Pluto! And Charon!

Charon and Pluto, seen from New Horizons

Today’s the day! NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will whiz past Pluto at a distance of only 7800 miles today—in fact, by the time you read this, will already have made the flyby! This little spacecraft has sent us some amazing pictures of Pluto and Charon, and if everything goes right, they will only get better. The spacecraft will be out of contact with Earth during the flyby, the better to frantically shoot pictures and hoover up as much data as it can during the brief encounter. That data will be sent back at a very slow bit-rate, because of the distance, and will take over a year to be transmitted in its entirety!

I’ve always felt that Pluto, way out in the dark of farthest interplanetary space, was one of our most fascinating planets. And yes, the astronomers have agreed now that it’s a dwarf planet—but to me, it will always be our ninth planet.

In fact, when I was a kid, a favorite science fiction novel was called Secret of the Ninth Planet, by Donald A. Wollheim (who later went on to found DAW Books). It involved a kid traveling on an emergency expedition to visit all the planets of the solar system, to learn why the sun was getting dimmer. They found out, all right—it was a bunch of crummy, scum-sucking aliens, who had planted special antennae on each planet, to somehow draw off power from the sun for the aliens’ nefarious purposes. It took cleverness, grit, and maybe a few nukes, but we took care of that. I read that story at least a dozen or two dozen times when I was at a certain age.

You can download this science fiction classic from Project Gutenberg.

Oh, and you can follow the real-life Pluto mission here on space.com or here at NASA. Don’t miss it!

My Five-Minute Essay on Hello Horatio

Hello Horatio is a brand-new website featuring a lot of short essays on this or that, with the common thread being an interest in saying something personal about the deeper meanings of life, and generally sharing our stories. The name Horatio comes from the line in Hamlet: “There is more in heaven and earth, Horatio, than is dreamt of in your philosophy.”

The unstated (at least so far) goal of the site is to encourage open conversations among people of faith, of different faiths, of secular faith, or of no faith at all—in short, to quit worrying about how we label ourselves or each other, and to share what we think about things that matter. I chose to share why I find science fiction to be such an important way of thinking about life and my place in it. It’s called “A Fine View of the Universe,” and here’s how it starts…

“A few years ago, a new remake of an old TV show hit the airwaves and created quite a stir. The show was Battlestar Galactica, and its arrival in the form of a four-hour miniseries signaled a creative breakthrough…” [read more]

I was a little startled to see that my daughter also has a piece just up, called “A Car Accident Rescued Me from My Wrong Life.” It starts…

“I’m so glad I got hit by a car…” [read more]

Surely that should get your attention. Take a look at some of the other essays while you’re there. They’re all short, and pretty interesting.

Back By Popular Demand: The Rapture Effect!

Even if the popular demand is just from me the marketing department at Starstream Publications, we prove once again that we listen to our customers. My standalone novel, The Rapture Effect, is once more available in ebook format, this time from my own imprint and Book View Café!

Here’s the blurb:

War between the stars. It was started by an AI, and few humans even knew there was a war at all. But now people are dying, not just robots and aliens—and the AI wants it to stop. But a war is easier to start than to stop, and the computer can’t alter its course without outside help. When the Gnostic Control System searches for conspirators, it chooses its friends carefully…

  • Pali: a public relations director, who broods far too much on her unfulfilled ambitions.
  • Ramo: a flamboyant senso-dancer and sculptor, who prefers a musical jamdam to serious conversation.
  • Sage: an awkward systems designer, for whom the AI rapture-field is realer than life.
  • And three of the alien Ell: Harybdartt, who would rather die with dignity than betray his people; Lingrhetta, who tries to unravel the meaning of human dance and music, pain and love; and Moramaharta, the binder, who must persuade his fellow decision-makers to risk everything for the sake of a fragile bridge of understanding across the stars.

A thought-provoking novel of the not-too-distant future, from the Nebula-nominated author of Eternity’s End and The Chaos Chronicles.

