Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Been bad or good?

Sauron knows ;-)

Credit: NASA, ESA, and P. Kalas (University of California, Berkeley).

(Season's greetings.)

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Arrivederci Italia

Mentioned in passing in my November 22nd post, "2019 Best Reads," I was recently in Italy. To be complete, my wife and I both were. Between research and prepping for the trip, the trip itself, and resting/catching-up afterward, this Italian adventure accounted for a big chunk of my autumn. Setting aside the rain we encountered during some part of nearly every day sightseeing, everything about this trip was awesome.

(Yes, this a blog about science and SF. If you choose to leave now, nothing will be said. If it matters, I promise to end with an SFnal tie-in.)

Mosaic at Pompeii
We began in Naples -- from which, of course, we did a side excursion to nearby Pompeii. (We'd also planned that day to go to the summit of nearby Mount Vesuvius, slayer of Pompeii. Remember my comment about the rain? Due to rain and fog, the Italian park service closed the mountain that day. Sigh.) Among other sites seen in Naples: the Palazzo Reale (grand home to the Bourbon kings of Naples, and said to have inspired Louis XIV to build his better-known palace at Versailles) and the National Archeological Museum.

His telescopes @ Galileo Museum, Florence
Next up: Florence. Highlights there included the fabulous Renaissance cathedral (aka, the Duomo), bearing the largest freestanding dome to be built in over a thousand years, the Ufizzi gallery, and the Ponte Vecchio. Historical Florence is eminently walkable and utterly charming.

Our last stop was Rome. In a word: wow. The Colosseum, ancient Forum, Circus Maximus, and ancient catacombs. The most amazing Roman structure, IMO, of them all: the Pantheon (whose huge, freestanding dome was something of a template for the design of the aforementioned Duomo). The Vatican: museum, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's.

Interior of the Pantheon

Pantheon dome (w/ fingertip of authenticity)
Then, on a day trip outside of Rome, we saw the sprawling estate of the Emperor Hadrian and the adjacent Renaissance estate -- largely built with marble scavenged from Hadrian's place -- Villa d'Este. The latter's famous cornucopia of entirely gravity-powered fountains, water jets, and water spouts was, ironically, turned off that day because of dirt washed into the system by the previous day's heavy rain. Sigh.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Buy-a-Book Saturday

It's that time again.

Regularly since 2010, shortly before Thanksgiving, I've posted about Buy-a-Book Saturday. That's my personal variation on Small Business Saturday: the 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?

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 ;-)

Suppose you're at a brick-and-mortar bookstore, and a book or author you had in mind isn't on the shelf. Not a problem! Almost certainly, the store will be happy to special-order books for you. (Why? Because they'd much rather do a special order than have you go home and order online for yourself.)

Friday, November 22, 2019

2019 best reads

Thanksgiving 2018 fell as early in the year as possible. In 2019, Thanksgiving comes as late as possible. Nonetheless, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are, once again, almost upon us.

So: on to the latest installment of this annual feature.

As ever, I read a lot: as research, to keep current with the genre in which I write, and simply for enjoyment. Before the holiday shopping onslaught, I like to volunteer a few words about the most notable books from my reading (and sometimes re-reading) thus far in the current 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 assessment of things, 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. Titles are Amazon links, often to newer editions than the original publication (and to Kindle editions, where available).

What's impressed me so far this year? Read on ....

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Discover ... *me*

Many of you drop by SF and Nonsense because you're familiar with at least some of my novels and shorter stories -- but for some visitors, that isn't the case. If you're in that latter group, now's your opportunity ....

Courtesy of my friends at Wildside Press (and with the sign-on of other friends, at publishers Phoenix Pick and FoxAcre Press), I am delighted to point you toward a free sampler of my fiction.

In Discover a New Author ... Edward M. Lerner you'll find four short stories, originally published between 2006 and 2017, plus the opening chapters of:
  • Countdown to Armageddon (2010 / time travel)
  •  InterstellarNet: Origins (likewise 2010 / the first book in my InterstellarNet series)
  • Dark Secret (2016 / epic and existential space adventure)
This sampler is available without charge from Wildside Press in Kindle (mobi), ePub, and pdf formats.

If you enjoy the sampler, well, you can always look for more ;-)

Monday, November 11, 2019

Does size matter?

