Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hailing a Space Taxi

How were you planning on getting over to the International Space Station next time out?  You know that the space shuttle program has ended, right?  You know what... why don't you just go ahead and hail yourself a taxi.  What's that?  You think I'm being ridiculous?  Not at all.  With NASA stepping away, multiple private companies are competing to be the new space taxi.  They're even getting funding from NASA as well.

Personally, I'm hoping that all three of them wind up successful.  Boeing is planning space taxis for 2016 which, considering what we're discussing, isn't all that far away.  No complaints with Boeing, since I've flown aboard so many of their airplanes.  Certainly trust them more than a government designed ship.  Sierra Nevada is working on their Dream Chaser with the $1.1 Billion from NASA.

We're all pretty familiar with SpaceX by now.  The commercial enterprise already docked its Dragon Capsule with the International Space Station.  NASA was particularly pleased with how that venture went (after a little trouble in the beginning).  That was in May.  Now they're looking to create a ferry to the Moon.

So, here's my question: why should that be it?  Why just the three?  Granted, let's get them started, and get rolling.  After they prove it's worthwhile, maybe we should get grants in place for Lockheed Martin.  With a hand in space, telecommunications, electronics, aeronautics and energy, they might be the perfect answer to my thoughts about orbital launch and construction platforms.  UTC already works on fuel cell systems.  Who else might be out there, outside the top ten, that could be on the next wave?  The car industry has shown us that competition forces improvement.  So has the computer industry, and various other commercial industries.  So here's the deal.  What if we give out a couple of grants, and then let these companies hire plenty of new people, and drive our efforts farther?

What might just happen is that we wind up with companies competing to take humanity farther and father from Earth.  We might just find orbiting prisons and manufacturing and food facilities and even deep launch platforms.  What we also might find is an extensive new network of jobs.  Putting America back to work and jumping to the next frontier... now, isn't that a stimulus package worth doling out?

Friday, December 28, 2012

We can assume that Craig Venter missed Jurassic Park

Craig Venter is an interesting guy.  He's one of the first people to sequence the human genome.  If that isn't interesting (and, as an aside, incredibly cool), you might need to reevaluate your definition of the word.  Mapping is only part of the deal, however; as if that isn't good enough, Venter moved from cartography to construction.  He started Synthetic Genomics which has a pretty great concept.  The company is "creating genomic-driven commercial solutions" which is pretty great, if you think about it.  New methods to establish energy, but take us away from our dependence on foreign oil, and even fabricate vaccines that can be spread with more ease.  I might need to start mentioning the guy in the Olympus Union series for all he's doing.  Venter even has a plan to email vaccines around the world using biological printers.  This is absolutely the stuff of science fiction... except that, it's turned into reality by a man with an incredibly interesting past.  How'd he map the genome, by the way?  He used his own DNA. Oh, and started creating new life (a "synthetic cell") by using homemade genes.  Read that again and let it sink in a bit.  Pretty amazing, right?

So, what could I possibly have issue with?  This guy is nothing short of incredible!  He could be responsible for curing blindness, growing new organs for cancer victims (or soldiers, or anyone else), and extending human life past the century mark.  What in the world might my subject be talking about?  Could I have an issue with printable life forms?  Well, it's not really that.

Venter wants to rebuild Martian DNA here on Earth.  Now, listen, I'm fine with him sending machines to Mars.  The man wants to get into the practice of sending things to Mars, I'm on board.  More private industry heading into space, and heading out to actually do something of value, can only help the efforts for man's jump to the next level.  We can improve from competition, learn from mistakes, and create new jobs.  This is something I've been talking about continuously.  That part I'm on board with, but the fact that he wants to take that DNA, and then try to rebuild Martians here on Earth... I'm sorry, but that's where I draw the line.

Did you see the movie Jurassic Park?  I sure did.  Now, apparently, scientists said it isn't possible to bring that to reality.  Their supposition is based on the fact that the samples wouldn't survive to the point that DNA would be usable.  Fair enough.  Venter isn't using existing DNA; he's creating brand new material from scratch.  Not expired milk, but freshly squeezed.  This, my friends, is a problem.  You ever seen a Martian?  Me neither.  Any idea what a creature that lived on Mars would act like?  Again, me neither.  Any clue on how our body chemistry would react to them?  Anything excreted that might be a problem for humans?  How the breeding would work?  Assurances that it wouldn't kill off necessary plants or animals to introduce something of that nature? Nah, I have no idea.  You know who else doesn't?  Mr. Venter.  Listen, I'm all about science for science's sake, but I'm not so certain about this idea.  Maybe I've seen too many movies... or maybe I just have witnessed the reality of our lives.  Let's just say that I'm in no hurry to see this particular project succeed.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Defiance

When you read the books in the Olympus Union series, you'll find that it's really all about matters of contention and defiance.  The latest book in the series, "The Future Reborn" makes good on what was started all the way at the beginning.  People are making choices, defying odds, and doing what they can to identify with what they feel is most important.  It started from the beginning with "The Past Repeated" and was a theme that "Drawing Battle Lines" carried forth.  Now that the original trilogy is completed (and, yes, as promised, I'm already working on the stand alone Jeremy Hunter novella, which will come out in 2013, and be free), I've been exploring the deeds of some of your favorite characters.

Keeping with the theme of defiance, I've been browsing around this little universe that I've created (or, more appropriately, the solar system).  At the moment, I'm working on a 12-20 page story that will visit Hera's Clutch and then wanders off to Mercury.  A few other shorts in the Olympus Union short story section deal with defiance as well.  The most notable, however, is the most recently placed story in the stocks.

"McGee and Maguin" is all about the Alpha Station Minister coming to a hard fought decision.  In "The Past Repeated" we know him as Derek McGee, but in the second and third books, he appears as Derek Maguin.  Where did the change come from, and why?  This story enlightens you, and raises some interesting questions.  What kind of statements do seemingly small gestures make?  What can we do to identify ourselves differently, and truly identify with another group... and how can we do it in a way that won't cause problems for the people that we care about?  These are the questions that Derek wrestles with.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Discovering a Habitable Planet

I trust that you've heard the exciting news by now.  Writing this blog posting previously, and setting it to show on Friday (you know, just in case the world comes to an end and I'm not able to type it up), word should have certainly made it to your ears by now.  Just in case it didn't, it looks like we've got a potentially habitable planet.  The discovery shows up orbitingTau Ceti which is just a mere 12 light years from Earth!  Aren't you remarkably excited about this discovery?  Wait, you're asking yourself how we could ever get there, or hope to colonize it since we haven't done anything like that yet, even on our closest neighbor?  Oh come on now, don't spoil it - why trouble yourself with little details like reality.

Alright, that last bit might have been dripping a little too much with sarcasm.  I've spoken in this space before about the need to take comparatively little steps before we try hurtling out to other stars.  It's incredibly cool that Tau Ceti has five planets orbiting it, and that one of them is in what they refer to as the habitable zone.  This is great news for the long term plan, but we really need to take a look around these planets that we already have, and the possibilities that they present us much nearer.  Twelve light years is a long, long way away.  Our moon, Luna, is 238,900 miles (or 384,400 km) away from the Earth.  A light year is about 58,784,998,100,000 miles.  So, you can see why I'd like us to look a little closer first, huh?