The Rapture Effect is a lively dance of ideas—first contact, interstellar war, artificial intelligence, alien culture—and it moves at a rapid pace, from Earth through cyberspace to the Horsehead Nebula, and various points between. It’s well-worth the trip ticket.” —Roger Zelazny

Art by David B. Mattingly, cover design by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff

Here’s a little glimpse inside:

Q. Then the . . . war . . . is being fought by . . . AI-units?
A. Yes.
Q. And who is the enemy?
A. Unknown. An alien race.
Q. You mean our first contact with an alien race is a war? A secret war?
A. Yes.
Q. Who manufactures the AI-units?
A. The Company.
Q. Who is conducting the war?
A. The Company.
Q. Who knows about this?
A. The Company, the government, and you.

The Haldemans Retire from MIT

Science fiction writer Joe Haldeman and his wonderful wife Gay have retired from part-time teaching at MIT, after thirty years of teaching students the craft of fiction writing (Joe) and the art of writing clear, comprehensible English prose (Gay). Florida residents most of the year—unless you call them Earth residents, because I’ve never known a more well-traveled couple—they’ve been coming to Cambridge every Fall for the last thirty years, and we’ve managed to snag a dinner with them many of those years.

Joe was one of the first professionals I met when I was a new writer entering the science fiction field. At the time, he was all the buzz in the industry because he’d snared a record-setting advance for his novel Mindbridge. He introduced me to Jim Frenkel, who soon became my editor and friend.  Years later, when Joe became seriously ill in the Fall of 2009, I had the privilege of stepping in for him, teaching his SF writing class at MIT for a semester.

Joe and Gay (Jim Kelly referred to them as “Joe-and-Gay, like space-time”) got to watch my kids grow up in time-lapse fashion. My younger daughter Julia once wondered aloud, as a teenager, why her own contemporaries weren’t as much fun as Joe and Gay.

Here are a couple of pix taken at their retirement dinner at MIT, on a balcony overlooking Boston’s beautiful Charles River basin.

Gay and Joe Haldeman, September 2014

Me, Joe, and Jim Kelly
We’re going to miss our annual dinners. But if anyone has earned a happy retirement, it’s Joe and Gay.

3D Printing Now—and Then

I was reading recently about the delivery of the first 3D printer in space to the International Space Station, by the SpaceX Dragon cargo spaceship. You can read all about it here, and it’s pretty cool.

Not long after, I was reading a piece of fiction I’ve had around for a while that included this paragraph:

Igor’s countrymen, though lacking many earth techniques, were far ahead of earth in manufacturing skill. They used a single general type of machine to manufacture almost anything. They fed into it a plan which Igor called for want of a better term the blueprints—it was in fact, a careful scale model of the device to be manufactured; the machine retooled itself and produced the artifact. One of them was, at that moment, moulding the bodies of fighting planes out of plastic, all in one piece and in one operation.

That’s from Robert Heinlein’s “Elsewhen,” first published in 1941. It’s included in the collection Assignment in Eternity.


That man had some vision. 

From a Changeling Star . . . Is Back!

If for some odd reason you’d been monitoring my author page at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Apple these last couple of weeks, you would have seen nine of my books disappear from the listings. No, it’s not the battle between Amazon and Hachette. It’s that I’ve recovered the rights to these books (amicably) from the previous publisher, and I’m preparing my own ebook editions. (Probably paper editions, too, for the ones I have those rights to. But that’s further down the road.)

Well, the first one is making its reappearance. From a Changeling Star is live at the Kindle store, in progress at the Nook store, and set for “pre-order” at the Apple and Kobo stores (where it will release on July 22, same day as at Book View Café). The sequel, Down the Stream of Stars, is not far behind.

Edit: It’s now also available at Nook, iTunes, Kobo, and Book View Cafe!

Beneath the roiling surface of Betelgeuse, scientists anxiously await the one man essential to the success of Starmuse, the greatest engineering project in human history. But on Kantano’s World, Willard Ruskin battles invisible agents for control of his life, his physical form, and even his memories. Drawn into a conflict from which not even death will free him, Ruskin must find a way to reach Betelgeuse before his enemies sabotage Starmuse—and humanity’s future among the stars. A harrowing journey from inside the human cell… to the mind of a dying star.

