Monday, May 8, 2017

Colonization -- Generation Ships

There are countless tales that involve space colony missions moving at sub-light speed, covering the vast distance between stars over the course of hundreds, or even thousands, of years. There are two main options for these extraordinarily long voyages–sleeper ships (with everyone in a state of suspended animation) and generation ships. We’ll investigate sleeper ships another time. The one method that requires no “new technology” (beyond ironing out the engineering and construction challenges) is generation ships.

The basic idea is that the ship includes a sustainable habitat for the colony population. The initial members of the mission do not live to reach the destination. Rather, their descendants do, and all the generations in between live their entire lives in the habitat.
The problems that can arise are many. One enormous issue is maintaining all of the ship’s functions over the long haul. Parts break. Metals corrode. Very few things on Earth are designed to last centuries. For instance, consider the lifespan of any personal computer you’ve owned. How long did it last? Or automobiles–they wear out over time, and very few survive more than a lifetime, even if meticulously maintained. Deep in interstellar space, there are no options for repair or replacement that don’t rely solely on the materials taken. A new degree of reliability must be designed into every piece and part, and a wide assortment of replacement parts would be essential, but would it be enough? 3D printers would help. But printers break, too.
Maintaining the habitat is similarly challenging. The vessel must be big enough to house a robust ecology. The colony ship, Peerless, in my recent novel, Towers of Earth, would be suitable (although in that story the ship moves fast enough that less than one generation passes in transit). Still, size is not enough. Kim Stanley Robinson hit the problem with precision in his terrific 2015 novel, Aurora. The ship is robust, with twenty-four separate biomes housing thousands of people each. Among other things, after seven generations, the difference in the evolutionary rate of change between macro-organisms (big things like animals and people) and bacteria, becomes a special problem in the contained environment.
Another problem is sociological. The problem that comes up in many generation-ship novels is the loss of knowledge. The people of the ship grow to consider the ship their home. Information about Earth and the mission gets lost as the stories are passed down among the generations. Ultimately, either through a forgotten mutiny or the natural progression of facts becoming legends, becoming myths, and being forgotten forever, the inhabitants of the ship can become completely ignorant that they are on a great space ark. The ship can become lost, and proceed aimlessly, with its passengers indifferent about its course. Robert A. Heinlein’s 1963 novel, Orphans of the Sky, is one such story. David Gerrald’s Star Trek novel, The Galactic Whirlpool, is another.
Another problem is sociological. The problem that comes up in many generation-ship novels is the loss of knowledge. The people of the ship grow to consider the ship their home. Information about Earth and the mission gets lost as the stories are passed down among the generations. Ultimately, either through a forgotten mutiny or the natural progression of facts becoming legends, becoming myths, and being forgotten forever, the inhabitants of the ship can become completely ignorant that they are on a great space ark. The ship can become lost, and proceed aimlessly, with its passengers indifferent about its course. Robert A. Heinlein’s 1963 novel, Orphans of the Sky, is one such story. David Gerrald’s Star Trek novel, The Galactic Whirlpool, is another.
Then there is the ethical question. Even if the mission is remembered, and it is clear where the ship is going and why, what right did the mission founders have to commit their descendants to it? The youth of every generation questions the decisions of their parents. A generation ship traversing interstellar space is an extreme example of a decision future generations on the ship might resent. This is the case in my work in progress, Plymouth Bound.
Each writer approaches the setting with a new angle and the results are often intriguing. While some of the big ideas have been explored, there is a lot of room for more. Three novels exploring the setting that I have not yet read are Dust by Elizabeth Bear, Starglass by Phoebe North, and The Forever Watch by David Ramirez.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Towers of Earth Now Available

The print edition of Towers of Earth is now available on Amazon. It is 294 pages, and the list price is presently $17.99. Towers of Earth is also available as an e-book at AmazonKobo and Apple. It is anticipated soon also at Barnes & Noble.
Towers of Earth is set in a fairly distant future. The central character is Allison Taylor, a 15-year-old girl who fled Earth at age 9 in a colony starship that is forced to return to Earth after a major shipboard disaster. Earth’s population resides primarily in the great geostationary towers that ring the planet, stretching from the ground into orbital space.
Allison wants nothing more than to resume her mission with the other surviving colonists in a repaired ship. There are forces working against her, but she finds allies as well as the challenges she faces grow to insurmountable proportion. The story is well received by readers of all ages, from middle-grade to adult. Published by Double Dragon Publishing. Edited by Felicia Sullivan.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Towers of Earth Coming Soon

