Saturday, March 16, 2019

Which do you want first?

By tradition, given their choice, people ask for the good news first. So here 'tis, smallest to largest:
  • "A Time for Heroes," a favorite short story from several years back, has been picked up by StarShipSofa for podcasting. Availability is TBA -- though I imagine you have an idea where the eventual release will be announced. Yay!
  • I've finished my first draft of "The Satellites of Damocles," a longish novelette. From here, the story goes to a beta reader, and tweaking, then onto the shelf till my head clears for final polishing and submission. So, while not yet ready for prime time: a completed draft, as any author will tell you, is A Certified Good Thing (TM).
  • Finally, a major project I don't feel at liberty to identify further (much less to discuss -- these things don't always pan out) is gaining traction.
And (you've been expecting it) the bad news? These few sentences are all you're getting from me for a bit. For several days, anyway.

There's beaucoup catch-up to be done ....

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

So much physics news. So little time.

If you're new to SF and Nonsense, know that before I became a full-time author my background was in physics and engineering. Physics and physics-enabled tech remain compelling interests, and I continue to follow news of the field(s) -- where news can mean "reported in the past few weeks or months," versus "breaking story this past 24-hour media cycle." News such as: 

Recent years have bombarded us with gloomy predictions of the imminent demise of Moore's Law.(*) True, the shrinkage of transistors has slowed down, because chip makers' focus lately has tended more toward any means of reducing chips' power consumption -- i.e., coping with the aggregated waste heat from literally billions of transistors shoehorned onto a chip -- but transistor densities do continue to rise.

(*) That "law," if it's unfamiliar, basically forecasts a steady rate of shrinkage of transistor dimensions -- thereby increasing the number of transistors on a single chip -- with attendant increases in transistor speed and improved power thriftiness. When Gordon Moore first made his prediction, chips held, at most, a few dozen transistors each with multi-micrometer features. Many chips today hold billions of transistors, with features measuring but 14 nanometers.

Increasingly, a third dimension plays an interesting role in chip design. Several manufacturers have taken to stacking transistor layers to increase overall density. Now, in a new twist, and for reasons unrelated to transistor density, others may go toward all but eliminating circuit depth. As in, getting to a news item: "2D diamonds set to drive radical changes in electronics."

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Now it can be told ...

Have you been following my "company man" stories? Perhaps so -- but only if you subscribe to The Grantville Gazette, in whose "Universe Annex" (which is to say, the zine's non-alternate-history) department these stories have been appearing. Today marks the official release of "The Company Bane (Part I)." Bane, in two parts (with the second half slotted for the May issue), concludes the long-running story arc.

But Bane Part I isn't my only appearance in the March 2019 issue. The editor's remarks offer the first mention of news I've been waiting to share. To wit: later this year, Ring of Fire Press will publish my novelization of the entire story line. I'm psyched!

What, you may wonder, is The Company Man about? It's a hard SF, neo-noir detective tale set in -- and across -- the colonized Solar System of a not-distant future. Think Dashiell Hammett meets Andy Weir.

You'll of course find more news and description on this blog as soon as a specific release date for The Company Man is announced, and more as release approaches.

A favorite bit of zine art from mid-series

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Fact catching up -- one can hope -- to (my) fiction

"US space technology startup Orion Span has unveiled Aurora Station, a luxury space hotel it says will be hosting tourists in low-Earth orbit by 2022."

Aurora's audacious business plan unavoidably brings to mind The Space Place: the orbital pleasure palace ("playground of petrocrats, kleptocrats, and the other superrich") that plays such a central role in my near-future, near-space technothriller Energized.

The artifact so prominently featured on the nearby book cover (this art is from the original edition -- the newer cover of the recently reissued novel appears below) is a solar-power satellite, not the aforementioned orbital resort. But hey, an SPS -- in this instance being two miles square, massing over two million pounds, and delivering 24/7 a gigawatt of power -- is something to behold!

