Big Damn Announcement!

canadas_fireworks_at_the_2013_celebration_of_light_in_vancouver_bc

I’ve been hinting at it for a couple of weeks, but the cat is finally out of the bag.

The very first novel I ever wrote, A HOLE IN THE FENCE, has been sold to Christopher Morgan at Tor. I am indescribably excited about this opportunity, not only to be able to partner up with an amazing publisher like Tor, but to be able to bring this book that got me started on this path to readers across the globe.

I’d like to thank my new editor Chris, my agent Russ, my many beta readers, and my girlfriend Niki for her unwavering support throughout this long process.

A HOLE IN THE FENCE is a sci-fi comedy that blends everything I’ve learned in the last six years about writing both fiction and stand-up. I hope you all love it. Here’s a little sneak peak of what’s in store…

Earth is in a predicament. The Magellan, a curious AI ship on a mission of exploration, has discovered an unknown object in deep space. Most intriguing of all is the mysterious signal the artifact is broadcasting to anyone who cares to listen.

The Magellan’s crew, captained by the intrepid Allison Ridgeway, strives to unlock the artifact’s advanced technology. They are assisted by a crack team of researchers back on Earth, headed by ultimate science geek and Moon native, Felix Fletcher. The brave crew and their Earth counterparts are joined by Earth’s first hyper-capable ship, The Bucephalus, and the questionably competent Captain Maximus Tiberius.

Together they set out to explore the galaxy, searching for the artifact’s maker. Little do they know, their mission will culminate in a high stakes staring contest with the powers that control the entire galaxy, with the fate of the Earth hanging in the balance. Except some of the players have an unfair advantage – they have no eyelids. Some of them don’t even have eyes.

Look for A HOLE IN THE FENCE to hit the shelves in Summer, 2018.

#FindThirtyEight

americanflags

Hey everyone. I know I said we weren’t doing politics on here anymore, but well, this is wack. Anyway, as some of you might know, there is one more shot we can take. Despite what you may have heard, the results of the election are not final under the law until December 19th when the five-hundred and thirty eight members of the Electoral College meets and casts their ballots.

As it stands now, that vote would break 242-306 in favor of the man who lost the election by more than two million votes and counting. And who is going on trial for fraud in a couple weeks. And who was helped by Russian interference. And who is an admitted serial sexual abuser. And who just appointed a nakedly anti-Semitic white supremacist to be his chief strategist. And… you get the point.

If you’re happy with the way things are shaping up, stop reading. You’re all set. But if not, we need to find thirty-eight electors across the country to change their votes and represent the majority will of American voters.

Nothing is more effective at influencing our representatives at all levels than physical letters. So, I’ve written one. I’m sending it out to all of the electors in my state, and I would like you to consider doing the same. I’ve attached the letter as a DocX file below.

electoral-college-elector-appeal

Download it, fill out the open fields, print it, sign it, and get it in the mail to your state electors. If you have trouble with the file or don’t use MS Office, I’ve included the text below. Just copy/paste and away we go.

And share this post and the letter as far and wide as you can, using the hashtag #FindThirtyEight. Okay? Cool.

11/25/16 Update:

For my Wisconsin readers, here are the names and addresses of our Electoral College delegation:

1) Kim Travis, 457 W Geneva St., Williams Bay, WI 53191-9604
2) Kim Babler, 4575 Dennis Dr., Madison, WI 53704-6105
3) Brian Westrate, E11030 Deer Rd W. Fall Creek, WI 54742-5300
4) Brad Courtney, 4600 N Wilshire Rd. Whitefish Bay, WI 53211-1260
5) Kathy Kiernan, 1751 Scenic Rd, Richfield, WI 53076-9604
6) Dan Feyen, 962 Churchill Ln, Fond du Lac, WI 54935-6396
7) Jim Miller, 15611 W Lakewood Dr, Hayward, WI 54843-6401
8) Bill Berglund, 3870 Rileys Point Rd, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235-9438
9) Steve King, 3508 N Edgewood Dr, Janesville, WI 53545-9547
10) Mary Buestrin, 1000 W Calumet Rd, River Hills, WI 53217-3008

………………

Dear [Elector’s name],

I am writing today as a citizen concerned about the future direction of our state and the country at large. On November 8th, voters from all across this great nation came together to exercise their civil duty and voted for the President of the United States, Senators, Representatives, Governors, Judges, Sheriffs, and dozens upon dozens of ballot initiatives.

