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And finally, Erlanger LibraryCon followup

November 12, 2017 1 comment

Yep, the Kenton County Public Library’s Erlanger branch held its LibraryCon yesterday. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very well-attended, at least not by people interested in my books. Maybe I should’ve remembered to remind people of the event a couple of days ago. But the cold weather was probably the reason not many people came out. Or maybe this is just a lean year — the current economic uncertainties may make people more reluctant to engage in recreational spending. This is my second signing in a row to have a disappointing turnout.

Still, I got some things out of it. I got to meet a few local creators and publishers, and I got to meet the “other” David Mack — the comics artist/writer known for his work on Kabuki, Daredevil, and the comics adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, as opposed to my friend David (Alan) Mack who writes Star Trek novels for Pocket and the upcoming Dark Arts: The Midnight Front for Tor. I hadn’t known that the comics’ David Mack was originally from the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area. He’s a lot more down-to-earth than I would’ve expected from his rather ethereal art. Anyway, it was nice to meet him at last.

I also got a free meal out of it, at least. I actually brought my own lunch, since I didn’t know they’d be providing one, and since my metabolism’s still on Daylight Time, I ate it early, just before the convention formally started at 11. Not long thereafter, they passed around the catering order sheet from Chipotle — d’oh! Although lunch didn’t arrive until after 2, so I would’ve been starving by that point if I hadn’t eaten something earlier. And the burrito I ordered was so big and filling that I didn’t even need to have dinner later on, just an evening snack.

Anyway, the Erlanger branch was a pretty nice library, and it’s too bad I didn’t get a chance to take more of a look around. It’s a bit too far from home to drop into casually. But even with the underwhelming turnout, I’m grateful to the Erlanger staff for having me, and maybe they’ll have me back next year. The library’s apparently having an extension built, so it should be an even bigger space by then and hopefully able to host a larger convention, or so they told me. Maybe I’ll be able to sell more books next year. I should have at least one new thing to offer by then, which I’ll hopefully be able to announce pretty soon.

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Michigan trip followup

November 5, 2017 3 comments

Well, I’ve been back from my visit to the Detroit area for a couple of days. I had a pretty uneventful drive both ways, taking about 6 hours each way, what with stops for rest breaks, lunch, and fuel. (I had half a tank when I started, and I realize in retrospect that if I’d waited to fill up until it was low, I could probably have made the round trip with just one refill. But I didn’t.) The only problem is that my GPS shut down on me a couple of times, including while I was in the middle of Detroit rush hour traffic. That’s the second trip I’ve had where that happened — I wonder what the problem is. My smartphone is a few years old now, so maybe planned obsolescence is starting to kick in. Anyway, I don’t really need GPS for most of the trip, since it’s just straight up and down I-75. It was just the last leg getting to Huntington Woods, and getting from there back to 75 South, that I still need a reminder for.

So I had a nice little visit with family, and the book signing at the Huntington Woods Public Library was on Wednesday evening. It was a much smaller group than I’d hoped for. Apparently the World Series was in its seventh game that night or something, although I wouldn’t think there’d be that much overlap between my audience and sports fans. But whatever the reason, there were only about a half-dozen or so people there. So we all sat around one round table and had a nice little chat about writing and Star Trek and stuff for 90 minutes. I gave away most of my giveaway copies of Patterns of Interference, but I only sold one book. I was hoping for more financially, but otherwise I can’t complain. I guess I shouldn’t have expected a huge group (although the library reserved a really big meeting hall for me).

The one other thing of note I did on my trip was to visit the Cranbrook Institute of Science, a natural history museum that’s part of the larger Cranbrook Educational Complex, itself a historic landmark. Alas, I couldn’t afford the extra fee for the chocolate exhibit they’re currently showing, but the rest of the museum was interesting, particularly the geological specimens. I quite liked this iridescent fossil shell in the lobby, which came out really nicely in my photo, with a fiery glow seemingly from within:

Cranbrook fossil shell

And here’s an item from the geology exhibit that’s close to my heart:

Beryl, var. Emerald(I think I once briefly considered using Beryl as Emerald Blair’s middle name. I figured it was too on the nose.)

