Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 (almost) gone already? Whoa! Whiplash!

Year's end is, traditionally, a time for reflection, for looking both forward and back. I'll do the same here -- trying not to compile the kind of things you'll find on other sites. No blah-dy blah blah blah "Best of" or "Worst of" lists here!

Cool stuff ;-)
So what will you find? As in the image at left, cool stuff!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Tis the season ...

... to be Really Busy.

I get the math. I do. We're all adding end-of-the-year deadlines, end-of-the-year festivities, and (the worthwhile subset, anyway, of) last New Year's unfulfilled resolutions to our daily routines, commitments, and aspirations. (I am still making headway on the new novel in progress. Thank you for asking.) Still, even more than usual, I can't help but wonder: where does the time go?

All of which is to fess up that I'm more pressed than usual to feed my blogging habit. Many regular visitors here, I suspect, likewise find themselves busier than their norms. Put it all together and this isn't the occasion for a long post.

Some of you will be in a reading and/or shopping mode. I'll refer you to three recent posts Spread the meme: Buy-a-Book Saturday! (it's never too late to buy a book, especially an ebook), 2015 Best Reads, and -- because I find this so amusingly quirky -- Robots and Descartes and Shakespeare, oh my! What's not to like?

Art by Dean Spencer
"A Stranger in Paradise"
I'll end with a graphic by the mega-creative SF artist Dean Spencer. This is hardly the traditional celestial image of the season, but it's been a favorite artwork of mine since its 2007 appearance in the late, lamented e-zine Jim Baen's Universe. The image illustrates (and was based upon) my novelette "A Stranger in Paradise." The story remains available online, without charge -- click that illo -- for your enjoyment. (Assuming, of course, you somehow have the time ;-)  The link will be here, waiting.)

(The novelette headlines one side of my 2010 flip-book collection, Countdown to Armageddon / A Stranger in Paradise. There's more about that book, should you be curious, on my authorial website.)

Happy holiday(s) of your choosing!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Life (if not the universe and everything)

 Is life what it used to be? Maybe not.

Beware VR?
To begin, virtual reality is new, and at least some VR implementations have the potential to trickle over -- nastily -- into real reality. That overlap may involve interaction with human biology.

Samsung, maker of the Gear VR headset cautions:
... that people should stop using the Gear VR immediately if they experience seizures, loss of awareness, eye strain, nausea or "any symptoms similar to motion sickness." In addition, the device is not recommended for children younger than 13.
See more about the risks at "Samsung Gear VR: Virtual Reality Tech May Have Nasty Side Effects." (Posting in December about a February article? Am I kidding? No. It's timely if VR headgear is potentially on your holiday shopping list.)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Typing fast and furious ...

... but on the emerging novel that's getting Extra Super Interesting, not a new post.

Most of you who visit here (my last survey demonstrated) also read my fiction. I hope -- and trust -- you'll indulge me for a few days while I concentrate on the book. There'll be a payoff, I assure you, once it's finished :-)

A burst of creativity?
Still, I wouldn't ever want your dropping by SF and Nonsense to be a disappointment. I think you'll enjoy the following Seriously Cool Things:

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A potpourri

Given the widespread reporting on Google's self-driving cars and Tesla's recent foray into autonomous driving (and with a dollop of wishful disregard for recent incidents of wireless automotive hacking), you may have fond thoughts of upgrading sometime soon to such vehicular luxury.

Look, Ma, no hands!
Maybe think twice. Navigation and lane following may require only (comparatively) simple "narrow AI" tasks, the associated algorithms reasonably robust and perhaps nearing maturity. Not so, the ethical dimension of driving.

For example, suppose that a deer just darted in front of my car. Do I purposefully endanger myself by ramming the deer? Or do I veer, and in the process endanger pedestrians or other drivers? For a machine to make such judgment calls -- on a case-by case basis, in the split-second during which such decisions must be made -- would seem to require mastering general (aka, human equivalent) AI. See: "Why self-driving cars remain more science fiction than future."

