Monday, December 24, 2018

A Visit from Old Nick

Neither a typo nor a synapse misfire, today's subject line does, nonetheless, reflect an error of sorts: it's what I should have named "A Visit to the Network Control Center."

Futurama version?
And having posted a link last year at this time to this very poem, I can now declare it a holiday tradition :-)

See you back in this space next year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Random musing amid the end-of-year/holiday scramble

Above, I wrote scramble, not Scrabble, but still ... "Scrabble has a whole new vocabulary. Yowza!" (Yowza being one of 300 or so newly approved words.) Let the games resume ;-)

You remember how forests were going to soak up excess CO2? Well, maybe not so much. "Trees and plants reached 'peak carbon' 10 years ago." Like the oceans, the biosphere's CO2-absorption capacity has its limits ....

And speaking of eco-issues, consider this: "A 14-year-long oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico verges on becoming one of the worst in U.S. history." The Taylor spill is "only" leaking a few hundred barrels per day, but over 14 years, that adds up. As in:  
With no fix in sight, the Taylor offshore spill is threatening to overtake BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster as the largest ever.
Still eco-ish, consider how little we yet understand about earthquakes. As in, "Discoveries about 2017 Mexican Earthquake Rattle Geologists."
A magnitude 8.2 earthquake that struck southern Mexico on Sept. 7, 2017, not only occurred where existing earthquake modeling said it shouldn't happen, it also broke a tectonic plate, according to scientists ....
The epicenter of the Tehuantepec quake, however, was much deeper – about 28 miles deep in the Cocos plate – than earthquake models said it should be, according to a report in the journal Nature Geoscience ....

The study also showed that the Cocos plate completely split apart, National Geographic writes. A tremendous amount of energy was released in seconds.
What we don't know about seismology pales next to what we never really knew about psychology. See "Psychology’s Replication Crisis Is Running Out of Excuses." The subtitle says it all: 
Another big project has found that only half of studies can be repeated. And this time, the usual explanations fall flat.
And lastly (for today, anyway) to keep you musing, consider this: "Science Is Getting Less Bang for Its Buck."
Despite vast increases in the time and money spent on research, progress is barely keeping pace with the past. What went wrong?

Alas, I need urgently to step back from such random musings to focus on my own end-of-the-year crunch.

Monday, December 10, 2018

End-of-year(ish) writing update

It seems I'm overdue on reporting authorial news. And there's much to report ....

Remember these?
Let's begin with Analog. The November/December 2018 issue is currently running my guest editorial "Dystopic? Or Myopic?" As you may have guessed from that title, I'm no fan of the genre tendency these days toward dystopias.

The January/February 2019 issue of Analog will have my short(est ever) story "Clockwork Cataclysm." And in an issue TBD, look for "The Gates of Paradise," sequel to the last year's award-winning "Paradise Lost."

On to The Grantville Gazette (Universe Annex). Following up on last year's novelettes "The Company Man" and "The Company Dick," the November 2018 issue is currently running "The Company Mole (Part I)." Part II will run in the January 2019 issue. Suffice it to say, the plot has really thickened ....

Over at Galaxy's Edge, you can look forward to the short story "I've Got the World on a String" in the January 2019 issue.

Oh, and have I mentioned my cameo in The Washington Post? That's in the article "We crashed a science-fiction writers convention to ask about Trump’s 'Space Force' " (I believe my "could" got turned into a more definite "would," but otherwise the conversational snippet that's quoted is as I remember it. Could be I mumbled.)

I've saved the best for last ... a new collection coming in 2019 from Phoenix Pick. The new book has story selections that originally appeared in more than a half-dozen disparate venues. This will be -- mirabile dictu -- my nineteenth book (twentieth, if I count a chap book). The new book's working title is Muses and Musings.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Cyber Monday? Good ...

Cyber currency? Not so much.

I consider cyber currencies, such as bitcoin, to be a solution for which there is no good problem. (We don't need new ways to launder money!) To draw an important distinction, blockchain -- the technology which underpins any cyber currency -- is seriously keen. Blockchain, I firmly believe, can be used in many productive and worthwhile ways (each such application, in one way or another, taking the form of a distributed ledger). Minting faux money isn't one of those socially beneficial uses ....

Fool's gold?
Has yet another bitcoin crash (see, from Bloomberg, "Bitcoin’s Crash Looks Like a Real Currency Crisis") given you pause? If not, ponder a key question raised in the article: In a virtual world without a central bank, who is the buyer of last resort?