That said, this post is about space hotels. So: what was "my" realization of the concept? Here's how one of Energized's characters experienced The Space Place on final approach:

Outside his window: a pearl onion (pierced by a white toothpick) with an equatorial bulge. The pearl became a great bubble. The "toothpick" ends were docking stations, one projecting from each pole. The bulge resolved into two concentric doughnuts, the outer one spinning. Sun-tracking solar panels hung far enough from the hotel not to impede guests’ views.

Closer still, more detail emerged. The struts that connected the solar panels to the main body of the hotel. Clinging to the bubble, two arcs of much tinier bubbles: emergency escape pods. Where too-bright sunlight would otherwise have streamed inside, the bubble material had been polarized, and from this angle was opaque. Elsewhere within the bubble, hints of interior structure. 


Scattered specks -- people in spacesuits -- zipped about the hotel. The sphere's diameter was about forty times their height! The people jetted to one pole of the hotel as the shuttle coasted toward the other.

En route to The Space Place
And then there are the zero-gee amenities inside The Space Place. Not to mention the opportunity to join the Thousands Mile High Club ;-)

I guess it's again time to scavenge beneath the sofa cushions for contributions to the space-excursion fund. (From Aurora.com: "Pricing starts at $9.5 million.") You may be doing the same -- but it'd be much more affordable to check out my version of an orbital tourist destination ...

Monday, February 4, 2019

Crypto *what*?

This is supposed to be money? A store of value?

I've commented -- okay, ranted -- about the (IMO) insanity of so-called cryptocurrencies, most recently in the post Already a wacky year. Now, in breaking news, comes this:

"After founder’s sudden death, cryptocurrency exchange can’t access $190 million in holdings." A snippet:

After the founder of Canada’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange, QuadrigaCX, died unexpectedly, about 115,000 clients have been unable to retrieve $190 million in holdings — because the owner was the only one who knew the password to access them, the company said.

The United States has stable currency (about 2% inflation at the moment; Canada's inflation rate is a smidge higher at about 2.5%). I'm happy to continue using dollars. Even if Steve Mnuchin loses his passwords.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Already a wacky year

A potpourri sort of post (say that quickly five times) ...

Video games meet cryptocurrency. What could possibly go wrong? "Organized crime is laundering money through Fortnite's in-game currency." As in:
Criminals are using stolen credit cards to buy Fortnite V-bucks, then selling the in-game currency for bitcoin at a discount on the dark web as a way to launder money.
How about a non-crypto crisis in the making? Consider "The world is running out of phosphorus." And any such shortage would matter because:
... phosphorus is biologically vital. The average human body contains about 0.5kg of phosphorus, most of it in the form of phosphate to make bones and teeth strong. Phosphorus also crucially holds together DNA and RNA molecules – the backbone of these long chain-like structures contains two phosphate groups per pair of nucleic bases. Without phosphorus, it is hard to imagine any kind of life at all.
Some things we homo saps can do right
But on the positive (and seriously cool) side, we  have data streaming home -- from about four billion miles away -- of the New Horizons probe's New Year's Day flyby of Ultima Thule. The data only get better and better.  See "Craters, bulgy mounds and a collar." If nothing else, you gotta see the latest image.

To close, let's look ahead at some tech (loosely defined) predictions for 2019. Some forecasts you'll like. Some you won't. (Me? I'm happy to see a prognostication that shared electric scooters are already fizzling. Talk about an accident waiting to happen. Or without waiting ...)

Now I had best turn my attention to the oeuvre(s) in progress, lest my 2019 prove an accident waiting to happen ...

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Counting on ten left thumbs?

Software is incredibly important. It's essential to everything from managing power and communication networks, to the routine operation of vehicles and industrial processes, to the record-keeping that underlies pretty much all modern finance, to enabling blogs like this one. Which is why bad and/or over-hyped software is so problematical.