It is a pleasure to announce that Double Dragon Publishing has picked up my science fiction teen adventure novel, Towers of Earth, for its 2017 catalog. This is one a lot of you have been waiting for. Double Dragon is a wonderful small press publisher with an outstanding list of eBooks and paperbacks. Towers of Earth is slated for both an eBook and paperback release, the eBook to precede the paperback release by a few weeks.
Double Dragon is based in Canada. Its sales are good, as are most of its book covers. And it is highly regarded by many established and well-known authors, including Piers Anthony (a prolific writer probably best known for his excellentXanth series) whose review of internet publishers, “Internet Publishing from the Desk of Piers Anthony,” describes the press in admirable terms.
Towers of Earth by J. C. Conway Official book cover pending (This is a mock up I prepared as a placeholder)
At the brink of an impending dark age, 15-year-old Allison Taylor escapes Earth on a colony ship to the stars. 
But a catastrophic quark drive failure forces a desperate, near-light-speed return a millennium into Earth’s future. 
Allison is surprised to find humanity in a “New Renaissance” and to see the Great Geostationary Towers her father engineered still stretching majestically from ground to high orbit, now housing Earth’s billions.
When Allison learns the “New Renaissance” is a mere façade, she struggles against crushing odds to reunite with her fellow colonists. Finally gaining the opportunity to flee again, she realizes her special knowledge of the Towers may empower her to break the Tower Administrators’ tyranny—but at the cost of her means of escape. Allison is torn. Will fulfilling her father’s dream be worth abandoning her chance to finally reach the stars?
More information will follow. In the meantime, I thank all of the wonderful beta readers and fellow writers that dedicated their time and shared their reactions, as well as terrific freelance editor, Felicia A. Sullivan.
Double Dragon Publishing started in 2000 as an eBook publisher and has grown to a powerhouse small press with more than 1400 titles with a world-wide network dedicated to the uncompromising quest for quality and “plain old fashion customer service.” Its authors include Authors include Jedaiah Ramnarine, Gail Z. MartinJ.M. FreyDanny BirtGeoff NelderSimon DrakeDan DeBonoTony TeoraE. Rose SabinDavid Conway,Steve Lazarowitz, Michael A. Ventrella, Ben Manning, Margret A. Treiber, and the lateNick Pollotta. In addition to Double Dragon eBooks, its flagship imprint focusing primarily on science fiction, fantasy and horror (with a present emphasis on science fiction).

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Amazon Giveaway - Hearts in Ruin

See this #AmazonGiveaway for a chance to win: Hearts in Ruin.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends the earlier of Mar 5, 2016 11:59 PM PST, or when all prizes are claimed. See Official Rules

Monday, November 2, 2015

New Cover Design for "Love, Death, and Overlapping Bosonic Singularities"

