Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Review: Sourdough; by Robin Sloan


I've always loved people that bridge the gap.

There is an unspoken rivalry between people who use technology, and people who don't. The ones that don't, for whom I have the highest respect, stick to methods that have always served them well in the past. People who embrace technology, for whom I share the most empathy, tend towards finding new ways to do familiar things.

The age of the smart home is about to break, while at the same time, it's reported that more people are buying hardcopy books again, 

In my family, there is a microcosm of this divide. My mother's side of the family is largely geared away from using technology, to the point where I regularly have to show mom how to post a picture on Instagram, while my dad gets all his entertainment from Podcatcher apps and Netflix.

I've always loved people who bridge the gap, keeping one foot in the future, and the other in tradition.

At the top of this list, Robin Sloan. The author of two of my favorite recent books; Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore and the new release: Sourdough.

Both books bridge that gap. Penumbra is about a dedicated ebook-reader who takes a job in a Bookstore, and uses emerging Google Technology to solve a secret puzzle that's been woven into the manuscripts across several vintage hardcovers. It's the perfect book for anyone who loves quirky characters and books in every format.

The new release of Sourdough does the same thing, on the issue of food. This book follows a robotics Software Engineer named Lois. In a workplace full of cutting-edge techies that live off artificial Nutrient-Supplements, Lois finds an almost holy sense of nourishment in some well-made sourdough bread; and she inherits the starter for herself. She reinvents her personal life when she discovers a love for the simple act that hasn't really changed in the last five thousand years.

Contrasting this is the work that she does, programming the movements of robotic workers. As yet, nobody has managed to correctly program a robot to crack an egg without demolishing the egg, the kitchen, the counter-top, and several small villages.

Food is one of those things that gets reinvented with every culture, every decade. Too many kids in the western world cannot properly identify a vegetable; and why should they? They've never seen one grow. To them, produce comes, pre-chopped, out of the freezer aisle. In a time when kids can't identify vegetables, and adults are finding it trendy to buy organic, locally grown, pesticide free food.

Robin Sloan bridges the gap between 'soulless tech-heads' like me (I am not, Aunt Lynne!) and 'stone age Luddites' (You are so, Aunt Lynne!), by exploring the natural processes involved in baking bread by hand, describing how the actual process of yeast and dough-rising works, while at the same time taking a look at the most cutting edge advancements in the food industry; and where things might go over the next twenty years. Our literary hero of Lois Clary eventually finds a way to involve the two in a way that's never been done before, in literature, or real life.

All this is done in between quirky characters, relevant nuggets of information and history, and no small amount of humor.

I was inspired to move from baking regular bread to my own Sourdough; based in no small part by some of the things described in this book.

Highly Recommended, Sourdough, by Robin Sloan is now available in stores, and I look forward to whatever comes next.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Available Now On Amazon: The Marie Porter Essay



"We always knew it wasn't over..."


It has been five years since the small country town of Curtis Creek was invaded. The survivors have rebuilt their town, and done their best to move on; trying to forget that Aliens exist. Not all of them have succeeded in letting go, but small towns know how to keep a secret.

Marie Porter thought she had put her past behind her, but she's still haunted by the losses... and by all the questions that went unanswered.

But then a mysterious tip-off brings her home, and sends her on a dangerous mission across the globe, with her best friend Jake Colbert. Before she's done, she'll make new friends, face old enemies and ultimately risk both herself and the entire world; just for a chance to find out the truth.

The thrilling sequel to "The Jake Colbert Testimony" and the second book in the Curtis Creek Series, "The Marie Porter Essay" will keep you guessing right up to the last page.

~~/*\~~

I hadn't really intended to write a Sequel. As I said before; The Jake Colbert Testimony was my way of playing out a lot of the tropes found in YA Sci-Fi, but to write them with an ending that would be far more realistic, compared to a lot of the YA Fiction that i grew up with (And still love, to this day).

But then something happened that I didn't expect: I got feedback. Not from Amazon, but from people I know in real life. People that I know through my family, friends-of-friends; they come up to me and ask about the sci-fi novel I'd written.

