From Here To Infinity with Jonathan Strahan

Bridging Infinity Cover

By Carl Slaughter: Prolific and award-winning anthology editor Jonathan Strahan continues his Infinity Project.  Engineering Infinity, Edge of Infinity, Reach for Infinity, and Meeting Infinity were followed by Bridging Infinity this past November. Infinity Wars is due out in September 2017 and Infinity’s End in 2018.

The series emphasizes hard science, grand scale science, and far-fetched science.

“Bridging Infinity puts humanity at the heart of these vast undertakings – as builder, as engineer, as adventurer – reimagining and rebuilding the world, the solar system, and even the entire universe.”


  • Sixteen Questions for Kamala Chatterjee, by Alastair Reynolds
  • Six Degrees of Separation Freedom, by Pat Cadigan
  • The Venus Generations, by Stephen Baxter
  • Rager in Space, by Charlie Jane Anders
  • The Mighty Slinger, by Tobias Buckell & Karen Lord
  • Ozymandias, by Karin Lowachee
  • The City’s Edge, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • Mice Among Elephants, by Gregory Benford & Larry Niven
  • Parables of Infinity, by Robert Reed
  • Monuments, by Pamela Sargent
  • Apache Charley and the Pentagons of Hex, by Allen Steele
  • Cold Comfort, by Pat Murphy & Paul Doherty
  • Travelling into Nothing, by An Owomoyela
  • Induction, by Thoraiya Dyer
  • Seven Birthdays, by Ken Liu

On his Coode Street blog last November, Strahan ran a series of brief interviews with many of Bridging Infinity’s authors. Here are some excerpts, with links to the complete posts.

Alastair Reynolds on “Sixteen Questions for Kamala Chatterjee”: “My story deals with a far-future engineering project to drill down into the Sun, for reasons that are explained in the story. But the story has its basis in the present, as the central protagonist is an Indian scientist who makes a critical discovery during her thesis work.  wanted to keep very literally to the theme of “bridging”, and that meant some sort of physical structure connecting two points. I kept coming back to James Blish’s short story “The Bridge” about a vast engineering project on (or in) Jupiter, but I wanted to go beyond that to something truly nuts, but just about feasible at the extreme range of present speculation. I wanted to keep away from space elevators and wormholes! I’d read about the solar heliospheric oscillations during my own degree work, and it had always struck with me that there’s a lot we still don’t know about the interior life of stars. I also did some sniffing around about very high temperature materials, and found that creating an alloy that could survive on the surface of the Sun isn’t as mad as it sounds. The other inspiration for the story was drawing a parallel between the sometimes stressful business of defending your thesis work, and an actual interrogation.”

Charlie Jane Anders on “Rager in Space”:  “Rager in Space is about peer pressure, and that moment when you realize that maybe you’ve outgrown your best friend. Sion and D-Mei have been inseparable since they were kids, and they’re unrepentant party girls in a world where artificial intelligence failed for some reason that nobody understands.  It’s a sad sort of world where nothing quite works, because the computers tend to go on the fritz whenever you need them. But then Sion gets an invite to go into deep space on the first interstellar spaceship, which is basically one big party bus in space. And then she discovers the reason why the Singularity (that moment where computers become smarter than us) never lived up to its promise.  I had been tinkering with this story for a couple years, actually. I was interested in the idea of a couple of party girls going into space and maybe meeting aliens. For a while the story was called “YOLO,” which was absurdly dated even when I started writing it. It didn’t really click for me until I wrote the flashback to Sion’s childhood, where she’s struggling with the fallout from the failed Singularity and then D-Mei comes to her rescue. That made this into much more of a story about a weird friendship. And then I got obsessed with building out the spaceship and the A.I. politics and everything else.”

Pat Murphy and Paul Doherty on “Cold Comfort”Pat Murphy: “If you crack the ice on the right Arctic lake and toss in a match, you can set off a methane flare.  That’s not fiction. It’s true. And that’s what inspired the story. (If you doubt me, search “methane lake” on YouTube, and you’ll find videos of Katey Anthony, a University of Alaska professor, demonstrating the technique.)  The Arctic is warming because of global climate change. As it warms, the permafrost is melting. As the permafrost melts, it releases methane, which bubble up in Arctic lakes.  And here’s the nasty bit: methane is a greenhouse gas that’s even more powerful than carbon dioxide. More methane means more warming, and that meant more permafrost melting, which means more methane and more warming…and so on in a positive feedback loop with negative consequences.  When Jonathan Strahan asked for a story about a super-engineering project, the melting permafrost was on my mind. My friend Paul Doherty and I had recently written about the permafrost and a (real life) project called Pleistocene Park for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. So I enlisted Paul in the creation of a project to save the world from the feedback loop of the melting permafrost. Of course, we started with an exploding lake.”

