Jul 162017
 

In cobbling together my “Zaneverse” world, I’ve pondered a number of technologies that I figure should be available five centuries from now. A lot of them are pretty standard sci-fi tropes, as one would expect. Several forms of artificial gravity, AI, warp drive, hyperdrive… the usual stuff.

In a world with all this stuff, you have to wonder why everyone hasn’t just uploaded into the Matrix, abandoning the physical world. I’ve come up with an explanation for why that hasn’t happened, thus allowing for space opera. Still, I’ve utilized portions of this technology for limited applications:

1: Extreme long-range colonization. Even with hyperdrive, the galaxy is a big place and there are a limited number of ships. If a colony world is a year away and you have 10,000 people who want to go, and your ship can comfortably support fifteen people for a two-year round trip, and throw in some sizable possibility that the ship could be lost of destroyed en route, what to do? In this world, one of the solutions that is often used is to copy the colonists. They get into something akin to a futuristic CAT scanner. It does a complete scan of their bodies, genetically, epigenetically and structurally, and saves the scan as digital data. The brain is scanned with means only describable as techno-magic; the personality, memories and basic operating system is copied and stored digitally. The colonist is then put into suspended animation somewhere secure… a cavern deep under the lunar surface, say. The stored data for that colonist and his 10,000 fellows is put on a portable hard drive, transported to the distant location, a new body for the colonist is printed off and the “brain” uploaded into it. If the colonist is successfully recreated at the far end, an FTL message is sent back to the storage facility, and the original is instantly evaporated. The colonist then goes on with life.

2: Long-range limited term contract jobs. Let’s say that the person isn’t a colonist, but instead someone whose career is setting up colonies, then coming home. Perhaps they are responsible for the construction of terraformation atmosphere processing plants for the Weyland-Yutani Corporation. OK, so the same process of copying, transport and recreation of the person is followed. However, the original is kept under suspended animation. At the end of the contract term, the copies mind is scanned and stored and shipped home. As soon as the hip departs for home, the copy is evaporated. When the ship returns home, the copy is uploaded into the original, basically just adding memories. The original wakes up; from his point of view, he went to sleep on Luna, woke up on the distant colony world, worked for six months, then woke up back on Luna.

There would be a few advantages to a system like this. First is the ease of transport; just an inert computer storage system, rather than a whole lot of people who either need tending or suspended animation systems jam-packing the ship. Second: if the ship explodes or gets lost, the original can be awoken. Third, security: if someone tries to tamper with or kidnap the computer system, it can simply self destruct, destroying the data. The original is safe at home.

Note that in this system, there is only one copy of the person walking around at a time. If the copy at the far end is to be made permanent, the original is destroyed. This is due to social and legal strictures against having multiple copies of an individual… it’s easy to see how that could quickly become seriously problematic. There is an authority in the Zaneverse that’s very zealous about this, and very good at keeping control over this.

So.

I was discussing this system with a friend, and she expressed… well, dismay. There is an obvious philosophical issue with this system, the same problem that has plagued the “transporter” from Star Trek: is the copy *you?* The argument was… who would volunteer for a colonization mission like this if, from one point of view, you are simply committing suicide so that someone a whole lot like you, but not really you, gets to colonize a distant world? The counter-argument: in Star Trek, the vast majority of folks don’t seem to have an issue with transporters. For every McCoy or Barclay, there are several starships full of folks who merrily beam up and down. So long as the “colonist-copy” technology is decades or even centuries old, reliable and the tales of the copies being noticeably different from the originals, I would expect that people would generally accept it.

So my question: assume the colonist-copy system exists, and to all appearances works as advertised. There is, however, zero scientific evidence regarding whether or not your “soul,” if such a thing exists, is copied or transmitted. If you, dear blog reader, wanted to colonize some distant world and was offered the opportunity, but the *only* way was this way… would you do it?

 Posted by at 2:30 pm
Jun 012017
 

Tonight I tapped out the final sentence on my tome. All told… 137,000 words, or about 450 pages in a standard novel format. Yeesh.