Sorry if that was a downer. Here, let me make it up to you with some out-of-this-world (literally) news.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Spread the meme: Buy-a-Book Saturday!

Regularly since 2010, at about this time of year, I've posted about Buy-a-Book Saturday. That's my personal variation on Small Business Saturday: a day (specifically, the second day after Thanksgiving, and one day after retail's infamous Black Friday) on which holiday shoppers are especially encouraged to consider patronizing small businesses. The big-box stores and Internet giants will do fine this holiday season. But will your neighborhood stores?

Why the buy-a-book variant? Because what business is smaller than the author toiling away by him- or herself? Because, as I (and many others) post from time to time, the publishing business is becoming tougher and tougher -- especially for the authors. Because more than likely you're a reader, or else you wouldn't be frequenting this blog.

So: I'm suggesting you give serious consideration to books -- whether print, electronic, or audio -- for some of your holiday gifting. Friends, relatives, coworkers, your kids' teachers, the local library you support ... surely there's a book that's right for each of them. And for yourself, of course :-)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Robots and Descartes and Shakespeare, oh my! What's not to like?

Call it a poem. Call it flash fiction. Either way, the illustrated version of it is awesome. And trust me: that (hopefully evocative) subject line fits it perfectly.

And what, you ask, is it? "I Clink, Therefore I Am." Surely a copy of this poster belongs on the wall of every English lit student -- and teacher/professor -- you know. Ditto every student and teacher/professor of robotics. They just don't (yet) know they need it.

Just a hint ...

(Hmm. I might also, with the slightest of tweaks, have added a detail to the setting and subtitled this "The Merchant of Venus." But I digress.)

As you will by now have inferred, I have dipped a toe -- by proxy, through the auspices of Sci Phi Journal -- into merchandising. The words are mine, and the meter Shakespeare's. The art is by the massively talented Cat Leonard.

It can't hurt to look. Right? Check out the poster (or T-shirt, or travel mug, or iPad case, or ...) at Red Bubble.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

2015 best reads

I read a lot. Often it's research for my own writing. Sometimes it's as competitive analysis (re-plowing the same ground as other recent books -- except, apparently, where zombies are concerned -- isn't the easiest way to sell one's own works). Many evenings, it's for relaxation. On many an occasion, it's for two or all three reasons. If I finish a book, it has -- at the least -- been useful.

This post looks at the handful(ish) of books I read in 2015 (which isn't to say they were all written this year) that rose beyond "useful" and even "memorable" to "I remember this fondly and can well imagine rereading at a future date." In a couple of cases, they're books that I reread this year.

Presuming that you visit SF and Nonsense because you appreciate my take on science or technology or fiction, you might find, in the post that follows, books you (and like-minded friends, relatives, etc.) will also enjoy. (And FYI, every cover is an Amazon links.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Look! Up in the sky!

It's a bird. It's a plane. No, it's astronomy, man.

Lots of exciting stuff is being spotted (or is looked for and not spotted, or is wondered about) in the vasty deeps over our heads. Read on ...

MOL (artist conception)
From time to time over the years, I've encountered short, vague references to a USAF space-station project, the Manned Orbital Laboratory (MOL). This recent article is, by far, the most information I've ever seen: "The Real Story of The Secret Space Station." Like the contemporaneous Apollo program, the motivation was international politics. It turns out that MOL was unaffordable and potentially destabilizing. As to the former point:

By the time President Richard Nixon finally cancelled the MOL in 1969, it had gobbled up more than $1.5 billion—$10 billion in today’s dollars—and was on track to consume 17 percent of the Air Force’s annual research budget for years.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Whoa! Tachyons!

As in ... I did not see this coming.

A bit over a month ago, I was delighted to discover (see A(n inter)stellar start to the day) that my latest novel, InterstellarNet: Enigma, was a finalist for the inaugural Canopus Award for interstellar-themed fiction. The award aims to recognize "works that contribute to the excitement, knowledge, and understanding of interstellar space exploration and travel."