Still unconvinced? Then consider -- this time, from The Washington Post -- that "The only currency worse than bitcoin is Venezuela’s." That, Dear Reader, is a record no one should aspire to break ...

"Mining" bitcoin (or any other blockchain-based currency) is -- again, IMO -- one of the more ridiculous possible uses of energy. And we're talking about a lot of energy. As discussed by The Balance in "How Much Power It Takes to Create a Bitcoin." By a conservative estimate:

... the bitcoin network runs at 342,934,450 watts—roughly 343 megawatts. Calculations based on EIA data reveal that the average U.S. household consumes about 1.2 kilowatts of power, meaning that 343 megawatts would be enough to power 285,833 U.S. homes.
All that said? I don't expect bitcoin (or ethereum, litecoin, ripple ...) to go completely away. After all, even after Tulip Mania you can still buy tulip bulbs :-)

Monday, November 19, 2018

Buy-a-Book (you know you want to) Saturday

Regularly since 2010, at about this time of year, I've posted about Buy-a-Book Saturday. That's my personal variation of 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 patronize small businesses. The big-box stores and Internet giants will do fine this holiday season. But will your neighborhood, non-chain shops and boutiques?

Rara avis! Is that a book store? Check it out.

Why do I promote 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 authors. Because more than likely you're a reader, else you wouldn't have stopped by this blog.

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

Monday, November 12, 2018

2018 best reads

Thanksgiving comes as early this year as it possibly can -- which means Black Friday and Cyber Monday do, too. It's best I get this annual feature posted comparatively early.

I continue to read a lot: as research, to stay current with the genre in which I write, and simply for enjoyment. Before the holiday shopping onslaught, I wanted to volunteer a few words about the most notable books from my reading (and sometimes re-reading) so far this year. When I mention a book, you can be certain I really enjoyed it and/or found it very useful. Life's too short to gripe about anything I didn't find notable (much less the several books I elected not to finish).
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. Unless otherwise indicated, the dates shown are for original publication. Each cover shown is an Amazon link, often to newer editions than the original publication (and to Kindle editions, where available).

What's made the cut so far this year? Read on ...

Monday, November 5, 2018

Physics cornucopia (physicopia?)

You know my eclectic file of intriguing news from the world of physics, into which I dip from time to time? Well, that file (metaphorically speaking, anyway) is bulging. Which gives us this week's topic.

You know all those tidy equations we learn in physics classes? They often deal with idealized situations, like friction-less planes. The real world tends to the chaotic.(*)
(*)  To physicists and mathematicians, "chaos" has a precise meaning: dynamic, generally nonlinear, systems that are extremely sensitive to initial conditions.

Or does it? See "Is nature really chaotic and fractal, or did we just imagine it?" A key quote:

The way we perceive reality is a function of how we slice and dice the physical world.

No matter how you slice it, the power of mathematics -- an invention of the human mind, surely --  to explain physical phenomena remains amazing. From the Department of Mathematically Examined Arcana, consider this: "History's most successful mathematical prediction." (Because, I'm pretty sure, regular readers here yearn to understand the origin of the precise magnetic field of a single electron.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

This isn't the time

I occasionally post here that I don't have the time, or choose not to spare the time, to blog, such as that I'm in the throes of writing.

This week I'm not posting for a quite different reason. SF and Nonsense is neither a political nor a cultural venue -- far from it. That won't change. But in contemplation of last week's horrific events in the US, topics that are germane to this blog seem just too superficial to post about.

Maybe next week ...

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Some days, everything modern is maddening

Cryptocurrency mining isn't something I chose to undertake, but plenty of people do. If that's you, please note: "If you’re mining bitcoin from home, you’re now losing money." (In detail, the truth of that assertion depends on the rate you pay for electricity -- but subject to typical retail rates ....)

Do you use any Apple website? How about Amazon? Maybe you care about the integrity of (private) cloud servers used by the DoD. If any of those apply, you would have been justifiably alarmed by this recent Bloomberg headline: "The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. Companies." Only Apple and Amazon deny the assertion vehemently, and other journalism shops find the claim unsubstantiated, impossible to confirm, and otherwise dubious. See (from the Washington Post), "Your move, Bloomberg."

(Is hardware with hidden trapdoors a threat? You bet your sweet bippie. This peril was the premise of a novel I started way back, circa 1990, and then shelved, when the Cold War -- however fleetingly -- went away.)

