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STAR TREK: THE FACE OF THE UNKNOWN annotations are finally up!

I’ve been unable to get around to annotating Star Trek: The Original Series: The Face of the Unknown, since I’ve been preoccupied with other projects. The delay in getting my subsequent novel approved and written left me kind of backed up. But I’ve cleared my backlog now, and indeed I’m kind of lacking in things to do at the moment, so that freed me to tackle the annotations at last. As it turns out, they aren’t that long this time:

The Face of the Unknown Annotations

ST Face of Unknown cover

The page is also accessible from the top menu of this site. Hopefully I won’t get delayed so long on future annotations.

DTI: SHIELD OF THE GODS available for preorder!

The conclusion of my Department of Temporal Investigations e-novella trilogy, Shield of the Gods, has just gone up for preorder and had its cover released:

DTI Shield of the Gods cover

An all new Star Trek e-novella featuring the fan-favorite Federation bureau the Department of Temporal Investigations!

The stalwart agents of the Department of Temporal Investigations have tracked down many dangerous artifacts, but now they face a greater, more personal challenge: retrieving a time-travel device stolen from their own vault by a rogue agent of the Aegis, a powerful, secretive group that uses its mastery of time to prevent young civilizations from destroying themselves. Blaming the Aegis itself for a tragedy yet to come, this renegade plans to use the stolen artifact to sabotage its efforts in the past, no matter what the cost to the timeline. Now the DTI’s agents must convince the enigmatic Aegis to work alongside them in order to protect history—but they must also wrestle with the potential consequences of their actions, for preserving the past could doom countless lives in the future!

 

This is a pretty nice cover. It’s a departure from the abstract covers of previous DTI installments, and though it may seem like a generic space scene, it’s actually a pretty good representation of a specific moment from the novella — the moment of arrival in a location that’s pivotal not only to this story, but to the entire sequence of events connecting Time Lock and Shield of the Gods. So it’s a more significant moment than it seems.

Here’s Simon & Schuster’s page for the book, with preordering links at the bottom. The e-book will be released on June 19, a little under 7 weeks from now.

DOCTOR WHO’s “Smile” seems a bit familiar… (Mild spoilers)

Sorry I haven’t been posting lately — again. I’ve been distracted by stuff including a hard drive crash, although I’ve gone back to the previous, potentially unstable hard drive and it’s working okay for now.

Anyway, I’m liking the new season of Doctor Who so far; Bill is a fun companion, she and the Doctor have a good relationship developing, and it seems like Moffat may be going for a classic-Who formula of having each story lead directly into the next one, one of several homages this season seems to have to the very first season of the original show. (“The Pilot” was basically an inversion of “An Unearthly Child,” with a student learning about her mysterious teacher instead of the other way around.)

But it’s a different parallel that struck me when watching the second episode, “Smile” by Frank Cottrell-Boyce, this past weekend. Okay, so this is a story where the Doctor and Bill go to a human colony world, only to find that the colonists sent a swarm of robots on ahead to build their colony for them so it’d be all ready when they arrived — but during the interim, the robots underwent evolution in their behavior and were no longer following their expected directives. And that led to a debate about whether to fight them or learn to coexist with them.

And that reminded me of the second story I ever got published, “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele” from the December 2000 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact. That story, which I talk about a bit on my Original Short Fiction page, was about self-replicating “auxons” rather than nanobots, and the premise was more along the lines that the auxons had become essentially a new order of animal in the colony world’s ecosystem. So the robots weren’t a threat to the human colonists as in “Smile,” but rather posed a threat of extinction to the world’s native life, creating a dilemma over whether they should be destroyed or have their own right to exist protected.  It’s a story I’ve always been pretty proud of, and I’m hoping I can get it back into print in some form soon.

I doubt very much that Frank Cottrell-Boyce ever read my old story or was inspired by it in any way, but it’s nice to see a science fiction concept show up somewhere and realize that I did it first. Although my own story was inspired by Roger Zelazny’s “Last of the Wild Ones,” about self-driving cars that had gone rogue due to a computer virus and roamed the plains like wild horses or bison. (Which is a sequel to an earlier story called “Devil Car,” which I don’t think I ever read.)

A pretty good day

Well, at least it was better than it has been for a while. About a week ago, I came down with a dreadful cold and fever. For days, I wasn’t up to doing anything but lying down and watching TV or just napping, and I just felt miserable. I spent more time sitting and lying down than is probably good for me, judging from the twinges I was starting to get in my leg.  Yesterday, I finally felt well enough to go get some much-needed groceries, but it was hard to get up the energy to do it, and my joints were sore afterward. But I also felt more energy that evening. I think what happens to me when I have a bad bout with sickness is that the days of inactivity make my metabolism slow down, and eventually it’s hard to tell whether I’m still sick or just stuck in low-energy mode. I think going grocery-shopping helped get the blood flowing again. So I felt more like myself today, well enough to go for a brief walk in the park and enjoy the sunny day. I felt pretty energetic at first, though it didn’t last long.

