Posts Tagged ‘Over a Torrent Sea’

Holiday sale: books are on the way!

Good news for everyone who’s bought books from me — I just got back from a trip to the post office where I mailed all the orders to date at once. (It saved time that so far they’re all to United States addresses, so I didn’t have to fill out any customs forms.) So hopefully everyone will get their books by early next week, in time for the holidays.

Naturally, the sale is still ongoing, and you can see the list of available items in the previous post, along with ordering info. I’m sold out of every Star Trek mass-market paperback other than Patterns of Interference and the Czech translation of Over a Torrent Sea, but I still have plenty of The Captain’s Oath and Only Superhuman, plus a few remaining copies of Mirror Universe: Shards and Shadows, Among the Wild Cybers, and Footprints in the Stars.

Plus I’m keeping a list of all the naming suggestions for future reference. It might take a while to get around to using them all, but I’ll do my best.

Thanks again to everyone who’s helped me out!

Holiday book sale still on! Get autographed STAR TREK and other books!

November 30, 2019 2 comments

Well, my first post about my latest book sale and call for donations has not generated the response I’d hoped for. So far I’ve only gotten one book order and two suggestions for ship/station/etc. names to incorporate into a future Star Trek novel. So maybe I need to improve my sales pitch and clarify what I have to offer.

First off, while I stressed that anyone donating $20 or more will get to name a ship, station, planet, or other institution, I should add that anyone who makes any donation or book purchase through my PayPal account will get my thanks in my next book’s acknowledgments (unless you prefer to remain anonymous). It doesn’t have to be much; if most of the people who read this donate even a couple of dollars, it could help me through my current rough patch. And remember, the naming offer is a neat way to commemorate a friend, family member, favorite school, hometown, whatever. (Again, just make sure it’s something plausible in-universe, no gag names or the like.) Or you could give a loved one a book autographed to them as a holiday gift! Just let me know who to make it out to.

As for the books I have to sell, here are more detailed descriptions. Ordering/donation instructions are below.

Only Superhuman — $20 (20% off!): 18 15 available

Only Superhuman by Christopher L. BennettIn the future, genetically engineered superhumans, inspired by classic Earth comic book heroes, fight to keep the peace in the wild and wooly space habitats of the Asteroid Belt

2107 AD: Generations ago, Earth and the cislunar colonies banned genetic and cybernetic modifications. But out in the Asteroid Belt, anything goes. Dozens of flourishing space habitats are spawning exotic new societies and strange new varieties of humans. It’s a volatile situation that threatens the peace and stability of the entire solar system.

Emerald Blair is a Troubleshooter. Inspired by the classic superhero comics of the twentieth century, she’s joined with other mods to try to police the unruly Asteroid Belt. But her loyalties are tested when she finds herself torn between rival factions of superhumans with very different agendas. Emerald wants to put her special abilities to good use and atone for her scandalous past, but what do you do when you can’t tell the heroes from the villains?

Only Superhuman is a rollicking hard-sf adventure set in a complex and fascinating future.

Library Journal‘s SF/Fantasy Debut of the Month for October 2012!

Star Trek: The Original Series — The Captain’s Oath — $12 (25% off!): 12 7 available

Star Trek The Captain's Oath coverThe saga of James T. Kirk’s historic command of the U.S.S. Enterprise is known throughout the galaxy. But one part of the legend has barely been touched upon until now: the story of Kirk’s first starship command and the remarkable achievements by which Starfleet’s youngest captain earned the right to succeed Christopher Pike as the commander of the famous Enterprise.

From his early battles with the Klingons to the rescue of endangered civilizations, Kirk grapples with difficult questions: Is he a warrior or a peacemaker? Should he obey regulations or trust his instincts? This thrilling novel illustrates the events and choices that would shape James T. Kirk into one of the most renowned captains in Starfleet history.

Star Trek: Mirror Universe — Shards and Shadows — $12 (25% off!): 5 3 available

Mirror Universe Shards and ShadowsFractured history. Broken lives. Splintered souls. Since the alternate universe was first glimpsed in the classic episode “Mirror, Mirror,” something about Star Trek’s dark side has beckoned us, called to us, tempted us — like forbidden fruit on the Tree of Knowledge. To taste it is to lose oneself in a world of startling familiarity and terrifying contradictions, where everything and everyone we knew is somehow disturbingly different, and where shocking secrets await their revelation.