At a con a few weeks past ("Back (exhausted!) from Capclave"), one of my panels, Does Size Matter?, dealt with the perennial topic of story lengths. As this is a matter of perennial interest among con-goers and aspiring writers, I decided to make it the subject of a post.

How I write: 
  • When the idea comes first -- and for me, usually, it does -- I let the story evolve into whatever length it sees fit.
  • Exception: targeting a market with length (or budget) constraints. Then I start by pondering a (hopefully) compatible story idea.
  • Exception: fine-tuning a completed story to fit a target market’s length constraints.
Now on to a pair of war stories ....

Monday, November 4, 2019

M&M: first review

Popular genre website Tangent Online recently posted their review of Muses & Musings: A Science Fiction Collection. My favorite passage (from among many):

Sure to have something to appeal to almost every reader of science fiction

Release day post
Click here for release-day post
For anyone curious, here's the full Tangent Online review of M&M.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Stray observations

From my Files of the Bizarre:
Lower left: notice the source.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

A Time for Heroes

For your listening enjoyment ...

"A Time for Heroes," one of my favorite short stories, is newly a podcast at StarShipSofa. The intro/bio starts about 2 and a half minutes in; the story itself at about five minutes. Performance is by the talented writer, gamer, and narrator, Chris C. Chen.

Go to podcast of "A Time for Heroes"

Monday, October 21, 2019

Back (exhausted!) from Capclave

Capclave is the DC area's annual con, held every fall. For 2019, the con was held the weekend just past, October 18-20.

This year, like most years, I took part. This year, unlike many years past, I was able to clear my schedule for the full three days. And Programming kept me hopping. I was a panelist for:
  • SETI
  • Does size matter? (As in, story lengths. Get your mind out of the gutter ;-)  )
  • World-building
  • Murderbots and Terminators
  • Exoplanets
while moderating three of those panels. Also, I did a reading (two bits of flash from the newly released Muses & Musings: A Science Fiction Collection). Joined in the mass autograph session. Attended other panels. Cruised the hucksters room. Dropped by a bid party for the 2023 Worldcon. Chatted with readers -- this is a very literary con -- and editors, publishers, and other authors. Caught up with friends (too many of whom I only get to see at cons) and made new ones.

Rob Sawyer & Ed Lerner
And because every post requires at least one picture, here I am on the con's opening day at lunch with co-GoH -- and good buddy -- Robert J. Sawyer.

(And yes, the glare is astonishing.)

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Company Man

Updated July 29, 2023

Back in print and electrons. Updated links below

I am pleased to announce publication of my latest novel, The Company Man.

(Also a bit frazzled. This is my second new-book release in less than a month, the previous one being the short-fiction collection Muses & Musings. No way do -- or could -- I write two books in a month; it's a matter of different publishers getting different books into production at different paces. But I digress.)

The Company Man, in a very few words, is a near-future, space-centric mystery. Think: Dashiell Hammett meets Andy Weir. In a few more words, borrowed from the cover:
The Company Man, lowly accountant for the filthy-richest business in the Asteroid Belt, has modest aspirations. Air and water not endlessly recycled. Food that had not been freeze-dried and re-hydrated. A few quiet days at home. And, if he can figure out how, pilfering a bit from the company.

Alas, working as he does for evil geniuses, that final ambition seems impossible -- until, at the end of an interminable trek among remote company mining asteroids, a mysterious emergency preempts his return flight. Someone has discovered a flaw in the company’s legendary security, even if people must apparently die to exploit it.

That ... isn’t necessarily an obstacle. Or even the least of the consequences, in the Belt, elsewhere in the Solar System, and across Earth itself. With the body count rising, even the vast fortunes at stake cease to matter -- and only the Company Man has a chance of averting interplanetary disaster.

If he survives ....
For the Grantville Gazette readers among you, TCM is the novelization of a six-part story arc that ran in recent years (between May 2017 and May 2019) in the Universe Annex (non-1632) department.

This being a commercial announcement, here are the Amazon links for The Company Man for the Kindle and The Company Man in trade paperback.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

*Another* cover reveal :-)

And not just any cover. That's a Bob Eggleton cover.

Coming next month ...

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Muses & Musings: A Science Fiction Collection

I am delighted to announce the release of Muses & Musings, my first short-fiction collection since 2010.