They had a section on meteorites too, including a really nice Don Davis painting of the Tunguska event, which can also be seen here. There was also a replica T. rex skeleton that you can get really close to — I’m not sure I’ve ever really gotten a sense of just how big they were. That would’ve been scary. There was also a Michigan-centric section about Ice Ages and glaciers carving the landscape, and an anthropology section with items from various world cultures all displayed together. That section had a video presentation using that so-called “hologram” technology that projects what looks like a freestanding, translucent flat image in open space. I ducked down to the side to take a closer look at how it works, and it’s quite simple — there’s a horizontal video screen in the ceiling and a glass plate at a 45-degree angle reflecting it (basically a beam splitter), so that the reflection looks like it’s floating upright in the air behind the glass. They set it up so that the “holographic” characters (of course this has nothing to do with actual holography) appeared to be occupying the 3D physical display behind the glass, with the hostess standing on the carpet and a little towheaded kid right out of ’60s sitcom central casting sitting on a chest and listening to her lecture about human diversity. Since they were both in the same plane, the perspective of the illusion held up well as I moved from side to side, as long as I didn’t move far enough to see how flat their images really were. The bench in front of the display was not so wide as to spoil the illusion for kids sitting on the ends. But this is me we’re talking about — when I see an illusion, I want to see how it’s made. I was always more interested in knowing the magician’s point of view than the spectator’s.

As I mentioned, the drive home on Friday was pretty uneventful, but one weird thing happened: I got 4-5 spam calls on my smartphone within just a few hours, an astonishing number. Most of them I just rejected because I was driving at the time, but there was one that went to voicemail that was an incredibly inept scam, an obviously synthesized voice speaking in hilariously ungrammatical English about how I had to pay my overdue IRS bill or something or I would get arrested “by the cops.” I wonder why there were so many calls on that day alone.

So now I’m back home, caught up on my missed TV shows, and trying to get back to work. I’m doing copyedits for a project I should be able to announce soon, and expecting copyedits for another project I hope I can announce before much longer. Plus I just got a phone call reminding me that Election Day is on Tuesday, so I should remember to research the candidates and issues before then. (I’ve been getting a ton of election fliers in the mail, but I prefer to get my info from independent sources.)

And of course, I’ll be at Erlanger’s LibraryCon this Saturday, November 11, from 11-4. This should be a bigger event, so hopefully there will be more folks around to buy my books.

Books By the Banks 2017 followup

October 29, 2017 1 comment

This year’s Books By the Banks event went fairly well. There was a reception for the authors Friday night, and though I’m not very good at such large-scale social gatherings, I managed to get something out of it. I noticed that the name of one of the guest, Mark Dawidziak, sounded familiar, so I looked him up on my phone browser and found that he was the author of The Columbo Phile, a behind-the-scenes companion and episode guide to the Peter Falk series, which I’ve had a copy of since about the time it came out in 1989, or at least not long thereafter. So I sought him out and brought that up, and he was quite pleased to hear I had a copy, since it’s apparently fairly hard to find (it’s long out of print and owners don’t like to part with their copies). He said he was actually a bit relieved that he never got a chance to do a revised edition or sequel about the ABC revival of Columbo, because the story of the original series was a tale of success, while the story of the revival… not so much. (It started out pretty good in its first couple of years, but had a long, slow decline after that. It did manage to do one last good one at the end, though not good enough to let them do one more movie and finish the series with an even 70 installments.) Anyway, he suggested I bring it in the next day so he could autograph it, which I did and he did.

So the reception went well enough, but I got a pretty painful foot cramp and had to leave early. I think it was standing on the hardwood floors for so long that did it, and probably the fact that I didn’t stretch my legs before I went out. Walking back to the downtown parking garage helped work out the cramp, but I had frigid weather and heavy rain to contend with, and I was in a light jacket with no umbrella, not having anticipated those conditions. It was most unpleasant, particularly after having an unseasonably warm autumn. And then I found out the garage had raised its rates since I was last there. And then I had to drive home in the dark and the rain, which I hate. I made it home in one piece, though.

At least I got a decent night’s sleep and was reasonably awake for the festival on Saturday. I was seated near one author I know from past events, mystery writer and Sherlock Holmes expert Dan Andriacco, and we talked some about my recent revisit of the Basil Rathbone Holmes films. I was seated between a detective-story writer, Rock Neelly, and a writer of sports-themed political thrillers, Dennis Hetzel — no other sci-fi people there, apparently, and not a lot of adult fiction overall represented this year.