And while it was a close race which came down to thin margins, in the race for the Oval Office, there was a clear winner.

Hillary Rodham Clinton won the election of Nov 8th. As of the writing of this letter, her popular vote margin sits at over 2,000,000 votes. Projections indicate that lead will continue to grow to as many as two and a half million votes, a margin of nearly two percent of the total ballots cast.

The American voters have made their choice. Now, it’s time to make yours.

As an elector selected to represent the citizens of [your state], it is your duty to cast a vote for the President in line the judgement of the voters of our state. However, your greater responsibility is to the defense of our republic and the preservation of our Constitution. The founders made clear in their writings on the creation of the Electoral college that they wished to avoid direct election of the office of President out of concern for an underqualified, populist demagogue may come along and short-circuit the normal functioning of the democratic process.

As Alexander Hamilton himself wrote in Federalist #68, the Electoral College which you were chosen to represent was designed to ensure that “[T]he office of president will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”

In the last eighteen months of campaigning, Donald J. Trump has demonstrated in unending ways that he does not possess the experience, temperament, knowledge, humility, or compassion to sit behind the Resolute Desk. His scandals, outrages, insults, and appeals to our basest nature during this campaign are too numerous to catalog. At no point has Mr. Trump managed to win a majority of support from actual voters, not from Republicans during his party’s primary contests, and not from the national electorate during the general election.

The purpose of the electoral college was to prevent a man like Donald J. Trump from manipulating the fleeting passions and fears of the American voter and protect the nation from his dangerous excesses, not to override the popular will of the country as expressed by voters across the nation, regardless of the artificial boundaries of state lines and deliver such a man into the most powerful single position on the planet.

I beg you to protect our nation and its future. On Dec 19th, cast your ballot for the people’s choice, Secretary Clinton. Thank you for your time, your service, and your consideration.

Sincerely,

[Your signature]

So, You Sold Your First Novel. Now What?

the-very-best-of-the-futurama-fry-meme-u1

So, your years-long dream has finally come to fruition. You’ve written a great book, great enough to  land an agent. Now they’ve done their job and sold your plucky little manuscript to an honest-to-goodness publisher.

Now it’s time to kick back, put your feet up, and let the reviews, fans, awards, and royalties just start rolling in, right?

Oh, my sweet summer child. No… just, no.

If you thought writing the damned thing was time-consuming and stressful, you’re in for a real treat with everything that comes next.

Let’s start with the book itself. It’s not good enough. Sorry, I know you love it, it’s your baby, and you’ve gone through like seven rewrites already and the last thing in the world you want to do is crack it open and polish it again. Well, too bad, because that’s exactly what you’re going to do, except this time you’re going to be working with a real editor, and they’re going to have their own ideas about how your baby should turn out. And odds are, they’re going to be right, especially at this early stage in your career. An editor’s job is not just to make your book better by cleaning up formatting and spelling errors, it’s to make your book more accessible to audiences, more successful for their company, and ultimately to make you more money and more famous. And the odds are good that they’ve edited a ton more books than you’ve written, including quite a few very commercially and critically successful ones if they’re worth their salt. So for your first time through, just swallow your pride and do what they tell you.

I’m not saying you have to sacrifice your artistic integrity. Actually, scratch that. That’s exactly what I’m saying. You’re brand new. You barely know what you’re doing here. Artistic integrity is for closers. You barely rate a set of steak knives, nugget. And if you listen to your editor now, you might just stick around in this business long enough to really write what you want while your editor is busy spending all their time on another wet-behind-the-ears neophyte. Didn’t you know that’s the real reason books keep getting longer the deeper into a series they go?

There’s one other difference now that you’re working with an editor. Hard deadlines. See, your baby book has been placed in your publisher’s release queue. Between editing, rewrites, copyediting, cover creation, print runs, and distribution, it takes many months to get a book on the shelves on a specific date. Any delay in that process has ripple effects downstream that makes everyone else’s job that much harder, and in some cases more expensive. Significant enough delays can throw the rest of the publisher’s schedule into flux, pushing back or rearranging release dates and impacting the other authors on their list.