Muses & Musings offers seventeen never before collected stories at every length from flash to novella, chosen from four separate magazines and three original anthologies. And as a bonus, there's a guest intro from every-conceivable-award-winner Robert J. Sawyer

Quoting from the cover copy:

Best known for his SF novels – including the InterstellarNet series and (with Larry Niven) the epic Fleet of Worlds series – Edward M. Lerner is also a prolific author of short fiction. This collection showcases many of his finest stories, featuring works selected from over a decade’s output.

Alternate history. Parallel worlds. Rogue artificial intelligences. Alien invasion. Biting satire as to where the Internet is leading us. A Sherlock Holmes for the next century. Deco punk. Deep thoughts about, well, deep thoughts. In this book, you’ll find these – and more – together with Ed's reminiscences as to what led him to create these seventeen gems in the first place. 

This being a commercial announcement, here are the Amazon links for Muses & Musings for the Kindle and Muses & Musings in trade paperback. (M&M is also available in a plethora of other ebook formats -- check your favorite site.)

If your preferred bricks-and-mortar bookseller doesn't happen to have the print edition on its shelves, the staff will happily order you a copy (for which, as a convenience, you might want to offer the publisher, Phoenix Pick, and the ISBN: 978-1612424408). 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

To my Kindle-inclined readers

Updated September 5, 2019 Pre-order discount on the Kindle edition ends at midnight (ET, I believe) tonight.

Muses & Musings, my first short-fiction collection since 2010 -- and whose cover I was first able to reveal just yesterday -- won't be available till September 6.

Click to enlarge
But here's the (good) thing: in advance of official release, Amazon is offering -- in Kindle format only -- a "pre-order special." Order before September 6, and wake up that day to find a discounted (from $6.99 to $3.99) copy on your Kindle.

(And if you're not a Kindle reader? On the 6th, the print edition and more ebook formats will be released. I'll post again then with updated links.)

About the book: Muses & Musings offers seventeen never before collected stories at every length from flash to novella, chosen from four separate magazines and three original anthologies. And as a bonus, there's a guest intro from every-conceivable-award-winner Robert J. Sawyer

Cribbing from the cover copy:

Best known for his SF novels –- including the InterstellarNet series and (with Larry Niven) the epic Fleet of Worlds series –- Edward M. Lerner is also a prolific author of short fiction. This collection showcases many of his finest stories, featuring works selected from over a decade’s output.

Alternate history. Parallel worlds. Rogue artificial intelligences. Alien invasion. Biting satire as to where the Internet is leading us. A Sherlock Holmes for the next century. Deco punk. Deep thoughts about, well, deep thoughts. In this book, you’ll find these – and more – together with Ed's reminiscences as to what led him to create these seventeen gems in the first place. 

End of commercial announcement :-)

Monday, August 12, 2019

Cover reveal

Coming soon to a bookstore (whether physically or virtually) near you ...

A collection of what? From where? Thanks for asking. Stories from the zines: Analog, Darker Matter, Galaxy's Edge, and Sci Phi Journal. Plus stories from original anthos: Deco Punk, Impossible Futures, and Science Fiction by Scientists. (Both lists are merely alphabetical Infer nothing from the order.) Seventeen works of fiction in all. Plus a guest intro by Robert J. Sawyer.

More news as it happens ....

Returning (whether or not by popular demand). Also, astronomy.

Regular visitors will have noticed a recent lack of regular posts. Sorry about that, but the past few weeks have just been ... busy. Not in a bad way, but still. And a particularly Good Thing recently taking up my time will, I expect, soon be the subject of an announcement post.

With that mea culpa out of the way, on to things that should prove more interesting ....

How do planets form? How quickly? A recent study of neon isotopes distribution in ancient basalts suggests accretion from the protoplanetary disc happens quite rapidly (i.e., in a few million years). See " 'Nebular neon' confirmed deep inside the Earth."

How planets are born

And it's become possible to (sorta) see planets form. As in "Existence of circumplanetary discs confirmed: Australian astronomers see for the first time a critical piece in the formation of a planet."

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Always be skeptical of first reports ...

Carl Sagan had it right: "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." 

More dark than light
In that spirit, see: Astronomers Just Solved The Bizarre Mystery of a Galaxy With No Dark Matter

Monday, July 1, 2019

New Horizons, metaphorical and literal

Did you savor the Pluto closeups returned by NASA's New Horizons probe in July 2015? Of course you did -- it's the kind of thing that appeals to the kind of folk who visit SF and Nonsense.