But when I got home and checked the mailbox, I was surprised to see my last advance check for Patterns of Interference! I only got notification of the approval 9 days ago, so I hadn’t expected to see this check for another week or two. Needless to say, I was quite pleased. It lets me recharge my bank account just in time to pay my rent and some other bills.  Luckily I still had my shoes and jacket on from my walk, since it let me go right back out and drive to the bank right away.

After that, I went to the library near the bank, and I happened upon some nice finds there — the fourth collection of Ryan North and Erica Henderson’s hilarious The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl from Marvel, the DVD of Star Trek Beyond (which I’ve been wanting to see again but haven’t found at the library until now), and all four Hunger Games movies, which I’ve been meaning to check out and watch back-to-back at some point (to date, I’ve only read the books and seen the first two films). Although I realized I haven’t gotten vol. 3 of Squirrel Girl yet, so I requested it, but I’ll have to wait to read that. And a couple of the Hunger Games discs look a little scratched, so I just hope they play back well enough for my binge to work.

So overall, a reasonably good day. Still, one thing I didn’t manage to do was to refocus on the story I’m writing, which I need to do now that I’m feeling functional again. I did get an idea for how to handle the next scene, but actually getting it done is another matter. Anyway, I need to get a move on with this and other projects. It’s cool that I got my check, but it’s a reminder that I need to get more paying work lined up soon.

General update

I’ve been making a bit more writing progress lately. Last week, I received, proofread, and returned galleys for both my upcoming Analog short story “Abductive Reasoning” and my third Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations e-novella Shield of the Gods. I’d been starting to wonder when “Abductive Reasoning” would show some movement toward publication, so this is a good sign, though I don’t know the release date yet. As for Patterns of Interference, I got the word last night that the manuscript has been approved by CBS and my final advance payment is routing for approval even now. I hope it arrives before tax day.

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on a review and polish of my previously published original stories with an eye toward putting them together into a collection. That entailed making sure my manuscripts were updated with all the changes made in the final printed versions, except in cases where I wanted to undo those changes or make additional changes. Mostly I tried to be faithful to the published versions, though. Anyway, I’ve gotten that done and now it’s a matter of getting a publisher interested. We’ll see how that goes.  With that and the galleys out of the way, I’ve refocused on some new original stories I was working on last year but had to postpone in order to write Patterns of Interference. Well, I actually kind of got stuck because I started writing a story too hastily, before I really had the whole plot worked out. But coming back to it after a break has helped give me a new perspective, and I’ve worked out a couple of things I was stuck on before.

The new Kroger superstore nearby is open now, and I’ve been there three times already — once on foot, twice by car. It’s nice to be able to make smaller grocery trips when I need a few things, instead of just making 2-3 big trips a month and going without certain things for much of the interim. The new store isn’t as big as the other superstores I’ve been to, since its location is more constrained; in fact, they’ve actually had to put the “behind-the-scenes” employee areas up on the second floor, an unusual feature. There’s also an upstairs area for customers, but I haven’t visited it yet. And the shelf space is a bit less expansive. I read an article claiming that they’d compensate by restocking more frequently, but I’ve already noticed a couple of things that they didn’t have in stock while I was there — although there was one they did have in stock by the time I needed it. Anyway, it’s definitely a lot bigger than the old store, and has a lot more features like a pharmacy, deli, Starbucks, and pizza counter. The produce section is laid out pretty much exactly like the one in the gigantic Kroger that opened a year or two ago across from the movie theater I usually go to; I guess it makes sense that the two most recently built stores would use the same design. But it was kind of disorienting the first time I was there.