Get a lot of spam/scam calls on your cell? And the majority spoofed to look like your area code, and plausibly real? Me, too! And the trends are ever more ominous. See (again from the WaPo), "Nearly half of cellphone calls will be scams by 2019, report says."

Monday, October 15, 2018

I *do* exist (and other biological updates)

So, no post last week. A rush task took all my attention (details once the paperwork catches up to make matters official). But that job is done, and I'm back ...

With interests as eclectic as ever. Today: news of topics biological.

The core concept in modern biology is (and long has been) evolution -- and yet there are those who remain skeptical of evolution. Here (not that I expect it to make any difference) is one more demonstration: "Ultra-violet experiment confirms 'Darwin’s moths' "

The (in)famous double helix
Genetics is a messy thing. It's far more complex than was understood when DNA's role was first ascertained, or even after the first genomes were decoded. Witness this analysis of the surprising intelligence of octopi (fair warning: it's a long-ish article): "How the octopus got its smarts."
Did the octopus evolve its unique intelligence by playing fast and free with the genetic code
And turning to truly scary things ...

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Back from Capclave

I just spent an exhausting but fun weekend at Capclave, the excellent annual DC-area con hosted by the Washington Science Fiction Association.

Did I encounter any SF and Nonsense readers there? I wouldn't be surprised. Certainly I had the pleasure of chatting with many readers of my novels, short fiction, and related articles -- and maybe some of my future readers. To all of you who sought me out -- thanks!

Check it out on Amazon
Part of the fun? Picking up an author's copy of the latest antho in which I made an appearance, containing one of my rare fantasy pieces. Seriously, you gotta love that cover.

Here's hoping Dial and Easton wind up doing Horror for the Throne -- because you gotta wonder what that cover will be like. (Cthulhu and an outhouse ... the mind boggles.)

Now back to my post-con to-do list ....

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Of the universe

Today's post is a roundup of recent astronomy news.

First, and closest to home, a look at a neighbor: "Ice Confirmed at the Moon's Poles." Such ice has long been suspected, of course, and indirect evidence of it gleaned -- but this is the most definitive proof yet. Water on the Moon is seriously important to any hopes for a permanent lunar presence.

Lucy (in a few years)
If I may then look ahead to upcoming discoveries, consider "NASA’s Lucy in the sky with Trojans." "Lucy" in this context is a probe to be launched in 2021 to explore (mainly) Jupiter's Trojan asteroids. These asteroids co-orbit with Jupiter, one bunch 60 degrees ahead of the planet, the other 60 degrees behind. (They're called "Trojan" because the first few of these rocks were named for heroes of the mythic war.) And they're darned varied and interesting ...

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Fantasy for the Throne: One-Sitting Reads

Ooh! It's released as of today. (In paperback, anyway. E-formats to follow). It is:
Amazon link
Fantasy for the Throne: One-Sitting Reads, edited by Judith K. Dial and Tom Easton.

"Want something to read while you sit down for just a few minutes on the bus or in a waiting room? Here's just the thing -- Forty authors, forty stories, mostly under 2,000 words, mostly reprints. Grouped according to their themes--death, fairy tales, love, magic, and myth. You'll also find the usual suspects -- dragons, ghosts, gods, the undead, weres, and witches.

"Just remember--one sitting, one read! Others are waiting!"

(I'm pleased to disclose: among the forty entries is one of the rare fantasy stories by Yr. Humble Blogger. That's "Chance of Storms.")

Monday, September 10, 2018

Forward the (Faster Than?) Light Brigade

About that subject line:

by John Charlton (1847–1917)
It was impossible, as I sat down at the keyboard to blog, not to channel the Tennyson poem. Not after I'd noticed that this would be my 600th post!

Who'd a thunk it? Certainly not me. At least when (back in 2008! Almost exactly ten years ago!) I began blogging. 

So. Herewith: a small cheer. A medium huzzah. A hearty pat on my own back. Perhaps, even, a woo7.

And how might you observe the occasion? Perhaps by checking out some of the 599 previous posts in the blog archive.

Next post: something more SF and Nonsense-typical  ;-)

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Fingers flying ...

Have you been following, over at The Grantville Gazette, the "company man" story arc ? That's my SFnal homage to Dashiell Hammett's acclaimed -- and nameless -- "Continental op."

