2023 awards eligibility post

It’s that time of the year again, and this time a great responsibility comes with it: I won’t summarize just my own genre awards-eligible work published in 2023, but most importantly others’ contributions I only helped bring into the world. Life Beyond Us (published on April 22, 2023, by Laksa Media), which I co-edited with Lucas K. Law and Susan Forest, contains 27 original science fiction stories (out of which 26 are short stories, 1 novelette) and 27 essays. [Since I’m not aware of any award category that would need wordcounts for essays, I’m only listing story wordcounts (I’ll amend that if you let me know that essay wordcounts are needed). For practical reasons, I’m listing fiction and essays separately, though each story-essay combination in the book creates a unique pairing.]

All the stories (including the novelette) are eligible for the WSFA Small Press Award, the Eugie Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award and Best Short Fiction category in the BSFA Awards. Some should be eligible for national awards as well (e.g. Ditmar, Aurora, Aurealis, and others), as the contributors hail from all over the world.

Life Beyond Us-related online resources for educators and outreach professionals would be eligible as Best Related work. The first one is here, more are coming soon!

Before we dive into the story and essay lists, let me just point you to this wonderful review of Life Beyond Us in Voice Magazine (reviewed by Mystaya Brémaud) and this amazing booktube review by M. L. Clark on her channel M L Clark: Better Worlds Theory. Both M. L. Clark and Mystaya Brémaud pinpointed the connective tissue of the stories and essays brilliantly, and I hope it’s exactly these topics going through the whole anthology that will inspire readers the most.

Given the importance of its nonfiction pieces, Life Beyond Us as a whole (as well as the individual essays, in principle) is most likely eligible in the Best Related work category of the Hugos. (I’ll check and confirm.) In the Locus Awards, it is of course eligible for Best Anthology.

The wonderful JWST- and Ernst Haeckel-inspired cover art of Life Beyond Us was created by Dan O’Driscoll (and Veronica Annis, the graphic designer, created the final cover design).

Finally, one practical sidenote: I have two stories of my own eligible for awards (in Rosalind’s Siblings and The Digital Aesthete anthologies). I’m listing them below the Life Beyond Us contributions, so please scroll all the way down to see those + related work and assorted musings.

LIFE BEYOND US SHORT STORIES (numbers = wordcounts)

“Hemlock on Mars”, Eric Choi: 5998
“The Dog Star Killer”, Renan Bernardo: 6045
“Titan of Chaos”, G. David Nordley: 5945
“Cloudskimmer”, Geoffrey A. Landis: 4856
“The Lament of Kivu Lacus”, B. Zelkovich: 4180
“Heavy Lies”, Rich Larson: 2971
“The World of Silver”, Tomáš Petrásek: 5343
“Spider Plant”, Tessa Fisher: 6037
“This is How We Save Them”, Deji Bryce Olukotun: 5794
“The Far Side of the Door”, Premee Mohamed: 5189
“Ranya’s Crash”, Lisa Jenny Krieg (translated by Simone Heller): 5773
“Spiral”, Arula Ratnakar: 3997
“The Last Cathedral of Earth, in Flight”, Tobias S. Buckell: 6033
“The Secret History of the Greatest Discovery”, Valentin D. Ivanov: 5624
“Human Beans”, Eugen Bacon: 5220
“The Mirrored Symphony”, D.A. Xiaolin Spires: 5486
“Lumenfabulator”, Liu Yang (translated by Ladon Gao): 850
“Cyclic Amplification, Meaning Family”, Bogi Takács: 5467
“The Diaphanous”, Gregory Benford: 5998
“The Sphinx of Adzhimushkaj”, Brian Rappatta: 4843
“The Dangers We Choose”, Malka Older: 5343
“Third Life”, Julie E. Czerneda: 2515
“Forever the Forest”, Simone Heller: 5035
“Still as Bright”, Mary Robinette Kowal: 4115
“Devil in the Deep”, Lucie Lukačovičová: 5629
“Deep Blue Neon”, Jana Bianchi: 3965