What began in 2007 with Glass Empires and Obsidian Alliances — the first truly in-depth foray into the turbulent history of this other continuum — now continues in twelve new short tales that revisit and expand upon that so-called “Mirror Universe,” spanning all five of the core incarnations of Star Trek, as well as their literary offshoots, across more than two hundred years of divergent history, as chronicled by…

Christopher L. Bennett – Margaret Wander Bonanno – Peter David – Keith R.A. DeCandido – Michael Jan Friedman – Jim Johnson – Rudy Josephs – David Mack – Dave Stern – James Swallow – Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore – Susan Wright

Among the Wild Cybers: Tales Beyond the Superhuman — $12 (20% off!): 2 available

(Robot and Cover Design by Mike McPhail, McP Digital Graphics)When the line between life and technology blurs, humanity must adjust its understanding of the universe. From bestselling author Christopher L. Bennett comes Among the Wild Cybers, eight tales portraying a future of challenge and conflict, but also of hope born from the courage and idealism of those heroes willing to stand up for what is right.

  • An intrepid naturalist risks her future to save a new form of life that few consider worth saving.
  • An apprentice superhero must stand alone against an insane superintelligence to earn her name.
  • A cybernetic slave fights to save her kind from a liberation not of their choosing.
  • A seasoned diplomat and mother must out-negotiate fearsome alien traders to save a colony’s children.
  • A homicide detective serves in a world where curing death has only made murder more baffling.

These and other heroes strive to make their corners of the universe better—no matter how much the odds are stacked against them.

Includes the brand-new tale, Aspiring to Be Angels, prequel to the novel Only Superhuman.

Footprints in the Stars — $12 (20% off!): 3 available

Footprints in the StarsTo follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before, first we must find them.

Dreaded hope settles over mankind as we stare into the heavens, looking for a sign we are not alone. Fearing we will find it, puzzled when we don’t.

Among the stars or in our own backyard, lose yourself in the wonder of these tales as we humbly posit mankind’s reaction to the awesome certainty that ‘they’ are out there…or at least, they were…

Footprints in the Stars

With stories by Gordon Linzner, Ian Randal Strock, Robert Greenberger, Dayton Ward, Aaron Rosenberg, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jody Lynn Nye, Christopher L. Bennett, James Chambers, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Russ Colchamiro, Judi Fleming, and Bryan J.L. Glass

Star Trek: Titan — Přes dravé moře (Czech translation of Over a Torrent Sea) — $12.50 (~20% off): 4 available

Star Trek Titan Pres Drave MoreAs the Federation recovers from the devastating events of Star Trek: Destiny, Captain William Riker and the crew of the U.S.S. Titan are ordered to resume their deep-space assignment, reaffirming Starfleet’s core principles of peaceful exploration.  But even far from home on a mission of hope, the scars of the recent cataclysm remain with them as they slowly rebuild their lives.

The planet Droplet is a world made mostly of water without a speck of solid ground.  Life should not exist here, yet it thrives.  Aili Lavena, Titan‘s aquatic navigator, spearheads the exploration of this mysterious world, facing the dangers of the vast, wild ocean.  When one native species proves to be sentient, Lavena finds herself immersed in a delicate contact situation, and Riker is called away from Deanna Troi at a critical moment in their marriage.

But when good intentions bring calamity, Lavena and Riker are cut off from the crew and feared lost.  Troi must face a life-changing event without her husband, while the crew must brave the crushing pressures of the deep to undo the global chaos they have triggered.  Stranded with her injured captain, Lavena must win the trust of the beings who control their fate — but the price for Riker’s survival may be the loss of everything he holds dear.

(Federace se pozvolna zotavuje z ničivých událostí popsaných v trilogii Volání osudu. U.S.S. Titan a jeho kapitán, William T. Riker, přebírají nové rozkazy – mají pokračovat v průzkumu hlubokého vesmíru, aby tak stvrdili, že mírové bádání je stále tím hlavním posláním Hvězdné flotily. Avšak utržené rány se nechtějí zhojit ani tak daleko od domova. Planeta třídy O, přezdívaná Kapka, je zcela pokryta vodní plochou – jediným velkým oceánem. Život by tu vůbec neměl existovat, přesto se mu až neobyčejně daří. Navigátorka Aili Lavena, sama vodního druhu, je ideální kandidátkou na průzkum tohoto ohromného a divokého moře. Když náhodou objeví jeden vnímavý druh, ocitá se na delikátní stezce k prvnímu kontaktu. Jak to tak často bývá, dobré úmysly však přivodí situaci, ze které se Lavena a Riker nemusejí vrátit. Posádka bez kapitána mezitím čelí drtivým tlakům temných hlubin, ve snaze odčinit globální chaos, který nedopatřením sami rozpoutali.)

Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel (Book 2)– $8: SOLD OUT

ST: ENT — Rise of the Federation: Uncertain Logic (Book 3) — $8: SOLD OUT

ST: ENT — Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference (Book 5) — $8: 5 4 available

The time has come to act. Following the destructive consequences of the Ware crisis, Admiral Jonathan Archer and Section 31 agent Trip Tucker both attempt to change their institutions to prevent further such tragedies. Archer pushes for a Starfleet directive of non-interference, but he faces opposition from allies within the fleet and unwelcome support from adversaries who wish to drive the Federation into complete isolationism. Meanwhile, Tucker plays a dangerous game against the corrupt leaders of Section 31, hoping to bring down their conspiracy once and for all. But is he willing to jeopardize Archer’s efforts—and perhaps the fate of an entire world—in order to win?