I've commented (vented? harangued? ranted?) often enough about privacy violations and security breaches in major software-based systems. Think: the OPM hack, or the compromise of every user account at Yahoo!, or the Starwood Hotel data breach. But today's post deals with other ways for software get us into trouble ....

It's too often like this. Right?
Are you one of the millions (billions?) who depends on Windows for at least part of the day? Have you noticed that not until January did we read "Windows 10 October 2018 Update is at last being pushed automatically." So what's been the delay? Try this: "Worst Windows 10 version ever? Microsoft's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad October." Which concludes with the bone-chilling prediction:

... come next April, when the 19H1 version is approaching public release, a lot of people will be holding their breath.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Clears throat awkwardly ...

This being, after all, a science- and SF-oriented blog ...

The Hugo Award process is currently accepting nominations. Are you a Hugo Award voter?(*) If so -- and it goes completely against the grain to mention this -- my lone nonfiction book is eligible this year in the Best Related Work category.

If this is a category in which you might nominate, I respectfully request your consideration of Trope-ing the Light Fantastic: The Science Behind the Fiction.

For a bit more about this book, see Amazon, this Tangent Online review, or my website.
===== 
(*) "Members of Dublin 2019 and the 2018 Worldcon, Worldcon 76, can nominate works in each of the categories. Voters are encouraged to nominate up to five works/individuals in each category that they believe are worthy of a Hugo."

For more about the awards, award categories, and the overall process, see https://dublin2019.com/hugo-awards-wsfs/the-hugo-awards/ (the site from which the forgoing paragraph is quoted).

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Enjoying the new year so far

Beyond having concurrent fiction appearances this month in three zines:
  •  "I've Got the World on a String" at Galaxy's Edge (That short story is, for now, appearing in its entirety at http://www.galaxysedge.com/. To check out the story, do a find on the zine's home page for: world on a string)
  • "Clockwork Cataclysm" at Analog
  • "The Company Mole (Part II)" at The Grantville Gazette

... I'm delighted to report the recent sale of "The Company Bane" (also in two parts) to run later this year at The Grantville Gazette. "Bane" completes the "Company" story arc.

Every year should begin so well :-)

Thursday, January 3, 2019

A week to restore one's faith in humanity

Clearly, I refer to nothing in the political sphere. But think of the milestones (kilometer stones?) science and technology reached this week. From closest to farthest, we've got:

"China’s Chang’e-4 spacecraft makes historic landing on far side of the Moon."

The lunar far side
The Chinese spacecraft Chang’e-4 has landed on the far side of the Moon and has begun relaying data and images back to Earth. It is the first mission to operate on the far side, which is the  hemisphere of the Moon that always faces away from Earth. This half of the Moon has a much more rugged and varied landscape than the hemisphere that is visible from Earth and studying its geology could provide important information about how the Moon and the rest of the solar system formed.

Also, NASA's "OSIRIS-REx probe goes into close orbit around asteroid Bennu and sets a record."

Artist rendering
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft today maneuvered into an orbit that takes it within 4,000 feet of the surface of Bennu, a diamond-shaped asteroid that’s 70 million miles from Earth.

The orbit sets a record for interplanetary travel. The quarter-mile-wide asteroid is now the smallest body ever orbited by a spacecraft, and the spacecraft is tracing the closest sustained orbit around a celestial body.
 
And (IMO, the most awesome of all) in the distant Kuiper Belt, Nasa's New Horizons: 'Snowman' shape of distant Ultima Thule revealed."

4 billion miles away
"[Ultima's] only really the size of something like Washington DC, and it's about as reflective as garden variety dirt, and it's illuminated by a Sun that's 1,900 times fainter than it is outside on a sunny day here on the Earth. We were basically chasing it down in the dark at 32,000mph (51,000km/h) and all that had to happen just right," the SwRI scientist said.

We Homo saps actual can accomplish great things when we cooperate and focus.