5010 words, short story
The walls were beige and you could see where the rust took hold. A tiny dead robot floated past Amir, feelers drooping. It was the same color as the walls and shaped like a grasshopper. Amir made a grab for it but a hidden maintenance duct sucked it up and it vanished with a soft, almost hungry pop. Other tiny robots crawled along the wall, attempting to repair a recent fracture.
The Heavenly Palace, a hundred years on from its grand opening. Once it was glorious. Now it was just another piece of floating junk.
Amir loved it. He loved the worn grooves in the floor and the faded carpets in the Stargazer’s Lounge. The whistle of the ivory balls in the old centrifugal roulette wheels and the way the bartender still mixed a martini like he was serving it to Neil and Buzz at the Oasis Hotel in Maspalomas after Apollo 11 came back from the Moon. The Heavenly Palace was a junk hound’s Mecca, and if one day the owners decided to stop boosting it and doom it at last to the inevitability of orbital decay, you could bet Amir and every other junk hound in Low Earth Orbit would be swarming over the spoils like locusts.
He wondered uneasily if Aya would be there. He hadn’t seen her since before the start of his bad-luck streak.
“What do you want to do?” Woof said. Woof was a dog. She trotted next to Amir in her little magnetic boots: head too big for her body, thin pipes trailing from her skull to her second brain, buried under muscle, skin, and fur. She stopped and scratched herself halfheartedly.
“We still have time before they finish setting up,” Woof said.
“I want to see what everyone else’s got,” Amir said.
“We don’t even have a table, Amir,” Woof said.
They had a meager haul, it was true. Amir hated to admit it. Low Earth Orbit was too crowded, there were too many amateurs getting into haulage and salvage, there were more junk storms recently, there was . . .
Bad luck, that’s all it was. You got a run of it and it could wipe you out clean. He and Woof were down on their luck and dangerously low on funds. The Domestic Entropy was docked against the Heavenly Palace and it was badly in need of maintenance. They needed money but didn’t even have anything to sell at the Rummage—if they didn’t get lucky soon then one or both of them would have to get an honest job.
Amir shuddered. He’d done odd jobs before to pay the bills. He was a croupier at the Floating Dragon Casino once for over a year. A year stuck without the freedom to move at will through space. A year with the monotony of the same landmarks passing under you at the same time, sixteen sunrises and sunsets a day, the same bland buffet food day in and day out, rude gamblers and mean shift supervisors, the same canned music playing everywhere you went. He never wanted to hear a Muzak version of “Space Odyssey” or “Life on Mars” ever again.
After a year he’d saved enough to get the Entropy out of hock and pay for the repairs. But he swore he’d never go back after that.
“I need a pee,” Woof announced.
“You want me to take you out for a walk?” Amir said.
“You’re a funny guy,” Woof said. She tottered to the bathroom (canines), a modesty screen hiding the suction cups. Amir headed to the Rummage. The Grand Ballroom of the Heavenly Palace hosted free-fall dances and (so rumor had it) more than one zero-G orgy in its time. Now it had the same faded feel as the rest of the giant habitat. Tables had been bolted down to the floor and lethargic staff were setting up for the exhibitors. Magnetized holders provided purchase for the currently empty displays.
Amir scanned the room, searching for familiar faces. His heart sank when he spotted a group of scruffily dressed scavengers at one end. Too late—their boss spotted him, grimaced, and gestured him over. Amir went reluctantly.
“Helmut,” he said.
“Amir. Didn’t think you’d show up.”
Helmut Blobel of Helmut’s Haulage was tall, stooped, and smelled faintly of disinfectant.
“We have two tables,” he said.
“Yeah?” Amir said.
“You find anything recently, Amir?”
The other scavengers smirked.
“I have a few things,” Amir said.
“Yeah? Like what? An original Long March satellite? Laika’s collar?”
The other scavengers laughed.
“Very funny, yes,” Amir said.
“Speaking of Laika, where’s your partner?” Helmut said.
“She’s around somewhere,” Amir said. “So what have you got, Helmut?”
Not like he needed to ask. Everyone’d heard of Helmut’s latest haul. How he got to know about it or how he even made it there nobody really knew. Somewhere in Mid Earth Orbit and smack in the middle of the Van Allen Belt with all the radiation that entailed—only a desperate salvager or a crazy one went in there for too long without proper shielding.