You can donate or buy books by clicking on the PayPal “Donate” button on the right-hand side of my blog page. If you’re seeing this on Goodreads, click on the “View more” link below to go to my main blog and you’ll see the button.

If you donate $20 or more, please include a message through the PayPal form with your ship/planet/etc. name suggestion, as well as contact info in case there’s an issue with using your suggestion and we need to work out an alternative. (Or you can offer a backup suggestion or two.) All book buyers, let me know who to make out the autograph to.

As always, 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 US mass-market paperback or an additional $0.50 for everything else.

This sale will continue as long as I have books in stock, and the call for donations is always open. I hope we can help each other out.

Holiday season book sale/fundraiser time

November 24, 2019 5 comments

Well, folks, I haven’t yet gotten a new novel contract, nor have I had any success in job-hunting yet, though I’ve got a few prospects I’m waiting to hear about. I’ve done a bit of copyediting work and signed up to work for an online audio transcription service, but nothing that’s paid very much at all. I’ve been looking into loan options, but nothing’s come together yet. One bit of good news: I found out I was owed some overdue royalties for Only Superhuman due to some kind of mail mixup, so I’ll be getting that soon, but it’s not a massive amount. And the print edition of Crimes of the Hub should be out pretty soon, but Arachne’s Crime has been delayed until early next year.

So once again, I need to try to raise some cash to tide me over, so it’s time for another autographed book sale and call for donations. I really hate to keep relying on my fans’ generosity, but I’m taking steps now to seek out new work from various avenues, so hopefully this will be the last time. It’s been a rough year or two, and I’ve been dealing with depression, which has made it hard for me to make an effort to look for work. But I’m making that effort now, trying to get out of my rut, and I just need some help tiding myself over until I can arrange something better. Anyway, it’s the holiday season, so now’s a good time to buy my books as gifts!

As before, I want to offer a reward to donors, but I don’t want to repeat the Tuckerization offer from the last couple of times, since I’ll probably get a lot of the same donors, and depending on what book I do next, it might not make sense to reuse the same names. So let’s try this: Anyone who makes a purchase or donation of $20 or more will get to name a starship, planet, station, or institution that gets mentioned in the next Star Trek novel I write (or a later one if there aren’t enough opportunities in the next one), with the namer getting a nod in the acknowledgments. It needs to be a plausible name in-universe, so no Shippy McShipface or anything rude or inappropriate (though sufficiently subtle in-jokes or allusions could work). Don’t suggest your own name (as discussed above), but feel free to suggest the name of a friend, family member, hometown, school, or something like that (but no brand names or the like). Or just use your imagination. Multicultural or nonhuman-sounding names are a plus.

Here’s the current list of books I have to offer (now with pictures!). It’s getting pretty sparse, but just for the heck of it, I’m throwing in a few copies of the Czech language edition of Titan: Over a Torrent Sea, because I don’t know what else to do with them. (It’s called Přes dravé moře, which translates as “Over a predatory sea.” The translator is Jakub Marek.)

Mass-market paperbacks: $8


  • Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel (1 copy)
  • ST: ENT — Rise of the Federation: Uncertain Logic (2 copies 1 copy)
  • ST: ENT — Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference (5 4 copies)

Czech MMPB: $12.50 (~20% off by current exchange rate)

Star Trek Titan Pres Drave More

  • Star Trek: Titan — Přes dravé moře (Over a Torrent Sea) (4 copies)

Trade paperbacks: $12 (20-25% off!)


  • Star Trek: The Original Series — The Captain’s Oath (12 8 copies)
  • Star Trek: Mirror Universe — Shards and Shadows (5 3 copies)
  • ST: The Next Generation — The Sky’s the Limit (1 copy)


  • Among the Wild Cybers: Tales Beyond the Superhuman (4 copies)
  • Footprints in the Stars (3 copies)

Hardcovers: $20 (20% off!)

Only Superhuman by Christopher L. Bennett

  • Only Superhuman (18 16 copies)

You can donate or buy books by clicking on the PayPal “Donate” button on the right-hand side of my blog page. If you’re seeing this on Goodreads, click on the “View more” link below to go to my main blog and you’ll see the button.

If you donate $20 or more, please include a message through the PayPal form with your ship/planet/etc. name suggestion, as well as contact info in case there’s an issue with using your suggestion and we need to work out an alternative. (Or you can offer a backup suggestion or two.) All book buyers, let me know who to make out the autograph to.

As always, 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 US mass-market paperback or an additional $0.50 for everything else.