Here is the new design for the cover of the short story, “Love, Death, and Overlapping Bosonic Singularities,” a romantic science fiction available to eBook readers for 99¢. The cover is designed using exclusively MicrosoftPowerPoint for Office 2010. The right to use two pieces of art was obtained from Dollar Photo Club. A white background in one image was removed using PowerPoint’s “Set Transparent Color” feature, and the rest was a matter of arranging things, playing with basic fonts, and saving a single slide as a PDF file. (All of the paperback and e-Reader mock ups here are provided by Adazing Design.)
561fdb8b5673dThe cover breaks at least one cardinal rule for amateur book cover designers–it uses five different fonts. But I think it fits the story and its title. The story involves Amy’s involuntary traversal through inconsistent realities. At the outset we’re aware that Amy doesn’t consider reality to be fixed, and in short order it becomes evident why she thinks that way–or at least one explanation becomes evident. Soon another explanation is offered that is as plausible, or more plausible, than the first. But still, that is just the beginning. In my clearly unqualified opinion, this broken stream of experience is well matched to the changing fonts of the title in the new cover.
Similarly, the title is, all by itself, quite clunky. One of the story’s original working titles was “Shuffle.” That title certainly fit the story, but not obviously so until after the story was read. As an introduction to the story, “Shuffle” was remarkably uninformative, and the story screamed for a title that better set the stage. Enter “Love, Death and Overlapping Bosonic Singularities” (the Oxford comma was added later). The clunkiness of the title is painstakingly deliberate. It darned near tells the story, or at least foreshadows the central personal struggle for Amy as well as the key SF element of the story. But it is a mouthful. And the problem with the old cover design was that the title was squeezed in there like it was not something that draws attention to itself–leading to the very natural question, “Why such a long title?” Better to simply embrace its abrasive length and syntax with a visual presentation consistent with its message. The font being “shuffled” as it is, says a bit more now about the story, and makes clear (or at least I’ve convinced myself for the time being it makes clear) that this title means something to the story.
561fdc96dd1feI still like the old cover design. But in a list of other covers with similar search criteria, it didn’t pop. All that effort to reflect the story and reveal the mood and problem of the tale, had the same trouble as the early working title, “Shuffle.” It didn’t capture the mood and promise of the story for a prospective reader. Rather, it was a satisfactory cover for a person that already had read the story. So out with the old, and in with the new.
By the way, I also still like the artwork that was used to illustrate the story when it was first published in The Lorelei Signal edited by Carol Hightshoe. The associated artwork in that publication was a piece by Lee Kuruganti, who was also the design winner for the2oo8 Hugo Award Base, and who also illustrated Twisted Thorn, by Richard King Perkins II, in the same issue.
Finally, if you haven’t read it yet, and if you’re an e-Reader, give the story a glance. It’s available from many eBook sellers, and at most sites you can read the beginning for free. If you like it and want to read the rest, the full piece is just 99¢.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Look at the Nebula Winners

Here is a rundown of the Nebula Awards® winners for best science fiction or fantasy in 2014 in certain writing categories:
Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals; Fourth Estate; HarperCollins Canada)
Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide, the third expedition in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition.
The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one another, and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.
They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything.
Yesterday’s Kin, Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
Aliens have landed in New York.
A deadly cloud of spores has already infected and killed the inhabitants of two worlds. Now that plague is heading for Earth, and threatens humans and aliens alike. Can either species be trusted to find the cure?
Geneticist Marianne Jenner is immersed in the desperate race to save humanity, yet her family is tearing itself apart. Siblings Elizabeth and Ryan are strident isolationists who agree only that an alien conspiracy is in play. Marianne’s youngest, Noah, is a loner addicted to a drug that constantly changes his identity. But between the four Jenners, the course of human history will be forever altered.
Earth’s most elite scientists have ten months to prevent human extinction—and not everyone is willing to wait.
“A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i” by Alaya Dawn Johnson (F&SF)
Key’s favorite time of day is sunset, her least is sunrise. It should be the opposite, but every time she watches that bright red disk sinking into the water beneath Mauna Kea her heart bends like a wishbone, and she thinks, He’s awake now.
Key is thirty-four. She is old for a human woman without any children. She has kept herself alive by being useful in other ways. For the past four years, Key has been the overseer of the Mauna Kea Grade Orange blood facility.
Is it a concentration camp if the inmates are well fed? If their beds are comfortable? If they are given an hour and a half of rigorous boxercise and yoga each morning in the recreational field?
It doesn’t have to be Honouliui to be wrong.
When she’s called in to deal with Jeb’s body—bloody, not drained, in a feeding room—yoga doesn’t make him any less dead.
Key helps vampires run a concentration camp for humans.
Key is a different kind of monster.
Read the rest of the story HERE.
“Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon (Apex)
They were shy creatures, the jackalope wives, though there was nothing shy about the way they danced.
You could go your whole life and see no more of them than the flash of a tail vanishing around the backside of a boulder.
If you were lucky, you might catch a whole line of them outlined against the sky, on the top of a bluff, the shadow of horns rising off their brows.
Apex Magazine is a monthly science fiction, fantasy, and horror magazine featuring original, mind-bending short fiction from many of the top pros of the field. New issues are released the first Tuesday of every month. “Jackalope Wives” appears in Issue 56 HERE.
Love Is the DrugAlaya Dawn Johnson (Levine)
Emily Bird was raised not to ask questions. She has perfect hair, the perfect boyfriend, and a perfect Ivy-League future. But a chance meeting with Roosevelt David, a homeland security agent, at a party for Washington DC’s elite leads to Bird waking up in a hospital, days later, with no memory of the end of the night.
Meanwhile, the world has fallen apart: A deadly flu virus is sweeping the nation, forcing quarantines, curfews, even martial law. And Roosevelt is certain that Bird knows something. Something about the virus–something about her parents’ top secret scientific work–something she shouldn’t know.
The only one Bird can trust is Coffee, a quiet, outsider genius who deals drugs to their classmates and is a firm believer in conspiracy theories. And he believes in Bird. But as Bird and Coffee dig deeper into what really happened that night, Bird finds that she might know more than she remembers. And what she knows could unleash the biggest government scandal in US history.
See additional award winners and information about the awards HERE.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