Reading-wise, I got a couple of new DC trade paperbacks from the library the other day, the second volumes of Batman: The Golden Age (reprinting all the original Batman comics in order from the start) and Wonder Woman ’77. The latter is theoretically based on the Lynda Carter TV show, but my problem with the first volume was that it didn’t feel like the show, just like generic Wonder Woman stories with the likenesses of Carter and Lyle Waggoner. Much of the second volume is like that too, but a couple of the later stories felt more like the show, or more ’70s-oriented at least. (One story brings back a major villain from the show, and another is steeped in ’70s nostalgia like funk music and CB radio.) As for the Batman volume, it’s good to get to see how quickly the character’s tropes fell into place within the first 2 years. These days, you’ll see a lot of people online claiming that the ’40s Batman was a dark, violent, gun-toting character until the Comics Code crackdown of the ’50s, but that’s just wrong. Even though the first year or two of stories were in a violent, pulpy vein, Batman only rarely used guns in them, though he did kill by other means like breaking a neck with a kick or flinging people off roofs. But as early as Batman #4 in December 1940, the dialogue and narration were insisting that Batman and Robin never killed or used weapons — although exceptions were still being made for causing recurring villains Hugo Strange and the Joker to fall to their apparent deaths, since of course they’d surely survive anyway. And B&R were portrayed in a pretty upbeat way, trading wisecracks and bad puns as they fought villains. Volume 2 shows other familiar Batman tropes emerging in 1941, like the Batmobile (a sleek red convertible with a small bat-shaped hood ornament) and the term “Dynamic Duo.” No Stately Wayne Manor or Batcave yet, though — Bruce and Dick live in a house in the suburbs, with a secret tunnel leading to the barn where the Batmobile is kept.

Food-wise, I serendipitously discovered a nice new way to make a sandwich last week. I decided to make a sandwich with tomato, sharp cheddar cheese, and Romaine lettuce on whole wheat bread with olive-oil mayonaisse and spicy brown mustard, served with a pickle spear and a small amount of olive oil potato chips. It was surprisingly yummy, and I’ve made that combo two more times since then, but somehow they weren’t as good as the first. I also recently discovered a second new type of sandwich that’s pretty good: cheddar cheese and apple butter.

Aside from that, I’ve mainly just been watching TV, but maybe I’ll talk about that later in another post.

What if STAR TREK had been a ’40s radio show?

In the interests of having something to post so this blog doesn’t go dead again (it’s already been 10 days since my last post — sorry), I’m going to repost something fun I contributed to a TrekBBS thread last year musing about what TOS might’ve been like as a radio adventure show from the ’30s or ’40s. Based on the binge-listen I’d done of old The Adventures of Superman radio shows online a couple of years earlier, I ended up putting together a hypothetical scene from an episode, a riff on how radio characters had to narrate the action for the audience’s benefit. I’m reposting it here, with a bit of narration added in response to other posters’ comments:

“Yes! Punching the Gorn’s ears seems to have disoriented him. I’ve got to get away… get some distance! Yes! That rise over there.”
(Panting sounds.)
“Yes… this rock should do nicely.”
(Grunt of exertion.)
“He’s recovering. Now — heave!”
(Sound of object whooshing through the air and striking a leathery surface. Growl of pain from the Gorn.)
“Yes! A hit! But — no, it’s barely staggered him! What incredible strength! Now he’s — no — he’s heading for that large boulder! There’s no way he could — but he is! He’s… lifting it above his head! It must weigh over a ton! Could he possibly throw it hard enough –”
(A loud grunt of exertion from the Gorn, and a heavier whooshing sound.)
“He did! Have to dodge, dodge for all I’m worth!”
(Heavy thud of the boulder striking rock, rolling downhill.)
“Whew! That was close! I could feel the breeze as it blew past! Better not take any chances — up the mountain, quickly! My speed is my only advantage!”
(The sound of swift footsteps on stone, and Kirk panting. Fade out these sounds and asteroid ambience; fade in bridge background audio.)

“Meanwhile, far out in space, the star cruiser Enterprise is trapped, held motionless in a powerful force ray by the mysterious Metrons! Under the cool, logical leadership of the half-Vulcanian Mister Spock, the crew now strives to break free of the Metrons’ relentless grip!”
“Have you tried overload, Mr. Scott?”
“Aye, Mr. Spock. It does no good…”

Just something I tossed together on a lark, but I was happy with how it turned out. Credit where it’s due: This is, of course, an adaptation of a scene from “Arena,” written by Gene L. Coon, from the story by Fredric Brown. Acknowledgment is also due to The Adventures of Superman‘s star Bud Collyer and narrator Jackson Beck for inspiration.

Resurfacing at last

Hello, everyone — sorry I haven’t been posting lately, but I’ve been really wrapped up in trying to finish Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference. This was kind of a rough one, since there were delays getting the contract and approvals through, so I was late getting started and I had to work fast. Which proved difficult, since I was suffering from a vitamin D deficiency that I think was causing me some mild depression and making it hard to focus. So I’ve spent the last month striving to finish the book, which left little mental attention for other writing such as blogging (though I still posted on my bulletin boards regularly because I’m addicted to those). I’m afraid I’ve really been neglecting this blog, and I need to try to refocus on it.