Cincy Library Comic Con report

Here I am at the Cincinnati Library Comic Con 2014 this afternoon:

Me at Cinti Library Comic Con

(Thanks to library volunteer Lori for taking the photo for me.)

As you can see, I brought a variety of my books with me, but I still had most of them by the end of the event. Still, I sold a bit over a quarter of my stock and earned a decent chunk of change, with 20% donated to the library. Not shown in the photo: the one copy I had left of Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder. Since this was mainly a comics event, my Spidey novel and Only Superhuman sold significantly better than the Trek titles, a change of pace from what I’m used to. It makes me think I should’ve tried harder to market OS at comics events back when it first came out.

The library had snacks available for the guests, including mini-quiches from Panera. I’m not usually a quiche eater, but I was hungry and I saw that they had a spinach-artichoke variety, so I decided to give it a try, and it was quite good, as one would expect from Panera.

Another thing that really impressed me was the material covering the table, that gold sheeting you see there. The texture had a good firm grip to it and it nicely held my books in that upright position. I usually have trouble keeping them from falling over when they’re like that, but they were all very well-behaved today, so I can only conclude it’s because of the tablecloth material. If I knew what it were called, I’d recommend it to all my conventions.

Empire Online feature on STAR TREK novel series

Empire Magazine‘s site has posted a feature on Pocket’s Star Trek novel line, focusing mainly on the series that expand the universe beyond the aired shows:

This includes some series that I’ve been a part of; Department of Temporal Investigations gets a whole page, and their “if you read only one” recommendation for Titan is my Over a Torrent Sea. Plus there’s an oblique reference to The Buried Age on their page for The Lost Era, though they don’t mention it by name. I do wish they’d spelled my last name correctly, but otherwise I appreciate the attention, both on my behalf and that of my colleagues.

TITAN alien image update on my site

A while back, I did a drawing of the Star Trek: Titan character Dr. Se’al Cethente Qas (a being of the asexual Syrath species) based on a sketch done for me by Titan‘s then-editor Marco Palmieri.  I wanted to post it on my annotations page for my Titan novel Over a Torrent Sea (in which Cethente plays a small but significant role), but I lacked a working scanner at the time, so I posted a crude, blurry digital photo which was the best I could manage at the time, with the promise to post a better image once I got a new scanner.  I’m afraid I dropped the ball on that one, since I got a new printer/scanner nine months ago.  I guess the problem was that I let my apartment get so cluttered that the folder containing my various sketches kind of got lost in the mess, if not physically than conceptually — out of sight, out of mind.  But now my apartment’s (mostly) nice and neat again, and I decided to try getting back to a long-neglected sketch (of a major character from my original novel Only Superhuman), and there was the Cethente drawing in the folder.  So I decided not to put it off any longer — although I had a bit of trouble here and there, because the stupid scanner automatically crops the image too tightly and cut off the heading and because… well, that doesn’t matter.  The point is, the image is now up on my site at the bottom of the Over a Torrent Sea annotations page.  And here it is:

Dr. Se'al Cethente Qas

Website update!

I just updated my homepage with announcements of my new projects as well as preliminary discussion of DTI: Watching the Clock.  Annotations will follow in a few weeks, once people have had a chance to read the book (and I’m no longer busy with all the stuff I have on my plate right now).  Sorry I didn’t get the preliminary DTI discussion up sooner, but I’ve been dealing with lots of stuff, good and bad, this past year, and some things have fallen by the wayside.  For one thing, I discovered that somehow the missing link to the Over a Torrent Sea annotations which I’d restored had somehow gone missing again, so I fixed that too.  Hopefully it’ll stay there this time.

Earth: A nice place to visit…?

In my last post, I talked about the interactive Google Maps thingy at the end of “No Dominion” on its DayBreak Magazine page.  It occurred to me that “No Dominion” is the only one of my published original works that could have a Google Maps page, since it’s the only one that’s set even partly on Earth.  And the first draft of it was set on a habitat in Earth orbit!  In fact, of my five published original stories, only the latest two, “The Weight of Silence” and “No Dominion,” are even set in the Sol System.  “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide” and “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele” are set within ten parsecs of Earth, respectively en route to and at Gamma Leporis.  “The Hub of the Matter” and its upcoming sequel “Home is Where the Hub Is” are set near the center of the galaxy, 40,000 light years from Earth, and at various other locations within a volume 300,000 light-years in radius around that point.

What can I say?  I like space.  It was Star Trek that introduced me to science fiction, and the original show never went to Earth except in the occasional time-travel story.  And space is just so much roomier than Earth.  The tastes of the prose SF community turned away from “space opera” for a while, though that’s somewhat reversed itself by now, but I never lost my preference for it.

