My Book View Café Launch!

Book View Café (BVC) is an authors collective of established writers who have joined forces to help each other publish their own backlists as ebooks. Names you might recognize include Ursula K. LeGuin, Vonda N. McIntyre, Katherine Kerr, Linda Nagata—and many more. As of June 19, I’m part of that list, and honored to be so. Here’s my page at BVC.

To celebrate my launch on BVC, I’m releasing my first-ever short story collection, Reality and Other Fictions. It’s on sale as I type this! For the rest of June, it’s going to be a BVC exclusive. Why? Because BVC is a great store filled with great authors, and it deserves enthusiastic support. If you buy a book from a favorite author at BVC, the author gets the highest percent of the money of any bookstore that’s not actually on an author’s website. Because people help each other so much in the whole process—everyone pitches in with their own particular skills—the production values are high. And the books are, of course, DRM-free, meaning no annoying copy protection to keep you from moving it from one device to another, regardless of type. If you want to convert your book to a different format, do so with our blessing.

Can you use these books on a Kindle or a Nook or a Kobo Reader or a Sony Reader?  Absolutely. (Just make sure you download the right format for your reader.)

By the way, BVC is not the same thing as Backlist eBooks, about which I’ve written in the past. The two groups have similar goals, and somewhat overlapping memberships. But Backlist eBooks primarily gathers writers together under one site for mutual help with marketing and promotion. Book View Café is more like a cooperative ebook small press, with its own store. It’s even beginning to distribute to libraries!

My next post, which I am going to start writing as soon as I’m done with this one, will tell you all about Reality and Other Fictions.

Venus Video Montage

Mars shouldn’t get all the glory. I used to travel to both planets regularly in my head, via the great stories I read. One of my favorites, when I was about twelve, was the Tom Corbett Space Cadet book, Revolt on Venus.

Venus just made the last transit across the face of the sun that will be visible from Earth this century. Here’s a lovely montage of video images in various wavelengths taken and edited together by NASA. Who says NASA has no poetry in its soul? You can make it full screen for best effect.

View on youtube

And just for fun, here’s a time-lapse shot from the last transit, in 2004, showing the International Space Station and Venus making a transit across the face of the sun, almost as if in formation.

Ray Bradbury, SF Master (1920 – 2012)


Ray Bradbury, the last of the Big Four in science fiction, died today. Over the years we’ve lost Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and now Ray Bradbury. We’ve lost many other great writers, of course, but few would argue with placing those four at the top in their influence on the literature, and influence on young writers. It’s like the passing of a Great Age in Middle Earth.

Bradbury was a master of the short form, and probably the first acknowledged science fiction writer to gain the respect of the mainstream literary world. (Probably because he was at heart really a fantasist more than an SF writer. He was also a remarkable stylist.) Did your high school literature book have any science fiction In it at all? If it did, it was probably by Ray Bradbury. “The Pedestrian,” maybe. Or “The Veldt.”

He wrote for the screen, as well. I’d been a fan of his fiction for many years before I discovered that he’d written the screenplay for the 1956 John Huston-directed adaptation of Moby Dick, with Gregory Peck and Richard Basehart.

I was one of probably thousands of young writers who found both encouragement and frustration in reading his work. (My favorites: The Martian Chronicles and Something Wicked This Way Comes.) The encouragement is from the delight in reading his visions. The frustration is from the illusion he cast that it was all so easy. He really made storytelling look simple. And that is a mark of a master. I never knew him personally, though I saw him a few times at Nebula Awards events. The last time, I think, was when I saw him accept his SFWA Grandmaster Award in… you know, I don’t remember the year or the city, but I can see him inching his way up to the stage, with the assistance of his son, as though it were yesterday. Edit: I also remember that he had a sense of humor about his infirmity. When he finally got to the microphone, his words were, “Do you ever have the feeling that everyone’s watching you?”

There’s a fine remembrance at the Washington Post, and all kinds of interesting details on his Wikipedia page

Godspeed, Ray Bradbury!