It was worth it, though. A nearly intact, centuries old LOE pleasure cruiser—the sort they carried the early tourists around in to take in the views. How it survived, or how it drifted that high up, was a mystery. The story Amir heard was that it got an indirect boost from some old explosion, but that was just a theory. Now Helmut had it—intact internal fixings and all.
“This and that,” Helmut said, falsely modest.
“Nice score,” Amir said, hating to hand over the compliment.
“Got a buyer already,” Helmut said, bragging now. “Wants to re-equip it and put it back into use, you know, take sightseers on a vintage cruise like in the olden days and all that. Sit in the exact same seat some historical figure sat in. That sort of thing.”
“All they’re gonna see is junk,” Amir said.
Just then he spotted Woof coming in and so he left Helmut and his haulers with some relief. They had a right to brag, he thought. They made a score and it was good. But when would be his time again? He felt restless suddenly. Why did he even come to the Rummage this time? It was not like he had anything good to sell. He should be out there, in orbit, where more and more junk accumulated every day and fortunes could be made.
“They give you a hard time?” Woof said.
“A little,” Amir admitted.
“Don’t let them get to you.” Woof wagged her stump of a tail. “Our next score is just around the corner, I can feel it.”
“You’ve been saying that for months,” Amir said, feeling defeated. This wasn’t like him, he thought. A junk hound was naturally optimistic. You had to be, in this line of work. It wasn’t a job, it was a calling. He still remembered the first time he saw a piece of real space junk. Still a kid, still on Earth, with its impossible rain that just fell from the skies, its profusion of flowers and streetside hawkers selling every manner of food, its myriad of smells—cumin-spiced lamb turning on a grill, frangipani, rose water, and clove cigarettes. Busy crammed streets, bicycle bells ringing, hawkers shouting, a thousand pieces of colorful cloth and batiks moving in the wind, monks chanting, mosques calling, church bells ringing, the buzz of low-flying drones, and the whisper of cleaner robots scuttling underfoot.
He didn’t miss Earth, only sometimes he dreamed of it still. He hadn’t been back down the gravity well in twenty years.
Back then, running through the market, he came across a hidden shop buried in the shadows of an indoor mall and stopped, astounded. Cheap trinkets adorned the walls, flags for vanished empires: USSR, CCP, USA—stars and stripes, sickles and hammers, yellows and reds, blues and whites. The shop was dim and a cheap plastic globe on the floor projected moving images of planets on the walls. Behind glass shelves lay mysterious objects whose purpose Amir could not even begin to guess.
An elderly figure behind the counter sorted metal tokens into plastic boxes.
“What are these?” Amir said.
“Coins,” the owner said. He looked up irritably. His thin wispy hair was white, his colorful shirt decorated in Dragon modules and NASA mission patches. A name badge said he was called Mr. Ng. “Old coins. People used to buy stuff with them.”
“How?” Amir said. He knew nothing back then.
“You just handed them over,” Mr. Ng said. “See this one? It’s Roman.”
He handed it to Amir. The coin felt heavy. It was little more than a metal slug, with just the hint of a human profile still visible on one side.
“Trajan, maybe,” Mr. Ng said, answering an unspoken question. “It’s hard to tell for sure.” He put his hand out for Amir to give him back the coin. “He was one of the Five Good Emperors.”
“Is it expensive?” Amir said. He was reluctant to give back the coin. Tried to imagine an old woman rummaging in a purse to pay for a loaf of bread in some age so long ago that they still used physical money.
“This one is,” Mr. Ng said, and he firmly took back the coin and put it away. “But not because it’s old. The Romans minted a lot of coins for a very long time, you know.”
Amir didn’t know, of course.
“So why is it expensive?” he said.
Mr. Ng said, “Because it was flown.”
There was something reverent in the way he said the last word. Amir didn’t understand it, but the magic of it was there. The dim light and the moving planets on the wall, the smell of rust, the cough of an ineffectual fan struggling to move the still air around, all combined in some way to make him forget where he was . . .
“Flown where?” Amir said.
“It means it was in space,” Mr. Ng said. “Someone took it up in the old days on a rocket, and then brought it back down with them again. Flown objects are expensive. Well, they were once, anyway. Now everyone can go up to space.”
“I’ve never been to space,” Amir said.