Ironically, my first published Star Trek tale, SCE: “Aftermath,” was set primarily in San Francisco and, I believe, pretty much entirely within the Solar System (other dimensions notwithstanding).  However, I think the only things I’ve written since then that are actually set on Earth (at least from the perspective of the viewpoint characters) are a few pages toward the end of The Buried Age and the briefing in the first chapter of Greater Than the Sum (although the prologue of Over a Torrent Sea opens in orbit of Mars).  My upcoming Star Trek DTI novel will probably spend more time on Earth than any of my other Trek fiction, although it features quite a lot of other locations as well.

I was going to say “than anything I’ve had published to date,” but then I remembered my X-Men and Spider-Man novels, both of which are set entirely on Earth (alternate timelines notwithstanding).  However, my original idea for the Spidey novel had Spidey travelling to another planet; I liked the idea of getting him out of his comfort zone (and, admittedly, more into mine).  It was decided it was too much of a departure for the character, but I’m still hoping I’ll get a chance to tell that tale someday.

How many words? (UPDATED)

Today in a thread on the TrekBBS, someone asked my colleague David Mack whether his published word count to date had topped one million words.  That got me wondering how many words I’ve gotten published (i.e. stuff I’ve been paid for).   It might also just be useful for my future reference to have a list of all my word counts.  So here goes:


  • “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide”: 12,000 words
  • “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele”: 9400
  • “The Hub of the Matter”: 9300
  • “The Weight of Silence”: 7600
  • “No Dominion” (upcoming): 7900
  • “Home is Where the Hub Is” (upcoming): 9800

Total original fiction count: 56,000 words


  • X-Men: Watchers on the Walls: 83,500
  • Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder:  71,000

Total Marvel novel count: 154,500 words


  • Ex Machina: 110,000
  • Orion’s Hounds: 105,000
  • The Buried Age: 132,000
  • Places of Exile: 55,000
  • Greater Than the Sum: 78,500
  • Over a Torrent Sea: 89,000
  • Seek a Newer World (sold but unpublished): 82,000

Total ST novel count: 651,500 words


  • “Aftermath”: 26,000
  • “…Lov’d I Not Honor More “: 12,000
  • “Brief Candle”: 9800
  • “As Others See Us”: 9100
  • Mere Anarchy: “The Darkness Drops Again”: 28,900
  • “Friends With the Sparrows”: 10,300
  • “Empathy”: 11,000

Total ST short fiction count: 107,100 words


  • “Points of Contention”: 1040
  • “Catsuits are Irrelevant”: 1250
  • “Top 10 Villains #8: Shinzon”: 820
  • “Almost a Completely New Enterprise”: 800
  • “The Remaking of Star Trek“: 1350

Total article count: 5260 words

All told:

  • Novels: 806,000 words (724,000 to date)
  • Short fiction: 163,100 words (145,400 to date)

Total fiction: 969,100 words (869,400 to date)

Add in nonfiction and the total goes to 974,360 words sold,  874,660 published to date.  Include everything but Seek a Newer World and I’ll have at least 892,360 words in print by the end of the year, probably more.

So I’m within 110,000 words of my million-word mark.  As it happens, I’m aiming for 100K with my Star Trek DTI novel, and I have stories on the market that could add another 12K if they sell.  So there’s a very good chance that DTI could put me over the top.

EDITED TO ADD: What about breakdowns by word count?  It comes out to 9 novels (over 40,000 words), 2 novellas (over 17,500 wds), 11 novelettes (over 7,500 words), and 0 short stories.  I guess “The Weight of Silence” is right on the borderline, though; the magazine it appears in, Alternative Coordinates, technically has a cutoff of 7,500 words, but I guess it’s not absolutely rigid.  So TWoS might end up being classed as a short story in bibliographies, if anyone considers it worth cataloguing.  The two stories I currently have on the market are both short stories, at 6900 words and 5200 words.  Another I’ve been shopping lately is 4200 words, but a recent rejection letter suggests that the opening could use some revisions which might add to that.  (I’ve been trying to produce shorter fiction lately because there are more markets for shorter works.)

Thanks to the Ohioana Library Association

Every year, the Ohioana Library Association holds a reception honoring authors from Cincinnati and Hamilton County, and the latest one was held yesterday afternoon at the Main Library in downtown Cincinnati.  I was one of the invited guests, for my second year in a row.  (Well, it’s been more than a year, since they used to hold the events in November but decided this time to move it to March.)  It was a nice reception.  I got a Certificate of Recognition for my work (this year it was Over a Torrent Sea that was nominally being honored, but I also brought a copy of Mere Anarchy to donate to the Ohioana collection), and I got to chat with a couple of local authors, including a fellow SF author who’s also been in Analog.  So I might’ve made a new connection or two within the local writing community, which is good.

There was also a buffet table with punch and cookies and  hors d’oeuvres and such.  The best ones were these little cookie-ish things filled with a pumpkin puree, kinda like bite-size pumpkin pies.  Yum.