A beginning (of sorts)
First (May 2017) came "The Company Man." Next (September 2017) was "The Company Dick." And now, I am pleased to report, I've signed the paperwork from TGG for "The Company Mole." In the latest story, our nameless hero(?) confronts the direst -- and lengthiest -- phase yet of increasingly ominous circumstances. In fact, this latest tale will be split across two issues of the zine. Look for it in the November 2018 and January 2019 issues.

And -- with great enthusiasm -- I'm also happy to report finding myself a good 60 pages into the company man's climactic adventure: "The Company Bane." Woo7!

Monday, August 27, 2018

My visit to The Innovation Show

It was recently my privilege to be on The Innovation Show: "an international show for innovators." Host Aidan McCullen and I discussed a lot:
  • Augmented humanity
  • Cyborgs
  • Robots
  • Genetic therapy
  • Brain/machine interfaces
  • Autonomous weapons
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Super intelligence
  • Neural networks
  • Dystopia
  • The future skills of humanity
  • What we (humans) do when everything becomes automated
Let's just say, it was a busy three-quarters hour :-) 

The impetus for this interview? That would be last spring's release of Trope-ing the Light Fantastic: The Science Behind the Fiction. (And in forty-eight minutes, we covered no more than a third of the topics in the book!)

Curious? Then check out the podcast at "The Science behind Science Fiction with Edward M.Lerner: Augmented Humanity, AI, Superintelligence."

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Because what could *possibly* go wrong?

This article about the much-touted Tesla 3 -- an electric car for the masses (or, anyway, such members of that group as happen to have a spare $35K+) -- is, IMO, well worth reading.

I grant you: it is pretty.
I don't think I care to add anything beyond ... I'm not ready for this.

See "Behind the wheel of a Tesla Model 3: It’s a giant iPhone — for better and worse."

And I believe my reticence is for reasons beyond that I'm an Android guy :-)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

What's up, Doc?

Astronomical news, of course :-)

Neutrinos are amazing particles. They interact so weakly with more familiar matter that it took decades to decide a neutrino had any mass at all. Aim a beam of neutrinos at a light-year thickness of lead, and half the neutrinos will emerge out the far side.

Our neighborhood neutrino factory -- aka, the Sun -- spits out a torrent of these particles. "Theoretical calculations say that about 65 billion neutrinos pass through every square centimeter region of the Earth's surface every second." (*) So how amazing is it that one neutrino recently made big news?
(*) "Nobel neutrinos

Blazar saddles?
IMO, pretty amazing. Because this extremely high-energy neutrino was correlated to a particular event: a blazar -- aka, an active galactic nucleus -- about four billion light-years (and years) distant. 

This correlation marks the first step toward a third type of observation in the nascent science of multi-modal astronomy. That is, in addition to traditional observations (using, from longest to shortest wavelengths: radio waves, microwaves, infrared, visible light, ultraviolet, X-ray, and/or gamma-ray electromagnetic radiation) and -- for a very few years now -- gravitational-wave observations, we can now foresee combining neutrino observations. In a word: awesome.

For more on this particularly fascinating neutrino detection, see "Why a 4-Billion-Year-Old Particle That Hit Antarctica Is Such a Big Deal."

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Curioser and curioser

Among the terrific -- and the terrible -- aspects of the web are the many odd articles that one somehow happens upon. Setting aside the disinformation among them, and the ulcer-inducing pieces, and the hoary repetitions, we're left with ... fascinating time sinks. Herewith, several such:

In the beginning?
How did life on Earth begin? There's lots of speculation, and precious little by way of answers. (I'm talking about biology here, not theology.) One theory is that life didn't begin on Earth, but arrived from elsewhere. That's the Panspermia ("all seeds") explanation. What if primitive life drifted to Earth from another star system(s) and, once here, then evolved?  

And almost as speculatively, what if humans could hibernate? What if, to conquer the vastness of the void between stars, humans could be put into -- and revived from -- some kind of suspended animation?

In seeming -- but certainly, incomplete -- support of both these "what ifs," consider: "Siberian Worms Frozen In Permafrost For Up To 42,000 Years Defrosted Back To Life." The ability of any terrestrial life to survive millennia frozen makes both Panspermia and human hibernation seem slightly less impossible.

Monday, July 30, 2018

The short and the short of it

My posts of late have focused on books and book reissues. I'm overdue with reporting what's new with my writing at shorter lengths ....