And then came the question… “now what.” I’m going to spend the next few months editing, which will probably mostly entail making relatively minor corrections. Then it’ll get passed on and supposedly, hopefully, read by A Science Fiction Author Y’all Have Heard Of. Hopefully he’ll not throw it in the trash. And then… who knows. Maybe it’ll be good.

 Posted by at 12:22 am
May 272017
 

So, progress on the novel has been brisk of late. The end is in sight! I’m currently sitting at about 400 novel-length pages, which is frankly probably far too long for a first novel by an unknown nobody. But, y’know, editing… For all I know, cut all the drivel out of it and it might result in a pamphlet.

But let’s say it gets published, and meets with great acclaim. Huzzah! One thing that authors seem to do is book signings. Now, at the best of times this idea fills me with an uncomfortableness. On the one hand, being the center of attention? Bleah. On the other hand, how many times have you gone to a Books-A-Barnes & Borders and saw a book signing by an author you’ve never heard of, hawking a book that seems uninteresting to you, and the author is sitting at the table, piled with books… and there ain’t nobody there. Yeesh. Talk bout a buzz kill. About the only thing more distressing than being the object of attention of a bunch of strangers is to be *ignored* at such an event. I always feel *real* bad for the very sad and lonely looking authors at such empty events.

So, California has come up with a solution: basically make book signings illegal.

California threatens to shut down book signings and therefore small booksellers

If you are selling a “signed something-or-other worth more than five bucks,” guess what… onerous new book-keeping regulations:

Sellers must, among other things:

  1. Note the purchase price and date of sale,
  2. specify whether the item is part of a limited edition,
  3. note the size of the edition, anticipate any future editions,
  4. disclose whether the seller is bonded,
  5. divulge any previous owner’s name and address,
  6. if the book was signed in the presence of the seller, specify the date and location of the signing, and identify a witness to the autograph.

And what happens if you don’t have such records for a book signing that occurred, say, five years before the State official shows up to check your papers? Potentially tens of thousands of dollars in fines. Ta-da. No more book signings.

 Posted by at 6:10 pm
May 172017
 

My first novel, as yet untitled, currently clocks in at 106,000 words and it’s not quite done yet. At about 300 words per page, this works out to 353 pages. When done I expect it’ll be around 400 pages. But then it’ll probably need a whole lot of editing.

Whether it’ll get published, I can’t say. But I do think it’s actually pretty good. The first quarter or so of it is a slightly reworked “Going to Gimli,” and many of the questions raised in that story (like “what the frak is the deal with Earth” and “who/what are the Segregators”) are answered by the end. It’s not Important Literary Literature, but I think it’s actually pretty entertaining and reasonably clever.

If interested, see my first story “Mass Disappearance,” followed by “Going to Gimli,” and then two story fragments, “Launch” and “A Matter of Some Gravity.”

 Posted by at 11:27 pm
Mar 242017
 

Fiction writing is way down on my list of priorities, but I still poke away at it from time to time. When I wrote “Going to Gimli,” the plan was that it’d be the first of three short stories that would form one overall story arc, with the insane notion that I might actually turn it into a novel. After finishing “Gimli” I wrote one complete story that *wasn’t* part of the original plan, but it’s a direct sequel to Gimli. I guess it’d be story 1.5 of the three planned. I’m now something like halfway through story 2; it’s going slowly.

“Gimli” clocks in at about 30,000 words. Story 1.5 (tentative placeholder title is “Run Spot Run”) is about 25,000 words; story 2 (tentatively “Return to Origin”) is so far about 25,500 words. All told about 80,500 words. Novels are generally about 300 words per page… so I’m already at about 270 pages. That *used* to be a respectable length for a full novel, but thanks to the likes of Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, it might be considered only a short one. Still… I was surprised to find out how much I’ve got.

I suspect that a good editor would go through my manuscript with pruning shears, a  chain saw, a flame thrower and eventually a tactical nuclear device, removing perhaps half of it. But given that I’m technically only half done, when finished it’ll actually be a full novel’s worth of stuff. Whether it’ll be *good* stuff remains to be seen.

If interested, see my first story “Mass Disappearance,” followed by “Going to Gimli,” and then two story fragments, “Launch” and “A Matter of Some Gravity.”