“If you had a car you could just point it up at the sky and be in orbit in half an hour driving,” Mr. Ng said. “It’s only just up there. So close you can almost touch it . . . The place where the world ends and the universe begins.” He sounded wistful.
“I’ve never been, either,” he said.
“All this stuff?” Amir said. “It’s from space?”
“Almost all, yes,” Mr. Ng said. “I have some replicas, of course. Mission patches and so on. Plus meteorites. Just rocks from space. Oh, and gold. Did you know all our gold came from space? Every ring, every bracelet, the gold in the circuit boards of old machines . . . All of extraterrestrial origin. Are you going to buy anything, kid?”
“I don’t have any money,” Amir said.
“Well, come back when you do,” Mr. Ng said.
Amir shook off the memory. Woof was growling at some unseen insectoid repair robot. Woof was ex-military. She’d been a sniffer dog in another life. There weren’t that many augmented dogs around and even fewer in space.
“Stop barking,” Amir said.
“I can’t help it,” Woof said. “I’m a dog.”
She looked up innocently at Amir.
“What were you thinking about?” she said.
“My first real score,” Amir said.
He’d gone back to Mr. Ng’s shop after that first visit. Finally he bought something—a golf ball from the Shepard Golf Course (eighteen holes) in the lunar highlands. It was named after Alan Shepard, the first person who played golf on the Moon. Now the golf course regularly sold branded balls to Earth collectors. Amir had put everything he had into buying that single item.
Then he turned it around and sold it to a collector in Djibouti at almost double the price. After that he never looked back.
“Shepard, right,” Woof said. “You told me that story a thousand times already.”
“It’s a good story,” Amir said.
“I don’t care much for golf,” Woof said. “Come on, let’s get a drink.”
Amir followed Woof to the Stargazer’s Lounge. The bartender mixed drinks. Amir ordered a martini and a beer for Woof. Woof liked beer. They could hardly afford the prices round here but it was worth it for the view. Windows opened on all sides of the room. Earth passed below, blue and white, enormous, like an eye that stared right into your soul. Beyond it was space itself—an endless ocean of dark silence speckled with an infinity of stars.
Then there was the moon, hanging in the sky in monochrome like in an old photograph, and the bright flashes of rocket stages as they climbed up the gravity well. It all looked so beautiful, and there were no junk storms just then. They had their own beauty, Amir thought. But other people didn’t see it that way.
“What?” Amir said. He sucked on the martini he couldn’t afford. It was served in a suction bulb. You could brew alcohol anywhere, even in space. And the olives came from the garden belt satellites that circled the Earth replete with solar-powered hydroponics.
Woof barked again.
“Aya at three o’clock,” she said.
“Aya? What’s Aya doing here?” Amir said.
She perched with her elbows on the bar next to him. Short-cropped hair the color of rust, eyes that looked at him like at a chart of moving objects in orbit.
“Aya,” Amir said. “You’re here for the Rummage?”
“I figured I’d find you here,” Aya said.
“You were looking for me?”
She smiled—just a tiny bit.
“Heard you had a bad run,” she said.
“Well, you know how it is,” Amir said.
He saw something in her eyes. The smile—Aya didn’t smile often. He felt excitement stir inside him.
“You have something,” he said.
“I could smell it!” Woof said. She fastened her jaws on her beer bowl’s spout and drank. “This is good,” she said.
“I might have something,” Aya said. “How is the Domestic Entropy?”
“Flight-ready,” Amir said. “You do have something!”
“Maybe,” Aya said. “Talk after the Rummage? I still have to buy a few things for the Institute.”
Amir nodded. Aya touched his shoulder briefly.
“It’s good to see you,” she said. Then she was gone.
“She still likes you,” Woof said. “It’s a shame you . . . ” She didn’t finish the thought.
“Junk hounds don’t mix with junk hounds,” Amir said.
“She’s not a junk hound,” Woof said.
“Oh, on that one you’re wrong, Woof,” Amir said.
And they left it at that.
Junk hounds come from anywhere. Attracted by history and its financial remuneration, they scavenge and pilfer with no care for the strata and context of their finds.
That was what Aya always used to tell him. Aya was an archaeologist. A pretty good one, too, he had to admit. She worked for the North Australian Alice Gorman Institute of Advanced Space Archaeology. He first met her at a Rummage when she was just a newbie fresh off-Earth.