Let's start with the sale of a guest editorial to Analog. That's "Dystopic? Or Myopic?" (The first draft was for what I expected to be a post in this space -- but as it kept growing, I decided to redirect.)

Words leaking out of fingertips :-)
Next comes a short story: "I've Got the World on a String." As it happens -- and no spoilers here -- this story also involves some venting. "String" will appear in Galaxy's Edge.

And I've got another newly completed piece of short fiction out looking for its home.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Bring out your dead

No, this post isn't about Monty Python and the Holy Grail (though that movie is a hoot).

But just as the one guy in that particular scene isn't quite dead, today's post deals with something also still with us -- and yet, less than energetic. To wit: books from deep in one's back list. Any author who has been plying his craft for as long as I have has a a book or three like that. Case in point ....

For no discernible reason, this morning I found myself remembering my earliest collections. These contain stories of which I remain fond -- but the books don't get a lot of (read: any) visibility. Haven't in years ....

So: I'm going to indulge myself with a few words about these early authorial endeavors. If this post ends up only Your Humble Blogger taking a stroll down Memory Lane? I'm okay with that.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

InterstellarNet: Complete

Updated 01-31-2024: The omnibus ebook is no longer offered — but the individual novels are available from InterstellarNet’s new publisher. This post remains here for historical purposes.)

Three epic adventures ...
Some of my favorite work ...
All in one newly released, discounted ebook bundle! 

The entire InterstellarNet series
InterstellarNet: Origins. When the first call from the stars comes, do we even dare to answer?
"A wonderfully thought-provoking story ... Lerner's world-building and extrapolating are top notch.
-- SFScope
InterstellarNet: New Order. In which humanity discovers that meeting aliens face to face is very different -- and a lot more dangerous -- than sending and receiving messages.
"... A twisted plot complete with conspiracies, alien psychology, antimatter physics neep, AI spies, and plenty of shooting action at the end."
-- Internet Review of Science Fiction
InterstellarNet: Enigma. Humanity once feared that we might be alone in the universe. Now we know better. And it turns out there are far worse things than being alone ....
"An exceptional book in an excellent series .... If you enjoy a good story on a large scale told by sympathetic characters, read Interstellar Net: Enigma. If you enjoy space opera, space combat, and unlikely heroes saving the earth, you will enjoy this book. If you enjoy mysteries, the futuristic elements will not detract. This is one of the few novels that combine an action mystery with a sweeping science fiction and excels at being both."
-- Galaxy's Edge
And winner of the inaugural Canopus Award "honoring excellence in interstellar writing."
And of the overall InterstellarNet series:
"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, editor of Analog Science Fiction and Fact
As I type, InterstellarNet Complete for the Kindle -- that is, the entire trilogy -- is available from Amazon and in other popular formats for only $9.99. Check your favorite ebook retailer. Will update when the situation changes.

Perhaps you're not ready for a three-book commitment. Fair enough. You can read about any individual InterstellarNet title by clicking its corresponding cover on the right. (For now, the first two of these standalone ebooks are each discounted to $4.99)

Monday, July 9, 2018

Life, the universe, and everything ...

And yet, the number 42 isn't involved :-)

The not-so-little observatory that could
Great observatories have (ahem) greatly extended our understanding of the universe. So, first, let us mark an imminent sad passing: "NASA put its famous planet-hunting telescope to sleep because it’s almost out of fuel: The Kepler Space Telescope’s life is finally coming to an end." This fine astronomical instrument detected more than 2K subsequently confirmed exoplanets (with more confirmations likely  yet to come). Quite the legacy.

Another fine instrument -- this one Earthbound: the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope -- has, for the first time, caught a planet in the very first stages of formation. See: "First confirmed view of a newborn planet: A planet coalesces from the disc of dust and gas around the dwarf star PDS 70."

The JWST. Much assembly required.
Alas, the it's-been-coming-forever James Webb Space Telescope -- NASA's long-heralded successor mission to the (fortunately still hanging in there) Hubble Space Telescope -- has hit another snag. As in, "NASA Delays Launch of James Webb Space Telescope Again — This Time to 2021."

That's one day's view of (viewing) the universe. As for the life part of the subject line, an over-hyped bit of last week's science news. First, an example of the more breathless reporting: "Large molecules show Enceladus 'clearly is habitable for life' " And here is a more cautiously (IMO, more precisely) worded version: "No, NASA Did Not Find Even 'Hints Of Life' On Enceladus."

