I Sort of Read This Science Fiction Trip Through Space-Time #sciencefiction #scifi #space #physics #book #wormhole #review

Ring is the last of Stephen Baxter’s Xeelee Sequence, and judging by Amazon reviews, it’s the least popular book of the series with 3.5 stars from 57 reviews. I had trouble getting through it, not because it’s hard science fiction with characters who frequently explain physics to each other (as other reviewers complained) but because it felt repetitive. Surely, I thought, the book already told me this about photino birds, about how the spaceship will tow wormholes around, about the characters’ near-immortality provided by nanotechnology.

Great ideas I couldn’t stick with
Diving into the Sun is neat, the ginormous interstellar spacecraft are cool, and the craft left behind by the Xeelee are amazing, but the story felt tedious and I could only read for a short time before taking a break.

After reading all of the first few chapters, I began to skim the first sentence of each paragraph and then one sentence per page, stopping to read when something new was introduced. I would have given up but, as chance had it, I had no other new-to-me books handy at the time.

Others enjoyed the story much more, “I absolutely flew through this book! It was amazing,” and love the vast sweep of space and time covered by the book – to the end of the universe.

The day I checked on Amazon, there was a paperback edition in English available but the only digital edition was in German. I guess that’s what happens as publishers put their backlist on Amazon – Ring is copyrighted 1994.


Mars Colony Covers – this is my new series – hope they’re thrilling, exciting, well – hope you like them :) #scifi #Mars #books


The new covers – start with Glory on Mars – something’s terribly wrong in this near-future Mars colony :O

Here are my new On Mars covers. Woo hoo and yee haw – a big deal for me. It takes a surprising amount of time for them to pop up in all the stores, so you may not see these in your favorite for a week or so. What do you think?

All my books, including the On Mars series, are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and other major online retailers. You’ll also find paperbacks at Create Space and all major digital formats at Smashwords. Read one today.

I’m working on a collection of short stories, flash fiction stories, and excerpts from On Mars – I hope to publish in April. If you’d like a coupon for a free download of the ebook edition, sign up now at http://eepurl.com/bCpx1v

First Cat on #Mars – does #scifi #cat have a name? :\

Harvey posed for the cover of Glory on Mars

Harvey posed for the cover of Glory on Mars

In Glory on Mars, colonists take a cat with them to Mars, and he figures in a pivotal discovery. One reader says, given the title, the cat’s name should be Glory.

The book never mentions the cat’s name.

What is it?

Once a book is published, I think the author is no more an expert GLORY Ebook 300 dpithan any reader – maybe less so. The author is burdened with threads that didn’t work and abandoned versions that were changed – while the reader knows the story.

So perhaps readers should decide – what’s the cat’s name? I could add his name to the next edition.

Update: Readers really don’t like the cat not having a name. This surprises me – I’ve personally owned “lone cats” who never had a name beyond “The Cat” and they didn’t seem to mind. My current tabby – the model for my cover – is convinced he’s the only cat that matters even though I have a second cat! (And had a third until recently.)

The cat in my story plays an important role at one point – he offers a clue to survival – but is not a main character. He’s a real cat – no magic. Just a cat. That’s always been enough for any act I lived with. What do you think?

glory-ebook-267x400UPDATE: For 2017 I’ve put out a new book cover for Glory on Mars. It’s more science-fiction-y (I hope) and less quirky. So Harvey can retire from his modeling career – but to tell you the truth, he doesn’t seem to care much.

Movie #TheMartian opens today based on a #FridayRead novel by author with his own Cinderella story

the MartianThe Martian tells the story of NASA astronaut Mark Watney, mistakenly left behind for dead when his crewmates evacuate the planet during a mission-aborting storm. We begin with Watney’s point of view: “I’m pretty much fucked.” While Weir also gives us chapters from the viewpoint of NASA on Earth and the crew who left him behind, I suspect Watney is Weir’s favorite character.

Story of the story
The story of how the book went from pen (or keyboard) to movie screen is Andy Weir’s real-life fairy tale.

  • He began writing the book in 2009, researching thoroughly so it would be as realistic as possible. Weir decided to blog the book online one chapter at a time for free. In 2011 fans of the website convinced him to self-publish the book on Amazon – originally as a Kindle book at the lowest price Amazon allowed: 99¢.
  • It soared to the top of Amazon’s list of best-selling science-fiction titles.
  • Podium Publishing signed for the audiobook rights in 2013.
  • Crown Publishing purchased the print rights and re-released it in 2014.
  • The book debuted on the New York Times Best Seller list on March 2, 2014.
  • Now it’s a major motion picture.

I can imagine why traditional literary agents rejected Weir’s books if they’re all like this (The Martian wasn’t his first try.) Weir’s mission to Mars feels deeply “NASA” with chipper, brilliant, and brave astronauts. As the book promos say, The Martian is a tale of survival of the geekiest. You could have an Excel spreadsheet open as you read, to check Weir’s math. All this sounds too tech-heavy for any traditional publisher to try.

The Martian defies “tradition”
The possibly-doomed astronaut tells most of his story through log entries – “telling” rather than “showing” (a bugaboo in writing advice.) For every clever survival ploy and disastrous setback, you know he survived because he’s logging the sol’s adventures after the fact. There’s all the detail from Weir’s research – technical “backstory” the astronaut shares in his log – more anti-writing advice. There’s no villain, though Mars is quite an antagonist. Most importantly, there’s a lack of soap opera – Weir offers no dark secrets or betrayed loves – very little about the astronaut, his friends, or family at all.