When I wrote "The Past Repeated" I talked about orbital prisons (which we'll certainly delve more into in a later post), as well alluding to cities under the surface of the water and colonies on other planets and moons.  The short stories that I'm producing on OlympusUnion.com will be delving deeper into those habitats in the coming months.  Space stations might be our first way to go, however, which I've mentioned before.  Much more focus on these orbital habitats comes across in "Drawing Battle Lines" and the trilogy's soon to be released final book, "The Future Reborn".

We've already got an International Space Station that has been up and working fairly well for years.  How sustainable is it, though?  Perhaps that's the first thing that we need to do.  It's time to work hard, expanding this station so that it can support dozens, and perhaps hundreds of people at a time.  We need to start somewhere, after all; what good will it be to only have space born stations that can only hold a handful of people at a time?  Not much at all.  So, first we expand to handle dozens, then hundreds, and we work towards making this station self-sustaining.  Once it can feed and fuel itself, repair itself, maintain itself without any true need from Earth, we can work towards building towards further launches: the moon and Mars.  If, when you think about it, you don't need all of the power to escape Earth's orbit just to get to space, you need a lot less power and packaging to make it to one of these destinations.  Firing off to the Moon from a space station increases our chances.

So, I've already discussed factories in space and brought up the use of robots for colonizing other venues.  Well, let's consider it.  If we use our nearest neighbor to figure out how we might make landfall and develop long lasting habitats much further from Earth's reach, how would this not help make Tau Ceti more of a reality?  Before we reached the moon the first time, none of this equipment existed.  We came up with it.  We employed people, we figured it out, and there it was: jobs, technology, brilliance and breakthroughs.  Why wouldn't we have similar breakthroughs once again?  Doesn't it seem to follow?  Before considering a next step, it takes a first step.  Looking towards building and assembling in space, farming in space, and living in space... we need to stop shooting off probe after probe, and start looking at moving people skyward.  Time to make science fiction into reality, don't you think?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Magical Mayans

There was a great quote that I read the other day.  It stated that, "If the Mayans were that great at predicting the future, there'd still be Mayans."  I only wish I could remember where I'd seen it so that I could offer proper attribution.  Still, the sentiment is an interesting one, because we're all hung up on the world ending on the 21st.  Yet again.

Never mind that scientists apparently found another calendar which shows that the world won't end on December 21st, 2012.  Lets ignore the concept that the Mayans didn't have a zero, so their number structure isn't the same as ours.  Or even that their calendar had fewer days than ours.  Keep an eye on the Jewish Lunar Calendar that is so skewed right now, I'll have to finish my Hanukkah shopping by Thanksgiving next year.  Oh, yes, the beauty of the moving calendar.  Our Mayan friends, it appears, actually had multiple calendars.  Sure, no chance that you could get mixed up there, could you?  Ah, but maybe you could.

Human history is filled with ancient myths fabricated to explain things that we didn't understand.  Do you remember, for instance, what your parents told you was happening when thunder and lightning came?  Certainly we've got a number of different childhood memories.  Consider people who, no matter how advanced, no matter how adult, still didn't understand what was going on around them.  Never forget that astronomers thought that the Sun revolved around the Earth.  The Geocentric model was as well accepted as the pure fact that the Earth is flat.

So what am I saying?  Am I just hoping that humanity survives 2012, so that everything I'm writing on OlympusUnion.com isn't completely and utterly invalidated?  Well, maybe just a little - I put a lot of time into writing those books and short stories!  Still, I expect to be in New York City, at the Museum of Natural History on the 22nd, just as I'd originally planned.  Don't clear out your bank accounts or make foolish decisions just yet, alright folks?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Eyeing Europa

NASA is talking about a mission to Europa, to gather information.  What do they want to know?  If the moon (Jupiter's fourth largest) is capable of supporting life.  It's an interesting departure from their obsession with Mars.  After all, there is already a plan for yet another Mars Rover in 2020.

I need to digress for a moment.  Could someone please explain to me why we're sending another rover to Mars, out of curiosity?  Listen, I love Mars as much as the next guy.  In "The Past Repeated" I take you there with Kro and Duncan.  We start to get a sense of a partially terraformed planet, with existing wilderness, but major city placements.  Think of the old west in America; no reason not to treat the new frontier like the last frontier.

That's just it, though - I don't get why we're not planning to send people there... or, at the very least robotic machines that can do more than scout around on treads.  You know, maybe build some structures for people to come and exist in?  We could employ ASIMOV Robotics for the job!  Alright, maybe we'll discuss those pitfalls a little later, but there is still something there.  Sure, I'm a science fiction author, so I love to make these things up... but we made it to the moon, didn't we?  I don't subscribe to the conspiracy theories, so, yes, we made it to the moon. Someone had to dream that up.  We'll get to it later though.  Back to Europa.

So, in "Drawing Battle Lines" Europa actually fits in quite prominently.  I'm not ruining the book for you by mentioning a secure bunker that Duncan operates out of.  It's worth the read, if I can give the biased opinion of the author, if only to see what I've already decided on.  Oh yes, based on the raw information that I already have (and it's decades old, you realize): Europa could be quite useful to humans.  How do I know?  Well, something had to put Europa in the minds of our scientific friends at NASA.  This is only the fourth largest moon in the Jovian System, after all.  Most people tend to concentrate on Ganymede.  Don't think so?  Head on over to Amazon and do a search for Ganymede in their books section.  Actually, you know what?  Here, I just did it for you: Ganymede on Amazon brings up a lot.  Europa... a bit less (and even less than that if you're only talking fiction).  Come to think of it, I actually focused quite a bit on Ganymede in my books as well... and have planned a few short stories to delve deeper into the "Greenamede" project.  Check out OlympusUnion.com if you're not sure what the heck I'm talking about... the aforementioned two books will enlighten you.

So, the simple fact is this: I'm actually quite pleased that we're considering Europa.  It's great that we're looking at Mars.  It's great that we're looking anywhere else, in fact.  No, I don't think that the world is going to end, or that we need to find a way off this rock for any other reasons that... why not?  Columbus sailed in the wrong direction and was thought to be a fool... and it worked out alright.  So why not see if we can get a little explorers luck going on the ocean of vacuum this time?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mercury's Inspirational Ice

You may or may not have seen this image already.  For those who don't recognize it, this is the most basic photo of the planet Mercury with an overlay indicating water-based ice.  It's important to say that it's water-based ice, and not something else.  Simple comparison - most of us have seen dry ice puffing off to smoke (a scientific process called sublimation; solid straight to gas)... so we know that more than just good old H2O can turn into ice in this galaxy.  Why bother showing you this image?  Well, again, for those who haven't read it, NASA announced that they've found ice on the surface of Mercury.  Closest to the sun, capable of surface temperatures around 800 degrees Fahrenheit, and we've got more than enough ice to mix up cocktails.

