Friday, December 13, 2019

Araña Countdown Post: It's Tomorrow!

Official launch is tomorrow! I'll be posting links to my website possibly as soon as right after midnight EST (depending on how tired I am).

Free Netgalley e-ARCs (uncorrected proofs) will continue to be available until December 31. If you take one and write a review, please follow the instructions here to share your review on retail sites. As usual, the book may not show up on Apple or Barnes & Noble for a couple of weeks. Remember that reviews are one of the most important ways you can both support authors and help out your fellow readers.

I'll be answering questions about the book on my Facebook page tomorrow evening.

The first opportunity to get physical, signed copies from me will be Farpoint Convention at the Book Fair on Friday night. If you can't be there on Friday, just corner me at the con and I'll find you a copy.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Araña Countdown Post: The Light Barrier

FTL is one of those things which is acceptable even in fully hard science fiction, because our stories don't work without it.

So, what are our chances of cracking it in reality, by the laws of our presumably non-fictional universe (presumably, because we can't actually prove we aren't all living in a computer simulation...)?

The very short answer is: Probably not.

The longer answer is, well...we don't actually know yet. The more we learn, the more the loopholes (wormholes?) seem to close.

The big problem with faster-than-light is that as you approach it, you need ever more energy to increase speed. Theoretically, going faster than light speed (a bit under 300,000km/s in a vacuum) requires infinite energy.

The most promising idea is the Alcubierre warp drive, which works pretty the warp drive in Star Trek. It creates a space-time bubble that squashes in front of the spacecraft to pull it, and then one which expands behind. The problem is that to start the process you would need to...

...convert the entire mass of Jupiter into energy. Maybe if we had a dyson sphere...

And then you would have to keep producing that much energy. In other words, the warp drive is not impossible, merely impractical.

There's also the possibility of wormholes, but they just aren't big enough to drive a spaceship through. We have no idea what it would take to build a stargate (a controlled wormhole large enough to fly through).

The system I use in Araña is even less likely, but more fun. The idea of crossing into a layer of space in which the light speed barrier is higher and then back is pure science fiction. I mean, it's what they use in Star Wars, which probably crosses the line into fantasy.

But it's the only trick that allows for some of the events in the plot to happen. Sometimes the science just has to bow to the plot...

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Araña Countdown Post: Starships and Probes

So, space exploration.

In reality, it's mostly done by robots. But that's no fun, so in fiction we tend to have starships. Will we?

It's an open question. We have yet to send a true interstellar probe. The Voyagers have entered interstellar space, but it took them a long time to get there and they certainly aren't expected to reach another solar system.

The Interstellar Probe concept mission has been presented to NASA, but it has a major downside: It will take at least 15 years to get to its planned distance of 200 AU. That's outside the solar system, but it's not...ya know.

Not actually going anywhere. The point of the mission would be to study the heliosphere, which doesn't work the way we thought it did. We have a much more solid bow wave than we thought, which may protect our solar system (and others) from higher levels of radiation in true interstellar space.

We're a long way from creating a probe that can go to Proxima Centauri, unless we crack FTL any time soon. Given FTL may or may not be possible...

But for science fiction, we want human exploration. In Transpecial and Araña, the complicated flow patterns in hyperspace are easier for an organic mind to handle than an AI, which makes human explorers more necessary. This is unlikely to actually be true (in fact, it's probably more likely that interstellar ships will be robots that fly themselves. Even the ones carrying humans). It's just a lot less fun that way.

I'll talk about FTL and possibilities tomorrow, but right now I'm still daydreaming of some drive that will get a probe to another system within my own lifespan. And I'm not getting any younger...

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Araña Countdown Post: Heinlein

Ah, Heinlein.

I don't think I have a more ambiguous relationship with any writer, living or dead.

Robert Heinlein is one of the greats of our genre. He also couldn't write women to save his life and had some seriously strange ideas about sexuality (I'm not at all averse to healthy polyamory, but if you're a fan do I have to say more than "Wake her up the best way"?)

The Transpecial universe started with an unpublished and honestly not very good story entitled "The Veteran," which was written for (and soundly rejected by) a Heinlein tribute anthology. It was meant to engage with Starship Troopers. Because of that I made the main character Latino, like Johnny Rico.

That character eventually became José Marin, although most of the original story was ditched in the creation  of Araña (the ship was originally more of a colony ship with families on board).

So, there's a lot of influence of Heinlein here, but hopefully none of the creepy stuff ;).

Monday, December 9, 2019

Araña Countdown Post: Star Trek

I've been thinking a lot about my Star Trek influences this week, mostly because of the loss of D.C. Fontana.

Araña is, as the author's note (which is at the end) says, in conversation with Star Trek. Openly so. Characters refer to the show, it's in the ship's database. I made this as a conscious decision.

Star Trek is more than just 'that science fiction show,' it's part of our popular culture. Which means some of its tropes and assumptions are in our head. The Prime Directive, the way starships work. Araña engages with those tropes.

So I'm hoping it will appeal to Star Trek fans. And I'm hoping that it will in some ways touch on that milieu.

After all.

We all have that strong desire to go "Where No Man Has Gone Before."

Friday, December 6, 2019

Friday Update

Okay, so...not much news. (It's December, and pretty soon publishing kind of shuts down).

Araña is on track for a December 14 release, but if you want a copy early, have a NetGalley account and are willing to do a review, you can go here.

The book I'm currently drafting, The Secret History of Victor Prince is at 35,000 words. I'm aiming for somewhere between 75 and 80k. This is a prequel to the Lost Guardians series.

That's everything I can actually talk about for now.

Thursday, December 5, 2019


This article explains something I've long suspected.

The oldest domesticated animal is: Man.

Domestication syndrome is, in animals, a series of physical changes that are related to distinct changes in neural cell migration. These changes reduce fear and improve the desire to cooperate. For example, the first person to ride a horse was almost certainly also the first person to fall off a horse. Through breeding for these neural change migrations we bred horses who had enough of a desire to cooperate that they don't mind carrying us around. (With a few exceptions that generally end up working at rodeos).

Side effects of domestication syndrome include floppy ears (There are very few floppy eared horses due to the negative impact on their social lives and floppy ears in cats are associated with cartilage disorders), patched coats, and neoteny - childhood features surviving into adulthood.

By mapping the genes involved in domestication syndrome we've discovered that...yup. Modern humans have domestication syndrome.

We've domesticated ourselves.

We've selected for higher levels of cooperation, for reduced fear of the other (although not enough, yet). And the side effects appear to be things like smaller teeth, our lack of brow ridges, and both physical and mental neoteny.

Oh, and still being here, unlike the "wild" Neanderthals and Denosivans. (It was most likely our diseases, but did domestication play a role?).

Being domesticated allows us to live together in cities, it allows us to cooperate on huge projects from the pyramids to the space race to...what comes next.

So, it's not really a bad thing.

Not at all.