Don’t be that guy. You’re not George R.R. Martin. Your publisher is not going to wait with baited breath while you take your sweet time to turn in what was promised. You are a professional now, it’s your job to deliver a completed project on time and as requested. Clear? Good. Moving on.

A quick word on covers. No one cares what you think. Designing eye-catching covers that hit their market niche is high sorcery. It takes an incredibly skilled eye. As a debut author, you can expect to have some very limited initial input in the art direction, if only for very basic question of a character’s physical appearance, clothes, and background atmosphere. But after that, it’s off to the art department, which are themselves trained and experienced professionals in their field just as your editor is in theirs. Just go with it, okay? It’ll be fine.

a97274_b3

I mean, probably.

Moving on. The next thing your book is going to need is Buzz. You can help accomplish this in one of two ways. One, glue live bees to the covers and throw copies at people. This used to be the preferred method of debut novelists, but with our current pollinator shortage, it’s not very environmentally or socially responsible.

Two, get advanced copies in the hands of book reviewers before they publication date. These are known as Advanced Reader Copies, or ARC’s in industry parlance, and they come in either physical or ebook formats, depending on the publisher and the resources they’ve decided to invest in your release. Often, your publisher will have someone to help with finding popular book reviewers and getting copies into their hands, but there’s no reason you can’t help the process along. Start following book review websites and blogs. Find the most popular ones in your genre and jot down their contact information and any submission instructions they may have. When ARC’s become available, ask if they’d like to take a look in a short, polite email. Coordinate with your publisher so you’re not doubling up efforts or wasting copies.

Another popular method authors use to raise the profile of their book ahead of release is a “blog tour.” This is simply nothing more than a flurry of guest posts, interviews, flash-fiction, or podcast appearances that will get your name and the title of your book in front of new readers. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. Genre blogs are always looking for new content, and you get to tap into their preexisting audience. There are dozens of websites, blogs, and podcasts that deal with the publishing industry and are happy to host debut novelists. Search them out just as you did with reviewers. Have suggestions for the sorts of posts you might like to write, whether about your inspiration for writing your first book, your process, research you did, etc.

Now, the really scary one. Securing the dreaded blurbs.

Blurbs are the little “Attaboy” quotes, typically from other authors, that grace the back, or even front cover of a book. Think of them as an endorsement in politics. They are a powerful marketing tool, a way of transferring the power and legitimacy of a more seasoned professional without all the messy Highlander-style decapitation.

highlander_quickening

Although, that would be pretty badass.

A good blurb or two from top-tier authors can have a huge impact on the shelf appeal of your book and the odds it ends up in the bag. They are also notoriously difficult to get, and often incredibly awkward to ask for. But ask you must. Securing blurbs for a debut is largely left up to the author themselves. And being a debut author means you probably don’t have much in the way of a reputation yet to make the quest any easier.

So, how do you do it? Well, first of all, know who you’re trying to snag an endorsement from. As a general rule, you’re looking for blurbs from authors who have already made a name for themselves in the genre of your book, because you’re trying to tap into a similar audience niche. If you’ve written a sci-fi novel, you’re going to want to search out endorsements from sci-fi authors. A fantasy novel, the same. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. An endorsement from Brandon Sanderson or John Scalzi is going to be hugely useful no matter what kind of book you have.

Next, try to understand what you’re asking. To give your book a blurb, an author needs to take time out of their schedule to read your book. The more successful the author, the more of these blurb requests they’re going to get. The field can get cramped awfully fast. Yes, this is just like being thrown back into the submissions queue. Because of the time commitments involved, you need to be thinking about blurbs many, many months ahead of your publication date. They need to be turned in before your book goes to the printers. It’s entirely possible that you’re not even going to have a final edit finished by the time you need to start shopping around for them. The best time to start thinking about getting blurbs is as soon as you’ve signed the contract, or even once you’ve finished your first draft.

For example, my first book, THE ARK, is going back under the knife and getting a second edition with a whole new cover, expected to drop next July. This is unusual, and amounts to a relaunch. It also gives me a second opportunity to secure new blurbs. Despite not coming out for ten months, I’m putting in requests among the authors I know right now.

But, you say, I’m new. I don’t know anyone! Yeah, that’s the fun Catch 22. Sucks, huh? Here’s how to overcome that. First, go to conventions, shake hands with people. Attend or participate in panels. Ask questions. Buy drinks. Pick brains. Make friends. Then, exploit your friends for fun and profit. Don’t worry, they’ll do the same to you in time. It’s fine.