The awards were, well, awarded Friday evening October 30. I wasn't able to attend, but I prepared a few remarks just in case. And -- mirabile dictu -- I woke up this morning to read that InterstellarNet: Enigma had won!

Here's what I sent to the emcee to read if lightning struck:

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Today (only?): more science; less nonsense

I'm seldom an advocate for more regulation, but there are exceptions. The proliferation of drones, and the lack of enforcement for the few drone-centric regulations that do exist, brings me to exception territory. Drones free to interfere with civil aviation -- intentionally or not -- is a Certified Bad Idea. And so, I was pleased to see that "Federal regulators to require registration of recreational drones."

No rules. How scary is that?
Consider merely these few excerpts:
Pilots of passenger planes and other aircraft are reporting more than 100 sightings of or close calls with rogue drones a month, according to the FAA.
Nobody knows exactly how many of the robotic aircraft are already flying around, but most estimates top 1 million.
U.S. hobbyists are projected to buy about 700,000 drones this year, a 63 percent increase from 2014.
Here's hoping the FAA succeeds in getting registration in place before holiday gifting. The first step toward enforcing rules is knowing to whom the rules apply -- and those folks knowing it, too.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Strange but true

I spent way too long last week configuring a new PC (aka learning -- doing battle with -- Windows 10). That makes today a good day to recover a bit of time by posting from my stockpile of accumulated SF and Nonsense-relevant esoterica.

Too often, how we all feel
Is the problem that I haven't been getting enough sleep? In simpler times, before much in the way of artificial lighting, did people evolve to need a lot of sleep? Say, to need the oft-recommended eight hours per night? Well, maybe no one ever got that much sleep. See (from Reuters, via Yahoo News), "What a nightmare: sleep no more plentiful in primitive cultures."

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Night of the Talking Heads

This TV appearance just out from Fast Forward: Contemporary Science Fiction ...

I'm interviewed about (mostly) my latest novel, InterstellarNet: Enigma. Tom Shaad, host of the show, also got me talking about some of the finer points of the InterstellarNet series, my writing process, and collaborating (on the unrelated Fleet of Worlds series) with NYT bestselling author Larry Niven. And it's all certified SFW.

To read about the novel
To read about the novel ...
Among the joys of the writer's life is the -- how shall I put it? -- casual dress code. It takes a lot these days to get me into a coat and tie. Going on TV to talk about writing will do it :-)

Monday, October 12, 2015


At risk of seeming starry-eyed ...

Life imitates art ... sorta
In my 2012 technothriller, Energized, an astronomer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) appeals to NASA to stop work on solar-power satellites. Her concern: microwaved power from the satellites would interfere with radio telescopes. In a more mundane instance of life imitating art, NRAO recently appealed to the FCC to bar radio-controlled robotic lawnmowers. Again, the concern was over possible interference. And again imitating art, NRAO did not convince the FCC. See "iRobot's robotic lawn mower gets U.S. regulatory approval."

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Getting physical

News about physics being a popular topic on SF and Nonsense, herewith a few interesting (but not especially publicized) tidbits ...

White light thru yonder prism breaks
Old-fashioned light bulbs emit a broad spectrum of colors. LEDs? They're red or green or (and this was difficult) blue. If you wanted white light -- white, of course, being a blend of colors -- you needed to mix the emissions from separate red, green, and blue LEDs. But maybe not for long. See (from IEEE Spectrum), "The First White Laser."

The heart of the new device is a sheet only nanometers thick made of a semiconducting alloy of zinc, cadmium, sulfur, and selenium. The sheet is divided into different segments. When excited with a pulse of light, the segments rich in cadmium and selenium gave off red light; those rich in cadmium and sulfur emitted green light; and those rich in zinc and sulfur glowed blue.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Coming (to an end) soon ...

Over the summer, as part of his launch support for InterstellarNet: Enigma, my esteemed publisher offered promotional ebook pricing for earlier novels in the series. But summer is over. Pretty soon, that promotional pricing will be, too.

Lots of people scooped up InterstellarNet: Origins and InterstellarNet: New Order ebooks at $2.99 ... but October 15, the ebook prices return to their original $7.99.