OVER A TORRENT SEA Annotations: The Missing Link

I just discovered that when I put up the annotations for Over a Torrent Sea on my webpage just over a year ago, I apparently neglected to put in the actual link that would let people access it!  Either that or the link was accidentally deleted in a revision of the Trek Fiction page, I’m not sure which.  Anyway, I’ve just updated the Trek Fiction page to include the link.  And here’s the  URL for the annotations themselves:

My sincere apologies for the oversight.

Ocean planets: a slight correction

February 4, 2010 1 comment

In my earlier post “Ocean planet found!” I wrote the following:

In 2008, I used a Léger-type ocean planet as the featured location in my novel Star Trek Titan: Over a Torrent Sea, which was published in March of this year. As far as I know, it’s the first published work of science fiction to use this concept. (There have been water worlds in SF before, but not specifically like this.)

Well, I have to correct that statement.  I’ve just read Ian McDonald’s novella “The Tear,” which was originally published in February 2008, a bit over a year before Over a Torrent Sea.  “The Tear” is a complex, galaxy-spanning epic loaded with concepts, but it briefly features a Léger-type ocean planet in a couple of its segments.  It doesn’t explore the concept in detail, but still, McDonald beat me to it.  So as far as I know, he’s the first SF writer to use this type of ocean planet as a setting.  Maybe I’m the first to do it in depth (pun intended) or at novel length, but for now let’s just say OaTS is one of the earliest works of SF to use a Léger ocean planet.  Which is still something to be proud of, I think, especially for a media tie-in novel.

Ocean planet found!

December 16, 2009 4 comments

In 2003, Marc Kuchner and Alain Léger independently proposed the existence of a new hypothetical class of planet, which Léger dubbed “Ocean planets.”  These are worlds that consist primarily of water — not just balls of rock covered in a thin veneer of water like Earth, but worlds that consist substantially or primarily of water, with small cores of metal and rock deep beneath a thick mantle of exotic high-pressure ices with a liquid ocean somewhere around 100 kilometers deep.  These worlds could have thick water-vapor atmospheres, and if hot enough could have the ocean and atmosphere combined into a single layer of supercritical water, an intermediate stage between water and steam.

In 2008, I used a Léger-type ocean planet as the featured location in my novel Star Trek Titan: Over a Torrent Sea, which was published in March of this year.  As far as I know, it’s the first published work of science fiction to use this concept.  (There have been water worlds in SF before, but not specifically like this.)  The details of the ocean planet “Droplet” are discussed in my annotations for the novel.

Now, just 9 months after OaTS came out, astronomers have announced the discovery of what’s probably a real ocean planet!  The New York Times reports:

Astronomers said Wednesday that they had discovered a planet composed mostly of water.

You would not want to live there. In addition to the heat — 400 degrees Fahrenheit on the ocean surface — the planet is probably cloaked in a crushingly dank and dark fog of superheated steam and other gases. But its discovery has encouraged a growing feeling among astronomers that they are on the verge of a breakthrough and getting closer to finding a planet something could live on.

“This probably is not habitable, but it didn’t miss the habitable zone by that much,” said David Charbonneau of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who led the team that discovered the new planet and will reports its findings on Thursday in the journal Nature.

Only 2.7 times the size of Earth and 6.6 times as massive, the new planet takes 38 hours to circle a dim red star, GJ 1214, in the constellation Ophiuchus — about 40 light-years from here. It is one of the lightest and smallest so-called extrasolar planets yet found, part of a growing class that are less than 10 times the mass of the Earth.

It’s significantly bigger than Droplet, which was 1.7 Earth radii and 2.7 Earth masses.  GJ 1214b reportedly has a density about a third of Earth’s.  According to Centauri Dreams, that probably makes it about 3/4 water and other volatiles, 1/4 rock.  Droplet was about half and half by mass (and 55% Earth’s density), which was because that was the model used in the paper I based my calculations on, but Ganymede, Callisto, and Titan all have about the same ratio, so it wasn’t entirely arbitrary.  Centauri Dreams also says it appears to have a very dense atmosphere about 200 km deep, and adds:

We should be able to learn more about this atmosphere, for GJ 1214b is close enough to Earth that the Hubble telescope should be able to characterize its atmosphere.

Isn’t that awesome?  A nearby planet with water and atmosphere.  Not habitable, alas, but it brings us so much closer.  If this planet is out there, then habitable, water-bearing terrestrial worlds must be as well.  And the thought of the Hubble telescope doing planetary science on an extrasolar planet is monumentally cool.

And from my perspective as an author, it’s awesome to have a concept I used in a novel verified by a real discovery just months later.  All too often, we SF authors get our concepts debunked by new discoveries instead.

Although of course it’s Léger, Kuchner, and David Charbonneau’s team who deserve the real props.