Conventions too expensive/stressful/you’re-an-introvert-which-is-why-you-became-a-writer-in-the-first-place? Okay, that’s fair. Switch over to social media. Follow authors on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Write honest reviews for their books. Interact with them in an organic, not-stalkerish way. Engage them with questions about their work, process, hobbies, etc. Joke with them. Figure out where they live and show up in your El Camino holding a boombox playing Peter Gabriel over your head.

say-anything

Okay, no, that’s getting stalkerish again.

Once you’ve established a natural rapport, as them in private if they’d be interested in looking at your book. Be polite, be genuine, and be humble. And above all, be ready for a lot of people to say “No.” What, you thought you were done getting rejections? Sorry, kid, but they’re part of your life now.

However, just like the gamut you ran through getting an agent, and getting a publisher, it’s all a numbers game. Don’t let the rejection weigh you down, keep pushing forward. That kind of determination got you this far. It will carry you a lot further if you trust in it.

 

 

Pack Your Shit for Proxima!

ccb97c78-a6e8-4325-86ca-a3b03cff15f1

Last week, news hit the astronomy world like an iron meteorite. Proxima Centauri is home to a rocky planet orbiting inside the Goldilocks Zone.

Known officially as Proxima Centauri b, the planet is at least 1.3 Earth masses, and orbits its parent star every eleven days, placing it inside the radius where liquid water could exist on the planet’s surface, assuming it has sufficient atmospheric pressure to keep it from boiling off.

It is almost certainly tidally locked to the system primary, a red dwarf star only a fraction the size and output of our own. Meaning one side of the planet always faces the star, while the other side always faces away, just like the Earth/Moon system. One side bakes, while the other side freezes. Or so we thought, but more recent modeling shows that’s not necessarily a problem, as we’ve found that atmospheric convection can keep a tidally-locked world surprisingly habitable. However, Proxima Centauri is still a relatively young red dwarf that continues to experience quite a bit of flare activity, periods of electromagnetic instability that cause its output to spike, bathing the sunny side in a whole bunch of X-Ray and UV radiation.

So, no day/night cycle, probably no seasons, and a fair chance that every once and a while you’re going to get a lethal suntan.

309_054

And very little chance of running into these awesome guys.

Sounds like a dud, huh? No. Not at all.

It would be hard to overstate how important this discovery is. Not because it’s a rocky planet in a habitable zone. We’ve already found those, and expect to find many hundreds or thousands more in the coming years. No, what separates Proxima Centauri b from the herd is, well, proximity.

You see, Proxima Centauri is the very closest star to our solar system, sitting as it does a scant 4.24 light years away from the Sun. In astronomical terms, that’s the house across the street. There is a very real chance that in a couple years we’ll be able to directly image the planet using the James Webb Space Telescope, or failing that, the Star Shade project.

And that is when things could get very fucking interesting. You see, with direct imaging, there is a pretty good chance we can learn an unprecedented amount about Proxima Centauri b, the sorts of things that only a couple of decades ago would have been limited to planets and moons here in our own solar system. Using spectrographic analysis, we could potentially determine not only if Proxima b sports the sort of atmosphere it would need to hold liquid water at its surface, but how thick that atmosphere is and even what kinds of gasses make it up and in what proportions.

What can that tell us? Everything. If we see certain gasses in high concentrations, such as molecular oxygen or methane, it will be the strongest evidence yet of life outside our own planet.

You see, oxygen is a real whore of an element. It tries to bond with everything. Carbon, iron, hydrogen, you name it, oxygen will fuck it. Which is why finding it in anything but trace concentrations would be such a big deal. The only reason Earth’s atmosphere is comprised of a fifth of it by volume is because untold trillions of hungry little photosynthesizing organisms are busy converting CO2, water, and sunlight into sugar, kicking out O2 as a waste product. Without them, the oxygen in our atmosphere would burn up in wildfires, rust onto exposed metals, and generally find a way not to be alone in a few tens of thousands of years.