“Edward M. Lerner’s InterstellarNet is one of the most original and well-thought-out visions of an interstellar civilization I’ve ever seen.”
  Stanley Schmidt, Author of Argonaut

There's more on my website about the InterstellarNet series. Or get to the Edward M. Lerner Bookstore, on Amazon, while the gettin's good ;-)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Some highs and lows of high tech

Indulging my interest in high tech, let's consider some recent news items on that theme.

At the core of the matter :-)
We'll start with the teaser that "Intel and Micron Announce 'Revolutionary' Mystery Memory." Most everything these industry leaders have to say generally merits attention -- but when they talk about "a new form of nonvolatile memory that the companies say is 1000 times speedier than NAND Flash and ten times denser than DRAM," one really should take notice. I look forward to hearing more about the new technology -- and how (assuming it progresses to the product stage) it will impact computer architectures.

From the tiny domain of modern microelectronics, let's turn to the vast realm of space. Regarding the latter, a Canadian firm has proposed a new type of space elevator.

First step is a doozie
Traditionally (and here I quote myself from "Alien Adventures: Rising to the Challenge," in the October 2015 issue of Analog), a space elevator is "just what it sounds. Rather than rocket into space -- carrying fuel to carry the fuel to carry yet more fuel ... to carry a comparatively tiny payload -- creep up a long cable in an elevator car. The elevator ride will take days, not minutes, but it will be far more economical, and far more environmentally friendly, than rocketry. First proposed in 1895, the space-elevator concept was popularized by Arthur C. Clarke in his 1979 novel, The Fountains of Paradise."

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A(n inter)stellar start to the day

Not to step on my lede, the finalists for the inaugural Canopus Award, given for interstellar-themed SF, were announced today. And in the novel category -- well, that's the (inter)stellar news. I'll come to that.

First, some background ...

It's been nearly a year since I posted about participating in a 100 Year Starship Symposium (as one topic among several in "Nanotech and starships and fusion, oh my!"). 100YSS.org, seeded with NASA and DARPA funding, headed by physician and onetime shuttle astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, is an awesome organization, its five-year mission: "To boldly go ..." (No, wait. That's another interstellar organization.) 

And the mission of 100YSS?
We exist to make the capability of human travel beyond our solar system a reality within the next 100 years. We unreservedly dedicate ourselves to identifying and pushing the radical leaps in knowledge and technology needed to achieve interstellar flight, while pioneering and transforming breakthrough applications that enhance the quality of life for all on Earth. We actively seek to include the broadest swath of people and human experience in understanding, shaping and implementing this global aspiration.
And why this made my day? Still coming.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


(Not a typo. What were you thinking?)

As happens from time to time, I'm posting today with eclectic items of interest -- interesting to me, in any event -- that are, despite their esoteric variety, nonetheless  germane to this blog.

First up: the latest progress to be reported by the nascent DC-area Museum of Science Fiction (MOSF). I figure that I should -- before the third quarter ends -- pass along the MOSF's second-quarter report.

And an MOSF preview: I suspect that an item to be reported for the third quarter, when its progress summary becomes available, will be the "MOSF Journal of Science Fiction." In brief: the museum, in partnership with nearby University of Maryland, is setting up an academic journal focused on SF.

Now meaningfully available
And the one commercial update within this stream-of-association post ... For entirely uninteresting reasons, the print edition of my time-travel-themed chapbook, A Time Foreclosed (2013), has been available -- using the modifier ironically -- only with a weeks-long shipping lag. Big surprise: people don't care to wait that long for a book. Today I'm happy to report that, as of a few days ago, Amazon is offering a new ATF print edition -- without that delay, and for a mere $4.99. (ATF remains available as an ebook, of course, for your instant gratification -- for just 99 cents.)

And speaking of said dominant etailer ...

Monday, September 14, 2015

Forces of Nature

"Like a force of nature" is a common enough simile. I suspect I've used it on occasion. Hopefully I haven't used it trivially, because the forces of Nature are (in another too often trivialized term) awesome ...