And everything? That was everything for today ;-)

Monday, July 2, 2018

Who knows where the time goes?

(Yes, that's a Judy Collins song title and album. A very good -- if retro -- album as it happens. But take it as a point of departure.)

Yeah. That kinda week
I didn't post last week, not even an "I'm too busy to post" post. Trying to reconstruct where that week went, I see:
  • a routine dental exam
  • a routine eye exam (and hours thereafter during which the world was fuzzy)
  • a broken sprinkler system
  • overgrown bushes trimmed so the sprinkler people could get at the water cutoff
  • landscapers contacted because I have way more overgrown bushes than I care to deal with
  • a semi-repaired, aka semi-broken, sprinkler system to diagnose, and the return of the sprinkler people(*)
  • headsets researched; one acquired, installed, and tested for an upcoming authorial interview/podcast (more on that another day)
  • sysadmin duties on my wife's recalcitrant computer
(*) Hmm. "The Return of the Sprinkler People." A title yearning to become a story?

All that coming, of course, on top of life's usual distractions ....

When I managed to eke out time to actually work, I focused on "The Company Mole." This new novella follows my SF-mystery novelettes "The Company Man" and "The Company Dick," which appeared last year in The Grantville Gazette ("Universe Annex" Department).

And herewith the good news! A complete draft of "The Company Mole" is in the hands of my first and favorite reader, aka my wife. (Also, fair compensation for the aforesaid sysadmin services.) I have high hopes of wrapping up and submitting this story ere long.

Monday, June 18, 2018


Today's post is astronomy-related.

Arguably challenging my subject line -- but "planet" did, originally, mean "wandering star" -- the first of two subtopics herein could be described as planet-struck. The generally accepted theory of solar-system formation involves a great deal of accretion and sweeping up of matter from the ancestral "solar nebula." If I may quote myself: (*)
"Aggregating, clumping, sweeping … it all sounds stately and serene. It can happen that way—but usually doesn’t. The heavily cratered surface of the Moon testifies to the violence of the Solar System’s (not thought to be unusual) Late Heavy Bombardment period. The Moon itself, it is believed, coalesced from Earth-orbiting debris after a Mars-sized protoplanet struck the young Earth a glancing blow."
(*) from Trope-ing the Light Fantastic: The Science Behind the Fiction 
The Moon is born?
So. The first of today's spectacular astronomy reports involves the opening of a metaphorical window into that violent process, that ancient era, in the form of apparent fragments discovered of a long-vanished protoplanet. More specifically, asteroid remains have been recovered that: 
 "... could only have formed under incredible pressure — the equivalent of diving 600 kilometers into Earth's interior or attempting to hold up 100,000 tons with your bare hands...
"... the meteorite's parent body would have to have been a planet at least as big as Mercury and possibly as large as Mars."
For the full story, see, "These diamonds from space formed inside a long-lost planet, scientists say."

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Today, it's official. And still epic.

Tor Books today released a discounted five-ebook bundle of the entire Fleet of Worlds series. That series is my joint venture in Known Space with Larry Niven.

(What about the Other Good News hinted at in last week's preview of today's release? That independent event came a few days earlier than I'd anticipated, and I posted then. So: if you only drop by here Tuesdays, my typical posting day, and so missed my out-of-cycle celebratory post Woohoo!, you may want to check it out, too. Stat. Trope-ing the Light Fantastic: The Science Behind the Fiction (ebook) won't remain on deep-discount for long.)

But let's get back to the Fleet of Worlds series, and the news of the day ...

Fleet series ebook bundle on AmazonBottom-lining it: This is an epic offer on an epic -- and much acclaimed -- hard-SF story line that spans centuries and light-years. A story line with: Existential dangers. Larger-than-life deeds, both villainous and heroic. Truly alien aliens. Amazing advanced technologies.

How epic? Here's my favorite blurb per novel (in series order, from first to last):

Saturday, June 9, 2018


Bookbub's featured special today is Trope-ing the Light Fantastic: The Science Behind the Fiction.

That's big :-)

Purchase link for Kindle edition
If you're unfamiliar with the ebook deal-alerting service Bookbub (a) you really should check it out and (b) while the special continues, Trope-ing ebooks are really inexpensive. As in $2.99, versus the regular price of $9.99.