Audiobooks!

Great news from my agent —nine of my novels are being signed to become audiobooks! I am excited. I’ve been wishing for this ever since I became hooked on listening to audiobooks myself. This package does not include my Chaos Chronicles book, and won’t affect our homebrew full-cast audio production of Neptune Crossing (still in the “we hope to get started again realsoonnow” stage). It does include most of the Star Rigger books and several of my standalone novels. Nothing’s ever final until the contracts are signed, of course, so I should probably hold off on more specific details until things are official.

My own love affair with audiobooks started when I discovered you can download them for free from the public library and listen to them on your favorite MP3 player (a Zune, in my case). I love listening to books while walking the dog, which I do for at least an hour every day. I’ve been listening to a lot of books outside my own genre, books I’d never find time to sit down and read, even as ebooks carried in my pocket. I started with Robert Parker mysteries, and moved on to some thrillers. I’ve learned that the voice of the narrator makes an enormous difference even with a good book. (With a bad book, it just makes it harder to decide when to give up.) In some cases, I’ve stumbled onto some fine listening simply by looking for other books read by a narrator I like. Here are some of my recent favorites:

  • The Jack Reacher series, featuring a retired MP turned wanderer, by Lee Child (read by Dick Hill)
  • Cold Choice, a well-crafted and realistic submarine thriller by Larry Bond (read by Dick Hill)
  • The Myron Bolitar series, featuring a pro sports agent who sidelines as a detective, by Harlan Coben (read by Jonathan Marosz) [The last couple in the series were narrated by other readers, including the author. Not even in the same universe.]
  • Leviathan, Behemoth, and Goliath—a young adult, alternate history, SF series by Scott Westerfeld (read by Alan Cumming) [This one the library only carried on CD.]
  • Ender’s Game, the SF classic, by Orson Scott Card (read by Stefan Rudnicki, with Gabrielle De Cuir and David Birney, Scott Brick, Jason Cole, Harlan Ellison, Christian Noble, Don Schlossman, M.E. Willis and Orson Scott Card) [Ditto, on CD.]

What are your favorites?

The Dragons Return!

My short story “Though All the Mountains Lie Between” was the spark that led to two novels, Dragons in the Stars and Dragon Rigger. Those books have been back in ebook form for a while now, and I even gathered them into a low-cost set, Dragon Space: A Star Rigger Omnibus. But the short storyoriginally published in The Science Fiction Times and the anthology Dragons of Darkness, edited by Orson Scott Cardhas been out of circulation for many years. With Gretchen’s help, I’ve now amended that situation. Give it up for “Though All the Mountains Lie Between” the ebook!

It’s available in the usual suspect places, and will eventually migrate to even more stores. Just $.99 at Kindle and Nook, and free at Smashwords! It includes a preview chapter of Dragon Space.

“Of No Return”

My first professional sale came in 1974, a short story called “Of No Return,” about a man who works in a sea-floor power station experiencing difficulty in readapting to life on land. It was published In Fiction, a small magazine published at the time in Boston, and was later reprinted in a very small, limited edition anthology called Wet Visions. Aside from that, it’s been out of print—not even available on my web site. That’s changed, as of today.

Credit Gretchen, the high school student who has been working as an intern for me these last two weeks. She retyped the story, proofed it, created the cover and the ebook, and got it uploaded to all the usual suspect places. Here’s what it looks like. It’s free at Smashwords, for now, and $.99 at Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

By this time next week, we should be well along in creating a complete short story collection, for eventual ebook (and who knows, maybe paper) publication. 

Available at Smashwords | Kindle | Nook

Mind Control

Mind over machine. Science fiction has predicted for decades that one day we would be able to control things by hooking our brains up to computers that would just make it all happen. And now it has happened: a paralyzed woman has used her mind to control a robot arm and make it bring a coffee cup to her lips to drink. This is not just cool; it is a promise of incalculable benefit to severely handicapped people everywhere, hopefully in the not-too-distant future.