 Posted by at 1:36 am
Feb 262017
 

Of course, anyone can chime in.

Here’s the ponderable: it is later in the 21st century. For a few decades, the Catholic population of Europe has been declining, while the overall population has grown substantially. However, the long trend of Europeans becoming less and less religious has reversed; Europeans are now very religious. It’s just not a religion friendly to Catholicism.

So for some years not only have the Catholic churches grown more and more empty, Catholics and the church are coming under increasing attacks, legal and physical. Most Catholic churches around Europe are in fact empty… and mostly empty burned out shells or converted to the replacement religion. So now Catholicism in Europe has contracted to within the walls of the Vatican. And it is clear that very soon it will be physically assaulted and destroyed.

That said, North and South America, Australia and the Pacific island areas remain more or less as they are now, demographically, just more so. There are somewhere in the area of a billion Catholics with a lot of money and resources. It is physically possible to send a flotilla of cargo ships to Italy and load up all the Vaticans stuff and transfer it all elsewhere.

So, the first question: under the immanent threat of destruction, does the Catholic Church pull up stakes and move elsewhere, or does it stay put and put its faith in divine intervention?

Second question: assuming it moves… where to? There are a lot of Catholics in the US and Canada, but a distinct minority of the overall populations. Plus, the idea of setting up a sovereign theocratic nation within US borders is probably not a politically floatable boat. On the other hand… from Mexico on south those lands are *loaded* with Catholics, the vast majority of whom would probably be thrilled to have their home town turned into Vatican 2.

And this being later in the 21st century, the possibility exists of the Catholics setting up Space Vatican, in orbit, on the Moon, Mars, asteroids, wherever. However, getting there would be fabulously expensive, difficult and risky.

My own suspicion is that Mexico and Brazil would be in the lead. But then Argentina seems to have the best climate, and the Caribbean has it’s charms. Cuba, perhaps.

So… any thoughts?

 Posted by at 6:11 pm
Feb 102017
 

Last year I made mention of two short phrases that for as long as I can remember have always stirred uncomfortableness in me… “come and see” and “come with me now.” Neither is inherently a statement that should cause unease, but they nevertheless do in me. There is another such phrase, one I’d long forgotten. In the 1935 movie “Bride of Frankenstein, the new character of Dr. Pretorious convinces Dr. Frankenstein – who had sworn off his life-creation experiments as a blasphemous and bad idea – to get back on the job. Dr. Pretorious at one point offers a toast to their project… “Here’s to a new world of gods and monsters.”

A modified version of that line, “Welcome to a new world of gods and monsters,” has been used in some of the promotional material for the forthcoming “Universal Monster Cinematic Universe,” which is to kick off with this summers “The Mummy.” (It was apparently supposed to have kicked off with “Dracula Untold” a few years ago, but since it kinda bombed…)

Anyway, “a new world of gods and monsters” is a phrase that, like “come and see,” kinda sets my teeth on edge. What’s interesting: I hadn’t thought of “a new world of gods and monsters” in *years* until I saw it revived for “The Mummy.” And yet, now that I am well into a series of interlinked stories set in the universe of “Mass Disappearance” and “Going to Gimli,” being perhaps halfway through what might be a full-up novel, “Welcome to a new world of gods and monsters” would be a fantastic tagline. And while I doubt that the makers of “Bride of Frankenstein” had H.P. Lovecraft in mind when they wrote that line, it fits well into his Cthulhu mythos as well.

My stories, without intending it, would actually almost seem to bridge the Frankenstein and Lovecraft worlds. The world is something that Lovecraft would have recognized, apart from the technology; but the gods and monsters are, unlike HPL’s incomprehensibly powerful beings from Beyond, largely the results of mankinds own efforts, intentional and otherwise.

I have no doubt that there are other such small phrases that have similar impacts upon my tiny little mind. There are some that have virtually the opposite… rather than inspiring vague nameless dread, “ashes of our fathers” inspires pride. Of course, for that to happen, one has to know the fuller context of the phrase, and even then it may well be that emotional links depend on a wide range of circumstances. Had I not seen “Bride of Frankenstein” until five years ago, or never heard of “Come and see” until it was used in season one of “Sleepy Hollow,” they might have no more impact on me than “Yes We Can” or “I Like Ike” or “Make America Great Again.”