Two of them, both easily old enough to be grandmothers, come over, very excited to learn that someone they knew had written a sci-fi. It amazed me. These two women, though I love them both, usually came to me for technical support. I had to talk them through how to work their iPads to buy the story on their kindle apps; but they were both rapt; each demanding paperbacks. After knowing them for almost eight years, I was stunned to learn that between the two of them, there was a collection of 50's black and white 'classic' sci-fi and that 'Blade Runner' was one of their favorite flicks. 

I was surprised, but I shouldn't be. It's not like Geekdom wears a badge; and I've always believed there was a lot more of us out there than most thought. My father was the one that introduced me to Sci-Fi; and it shouldn't come as a shock that his generation has fans. It's just that we don't usually talk about it. Seriously, how many people volunteer a debate about Star Wars vs Babylon 5 with friends of your parents?

So after being asked for a sequel enough times, I sat down and wrote one. Here's to all the fans out there. May you always have people to talk to about your fandoms!

Monday, 20 February 2017

Lighthouse, Now Available On Amazon


In days long past, Lighthouses were built on dangerous coastlines, their Keepers protecting ships at sea. But these are not those days.

Kate is a Lighthouse Keeper. For seven generations, her family has manned the Beacons that keep the great Airships afloat on the Sky-Lines across the Himalayan Mountains.

It's a lonely, isolated life, but she's never wanted a different one. But one day, her Lighthouse is put in jeopardy, and with it, the Airships that follow her Beacon to safety in the unending storms.

For the first time in her life, Kate must venture off the mountain. With the help of her new friends among the crew of the Airship 'Windchaser', Kate is in a race against time, because if she's too late, her home, her friends, and many others will fall from the sky...

'Lighthouse' is a novella length adventure story with a unique setting.


***

I published this one in parts, long ago, and have since revamped it, added several scenes, changed some of the science involved, and created what I feel is a better, well rounded story.

So, for your reading pleasure, in one complete story, the 'Director's Cut' of Lighthouse.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Read To Me, Now On Amazon Kindle!

Now available, for the first time in its entirety, the new "Director's Cut" of my original short story: Read To Me

***

Morgan cannot read, not even the alphabet. Megan cannot draw, not even fingerpaints. From kindergarten onward, they have both been isolated in the world. Until their unique connection began.

Before they knew the other existed, Morgan and Megan were part of each other in a wonderful, meaningful way that protected and saved them from the hardest parts of their lives. Their extraordinary link created a lifelong friendship that defied logic, and made no sense to anyone who didn't know how special they were to each other.

And then, unexpectedly, something happens that threatens to pull this lifelong friendship apart.

"Read To Me" is a short story, from the author or "The Lostkind" and "The Welcome Back Diner."

Available Now, on Amazon!

***

So, the story has been up less than a day, and has already broken to Top 900 for it's Kindle Category! I'm hoping that with a little help from you fine people, we can keep that streak going!




Monday, 17 October 2016

Newton's Third Law, and The Trap of Hard Sci-Fi

“Newton’s Third Law. The only way humans have figured out how to move forward is to leave something behind.” - TARS (Interstellar)

For the last three years, there have been major, blockbuster, award winning Science Fiction movies. Gravity. Interstellar. The Martian.

And that's not even counting the really big numbers like Star Wars and Avatar.

So why do I focus on these three movies? Because they have something in common: They're 'hard' sci-fi.

For the uninitiated, a 'hard' sci-fi is one based on real science, real physics. The sort of movie or story where the spaceship can actually exist and do everything you see on screen, if only it were built. The Martian is a good example of this genre. With one or two exceptions, every single thing you see in the book or movie is based on real fact.

'Soft' sci-fi, is a story where the rules are made up for the plot. Star Wars is a good example of this. Until someone makes a working lightsaber, or a hyperspace drive, it's purely imagination.

Don't get me wrong, I love both; but 'Hard' sci-fi has an inherent weakness that Star Wars does not share. But we'll come back to that.

