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Looking back on a slow year

December 30, 2017 1 comment

With 2017 coming to a close, I realize that I haven’t announced a single new writing project all year. I’ve had only three projects come out in 2017 — Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations — Shield of the Gods in June and Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference and “Abductive Reasoning” in August. (Also, Star Trek: The Face of the Unknown and “Twilight’s Captives” were nominally January 2017 publications, but they both came out in December 2016.) The last announcement I made of a new project was for “Abductive Reasoning” in November 2016, more than a year ago.

So what gives? Don’t worry, I haven’t retired from writing. But between one thing and another, it’s been a very slow year for me. The main problem is that Simon & Schuster has been renegotiating its license for Star Trek tie-in fiction, and for some reason, it’s taking an astonishingly long time to get resolved. I would imagine that the arrival of Star Trek: Discovery has created complications and/or distractions that delayed the process, but beyond that, I really have no idea why it’s been taking so long. I heard a month or so back that the deal was close to being finalized, and I’m hopeful I’ll be able to get back into Star Trek soon, but even so, it will still be quite some time before anything new gets announced to the public.

In the meantime, I’ve been pursuing a number of other options, mostly original fiction but one tie-in project as well. There are a few things I’ve actually made progress on, but this year has been a perfect storm of delays. There are two or three exciting new projects I’d expected to be able to announce — and to get paid for — by now, but they’ve all taken months longer than expected to reach a point where I could talk about them, a bizarre coincidence. On the plus side, those projects look like they’re finally coming together now, and I should have some interesting announcements to make in January. Meanwhile, I’ve got an upcoming opening to submit my long-simmering spec novel to a prospective publisher, but I’ve got to make some changes to it to fit the parameters, and I’m working on those now.

As far as this blog goes, I expect it to get a little more active in January, since I’ve been working on a new set of reviews of a vintage SFTV series. That should be ready to go very soon. In the meantime, my autographed book sale is still going on. I called it a holiday sale to get attention, but really, it’s open all year round, as long as anyone is willing to buy.

By the way, though it’s been a slow year for me in terms of selling (or at least announcing) new work, the same doesn’t necessarily go for my recent work. In particular, it seems that Patterns of Interference has been #1 on the Locus Media & Gaming Related Bestseller list for two months running, in November and December. I’ve even beat out the Star Wars novels, though apparently it was a close call in December. Thanks to David Mack for pointing these out to me. And thanks to my readers for buying my books. I hope you’ll be as generous with the new stuff I have coming next year.

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Quantum teleportation revisit: Now with wormholes!

December 12, 2017 1 comment

Six years ago, I wrote a couple of posts on this blog musing about the physics behind quantum teleportation — first proposing a model in which quantum entanglement could resolve the philosophical condundrum of whether continuity of self could be maintained, then getting into some of the practical limitations that made quantum teleportation of macroscopic objects or people unlikely to be feasible. I recently came upon an article that offers a potential new angle, basically combining the idea of quantum teleportation with the idea of a wormhole.

The article, “Newfound Wormhole Allows Information to Escape Black Holes” by Natalie Wolchover, was published in Quanta Magazine on October 23, 2017. It’s talking about a theoretical model devised by Ping Gao, Daniel Jafferis, and Aron C. Wall, a way that a stable wormhole could exist without needing some kind of exotic matter with arbitrary and probably physically unattainable properties in order to keep it open. Normally, a wormhole’s interior “walls” would attract each other gravitationally, causing it to instantly pinch off into two black holes, unless you could line them with some kind of magic substance that generated negative energy or antigravity, like shoring up a tunnel in the dirt. That’s fine for theory and science fiction, but in practical terms it’s probably impossible.