Mercury has at least 100 billion metric tons of water ice, and possibly much more.  Now, the Earth is about 70% water, so we aren't talking about oceans (the image itself makes that pretty clear).  What we are talking about is usable water, and potential for life.  No, I'm not talking about alien life.  Anyone who has read my Olympus Union books probably knows that I'm not overly concerned with finding non-human life.  Certainly, I like Star Wars and the Frank Compton series, and have no problems with aliens... it's just not a focus for me.  What is, however, is how we can put our life on other planets.

There hasn't been a great deal of interest, on my part, in Mercury.  Go ahead, check out OlympusUnion.com, or read "The Past Repeated" and see just how much I put into Mercury.  Not a lot, I know.  I've got some ideas, and there is a short story actually sketched out to do some work on Mercury, but again, not a whole lot.  This discovery changed things for me, though.  In the upcoming "The Future Reborn" I've got Jones Oden talking about stronger expansion inside the asteroid belt.  So much has been done with Mars.  One of my biggest tasks, lately, has been to sketch out a number of stories to take place across the nearly two dozen cities that I've laid out in my initial world building.  Now, however, I'm aiming for Venus and Mercury.

There is already a story prepped for Venus.  I outlined it earlier this week, and it will probably wind up around 10-15 pages long.  There will be a few more to accompany it, with ideas already swirling.  At one point, I'd outlined something of a detective story on Mercury, as well.  Frustratingly, I lost it... but I'm going to try and recreate parts of it.  A flurry or Mercury ideas are on the way, and you can bet I'm going to have some fun, and hope to entertain you in the process.  Onward to Mercury!!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Twisting and Turning

In my life, there have been a lot of books and short stories to read, many web posts, ebooks and short stories written.  Throughout that time, I've never been overly worried about twists and turns in a book.  Not when I'm writing, and certainly not while I've been reading.  Is that a big deal to you?  I'm a little curious.

When I'm reading a book, an unexpected twist can be a nice addition, but it's never been a must for me.  Never, in all of my days, have I finished a novel and thought to myself, "Well, that was just way too straightforward!"  Not even once.  Don't get me wrong, when I was reading Timothy Zahn's Frank Compton series they were pretty fun!  The second book, "The Third Lynx" had a few spots that threw me for a loop, I'll be happy to tell you.  Zahn didn't need to do that, though.  Learning about the universe that he's created, the races that he's invented, and the nature of everything going on around the characters was more than interesting enough.  I didn't need anything overly manufactured to try and make me think, "Oh wow!  I never saw that one coming!!"  Perhaps it's just the strength of the story teller.

So, then you had The Hunger Games.  After getting pressed from a number of different angles about how I had to read the series, I finally broke down and did so.  Listen, it's not a bad series.  Having read a great deal of science fiction in my life, and being a huge fan of the post apocalyptic sub-genre, this wasn't bad at all.  You've definitely got some elements of "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson... and, as it was pointed out to me, Stephen King's "The Running Man" (the book, not Arnie's movie) sent shadows into large portions as well.  Still, it was a good enough story.  Not bad for something that, as I understand it, was meant for teen readers.  What bugged me, however, was that all three books intentionally tried to push twists and turns on the reader.  Instead of being shocked (most of the time, it came off as predictable), some of the elements felt forced, and in one case, a little cheap.  That's definitely a risk you run.

For the most part, in my books, I don't look to add any intentional twists and turns.  My goal, when I set out, is to just tell a story.  I've got no need to shock or surprise, just to tell a story.  If it happens, hey great: happy accident!  Nothing is going to get forced, though.  It's hard enough to tell a quality story without manufacturing shock value.  If it doesn't have value to the story (or to the next part of the story) then it doesn't need to be written.  Everything - even the Jeremy Hunter references - has a point to some part of the story, somewhere down the line.  My feeling is that, if the story is good enough, it will carry itself.  Hopefully, you feel that my stories are good enough to carry without intentional twists and turns and shocks.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Science Fiction Story Time

Gather 'round kids, it's science fiction story time!  No, actually, I'm not going to tell you a story right here in the blog.  Actually, that's silly, since every blog posting, from me or anyone else, really is a little story.  So now, it's time to use one of my least favorite phrases in the English language: I digress.

What I'm talking about today is a decision that a buddy of mine helped me make.  My pal Scott, who was reading through book three in the Olympus Union series ("The Future Reborn") to help make recommendations on the book for tweaking, made another suggestion.  He doesn't want me to release my fourth book, Jeremy Hunter, any time soon.  His rationale actually made some sense to me.  So, while book 4 is decently nearing completion, and will continue to do work, I'm going to make it a side project for now.  He also made another recommendation - don't write too many books (at least, not right now).

For the friend of an author, that probably sounded a bit odd.  Almost an indictment of my writing style, characters, and universe.  Well, except for the fact that he just finished telling me how much he liked certain characters, and situations, and why.  So that's betters.  But what's the deal?  Ah, right, his suggestion: more shorter stories.  The recommendation was to only release one book per year (although, I'll still do two in 2012, since I promised Jeremy out for free, and one other book), and to write a number of shorter stories, in the 10-30 page range.  That's actually not a bad idea, the more that I thought about it.

  • Kro needs to have another adventure, but the one I've got in mind isn't so long.
  • Martell Andrews needs to be explored a little deeper.
  • Things are happening on Earth, Luna and around Venus that we really don't talk about.
  • Mars has so much to explore that I really need to get in there.
  • The Red Scythe could use a couple of longer adventures of their own!
So, that's the new plan, for now.  "The Future Reborn" is essentially complete, with a minor tweak necessary for a Martell Andrews speech.  I'll have that out on Amazon shelves by the end of this year.  Then, I'm going to get down to outlining - my tried and true approach for writing - only much shorter outlines.  As I said, stories of 10-30 pages.  Their home will, of course, be OlympusUnion.com (just like the super short stories I've got up there now).  Just like the current shorts, these will be free.  When inspiration strikes, I'll even get back to throwing out some 1 to 3 page shorts.  Everything here will be about exploring the Olympus Union universe.  In fact, I intend to use the blog to talk a little more about some characters, situations, and places, as well.  Hopefully, you'll come along and explore with me.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Giving a Face to the War

If you are a Star Wars fan, you're quite familiar with Wedge Antilles.  The Corellian is one of the most famous characters in the Star Wars universe not named Han, Luke or Leia.  Cracked.com has a fantastic explanation of Wedge, how he's "that guy" who kicks so much ass in the Star Wars movies.  Except, he doesn't get a whole lot of credit. The Star Wars novels universe has turned Wedge into a much bigger deal than the movies ever did - and mind you, I'm talking about the original movies, the real ones - but it doesn't diminish what his initial role was.  You knew the super heroes in the war: Solo, Skywalker, Organa... even the pair of droids, Lando, and old Kenobi get more air time than the crack pilot.  That's just the idea, though.  The story of Star Wars is really about those stars.  Luke and his family reunion with his twin sister (who was originally a different age than him, and there's that kiss in the first movie, so yeah, Lucas made it up as he went along), and dear old Darth.  Oops, I mean Dad.  It's about the redemption of Han, the partnership with Chewie, and the power of The Force.