“Defective”, Peter Watts: 8369


“Introduction”, Stephen Baxter
“Planetary Protection”, Giovanni Poggiali
“That Cold Black Cloud”, Stefano Sandrelli
“Flying Instead of Diving”, Fabian Klenner
“Earth’s Sister Planet”, Dennis Höning
“Robots in Space are Great”, Ania Losiak
“Major Transitions”, Stephen Francis Mann
“Wet Wet Wet”, William Bains
“Signs of Life (and How to Find Them)”, Tessa Fisher
“Valuing Life”, Erik Persson
“Space Agriculture”, Raymond M. Wheeler
“You are not Alone!”, Jacques Arnould
“Spiraling into the Unknown”, Tomáš Petrásek
“The Latest Black Hole Planet, in Formation”, Amedeo Romagnolo
“Cooperation without Communication”, Valentin D. Ivanov
“Microbial Life and Belonging”, Tony Milligan
“Mirror Images”, Dimitra Demertzi
“Crystal Green Persuasion”, Nina Kopacz
“The Science of Xenolinguistics”, Sheri Wells-Jensen
“Life 2.0”, Geoffrey A. Landis
“Finding Common Ground”, Philippe Nauny
“How did They Know it was Agni?”, Joanna Piotrowska
“The Habitability of Water Worlds”, Floris van der Tak
“The Unveiled Possibilities of Biomaterials in Space”, Martina Dimoska
“Astra Narrans”, Connor Martini
“—And the Moon be Still as Bright”, José A. Caballero
“Some Like It Hot”, Natuschka Lee & Julie Nováková
“Destined for Symbiosis”, Jan Toman

I introduced each story-essay pair on Twitter (yeah, I know… but it will always remain Twitter to me, and most of the posts appeared before the catastrophic buyout of the platform), and you can find them using the hashtag #LifeBeyondUs.


I published two of my own original short stories in 2023: “Cavern of Dreams” (6630 words) in Rosalind’s Siblings (ed. Bogi Takács), and “The Forms of Things Unknown” (7213 words) in The Digital Aesthete (ed. Alex Shvartsman; coming in just two days from now!).

I also have two new nonfiction pieces in Clarkesworld: “Life Without Water, and Where to Find It“, and “Radiation Biology: Beyond the Godzilla Trope“.

In addition, my co-editors Lucas K. Law and Susan Forest, as well as myself, are eligible for Best Editor (Short Form). Each of us edited or co-edited at least four genre anthologies (in my case, not all of them in English, but that’s not against the rules). I’m still very junior and more active as an author than an editor, though Life Beyond Us is my dream project.

Lucas is the main force behind Laksa Media, which published a number of amazing anthologies such as Where The Stars Rise or Shades Within Us (and helped an important cause with each of the books, making them even more amazing), so I suggest you vote for him if you liked the books! All the hard work behind them – editorial and publishing and marketing – makes him a perfect candidate.

It was my honor to work with so many wonderful contributors (in all capacities) of Life Beyond Us, as well as to contribute to other anthologies. I’m looking forward to what 2024 brings!

Life Beyond Us reviews coming in!

It’s been less than a week since Life Beyond Us has been published, but the reviews are coming in – and they are stellar (pun intended)!

Fierce and imaginative.

– Aimee Jodoin, Foreword Reviews

An outstanding collection emphasizing the hard science behind science fiction.

– John Mauro, Grimdark Magazine

A particular treat for hard SF fans.

Publishers Weekly

We wrote more about the inspiration for the anthology and themes connecting the stories for John Scalzi’s Big Idea column and Mary Robinette Kowal’s Favorite Bit column. Finally, we were happy to present the book at ComicCon Prague (picture below), and we’re going to the Biennial European Astrobiology Conference (José A. Caballero, Dennis Höning, Nina Kopacz, Erik Persson; remotely Julie Nováková) and MetropolCon Berlin (Simone Heller, Mary Robinette Kowal, Lisa Jenny Krieg, Lucie Lukačovičová, Julie Nováková) next!

Get the book here.

Life Beyond Us is coming on Earth Day!

Good news, everyone! Life Beyond Us is officially getting published on April 22 (Earth Day).

Cover for the official release of Life Beyond Us.

582 pages. 27 stories. 27 essays. Honestly, I didn’t expect it to be so enormous when I first conceived the project; it just grew under our hands – and it grew into beauty.

Life Beyond Us can already be pre-ordered on Amazon and has its Goodreads page (where the first reviews from those who’d received advance reading copies might appear soon). If you are a reviewer, a booktuber, a science journalist, etc., don’t hesitate to reach out to me for an advance reading copy.

