Stories & Stuff


(NOTE: You can follow me on Twitter @ExNASATerry)

I’ve been writing most of my life, starting with a novella my sophmore year of high school–a work that, when one takes into account my young age and total lack of training and experience, might well rank as one of the most horrid pieces of fiction ever written (with the possible exception of this).

I write short fiction in most genres and non-fiction (technical, humor, political, and rants at technology) as the mood strikes. I’ve submitted close to a hundred pieces and some two dozen in both regional and national markets, usually for actual money. I’ve also been a bridesmaid a few times (no, not literally): a finalist in some contests and a couple of Honorable Mentions at Writers of the Future.

Recently, I finished my first novel, Miner Misfortunes, about an aging asteroid miner who discovers that the death of his friend was no accident and through his unauthorized investigation uncovers a conspiracy stretching across the solar system. To find justice, he must incorporate help from his quirky religious roommate, the camp’s beautiful but allegedly gay doctor, and a cat–a bank account busting “gift” from his vindictive ex-wife. Although Miner explores serious themes–technology vs. ecology, the role of religion in science, labor vs. management, and gender roles in an isolated environment–it’s written in a humorous, first-person style rather like Scalzi’s John Perry books or Jim Butcher’s Dresden series.

Here are a few of my sales:

Adrift: In January 2016, I sold a hard science fiction story to Baen books. To quote from Baen’s newsletter:

Adrift, Alone, but Not Afraid!

After three tours working to build satellites in low Earth orbit, Dan Colton knows just how dangerous the vacuum of space can be. He’s got a saying for everything, because when all that stands between you and certain death is the scant protection of an EVA suit, platitudes can save lives. After all, you can never have too much humility in orbit. But when he’s flung kilometers away from the satellite on which he’s working, in a suit with little power and less oxygen, all of the folksy sayings in the world (or out of it) won’t save him. Dan Colton will have to rely on his instincts, his training, and a rookie operator back at the station if he’s going to live to see another day, in this edge-of-your-seat thriller from Terry Burlison. Read “Adrift” here.

Air & Space/Smithsonian Collector’s Edition: Air & Space selected my article, “But That’s Why You Fly,” to reprint in their 2013 Collector’s Edition. The article chronicles my experience as a mission controller for the first space shuttle mission, STS-1, and discusses that flight’s perils and parallels to Columbia‘s final flight.

R.I.P., MOC: This is a non-fiction article I sold to Baen Books. It’s the story of NASA’s Mission Operations Computer and how a machine with less power than some modern wristwatchs once took us to the moon. (I also describe one of my own run-ins with the MOC, and how I crashed Mission Control at a key moment during the Skylab re-entry!) My thanks go out to all the NASA folk who provided such great information, and to NASA Public Affairs for the images.

Here’s an excerpt:

    On a blistering Houston summer day in 2002, a legend of the manned space program retired. The ceremony took place in the Mission Control Center, where the retiree had labored tirelessly for nearly four decades. Few people attended. No cake or ice cream was served, no gold watch or plaque presented. Indeed, most NASA employees took no notice at all, because the retiree wasn’t a person.

    It was a machine.

    For nearly forty years, the Mission Operations Computer was the electronic heart of the MCC. The MOC, or “mock” as it was lovingly (and sometimes not-so-lovingly) called, drove the console displays and indicators, calculated orbits and trajectories, and enabled men and women to fly in space, build space stations, and land on the moon. It was alternately the object of admiration and annoyance, of fondness and frustration, but without it America could not have had a manned space program.

Here are some other space-related articles I’ve sold:

Columbia’s First Victims: The heartbreaking tale of the first people to die aboard the space shuttle Columbia, twenty-two years before she disintegrated re-entering earth’s atmosphere. A story of heroism and sacrifice, it proves that in the world of space exploration, not every hero wears a spacesuit.

Rendezvous: Check out this two-part article describing how to take two massive vehicles traveling at 18,000 mph and bring them together as gently as a bumblebee alighting on a nectar-laden hibiscus. There’s a reason it’s called “rocket science.”

It All Changed in an Instant: I’m proud to say I recently appeared in this New York Times Bestseller, alongside Dave Barry, Amy Tan, and Leonard Nimoy. Between us, we’ve won a Pulitzer Prize, received several Emmy nominations, and sold millions of books. While this wasn’t my wordiest effort, at least the editor didn’t have to cut much.

The Wittenburg Door Magazine, (“The World’s Pretty Much Only Religious Satire Magazine”) published my humorous story, “The Second-Oldest Profession,” about the true origin of the Bible.

Air & Space/Smithsonian: My article, “But That’s Why You Fly,” appeared in the Smithsonian Institute magazine. The article chronicles my experience as a mission controller for the first space shuttle mission, STS-1, and discusses that flight’s perils and parallels to Columbia‘s final flight.

My Op-Ed article, “The True Cost of Exploring Space,” appeared in the Tacoma News Tribune, and again in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Who Died in Here?: My mystery story, “Just Passin’ Through” appeared in the mystery anthology, Who Died in Here? by Penury Press, a story about a young boy who discovers a dead body in the family’s outhouse. The book is also available from Amazon and was distributed to bookstores by Adventure Publications, Baker & Taylor and Ingrams. So feel free to order a couple dozen copies and/or call every bookstore in your state asking for it! This was my second mystery sale. The other was to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine a few years ago.

I am including on this page–absolutely free and at no obligation!–a few samples. Check the sidebar for links.