Quick digression - why didn't Chewbacca get a medal?  That has always bothered me.  Apparently, I'm not the only one asking.  Clearly, I wasn't bothered enough, though, because someone else did something about it. Check out this slight re-hash on the end of "A New Hope" (or, as those of us normally called it, Star Wars).  It's on YouTube, and someone gave Chewie his medal (go to 2:15 in the video).

Alright, back on track.  My pal Scott has been reading through book three in the Olympus Union series and providing me feedback.  He even created a video blog (or vlog) to talk about giving feedback.  It's an entertaining, quick watch.  What's important, however, is the actual feedback he's been giving me.  As I've been going through my last sweep, tweaking a few things here and there, and making a couple of recommended changes (mostly extra explanation, with a handful of minor changes), I came upon my own little Wedge Antilles moment.  Actually, for those who have read "The Past Repeated" and "Drawing Battle Lines" you'll realize that I've done this more than once.  Scott actually called me out on it, though.

I like to give a face to the war. Book one is really about Duncan and Kro, more than anything else.  Book two focuses a lot more on Justin Brand and Avinoam David, along with Duncan's transformation.  In book three, I've really focused a lot on Brand and David, with some other characters coming to the forefront as well.  In each book, however, someone a bit less consequential comes into play.  Most of my people have names, even if you'll barely hear from them again.  Yesterday, in fact, I decided to add one more, casting Xavier Zorsh as the man known for the last year as "the singed soldier" just because he needed a name.  He was a member of the Ares Elite for all this time, how could he not have a name?

So, here I was, unable to sleep, and starting to do my final edit on Chapter Four.  It's all about Keema and Tomas.  Who are they?  Folks that you haven't ever heard of before.  Will they eventually end up as stars in another free short story in my growing collection on OlympusUnion.com?  Could they one day wind up as Olympus Union fan fiction targets?  (That'd be cool - feel free to write OU fan fiction)  Maybe, but for now, they're just participants in the war.  Like the two men working on the reservoir on Ganymede, or the crewmen on Dondo Kriz's water ship.  Conflicts are won and lost by heroes and villains throughout various forms of entertainment, but in reality, they are fought by people. Ordinary people with ordinary jobs.  It just feels right to give a face to the war.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Factories in Space

Following up from my last blog post about putting people into space for varying reasons (moon colonies, orbital prisons, and so forth), I read an article about NASA's new "Space Launch System" or SLS.  Now, according to Space.com, NASA is already trying to trim costs.  That brings me back to my initial though, however: why are we aiming for deep space when we haven't done a whole lot with near space?  By 2022, according to the initial article, this rocket will be able to deliver "286,000 pounds to Earth orbit" and I've got a fantastic way to take advantage of that.  Let's start building in space.

Now, I understand that we've got that International Space Station orbiting and providing lovely images of Earth, or of astronauts doing goofy tricks.  Apologies to all who I'm about to insult, including Howard Wolowitz, but I'd like to put up an orbital platform that can do something slightly more useful.  Oh yes, I know, that statement is an affront to science and purists everywhere.  Just bear with me for a moment, however, and consider how I'm looking to make an advancement here.  The "space race" brought about some rather incredible technological advances.  It had to in order to keep people alive and bring them home.  Further, it created jobs.  So why aren't we trying to do both, one more time?

My thought is that we can use the SLS not as a long range ship, but as a courier.  Consider just how much material 286,000 pounds consists of, especially if you're building in space.  We can build a new orbital platform designed for construction out of materials that we ship up.  Then, we can ship up more materials and tools, and begin building.  With plenty of solar power, developing and building an orbital green house shouldn't be that much trouble in the scheme of things.  And from there, how tough should it be to begin assembling transport craft to ferry us to the moon, materials and rovers to build structures on the moon, and construction of farming building on the moon.

If you'll notice, I just mentioned construction a few times.  We're talking about new jobs - people assembling crafts up in space, people come up with pre-fab construction and back-up parts on Earth, people working as farmers in the sky.  Pipe dreams?  At one time, living in the Americas was foolish.  Going into space was laughable.  Walking on the moon was impossible.  It's time for us to retake the possible, refocus our efforts, and make the future begin to happen.  Why should science fiction have all the fun?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Walking on the Moon

So, how many years has it been now since Neil Armstrong walked on the moon?  That was Monday July 21, 1969, or roughly 43 years ago.  And now, the great Armstrong has left us.  This isn't news, nor is the fact that we haven't been back to the moon since 1972.  Read that again.  The last manned mission, Apollo 17, was forty years ago.  Sure, the 80s was all about the shuttle program but why didn't we do more while we were up there?  How many different experiments can you really run from the safety of orbit so incredibly close to the Earth?  I've seen the floating pencil, we've discovered what spending time in space can do to a man, and we've run some really neat zero gravity experiments.  Well, here's the thing... so what?

When Newt Gingrich proposed putting a colony or a base on the moon, I've got to admit, the man got my attention.  Like him or hate him (and I'll keep my opinion to myself) the fact is that he had something of a point.  Why aren't we on the moon at the moment?  Did I mention that it's been forty years since the last time we launched a mission to the moon?  So why aren't we going back?  I get that Obama called for a mission to Mars.  Very cool, and I hope that we work towards it eventually, but I think we need to pay Newt's line of thought a little bit more attention.

In a lot of science fiction, we have colonies on the moon.  The Lunara Series puts a colony on the moon to help salvage from Earth's wreckage.  In Olympus Union, I'd been so complacent with our people being on the moon, I've barely mentioned it.  Wouldn't it be easier for humanity to take aim at Mars, however, if we figured out how to live somewhere besides Earth?  Put a man on the moon, oh how exciting.  Put a few objects there for people to shoot off of, excellent.  What about a habitat?  Or, maybe a prison?

Did that one perk your ears up a bit, I hope?  For those who have read my first novel, "Olympus Union: The Past Repeated" you'll recall that I've got a handful of prisons orbiting Earth.  And, yes, I planned a prison break that left some repercussions but let's look at some the more realistic aspects of something so seemingly unrealistic.  Listen, if we're essentially figuring out how to build a tractor beam why not build something tremendously useful (that could put the tractor beam into use, too)?  My "clutches" might not be an awful idea after all.  Consider how much more difficult it would be to escape from a prison orbiting Earth.

