Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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Issue 4
Tabloid Reporter To The Stars
by Eric James Stone
by Ada Brown
Call Me Mr. Positive
by Tom Barlow
Beats of Seven
by Peter Orullian
Approaching Zero
by Kelly Parks
by Peter Friend
Moon-Eyed Stud
by Justin Stanchfield
From the Ender Saga
A Young Man with Prospects
by Orson Scott Card
Tales for the Young and Unafraid
Just Like Me
by David Lubar
Big Otto's Casino
by David Lubar
Special Software Bonus
I-Wei's Amazing Clocks
by I-Wei Huang

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Tabloid Reporter to the Stars
    by Eric James Stone
Tabloid Reporter to the Stars
Artwork by Tomislav Tikulin

When I was fired after ten years as a science reporter for the New York Times, the editor told me I'd never get a job with a decent paper again. He was right, at first: no one wanted to hire a reporter who had taken bribes to write a series of articles about a non-existent technology in order to inflate the value of a company being used in a stock swindle -- even if I had managed to get off without serving time.

And that's the only reason I took the job with the Midnight Observer tabloid. They didn't care that I'd made up a news story -- they were impressed that I'd managed to write something that had fooled experts for over a year. So began my new career under the pseudonym of Dr. Lance Jorgensen. The doctorate was phony, of course, and I never did decide what it was in. I worked that gig for three years before I caught the break that let me get back into real journalism.

When the United Nations Space Agency decided to hold a lottery to choose a reporter to travel on board the first interstellar ship, they set strict qualifications: a college degree in journalism, at least five years of experience as a science reporter, and current employment with a periodical or news show with circulation or viewership of at least one million.

Technically, I qualified. So I entered. And a random number generator on an UNSA computer picked my number.

Less than five minutes after UNSA announced the crew of the Starfarer I, including yours truly as the only journalist, the calls began. The first was from my old editor at the Times. He wanted me back on an exclusive basis -- I could name my own price. I'll admit I was bitter: I told him my price was full ownership of the paper, and that I'd fire him as soon as I had it. He sputtered; I hung up.

By the end of that week, I had a TV deal with CNN and a print/web deal with the Washington Post. And so, without a gram of regret, Dr. Lance Jorgensen gave the Midnight Observer his two weeks' notice. I was once again Lawrence Jensen, science reporter.

A lot of journalists squawked that I didn't deserve to be on the mission because of my scrape with the law, even if I had managed to avoid a conviction by turning state's evidence. But the rules were on my side for a change: my degree from the Columbia School of Journalism, my experience at the Times, and the Midnight Observer's seven-million-plus circulation fit the letter, if not the spirit, of the rules. Despite their fervent wishes, I made it through spaceflight training without a hitch, and proudly boarded the Starfarer as the world looked on.

This mission was my chance for redemption. I'd made one big mistake, and I planned to make up for it with accurate, well-written science reporting that made the wonders of space travel understandable to everyone. I had loved science since I was a kid; if I'd had the brains to do the math I might have chosen a career as a scientist instead of a reporter. Reporting this mission was my dream job, and I was determined not to mess things up.

The day we launched, the Midnight Observer ran a cover story claiming that I had been selected for this mission because while working undercover for them I had already met the aliens the Starfarer would encounter, and they had requested that I serve as Earth's ambassador. They had even 'shopped a picture of me shaking hands with a stereotypical short, gray, bald, bulge-headed alien.

During all two hundred and twenty-three days of hyperspace travel, my crewmates refused to let me live that down.

Fortunately, when we found the aliens, they didn't look anything like that picture.

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