The forces of Nature in this post aren't similes. In recent, post-Hugo, post-Worldcon comments, I mentioned that my wife and I took a vacation immediately after the con. Three destinations on our itinerary offer opportunities to reflect on the true forces of Nature.

(And speaking of my recent posts, an aside. If, when you read this, it's still September 2015, you might want to check out my too narrowly titled post "Holiday-weekend reading." One of my publishers is running a month-long special on ebook editions of two of my non-series novels. For one of these novels, you can choose your own price. Even free. Now back to today's topic ...)

Clements Mtn. (with glacier)
First, Glacier National Park in Montana. One force of Nature, forest fire, manifested in a thick haze well before we arrived. Until a few days before said arrival, I wondered if we'd even be able to make this stop. Parts of the park remained off-limits to tourists throughout our visit.

We never got close to any of the eponymous glaciers, and smoke softened some spectacular vistas. One glacier, glimpsed from a distance -- with the haze from recent forest fires all too evident -- is shown above. And surely the seismic forces that raise such mountains likewise demonstrate Nature's incredible power.

We also drove through sections of the park where everything had burned, the landscape reduced to the appearance of a telephone-pole convention. I don't have any pictures of those sad, bare, scorched trunks. We followed the park rangers' admonitions not to stop along that part of the road.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Holiday-weekend reading

I'm playing catch-up -- still -- from twelve days away for Worldcon and an immediately following vacation. But my overflowing to-do list doesn't mean you should go without something of mine to read ...

Phoenix Pick, the publisher (more precisely, the re-publisher) of a couple of my novels, is featuring both books throughout September. Small Miracles, a near-future medical-nanotech thriller, is available all month as an ebook for whatever you choose to pay

Beware miracles with a mind of their own

Meanwhile Fools' Experiments, a near-future novel of artificial intelligence and artificial life, is deeply discounted. Try either. Or try both.

We are not alone ... and it’s our own damn fault.

Curious? Of course you are. Check out the Phoenix Pick deals of the month. Or click the cover image of either book to read a bit more about it on my authorial website.

And in any event ... enjoy your holiday weekend and the end of summer.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Hugo Awards / life goes on

First things first! During my week-plus, post-Hugo Awards disappearance from social media, many people emailed, messaged, or otherwise contacted me with well-wishes and support. Some people inferred from my silence that I was taking it hard that (a) "Championship B'tok" did not win a Hugo in its category and/or (b) the Puppy-related nominees (my story being in that category) were, as a group, rebuked in the voting.

To everyone who reached out: thanks! I apologize if I caused anyone undue concern. I appreciate the kind notes and solidarity. (And I will respond, directly and individually, to each of you. It'll just take a few more days.)  

Ed & Ruth at Hugo reception
Would I have liked to take home a rocket? Sure. Even more, though, I'd have preferred -- as will be discussed later in this post -- that the overall awards situation had been different.

But in the greater scheme of things? I'm good. No, better than good. The con was fun. I caught up with friends from around the country, went to some great parties, met with lots of fans, and took part in interesting panels. I even brought home a memento I can wear at Worldcons ever after (click/enlarge the image above to see my official Hugo Nominee rocket lapel pin).

My recent absence from the web has a simple explanation: Ruth and I went from Sasquan in Spokane straight to Glacier National Park in Montana. From there we went to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, then to Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho. I'm just now back online. Someday, perhaps, I'll blog about those parks -- geology and ecology are also apt topics for SF and Nonsense.

(Either way, there's nothing like seeing up-close and personal the truly awesome power of Nature to put our petty squabbles into perspective. And if I'd had a decent Internet connection -- which, usually, I didn't -- I had different goals for my vacation time than hanging out on the web.)

For today, I'll focus on the Hugo situation. I'll begin by offering the sentiments I had hoped (but not expected) to have the opportunity to share at the Hugo ceremony. The people I would have recognized that night still deserve to be acknowledged and appreciated.

