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 When Aliens Attack.
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. 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, Taylor's family moved to Somerville, 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.
Taylor's degrees are from Auburn University (B.S.E.E. '91) and the University of Alabama Huntsville (MS '94, Ph.D. '99, MSE '01, Ph.D. '12). He has a doctorate in optical science and engineering, a master's degree in physics, a master's degree in aerospace engineering, a master's degree in astronomy, and a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering.
According to Taylor, after he expressed his dissatisfaction with space opera and the comparative dearth of recent hard science fiction, he was challenged by his wife to write his first book, and studied Robert A. Heinlein's works for stylistic influence.
Taylor's first novel introduces Dr. Neal Anson Clemons, a physicist who is Taylor's first recurring character, who creates a method of warping space, first for use as a superluminal propulsion system and later as a weapon. Clemons' middle name is shared with Robert Anson Heinlein, an apparent homage to an influential science fiction writer.
Set in the world created by Warp Speed, Taylor shows the world from the point of view of another character, 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 No. 5 on the Preditors & Editors 2005 Science Fiction Book of the Year poll.
(collaboration with John Ringo).
Released in July 2006, Von Neumann's War is about an invasion of the present day Solar System by alien robotic Von Neumann probes, and the battle by Earth's forces to stop them, combining 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.
(co-authored with Bob Boan, R.C. Anding and T. Conley Powell)
Subtitled A Study of Modern Warfare Applied to Extra-Terrestrial Invasion, this book examines defending Earth in the event of an extraterrestrial invasion. Rather than outlining extreme 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.
Some[who?] 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.
One Day on Mars begins a military SF series comprising a total of three books. The book 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 United States Senate, who is there to help with the peace negotiations, and his family get caught up in the subsequent battle and butchery. This book and its sequel both feature the heavy use of Mech-like warriors, very similar to those seen in the Robotech series.
In the sequel, The Tau Ceti Agenda, the Separatist movement prepares a strike 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.
The third book in the series, One Good Soldier, takes place on a single critical day in the history of the United States of the Sol System, and features the extra-solar colonies, the Separatist Revolutionaries of the Tau Ceti system, and all of mankind.
(collaborations with John Ringo)
Ringo and Taylor wrote three books set in Ringo's Looking Glass series. Vorpal Blade (2007) 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. Manxome Foe (2008) and Claws That Catch (2008) continue the sequence.
(Collaboration with Darrell Bain)
From publisher Twilight Times Books, the 2009 book features Kyle Leverson, an Army veteran. 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.
A novel about a NASA moon mission which ends up having to rescue stranded Chinese astronauts on the moon. The book is 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 and Life After People for the History Channel in 2010, after his name came up in a search regarding space warfare. Taylor was then on National Geographic Channel's When Aliens Attack in 2011.
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, who are all machinists and inventors. The show ran for two seasons, from September 2011 to January 2013.
In 2015, he hosted the series "3 Scientists Walk into a Bar", which had four episodes in 2015. In 2017, he appeared on the History Channel show Ancient Aliens Season 12 episode “Voices of the Gods.” Taylor also appeared in the Season 13 episode "The Alien Protocols," as well as the show The Tesla Files in 2018. Next, he was on an episode of The Curse of Oak Island on the History Channel in January 2019. He was able to show off his knowledge of searching for underground items using different gasses. Later in 2019, he appeared in an episode of "In Search of Monsters" and the show NASA's Unexplained Files. Taylor led a 2020 History Channel series focusing on mysteries at Skinwalker Ranch, Utah, United States, in which he and a team investigated potential paranormal phenomena. "The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch" program launched a second season on May 4, 2021.