John C. Wright Is Producing Pulp!

John C. Wright is producing pulp in the form of LOST ON THE LAST CONTINENT.  Twenty-Seven episodes posted to date. Read a review here by Superversives SF’s own A. M. Freeman.

 

LOST ON THE LAST CONTINENT, Episode One

Thus shall you think of this fleeting world:
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, a dream

The Diamond Sutra

*** *** ****

Episode 01 The Hole in the Air

 

Colonel Preston Lost did not think of himself as reckless, because he believed in preparation, proper equipment, patience in stalking the prey.

But, if truth be told, he was not a cautious man.

When the stormclouds parted, and he glimpsed the glowing, unearthly craft he chased through the wild hurricane above the Bermuda Triangle, Preston Lost gritted his teeth in an odd smile, gripped the joystick, dropped the nose of the superhighspeed pursuit plane sharply down, opened the throttle of the jet engines, and ignited his afterburners.

He squinted through the small, sloped, triangular windows of his rocketplane. The solid sheets of rain blocked his sight. The unidentified flying object was disk-shaped, bathed in a nimbus of strange light, and changed course and speed with sudden, strange jerks of motion that defied normal laws of inertia. It moved like no aircraft and no missile known to man.

The flying disk dove into black cloud. At furious speed Preston dove in after, engines roaring. The winds roared louder. Preston had little fear of being spotted.

The cockpit vibrated and the hull groaned. More than one of his gauge needles crept toward red.

The magnificent machine was dubbed the Shooting Star VII. She had been built for one purpose. This purpose.

The black hull was bat-shaped, streamlined to the ultimate degree. She had no tailfin, no large surfaces to reflect radar. She was, in fact, an aerospace plane. No ordinary jet, she was driven by a combination of ramjets and liquid-fuel rockets. She could achieve supersonic speeds and low earth orbit.

Equally sophisticated was in her military-grade detection gear. He lost sight of the flying disk amid turbulent cloud and the hellish flares of lightning. But his instruments continued to mark the location of the fleeing quarry.

The altimeter blinked a warning. Sealevel was approaching. Somewhere below the curtain of cloud, the wind-lashed ocean waters were waiting. Preston’s eyes narrowed. Did the flying disk intend to ditch?

The cloudwrack parted. Preston, lightheaded from his dive, wondered if he were hallucinating. For it looked like the cloud had opened a huge, red eye. It was staring at him.

Like a hooded lantern opening, a strange, bright, ruby beam, wide as a highway, spilled out from the center of the apparition and splashed across the knotted textures of surrounding cloud. Perched between the clouds was an erubescent maelstrom surrounded by streamers of bright vapor, with a tightly-wound spiral of electric discharges circling them in turn.

Into the spotlight beam of red now shot the flying disk, as it jerked into yet another impossible, right-angled turn, and was yanked into acceleration even more impossible.

It flew toward the vortex, directly toward the middle. The eye shaped apparition now grew wide, as if startled at the approach of the disk. Or as if opening in welcome.

For suddenly Preston realized what he was seeing: The resemblance to an eye was accidental. The white vaporclouds formed the sclera; the flares of Saint Elmo’s Fire formed the iris; the red light was issuing from the pupil. But it really was a maelstrom, a whirlpool.

And this whirlpool, like that around a bathtub drain, let into a pipe, a tunnel. A tunnel, yes, without walls, and opening into a direction that seemed to have no place to be in three dimensional space. But still a tunnel.

The thing was impossible. It was a hole in midair.

The red pupil was like a porthole, a window. A widow into where?

Read more…

The Perfect Publisher — thoughts from Kairos

Dragon Award-winning author Brian Niemeier shares some fascinating ideas on the state of publishing and things to come:

 

The Perfect Publisher

Ebooks are here to stay. Amazon enjoys overwhelming dominance among book retailers. Indie has matured into the preferred publishing model for authors.

These developments, among many that have turned the book industry upside down in recent years, are widely known. Yet publishers, and even most indie authors, continue to employ obsolete practices that no longer make sense in the post-analog publishing world.

