Rod Pyle: Interplanetary Robots

For this column, NASW book editor Lynne Lamberg asks NASW authors to tell how they came up with the idea for their book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. She also asks what they wish they had known before they began working on their book, what they might do differently the next time, and what tips they can offer aspiring authors. She then edits the A part of that Q&A to produce the author reports you see here.

Publication of NASW members’ reports in Advance Copy does not constitute NASW’s endorsement of their books. NASW welcomes your comments, and hopes this column stimulates productive discussions.

Cover: Interplanetary Robots

Cover: Interplanetary Robots

Rod Pyle, foreword by James Green
Prometheus Books, January 29, 2019, $18, Kindle, $11.99
ISBN-10: 163388502X; ISBN-13: 9781633885028

Pyle reports:

I proposed Interplanetary Robots as a sequel to my Amazing Stories of the Space Age for the same publisher, Prometheus. While the earlier book was about human spaceflight, Interplanetary Robots chronicles the robotic missions, both American and Soviet, that explored the planets from the 1950s through the 1990s.

As in Amazing Stories, I included not just missions that were flown, but also some that were not flown. The latter include US and Soviet government plans to explode nuclear weapons on the moon as a show of force in the 1950s. Thank goodness cooler heads prevailed.

Rod Pyle

Rod Pyle

When I sent the publisher my proposal for Interplanetary Robots, I also offered to produce another book called Heroes of the Space Age. Prometheus agreed, asking for both books before the end of 2018. It is worth noting that due to my work for Prometheus on previous titles, the publisher required only short proposals—a great luxury in our business.

Researching and writing Interplanetary Robots was a joy. I interviewed a number of people involved with the programs in the book, a task made easier by my proximity to and status as a contractor with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, just a few miles from my home.

The main challenge in researching the book was researching the variations that often occur in primary references. Spaceflight is a fast-moving business, and after many decades, archived records do not always match. Also, the memories of participants in those programs tend to vary many years later. It can sometimes become a game of averages.

After the initial manuscript and all cleared photos and illustrations went to the publisher, advance reading copies were sent to selected people for cover blurbs. James Green, PhD, NASA’s Chief Scientist, kindly provided a foreword. Editing then proceeded with an allotted schedule of about a month, with only moderate changes requested along with many suggested footnotes and citations. The final MS was approved and set to typesetting shortly thereafter.

Interplanetary Robots went on sale earlier this year. Heroes of the Space Age should be on shelves in May.

Contact info:

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Tell your fellow NASW members how you came up with the idea for your book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. Include what you wish you had known before you began working on your book, or had done differently.


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Image: Baroque Library at the Klementinum in Prague by Jonathan Francisca on Unsplash.

Apr. 24, 2019

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