So -- after some happily surprised stammering -- what would I have said had the balloting gone differently?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

An honor just to be nominated

That my story "Championship B'tok" made it onto the final ballot for this year's Hugo awards? It was a surprise and an honor, notwithstanding the accompanying puppygate controversy. To share the novelette category with four such fine stories -- including two by fellow Analog-ians Mike Flynn and Rajnar Vajra -- only enhanced the honor.

2007 version
That was April. It's now August, and the votes have been counted. Thomas Olde Heuvelt will be taking home the rocket. Let me be among the first to congratulate him.

That's all I'll say for now about the news ... but in a few days, I may have something to add.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Stoopid clock!!

Going really fast and dropping into a gravitational rabbit hole are both proven ways to make time's passage slow down. Having too much that needs doing? That seems to have the opposite effect.

So: no post for awhile. With luck, next week.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Short stuff

I've largely spent 2015 completing InterstellarNet: Enigma, serializing it, supporting the publisher's launch efforts, and attending the latest Nebula Awards weekend (plus bunches o' personal activities -- all good, just not relevant here). But don't take that emphasis to mean there's no other writing going on ...

Are you done with steampunk? (That's SF re-imagined as though progress ended with Victorian science and technology.) Editors Thomas A. Easton and Judith K. Dial were ... and they put out the call for SF stories set in a later, but still retro era. The result -- and see the gorgeous cover nearby -- was Deco Punk: The Spirit of the Age. My contribution to the anthology was "Judy Garland Saves the World (And I Don't Mean Oz)."

I had so much fun with that foray into the era between the World Wars that I tried my hand at another such story. That became "Soap Opera," in an upcoming (but as yet unscheduled) issue of Analog.

Analog, of course, is a frequent home of my shorter writings. So you'll likely not be surprised that I have more things in their pipeline:

Monday, August 3, 2015

And now for something (in fact, many somethings) completely different

I read mostly SF and current science/technology. For a change of pace, I recently pulled off my shelf a thick volume that I had forgotten even owning. It's been years -- at the least -- since I bought it.

But this book was well worth the wait.

Highly recommended
The Discoverers: A History of Man's Search to Know His World and Himself, by Daniel J. Boorstin, is as ambitious as the title suggests. Boorstin, if the name isn't familiar, was Librarian of Congress from 1975 to 1987. An historian, educated at Harvard, Oxford, and Yale, his writing is as solid and meticulously detailed as anyone could want -- and for all its encyclopedic depth and breadth, eminently readable.

The Discoverers takes on -- and admirably discharges --  the project of  surveying how our modern scientific understanding came about. It's a scholarly salute to the pioneers of dozens of fields, from explorers to clock makers to archeologists to ... you name it.

Beyond fascinating and cogent introductions to many scientific topics, and the often quirky biographies of the key players, Boorstin provides context. Why did a particular advance occur when it did? Why in one part of the world, or in a particular culture, and not others? How did deference to Ptolemy, Aristotle, Galen, and Confucius, among many,  inform -- or impede -- the development of science? How did prevailing beliefs, both religious and philosophical, advance or impede particular revolutions in thought? How did seemingly disjoint scientific awakenings pave the way for whole new disciplines?

The Discoverers examines geographical exploration, the invention of objective methods of measurement, standardization of calendars and chronologies (how else can one even hope to talk about world history?), evolution, economics, anthropology, the discovery of prehistory, advances in astronomy, and much more.

But beyond its fascinating narratives and diverting anecdotes, The Discoverers offers food for thought. Throughout mankind's millennia-long career, the common understanding(s) of our world's true nature has undergone revolution upon revolution. Much that we moderns immodestly take to be proven fact is of very recent vintage. Most science dates back no more than a few centuries -- and some branches are younger than that. Peer back even a few decades at what was then perceived wisdom, and it looks quaint. Cutting-edge technology from that same era already often seems primitive. It's enough to make one wonder: how much of what we feel certain about today will likewise seem misguided mere decades hence?