There are going to be book launches, readings and other events – more about them soon. You can already tune in to the first one next week: Draxtor’s Second Life Book Club on January 18, at 9 p.m. Central European Time (noon Pacific Time). You can also watch the stream on YouTube. I’ll be there together with several authors – Lucie Lukačovičová, D.A. Xiaolin Spires and Peter Watts should be present – discussing the anthology with the show’s stellar moderator and mastermind Bernhard “Draxtor” Drax.


Two years.

I contacted Lucas K. Law from Laksa Media Groups, whom I knew as author from one of his previous anthologies, in late December 2020, encouraged to pursue my idea by the positive reception of Strangest of All, which served as a proof of concept of an anthology combining SF stories and science essays following up on those stories. Lucas liked the plan and immediately began to improve upon it, we exchanged ideas, chiseled it, began contacting authors… Then it was time to prepare the Kickstarter campaign, run it, which was a job in itself, then hold the open submissions period (with a few hundred stories to read), start editing the arriving stories, start sorting out and editing the essays, go through further rounds of editing and proofreading, fulfill some of the rewards for the backers in the meantime, sort out all the administrative and financial stuff, start writing up online materials for educators to accompany the book, start planning events… It’s been crazy two years. I have scarcely written anything of mine, although I did translate two novels from English to Czech in the meantime, published one more paper for my PhD and wrote quite a few nonfiction articles.

Still; two years. And it’s not over; an important part of the work only starts once a book is published. So, if you like the idea, if you are curious about the book, spread the word. It’s greatly appreciated.

It’s one huge, huge book. And, hopefully, it might inspire some huge ideas.

Worldcon schedule

Chicon 2022, this year’s Worldcon, starts in a few days! I’m attending a few online panels of the hybrid-run convention – here’s my schedule. We’ll be talking planetary science (ever wondered about those single-biome planets?) and translations (not only) to and from Polish (if you wondered – no, I don’t speak Polish, but a few of us non-Pole central and Eastern-Europeans were asked to join to extend the perspective, facilitate comparison, and also – it’s not just only about translations from Polish into English, and Polish authors are quite popular in Czech translation). I also have a reading scheduled on Sunday, where I’ll be reading from my story collection The Ship Whisperer.

See you in Leiden and Lisbon

After more than two years of online-only talks, I’m back in live programming, starting with moderating the session “To Mars and Beyond” at ESOF2022 on July 14, at 2.15 p.m., in Leiden, Netherlands. Together with astrobiologist Barbara Cavalazzi, planetary geologist Angelo Pio Rossi and ESA’s Senior Strategy Officer Stefaan de Mey, we’ll discuss the future of robotic and crewed Mars exploration. Thanks to Europlanet for giving me the opportunity to engage in ESOF!

It’s also my honor to be the Guest of Honor at this year’s Fórum Fantástico (September 30 – October 2, 2022) in Lisbon, Portugal. There are going to be talks and discussions, readings, an RPG based on my story “Martian Fever”, and possibly more; stay tuned! I’m deeply grateful to the organizers for inviting me.

Needless to say, after two and half years of not traveling anywhere, I’m somewhat nervous; especially as airlines have dropped mask mandates, and as EMA hasn’t certified covid vaccines for children under five yet, so the kids won’t yet be vaccinated before flying to Leiden. Last year, given the relatively fast rollouts for older age groups and data for small children awaited by the end of the year, I expected them to be fully vaccinated by the end of winter… ‘Hoping for the best’ is really not a solution I like, but with no mask mandates, it’s what we’re left with for the first trip. Going alone, though, is not an option with a very attached breastfed child; there is a sense of trepidation as well as very much looking forward to finally showing a small piece of the world to the children. Last time I visited the Netherlands, I was one of the recipients of ESA’s scholarship to attend the IAC, based in Guadalajara that year. Before flying to Mexico as a group of all the awarded students, we each flew to the Netherlands, so I spent a few hours strolling around Leiden before catching the bus to Katwijk. This time, the children will be able to see the beautiful Dutch sceneries. And Lisbon? Can’t wait to explore the city and its surroundings such as Sintra!