Methane has the opposite problem. You see, it’s in an unstable relationship, which frankly shouldn’t surprise anyone with four hydrogen atoms all shacking up with one carbon atom. It doesn’t take much for a methane molecule to call it quits. Often, all it takes is one wandering oxygen molecule and a little energy imparted from sunlight. Methane in a dynamic atmosphere breaks down in a matter of decades or centuries. Coupled with the fact the most common ways to produce it are through a variety of active geologic processes or as a waste product of metabolism (either of which would be important revelations) and the discovery of significant quantities of methane on an alien world be a huge deal.

“Okay,” you’re saying. “So fucking what? It’s not like we can go there and look for ourselves.” Oh, ye of little faith, that’s the best part. This is where I’m going to get all nerdy fanboi on near-term future tech.

Believe it or not, there is an active program underway to do exactly that, at least in a remote capacity, and it’s got the backing of none other than Professor Stephen Hawking. It’s called Starshot (warning, autoplay video. Yes, I hate them too and if you know who came up with them we can murder their family together), and it’s being financed by a Russian oligarch in place of him taking up a career as a Bond villain, so let’s all be encouraging, yeah?

The concept is straightforward. Build a fleet of hundreds or thousands of tiny, postage-stamp sized space probes attached to giant solar sails and use ground or space based lasers to accelerate them to some 20% of lightspeed.

My opinion? It’s dumb. Maybe one of my super smarty pants techy friends like Ramez Naam can explain to me how they’re going to overcome the issues of bandwidth, computational capacity, power generation, and sensor capability in such a small package with enough spare mass for the ablative material they will inevitably need at the front of each of these microprobes to keep them from being eaten alive by interstellar dust particles, and still have enough signal strength to reach back the twenty-five trillion miles to our Earthly radio arrays or laser receivers.

No. If you ask me, which if you’re still reading this you implicitly did, what you need is a giant, nuclear bomb-shitting, pogo stick.

That’s right, long term readers of the blog or fans of THE ARK know that what I’m talking about here is a Project Orion starship. Not manned, certainly. At least not at this time. No, what we’re talking about here is a remote probe, built in orbit, and powerful enough to carry not only an ablative shield to protect all the fragile bits, not only the most sensitive suite of sensors and fastest computers ever mounted on a probe, not only the most powerful radio transmitter ever fitted, but an honest-to-goodness nuclear reactor strong enough to send enough juice into all of these goodies to power a ballistic missile submarine.

And while such a probe’s top speed would theoretically be limited to half that of the Starshot micro probes, merely 10% of lightspeed if we don’t want to flip it back around to slow down again, that would still put it on station in forty-five years or less after launch.

Forty-five years, you’re saying. But that’s a long time for something to survive in the harsh vacuum of space. Au contraire! You’re forgetting that, right now, we have an operational probe flying through the heliopause that has been in space since 1977. That’s right, Voyager 1 is still transmitting, still collecting data, and still communicating with engineers on the ground after thirty-nine years in space. And that was using tech we designed and built back when everybody though bellbottoms and platform shoes with goldfish in the heels were a great idea. I think we can do better today, I really do.

But, you’re saying now, I’ll be dead by the time it gets there! Yeah, well, shut up. Not everything is about you.

Sending this probe to Proxima b would be the greatest technological challenge mankind has ever undertaken, and it would be very expensive, there’s no doubt about that. But, if we could all take a breather on the war bullshit for like five years, we could pay for it. And just like the Apollo program, the technological advancements that would come bursting out of it could power a revolution in industry that could power our economy for decades to come while cementing our edge in not only technology, but human brainpower and ingenuity for a generation or more.

Mars is great. Europa is incredible. But, guys, c’mon, Proxima b is officially the brass ring now. It’s the target. Now we just need the will to build the biggest, fastest arrow humanity has ever carved.

Let’s get to work.

Book Sale Announcement!

foolishness

With all the craziness of WorldCon 74 over the weekend, I completely forgot to mention that Angry Robot Books has exercised their option on Book III of the CHILDREN OF THE DEAD EARTH cycle.

Which means that we’re returning to the Ark and Gaia once more. The working title of Book III is CHILDREN OF THE DIVIDE, and takes place fifteen years after the events of TRIDENT’S FORGE.  Humanity’s beachhead of Shambhala has swelled into the largest population center on the planet, and comes with all of the perks and problems of a major city. Benson, Theresa, Chao, Korolov, and Kexx are joined by a whole new generation of young upstarts who’ve grown up calling this strange world home and threading the needle between the simmering clashes happening at the intersections of two very old, very different cultures.