The other day I was conversing with a friend and reader about how Leftist authors get ample support from converged publishers and media outlets, while non-Leftists must largely go it alone. Yet these converged institutions are almost entirely wedded to the dying trad publishing model.

We agreed that a more effective support structure for dissident authors of speculative fiction  was needed. Soon we started brainstorming about what a publishing company designed to take maximum advantage of the current industry landscape would look like.

Read the rest…

It’s a star, it’s an astroid, it’s SUPER EARTHS!

Two Super-Earths around red dwarf K2-18

Researchers find exciting potential for little-known exoplanet — and discover another planet in the process

The ESO 3.6-metre telescope at La Silla. Credit: Y. Beletsky (LCO)/ESO

New research using data collected by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) has revealed that a little-known exoplanet called K2-18b could well be a scaled-up version of Earth.

Just as exciting, the same researchers also discovered for the first time that the planet has a neighbor.

“Being able to measure the mass and density of K2-18b was tremendous, but to discover a new exoplanet was lucky and equally exciting,” says lead author Ryan Cloutier, a PhD student in U of T Scarborough’s Centre for Planet Science, U of T’s Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and Université de Montréal Institute for research on exoplanets (iREx).

Both planets orbit K2-18, a red-dwarf star located about 111 light years away in the constellation Leo. When the planet K2-18b was first discovered in 2015, it was found to be orbiting within the star’s habitable zone, making it an ideal candidate to have liquid surface water, a key element in harbouring conditions for life as we know it.

Read more…

 

Guest Post: “The Kings of the Corona”, by Justin Tarquin

Justin is the author of “Kings of the Corona”, one of the stories in “Tales of the Once and Future King”. As a side note, “Kings of the Corona” was one of my and my sister’s favorite stories. It had to be, because for us to allow a story in that breaks our rules it had better blow us away…and “Kings” was quite a bit over our word count limit!  For such an excellent story, however, we were happy to make an exception.

My first story, or anyway my first “real” story (with, you know, plot and characters with motivations and all), is “The Kings of the Corona”, and appears in the anthology TALES OF THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING, along with about 20 other stories by other authors. I’ve read the collection with pleasure.

But for me, the experience of doing something id always wanted but never managed was thrilling. I’d wanted to write fiction, either science fiction or fantasy, for a long time, and in the past four or five years I’ve begun thinking more seriously about it. I had started reading John C. Wright’s blog about how the culture wars are playing out in SF/F circles and the idea of contributing something to “building our own culture” attracted me. It was the fracas over the 2015 Hugos that stirred me into making preparations—like Mauregal, the hero of my story, I’m very big on methodical preparations—jotting down story notions that randomly occurred to me, and in a few months I had a list of ideas that could form the bases of many stories—but still no actual story begun.

About this time I read Anthony Marchetta’s anthology, GOD, ROBOT. The theme of this anthology—a line of sentient robots that muse on matters of faith and take up religion, and the interactions they have with humanity over the centuries—intrigued me as much as the stories themselves (which are delightful and thought-provoking—if you haven’t read it yet, go get it), and got me thinking more seriously than ever about buckling down and writing.

Then, spring 2016, Declan Finn had Anthony Marchetta and several of the GOD, ROBOT authors on his Catholic Geek podcast, and I made sure to listen. The whole podcast had me enthralled: these were the writers of the stories I’d just read, some of them experienced authors, some (unless my memory is tricking me) only a little further along than I was—except that they’d actually done it while I was still only thinking about it!

But I was most excited when Anthony remarked that his next project would be an “Arthurian juvenile” anthology: tales of King Arthur and the knights of Camelot, but in any settings the author might like: they could be pirates, cavemen, as wild as you please: or even in the traditional Old England. He planned to invite submissions and make his selections that summer.

As soon as I heard about it, I knew I wanted to be in that anthology. I turned to my “story notions” notebook and looked at all the ideas I’d jotted down. Most of them I couldn’t imagine fitting into an Arthurian frame, even with the wide latitude Anthony had suggested, but there was just one that had possibilities. I still have it, exactly as I wrote it down when it had first occurred to me—please pardon the informality:

Fantasy world: the people are ruled by a king, who had a kind of halo. When king dies, halo moves to someone else, not predictable. If king orders someone to do something, and they don’t do it, misfortune befalls them.