So anyway, PoI is finally done, and we’re expediting the editing process to make up for lost time. It helps that it came out relatively short, about 83,000 words. I figured that, after the big epic 2-part saga of Uncertain Logic and Live by the Code, it was good to do a story that was a bit more intimate in scope. I was influenced by The Next Generation‘s “Family” and Enterprise‘s “Home.” Although that’s only part of the novel’s story. Basically, there’s one really big adventure plotline at the heart of the novel, and a number of more character-driven subplots around it. But there are some major events and changes to the status quo on both scales. So it’s a smaller story, but with big consequences.

Another thing that helped with the tight writing schedule was that I’ve once again managed to recycle a concept from one of my old, unsold original stories as a subplot in PoI. It’s actually a double-recycle of sorts, because I was going to use the premise as the basis for a second Star Trek: Corps of Engineers novella, but that series was cancelled before I got a contract for it. For this version, I kept some of the new worldbuilding ideas I was going to add in the CoE tale, but I’ve actually been able to incorporate a lot more of the original story’s plot and dialogue in this version than I would’ve been able to do there, albeit revised to fit the new characters and relationships. So that saved me some time — although not as much as it could have, since there was a pair of supporting characters that were originally just names spouting dialogue in the material I copied, and I didn’t really work out who they should be and what motivated them until the revision phase, so parts of that sequence got rewritten several times.

I even got to the point where I was afraid that the book would run short, so I was looking through my old unsold fiction (just about all writers have a ton of early stuff they never sold, while they were learning the trade), trying to find some short story or subplot that I could adapt as a story arc for some supporting character to meet my word count. But I couldn’t find anything that was both adaptable to the 22nd-century Trek universe and well enough written to be usable — at least, not from the stuff I could remember, and taking the time to re-read a bunch of old stuff to refresh my memory would’ve defeated the purpose of trying to speed up the process. Fortunately, I managed to come up with enough new material to do the job, and it naturally worked better to add material that grew from the story and characters I had, rather than trying to shoehorn in some unrelated story. As a matter of fact, when I finally reached the end of the novel in the first draft, I was still a little bit short of 80,000 words, and I’d already decided there was one more scene I needed to go back and put in earlier. I did that later the same day, and it put me over the limit, and it wasn’t until I finished it that I finally felt the rush of euphoria and satisfaction that came from finally being finished. Although it didn’t last long, since I still needed to clean up and tighten the draft before I turned it in.

So now I’m finally done with PoI, and I’m free to resume work on some original projects that I’ve had to put off. Currently, I’m starting to explore the possibility of putting together a collection of my original stories, though it’s too early to say whether that will happen. Once that’s done, I need to get back to work on some new stories I have on the back burner, one of which is unfinished. Hopefully I can make some real progress on those and one or two other things before my next Trek project comes along — although I hope that next Trek project comes fairly soon, because I still need to make a living. That’s the paradox — my Trek work is what lets me make enough of a living to pursue the other stuff, but it tends to take up a lot of time that I could be spending on the other stuff instead. Well, I shouldn’t complain — I actually got a lot of original writing done in 2016 while waiting for the go-ahead on PoI. But there was some of it that I didn’t quite get to finish before I had to throw myself fully into Trek writing. Of course, it wouldn’t be as much of a problem if I were better at time management and self-discipline. But I’ve been telling myself that for ages and it hasn’t helped much.

Let’s see, I don’t have much to talk about beyond writing, because I haven’t had much of a life otherwise lately. One bit of good news — the fancy new Kroger they’ve been building next to the university for the past year and a half is finally opening in just a few days, so I’ll finally be able to get groceries from somewhere within walking distance again (although I doubt I’ll try biking there, since I don’t think the adjacent intersection is very safe for biking). And it’s a much larger, more elaborate superstore than the old one in that location, or than the next-nearest one in Walnut Hills, which I never liked going to, and which is actually closing the night before the new one opens. Makes sense, in a way — the store is twice as big, so it’s taking the place of two adjacent ones. Meanwhile, the local co-op store that replaced the old IGA up by Burnet Woods opened last month — nearly a year later than originally touted — and it’s not bad, though not as suited for my needs as the new Kroger will be. I hope it does well, though, since it’s good to have both options. After a year and a half with no grocery stores in the neighborhood, there are now going to be two. (Well, not really — the co-op is about the same distance from me as the Walnut Hills Kroger, but it feels closer to me, probably because I’m more familiar with its neighborhood.)

Well, that’s about all I have to report for now, and it’s lunchtime. I’ll try not to wait so long before posting again.