2021 award eligibility post

It’s that time of the year again. You know, the one when 22,000 people a day test covid-positive in a 10-million country that does not do enough testing and where far too many people remain (and worse, want to remain) unvaccinated —

Oh, wait – that too, but it’s the time of the year for award eligibility posts. Right. Somewhat more enjoyable.

I spent most of the year working on Life Beyond Us – first getting everything ready together with my co-editors Lucas K. Law and Susan Forest, soliciting authors, preparing and leading the Kickstarter campaign… Then came the open submissions period and 250 stories to read, two to pick, and as the deadline for stories approaches, there’s more editing to do. Which is all leading to the question: Wait, how the heck did I only publish a single piece of new fiction this year?!

My futuristic steampunk novella “Aeronauts of Aura” (finally) appeared in Ares Magazine earlier this year, after several years’ waiting.

I did also publish a translation: “An Instance” by Mlok 5, published in Clarkesworld. Go read the story if you haven’t yet, seriously. You might never look at your search engine the same way again. It’s brilliant.

Apart from that, my AI story “Goal Invariance Under Radical Self-Modification” was reprinted in European Science Fiction #1: Knowing the Neighbours (ed. Francesco Verso). I wrote two articles for Clarkesworld, on the trouble with identifying potential alien life and on life under high pressure. One more, about habitability of worlds orbiting red dwarfs, will likely yet appear there. Plus my short piece about Czech speculative fiction is going to appear in Rachel Cordasco’s ambitious volume Out of This World.

I did a number of interviews, mostly in Czech, but this one is in English. I also created a simple board game addition to this outreach comics about the geomagnetic field.

I have also just signed two contracts, one for new fiction and one for a reprint, for two extremely interesting international SFF projects – coming in 2022.

Most of all, I hope for the next year to be more bearable for everyone; for the pandemic to be finally contained worldwide; for more action to be taken in making sure our future is not a bleak one… Personally, SFF-wise, it’s going to be the publication year of Life Beyond Us – yay! Looking forward to that immensely. More news soon…

Life Beyond Us has funded!

I’m happy to announce that Life Beyond Us, the anthology of astrobiology-themed SF stories accompanied by science essays we’re preparing at the European Astrobiology Institute and Laksa Media, has not only funded, but also reached the first two stretch goals already! There are still almost two days to go to potentially reach the third – an open submissions period for two slots in the anthology. Even without it, there are going to be 26 stories and 26 essays in the book. It’s going to be a big one – and a brilliant, inspiring and thought-provoking one, we hope!

‘Life Beyond Us’ interview: Julie E. Czerneda

Life Beyond Us is an anthology of astrobiology-themed original SF stories by 22 amazing authors of SF and accompanying essays by 22 scientists. The Kickstarter for the book is running right now, and I’ll be bringing you short interviews with each of the story authors. Today, please welcome Julie E. Czerneda!

Which branch of science fascinated you the most as a kid or teenager? And now?

When I was young, everything about biology and space was a passion. I dreamed of being the first biology in space, perhaps even deciphering an alien language. I went into university to do a joint biology/physics degree, and signed up for ground school, calculating that combination might get me into space. In grad studies, I continued my passion for how living things interact, researching chemical communication. And wrote SF in my spare time, so honestly? The dream kept going.

Can you hint at what’s your story going to be about?

Though this is preliminary, I enjoy examining first contact where the crucial piece of the puzzle is a difference in sensory perception.

Is there any place in the universe you’d love to see – where and why?

While I’ll always be deeply interested in space exploration, there’s still so much to see first hand on this planet, especially for a biologist, but also to see people as well.

What one technology today you can’t live without? Why?

“Can’t” would include modern medicine, food and energy production, shipping, etc. “won’t” is more within my grasp. We definitely shopped for our latest home based on where we could get high speed internet. To be connected these days is vital.

What do you see as the greatest scientific challenge of our time, and how can (or should) science fiction reflect that?

Climate change, more specially learning to live well on this planet, protecting the biodiversity on which all life depends. Science fiction abundantly addresses this and has for a long time. I do like work that pushes toward a sustainable, desirable future. I’ve no patience for apocalypse.

Why do you write science fiction?

Because the experiments and ideas that interest me most are either too difficult, too dangerous, or too immoral to actually conduct in real life. I wouldn’t, for example, destroy planets to illustrate the urgency of protecting life on this one. I can, and have, speculated on that imperative. I also can play with “what ifs” predicated on contacting other intelligences and build societies based on differences in biology. Which is great fun, believe me.