As for me, Joseph-Beth Bookseller had provided a number of copies of Rise of the Federation books 2-5 and The Face of the Unknown, but unfortunately no Only Superhuman, so the only non-Star Trek items I had to offer were my postcard/fliers for Hub Space. (Hopefully I’ll have something else non-Trek to offer next year. Stay tuned.) While I got to listen to the authors on either side of me giving their rehearsed pitches over and over, I had to contend with the usual thing of trying to explain to the mostly non-SF-fan crowd that: no, I don’t write for the show; no, the books are not made into episodes; no, I’m not the person who writes all the books; no, the producers don’t tell us what to write; and, yes, books based on Star Trek are a thing that exist. Plus the occasional person who addressed me only to say that they weren’t into Star Trek, though at least most of them were apologetic about it. But there was one person who said he came to the event just to see me, which was flattering.

The most successful seller among my available Trek books was The Face of the Unknown. It soon became evident that it’s easier to sell a standalone than series books, especially when the first book in the series wasn’t available. I eventually modified my completely unrehearsed pitch to say that the books could stand reasonably well on their own since they filled in any necessary information about what came before. Anyway, the best seller among the ROTF books was Uncertain Logic, which is possibly due to its distinctive cover (or I like to think so, since the cover design was my idea). Eventually I was down to one copy each of those two. When I got up to stretch my legs with about an hour and a half to go, I noticed that behind me was a corralled-off space with boxes holding extra books, so I replenished my supply of those two books — and then I didn’t sell any more. Oh, well. At leat a lot of people took Hub Space fliers, so hopefully I’ll see a spike in sales there. (As in, some sales.)

So that’s one more BBtB down for me, and the first of my three close-packed events. In a couple of days, I’ll be heading up to Huntington Woods, Michigan for the library signing on Wednesday at 7 PM. There should definitely be Only Superhuman copies for sale there. And a new wrinkle: I’ll be giving away copies of Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference.

Now I just hope I can get through the next few days without catching a cold from walking in the rain and attending a crowded convention…

Book signings: Now there are three!

Looks like I’ve been neglecting my blog again these past few weeks. I’ve been struggling with a new project I hope to talk about soon, something I haven’t done before and am trying to learn the ropes for. But I want to remind folks that I’ll be one of the guests at Books by the Banks at Cincinnati’s Duke Energy Convention Center this Saturday, October 28, from 10 AM – 4 PM. Also, next Wednesday, November 1 at 7-9 PM, I’ll be signing books at the Huntington Woods Public Library just outside of Detroit, Michigan.

But that’s not the end of it! Just today, I accepted an invitation to yet another signing at LibraryCon, an SF/fantasy-themed library event in Erlanger, Kentucky. It’ll be Saturday, November 11 (Veteran’s Day) at the Erlanger branch of the Kenton County Public Library, located on 401 Kenton Lands Road, Erlanger, KY 41018. That’s just a couple of miles east of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. I gather it’ll be a mostly outdoor event unless it rains.

So it looks like I’ve got a busy few weeks ahead of me! And lots of chances for people to come meet me and buy my books.

 

Coming soon: two signing events in a week!

We’re now less than four weeks away from the annual Books By the Banks book festival at Cincinnati’s Duke Energy Convention Center. As previously announced, I’ll be one of numerous regional authors attending the festival on Saturday, October 28 from 10 AM to 4 PM.

But I’ve now made plans for a second, solo book signing event just four days later. On Wednesday, November 1st at 7 PM, I plan to be at the Huntington Woods Public Library in Huntington Woods, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. I should have copies on hand of at least my last three Star Trek novels (Rise of the Federation: Live by the Code and Patterns of Interference and The Original Series: The Face of the Unknown) and Only Superhuman, and maybe some older stuff if I can arrange it.

Why Huntington Woods? Well, I’ve had family in the area for decades, and my cousin Cynthia has been talking to me for years about arranging a book signing with the folks she knows at the library and/or a local bookstore. It took a while to get around to making it happen, but I recently decided it was time to get around to it at last, so Cynthia reached out to the library people, and here we are. So you can all thank her for this.