Most archaeologists saw junk hounds as a necessary evil at best. Low Earth Orbit was too crowded. Frequent collisions, abandoned orbitals, and decaying satellites created a field of debris only a junk hound would be stupid enough to willingly go into.
Aya was different. Amir saw it the first time they met. Not the way she looked at the displays, which was professional, detached, evaluating items with a quiet expertise. But the way she looked at the junks.
He’d taken her to the port side of the Heavenly Palace. Observation windows set into the walls showed the docked ships—the junks, so called less for the historical connection with sailing ships than for their overall appearance. Junk-hound ships were a lot like junk hounds themselves: rusted, beat up, and constantly patched together with whatever was to hand.
Amir saw the way Aya looked at them. That dreamy gaze that meant a junk hound could look at another and recognize them instantly.
She wanted to be out there, he knew.
She wanted to be looking for treasure.
They’d had a short, on-off relationship. This was before his run of bad luck, before the gig at the floating casino. He hadn’t seen her in a long time. Now it was like she’d always been there.
“Come on, Amir,” Woof said. “You’re thinking about her again.”
“What? No, I was just thinking.”
“Aha. Let’s go rummage.”
He followed Woof back to the ballroom. The tables were all set up and people were milling around, some already haggling over items. Amir felt like a child again. He rummaged through the displays and chatted to people he knew. He saw a capsule of ashes that was sent into orbit—this used to be common but the habit died down and now the capsules were rare collectibles. He saw an old camera, lost by some long-ago astronaut on one of the early space stations. Someone was selling a spatula and claiming it was the one Piers Sellers lost during a spacewalk on a Discovery mission. Another claimed to sell waste bags from an Apollo landing site. There were a lot of fakes or items with dubious provenance on the market. It was amazing how much junk there was in space. People sold bits of broken satellites and solar panels, old circuitry, ancient manuals supposedly flown, and everything in between.
One stall sold replicas: Golden Records and commemorative Soviet pins for Vostok 6, early NASA mission patches, miniature Dragon modules and copies of artist Paul Van Hoeydonck’s sculpture Fallen Astronaut that was put on the moon by Apollo 15.
He looked for Woof in the crowd. She was growling at Helmut Blobel. Amir rushed over.
“Get that wild animal off me!” Blobel said.
“Who are you calling a wild animal!” Woof said, outraged. She lunged at Blobel. He fell back and his magnetic shoes detached from the floor and he floated upwards with a look of affronted surprise on his face. Woof growled. Amir started to laugh.
“Well, pull me down, you idiots!” Blobel said. He was ungainly in zero-G. Woof leaped up, turned smoothly in the air in a somersault, and grasped Blobel’s arm with her teeth. She floated serenely back to the ground with Blobel in tow.
“What did he say to you, anyway?” Amir said when he got Woof away.
“Said you were bad luck,” Woof said. “That I should ditch you and come work for him.”
“Let’s just go back to the ship,” Amir said. His good humor evaporated. “I’m sick of this place.”
Maybe Blobel was right, he thought. Maybe he really was bad luck. He followed Woof down the corridors to the row of airlocks.
Aya was leaning casually against the wall. Woof barked once. Aya knelt down and scratched Woof behind the ear.
Woof whined and wagged her stumpy tail.
“Missed me?” Aya said.
“Not in a million years,” Woof said. But she didn’t stop wagging.
“What do you want, Aya?” Amir said. “We were just leaving.”
“I figured you wouldn’t stick around,” Aya said. “So come on. Let’s go.”
“Go where?” Amir said.
“To the Entropy,” Aya said. “Well?”
She hit the code for Airlock Number Six. Amir didn’t ask how she got the code. The airlock opened. Aya floated through.
Woof barked. She jumped up and floated after Aya. Amir stared at them both, not moving.
“What have you got?” he said at last. Quietly.
“Coordinates for an object,” Aya said. A little smugly, even, Amir thought.
“What object?” he said. But that feeling inside surged, that feeling that set you out as a junk hound. It doesn’t matter, the feeling whispered, sending seductive tendrils through the fog in his mind. There’s something out there, something precious, something only you can find.
He knew it as soon as he saw Aya at the bar, even as he tried not to, even as he remembered all the hopes that were forever dashed. The unlucky streak. But none of it mattered now.