Julie E. Czerneda is a biologist and author of over 20 novels published by DAW Books: the Web Shifter’s Library series and other books. Her science fiction draws from and investigates the natural world, including us. Twitter: @julieczerneda


If you liked this interview, please check out the Kickstarter for Life Beyond Us!

‘Life Beyond Us’ interview: Premee Mohamed

Life Beyond Us is an anthology of astrobiology-themed original SF stories by 22 amazing authors of SF and accompanying essays by 22 scientists. The Kickstarter for the book is running right now, and I’ll be bringing you short interviews with each of the story authors. Today, please welcome Premee Mohamed!

What comes to your mind first when you say “astrobiology”?

When I hear ‘astrobiology’ I’m afraid I think of science fiction before I think of science! I think of worlds where life forms have already been discovered and maybe studied or interacted with, not our current reality of ‘well we’ve received and analyzed signatures of some molecules that are useful for life on Earth that are coming from non-Earth places, but we don’t know what generated them or how.’ I also think of the books in my school library that had these models of life that might exist on other planets: ocean worlds, ice worlds, high-gravity worlds, and so on. I still think of those when I write sci-fi: how does where the action is set affect what happens, what choices are made, and what timelines things can happen on? How can we proceed using Earth life forms as a model, when life on other planets is very likely to not follow an Earth-like biological framework in many (or most!) respects? There’s so much we don’t know.

Can you hint at what’s your story going to be about?

Is ‘hubris’ a long enough answer? I think a good hint would be: When humanity eventually goes into space with the intent to settle in permanent habitats, I’m sure that, despite our greater scientific and technical knowledge, we will make the same mistakes that colonizers have made throughout history: misunderstanding, dismissing, and underestimating the life forms that have evolved before we got there.

Is there any place in the universe you’d love to see – where and why?

I’m actually researching lava lakes right now (of which Earth has disappointingly few) so my first thought was, I’d like to see 55 Cancri e! It’s a little ball of rock so close to its star that it’s entirely melted, and so would be lava on one side and rock on the other, and since it’s carbon-rich, there literally might be a layer of diamond inside it. (I don’t want to land there, I just want to look!) I also thought about some places closer to home – I’d love to see what’s under the clouds in Venus (without dying, I mean) and I want to do research on Europa and Enceladus and Mars. But it’s hard to resist the visual appeal of a flying lava sphere!

Why do you write science fiction?

I think when I set out to write science fiction, I’m trying to stretch out the scope of unintended consequences. All my favourite sci-fi (in which the sci-fi technology or premise forms part of the plot rather than just the setting) is about people creating something that they intend to be beneficial, and having it go wrong. I want to delve into what it means to ‘go wrong’ though. For who, when, how, under what conditions? What are the consequences? Are they evenly distributed? Is it a technology that only negatively affects poor people, or people in a certain area, or of a certain gender, or with children, or with certain jobs or disabilities or other circumstances? If it’s still going ‘right’ for some people, what are the conditions that makes that the case? And best of all, are there ways to correct what’s ‘going wrong’ and make the technology beneficial for everyone? How do people fight back, what do they use, how do they organize? Sci-fi is an unparalleled venue to explore how we’re dealing with the intersection of science and society now, and describe the possibilities for a future that could really exist.


Premee Mohamed is an Indo-Caribbean scientist and speculative fiction author based in Edmonton, Alberta. She is the author of novels Beneath the Rising (2020) and A Broken Darkness (2021), and novellas ‘These Lifeless Things’ (2021), ‘And What Can We Offer You Tonight’ (2021), and ‘The Annual Migration of Clouds’ (2021). Her short fiction has appeared in a variety of venues. Twitter: @premeesaurus


If you liked this interview, please check out the Kickstarter for Life Beyond Us!

Life Beyond Us awaits!

I’m happy to announce that on today’s big 60th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s historic flight, we launched a Kickstarter for Life Beyond Us, an anthology of 22 original astrobiological stories by award-winning authors and essays by scientists active in astrobiology! So – please spread the word and help yourself and others enjoy the science-fictional and scientific visions of astonishing life on and beyond Earth!

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