Here's how Bookbub presents the book:

Are time travel, aliens, and telepathy just figments of the imagination — or something more? Explore the reality behind your favorite sci-fi tropes in “the best-ever guide to putting the science in science fiction” 
Hugo Award-winning author Robert J. Sawyer

If you're not enrolled to receive SF-centric alerts through Bookbub, here's Trope-ing's Bookbub promo page; select the "Get Deal" button for links to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Apple editions. Or click the cover at left to go straight to Amazon for the Kindle edition.

(If you're new to SF and Nonsense (a) welcome! and (b) here's my release-day post for a bit more about the book.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Talk about epic!

On June 12, Tor Books will be releasing a discounted five-ebook bundle of the entire Fleet of Worlds series. That's my joint venture in Known Space with Larry Niven.

Why the advance mention? Because there is Other Good News in the pipeline to be announced next week :-)

And any of the major ebook providers will be happy to queue up your order ....

Fleet series ebook bundle on AmazonBottom-lining it: This is an epic offer on an epic -- and much acclaimed -- hard-SF story line that spans centuries and light-years. A story line with: Existential dangers. Larger-than-life deeds, both villainous and heroic. Truly alien aliens. Amazing advanced technologies.

How epic? Here's my favorite blurb per novel (in series order, from first to last):

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Does not compute

I've begun streaming the Netflix remake of Lost in Space. That may be why today's subject line occurred to me. But not the only reason. Consider:

"IBM's tiniest computer is smaller than a grain of rock salt." Actually, the amazing fact is that something so small does compute. "IBM has unveiled a computer that's smaller than a grain of rock salt. It has the power of an x86 chip from 1990 ... The publication says that the machine will cost under $0.10 to manufacture, which gives credence to IBM's prediction that these types of computers will be embedded everywhere within the next five years."

But what surely doesn't compute is the mess Facebook has made of elections and (un)civil discourse. See -- if you can bear to revisit it -- " ‘A grand illusion’: seven days that shattered Facebook’s facade."

I have my doubts this omelet can be reassembled into eggs, but if you are (or want to be) more optimistic, consider, "How the Government Could Fix Facebook."

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

That's life

Life has been intruding -- not in a bad way, but it's intrusive nonetheless. What more appropriate way to offer a prospectively interesting post despite those distractions than with a post about ... life.

Onward, then, to some recent items from the life sciences.

Given the number of forecasts, dating back, at the least, to Thomas Malthus, that humanity will breed itself to disaster, it's nice(!) to read a counter-argument. As in: "The Population Bomb Has Been Defused: The Earth and humanity will survive as fertility rates fall almost everywhere." This is, unequivocally, Good News.

After a spate of reports about unreproducible and/or statistically questionable psychology experiments, it's also encouraging to see, "Psychologists Have a Plan to Fix the Broken Science of Psychology." There may be a whole new paradigm emerging for performing psychological research.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Mid-year writing update

Updated August 10, 2018

Updated May 19, 2018

While my recent focus has (understandably, methinks) been the April 30th release of Trope-ing the Light Fantastic: The Science Behind the Fiction, I have some fiction news, as well. If you'll allow me to catch you up ...

Amazon link
Can they top this cover?
"Chance of Storms," one of my rare non-SF stories will appear in the forthcoming reprint antho, Fantasy for the Throne. (You may recall I had a story in last year's Science Fiction for the Throne antho.)

A second short story, "Paradise Regained," also has a reappearance pending, this time as a podcast at Escape Pod.

August 8, 2018 update: Podcast and "Paradise Regained" text available here. It's a fine performance.)

And new fiction? Last January, when I announced the sale to Analog of "Harry and the Lewises," the novella had not yet been assigned to an issue. Now it has: the story is scheduled for the September/October issue. (And if that title brings to mind a campy movie from 1987? You won't be entirely misled. Just somewhat :-)  )

And newer still? If you were hooked by last year's story arc (in The Grantville Gazette) beginning with the novelette "The Company Man" and continuing with the novella "The Company Dick" ... be of good cheer. I'm about 10K words into "The Company Mole."

May 19 update:  I'm pleased to append, in breaking news, that "Paradise Regained" (indeed, the very same tale as mentioned above) was just announced as the short-story winner in the Analytical Laboratory (Analog readers poll) for 2017. You can find all the winners at Anlab Readers' Award Winners.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018


And no, today's post isn't a further complaint about Yahoo Mail.  (In fact, they've actually begun in recent weeks to get a handle on spam.)

Nor much of a post at all.

