Ekstrom to thank for giving the story some semblance of rigor. Thanks, Phil.