Today, a patent was filed for the EM Drive. A patent is a matter of public record. Up until now, this technology has been kept a secret, except in academic circles, until they could confirm that it worked as advertised. They all agree that it did, though none of them could understand how. Even when walking, we can only push ourselves forward by pushing our feet back against the ground. Action, reaction. This thing somehow manages to defy that basic law of physics. Or at the very least, find a loophole.

And now that it's patented, the race is on to build a 'next gen' version for actual use in space.

I've been geeking out about this for weeks. The EM Drive first came on my radar in 2013, and at the time I didn't believe it. The idea that we could now generate thrust without exhaust or using fuel? It was laughed at by most. Nothing humanity has created has been able to do this. To create motion in one direction without requiring force in the other direction? It, literally, disputed at least one of the concrete laws of accepted physics.

It underwent a ten week peer review already, and even NASA admits that it seems to work as advertised, though the science of 'how' eludes them.

I've been following this on and off for a while now, and they say that if it works like they hope it will, this kind of engine could reach Mars in ten weeks.

And that brings us back to the point of today's lesson, class. Because if this works, then the hard Sci-fi of our generation, including The Martian, and Interstellar? They just became old, outdated science fiction. Seriously. The whole plot point of The Martian was that the hero was a year from rescue at least. If they could have built a probe to get Mark Whatney re-supplied in ten weeks? Instead of a year? Whew.

The opening quote in today's post is direct from interstellar, and gave us the whole Climax of the film. If that crew had a space drive that didn't need fuel, the film would have turned out very differently.

This is not a new situation. This has been happening since the days of Jules Verne. We just keep lowballing our own future. Two years ago, I wrote a blog post about technology in fiction and I mentioned that in the early episodes of Star Trek TNG, the characters bragged that the Enterprise had two terabyte computer. And back when the early seasons of TNG were made, it seemed like a wide enough margin between fact and fiction. Surely it would take until the 24th Century before anyone needed a whole terabyte, right?

Hard sci fi has a special place for fans, because it is realistic, but at any second it could all become obsolete.

The reverse is also true. Hard Sci-Fi said that by 2001 we'd be at Jupiter.

Well, who knows? We might just have a shot. Another five years, we might have a whole new fleet of shuttles or space probes that don't need fuel. Science Fiction is always the precursor to Science Fact, so if the EM Drive works, we're effectively rewriting everything Arthur C Clarke came up with.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

The Age of Dreamers


That girl in the next cubicle, is she really a secret poet? That guy in the coffee shop, is he thinking about work, or creating another language from thin air? The kid on the bus you never speak to, is he rewriting Harry Potter in his head? 

Until five or six years ago, that's where it would stay. In our heads. The Internet came and we could offer up our thoughts, but not like this. How many of us have the drive to create, but couldn't do it before? How many of us have never had the nerve to write a poem and offer it to someone's eyes?

This is our time. The age of the idea. Not of printing, or binding; but of words. Not of organizing an orchestra or securing a contract, but of making music.
This is the age of the idea. The age of the dreamer, and the dream. This is the age where content is greater than advertising and the readers are more powerful than the media.
This week, Amazon is celebrating indie works, published through their services. Speaking as someone who's published all his stories this way; I'm happy to join the chorus. 

I like being an Indie Author, because I can finally do it. I've lived my whole life with these things filling my head, and at last I can share them with people. I know we all dream of a publisher running to us and saying: "We want to pay you a million bucks for your next book!"

But in the meantime, we keep exploring the universes in our heads. 
This is our time. The time for people who have always wanted to tell a story, but never had the right forum for someone to hear us.
Here's to us, Indie Authors! 





#PoweredByIndie

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Welcome Back Diner, Now on Amazon

The Welcome Back Diner was a short story I wrote, and published on this very blog in multiple chapters. But after receiving some positive feedback, I decided to try publishing a Collected Edition as my first short story for Kindle.

Here it is, in it's complete form for the first time, with an all new cover; for just 99c. (The cheapest I could make it, I promise.)

After less than a day on the Kindle Store, this story broke the Top 900 in the 90-Minute Reads Category, and the Top 3000 in the Short Story Category of the Amazon Best Seller's List.

Follow This Link to the Welcome Back Diner.