The saga of New Horizons itself is every bit as fascinating, written (to be precise, coauthored) by the man who first dreamed of the mission and eventually became its principal investigator. The book covers the guerilla struggle to interest NASA in the mission concept, the funding wars, the mad dash (once funding was finally approved) to complete the probe while Jupiter and Pluto still had the proper alignment (celestial mechanics is a harsh mistress), the long flight, and the hectic close encounter with Pluto.

In short, I highly recommend Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto, by (the aforementioned PI) Alan Stern and fellow scientist/author David Grinspoon.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

It's always a pleasure ...

... to introduce myself to a new group of readers.

Hence: I'm delighted to announce my debut appearance in Future Science Fiction Digest. "The Satellites of Damocles" -- a brand-new AI PI  novelette -- is hot out of the electron mines in newly released Issue 3.

The cover is quite snappy, too  :-)

Explore the issue online for free (wherein stories come available in stages -- my story, alas, not till July 24) or buy the entire issue now as an ebook.

July 24th update: My story is now online. 
Here's the direct link to "The Satellites of Damocles."

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Potpourri (an astronomy edition)

Because -- as if you hadn't noticed -- I'm into astronomy. And so, herewith:

The birth of radio astronomy: "Project Diana Honored With an IEEE Milestone."

The football-field-sized radio telescope so central to my Energized

"Signs of a ‘super Earth’ discovered around a nearby star." How near? Barnard's Star -- after the Alpha Centauri triple system, our closest neighbor. (Not to mention, home to the perfidious Snakes of my InterstellarNet series.)

Also, "A star is born: Astronomers witness rare birth of a baby binary."

And a new place to look for company. "Searching for ET? Look to binary stars, researchers say."

Closer to home, we have: "Asteroid Bennu is flinging rocks into space: OSIRIS-Rex’s target turns out to be very rare, and very active, posing problems for the mission."

Theia bites the big one
Closer still: "Earth magma ocean ended up on the moon: New modelling resolves contradictions in Earth-moon hypothesis."

And that, surely, is enough to amuse my fellow astronomy fans for the day ....

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Trope-ing redux *redux* (aka, Huzzah!)

More trope-ing-ly good news ...

" … Worth your time, your money, and your consideration, whether you’re interested in accessible science, looking to understand trends in science fiction, or -- optimally -- both."
-- Trevor Quachri, editor of Analog Science Fiction
and Fact (excerpted from his guest foreword)

Trevor refers there, of course, to Trope-ing the Light Fantastic: The Science Behind the Fiction. And as for his suggestion re how you might prudently invest your reading dollars 😉

In conjunction with last week's release of Trope-ing in a new/trade-paperback print edition (as announced last week in Trope-ing redux), the publisher has now also reduced the price of the several ebook formats.

As I've previously summarized the book:

Not familiar with Trope-ing the Light Fantastic? It's my 2018 nonfiction book exploring the scientific underpinnings of the many tropes of our favorite genre. Faster-than-light travel (from which, of course, the book takes its title). Time travel. Interstellar warfare. True (human-equivalent or higher) artificial intelligence. Telepathy. And so much more ....

And (this being a strictly commercial post), herewith three convenient Amazonian links:

(Nor do I mean to imply that your savvy-shopping options are limited to Amazon! The same new-and-reduced ebook price has gone into effect for Nook, Kobo, and iTunes editions. As for print editions, pretty much every etailer offers them, while your favorite brick-and-mortar bookstore -- if you don't find this title on their physical shelves -- will always happily order a copy for you.)

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Trope-ing redux

News of the day 😊 

Updated June 17, 2019 -- after being out of stock almost instantly, Amazon has the TPB edition back in its inventory 😄

Trope-ing the Light Fantastic: The Science Behind the Fiction is newly re-released in trade paperback. The initial -- and until now, only -- print edition was in hardback format.

Edward M. Lerner has produced the best-ever guide to putting the science in science fiction, and he’s done it with clarity, wit, and panache.”
Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning author of Quantum Night

Not familiar with Trope-ing the Light Fantastic? It's my 2018 nonfiction book exploring the scientific underpinnings of the many tropes of our favorite genre. Faster-than-light travel (from which, of course, the book takes its title). Time travel. Interstellar warfare. True (human-equivalent or higher) artificial intelligence. Telepathy. And so much more ....