Look for CHILDREN OF THE DIVIDE next summer. But even before then, both THE ARK and TRIDENT’S FORGE will be going back to the printers for another run, this time with new covers and updated content. Including an official schematic of the ship itself based on my own drawings! So cool.

Anyway, I’m about two thirds finished with the rough draft, and with no more hugely fun, and hugely disruptive conventions on my schedule for the next few months, it won’t be long before it’s finished. So keep an eye out here for updates, excerpts, cover reveals, and all the other goodies that happen along the way.

Oh, and if you haven’t read the first two books yet, now’s your last chance to get your hands on the first editions. Heh, can’t believe I just got to type that.

And follow me on twitter @stealthygeek!

 

See Me at WorldCon 74!

worldcon-banner-2016

The big event is almost here! The 74th annual World Science Fiction Convention lands in Kansas City, MO (that’s the good Kansas City, there, I said it) next Wednesday through Sunday.

Here’s my schedule for the convention:

Wednesday: Arrive 5pm. Find Mike Underwood and make him do five shots of tequila while playing “Bat Spin” in the lobby.

Thursday: 10am-Noon. Man the Angry Robot Books booth. Draw images of fornicating tapirs in every copy of Peter Tieryas’s new book UNITED STATES OF JAPAN.

Thursday: Noon-2pm. Afternoon nap spent spooning totally platonically and in a hetero way with Adam Rakunas.

Thursday: 6pm-12am. Hunt Deadpool cosplayers with a paintball gun.

Friday: 4am. Wake up to face the inevitable existential crisis and to pee.

Friday: 10am-4pm. Back in the ARB booth. Throw books at unsuspecting passersby and shout “You touched it, you bought it!”

Friday: 7pm-10pm. Lead a pack of sci-fi writers to local sportsball game between the KC Royals and MN Twins while wearing a Milwaukee Brewer’s shirt and shouting about “Hat Tricks” and “Field Goals.”

Friday: 10pm-2am. Stress test liver.

Saturday: 10am-2pm. Back to the ARB booth. Make a fort out of Jay Posey’s books. Live in it. Threaten anyone who gets too close with a paper cut in that little webbed spot between their fingers and a lemon.

Saturday: 4-5pm. Share a strawberry shake with Adam Rakunas, two straws. Shout at anyone who stares that it’s 2016 and it’s okay for two men in a totally non-romantic relationship to express affection for each other. I mean really…

Saturday: 6pm. Get showered and dressed for the Hugo Awards ceremony.

Saturday: 8pm-10pm. Live tweet Hugos while slipping progressively further into despair for my own career as I drain flask after flask of Scotch. Be pissed Ramez Naam isn’t there with the good stuff.

Saturday: 10pm-??? Attend room parties. Navigate crowds of Hugo winners and losers. Negotiate minefield of trying to make strangers and passing acquaintances laugh without saying something that will get me blacklisted.

Sunday: 10am. Make one of those hilarious blanket and pillow “dead bodies” for the housekeepers to find. Drive back home.

 

Get Ready for GenCon

untitled (2)

It’s that time of year again! In five days, sixty-thousand plus gamers, cosplayers, aspiring writers, and nerds of all stripes will descend upon downtown Indianapolis like a swarm of geeky grasshoppers for GenCon, the best four days in gaming.

And once again, one of the best kept secrets in the publishing industry will be happening right across the street. Taking up brand-new digs at the Westin just a short skywalk away from the convention center, the GenCon Writer’s Symposium is running almost 200 hours of programing from Thursday to Sunday, featuring more than 70 guests. With everything from panels with professional authors, to readings and signings, to pitch sessions with actual literary agents, the Writer’s Symposium has grown to be a con-within-a-con.

Whether you’re an aspiring writer looking to polish your skills, or have a finished manuscript looking for a home, this is the place for you.

I’ll be on several panels this year. Here’s my schedule:

Friday, 9:00am: Business of Writing: Social Media 101

Friday, 3:00pm: Writing Novels: Ending it Right

Friday, 4:00pm: Signing

Saturday, Noon: Writer’s Craft: Fun Story, Smart Message

When I’m not speaking on panels, you’re almost sure to find me at the Angry Robot Books booth, #3044, in the main dealer hall, where I will be selling my books, and defacing copies of Adam Rakunas novels.

