In 1964 NASA retrieved pictures of Mars from Mariner 4, the first close-up images that revealed Mars to be (seemingly) a dry, dead world. The striking Mariner Valley (Valles Marineris) was one of its most important features. It started our understanding of Mars as we know it today.
At the time I was working as a courier and chauffeur for NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC. When the Mariner team came to DC to be feted by Congress and the President, I was assigned to drive a few of them from venue to venue. My first trip with them took them to Congress, where they were in a hearing for hours. I knew a long wait would be boring so I brought a paperback novel to read: Thuvia, Maid of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. On the cover the backdrop showed a ruins remniscent of Ozymandias’ kingdom, fallen marble pillars and broken-down walls, with shifting red sands beyond. In the background a giant, green, four-armed Martian with a four-handed broadsword as long as a car was moving toward the viewer. In the foreground was John Carter, somewhat larger and more muscular than Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime, with a similarly long two-handed broadsword. In the middle ground was a buxom, scantily clad maiden, the eponymous Thuvia.
After the hearing, the team was in a voluble and excited mood. One of the engineers decided to join me in the front seat. He hopped in with a grin and spotted my book which was lying face down on the seat beside me. He picked it up, turned it over to see he cover, then paused just a beat.
“Look, guys,” he said with a broad smile, turning to his colleagues in the back seat. “We were wrong. There is life on Mars after all.” Haw haw haw.
I’ve never forgiven them.
For a glimpse of what Mars might be, check out Life on Mars.
Earth’s climate is changing rapidly due to the increasing load of CO2 in the environment. While governments have addressed the problem, they have failed to stop its trajectory toward an unguessable future. InIX: Creation, the prequel to my World of IX series, a group of researchers genetically modify their own children to have extremely long life and high intelligence, hoping that their extended time horizon and deep insights into climate science will allow they to find a solution that eludes their parents and national governments. By the time the Young, as the gen-mod children are known, are adolescents they have far surpassed the technical prowess of their parents and normal siblings. Unfortunately, they are still adolescents. The solution they devise is to release a package of lethal viruses globally to virtually exterminate humanity. They plan to stay alive with a small cohort of others to remediate the climate after humanity is no longer contributing to the problem. But they split along gender lines about whether to do a partial release of the virus to blackmail national governments into acting or to do a global release and settle the issue themselves. To resolve their disagreement they enlist Brunna, a star geneticist who works with the Young’s parents but is part of neither group, to break the deadlock. Brunna has 24 hours to decide the fate of humanity.
The short story IX:Creation is currently being marketed to my favorite sci fi magazines.
In my latest story Jay Myriad, an android, is suffering from irreversible memory loss which will destroy his current personality. He enters a memory care facility as its first emergent person client. There he meets Ray Carney, a human angry that an android has been admitted and takes up a bed a human might use. Myriad attempts to befriend Carney and is rebuffed. A later encounter late at night in a common room gives Myriad an idea of where Carney’s antagonism arises. A subsequent health event illuminates what they have in common.
November Skies is currently being submitted for publication.
I have a story set in a far future in which all record of humanity has been lost. A collective intelligence compiling a history of the universe discovers that, although Sol should have had intelligent life, no record exists that shows it participated in galactic civilization. A collective committee journeys to Sol and finds a museum on the North Pole of the Moon. The Rosetta Stone that can unlock the mystery of a spacefaring civilization that never achieved interstellar travel is found in an ancient artifact from the dim prehistory of the Hemmen, an intelligent species that arose near Sol.
Elon Musk is famously aiming for a private expedition to Mars a decade earlier than the most likely government-financed trip. Planetary Resources and other companies are working on asteroid mining technology. What impact will these activities have on the world in the future?
Worlds of Sol explores this question.