So: what have y’all got? What little snippet of religious text, literature, lyrics, poetry, etc. can you hear and immediately feel  a sense of dread that seems excessive to the small little phrase?

 

 

There’s also always “BWOOP BWOOP Pull. Up. BWOOP BWOOP Pull. Up.” Hearing that in a movie never fails to give me the willies.

 Posted by at 3:23 am
Dec 242016
 

So every so often I post a bit of fiction. Not too often, just now and again. Most of what I’ve posted has been set in my (for lack of a less annoying name) “Zaneverse,” a period 500 or so years down the line featuring the characters of Zane, Sarah, Loff and George as they wander the spacelanes. The most recent thing I posted was the multi-part yarn “Going to Gimli.” Well, it seems that a blog reader read this, liked it and passed it on to a Famous Science Fiction Author Y’all Know Of, who apparently also liked it enough that he communicated back to the blog reader that he thinks that it could be expanded out into a novel, and he’d be willing to write a letter of recommendation to a publisher about it. So… huh.

After Analog magazine shot down my earlier effort “Mass Disappearance” without comment, I gave up on the notion of my stuff being published, and now I just write in order to, well, write. “Gimli,” while being a stand alone story, was  considered to be the first of three parts that would tell a longer, more complex story, and it is this that I think could be made into a novel. Since posting “Gimli” I wrote another complete story that takes place shortly afterwards and would, I guess, actually be Part 1.5 of the three parts. I am now banging away on Part 2.

So… who knows. Maybe I might actually publish a Zaneverse novel one of these days.

 

If interested, see my first story “Mass Disappearance,” followed by “Going to Gimli,” and then two story fragments, “Launch” and “A Matter of Some Gravity.”

 Posted by at 9:01 pm
Nov 222016
 

Due to other commitments, progress has been slow on Pax Orionis. Still, a few days ago I posted a new piece, “Birth of the Bomb Part Two,” for Pax Orionis patrons. This is the second of a two-part newspaper article… the first described an event in the 1990s – well after the Great War – that led to Orion spacecraft becoming far more economical. In the second part, a reporter catches up with the people responsible. Excitement! Adventure! Inadvertent multi-kiloton nuclear detonations! Death from above! What’s not to like?

As with all Pax Orionis tales, each part comes with two bonuses: a technical diagram describing some piece of technology important in the Pax Orionis universe, complete with both in-universe and factual descriptions; and a small newspaper or magazine article that, when all put together, tell an important part of the Pax Orionis backstory.

pax-01 pax-02 pax-03 pax-04 pax-05 pax-06

If interested – and why the hell wouldn’t you be – check out the Pax Orionis Patreon:

https://www.patreon.com/PaxOrionis

There are two level of patronage… $1 and $2. At $1, you get a new story when it comes out. At $2, you get the story, the tech diagram and the article.


Any Pax Orionis patrons who have read the most recent story, feel free to leave a comment. Praise or constructive criticism or anywhere in between.

 Posted by at 1:43 pm
Oct 062016
 

I randomly stumbled across this today.

Some time back I had a brief flash of an idea for a sci-fi story I’ll never write, partially because it seems entirely too derivative of “Sliders.” In short, some people are hopping either timelines or alternate realities, trying to find their way home. Finally they get home. They check the local history books, newspapers, CNN, internet… everything confirms they’ve made it back to the right timeline. Finally, after they’ve settled back in, one of them is at a comic book shop or a coffee shop or something and overhears some Trekkies discussing what their favorite episode is… and someone mentions the episode from season six when Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Rand finally get married. The character realizes that this is a different timeline, one where the original Star Trek series didn’t get cancelled at three seasons, but lasted at least twice as long. Character shrugs, goes back to drinking his coffee, surfs over to Amazon and buys the complete eleven-season Blu Ray set of Star Trek.

 Posted by at 2:15 pm