The new model is based on a theory that’s been around in physics for a few years now, known in short as “ER = EPR” — namely, that wormholes, aka Einstein-Rosen bridges, are effectively equivalent to quantum entanglement between widely separated particles, or Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen pairs. (Podolsky, by the way, is Boris Podolsky, who lived and taught here in Cincinnati from 1935 until his death, and was the graduate advisor to my Uncle Harry. I was really impressed when I learned my uncle was only two degrees of separation from Einstein.) The EPR paradox, which Einstein nicknamed “spooky action at a distance,” is the way that two entangled particles can affect each other’s states instantaneously over any distance — although in a way that can’t be measured until a light signal is exchanged between them, so it can’t be used to send information faster than light. Anyway, it’s been theorized that there might be some sort of microscopic wormhole or the equivalent between the entangled particles, explaining their connection. Conversely, the two mouths of a wormhole of any size could be treated as entangled particles in a sense. What the authors of this new paper found was that if the mouths of a wormhole were created in a way that caused them to be quantum-entangled — for instance, if one of them were a black hole that was created out of Hawking radiation emitted from another black hole (it’s complicated), so that one was a direct outgrowth of the other on a quantum level — then the entanglement of the two black holes/mouths would create, in the words of the paper’s abstract, “a quantum matter stress tensor with negative average null energy, whose gravitational backreaction renders the Einstein-Rosen bridge traversable.” In other words, you don’t need exotic matter to shore up the wormhole interior, you just need a quantum feedback loop between the two ends.

Now, the reason for all this theoretical work isn’t actually about inventing teleportation or interstellar travel. It’s more driven by a strictly theoretical concern, the effort to explain the black hole information paradox. Conservation of energy says that the total amount of energy in a closed system can’t be increased or decreased. Information is energy, and the universe is a closed system, so the total amount of information in the universe should be constant. But if information that falls into a black hole is lost forever, then conservation is violated. So for decades, physicists (notably Stephen Hawking) have been exploring the question of whether it’s possible to get information back out of a black hole, and if so, how. This paper was an attempt to resolve that question. A traversable wormhole spinning off from a black hole provides a way for information to leave the interior of the black hole, resolving the paradox.

I only skimmed the actual paper, whose physics and math are way beyond me, but it says that this kind of entangled wormhole would only be open for a very brief time before collapsing. Still, in theory, it could be traversable at least once, which is better than previous models where the collapse was instantaneous. And if that much progress has been made, maybe there’s a way to refine the theory to keep the wormhole open longer.

There’s a catch, though. Physical law still precludes information from traveling faster than light. As with quantum teleportation, there is an instantaneous exchange of information between the two ends, but that information remains in a latent, unmeasurable state until a lightspeed signal can travel from the transmitting end to the receiving end. So a wormhole like this, if one could be created and extended over interstellar distances, would not allow instantaneous travel. A ship flying into one end of the wormhole would essentially cease to exist until the lightspeed signal could reach the other end, whereupon it would emerge at long last.

However — and this is the part that I thought of myself as an interesting possibility for fiction — this does mean that the ship would be effectively traveling at the speed of light. That in itself is a really big deal. In a physically realistic SF universe, it would take an infinite amount of energy and time to accelerate to the speed of light, and once you got fairly close to the speed of light, the hazards from oncoming space dust and blueshifted radiation would get more and more deadly. So as a rule, starships would have to stay at sublight speeds. In my original fiction I’ve posited starships hitting 80 or 90 percent of c, but even that is overly optimistic. So in a universe where starships would otherwise be limited to, say, 30 to 50 percent of lightspeed, imagine how remarkable it would be to have a wormhole transit system that would let a starship travel at exactly the speed of light. Moreover, the trip would be instantaneous from the traveler’s perspective, since they’d basically be suspended in nonexistence until the lightspeed signal arrived to “unlock” the wormhole exit. It’s not FTL, but it’s L, and that alone would be a damned useful stardrive. You could get from Earth to Alpha Centauri in just 4.3 years, and the trip would take no time at all from your perspective, except for travel time between planet and wormhole mouth. You’d be nearly 9 years younger than your peers when you got home — assuming the wormhole could be kept open or a second temporary wormhole could be generated the other way — but that’s better than being 2 or 3 decades younger. Short of FTL, it’s the most convenient, no-fuss means of interstellar travel I can think of.

Or, looked at another way, it’s a method for interstellar quantum teleportation that avoids all the scanning/transmission obstacles and impracticalities I talked about in my second 2011 post on the subject. No need to use a technological device to scan a body with a level of detail that would destroy it, then transmit a prohibitively huge amount of data that might take millennia to send in full. You just pop someone into one end of a wormhole and make sure the handshake signal is transmitted strongly enough to reach the other end. I’ve long felt that wormhole-based teleportation would be a more sensible approach than the disintegration-based kind anyway. Although we’re technically talking about black holes, so it wouldn’t be the sort of thing where you could just stand on a platform in your shirtsleeves and end up somewhere else. Also, there might be a little problem with getting torn apart by tidal stresses at either end. I’m not sure the paper addresses that.