In the March/April issue of Analog C. Stuart Hardwick presents an analysis (Taming the Genie: How Fear of the Atom Threatens our Future) of the safety of nuclear power generation compared to that of other sources. He shows what every competent physicist knows: nuclear power, even considering Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, has caused far less environmental damage and human health detriments than any other source. (I have a Ph.D. in Radiation Biophysics and I have expert knowledge of his arguments. He’s right.) There’s a lot of excellent detail, all of it scientifically sound. Even the risks of nuclear waste storage are addressed.
Fear, as he points out, has made nuclear power a bete noire far out of proportion to its actual ability to do harm. As Japan and Germany retreat from nuclear power, they damage the environment far more than keeping them while reducing reliance on coal-fired plants and moving toward exclusive reliance on wind and solar. New designs make even the accidents we are familiar far less likely to recur. And lest anyone complain about the high cost of nuclear, by far the biggest contributor is misguided regulatory hurdles placed in front of potential nuclear power plants. For those of us who consider the future of travel throughout the solar system, nuclear power in its many forms can be a key component.
We are science fiction enthusiasts, mostly not scientists, but we need to make our voices heard about the terrible neglect of the environmentally cleanest source of centralized power. Ironically, buying a plug-in electric car may make your carbon footprint increase due to the large reliance on coal for electricity in the U.S.
There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Wm. Shakespeare
I’ve been seeing a lot of posts in my SF Facebook groups about various things in the solar system and beyond. Astronomers are beginning to learn so much about the solar system that we never knew. ‘Oumuamua is the first known object that came from outside the solar system and, unless something happens, will be leaving. I have a story about that topic. Watanabe’s Hammer, I am trying to publish. Here’s a little tidbit that addresses the same question, although not from the same storyline.
Who goes there? (in memory of John W. Campbell)
I am still collecting rejections but I have six stories out for review at various magazines.
The most interesting rejections have come from GigaNotoSaurus and Fantasy and Science Fiction. GigaNotoSaurus suggested three resources listed below:
CC Findlay is the editor of F&SF, from whom I have collected three rejections so far. If you read the last resource in the list above, you’ll find F&SF uses a variety of form letters for stories not used, so you do get a touch of feedback about whether it wasn’t ready for prime time, your hook worked, there was some problem with the rest of the story or it was’t bad but somehow just didn’t make the cut. (My analysis, not exactly what it says in his post.) I’ve gotten enough encouragement for some of my submissions that I think they’re worth revising and submitting elsewhere. I know if you can’t take rejection you shouldn’t be trying to publish, but you look for crumbs of acceptance wherever you can.
I read today an essay from The New Yorker that said the 20th century railroads made the mistake of thinking they were in the railroad business instead of the transportation business. I think American steel is making a similar mistake. A lot of American manufacturing in general survived WWII with their physical plant intact. The European, Chinese and Japanese combatants were bombed virtually into oblivion. That gave America dominance in the 1950’s but left them in the 1960’s with aging plants trying to compete with rebuilt, modern plants elsewhere. It’s too soon to say what the effects of tariffs, threatened or imposed, will be in American steel. But there is another perspective.
America’s forte is its high tech basis and its educated workforce, not low cost. America already has companies investigating asteroid mining and space manufacturing. American steel from asteroids would reduce CO2 emissions, pollution and other externalities that have large costs. It would also create new jobs that don’t exist today. It won’t happen overnight, but what will 21st century opinion writers say about American industry? Will they cite mistakes or vision?
See http://inigopress.com/life-on-mars/ for where this might lead.
I’ve been taking writing classes from Ed2Go through the Howard Community College in Maryland. So far I’ve taken Beginning Writer’s Workshop and Advanced Fiction Writing and now I’m taking Write Like a Pro. I’ve found them very helpful. The first focused on how you write. The second and third focus on structuring stories and how to merge story (emotional journey) with plot (the actions that move the protagonist through the story). I highly recommend them to all aspiring writers. You can find them at www.ed2go.com. They provide a venue through which you can take the courses.
Several of my stories on this blog grew out of exercises in this class. My two WiP novels both benefited greatly from the structuring methodology I learned in these courses. Check out Banjo Music and Dialogue with a Seagull for examples of class exercises run amok!