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Travis Shane Taylor (born 24 July 1968 in Decatur, Alabama) is an aerospace engineer, optical scientist, science fiction author, and star of National Geographic Channel's Rocket City Rednecks. Taylor has written more than 25 technical papers, 14 science fiction novels and two textbooks, and has appeared in multiple television documentaries, including NGC’s recently highly-rated special When Aliens Attack.
Born almost a year to the day before the moon landing, Taylor grew up in rural North Alabama alongside his older brother Gregory, a Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Reserves. As a boy, Taylor read science fiction and dismantled household electronics. In the eighth grade, he wrote a novella about a post-nuclear-war America featuring an aerospace engineer who carried a bullwhip and used a little flying wing that he had invented to spy on the Soviets. His father, Charles Taylor, worked as a machinist at Wyle Laboratories, which subcontracted for National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the 1960s, wherein he built America's first satellites directly with Wernher von Braun. While in high school, Taylors' family moved to Sommerville, near Huntsville, next door to an Army scientist. At 17 years old, with the help of his neighbor, he built a radio telescope that won the state science fair and placed sixth in the nation. This led the Army to offer Taylor a job working at Redstone Arsenal on direct energy weapons systems directly out of high school as well as a scholarship. Taylor is a black belt martial artist, a private pilot, a SCUBA diver, races mountain bikes, competed in triathlons, and has been the lead singer and rhythm guitarist of several hard rock bands. Taylor lives near Huntsville with his wife Karen, daughter Kalista Jade, two dogs Stevie and Wesker, and his cat Kuro.
Taylor has worked on various programs for the United States Department of Defense and NASA for over sixteen years He is currently working on several advanced propulsion concepts, very large space telescopes, space-based beamed energy systems, high-energy lasers, and next generation space launch concepts. Taylor is also involved with multiple Human intelligence (HUMINT), Imagery intelligence (IMINT), Signals intelligence (SIGINT) and Measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT) concept studies.
His scientific background includes:
To obtain his accredited online master’s degree in astronomy from the University of Western Sydney in Australia, he built an extrasolar planet imaging instrument in his backyard using a plastic pipe, telescopic camera, and $200 computer.
After Taylor expressed his dissatisfaction with space opera and his perceived lack of hard science fiction, he was challenged by his wife to write this book and studied Robert A. Heinlein's works for stylistic influence. Taylor's first novel examines ideas for using quantum mechanics and general relativity to create a method of warping space, first for use as a superluminal propulsion system and later as a weapon. The novel introduces Dr. Neal Anson Clemons, a physicist who is the primary creator of the warp drive, and Taylor's first recurring character. Much of Dr. "Doc" Clemons's character appears to be inspired by Taylor's own life, from academic background and competitive karate training to sharing the same nickname. Clemons' middle name is shared with Robert Anson Heinlein, a clear homage to an influential science fiction writer.
The strong resemblance between Clemons and Taylor, along with the tremendous skill, intellect and competence demonstrated by Clemons (and multiple other characters), has given rise to commentary and critiques characterizing Clemons as a "Mary Sue": a character patterned after the author's personality and appearance, but possessing exaggerated abilities and/or attractiveness. Taylor has been described as "irked" at such reactions; he is quoted as saying:
"Have people become so average that they can't believe that some of our nation's current heroes and successes couldn't exist? What about Chuck Yeager? What about Jim Lovell? What about Story Musgrave? What about Arnold Schwarzenegger? What about Pat Tillman? What about Judy Resnik? You can name hundreds of American Superpeople. What about Madonna? Think how old she is and how she keeps plugging away better than many 20 year olds and smarter at it to boot. A good friend of mine is 52, a national class cyclist, and Chief Scientist of a major DoD contractor firm... what about him? Would you call them all Mary Sues? Look at any fighter pilot or astronaut and you'll see someone that I guess could not really exist because they aren't average. I based Anson on real people I have known in my life. The female characters as well. Calling them Mary Sues is an insult to those people and to the American Dream."[this quote needs a citation]
Regardless of such criticism, Warp Speed belongs to the genre known as an Edisonade, and the heroes of this genre are inevitably multitalented. It is common for the protagonist of a first novel to be strongly inspired by the author's personal experiences. Warp Speed was voted #3 best science fiction book of 2005 by The Preditors & Editors Readers Poll.
Revisiting the world created by Warp Speed, Taylor shows the world from the point of view of another character named Steven Montana. Montana is a stereotypical slacker who works in the technology industry. His world was brought to a sudden halt by events from Warp Speed, and The Quantum Connection picks up the story several years after the original events. The book explores the ideas of quantum mechanics, nanotechnology, inter-planetary defense and realistic space-born warfare. It also introduces the "Grey Aliens" of UFOlogy. This book was voted #5 on the Preditors & Editors 2005 Science Fiction Book of the Year poll.
