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Interview: William Ledbetter on “Broken Wings”

William LedbetterTell us a bit about “Broken Wings.”

Marcie is a spacecraft traffic controller on Mars’s smallest moon, Deimos. Even though she likes the quiet and safe life she has built for herself, she has fantasies about one day accompanying her friend Bernard on what she sees as exciting mining missions. After Bernard returns to Deimos with a strange object he found in the asteroid belt, Marcie soon has more excitement than expected as she races the clock to save him from space pirates.


What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

The simple answer is Bob Eggleton’s cover art. This story actually bounced around in my head for years, but I could never really make it work. I had a solid fix on the ice miner character and him finding a mysterious object in the asteroid belt, but that alone couldn’t compel me to leap into the story with both feet. But when I saw that cover things started to click into place. Bob’s space paintings always inspire adventure and excitement, so when I reexamined this story idea again with that in mind, I realized that Marcie, the quiet, disabled traffic controller was by far the more interesting character and she would make a terrific space adventure heroine.


Was “Broken Wings” personal to you in any way? If so, how?

Only in the sense that these are the kinds of characters l love to cheer for. Regular people, with everyday problems, who rise to meet some unimaginable challenge.


Can you tell us about any of the research you may have done for this story?

I didn’t do a huge amount of research for this one, but I did read up a bit on Deimos. It is such a tiny moon that the gravity is almost non-existent. It was hard for me to overcome my “gravity bias” and try to think of being on, or in, a moon as still being in micro-gravity. I did try to show that lack of gravity in various ways throughout the story, using things like magnetic boots, ships needing to be tethered, the personal tractors etc., but I still might have missed some things.


Why do you write?

I think most creative people look at the world differently and quite a few of us want to share our skewed perspective with everyone else. Some make movies or sculpture, but for me it has always been written stories. Trying to form coherent narratives about the things I imagine is a type of discovery for me. I think I learn new things about the world and myself with each story and novel I write. So thank you for letting me share that in your magazine sometimes.


Who do you consider to be your influences?

Frank Herbert was a big one. I read his “Dune” books while in high school and it forever reshaped my opinions of what science fiction could and should be. Over the years I’ve also read a lot of Larry Niven, Octavia Butler, Arthur C. Clarke, Kurt Vonnegut and Margret Atwood, so I’m sure their influences have shaped my writing as well.

My science fiction novel “Level Five” is coming out on July 17th in audio format, from Audible Originals. The introductory note for this story in the July/August issue mentions it with the title of “Reset,” but due to the riptides and undertows of the publishing industry, we had to change that title at the last minute. More information about my novel and other forthcoming stories can be found at


“Broken Wings” appears in the July/August 2018 issue of F&SF.

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Clicking on Mr. Ledbetter’s photo will take you to his website:


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