Fun read
I’m an engineer and appreciate the sense of reality Weir creates in his story, and the brave plucky astronaut, but even I started skimming the math late in the book. That was because I wanted to find out what happened next – not because I wanted the book to end. Read the free preview and if your reaction is “I want three hundred pages of this,” read the book. You’ll be happy.

Real Settlers Can Learn From The Martian
Mars-One, real-life non-profit dedicated to placing a colony on Mars, takes lessons from the book:

“If you want to be the first, you have to like being alone. Stated in a more practical way, when you’re a settler in the first settlement on Mars, you have no neighbors when you need to borrow some folding chairs for your next party.”

But Mars-One wants to plant a permanent colony while The Martian mission does not. As they say, “The novel described some useful future-tech inventions, like nano-woven habitat cloth, nuclear spaceships, and durable life support equipment. But… where are all the robots? And 3D printers? And other tech for basic infrastructure?”

What others say
Amazon Kindle edition is up to $5.99 now, with over 13,000 reviews averaging 4.5 stars. Phenomenal. For a little balance, I looked at the few 3-star ratings. These readers disliked exactly what everyone else loved: “This is a nerd’s book. It is driven almost entirely by the mastery of technical details.” [M. Milligan] The optimistic, wisecracking castaway sounded juvenile to some. It did remind me of the type of dialog from science fiction’s pulpier era, with the modern acceptance of an occasional “fuck.” Can you imagine Neil Armstrong texting to JPL “Look! A pair of boobs! -> (.Y.)? I’m curious to hear how the movie presents Watney’s monologs and dialogs.

The story behind The Martian is at Wikipedia. SPOILER ALERT – Wikipedia includes a plot summary.

Astronomer’s Top Ten #SciFi List #amreading #goodreads

Astronaut on the moon cartoonFind an astronomy professor’s Top Ten SciFi list at http://bit.ly/13O5CxLSlide1

Hard SciFi’s not hard
Mike says “I worry that the classification ‘Hard SF’ is off-putting to many readers. It makes it sound like any story labeled as such will be hard to understand, which is not necessarily true. ‘Hard’ is really just a term to refer to the fact that we can be quantitative about some scientific topics.”

SciFi or Fantasy
I’ve seen other definitions that contrast hard science fiction with fantasies: Hard science fiction says “this could really happen.”  That definition may impose some limitations on authors, but what constitutes “technology so advanced it seems to be magic” and what constitutes fantasy varies from book to book.  How much the author chooses to explain the science versus how much is simply presented varies, too.

Check out Mike’s list for some good reading.

Glitch – my new Sci-Fi enovel Chapter 2

Glitch Cover Final 5JUN13You can read Chapter 1 here

Glitch is available now for $2.99.  You can read a longer excerpt or purchase Glitch for Kindle on Amazon or, for all other e-formats, read a longer excerpt or purchase at Smashwords  For a limited time, you can purchase Glitch for half-price at Smashwords.  Use coupon code YS46M before July 31.

Glitch is available at Amazon , Barnes & Noble , Apple, Inktera, Versent,  Kobo, Diesel, and on Smashwords .

Chapter 2 Glitch

As he sat with his coffee cradled in one hand, Rob tapped his virtual keyboard and displayed an animation of MEG1 to the center wall screen.  Xplore’s systems built the animation from the telemetry being received.  MEG1 rotated the satellite Trisha had selected towards the sun.  With another tap, Rob sent the satellite’s visible-light image to the left wall screen.  Mars slid slowly across the left screen as MEG1 rotated into position and the sun moved into view in its place.

For someone standing on Mars, the sun would look about half the size it does from Earth, and no brighter than the sun might appear on a cloudy Earth day.  But floating in black space, with nothing for comparison, MEG1’s image of the sun seemed exceptionally brilliant.  The sun was so bright it swamped out the view of any background stars and dominated the screen.  Rob adjusted the zoom until the sun occupied a quarter of the screen’s surface.  The sun sat right in the center once MEG1 had completed her rotation, and Rob relaxed back into his chair.  His work was done, barring trouble, and now he could just watch the data stream in as the researchers at Arizona and UPMC exercised their instruments. Continue reading

Abandoning a #Book

book shelfHere is an interesting survey of why readers give up on a novel.  Also, the top five current books and classics that Goodreads readers never finished.  The top reason to abandon a book is, the book is boring.  For those of us who try to write, maybe it’s comforting to know even best-sellers leave some people bored.

With current books, people have different tastes and interests so it makes sense to me they enjoy different books.  With classics, I think when a book finally becomes a “classic”, its time may have come and gone.  In high school I was a good girl and dutifully dragged my eyes across every book assigned, except one.  I could not get through A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.  I don’t think anyone else in the class did, either.

Recently I reviewed Encounter with Tiber by Buzz Aldrin and John Barnes.  This book is hard science fiction at its best and at its worst.  Technology and the science are the main characters.  You may love or hate this book, which will say as much about you as it does about the book.  I liked it and finished it, but I must admit the level of detail got to be too much for me in places and I skimmed sections.  This is an example of a book that some readers will abandon but others will love.

I’ve written science fiction myself. Glory on Mars is now available – a one-way trip to colonize Mars may be a mistake. Sure hope it’s not boring!GLORY ebook with CAT EYES (201x300)