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” he said, not even waiting for her answer, and he floated after her into the airlock and shut it from inside. Aya smiled. The cabin pressurized and the second lock opened onto the Domestic Entropy.
Woof floated in and Amir followed. The junk was tiny, and they spent half their time in suits—in space, space was a premium, as the saying went. Aya had been on board before, though. She floated in after them and secured herself with easy familiarity, and the glint in her eyes told Amir this was it. Aya was a junk hound, he always knew she was, and no advanced degree or talk about strata could change that. He initiated the disengagement routine and the junk detached slowly from the corpse of the Heavenly Palace and floated free.
Unshackled at last from the burden of walls and regular orbit, Amir was back in a more natural state of being. The Earth below was covered in a film of black moving objects: satellites with mirrored solar panels, rockets climbing up, debris. If Saturn had its ice rings then Earth had its trash. And both, Amir thought, were beautiful. The Domestic Entropy moved away from the gravitational pull of the Heavenly Palace and dropped altitude as it cruised above the planet.
“It’s old Blobel’s vault,” Aya said.
Woof said, “Come on, Aya. That’s just a story.”
Amir didn’t say anything.
He stared at the Earth moving down below.
Space was full of spooky stories. Dead astronauts still floating in their tin cans. Laika’s ghost manifesting itself in passenger capsules sitting on top of rockets as they left the atmosphere. They said Voyager came back from the stars and was trapped in orbit with its priceless obsolete tech and a genuine Golden Record still on board. And there were always aliens. Loebians thought every ʻOumuamua that came drifting into the solar system was an alien spacecraft.
Amir wasn’t a Loebian. He didn’t believe in little green men.
But he believed in old Blobel’s vault.
The Blobels had been in orbit for a long time. They were an old family. The first Blobel got off-Earth in a hurry (or so the story went). You looked down the Blobel family tree far enough and you hit some pretty nasty roots.
In orbit the Blobels quickly multiplied. And they got into the junk business when it was just starting out. First it was just disposal and haulage. Then old Johann Blobel discovered the collectors’ market back on Earth, and ever since then the Blobels had hunted treasure.
“One person’s junk is another person’s treasure,” Amir said, quoting the Blobels’ old motto. By the time Otto Blobel came along, the family (so the story went) had an entire orbital filled with space’s most valuable treasures.
The first seeds grown in space. Roddenberry’s ashes. Buzz Aldrin’s watch. The frozen corpse of one of the first five mice (either Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum, or Phooey) who orbited the moon.
It was an Aladdin’s cave hidden somewhere in a cloud of debris, like a diamond buried in a field of coal.
The story went that only Otto Blobel knew the coordinates. Then he had a heart attack and died while vacationing on the Sea of Tranquility playing golf.
Old Blobel’s vault had been lost ever since.
“It isn’t real,” Woof said.
“It’s real,” Aya said. “It’s in a disposal orbit, ready to drop into the South Pacific.”
“It’s going to fall into Point Nemo?” Amir said.
“Yup,” Aya said.
A.k.a. the South Pacific Ocean Uninhabited Area.
A.k.a. the Spacecraft Cemetery.
The biggest junkyard of them all.
Mir. Six of the Salyut stations. The ATV Jules Verne. SpaceX rockets and ESA cargo ships and Russian Progress resupply ships. The ISS.
Hundreds of satellites.
All lying four kilometers deep under the surface at 48°25.6’ South latitude and 123°23.6’ West longitude, in the biggest scrapyard and treasure hoard of them all.
“SpaceX marks the spot,” Woof said, and barked a laugh.
“We can get the Blobel vault before it hits the atmosphere,” Aya said. “We can save it. Everything the Blobels collected over decades.”
“It would make Helmut’s haul look like a whole lot of nothing,” Woof said.
Amir stared out into space.
“How did you get the coordinates?” he said.
“Got lucky,” she said. “Its beacon came back online and tried to ping an obsolete satellite network. I monitor for that kind of thing.”
“You do?” Wolf said.
“The Institute has a few trackers in different orbits,” Aya said. “You never know, so . . . One of the trackers just happened to be close enough at the right time to pick up the signal.”
“So no one else knows?”
“Is the beacon still online?”
“No. It died again straight after.”
“Could be a ghost signal,” Woof said.