AMBITION – Short Film Peeks into the Far Future and the Legacy of Today’s Accomplishment with Rosetta

If you haven’t yet seen this wonderful and visionary short science-fiction film, please set aside 6 minutes to enjoy it. Ambition is a collaborative project of ESA and Platige Image. Directed by Tomek Baginski and starring Aiden Gillen (The Dark Knight Rises, Game of Thrones, Shanghai Nights) and Aisling Franciosi (The Fall, Jimmy’s Hall, Quirke), it was shot on location in Iceland, and screened on 24 October during the British Film Institute’s celebration of Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder, at the Southbank, London.
In six short minutes we glimpse a future with tremendous and elegant technology in which the spirit of humanity remains strong. ESA’s ostensible motive in producing the film is to promote its wonderful Rosetta project–the amazing success of which has now been widely acknowledged worldwide. But the film is not a mere promo piece. It is visionary and inspiring in its own right, with director Tomek Baginski pulling off a beautifully timed and moving story featuring great performances by Aiden Gillen and Aisling Franciosi as a master and apprentice, respectively, in this mysterious and optimistic flash of a possible future.
Yes, this short film is, on one level, a blatant plug for the Rosetta mission. But it is so well done, and such a welcome contrast to the bloated and physics-ignoring blockbusters that call themselves science fictions these day, that the relatively underplayed promotional intention of the film is more than wholly forgivable. Never mind that the Rosetta mission is, indeed, the monumental event this film suggests.
IMDb describes the story line like this:
The story of one of the most important space exploration endeavours of this decade. Just as Gillen’s enigmatic Master encourages Franciosi’s Apprentice to seek out the key to life amidst a rugged alien landscape, ESA has been on a decade-long ambitious journey of its own, to unlock the mysteries of a comet and the origins of our Solar System with its Rosetta spacecraft, hundreds of millions of kilometres from Earth. Ambition complements the ongoing communication about Rosetta and adds a “human dimension” to the scientific and technological achievements of the mission, which include curiosity, drive and ambition.
The Director
Tomek Bagiński is a Polish illustrator, animator and director. His first film Rain won local awards. Between 1999 and 2002 he worked his short film debut, The Cathedral, which was nominated for an Oscar for the best animated short film. He is also the author of all covers of Jacek Dukaj books, including the novel entitled Ice. Apart from his own projects, Bagiński works as a director on commercials and stage shows. He has published in many trade magazines, from United States to China and Japan. His directing film credits include the Ambition (2014), Animated History of Poland (2010), Beig (2009), Making of Fallen Art (2005), The Cathedral (2002) and others. His writing credits include Ambition, The Kinematograph (2009), Fallent Art (2004), and The Cathedral.
Visit the Ambition website:
Watch the teaser trailer here
Watch the film here
Watch the Making of Ambition film here 
Listen to the soundtrack here