Sunday, June 28, 2015

InterstellarNet: Enigma -- now (finally!) -- on paper :-)

It's been an ebook serial. It's been an ebook book (or, as the publisher would have it, an ebook omnibus). It incorporates the Hugo Award-nominated novelette "Championship B'tok." But for the many who prefer the feel of a physical bound volume in their hands? They've been without an option.

Latest and greatest
It is InterstellarNet: Enigma, the third -- and, IMO, most ambitious yet -- adventure in the InterstellarNet saga. And as of today, I'm delighted to report, this novel is, finally, also available in print.

"When people talk about good hard SF -- rigorously extrapolated but still imbued with the classic sense-of-wonder -- they mean the work of Edward M. Lerner, the current master of the craft. InterstellarNet: Enigma is Lerner's latest gem, and it's up to his usual excellent standards; a winner all around."
-- Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning author of Red Planet Blues

For a bit more about the story, read on.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

We will sell no wine before its time

Fine wine -- and even, if you're old enough, the not-so-fine, screw-top beverage the subject-line slogan will evoke -- must age to reach its full potential.

I find the craft of writing to be like that. Sure, I've knocked out the first draft of some short stories in a few consecutive days (or even one!), allowing nothing to interrupt. For longer stories and novels, the process is more complicated -- and not merely because longer stories require (at the least) months to complete.

For longer works, the original story concept -- no matter how detailed my research, going-in outline, and character sketches -- benefits from a time-out. From a bit of aging, if you will. More often than not, I'll set aside a long work once the first quarter of it (give or take) is in first draft. Even when that pause comes simply from a reprioritization -- writing under contract must trump writing done on spec -- I've found that the time away is always for the best.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Physics in flux

With the daily news so often grim, and the 2016 presidential campaign already seeming endless, I find it uplifting, from time to time, to reground myself in less well covered -- but more meaningful and exciting -- dispatches from the frontiers of science. Today: reports and speculations from the frontiers of physics.

A chip off the Moore's Law block
We'll begin with applied physics. Since the Sixties, we've been on a pell-mell race to continue upping the density (read: continue decreasing the cost and/or size) of electronics. It's that steady progress that brings us such goodies as HDTV and smart phones.

Regularly the prognostication is made that Moore's Law (the doubling of component densities every two or so years) must soon come to a screeching halt. Intuitively, that makes sense -- over the decades, some features of state-of-the-art chips have been reduced to a mere 14 nm across. (Interatomic spacing in crystals is about 0.1 nanometers -- we're not talking about a lot of atoms across such tiny features.) Technologists, fortunately, keep coming up with clever approaches to sustain the trend. See "Intel: Moore's Law will continue through 7nm chips."

How long can such progress go on? Perhaps until  single molecules serve as electronic components. See "Molecular Electronics Takes Large Stride Forward" for the example of single-molecule diodes.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The 2015 Nebula Awards weekend

I'm newly home from Chicago and a wonderful experience: SFWA's annual -- and, as it happened, the 50th -- Nebula Awards weekend. SFWA, of course, is the Science-fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. (In this instance, not a typo. When fantasy authors demanded equal billing in the organization's name, maintaining the historical acronym and logo required that odd mixed capitalization.) The Nebulas, awarded annually by SFWA for specific works of fiction, are among the highest honors in the genre.

Photo from Locus
An even higher honor is the Solstice Award, "granted in recognition of the positive impact and influence the recipients and their work have had on the science fiction and fantasy genres." This year's honorees were Joanna Russ and Stanley Schmidt. Stan, of course, was the long-time editor of Analog. Over the years I've come to know Stan as a mentor, colleague, and friend. It was great to see him honored.

Larry & Ed at Nebula Awards (2015)
But the highest SFWA recognition, IMO, is the SFWA Grandmaster Award. This year's honoree was Larry Niven, recognized "for his invaluable contributions to the field of science fiction and fantasy" (he writes both). Larry is my frequent collaborator and friend, and I was invited to join the panel at a Niven-retrospective session and to contribute a written appreciation. I was happy to oblige, and here's what I wrote.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Spacing out

Here are some interesting space-exploration items I've been accumulating ...

Let's get it off the drawing boards
Getting the downers out of the way first: "NASA says new heavy-lift rocket debut not likely until 2018." And wouldn't it be nice if NASA knew what it wanted to do with its ever-delayed launcher? (On that latter point, it's not only me who wonders. From the Washington Post, see, "NASA has a spaceship, but where will it go?") Creeping toward a mission choice -- for 2025 -- we read "For Asteroid-Capture Mission, NASA Picks 'Option B' for Boulder."

If NASA's manned spaceflight is all but inert, the agency does continue to do interesting science: "NASA launches 4 spacecraft to solve magnetic mystery." The mystery: the nature of interactions between Earth's and Sun's magnetic fields. Particularly interesting is the sometimes rapid changes that occur at the dynamic interface between fields:
Magnetic reconnection is what happens when magnetic fields like those around Earth and the sun come together, break apart, then come together again, releasing vast energy. This repeated process drives the aurora, as well as solar storms that can disrupt communications and power on Earth. Data from this two-year mission should help scientists better understand so-called space weather.