Check out the rest of the schedule. Sign up for some panels. You won’t regret it. And don’t forget to swing by and say hello. I’d love to sell you books meet you!

 

 

Moving Up and Moving Out

planning_office_move

Good afternoon, readers. I have an exciting announcement to make regarding the future of the blog portion of the website. After many years shouting into the void, a series of fortuitous accidents has ended with me accepting an offer to become a political contributor to “The Hill,” where I will still be shouting into the void, but from a much larger platform. You can see my first two posts, and some of their inevitable fallout, here, and here.

As a result, the flavor of my personal blog will be changing. Going forward, political or socially-themed posts will largely be directed towards my contributions to The Hill, where the audience is specifically looking for political content. If you’re one of the masochists who liked those posts, and there are a lot of you, I know, I watched the analytics, then please sign up for email updates and follow us on twitter @TheHill.

For the rest of you, this space is shifting gears. Instead of the previous blend, posts here will cover my thoughts and experiences on writing, the publishing industry, performing comedy, musings on genre issues, reviews of books, movies, games, and other pop culture, as well as news and announcements on projects I have coming down the pipeline.

Tonight, I’ll be heading out to watch Star Trek: Beyond, which I am super excited for. The first post of the revamped blog will most likely be a spoiler-free review of the movie after I’ve had a little time to digest it and punch something up on Saturday.

Stay tuned!

 

Europa or Bust

160713085648-nasa-jupiter-0713-01-exlarge-169

 

This is the first image from Juno, NASA’s new probe to Jupiter. In it, you can see the solar system’s largest planet (Jupiter, obvs), the solar system’s most volcanically active body (Io, first spec to the right), and arguably the solar system’s best patch of real-estate to search for extraterrestrial life (Europa).

I say the best patch to search for ET around our star for several reasons. First of all, Europa has an ENORMOUS subsurface ocean, totaling as much as twice the volume of Earth’s oceans of liquid water and, even more encouragingly, resembling them in chemical composition as well. And unlike Mars, the potential biosphere beneath Europa’s ice has been actively stewing for billions of years.

Also unlike Mars, the odds of cross contamination from another body into Europa’s oceans are slim. Any ancient bacteria hitching a ride on a meteorite knocked loose from Mars or Earth would have to contend with not only the intense radiation belts surrounding Jupiter (Jupiter actually puts out MORE energy in radiation than it receives as light from the Sun), but it would have to have penetrated many kilometers of rock-hard, solid ice.

Which, for my money, makes Europa the best candidate for a true, second genesis of life in our solar system that arose independently of any life forms found on Earth. Thanks to pioneering work done by NASA’s Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity rovers, we know with a high degree of certainty that long ago, Mars had a warm, wet environment with a thick atmosphere many tens or hundreds on millions of years ahead of the point Earth reached habitability.

I would not be surprised at all to learn the life started there and then an asteroid impact made Earth and Mars into kissing cousins, swapping spit and mouth bacteria back and forth for millions of years. which means there’s a good chance that no mater which one life actually started on was the single point of origin. Which would be an amazing discovery, but would tell us nothing concrete about the prevalence of life in the rest of the universe.

Europa probably watched on in envy as the action between Earth and Mars heated up, but couldn’t join in. Which means (probably) that if there IS life in the dark waters under Europa’s ice, it was entirely home brewed. And THAT would mean life developed independently, twice, in the same solar system, within a few billion years, likely far fewer. And THAT would mean that the universe is absolutely lousy with life. As saturated with it as a teenaged boy’s crumpled sock.

Amazingly, initial funding for a Europa mission has gotten through Congress. And since it’s well after 2010 and we haven’t gotten any  cryptic “All these worlds are yours except Europa. Attempt no landings there,” messages, I for one can hardly fucking wait for it to launch. And for the love of God, can we stop letting the robots do all the cool exploration jobs? Let’s get alien dirt under our fingernails, people.

Oh, and if you want a masterful fictional exploration into the sorts of things that might be swimming around in Europa’s oceans, go buy A DARKLING SEA by James L. Cambias. It has not one, but two of the most expertly crafted alien societies I have ever read.

Author, Comedian, Blogger