Free E-read: Connie Willis' "Nonstop to Portales"
In the short story, protagonist Carter Stewart’s mundane career traveling the country has brought him to deserted Portales, New Mexico, where he desperately tries to find a way to kill some free time. After perusing the tiny southwestern town, Carter comes across a tour bus packed with anxious fans headed to a local celebrity’s ranch. Unbeknownst to Carter, the “celebrity” is a science fiction author he’s never heard of — Jack Williamson. Having gone on one too many local tours during his travels, Carter can’t quite figure out what makes this tour especially unusual, as this crowd isn’t your average group of sci fi fans. They treat the visit to Williamson's estate more like one would expect people traveling to Mecca. What is it about the author that causes such adoration and why hasn't Carter heard of the author before?
“Nonstop to Portales” is the ideal read for anyone new to Connie Willis' work. Her ability to construct a complex setting and multidimensional character in only a few short pages demonstrates her talent perfectly, and proves why she is more than deserving of her numerous awards including her seven Nebula statues and her 11 Hugos, including this year’s Hugo win for her outstanding duology Blackout and All Clear.
Want to check out the story for yourself? You can read "Nonstop to Portales" for free here.