Alternative: world has magic, but con men tell that story to stranger when all they really have is the halo.
Alternative: Kingship transfers to a reluctant peasant. POV his brother? friend?
What other magic enters into the story?
Is the story about the end of the halo spell? Learning something about it? The effect it has on characters?

That was all. If you read “The Kings of the Corona”, as I hope you will, you’ll see that the final story differs from the original germ in many ways: the “alternatives” I played with in the note fell by the wayside, and I settled on “Corona” (Latin for “crown”) as the preferred name for the thing, avoiding the religious charge of “halo”. This was because, as I began to work on the story seriously, I realized that the power to make someone do something just by issuing a command would be so overwhelming that it had to be the bad guy who wielded it. If the good guy had the Corona, there’d be no story. The story has to be about fighting against the King of the Corona, and somehow winning, which meant I had to work out a back-story for the Corona, and then show how a Knight of King Arthur defeats it.

I started writing, first describing the little isolated kingdom of Palavel, ruled by a man made king by the Corona, from the point of view of a young man, a brewer’s apprentice, named Mauregal. Then I would have the Knight, whom I named Sir Sagradur, arrive … but as I wrote, I realized I was telling a different kind of Arthurian story.

Pardon me for a digression. A formula that many stories have used, from the Knights of King Arthur all the way to Star Trek, consists of presenting a place with a problem, and a good guy rides up in his horse or spaceship or whatever, solves the problem, basks momentarily in the gratitude of the people, makes a nice speech that shows how he’s finer and better than they are, and rides off into the sunset, warp factor 6. Granted, I’m parodying here to make a point—the point that this formula is actually pretty anti-libertarian, anti-dignity-of-the-common-folk in its philosophical implications—but I think you will recognize this formula.

The Lone Ranger used it. Have Gun, Will Travel used it. James Bond used it, only without the “gratitude of the people” part because in the 007 adventures the general population is so benighted they never even know they’ve been rescued, or that they were in danger in the first place.

But, as I wrote, it turned out that I wasn’t using it. I didn’t really set out to write the anti-Paladin story, but somehow that’s exactly what I did. Sir Sagradur is a noble character, he’s a much-needed inspiration for Mauregal, and he’s crucial for the plot: if he and his dipsomaniac squire Kincarius hadn’t arrived, Christians among pagans, but totally focused on the mission King Arthur had given them, nothing would have happened to save Palavel. But in the end … well, I’m trying to give up my bad habit of blurting spoilers, so enough already.

Another thing I didn’t set out to do, but did anyway, was write a story that went over Anthony’s length-suggestion (well, length-limit, originally). It was supposed to be up to 10,000 words, or not much more. I had started by writing a rough outline, like a detailed plot summary, and then working from that. The summary was about 2,000 words, and as I went along it seemed to be “inflating” at a good ratio of about five finished-words to one summary-word, so I figured I’d be fine. Then I got to the last quarter, and something happened to the ratio … somehow, that last quarter of the outline took a whole lot more words to turn into final story than the rest of my outline did, and my first draft of the story weighed in at about 15,000 words, if I remember correctly. However, it was 11 PM of the last day of the submission period, so I sent it off with an apologetic cover note. I figured the worst Anthony could say was no, and if that was the decision maybe I could find some other use for it.

But to my great gratification, he liked it! He decided to forgive me the extra few thousand words. I did further revisions, and struck out some of the excess verbiage in that original version over the following few months, but also added others, so that the final version was, I think, around 17,000. As with the periodic attempts to cut the federal budget, somehow the net result of each round of cutting was to make it a little bigger. Oh well, as an e-book it hardly matters, I hope.

As I say, I hope you’ll read “The Kings of the Corona”, in TALES OF THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING. In the process of revising it I’ve read it many times myself and I still like it. Now that I’ve read the other stories in the anthology I have to say that it may not be the best story in the book, but it is still the longest. So any way you look at it, this is a book you should get.