Curious? Here's what I posted for the book's initial release. And (this being a strictly commercial announcement), here are Amazon links for the:

(And if you're not an Amazonian? No problemo. Your favorite other etailer will also be carrying the book in its various editions, and your favorite brick-and-mortar bookstore -- if you don't find this title on their physical shelves -- will always happily order a copy for you.)

Tuesday, May 28, 2019


From this morning's Washington Post:

"It’s the middle of the night. Do you know who your iPhone is talking to? Apple says, 'What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone.' Our privacy experiment showed 5,400 hidden app trackers guzzled our data — in a single week."

(And before Android users breathe a sigh of relief and move on ... the article eventually makes clear that Android is no different.)

In a word ... scary.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Antisocial networking

NOT (you may be shocked to read) a tirade about Facebook or Twitter ....

I'm being sucked down a different rabbit hole. In this era, an authorial website is -- beyond de rigeur -- essential. And so, for a bit, in lieu of blogging, I'm diverting myself onto some (long) overdue maintenance of my authorial website.

My intergalactic portal ....
If you're after a peek at my view of things, your best bet for now might be to take a gander at that website: edwardmlerner.com.

And if you encounter that website being unavailable or contrary? Then you'll know I'm still doing battle with Wordpress ....

Wednesday, May 1, 2019


From the WaPo ...

"The Census is vulnerable to digital attack. But Congress may be dropping the ball."

A key, horrifying snippet:

If vulnerabilities in census systems aren’t dealt with, there’s a risk that hackers could compromise Americans’ data — such as birth dates, marital status and telephone numbers — on a mass scale. And that data could be used to help file phony tax returns, apply for credit cards or for other nefarious purposes.

More troubling, if hackers manipulated information collected by the bureau, that could compromise all manner of government tasks, including drawing congressional districts and allocating federal grants.

As though the hack a few years back of the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM), compromising many years of security-clearance applications, shouldn't have been an object lesson.

And later in the same WaPo article:

Members of the House Appropriations panel, however, didn’t ask a single question about the cybersecurity weaknesses during the two-hour hearing ... 

That "didn't ask a single question" tell us that neither party's committee members inquired. This is bipartisan blindness/negligence.

O. M. G.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Really dark

Black holes, that is. It's long been inferred that a monster black hole lurked at the center of our galaxy. The evidence is now better than ever. See "Confirmed: a monster black hole at the heart of the Milky Way." A key quote:

New observations by the European Space Observatory (ESO) show clumps of gas swirling around at about 30% of the speed of light on a circular orbit just outside what astronomers conclude is the black hole’s event horizon. 

It’s the first time material has been seen orbiting close to the point of no return – and “a resounding confirmation of the massive black hole paradigm", according to study leader Reinhard Genzel, of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Germany.

And then there's this: "Has LIGO Seen Galaxy-Warped Gravitational Waves? Nobel laureate George Smoot claims LIGO has observed amplified signals of black hole mergers from the very distant universe, but LIGO scientists disagree."

(And just as an aside, LIGO has gotten really good. As in, "LIGO upgrade to allow ‘almost daily’ detection of gravitational waves." And that's germane to this post because short of black-hole and/or neutron-star-into-a-black-hole mergers, there aren't a lot of gravitational waves.)

Literally awesome
Of course the coolest black-hole-in-the-news story relates to imaging the super-massive black hole at the heart of the (relatively) nearby Messier 87 galaxy. Doubtless by now you've seen the nearby image many times. But have you read about the young computer scientist who (among many, of course) is chiefly responsible for this feat? See "Katie Bouman: The woman behind the first black hole image."

And now I must disappear into the metaphorical black hole of proofreading ...

Monday, April 15, 2019

Not a jug of wine and loaf of bread, to be sure, but still ...

Perhaps you've encountered my 2007 short story "A Stranger in Paradise," whether in its original (in the late, lamented Jim Baen's Universe) appearance, or reprinted in the Best of Jim Baen's Universe #2 anthology. Or maybe you've read that story's 2017, generations-after sequel, "Paradise Regained," winner of an annual Analog Readers Poll award

Art for "Paradise Regained" (by Eldar Zakirov)
If those two -- surely among my favorite short stories -- are not (with apologies to Omar Khayyam) "paradise enow," then I ask you to consider this late-breaking news:

Monday, April 8, 2019

Un-wordy (with, IMO, good cause)

Today finds me:
  • waiting for decisions on three story submissions.
  • on the lookout for paperwork on a story resale. 
  • expecting page proofs on the next (May) installment of an ongoing serial.
  • anticipating copy edits for the story collection in the publication process.
  • hoping to see draft cover art for the novel in the publication process.
Oh, and starting tomorrow, I'll have painters onsite for a few days.

