Volume 15, Number 04, Fall, 1997

Victor Koman's 1997 Prometheus Award Acceptance Speech

Thank you for this third Prometheus Award. My daughter tells me that I can now take up juggling [Audience member: "This is where you say 'They like me, they really like me."']

This third award shows that you really like my work. I think it's fitting that Kings of the High Frontier should receive the Prometheus Award in San Antonio, a few steps away from the Alamo. As you can tell by the hat I'm wearing I am a fan of Davy Crockett, and wrote his great-great-great-great-great grand nephew into the novel as a main character, if not the lead. In an earlier version of the novel, which was actually a screenplay, they landed on an asteroid which they named New Texas, so it is a pleasure to come here in my coonskin cap and visit the Alamo in the great Republic of Texas.

A River Walk tour guide proudly pointed out that the flag of Texas is the only flag that does not hang any lower than the US flag because Texans did not request federal assistance in its war for independence. He also noted that Texas can secede from the Union any time it chooses to. I personally hope to see a new age of secession in my life. If not, well, there's plenty of planets and asteroids out there.

Kings of the High Frontier has been part of my life for as long as I have been aware. When I was a kid, I marveled at the idea in Heinlein's novels and such movies as Destination Moon and When Worlds Collide—that private funding could get us into space. As a child growing up with NASA'S space program, I saw that it took a lot of people, facilities, and money to get one, two, or three men-and I mean men—into orbit or to the Moon. No families in space, lost or otherwise.

There had to be a simpler way. Heinlein wouldn't have lied to me!

I stopped being a NASA fan when they canceled the Moon flights in December of 1972. And I became an enemy of NASA when Skylab-a better space station than MIR would ever be—was allowed to disintegrate into scrap.

I felt that I was not alone in this rage. I felt that there must have been others who loved space but despised or even hated the space program. What if some of them, I thought, had worked for NASA and they took their expertise with them into a sort of Space Underground. What if NASA tried to stop them? We've recently heard about the Mars Underground, but this idea occurred to me two decades ago.

In the summer of 1976, I started work on a novel entitled Hidden Millions. The title suggested both the laundered money that might flow into such a venture, but also the millions of people in the counter economy who might be involved knowingly or unknowingly in the effort.

Suffice it to say that my abilities as a writer at the time were raw back then and I shelved the 80 pages of the manuscript and concentrated on projects more appropriate to my skills, such as Saucer Sluts. It was in 1985 that I began to research a sequel to a screenplay I had written called Firescar (never produced, but a concept in the script—using high-tech oil drills to pierce the Mohorovicic Discontinuity in order to set off a stolen H-bomb and activate a volcano—was used in the recent hilarious spy satire Austin Powers. I called it Huntress, but at that time The Jehovah Contract was about to be published in the US and I only made some mental notes.

Then Challenger fell. And you note that I say "fell" and not "exploded." As we know now, the tank ruptured, but the spacecraft was not incinerated.

Shock turned to sorrow and almost immediately to rage. NASA and Morton Thiokol had killed seven astronauts and destroyed one fourth of Earth's space fleet. I knew that—by then—the scales must have fallen from the eyes of others both outside and inside NASA. After a brief year's detour to write Solomon's Knife, I began on the Dante-esque journey that was Kings of the High Frontier. Six years of my life went into researching, and writing the novel, and another four years spent in abortive attempts to find a "sci-fi" publisher who would deign to publish it. I won't name the two different editors who strung me along for three yeas each. Suffice to say that both claimed to want to buy the book but suffered from debilitating commitment issues.

I won't chronicle what my family went through because of New York publishing's chronic indecision. Those of you who know me personally know the price my wife and daughter paid for the dubious privilege of having a writer in the household. It was not until 1995 that the eminent author and Prometheus Award winners J. Neil Schulman offered me a way out when he approached me with the idea of putting the novel on the World Wide Web.

He and I had been involved in a previous electronic publishing venture called SoftServ, which received some notice and mild success. It was only with the advent of the Web, though, that the full advantages of Paperless Books™ became obvious.

It didn't matter to Pulpless.com™ that my novel was 228,000 words long. Neil didn't have to buy paper or glue or ink, or pay for typesetting or arrange for warehousing or shipping. He wasn't concerned that I had several full-color illustrations—he didn't have to shoot plates or pay for color proofs. He simply had to come up with a way to allow people to buy a copy of the book over the Internet and receive it immediately. And the proof that he did is in my hands in the form of this award.

With Neil's help—and that of Samuel Edward Konkin III and Kent Hastings—I was able to do what no billion-dollar New York publisher was able to do: bring to the world a novel of rage and hope, and a book that I pray will inspire young readers to find a way to get us off this dirt ball and onward to our manifest destiny among the stars.

I could not have done this without the help of Neil, Sam, and Kent, nor that of Brad Linaweaver, who has boosted this book everywhere, even to the point of throwing his baby Sliders: The Novel onto the sacrificial altar. Rocket scientists Tom Brosz and Gary Hudson provided lots of information, and editors Richard Kyle and Anders Monsen helped immensely. Charles de Lint's trailblazing review in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction provided the novel with the mantle of literary acceptability that allows it to be viewed as something more than a curiosity. And I thank Claire Wolfe and Jim Davidson for their excellent in-movement reviews, as well as Neil Smith for his vocal defense of the novel in a public forum.

Most of all, I could never have gotten this far without the love and support of my loyal and steadfast Princess and Queen of the High Frontier: my daughter Vanessa and my wife Veronica.

I prize this award more than I would a Hugo or a Nebula…because it's real money! No—I treasure this honor because it means that the people whose thinking will guide the next millennium acknowledge that I have been true to my values and consistent in my philosophy in a way that can touch others. You have graced me with this award three times now, so I say to a1l of you, thank you, thank you, and thank you.

Victor Koman's Prometheus Award-winning novel, Kings of the High Frontier, is available only at www.pulpless.com.

A new novel by Koman will be published in March, 1998. Millenium: Weeds, is a novelization set in the world of the Fox TV show, Millenium.

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