And, if you’ve been giving any thought to doing some writing of your own, I hope you’ll be as inspired by this anthology as I was by GOD, ROBOT, and start jotting down your own story ideas. I found writing to be a lot of work, but also great fun, and highly satisfying when you finish.

Pick up your copy of “Tales of the Once and Future King” (and “God, Robot”) today!

Classic Japanese Superversive Film: Royal Space Force – Wings of Honneamise

It’s that time of year again, so here’s something to consider when you’re out looking to spread the love. Sure, it’s another anime work out of Japan, but this one is an emerging classic whose influence is still making itself felt across the Pacific and therefore its full legacy is yet untold. That film is Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise.

This is not an action film. It’s not an adventure film. It’s a drama about a young man who becomes the first astronaut for his country, all in the hope of stopping a cold war’s immanently going hot and ruining everything. What makes it remarkable, especially for a work out of Japan, is how important religion–which, for its trappings, is Christianity is all but name–is in the arc that the protagonist takes during this film, an arc that mirrors the space program he joins and champions to its fateful first launch in the climax of the film.

As with the real American space program in the 1960s, the fictional one here hits a very low point and things almost got totally beyond the pale; our protagonist mirrors this journey, so small children shouldn’t be watching this at all and older ones should have their parents on hand for that low point, but he rejects this darkness, ultimately due to that faith taking hold in his life, and becomes a light in the darkness of his world.

If you don’t own it, rent it and share a viewing. This is one of those rare films that transcend its origins in space, time, and medium to become truly beautiful works of art. Even the English dub, done during the time when dubs routinely sucked, wasn’t bad; you’re probably safer with subtitles and the original language track just the same. It’s Japan’s take on the modern mythology we see in The Right Stuff, and it is recommended.

Science Blast: Your Household Objects Are About To Start Raiding Your Bank Account!

One of my favorite short stories is “LOKI 7281” by Roger Zelazny. It tells the tale of a personal computer that is quietly trying to take over his owner’s life. Soon this once fictional tale will be reality, but it won’t be your personal computer raiding your bank account to buy more…it will be your laundry detergent!

In first, 3-D printed objects connect to WiFi without electronics

Credit: Mark Stone/University of Washington

Imagine a bottle of laundry detergent that can sense when you’re running low on soap — and automatically connect to the internet to place an order for more.

University of Washington researchers are the first to make this a reality by 3-D printing plastic objects and sensors that can collect useful data and communicate with other WiFi-connected devices entirely on their own.

With CAD models that the team is making available to the public, 3-D printing enthusiasts will be able to create objects out of commercially available plastics that can wirelessly communicate with other smart devices. That could include a battery-free slider that controls music volume, a button that automatically orders more cornflakes from Amazon or a water sensor that sends an alarm to your phone when it detects a leak.

“Our goal was to create something that just comes out of your 3-D printer at home and can send useful information to other devices,” said co-lead author and UW electrical engineering doctoral student Vikram Iyer. “But the big challenge is how do you communicate wirelessly with WiFi using only plastic? That’s something that no one has been able to do before.”

Read more….

Science Blast: Infinite Energy After All?

Scientists discover that a property of new super-material graphene may possibly be harvested to produce endless energy…and it can be made out of carbon emissions!

The natural wave-like movements of carbon atoms in graphene could turn the material into a potentially...

Could graphene ripples be tapped into as a clean, limitless energy source? 

 November 23rd, 2017

As if graphene wasn’t versatile enough already, researchers at the University of Arkansas have now found a way for the two-dimensional material to be used as a source of clean and potentially unlimited energy. By tapping into the random fluctuations of the carbon atoms that make up graphene sheets, the scientists can generate an alternating current strong enough to indefinitely power a wristwatch.

Graphene is a lattice of carbon just one atom thick, and its incredible strength and conductivity of electricity and heat mean it might soon start cropping up in everything from light bulbs to dental fillingsmicrophonesmotorbike helmetswater filterssmartphone screens and even heat-dissipating shoes

Read more…