I'm thinking it'll be a while till I start a new project. And that a bit of downtime is okay.

Monday, April 1, 2019


You guessed it: a post replete with astronomy news. (Wherein "news" is a relative term. My file of fascinating articles seems to expand faster than I can comment, and some of today's items first came to my attention toward the end of last year. Bear with me. These are all worth a read.)

Today's emphasis: how much remains to be understood about matters astronomical. And how much we continue to discover!

By Jove, that's hot!
Case in point: details of how how solar systems -- star(s), planets, and lesser bodies -- form. For example, it always seemed impossible that gas giants (i.e., planets like Jupiter) could originate close to a star -- but jovians *are* seen with close-in orbits. The inference drawn has been that such "hot Jupiters" formed farther out, and that the dynamics of interplanetary gravitational interactions on occasion caused planets to spiral inward. For all we know, that is sometimes the case -- but apparently not always. See "Giant planets around young star raise questions about how planets form."

And recent estimates of the number of potentially habitable exoplanets may be due for a downward revision. Determinations of which exoplanets orbit within habitable zones (basically, the range around their respective stars in which water will remain liquid) depend on estimates of the absolute brightness (energy output) of the parent stars. There are several ways to mis-estimate a star's absolute brightness, and if you get it wrong, your estimate of the habitable zone will be off. Planets you thought orbited in the Goldlilocks zone might instead be too hot or too cold. See "Number of Habitable Exoplanets Found by NASA's Kepler May Not Be So High After All."

Monday, March 25, 2019

Cyber pain

Not -- although the timing might have had you jump from my subject line to a mis-impression -- a comment on Russian Internet trolls, the 2016 election, ballot-infrastructure hacking, and/or the Mueller report. (I don't discuss anything remotely akin to  politics in this venue.) Different cyber pain ....

Not, IMO, a currency
Are you still mystically drawn to the faddish non-money "asset" that is cryptocurrency? Perhaps this will give you pause: "Crypto Mystery: Quadriga's Wallets Are Empty, Putting Fate Of $137 Million In Doubt." (Who's Quadriga? you ask. Until recently, Canada's largest cryptocurrency exchange. Not that I live in Canada, but if I did I'd rather trust my assets to the currency issued by the Canadian finance ministry.) A key article snippet:
The money was there — it was just locked away. At least that's what the QuadrigaCX cryptocurrency exchange had been saying, before an auditor revealed it had finally accessed digital wallets set up by Quadriga's late CEO Gerald Cotten — and that instead of holding $137 million, the wallets were empty, drained in 2018.

Six "cold wallets" Quadriga used to securely store cryptocurrency offline were expected to hold millions. But they were emptied out in April, months before Cotten's death was reported, "bringing the balances down to nil," audit firm Ernst & Young says.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019


I freely concede: my hearing isn't what it once was. That doesn't, IMO, explain what I'm about to gripe about. To wit:

At least the PICTURE improved
Dialogue on TV and in movies has become challenging to follow. With streaming, it's easy to watch (or re-watch) shows and movies even decades old -- and those, as well as shows and movies just a few years old, I hear without difficulty. (In all cases, I'm listening through a modern audio system, with 5.1 Dolby surround sound. Stereo soundtracks, of course, don't make full use of those 5.1 channels.)

Why has dialogue become difficult to parse in so many recent productions? Is it:
  • sound mixing that prioritizes special effects over dialogue clarity? 
  • directors who can't be bothered to require a clear speech channel?
  • some inherent flaw in the Dolby 5.1 technology (one that doesn't impact old-style, stereo soundtracks)?
  • actors who can't be bothered to enunciate?
  • directors who can't be bothered to require their actors to enunciate?
  • the trend to make all dialogue super-snappy fast (a cynic would say, to squeeze in more commercials)?
  • many -- or all -- of the above?

Assuredly, some of the above are at issue, because -- I repeat -- I can watch older shows and movies with none of the difficulty of the newest ones, using the same AV setup in all cases.

The next time I feel the urge to rant: TV and movie plots dependent on the audience reading in about a nanosecond (often tiny) text messages and caller IDs flashed across a character's phone.

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.