One of the household PCs was picked (targeted?) this week for the latest Windows 10 "feature" update. The new features, as far as I can tell are:
  • Breaking my non-MS antivirus software
  • Breaking the UI to my non-MS cloud-backup service
  • Changing at least one past authorization in the firewall
  • Failing to support the installer for the only supported iteration of Adobe Reader

Well done, Microsoft! Love these new features!

So: rather than blog this week, I'm doing other things :-(

Monday, April 30, 2018

Trope-ing the Light Fantastic

I am pleased to announce the release today of Trope-ing the Light Fantastic: The Science Behind the Fiction.

Trope-ing? There's a funny word! So what is this book?

In a nutshell: The essential resource for anyone who reads, writes, watches, or studies science fiction.

In a few more words, borrowed from the back cover:
Men have walked on the Moon. Siri and Alexa manage — at least often enough to be helpful — to make sense of the things we say. Biologists have decoded DNA, and doctors have begun to tailor treatments to suit our individual genetic make-ups. In short: science and tech happen.

But faster-than-light travel? Time travel? Telepathy? A six million dollar — as adjusted, of course, for inflation — man? Starfaring aliens? Super-intelligent computers? Those, surely, are mere fodder for storytelling. Or wild extrapolations. Just so many "sci fi" tropes.

Sometimes, yes. But not necessarily.

In Trope-ing the Light Fantastic, physicist, computer engineer, science popularizer, and award-winning science-fiction author Edward M. Lerner entertainingly examines these and many other SF tropes. The science behind the fiction.

Each chapter, along with its eminently accessible scientific discussion, surveys science fiction — foundational and modern, in short and long written form, on TV and the big screen — that illustrates a particular trope. The good, the bad, and occasionally the cringe-worthy. All imparted with wit (and ample references to learn more).

So forget what the Wizard of Oz advised. Let's pull back the curtain ....
And what's the early buzz? I'm happy you asked.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The clock is Trope-ing (er, ticking)

One short week from today, the fine folk at Phoenix Pick will release Trope-ing the Light Fantastic: The Science Behind the Fiction.* As in:

The essential resource for anyone who reads, writes, watches, or studies science fiction.

(I've blogged more than once(!) about Trope-ing, but if you're new here -- welcome! -- here's the back story: "From mighty oak trees, little acorns grow.")

To order on Amazon
To order from Amazon
Being this near to publication of my first nonfiction book is exciting in its own right ... but isn't the ticking metaphor (whether it brings to mind time bombs or Neverland alligators) a tad overwrought? Nope. Not if you're a Kindle person. The pre-order discount for the Kindle edition disappears when, well, it's too late to pre-order. One week from today.

If you might be interested -- and given that you're visiting SF and Nonsense, how can you not? -- check out Trope-ing the Light Fantastic for Kindle. Because there's nothing wrong with a bargain :-)

(*) More specifically, the hardback and ebook editions will be released April 30, with the trade paperback edition to follow.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Look! Up in the sky! ...

It's astronomy news!

And surely real news of astronomy beats an imaginary guy in tights and a cape.

The Mountains of Madness (er, Pluto)
Case 1: the mind-blowingly mobile mountains of Pluto. (Say that quickly ten times.) See "Pluto’s mountains may have slid along a kilometre a day."  That rate of motion isn't something you'd expect to see of a glacier on Earth, much less of ice mountains in the outer Solar System deep freeze. But facts are stubborn things ...

Monday, April 9, 2018

Move 'em on, head 'em out (the annual posts roundup)

Starting in the ancient past of 2011 with "Postscript (or is that post post?)", I've blogged every year around this date about popular posts here at SF and Nonsense. These annual summaries have always begun with the blog's top-ten, all-time hits -- but this year, I'm going to dispense with that bit of the tradition.  The all-time top ten remain the same as a year ago (see "Post posting"), differing only in a couple slight changes of position within the list.

Fine posts, every one
But recently popular posts? That's another story -- or ten stories, if you will ;-) and only two of these ten are also on that all-time list.

Herewith, the most popular ten posts for the past month (meaning the past thirty days, spanning a calendar-month boundary), Blogger providing that compilation.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Trope-ing update

Snapped moments ago from Amazon: Number 1 New Release in general technology and reference. Gotta admit, I like the sound of that.

(And incidentally, this Kindle edition of Trope-ing the Light Fantastic: The Science Behind the Fiction is on sale till the release date, April 30. The hardback edition will also be out that day.)