Origin story 2: The long road to publication

December 4, 2009 6 comments

In my Origin story post, once I got to the point where I decided to become a writer, I focused mainly on my worldbuilding and the development of my “Default” universe.  But what about the actual writing projects I attempted?

Well, in looking back on those years, it seems I took quite a while to get past the “I wanna be a writer when I grow up” stage to the actual story-writing stage.  Aside from some crude comic strips I drew and the occasional class assignment, the earliest writing projects I can recall doing are a couple of pieces of Star Trek fanfiction.  For some reason, I never really got heavily into fanfic writing, but I did do a couple.  The first was “A Peculiar Variety of Diplomacy” (a line of Spock’s from “A Taste of Armageddon”), which was an “I, Mudd”-like comedy story in which Kirk’s crew discovers that a species applying for UFP membership is more trouble than it’s worth, and they end up pulling a “Wise Men of Gotham” gambit and acting silly to convince the aliens that the UFP is too crazy for them to join.  It climaxed, I kid you not, with the bridge crew singing “The Lullaby of Broadway.”  As for the second fanfic I wrote, the title says it all: “Mudd’s Tribbles.”  I also dabbled with various Trek novel ideas, none of which ever went anywhere — except that my dabbling included some early thoughts about the character arcs that followed Star Trek: The Motion Picture, so maybe that could count as the beginning of the process that led to Ex Machina.

This stuff was done mostly in study hall in high school.  There was one term when I had something like three hours of study hall in a row, so I had plenty of time for writing and thinking.  I recall doing some original fiction too, like a dialogue between American and Soviet defense computers that simultaneously gain sentience and mutually decide to use their respective nuclear arsenals to destroy humanity.   (That’s the second time I’ve mentioned using that idea, but lest you think I was preoccupied with it, I should point out that it was already a pretty prevalent meme at the time, combining cultural fears of both nuclear war and technology subjugating humanity.  Skynet was a latecomer.  I probably got the idea from the “Doomsday is Tomorrow” episode of The Bionic Woman, in which a HAL-like computer plans to set off a doomsday device.  That, in turn, was probably influenced by Colossus: The Forbin Project.  And I was not yet near the point of coming up with anything that wasn’t derivative.)

In my junior year, I wrote a spec script for the annual junior-class play.  My submission was a sci-fi comedy called How to Save a Planet in Six Easy Steps.  It featured a scientist named Dr. Livingston I. Presume.  My submission got me invited to join the team of writers developing the play, and I got my first taste of collaboration.  I gave one of the other writers some scenes that he was supposed to incorporate into the script, and was outraged when he rewrote them without permission or consultation, and without much talent either.  One of my characters was changed into a crude, offensive gay stereotype, something I would never have approved.  I felt violated that my words had been changed without my consent or participation, and I resigned from the project and asked them to take my name off what I now recognized would be a tasteless travesty (they didn’t).  In retrospect, I have to wonder why I was expecting anything else from a play written by teenagers.  But it gave me sympathy for the writers who work in TV and movies.  Admittedly, my own ego and inexperience at working with other writers were factors as well, but I don’t regret my decision to leave the project (except that there was this one cute girl involved who’d flirted with me once three years before, and I’d been hoping for a chance to get to know her better).

The first story I ever wrote with the intent of actually submitting it was done near the end of my first year in college.  It was a Twilight Zone-ish piece inspired by a real event.  I was on the bus one day and a man and a woman got on.  They were wearing matching t-shirts in a sickly purplish color.  His said “I LOVE [JANE]” and hers said “I LOVE [BOB]” (names forgotten to protect the innocent).  But they just sat there, totally affectless, not talking, not touching, not even looking at each other.  If not for the t-shirts, I would’ve thought them total strangers to one another.  I found that sad and disturbing — and creatively inspiring.  The story began with that event, and then went on from my first-person POV as a plague of these t-shirts — and the commensurate zombie-like attitude — spread inexplicably through the city.  Now, I was 18 or 19 at the time, so I included the girl I had a crush on as a character, and there was a scene where she ended up in one of the t-shirts and — strictly for her own good, you understand — I attempted to free her from its spell by removing it.  It didn’t work, and neither did the old Sleeping Beauty trick (though folklore is mute on whether Prince Charming reached second base).  I didn’t save the girl and there wasn’t a happy ending.  I don’t remember what the ending was.  Embarrassed with the story, I discarded all copies.  (There was no happy ending with the girl in real life either.)

I began writing stories in my Default-verse around 1991, I think, and began submitting them about two years later.  I was very slow getting started, much slower than I should’ve been.  I don’t want to talk about these ideas in any detail, because you never know when something from an old, failed story might find new life.  I thought these stories were pretty good at the time, but when I looked back on them later with more experience, I realized they were very lacking in concepts and characterization.  The prose was competent, but the stories had little depth and the SF ideas weren’t all that interesting.