This idea could be very useful for a hard-SF universe. My problem is that the universes I have established are a little less hard than that, though, since I tend to like working in universes with FTL travel of one sort or another. But maybe some idea will come to me for a future story. And maybe some other writer will read this and get an idea. We’re all in this together, and any worthwhile SF concept can inspire multiple very different stories.

Welcome to my Amazon Author Page!

I decided this afternoon to do something I should’ve probably done a long time ago — signing on to Amazon’s Author Central so I could edit my personal author page. I’ve updated my author bio there and added a couple of books it didn’t have listed, and I’ve also linked my blog RSS feed to it, so this and future posts should show up there. There are one or two things coming up that I hope to be able to announce soon, and it would be nice to have a bigger audience for them.

To Amazon readers who come upon this blog for the first time, welcome! Please feel free to look around my blog and the associated author site, including pages for my Original Fiction, Star Trek Fiction, assorted TV and movie reviews, etc. And feel free to check out my autographed book sale!

Holiday book sale! Now with new items in stock!

December 3, 2017 2 comments

Okay, guys — it’s holiday shopping season, and I really need to make some money, so hopefully we can help each other. So I’m offering autographed copies of my books for sale once again. I recently acquired new copies of some of my back titles for my signing events last month, but I didn’t sell enough to break even. But that does allow me to offer some titles here that I didn’t have before. Plus I can now offer my most recent book, Patterns of Interference, and I’m marking down Only Superhuman for the sale. And I’m offering some stray single copies that I’ve been holding onto for a rainy day. Everything must go!

You can buy these books from me through PayPal (via the “Send Money” tag with payments to clbennett@fuse.net, or simply use the PayPal button to the right of this post) for the prices listed below.  Please use the PayPal “instructions to merchant” option (or e-mail me) to let me know which book(s) you’re ordering, provide your shipping address, and let me know if you want the book(s) inscribed to anyone in particular (or not autographed at all, as the case may be).

Even if you don’t want a book, you can still make a donation to me through PayPal. Every little bit would be a big help to me right now.

Here are the books I have available, their quantities, and the price per copy (in US dollars):

Mass-market paperbacks: $8

  • Star Trek: TOS — The Face of the Unknown (5 copies)
  • ST: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel (4 copies)
  • ST: ENT — Rise of the Federation: Uncertain Logic (5 copies)
  • ST: ENT — Rise of the Federation: Live by the Code (5 copies)
  • ST: ENT — Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference (9 copies)
  • ST: Department of Temporal Investigations — Forgotten History (5 copies)
  • ST: DTI — Watching the Clock (1 copy)
  • ST: Ex Machina (1 copy)
  • ST: TNG: The Buried Age (1 copy)
  • ST:TNG: Greater Than the Sum (1 copy)
  • ST: Titan: Over a Torrent Sea (1 copy)
  • X-Men: Watchers on the Walls (1 copy)

Hardcovers: $20 (20% off!)

  • Only Superhuman (25 24 copies)

Trade paperbacks: $16

  • Star Trek: Mirror Universe — Shards and Shadows (6 copies)
  • ST: Myriad Universes — Infinity’s Prism (2 copies)
  • ST: Mere Anarchy (2 copies)
  • ST: The Next Generation — The Sky’s the Limit (2 copies)

Trade paperbacks: $14

  • ST: Deep Space Nine — Prophecy and Change (1 copy)
  • ST: Voyager — Distant Shores (2 copies)

I’ll try to keep this list updated with regard to availability, but if you have doubts (particularly with the single copies), query first. For buyers in the US, add $2.50 postage per book for MMPBs, or $4.00 postage for trades/hardcovers.  For buyers outside the US, pay the book price and I’ll bill you for postage separately once I determine the amount.

If you have a PayPal account of your own, please pay through that instead of a credit card.  PayPal charges a fee for credit card use, so if you do use a credit card, I have to ask for an additional $0.25 per mass-market paperback or an additional $0.50 per trade paperback or hardcover.

Thanks in advance for your patronage!