Aurora

AuroraAurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

spoilers – A typical KSR tour de force, with melodious and long-winded digressions into science, engineering, philosophy, sociology, and most particularly of course, geology and meteorology. But ultimately this is a depressing novel and when you finally realize what the main pessimistic message of it is you wonder why he bothered writing those voluminous poetic descriptions of Tau Ceti and interstellar space at all.

I should have known that was coming when the protagonists left with the backers. I wanted so much to stay narratively with the stayers. I read the story to go into space, not to be told to stay home.

There is a good message about preserving the Earth and protecting it but it doesn’t have to be told at the expense of dreaming about the stars.

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Titan (NASA Trilogy, #2)

Titan (NASA Trilogy, #2)Titan by Stephen Baxter
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is one of the most depressing space operas I have read. A near-future novel written in 1997, it depicts an early-21st century NASA fallen into disrespect and disrepair. Although a mission to Titan would be a really cool endeavor, I actually prefer the real NASA of the 21st century this.

It is said the best way to write fiction is to give your characters obstacles and set-backs. But there’s a line between that and constantly dumping crap upon crap upon crap on them. A little more “gee, whiz” and a little less “oh, crap” would make for a better story.

Also… if it could be done in less pages than this slogs on through, that makes for a tighter tale.

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Nemesis Games

Nemesis Games (Expanse, #5)Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Novel 5 of the Expanse Series is not about the alien planets on the other side of the rings. Or only indirectly. It’s about our solar system and its politics, again. The gang of four is separated on their individual shore leave sorties. This book should suck by every measure of The Expanse series I have. Except it totally does not suck. It is non-stop, edge of your crash-couch action. Strap in and hang on!

The ending is a little anti-climactic, but I suspect that’s because the authors wanted to introduce a villain and complication to solar system politics they can carry on with in the subsequent books.

Plus, several fan favorite characters return, because of the Awesome.

Go, read.

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Moar space robots!

It’s taken ten years to get there, but early Wednesday, November 12 Central European time (from about 1 AM to 8 AM, which is about 5 PM to midnight Pacific time), the European Space Agency will land a craft on a comet. Their Rosetta spacecraft got to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko three months ago, and has been in a weird jagged “orbit” around it ever since. Now its attached lander, Philae, is being prepped to detach from it.

All the pre-flight stuff is going to happen when I’m busy at a conference next week, and the actual flight and grand finale landing, if it is successful, will happen in the middle of the night. Good luck to the ESA. #cometlanding

Two videos related to this. The first is more cutesy space stuff, but it’s also part of a rather brilliantly accessible series of cartoons promoting and explaining their mission.

The other video is a short art film the ESA collaborated on that I believe is a promo for a longer, upcoming science fantasy film, “Ambition” about the life-creating chemicals and water of comets:

Internalized self-pub-o-phobia

I have noticed an unsettling trend with myself lately. I’ve been doing a lot of eBook searches, looking for reading material. What I’ve noticed is, if I get the impression that a book is self-published, I have a tendency to think, “The writing is probably crap,” and pass it by.

And I myself have a self-published novel.

I think we’re past the point where one can assume that books that have not been accepted by a publisher are a sign of a weak writer. And yet, that lingering assumption remains in my head.

You’d think, for $2.99, or 0.99, I could take a chance on a book. I’d want a reader to do the same for me.

Thinking on it, though, I believe my reaction does not arise from the simple fact that a particular book is self-published. I never actually check for a publishing house on say, an Amazon book page. What I do look at is the description of the book: how it’s written, if the author inserts him/herself into it somehow (the use of “me/I/mine” in regards to a book is a dead give-away); the cover illustration’s professionalism; and the price.

If I’m not immediately aware that, “Oh, this is self-published” and the description sounds interesting, I’ll download a sample, or read reviews. Then, it’s a matter of how well edited the book is, and if the layout appears professional.

I think for lazy book browsers like myself, if a self-published book gives the appearance of professionalism in its format, editing, and writing style, I’ll assume it’s published, and won’t have the impulse to reject it out of hand.

Now, that’s just cheating

Spoiler warning: Skin Game (Jim Butcher), Inferno and The Lost Symbol (Dan Brown)

A while back, I posted an angst about point of view and the pacing of information reveals in my novel. My novel is, at its core, a mystery. The answers to the mystery gradually unfold for the reader as the protagonists investigate and make discoveries. In the first draft, I set a major “reveal” towards the end of the novel. The challenge was setting up that reveal without giving it away.

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Cyberpunk

Cadigan_sm“Every few years there appears a movement to improve or modernize or even “futurize” the writing of science fiction. The classic example was the New Wave, which had an effect on the style of SF literature and has been comfortably tamed and digested. Now there is something called “cyberpunk, ” of which we have yet to learn a clear definition. It has something to do with computers and their programming and possibly— considering the derogatory term “punk “—with snubbing accepted traditions. This short story is said to be an example of “cyberpunk.” It is certainly different from anything H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, or Hugo Gernsback would have dreamed up.” – preface to Pretty Boy Crossover

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