But actually submitting stories and getting them rejected was invaluable.  I can’t stress this enough to the aspiring writer.  I had to know my work wasn’t good enough before I could begin striving to improve.  And once I got good enough that the editors were willing to invest the effort in sending personal rejection letters instead of form letters, I started getting specific advice on what my work was missing and what it needed, and that helped a lot too.

I also worked on a few spec novels in those years.  My first was inspired by the end titles of the Star Wars spoof film Hardware Wars, which contained the line “Filmed on location in space.”  It was also influenced by the production of the film Fitzcarraldo.  On Location was about a filmmaker who, tired of all the computer-animated fakery in the films of the 2020s, arranges to bring a film crew along on a colony expedition to Mars and make the world’s first space movie shot entirely on location.  Now, I never liked the fake way in which film production was usually portrayed in movies and TV.  I wanted it to be coherent and authentic.  So before I wrote the novel, I wrote the screenplay to the movie within the novel.  Then I worked out its production requirements and shooting schedule, and then I plotted and wrote the novel around that.  For a first spec novel, it was very ambitious, and it took me a couple of years to do it.  I just now rummaged through my old notes and saw that I was planning this as early as 1990, before I actually began writing stories in this universe.  That’s always been my problem — getting from the planning stage to the writing stage.

A few years back, I revisited those old, unsold manuscripts, and though I felt the novel held up moderately well for an early effort, the screenplay was actually quite boring.   I really raised my game a lot between the screenplay and the novel.

I’m pretty proud of the design I did for the Mars colony ship, the Ray Bradbury.  Here it is:

The forward/upper cones of the landing modules double as surface-to-orbit shuttles.  The heat shield is an unfolding structure shown retracted against the hull.  The gym is a concept I cribbed from Arthur C. Clarke’s Imperial Earth; crewmembers ride bicycles around the inner rim of the drum-shaped chamber to generate centrifugal weight and resistance.

I wrote two other spec novels in those early years.  One was the prototype for a character I’m still using today (literally — she’s featured in the story I’m currently writing).  It’s kind of a hard-SF superhero premise.  My original idea was more of a genetically/bionically enhanced secret agent, maybe someone darker and more violent than most of my characters, but I quickly realized I couldn’t identify with a willing killer.  Anyway, I wrote a spec novel about her, and then I rewrote it many, many times over the years rather than, you know, trying to find an agent or anything.  But I built up this whole elaborate plan for sequels and a comic-book series and… well, after the dozenth or so rewrite, I finally decided that I needed to start over from scratch.  My current spec novel involving the character is a plot distilled from the high points of that whole saga I’d worked out before.

The other spec novel I wrote was Daughter of Earth and Water, which was the basis for my most recent published novel, Star Trek Titan: Over a Torrent Sea.   It was about an expedition to a water world orbiting Tau Ceti — just a planet with no continents and a bunch of islands, originally called Archipel.  The first draft was strong on the worldbuilding and weak on the characters.  I later went back and punched up the character stuff.  Then I decided I wanted something more exotic for the planet, and I tried to think up a way to have a world that was made almost entirely of water (this was inspired by the Voyager episode “Thirty Days” and its artificially created ocean in space; I wanted a natural equivalent).  I tried to come up with something involving a quark-star core that had somehow accreted water around it after crashing through a Neptune-type planet.  I was never confident enough in the physics of the situation to go with it.  Also, the story made rather a big deal out of the heroine’s transformation into a “merwoman” midway through the novel (a transformation proposed in OaTS but not followed through upon).  Once I began to realize that transhumanism was catching on in SF and that such transformations would be more commonplace in that era, I dabbled in reworking the plot.  But it remained shelved until I hit upon adapting it for Titan, and using the “Ocean Planet” concept that astrophysicists had proposed a few years earlier.  (This is discussed more in my annotations for OaTS.)

I did a bunch of other stories in this time, including a series about humanity’s first alien contact and the interactions that follow, with an eye toward combining them into a novel eventually.  But nothing ever sold until “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide” and later “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele.”  And after that, nothing else sold until I started writing Trek fiction.  That’s pretty typical for a writer’s journey.  It’s said that your first million words are just practice.  It usually takes a long time and a lot of rejections before you get good enough to sell.  And even once you make your first sale, it doesn’t mean the rejections will end.  I probably wrote more than a million before I sold, counting all the alternate drafts of things.  I spent too much time rethinking old concepts rather than just submitting them and moving on to the next thing.  That’s another valuable lesson for aspiring writers.  As a rule, once you’ve finished a story and started marketing it, you don’t rewrite it unless an editor asks you to — you move onto the next thing instead.  I had too much trouble letting go of an old idea.  And with the spec novels, I never even got around to submitting them anywhere, just kept trying to rework them to the point where I thought they were good enough.  I hadn’t yet learned the saying, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”

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