The Huntington Woods Public Library is located on

Musings on “Abductive Reasoning” and universes (mild spoilers)

I had an interesting thought last night about my newly published story in Analog, “Abductive Reasoning.” I’ve been assuming all along that AR was in its own self-contained universe, unconnected to any of my other “written worlds.” As I mentioned once before, there’s no specific reason it couldn’t theoretically share a universe with my other standalone story, “No Dominion,” but there’s no reason they should be connected either, since they’re rather different in tone and focus. It can’t be set in the Only Superhuman universe (as ISFDb calls my default continuity), since that universe includes a faster-than-light drive technology, the warp cage, while the protagonist of AR travels with her consciousness encoded on a biochip in a palm-sized “wafer ship” that travels at high sublight speed using vacuum-energy sails and takes millennia to cross significant galactic distances. If the technology for warp propulsion were possible in AR’s universe, surely its Galactic Coalition would’ve discovered it long ago. Plus, the existence of that Coalition is incompatible with the galactic history and politics I’ve developed in my main universe.

I assumed the same arguments would apply to the universe of my Hub stories, the other comedy tales I’ve done for Analog. As works of science fiction humor, they could potentially go together, but the Hub universe also includes a form of faster-than-light travel, the Hub itself, plus the Hub Network that’s grown up around it and encompasses nine different galaxies, including much of the Milky Way. It seemed obvious that the Hub Network and the Galactic Coalition couldn’t exist in the same reality without being aware of each other, and if the GC knew about the Hub, then surely they’d use it instead of taking centuries to traverse the stars in wafer ships, right?

But last night I started to wonder if that was really the case. The GC’s citizens, or at least those like “Abductive Reasoning”‘s protagonist Cjek’darrit, are effectively immortal in biochip form, and presumably can place their minds in a dormant state for most of a lengthy interstellar journey. Culturally, they might be satisfied with the slowness of sublight travel despite being aware of an instantaneous alternative. Maybe they don’t even get along with the Hub Network; maybe there’s some political, ideological, or economic reason that they refuse to associate with the Network or vice-versa. Still, those seem like feeble justifications.

Then it occurred to me that the key to viable two-way Hub travel is the use of quantelopes — the bioengineered animals that communicate through quantum entanglement, the only way a ship can send a signal to the Hub to call for the opening of the nearest known Hubpoint. So ships using the Hub Network need to be large enough to carry at least one or two rabbit-sized animals and their cryogenic life-support tank. A wafer ship therefore couldn’t use the Hub! Except, hang on, the Coalition’s member species are (at least in Cjek’s case) born as organic beings and live that way in nanofabricated bodies when they’re on planets. So they don’t need to use wafer ships exclusively. They could use regular spaceships and Hub travel if they were aware of the Hub’s existence. So that doesn’t explain it.

But that leads to the next possibility: What if the Galactic Coalition and the Hub Network simply aren’t aware of each other yet? The Hub isn’t like warp cages. It isn’t a technology that could be theorized and invented; it’s unique, a physical property of the galaxy’s center of mass. If you hadn’t had the good fortune of some Network scout discovering a Hubpoint near your star system, you’d have no way of knowing it existed. So in theory, a large interstellar civilization adapted to use slower-than-light travel could share the galaxy with the Hub Network without the two having encountered each other yet. It’s a big galaxy with hundreds of billions of star systems, after all. Statistically, it’s at least possible. Although AR implies that the Coalition is extremely ancient and pervasive, so it might be hard for them to miss each other.

Then it struck me — the Hub Network is not ancient, certainly not on the same scale. “Home is Where the Hub Is” establishes that the Hub was discovered by the Dosperhag only 16,000 years ago, making the Network at least several centuries younger than that. But AR says that Cjek’s “creche-mates only reconverged at the home star once every few hundred galactic microrotations.” A galactic rotation, at least at Earth’s distance from the center, takes about 250 million years, so a hundred microrotations is 25,000 years. So journeys through the Coalition take tens of millennia at high sublight speeds, meaning that new information transmitted at the speed of light would take a similar amount of time to propagate. If the Hub Network is about 16,000 years old, then the odds are that contact with the GC would’ve most likely happened somewhere near the middle of that span, say around 8 millennia ago give or take — except the Hub has grown in size and activity over time, which would make contact statistically more likely to have occurred in the latter half of that span. So it’s reasonably likely that if the two civilizations have made contact, it was only within the past few millennia. And since it takes tens of millennia for new information to cross the entire Coalition, that news might not yet have spread far enough to reach any world Cjek’darrit has visited lately. So it could work.