Alright, maybe you're not as worried about prison breaks.  How about jobs?  Everyone talks about the economy these days.  How about an international cooperative to built an international prison for the baddest of the bad guys?  We're talking about brand new jobs, brand new technology, and a brand new frontier.  And, just maybe, finding a way to ship the most violent offenders off the Earth would help us learn to ship our best and brightest to a whole new world.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Human Augmentation in the Olympus Union


Recently, I finished reading the final book in the Quadrail series, Judgement at Proteus.  Any fan of mine, especially a reader of my blog, knows by now that I'm quite a fan of Timothy Zahn.  I find him to be one of the modern Masters of Science Fiction, taking interesting angles on some areas that are taken for granted.  In the series, he discusses the Shonkla'raa, a genetically engineered sect of one of his alien races.  In fact, he goes to great lengths to talk about how that species (the filiaelians) is so categorized by widespread genetic manipulation and augmentation.  This isn't the first time Zahn has gotten into that realm of discussion in his writing.  In his Cobra trilogy, the master delves a bit deeper into augmentation of human men to perform as super soldiers.  His interpretation goes beyond the super suit of Iron Man, to internalize augmentation.  My own development of the Ares Elite initially spun from a simple thought: how might I do the "augmented soldier" in my own way?  No disrespect to Mr. Zahn (nor the others to stride down this literary path), but this was my concept of the better way... and, of course, a different angle to explore their flaws.

Today, however, I came across an article from the Huffington Post regarding Extreme Body Augmentation. Now, it could be that I'd been reading about genetically augmented aliens recently.  Perhaps it could be that I've been working on writing my fourth Olympus Union book, which centers on Jeremy Hunter, the augmented, vigilante hero that I'd created a while back.  Could be that I saw my buddy wearing his Kro t-shirt this weekend, or maybe just the fact that I'm currently sick and my head has been off-kilter (hence my writing a blog, to get back on track, instead of butchering the Jeremy Hunter book).  Still, I found this article incredibly intriguing, and wondered if there was anything in it that I might leverage in my writing as well.  I'm certainly considering taking the angle of "designer babies" for why there would be such overcrowding on Earth to force our people out into the rest of the solar system.  After all, if you're truly running out of room on the land, it'd make plenty of sense to push for under-sea, domed cities or lunar based settlements.

I just couldn't help looking for more articles regarding human enhancement, however.  Previously, making permanent changes were the stuff of science fiction, solely; Darth Vader's monstrous augmentations or Luke Skywalker's restored hand.  Lately, of course, real life has been taking a cue from science fiction.  Not just your tablets and smart phones inspired by Star Trek, mind you.  Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius, comically nicknamed "Blade Runner" made history by competing in an Olympic event with carbon-fiber legs replacing his amputated extemities.  In an article that I found from about a year ago, a company named Sarif Industries is going that extra mile; they're offering actual cybernetic implants!
Alright, before you get too concerned, Sarif is actually part of a video game (and, yes, I spent a few minutes deciding whether I'd come clean on that little truth, or let you discover it yourself).  Still, the website's main image really spoke to me.  Kro, readers will remember, has had his natural eyes replaced by cybernetic implants.  The implants were colored jet black (for show, of course), but included abilities far beyond that of the native version.  Science fiction's domain, certainly, but how far from the truth could it really be?  In Repo Men, Jude Law comes across all manner of implants and tricked out body part replacements.  While all of that was fabricated, the South African's achievements are most certainly real.  So why couldn't Kro's eyes, or Law's heart, become as real as Pistorius' legs?

Thus far in the Olympus Union series, I haven't delved as deeply into the specifics of the augmentations.  We cover the Ares Elite a bit, and a few mentions about what Jeremy Hunter can do.  In the Ares Elite duology, however, the planned fifth and sixth books of the series will get much deeper.  Just maybe, by the time my super soldiers take their shape, we'll find even more technology implementing the evolution of man.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fiction in Science

Long before I created the Olympus Union series, I was writing science fiction.  Longer before that, I was a science fiction fan.  For my entire school career, however, I loved science.  Call me what you will, but astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics, I found all of it fun and interesting.  We were manipulating the building blocks of reality, running experiments, and coming to conclusions based on hard data.  It was science, and that's how things worked.

Then there was science fiction.  Something that, as I said, love enough to read, watch and write.  I understand how ridiculous the concept of a duel between laser swords could be.  The use of The Force was no different than concepts of magic in fantasy novels and movies.  Odd space ships and stations, laser guns and strange planets, aliens of all shapes and sizes... those who shot first and those who didn't... and those who make a big deal over who actually shot first.  Yep, all of that is intriguing to me in an entertaining way.  That's precisely what it is, though, entertainment.  Isaac Asimov made numerous suggestions in his Foundation series that seem a little more far fetched now, but he was still writing fiction.  You can be wildly inaccurate if it's entertaining, because this is entertainment, not reality.

That brings me to something that I find frustrating: fiction in science.  I've had this discussion on and off, recently, with a good friend.  He's also a science fiction fan and writer.  Together, we've talked about how the "theoretical" branch of science seems to be made up of people getting credit for wild guesses.  They are either proven right by someone else's work (see Peter Higgs) or they can't be proven wrong because something might still be out there, and you can't disprove the theory.

Few things better illustrate the last point than an article recently published in the Huffington Post.  The article boasts that there is a Diamond Planet orbiting a star like our sun.  Of course, there is no proof that this planet has a diamond core.  The article, of course, mentions that "temperatures on its surface reaching 3,900 degrees Fahrenheit" which, of course, means that you couldn't possibly get down there and start drilling to see what you could find.  We're not even fully certain what is in our own core.  In fact, there is a Billion Dollar mission to reach the mantle - that'd be Earth's mantle.  You know, the one beneath our feet.  So, here we are, making wild suggestions about the insides of other planets, and making "educated guesses" when we don't know what we've got here at home.

"The surface of this planet is likely covered in graphite and diamond rather than water and granite," said Nikku Madhusudhan.  Now, Nikku looks like a nice guy.  He's leading a team of astronomers at Princeton University.  That's a fairly prestigious school, well known for its excellence in education, and apparently Nikku is very smart.  The problem, of course, is that a statement like this, published as his team's "findings" and "discovery" doesn't sound entirely smart if you truly think about what a discovery is.  Find a planet?  Fantastic!  Make some simply and testable suggestions based on atmosphere, speed (this planet's year takes 18 hours, apparently), or anything else directly measurable is perfectly logical.  You're talking about measurable points. 

When you start suggesting that there is a planet made of diamonds, though, it becomes far fetched.  Not to say that this couldn't happen.  The same article suggests that there are many diamond based planets.  Well, no, those haven't been dug into either, but they're out there.  Absolutely out there.  Right?  It actually sounds like the Princeton team is making a supposition about something 40 light years away.  He can't possibly be proven wrong in his lifetime.  Unless Sheldon Cooper is correct, and we'll some day upload our consciousnesses into cyborg forms, Madhusudhan can die content that he was always right, knowing he couldn't be proven wrong.  We can't get to this planet, let alone to its surface to test.  So there are diamond planets out there, everywhere.  It makes for excellent science fiction.  Perhaps someone is already writing about it, or maybe there is a novel out there to fuel my Kindle.  If I ever expand the Olympus Union outside of our solar system, maybe I'll go to a diamond planet as well.  Until you can prove it, however, it's really fiction.  Until the ATMs rise up to lead the charge.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Interview with Scott West

Spent some time getting to know Scott West from Sciencefiction.com and decided to pass the learning on to you.  Scott is an intriguing character in his own right.  Nine questions because I was in a single digit kind of mood.  Might need to start up a podcast, too, to let he man riff a bit.  Check it out:


1. Were you always a Science Fiction fan, or did it come on later in life?

I grew up with family members who watched a lot of sci-fi. One of the first movies I remember seeing in the theater was 'Empire Strikes Back'. I was constantly watching 'Twilight Zone', the original 'Star Trek', and sci-fi movies. I had stacks upon stacks of hand-me-down 70s comics, which were a combination of sci-fi, horror, and weird west type stuff mainly so I have always been a fan of sci-fi in general.