The Discovers, by Daniel J. Boorstin. Highly recommended.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Hugo voting closing soon

Many visitors to SF and Nonsense, not surprisingly, read SF. Some are also, through a membership at last year's or this year's Worldcon, eligible to vote for this year's Hugo awards. If that's you, please note: voting closes on July 31. That's this coming Friday! (Where does the time go?)

The envelope please ...
As this year's puppygate controversy continues to swirl, it's more important than ever that nonpartisan readers (as I imagine visitors here to this blog to be) participate in the awards process. The more fans who -- turned off by all the squabbling and posturing, politicizing and agend-izing -- sit out this awards cycle, the more at risk this prestigious award becomes. The squabblers and politicizers will vote.

Full disclosure (though not news to regular droppers-by): I have a novelette on this year's final Hugo ballot. If you should find "Championship B'tok" award-worthy, that's keen. If you don't care for it, or think another(s) of the candidates is worthier -- fair enough. I thank all Hugo voters -- however they chose to vote -- who assess the nominated stories on their intrinsic merits.

(And if you're curious about my take on the controversy, see, "Of Hugo Awards, Sad Puppies, and notoriety.")

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Cool stuff other than Pluto

Let me say upfront that the recent New Horizons flyby of Pluto was awesome. But NASA's images speak for themselves; you don't need my two-cents worth on the topic.
When it rains, it pours
Instead, today I'll write mostly about some interesting computer (in)security topics. (You also don't need me to tell you how awful the recent OPM hack was, or the ho-hum non-response from the executive branch, so I'll cover less prominent security topics.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

20 Unbelievable (Really!) Facts About Outer Space

I'm too busy to post this week ... but why should you suffer?

More than meets the eye (or the HST)
You won't want to miss "20 Unbelievable Facts About Outer Space."

Happy Pluto Flyby (and Bastille) Day :-)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The curious state of publishing

Some observations about the (generally troublesome) state of publishing ...

Is the shift from print to ebooks hurting publishers? Are brick-and-mortar bookstores dying? Conventional wisdom says yes to both. And (sometimes) conventional wisdom is wrong. See Hugh Howey's "Two Important Publishing Facts Everyone Gets Wrong."

(If you're unfamiliar Hugh Howey, he's one of the most successful self-published authors around. He got his start with self-published Kindle books -- although based on that success, he's conventionally published, too.)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

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

Updated 12-04-2023

Hurrah! Now back in print and electrons

Updated 07-29-2023

Temporarily out of print and electrons, but under contract for reissue.

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.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A potpourri of SF news

Life went on, mostly without my participation, over the past couple of months and the run-up to and roll-out of InterstellarNet Enigma. On the genre side, here are a few interesting items that got me off-task long enough to bookmark for later perusal.

Looking for diversion? Best-selling and best are distinct concepts, but popularity remains a hint at options worth considering. In the video department, therefore, I found this list from Fortune to be interesting: "Here are the 10 highest-grossing sci-fi movies of all time." The Star Wars franchise, not surprisingly, dominates the list -- and in the case of episodes four through six, I even understand. I thoroughly enjoyed about half these top grossers.

Monday, May 18, 2015

InterstellarNet: Enigma -- War Against the Xool

It's crunch time. Matters have never been more desperate -- only to get worse when the final mysteries are revealed.

Three brave humans and their unlikely Hunter allies, defying eons of alien machinations and manipulations, after decades of travel, have finally brought the confrontation to the enigmatic Xool.

Or have they? The aliens are nowhere to be found, and only a silent, featureless, mirrored orb orbits Epsilon Indi where a habitable planet ought to be. Could the Xool—somehow—be inside?

When the Xool are found, the mystery only deepens.

How can mere humans wrap their minds around an age-old conspiracy that spans the galaxy? How can they take back control of their own destiny? Either aspiration seems hopeless.

 But unless they find a way, humanity and its InterstellarNet neighbors are doomed ….

Don't miss the shocking conclusion,  InterstellarNet: Enigma, Part Five / War Against the Xool for the Kindle (and elsewhere, for Nook and iGadgets) for only $2.99. Or consider the entire novel for $7.99.