Although… wait, hold the phone. There’s the other side of the question to consider. The Network may only be 15-16,000 years old, but the Hub, as I said, is an intrinsic property of the galaxy, so it’s been there for 13-odd billion years. If the Coalition existed in the Hub universe, and has been traveling the galaxy for hundreds of thousands of years at least, then it’s quite possible they — or one of the multiple starfaring civilizations that came together to form them — would’ve discovered the Hub long before the Dosperhag did. I’ve established that the Hub is a radiation source, constantly emitting EM radiation and signals that leak through from every point in the greater galaxy. It’s not an especially intense emitter, since ships can safely pass through it on a routine basis, but it would emit a rather unique radiation signature that could be detected from a distance if it weren’t yet encased in the Shell that the Dosperhag had built around it. So Coalition wafer ships or microsail probes passing near that region of space could well have discovered it on their own long ago.

So… okay. It’s theoretically possible that “Abductive Reasoning” takes place in the Hub universe. It isn’t conclusively ruled out by the stories to date. And there’s certainly some appeal to the idea of putting all my SF comedy stories in a shared reality. So last night, I thought it was a reasonable idea, but after sleeping on it, I have to say it seems unlikely — and probably undesirable. Having the Galactic Coalition unaware of the Hub Network would not be out of the question, but it would require imposing significant constraints on the GC’s age, spread, and knowledge of the galaxy, constraints that don’t quite fit with what I implied in the story and that would limit my options if I wanted to write more stories in that setting. Having the GC know about the Hub, either through contact with the Network or through prior discovery, and nonetheless choose not to take advantage of its convenience would require making some rather arbitrary and limiting assumptions about their culture or politics. It could potentially happen; for all I know, I could come up with a story idea about the two civilizations interacting, and then I’d have reason to tweak things to fit. It’s nice to know I at least have that option. But it doesn’t really feel right to treat them as the same universe without good reason. I didn’t conceive them that way, so they don’t naturally mesh without a fair amount of contrivance. I could change my mind in the future, but for now, better to let them stand as their own entities. (This is why I prefer to develop unified continuities from the start, rather than grafting separate stories together after the fact.)

And that’s fine. It would’ve been fun to discover an unexpected opportunity to merge the universes, but on the other hand, I liked writing a story set in a universe without FTL, without the usual kind of spaceship. I like it that this little comedy story is perhaps my most scientifically plausible, cutting-edge depiction of interstellar travel yet. And if I do more with the setting, I’d probably prefer to embrace the things that make it different from my other universes.

Still, it would be perfectly fine with me if everyone reading this post went out and bought copies of the Sep/Oct 2017 Analog and the eBook collection Hub Space: Tales from the Greater Galaxy (just follow the above links, then follow the ordering links of your choice therein), if you don’t have them already, so you can compare the universes and decide for yourselves. Because people buying my stuff is good.

Double annotation update! PATTERNS OF INTERFERENCE and “Abductive Reasoning” now have notes

Since both Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference and the September/October 2017 Analog containing my story “Abductive Reasoning” came out within the past couple of weeks, I decided I might as well post both their annotations at the same time. I’ve actually been waiting until I got my author copies of Analog, so that I’d know what pages the story was on and what the opening illustration looked like. (That’s right, they don’t let us know these things ahead of time.) That finally happened this afternoon, so I was able to complete those annotations, and here we are.

Both sets of notes can be accessed from the menu at the top of my blog, but here are the direct links (beware spoilers):

Patterns of Interference Annotations

“Abductive Reasoning” Annotations

Researching these was interesting for me, since both “Abductive Reasoning” and portions of PoI draw on elements of stories I originally wrote back in the ’90s, so I had to try to track down my original sources of inspiration, and in the process I reminded myself of some things I’d forgotten. I had a very fulfilling day of research tracking down sources and background materials for “Abductive,” and it’s surprising to me that this fun little comedy story generated such extensive and wide-ranging scientific notes.