2. What was the moment that you knew, yes, this was a genre you had to have more of?

Well... like I said, I always liked sci-fi. But when I first saw the original 'Star Wars' when it aired on television in the mid-80s, I became obsessed. I loved 'Star Wars' for the longest time. Since then, my tastes have evolved to include other aspects of sci-fi, but 'Star Wars' is really what set it off.

3. Of the major science fiction franchises, which is your favorite, and why?

As much as I love the original 'Star Wars' universe and a ton of more modern franchises ('Firefly', 'Warehouse 13'), it's 'Star Trek' that has to be my favorite. Gene Roddenberry's vision of a future that is optimistic. It's refreshing, especially in the face of a lot of popular dystopian futures that are out there. I think that optimism is part of what has kept 'Star Trek' so endearing thoughout the ages. Plus... Data on 'The Next Generation' is one of my favorite television characters ever.

4. What's your favorite sci fi medium, television, movies, literature, or comic books?

I love comics but the majority of comics that I read are superheroes. If you're talking straight sci-fi, I love TV as a medium. I think the episodic nature of a television show allows the writers to explore the corners of a universe that a movie can't. I'm especially fond of anthology television shows like 'Twilight Zone', 'Outer Limits', or 'Amazing Stories'.

5. Which comic book character does it for you today & isn't necessarily a big main stream name?

It seems like, with the onslaught of comic book movies, that even obscure characters are known by somebody but I'm still fond of western and noir heroes. I'm a big fan of Jonah Hex and the Shadow. Yeah... Jonah Hex had a movie but it didn't do too well because it wasn't played as straight as it should have been. The same with The Shadow. I think both of those characters still have potential to become awesome film or television stars.

6. What's the best thing that you've ever written?

My favorite piece that I wrote was a short story about a scientist that had created an android and was dealing with public attacks from a political interest group that was fighting against the AI because it didn't think androids should have rights. It read like a 'Twilight Zone' episode and was published in a small 'zine some years ago. I've written a lot since, but that one is still special for me.

7. Which science fiction writers have had the most impact on you?

I've always had a mean sense of humor and a love of words so, while they're not all strictly sci-fi, the biggest influences on my writing have been British writers like J.R.R. Tolkein, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, and Neil Gaiman. Their writing not only tells great stories, but the language and ideas that they use to convey those stories is like poetry. It's beautiful!

8. If you could guest write in any franchise, what would it be? Where would you take it?

I really don't like to write other peoples' characters. As much as I've written, I've never done fan-fic. I prefer to work with my own ideas. If I were to write something that was in another writer's franchise, I would create new characters within the same universe rather than use existing characters. If I were given the chance, I'd love to take a stab at Joss Whedon's 'Firefly' universe, but I'd like to tell the stories of other characters aside from the crew of the Serenity... maybe someone in the political intrigue of the Alliance and the core planets.

9. What's the next great thing coming up in Science fiction that you've seen?

The thing I'm most excited about is the idea that Ridley Scott might be returning to the 'Blade Runner' universe. The original movie is one of (if not THE) best science fiction films ever made and I can't wait to see another tale in that universe. As you can tell by my answers, I have a thing for sci-fi that uses artificial people and questions exactly what it means to be human.

You can find more of Scott here:
http://www.hydeandgeek.com
http://twitter.com/hydeandgeek

Personally, I follow his Twitter feed, above, and really enjoy his posts.  You would too.



Monday, May 28, 2012

Wyatt Davenport: Interview With an Author


If you aren't familiar with Wyatt Davenport, he's the author of the Lunara Series.  Creating a host of interesting characters and a post apocalyptic world, Davenport is a science fiction maestro.  It was time to get to know him a little bit better.


Did you grow up as a science fiction fan?
I've been a sci-fi fan for as long as I can remember. My first memory of sci-fi was a double feature of Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back. Obviously, I loved it. I also have fond memories of watching Star Trek: The next generation with my dad. Science Fiction has always been a genre of choice for me when it comes to books and movies. I would estimate 95 percent of the books I read are science fiction or fantasy. Nothing else really interests me.


Describe the moment that you just knew you loved this genre.
It was definitely the moment I saw Darth Vader burn a hole into the corvette, pop his head through the hatchway, and everyone in the theatre was cheering. I was only four and at a double feature so everyone had already seen the movie four years earlier. This was my first experience with Darth and he both intimidated and fascinated me. Best bad guy in fiction history.
My love of science fiction was further strengthened by Star Trek. I love The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. I still contend Deep Space Nine is the best of the bunch. What a great story.

These days do you prefer to read it or watch it?
I prefer to read over any other media because I can paint a lot of the details myself. This "ruins" less of the stories. This has influenced my writing style as I'm a minimalist whereby I provide enough details for the reader to draw an outline and I allow them to paint the colors and the fill picture. I believe this is the best way to create a story.
Movies, and I believe it’s a reason why people always say the book is better, has the issue where the pictures and the details are given by the director instead of by the imagination of the reader. Providing your own details gives you the power to make it perfect.

Where did the concept behind the Lunara series come from?
I always wanted to read a "Star Wars in our solar system" concept. Lunara is just that in my estimation, but it has my own twist and sci-fi preferences baked in. I came up with the concept back in 2002. It took my almost three or four years to write the first book. I had plenty to learn about writing and creating a story. I took in ultra-slow because I wanted it to come together correctly. Once I learned the craft well-enough to write more books, I expanded my library to five books.

Many people talk about Martian colonization in the future, so why did you destroy Earth?
Earth's uninhabitable atmosphere was a key to my series. Humanity is dependent on Earth for survival, but I wanted to shift that dependence to Mars. I wanted Mars to be the focal point of everything that happens within the series. If the Earth were active and healthy, it would weigh too heavily on the readers. What is the point of struggling to survive on Mars or colonizing Mars when Earth is viable? You can see it today with our space program. No one wants to explore space because it has no value. It is just a vast wasteland to many. I wanted my series to focus on how humanity would deal with the loss of its mother.

Seth & Chloe are outsiders, but also dating. How does the romantic angle change what you write?
Seth and Chloe needed to be dating because their bond is the key to Seth's obsession with her safety. Like many men, he wants the one he loves to be safe and happy. Ultimately, it leads to issues between them, with the crew, and a driving story line in the first book.

How could you sum up the series for someone who hasn't read it before?
The Lunar series is like Star Wars in our solar system. It follows the crew of the Protector as they fight for their freedom, the freedom of others, and the freedom of their beloved colony Lunara. At a character level, it also deals with the crew, which is made up of people from several different backgrounds, and how each react to the attack. Some are from the attacking colony, while others aren't. Each reacts in their own unique way.