Paul Doherty: “I have real life engineering friends who are creating the fundamental science behind what might turn into huge engineering projects to help save us from the arctic methane problem. I used their discussions together with my experience working with the scientists, managers, engineers, and crazed artists  at McMurdo Station Antarctica to inspire our story line and more importantly paint a picture of the personalities of the people in our story.”

Pamela Sargent on “Monuments”: “My home town of Albany, capital of the state and a city much changed by the construction of the Empire State Plaza under then – Governor Nelson Rockefeller, an exercise in grandiose architecture and megalomania that cost 2 billion dollars and was the largest government complex ever built in North America.  The project began in 1965, disrupted the downtown for years, dislocated thousands of people and destroyed an entire area of the city. ‘Aggressively modernist’ is a polite way to describe this marble and stone plaza, which looks like it could have been designed by Albert Speer. One of my brothers worked on one of the Plaza’s construction crews, and people here are still arguing, fifty years later, about whether the Empire State Plaza vastly improved our city or destroyed much of its old, essential character.”

Gregory Benford and Larry Niven — “Mice Among Elephants”Gregory Benford: “Larry Niven and I wrote Mice Among Elephants’ because the recent LIGO discovery of gravitational waves excited our interest. We had set up in our two previous novels together, Bowl of Heaven and Shipstar, a mystery about the target star of an interstellar starship, Glory. Glory seemed to be a normal solar system – so how did radiate such powerful gravitational waves?  As a gravitational wave moves through space, one transverse direction stretches space-time itself, while in the other direction, space-time compresses. But gravitational waves are very weak – so how to make them, short of using masses greater than stars’?  So the humans venture near and find a small system of black holes. The key is that orbiting black holes, carrying the mass of Earth itself, are still only millimeters in size. They can orbit in small spaces. And inside that volume, the black holes don’t have to follow nice, orderly orbits like the planets we know.  Instead, gravitational effects in strong fields (for which you need General Relativity) lead to orbits that can wrap in close, then speed out—whirl and zoom orbits, physicists call them.  Not your mother’s good ol’ ellipse!”

Karen Lord and Tobias Buckell on “The Mighty Slinger”: “We wanted to tell an unapologetically Caribbean story, no explanations, no watering-down. People from small nations often travel far for work and get overlooked by large corporate and political interests. We made them the heroes that saved and mended our broken, used-up Earth when no-one else was willing to give it a chance.  A little bit of history, a little bit of now. There’s a hint of the building of the Panama Canal in there (many West Indians were part of that), and the tradition of sociopolitical commentary in kaiso goes back for generations and remains strong.  And the in-crowd knows that The Mighty Sparrow’s real name is Slinger Francisco. Our protagonist’s name is a nod to that. The people who travel to labor bring their memories and culture with them, so we wanted to show a future where diaspora continued and how vibrant it was.”

Ken Liu on “Seven Birthdays”: “My story starts out as a ‘climate change’ geo-engineering story based on ideas circulating in the scientific community but soon veers in an unexpected direction. It explores themes of family, our post-human essence, and the weight of history, which are close to my heart. But best of all, it features multiple ‘kites’ at astronomical scales. Who doesn’t like kites?  I wanted to take the idea of mega-engineering and scale it up to be as grand as I can imagine and still be (theoretically) possible. To tell a story at an epic scale within the compact space of a short story is a challenge I enjoy.”

Stephen Baxter on “The Venus Generations”: “Venus ought to be a twin of Earth. Instead, a little too close to the sun, a runaway greenhouse effect long ago removed all the water and covered it in an atmosphere as thick as an ocean. Even compared to Mars it’s a massive challenge to terraform – but a few thousand years from now a dynasty of engineers attempts it anyway, with disastrous personal results.  It’s set in my ‘Xeelee Sequence’ future history, in which I’m working on new novels. That sort of project generates its own ideas. I have a useful Venus in the far future; how did it get that way?”