The work was developed by scientists at Brown University, the Providence VA Medical Center, Harvard Medical School and other institutions. The AP story gives more information.

“Love Rogo” Back in Print, Electronically Speaking

My fourth short story, “Love Rogo,” is about a lovable doglike creature from Betelgeuse who is a little too lovable for his owners’ own good. It came out in 1977 in the anthology, Futurelove: a Science Fiction Triad, edited by Roger Elwood and published in hardcover by Bobbs-Merrill. There was no paperback edition, although the Science Fiction Book Club published their own low-cost hardcover. The other two authors in the book were Anne McCaffrey and Joan Hunter Holly; plus, there was an introduction by Gordon Dickson. It sobers me to note that I’m the only one still walking the Earth of that group of estimable people. Yow. God willing, I’ll keep the fires going here a while longer.

Getting this story back into circulation has been on my “to do” list for some time now, along with a handful of others. The common theme has been no digital file, which meant either retyping or scanning the stories in, something I just never got around to doing. About a year ago, my faithful reader Anne King sent me a digital copy of “Love Rogo,” in a gentle effort to jump-start the process. I still didn’t get around to it.

What changed is that I now have, for a few short weeks, the help of a smart young woman named Gretchen, a high-school student who is working for me as a publishing intern. The first task I gave her was getting “Love Rogo” finished and up as an ebook. She did that last week. She also designed the cover, modeled on the simple design of my other short story covers. (After a few days, I decided the cover wasn’t quite right, and we worked together to change the colors and type.)

“Love Rogo” is now available free at Smashwords for the month of May, and for $.99 in the Kindle and Nook stores.

Smashwords (all formats) | Kindle | Nook

$160 Billion Damage to New York City!

That’s the estimated cost for direct damage, economic impact, cleanup time, and loss of life resulting from the battle between our heroes and the minions of Loki, as depicted in the movie The Avengers. That’s according to Kinetic Analysis Corp., a leading disaster-cost prediction and assessment firm, which studied the question for The Hollywood Reporter.

Deciding who is liable for the damages could prove a more daunting task than rebuilding. Notes the report: “Most insurance policies have special provisions for acts of war, civil unrest or terrorism. Given the involvement of individuals considered deities in some cultures (Thor, Loki), there is even the potential to classify the event as an ‘act of God,’ though that designation would be subject to strenuous theological and legal debate.” I’ll say. Being a lawyer on that case could be job security for life!

Mine the Asteroids!

The gold rush has officially begun: the mining of the asteroids. Science fiction writers have been predicting it for decades.* Now some seriously hard-hitting billionaires and technical people are joining forces to make it happen, through a privately funded initiative called Planetary Resources, Inc. Investors include filmmaker and explorer James Cameron (yes, he who just dove the Mariana Trench), the founders of the X-Prize Foundation, Google executives Larry Page & Eric Schmidt, Ross Perot, Jr., and others. Technical people include—well, for example, the chief engineer is Chris Lewicki, who was Flight Director for NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity Mars rover missions.

They’re seriously planning to robotically explore and mine near-Earth asteroids, seeking precious metals, such as platinum-family metals, and water (very precious in space, very expensive to lift into orbit). From the Planetary Resources website:

“Initial space resource development will focus on water-rich asteroids. Water is the essence of life and exists in plentiful supply on asteroids. Access to water and other life-supporting volatiles in space provides hydration, breathable air, radiation shielding and even manufacturing capabilities. Water’s elements, hydrogen and oxygen, can also be used to formulate rocket fuel.”

Here’s a summary of a recent report suggesting that the technology to do this is available or nearly so. 

I think this is one of the most exciting developments in space exploration since the Apollo lunar landings. For more details, visit the Planetary Resources website. For a highly readable but expert analysis, read Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog post: Breaking: Private company does indeed plan to mine asteroids… and I think they can do it.

I’m not an investment speculator, but if they were selling shares, I’d be in for a share today.

*My own short story, Dog Star, is based on the premise that we’ll be actively mining near-Earth asteroids; also, on the smarts of border collies.

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