Was the Lunara series always your main idea, or have you had other projects in mind?
Lunara is my ideal series to write because I have so much time and heart invested in it. I believe it is a great sci-fi series because it gives a potential glimpse into what our space program could end up being if humanity were motivated to explore our solar system with more vigor.
I have two other series I would love to write and I have begun researching one of them. I can't give the details but it is another "in our world" sci-fi series. I would also like to write an "out of the galaxy" alien type sci-fi series. Like Star Wars, it would contain many different species. This one isn't a high priority to me, but if I ever get the time, I would do it.

If you could write into any well established sci fi franchise, which one?  What would you do?
Two ideas. I would write in the Star Wars universe definitely. I would want to write some 400 to 1000 years after A New Hope so I could use the rich history of the universe, but not be restricted by the current universe's many tales. I like to have options when I write.
I would also love to write a Predators vs Aliens book. I believe a story set in the future where humans had caught up to the Predators in technology would be a fantastic universe to write in. I have some great ideas on it.

Who are some of your favorite science fiction creators?
I love reading Timothy Zahn's Star Wars books, Michael Crichton, and really any Sci-fi authors. Haven't read a horrible sci-fi adventure book yet.

What's next for you?
I am going to release the 4th and 5th book in the Lunara series this summer, probably August time frame. I'm also 15 chapters into the next Lunara trilogy. I hope to have 8 books by the summer of 2013. I would then move to the next series or even more Lunara books. I've been getting regular readers to my Lunara series so I might be obligated to give them more Lunara series books, which I don't mind.

Hopefully you enjoyed your insight into author Wyatt Davenport. I'm personally looking forward to his Star Wars book.  At 400 to 1000 years into their future, perhaps it will only be in a galaxy far, far away (and not quite so long ago).  If you'd like to start getting into his Lunara Series, however, take a look here:

http://twitter.com/lunaraseries
http://www.lunaraseries.com
The Original Trilogy (the complete collection): http://lunaraseries.com/TheOriginalTrilogy.html#theoriginalseries
Seth and Chloe: http://lunaraseries.com/TheOriginalTrilogy.html#sethandchloe
Gwen and Eamonn: http://lunaraseries.com/TheOriginalTrilogy.html#gwenandeamonn
Parker and the Protector: http://lunaraseries.com/TheOriginalTrilogy.html#parkerandtheprotector

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Fictional NBA Blog

I'm a science fiction writer, but I'm also a huge basketball fan (not fiction).  For the last two seasons, I have been a New Jersey Nets season ticket owner (also not fiction).  Thing is, as of May 1st, they became the Brooklyn Nets and I still haven't decided if I'm going to follow them.  So I got to thinking about these Nets, and the "cross town" (cross tunnel?) Knicks.  I used to love playing with ESPN's Trade Machine and working out deals that make sense with the cap, and the chemistry of the team.  (Side note: I predicted the Deron Williams trade to the Nets, with actual hard proof of it, which still weirds me out).

Started thinking about the Nets and the Knicks, the playoffs, the needs, what I saw this year... and thinking about Bill Simmons.  You see, the Grantland founder and lead editor is my favorite sports columnist (apologies to Chris Sheridan, a close number two).  Bill considers himself the Maestro of the Trade Machine, and the VP of Common Sense.  It's been quite some time, but I decided to try out a trade that makes sense for both teams - either of which (or possibly neither) that I will be rooting for next year, so I actually want both to succeed.

We need to take some items into consideration:
1. Carmelo Anthony appears to succeed as a focal point, and could use someone to clean up his misses.
2. The Knicks seem to be heading towards a defensive team, but still lack a little.
3. The Nets weren't much of a defensive team, but their offense sputtered.
4. Amar'e Stoudemire (forward 'STAT') has knees so bad, the Knicks couldn't insure his contract.
5. Deron Williams said that he might come back to the Nets, but no guarantees.

So let's deal.  And the deals... will surround the mighty sign and trade.  Keeping in mind that STAT's contract is uninsured (and has much more money, for many more years), that the Nets have no first round draft picks (and Gerald Williams, cost of the first round pick, might opt out and leave), and that the Nets are moving into a brand new building...

Amar'e Stoudemire & 2012 1st round pick to the Nets for
Kris Humphries (s&t), Jerald Green (s&t), Jordan Farmar, Johan Petro

Wait, what?  Seriously?  Yep, seriously.  Let's start with the Nets haul of STAT and a pick.
What the Nets needed was a scoring punch, and what he does is score.  Jordan Williams came on enough at the end of the season to prove that he could play valuable backup minutes at both the 4 and 5, meaning he can spell STAT's knees, and Brook Lopez in general.  Speaking of Brook, with a scoring stud taking focus, it frees him up to play #2 quite keenly.  A true star on the roster is more likely to bring back Gerald Wallace for a strong front line, and potentially provide a back court of Deron Williams and Marshon Brooks (coming off a strong rookie campaign).  The pick will help to add some depth.

This team won't win a championship any time soon, but it will certainly make the playoffs, and possibly win a series thanks to the scoring punch.  It would be better than anything they've had in years, and comes without the drama of Dwight Howard.

The Knicks' side of things is more about chemistry and purpose.  Let's start in the back court.  Jordan Farmar had starting stretches last season, played fairly well this season, and did alright overseas (not great, just alright) playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv.  The man is a competent back up, and willing to play the role.  Barron Davis is not, sadly, trustworthy to sit behind Jeremy Lin if both are healthy for a full season.  Mike Bibby is... so, moving on.  Jerald Green is a spark plug with a strong shooters touch, and a flair for the dramatic.  The Garden loves a sixth man spark, and to have both Green and Novak coming off the bench together would be downright exciting.  There may need to be an additional trade to free up some playing room (Fields perhaps?) but this makes for an exciting change of pace and strong scoring off the bench.

We'll dismiss the draft pick because, honestly, the Knicks are looking for contributors for a ring, and they won't find one at this stage of the draft.  That pick helps to convince the Nets to look the other way on those creaky knees.  Petro, make no mistake, is a foul machine capable of blocking a couple of shots and scoring 8-10 points a game.  He can bang with the Gasols, Garnets, Boshs and Ibakas of the world.  With a contract that isn't so horrendous as it feels when you're counting on him to play major minutes all season (thanks, Nets management),  he's a good enough back up.

The key, of course, is Kris Humphries.  Forget the fact that he hung 29 on Miami, and is capable of scoring 20 plus points a game if he was a focal point.  The fact is that he won't be, but he doesn't need to be for maximum effect.  Kris does two things very well: play defense and rebound.  Melo is a bit off with his shooting touch in the first quarter?  Hump is there to clean up the glass and fire the ball back.  Need someone to bang against LeBron or Blake Griffin without fear?  No problem.  Thunderous statement dunk or key 12 footer for some momentum?  Sure why not.  He's learned a lot, and become stronger through the ill-fated Kardashian ordeal (more on that another day), and truly honed both his head and his game the past two seasons.