“Could be, would be,” Amir said. Focused now. Everything else—the Rummage and bad luck and Helmut’s jibes—none of it mattered anymore.
This was a chance, at least. This was a promise.
“Get into your suits,” he said. He was already putting his on. “You worked out the trajectory I assume, Aya?”
“As much as I could from the data.”
Amir sat at the controls. Aya sat beside him. She fed the numbers into the computer. The Domestic Entropy hummed with a thrust of power.
“Changing course,” Amir said.
The little junk floated like a tiny ice particle around the Earth. Amir let the planet pull them in its orbit, conserving energy, only firing out for course corrections. They were going low, so gravity did most of the work. The return climb would require most of the fuel.
Continents, seas, clouds, and people went past below. Amir couldn’t see the people but he knew they were there, in their billions. He was one of them once. Now he was up here where he truly belonged.
He just hoped the vault was still there.
Round the Earth and dropping lower, and in the viewport window he could see a swarm of debris floating over Europe. A junk storm forming, made up of broken fragments of satellites and ships.
“We can’t go in there,” Woof said.
“What if we go under it?” Amir said.
“It’s low,” Woof said. “Too low. If the Earth catches us . . . ”
Amir stared. The vault was somewhere in that field, masked by all that useless junk. He fed instructions to the computer. The Entropy dropped, adjusted course, began to trace a path that would take it under the storm and close to the envelope of atmosphere.
The Earth grew huge. The first astronauts on the moon were the first to see Earth as a tiny marble in the sky, lost in the vastness of a universe. But from orbit, Earth dominated. It was the beating heart of the cosmos. Amir couldn’t imagine being parted from it. But they were close, too close—
“There!” Woof said. Aya said nothing. The screen, tracking the movement of thousands of particles, showed the outline of a large satellite, seemingly intact, almost touching the mesosphere.
“It’s too close, too late . . . ” Amir said. The realization hit him, and the hope he’d felt earlier faded away. He would try, he thought, not willing to let it go, this promise hanging in the skies above the world—
He took manual control, the Entropy dove, a film of black fragments roared like bees in front of it, and Woof barked but Amir took her down, down, the Blobel vault growing larger on the screen, larger . . .
And yet, and still—
The Earth pulled, pulled at the junk, Amir gritted his teeth, the Blobel vault right there, so close he could almost touch it . . .
He eased the Entropy back. He fed it power and felt it strain against the planet’s pull.
They rose again at last, moving away from the junk storm.
Amir watched as the vault slowly vanished from sight.
Dragged by the gravity of the Earth it was summoned back, called at last to its watery grave and taking all its treasures with it.
They sat in the Stargazer’s Lounge on the Heavenly Palace and sipped martinis from gently floating bulbs (Woof had a beer).
“Well, it was worth a shot,” she said philosophically.
“What do you think was in it?” Amir said. He didn’t feel so bad. He thought he would be crushed by yet another loss. But somehow he felt better.
“A Kitty Hawk bible,” Woof said.
“The Juno Lego set,” Aya said and smiled.
“The Andy Warhol sketch for the Moon Museum,” Amir said.
They started to laugh.
Amir felt a great ease wash over him. They had not found the treasure, but they came close enough, and there would be other opportunities. There always were. He had forgotten that, but Aya had reminded him.
He looked out of the window and for a moment he thought he saw a red convertible car float past, with the mannequin of an astronaut still sitting in the driver’s seat. He laughed again.
Woof wagged her tail.
Aya said, “I got you something.”
She reached in her pocket and brought out a small round object.
Amir didn’t need to examine it to know it was a lunar golf ball, and for a moment he felt like a child on Earth again—looking up at the skies, and dreaming.
“Until our next score,” Aya said, and she took his hand in hers.
Amir nodded, smiling. They finished their drinks and walked back to the junk, and Woof watched them go and sucked on her beer.
“I give them six months,” she said complacently. Then she jumped into the air and floated after them, her stump of a tail still wagging.
Lavie Tidhar is author of Osama, The Violent Century, A Man Lies Dreaming, Central Station, Unholy Land, By Force Alone, The Hood, and The Escapement. His latest novels are Maror and Neom. His awards include the World Fantasy Award, the British Fantasy Award, the John W. Campbell Award, the Neukom Prize, and the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize, and he has been shortlisted for the Clarke Award and the Philip K. Dick Award.