Allen M. Steele on “Apache Charley and the Pentagons of Hex”: “’Apache Charley and the Pentagons of Hex’ is set in the expanded universe of the Coyote series, which are novels and stories that take place elsewhere in the galaxy besides the 47 Ursae Majoris system but share the same background. In this instance, it’s a story taking place on Hex, a not-quite Dyson sphere that I previously explored in a novel of the same title.  After Hex was published, a couple of readers pointed out a design flaw in my not-quite Dyson sphere: a sphere comprised if trillions of hexagons (i.e. six-sided circles) would need a few pentagons (i.e. eight-sided circles) here and there in order for the whole thing to fit together, even if the sphere is 2 a.u. in diameter. One of these readers, a fellow I met at a SF convention, then told me exactly where those pentagons would geometrically be located, and this intrigued me. What if someone noticed these locations, thought there was something special about them, and went out to discover what it was?”

Karin Lowachee on “Ozymandias”:  “The concept of the anthology intrigued me, but to be honest I cycled through a handful of ideas before settling on the one that became Ozymandias. The title refers to the sonnet by Percy Bysshe Shelley, one of my favorites since I was young, because of the theme of inevitable collapse or destruction that follows some great creation. At the center of the story is a n’er-do-well named Luis Estrada and the AI SIFU who occupy a giant “light station” in space, which is essentially like a lighthouse in the cosmos, albeit military owned. Hijinks ensue.  I thought of the enormity and isolation of something that would essentially be a beacon and replenishment depot for military convoys in space. It would be mostly run by an AI, but for redundancy purposes, entail a human live-in engineer. As Luis came alive on the page, I realized I wanted a more light-hearted approach – a character who is not in awe of any feat of engineering, but would rather just make a buck. He would be the perfect point-of-view to kind of de-romanticize these massive creations that humanity tends to take such pride in. I wanted to explore the concept of destruction, the fact that things built by hand (or robots) can still be taken down. We shouldn’t get too cocky about our achievements.”

Kristine Kathryn Rusch on “The City’s Edge”: “’The City’s Edge’ focuses on a failed engineering project—one that was on track, and then disappeared in the dead of night. There’s more than one gigantic engineering piece in this story, which made it fun to write.  When I received the anthology invitation, I decided not to write a story in my usual sf universes (Diving and the Retrieval Artist). The stories would’ve been too long, for one thing, and for another, I have loyalty to Asimov’s which usually publishes those first. However, that tied me up in serious knots. How do I write about a major sf engineering project without reaching into my usual sources.  I’m not really a near-future kind of hard sf writer, although I thought about doing something. I couldn’t find the hook. So, I read a few books on historical projects and something in a book on the New York subway system caught me—all the started and failed parts of the project. I realized I’d been looking at this wrong. Projects work after a lot of failure. That led me to my character, which led me to the story.”

Thoraiya Dyer on “Induction”: “Rising sea levels threaten Anguilla, but businessmen can always make a buck. It’s up to an ex-astronaut to save the ordinary people from his half-brother if he can. With the help of an engineer. From the depths of a shaft drilled the full thickness of Earth’s crust.  A combination of: Journal articles on Russian and Icelandic deep-drilling efforts, and wondering why they didn’t drill where the crust was thinnest. Renewable energy research. Alzheimer’s disease striking my friends and family. A chance encounter with someone who grew up on Groote Eylandt.”


  • “There are riches waiting to be discovered in Bridging Infinity. And now I’m keener than ever to investigate the other volumes in the Infinity Project – who knows where they’ll take me.” — Rising Shadow
  • Bridging Infinity is extremely insightful. While not all of the stories are ultra-hard sci-fi, all of them have practical significance to the reader.” — Edge of Infinity
  • “I have loved the Infinity series so far. I am consistently impressed by the variety of worlds presented and the writing talent included.” — Randomly Yours

5 thoughts on “From Here To Infinity with Jonathan Strahan

  1. @Lois,
    He is doing outstanding work. I have never read a dud anthology from him; the stories within are always worth reading, often superb.

  2. @Steve Wright

    Allen M. Steele is going to be so cross when someone tells him how many sides a pentagon has got…..


  3. This looks extremely interesting. I’m not usually a short story fan but this is being added to Mount TBR.

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