So, I'll admit, I'd be alright watching either of these two particular lineups.  Truth is, with the aforementioned creaky knees, the Knicks would be more fun to watch three years from now (and more likely to win), but this keeps both in the playoffs, and possibly lends New York a shot at taking the Atlantic Division crown as the Celtics fade to the pack.

My apologies to those who think that I only care about science fiction.  Of course, this trade is about as likely to happen as anything from my Olympus Union series, so it's fair enough.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Spring Writing Tips

Spring time, and most notably spring holiday time, is always interesting for me as a writer.  For one thing, there's the holiday bit that starts committing a bunch of family time.  Then there is the fact that the sun starts shining, the weather starts improving, and the call to outside grows.  It's a balancing act that gets even tougher when you're trying to work full time and focus on your day job.  So, how am I going to shove myself forward a bit?  I've formulated a plan, similar to something that I did last year while writing Drawing Battle Lines for what became a December release.  These tips might even work out for a few fellow writers out there, should the lack of time - or writer's block - come to bear.

1. The Google Doc
You know, Google really managed to update something that I had done for years with Yahoo's portal toys, some emailed text files and, further back, a scrap of paper.  It works even better in this scenario, though, because of mobile involvement.  I've moved some notes, resources, and other bits of writing items into Google Docs.  Now, if I'm at home, I'm taking a lunch break at work, or sitting on the train with my Android phone, and inspiration strikes, I've got the ability to continue what I was working on, or jot down a new idea.

2. Keep the Laptop Close
Borrowing a bit from another great writer that I know, every time can become writing time.  My best friend keeps his laptop on his lap while just hanging out and watching TV.  Even if he hadn't intended to work on his writing, it's there the moment he feels like swapping over, canceling out inertia.  This little tactic that I've picked up makes for a nifty zone-in technique.  While your sense of inertia - body at rest staying at rest - kicks in during an episode of The Big Bang Theory, the laptop is already there and you can start writing.  I've caught the intro to one episode... and suddenly popped back out of my writing in the middle of another episode, without noticing the time had passed.  And, in that space, come up with two or three solid pages of next science fiction.  It makes dead evening time a bit more productive.

3. Every Time is Writing Time
This one is absolutely poor form, and can earn you some nicknames like "hermit" or worse, but it's productive for writing.  The laptop has not only joined me at TV time, but whips out on the train, at the dinner table, and even comes out to restaurants if I'm not the mood to cook, and eating alone.  If you're dialed in, you're dialed in, and that's great.  Warning: best to leave it at home if you know that you're supposed to be interacting with people.  Might also want to check the restaurant to make sure it's cool to bring the laptop along.  Yelp might help.

4. Sun and Screen
I've got a deck, with a wobbly table and deck chair.  I've also got one of those canvas chairs that packs up nicely and transports easily.  There are some decent grass and wooded areas around.  So when the sun starts to shine, and the warmth factor increases, but you really need to get some work done... why not do it and pick up a little color?  Swap what you're working on over to a Notepad file, sit on the deck or patio... or throw a canvas chair out on a nice area of grass... and write.  Last summer, I wrote an entire chapter while adding some much needed color one weekend.  No one needs to be pasty in order to write.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Real Jones Oden

Would the real Jones Oden please stand up?  Alas, there have been many thoughts about who Jones Oden would be, since I first created the character.  Were I to make a movie about The Past Repeated who would represent the leader of the known universe?  I had teased a few ideas here and there, but there was one face that kept on creeping back at me.  One bearded, white haired man who stood, to me, as Jones Oden, for all time:  Terence Stamp

Of course, Mr. Stamp is an actor of great skill and renown.  To think that General Zod would be willing to take on the role of my Prime Minister... well, who knows.  We're quite a long way away from that happening.  Still, whenever I picture a speech, picture a meeting, or a glass of whiskey being raised to his lips... this is who I imagine.  That's the voice I hear when he speaks.  Not that I'm expecting Duncan Lab to kneel before Zod or anything... but I do hear his voice, his laughter, and that's who I'd love you to imagine when you read Jones Oden's lines, and follow his exploits and mannerisms.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Book Review: Seth & Chloe

Recently, I finished reading the first book in the Lunara Series named "Seth and Chloe" written by the talented (and woefully under promoted) Wyatt Davenport.  The first book in the series sets an intriguing tone with characters who are very intermingled, a strong sense of mystery, and page turning motion.  The concept alone - Earth dead but human life surviving on Mars and Earth (Luna - also what I refer to it as in the Olympus Union series, much the way that the Sun is actually Sol) - is quite intriguing.  As the graphic suggests, I read mine on the Kindle.  The link above actually takes you to that page, and it's a mere 99 cents, so worth supporting the author.

What I enjoyed most about the book was actually learning about and meeting the characters.  Without ruining any of the story for you, there is a definite mystery surrounding the title characters, Seth and Chloe (a couple who escaped the worst wars that Mars has ever seen).  It's a good time learning about their friends, however, and learning the personalities through the interactions and discussions about our title protagonists.  There is also a very good opportunity to get angry (and it comes often enough) when bad things - and unfair things - start to happen to the group.  The last time that I found myself genuinely angry was when I was reading one of George RR Martin's books, so that's a pretty solid rationale for getting into the characters!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Racism and Science Fiction

In his famous speech "I have a dream" speech, Martin Luther King said the following:

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

If you go ahead and read the entire speech (that link takes you to it), it's actually quite poignant.  If you want to actually see it and hear it, go ahead and click here.  Doctor King talked about black men and white men living together, his children being judged not by the color of their skin but the content of their character.  While I can't say that it was Doctor King who is responsible for this in my novel series (or perhaps, subconsciously he is?) I have happily included men and women of all colors into the Olympus Union series.  From administrators to commoners, soldiers to scientists, pilots and rebels, skin and race are essentially meaningless in this universe.  That, after all, was the goal of the Olympus Union - to unite all men together.

Of course, for those who have read both "The Past Repeated" and "Drawing Battle Lines" you know for a fact that not all men are united under the Olympus Union banner.  You also know that there is a type of racism that has grown within that universe as well.  Far into the future, men and women are still judged on a key factor - where do you live in relation to the great asteroid belt that cuts through the solar system?  The Jovians, especially the born Jovians, are looked down on.  As with racism today, it isn't practiced by everyone, but it certainly happens.  Perhaps it is a human condition, to cast off any who "aren't like us" but it's a reality.  Just as the English looked down their noses at the American Colonies so many centuries ago, so has it happened again.

[For anyone who never quite understood the title of "The Past Repeated" I just spilled it for you!]

And so, the fight goes on and on, deep into the future.  It's a different fight, but a fight none the less.  For fair treatment.  For independence.  For equal footing.  The same as it has been for every group who has risen up out of oppression.  Olympus Union is not a story of fighting racism, mind you, but the story of the powers that be doing what they feel is right, and those caught under it fighting for their perceived rights.  This is what it always likely will with man.  There will always be those who are above us, and if we realize it or not, those that we consider beneath us.  As soon as we unite on one front, we generally find something else to fight about.  And, in the end, it's the underdog fighting the good fight that we tend to root for.  Except for all of those Darth Vader fans out there.