Released in July 2006, Von Neumann's War is a new series and not related to the Warp Speed and The Quantum Connection universe. It is co-authored by Baen Books author John Ringo. The novel is about an invasion of the present day Sol System by alien robotic Von Neumann probes, and the battle by Earth's forces to stop them cold. It is a combination of Taylor's hard science fiction and John Ringo's military perspective on the genre. It is supplemented by an e-book available from Baen called Neighborhood Watch Final Report  which is a mock-up of the (fictional) classified technical report to the National Reconnaissance Office describing the discovery of the invasion force on Mars at the beginning of the novel.
Subtitled A Study of Modern Warfare Applied to Extra-Terrestrial Invasion and co-authored with Bob Boan, R.C. Anding and T. Conley Powell, this book examines defending Earth in the event of an extraterrestrial invasion. Rather than outlining extreme (and possibly paranoid) possibilities for the sake of entertainment, the authors keep most of their speculation within the known possible world (although they do allow for the possibility of faster-than-light travel).
Despite the fact that the book was rushed into print and suffers from the hasty release, most notably because of poor editing (the e-book in particular, which is not issued by Baen, is cumbersome to use), it was well received by fans. Some have commented that it is written as if Taylor is "preaching to the choir," those who are already familiar with the global covert intelligence community. The book makes several assumptions that are common among its intended readership but not necessarily shared by the general public. In particular, the authors insist that any alien contact should be kept secret if at all possible, despite the hindrance this would present to a coordinated global defense effort, not to mention the difficulties of maintaining such secrecy in the first place. They also list perceived problems within the United States, such as shortsightedness and inadequate knowledge of the subject matter on the part of politicians, and a tendency on the part of NASA to focus on superficial observations that are more beneficial to public relations.
The book goes on to suggest that an organization be given funding and authority to investigate and prepare for extraterrestrial contact. Its conclusion is a variant on the Precautionary Principle: the authors advise that it would be better for humanity to prepare for an incursion which never happens than to suffer from an invasion for which we have not prepared.
The story takes place on Mars, where a group of separatists have launched an attack against the federal military personnel from Earth who have been instructed to guard them and the surrounding area. A senator, who is there to help with the peace negotiations, and his family get caught up in the subsequent battle and butchery. The senator can only hope to reach safety before he becomes nothing more than a pawn in the separatist leaders' nefarious plan. This book and its sequel The Tau Ceti Agenda both feature the heavy use of Mech-like warriors, very similar to those seen in the Robotech series.
Written as a collaboration with John Ringo, Taylor's next project featured most of the cast from Ringo's solo project Into the Looking Glass, in the Looking Glass series. Almost written as a homage to Lewis Carroll's poem Jabberwocky, Vorpal Blade features the USS Nebraska (SSBN-739) as it takes to the stars in an attempt to find the alien enemy race known as the Dreen. The subsequent books of the series include Manxome Foe and Claws That Catch.
Taylor's next book features author Darrell Bain and is from publisher Twilight Times Books. The premise features a retired US Army veteran named Kyle Leverson. Leverson, who is retired due to injuries sustained in combat, awakens one morning to discover some sort of alien pods had crashed onto his property in the remote mountains of Arkansas. The first two chapters are available from the publishers website.
Humanity's Separatist movement prepares the biggest sucker punch ever against Earth governments. The plan Kill the U.S. President at Disney World and drive a quantum-teleported kamikaze starship into a heavily-populated city. One thing the fanatical Separatists haven't figured on: an America military unleashed by a fighting president—an ex-Marine determined that terrorists won't have the final word on humanity's future! Sequel to 'One Day on Mars'. Published 5/1/2008.
One Good Soldier is the third book hard science military SF series of One Day on Mars and The Tau Ceti Agenda, taking place in a single critical day in the history of the United States of the Sol System, the extra-solar colonies, the Separatist Revolutionaries of the Tau Ceti system, and all of mankind.
Co-written with NASA Marshall Space Flight Center engineer Les Johnson. A novel about a NASA moon mission which ends up having to rescue some stranded Chinese astronauts already on the moon. The book is entirely built around Constellation Program technology, and was, unfortunately, already obsolete before it came out in print owing to the cancellation of the program just months earlier.
Taylor first appeared in episodes of The Universe for The History Channel in 2010, after his name came up in a search regarding space warfare. In the summer of 2011, the National Geographic Channel announced a new series called Rocket City Rednecks which features Taylor. The first episode showed in September 2011. A self-proclaimed 'redneck rocket scientist', Taylor focuses on 'hillbilly ingenuity' for the show's backyard science experiments, aided by his family and best friend whom are all machinists and inventors. This was picked up for a second season which started 29 Nov 12 Season 2 Taylor had previously been featured prominently on National Geographic's When Aliens Attack earlier in 2011.