Monday, May 11, 2015

InterstellarNet: Enigma -- The Xool Resistance

We're up to Part Four -- and circumstances are beyond dire.

The unseen forces long at work behind human history have been unmasked -- and the powers they wield are scary. Meanwhile, the warlike Hunter clan interned for decades in the outer Solar System has gone from clandestine resistance to all-out war. Precious little stands in the way of blocking either group.

Desperate times call for desperate alliances ….

Don't miss InterstellarNet: Enigma, Part Four / The Xool Resistance for the Kindle (and elsewhere, for Nook and iGadgets) for only $2.99. Or consider the entire novel for $7.99.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Notes from *far* outside my comfort zone

I will explain, in the (way) longer-than-usual post to follow, but here's the substance: One of the best ways to support an author is to write an honest review of his book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or other etail site. (Not to knock buying, reading, and recommending the book.) Reviews don't need to be long -- two or three clear sentences giving an opinion, and a reason to back it up -- to do the trick.

Read on to see how and why a review will help. A lot. And I will also explain -- cringing with each keystroke -- what's driven me to being so very forward as to ask my readers for reviews ...

Monday, May 4, 2015

InterstellarNet: Enigma -- the wheels on the (omni)bus go round and round

With today's release of InterstellarNet: Enigma, Part Three / The Xool Emergence (in all major ebook formats) we're up to the third installment of the novel. Plot threads and crises are converging 

The epic continues
Carl Rowland, longtime agent of the United Planets Intelligence Agency, has been recalled to Earth to explain the death of his partner. Setting aside that he’s torn apart over her death, the summons is convenient: on Earth he stands a chance of unraveling an alien plot whose vague outlines have begun to emerge.

convenient hardly describes Carl's circumstances as everyone with even an inkling of the plot dies or goes missing ...

And the Xool? Who or what are they? You'll thank me for not spilling the beans. It'd be spoilerific.

Where the opening two episodes are each priced at 99 cents, this latest (and the two concluding) episodes are each $2.99. Still on the fence about the series? Continue by episode -- it remains quite affordable. But if you're hooked? That brings us to today's other news:

Friday, May 1, 2015

Alien aliens: beyond people in rubber suits

Saturday, May 2nd -- as I type, that's tomorrow -- I'll be leading an SF&F writers workshop at WriterHouse in beautiful Charlottesville, VA. (Charlottesville lies nestled in the Blue Ridge. This is an old colonial town, home to the University of Virginia and Monticello, both designed by the uber-talented Thomas Jefferson. C'ville is one of my favorite places in Virginia.)

The workshop's topic: Aliens and Their Societies.
Want your aliens to seem alien? Your elves, orcs, and zombies to stand out from the rest? In this advanced science fiction and fantasy seminar, we’ll look at physically believable “others” and how they fit their environment, behavior (alien drives and psychology), culture (drawing upon the wealth of human history), and language and communications. As our final group exercise, we’ll tackle a group-selected cultural issue, such as religion, warfare, gender roles, or the alien city.

The last I heard, the workshop still had a few openings. If this event is of prospective interest, you can get more info at:


Thursday, April 30, 2015

A break from enigmas

The release of a new novel is a whirlwind of activity (of which the occasional blog or FB post is only a small part). Releasing a novel in serial form? An N-part serial, I've been learning, takes almost N-times the effort of "merely" a book.

To remind myself that there is life outside of new-book promotion -- and to save my sanity -- I took a break last weekend in downtown DC. The highlight of that break was a visit to the National Building Museum.

The Pension Building
The building now home to the building museum (recursive, to be sure) was completed in 1887. It first served as headquarters of the Pension Bureau (a precursor to the modern Veterans Administration, serving Union veterans of the Civil War), and is commonly known as the Pension Building.

This is an enormous, all-brick (15 million bricks, more or less) structure that borrows design and ornamental elements from the Parthenon, Trajan's Column, and Italian Renaissance palazzos. The building all but fills a city block.