A stunning blend of hard science fiction with moving characterization, both human and otherwise. Introduces the robot Jeaves, familiar to readers of The Chaos Chronicles. From the Nebula-nominated author of Eternity’s End.

Original print publication by Bantam Spectra. A Locus bestseller.

These other books will be back, in due course: 
Panglor
Star Rigger’s Way
Dragons in the Stars*
Dragon Rigger* 
Seas of Ernathe
The Infinity Link
The Rapture Effect
*These two are still available in the boxed set, Dragon Space. Which is still on sale at the price-buster price of $1.99! Until midnight tonight, July 9, EDT! Go find it! 

New BookBub promo: “Going Alien”

Time for another price cut! I couldn’t afford William Shatner to shill for me on TV, so I went with BookBub again to help me spread the word. My short-story ebook collection Going Alien has been marked down to just $.99, for a limited time only!

Did you read that right? Yes, you did! Just ninety-nine thin, copper-tinted Lincoln disks, or a one dollar bill with a corner snipped off! You can afford that. You can’t afford not to! Limited time only! You like short stories, right? Well, the more you buy, the more you save!

COME ON DOWN!

Kindle | Nook
Smashwords | iBooks
Kobobooks
Edit: Also now at Book View Cafe

And if you enjoy it, please thank me for the fantastic savings by posting a review! Thanks in advance!

The BookBub Promotion Went Great

If you were reading here last week, you know I marked down my omnibus ebook of The Chaos Chronicles: Books 1-3 for a week, in conjunction with a promotion on Bookbub.com. The sale went amazingly, gratifyingly well. Better than I expected or dreamed. In fact, there are more than 2500 people out there with shiny new copies of my omnibus on their Kindles, Nooks, iPads, whatever. More than 1500 people grabbed it on the first day alone. We broke into the top 100 sellers of all books in the Kindle store, and briefly lingered at #65 among all Kindle ebooks. More importantly, I’ve already heard from one new reader who discovered my work through the sale and has already ripped through it happily and gone on to download Sunborn.

That’s the most gratifying thing about it, is the new readers. The extra income is nice, too, of course.

If you’re one of those readers, I hope you enjoy the book! And if you do, I’d be eternally grateful if you’d take a moment to post a review wherever you bought it, or at Goodreads, or anywhere, really. Word of mouth means everything. And thanks!

The Avengers meets The Hunger Games!

That’s The Reefs of Time, all right! Thrilling action, endearing characters, lively wit, and heart-rending trials. Plus, the whole galaxy at stake. 

Okay, I lied a little. The book will have all those things, but it bears no resemblance whatever to either The Avengers or The Hunger Games. (Both of which I liked, by the way.)

I am so close to finishing the first draft of this sprawling adventure that it is my hope and prayer that I will finish the first draft before Christmas. Actually, before Christmas Eve. The first draft. I have another chapter, maybe two, to write. Pray for me!

Why am I telling you about it now, instead of just doing it? Partly as a warmup. And because I want to put it out there that this is what I’m aiming for—like President Kennedy, calling for a moon landing before the decade (1960s) was out. And because so many of you, from time to time, gently ask me how the book is going, and will you have a chance to read it while you’re still alive. Here’s my answer: Yes!

Also, I just like to say, “The Avengers meets The Hunger Games.”

Stay tuned.

New Audiobooks!

Audible.com works fast. My two short story collections are now on sale as audiobooks! I’ve only listened to the samples so far, but I like the sound of both of the narrators. If you enjoy audiobooks for your commute or your dog walks or whatever, why not give them a try? (You could also ask your library to consider ordering them.)

On my own dog walks, I’m currently listening to War and Remembrance, by Herman Wouk. Gets a little long in places, but it’s an engrossing listen, continuing the story begun in The Winds of War.

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