Category Archives: Hard science fiction

LitRPG: A Newish Science Fiction SubGenre

I just discovered a new subgenre … at least new to me.

It’s called LitRPG. LitRPG, short for Literature Role Playing Game, is a literary genre based on combining all the key components of MMORPGs with science-fiction fantasy novels.

Okay. What’s a MMORPG?

It means Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs), which are a combination of role-playing video games and massively multiplayer online games in which a very large number of players interact with one another within a virtual world. Very Millennial.

As in all RPGs, the player assumes the role of a character (often in a fantasy world or science-fiction world) and takes control over many of that character’s actions. MMORPGs are distinguished from single-player or small multi-player online RPGs by the number of players able to interact together, and by the game’s persistent world (usually hosted by the game’s publisher), which continues to exist and evolve while the player is offline and away from the game.

LitRPG is the new hot thing. Think of current books such as Ready Player One and the new Jumanji movie that is coming out soon. In the old days, Start Trek had a holodeck, but it was most often a side story. Nonetheless, if you search for LitRPG in the Kindle store, over a thousand books are available.

Who knew… Not me… but maybe you.

But just in case… There it is.

I want to revisit a blog by Tara Sparling, Irish data wit who talks about what makes people buy self-published books.

That stuff is always good to know if you’re Indie published.

She has some nice graphs that support her conclusions.

As always, word of mouth is strong. Genre also is a determiner. Recently, someone wanted me to read a very well-reviewed thriller. While the book would be great for someone who reads that genre, I don’t have time. It would have to be extremely compelling for me to unclasp my hands from science fiction and fantasy…or be an old favorite author of mine like the soon-to-be-mentioned Janet Evanovich.

Cover and blurb are important for influencing a buy, but it comes down to price for me for the final decision. Of course, price often depends on the current status of the buyers’s pocketbook. My can fluctuate, and during the holidays, wallets can be a little looser.

Even so, if you are involved in marketing your book, her blog is worth the read.

What makes you buy a book? What are the critical factors that convince you to tap that buy button or hand over a credit card? Inquiring author wants to know.

For this blog, I’m reporting on a popular new title, Artemis by Andy Weir. The popularity of The Martian paved the way for this second book, not to mention traditionally backed advertising and well-known buy lists.

It wasn’t what I expected.

His first book had a lot of heavy science, but as the narrator was a Robinson Crusoe character, the dialogue tended to be one-sided. Previously to reading this, I’d been slogging through Gaimon’s Neverwhere (More on that later. Another blog, another time) and got a call from the local library that my request for Artemis was there and come get it.

I ran.

The narrator is first person, a snarky twenty-something female named Jazz, who is brilliant but can’t stay out of trouble. She lives on the moon in a city called Artemis, which is a collection of interconnected bubbles that are named after famous astronauts. Her Muslim father is a welder, and Jazz (short for Jasmine) has a job as a delivery girl who secretly smuggles contraband on the side.

She reminds me of Stephanie Plum, star of the series by Janet Evanovich. (See, I got there)

Jazz’s relationships with her father, the local enforcer, her ex-boyfriend, a science geek and even her letters to an young Earth dude, are hilarious as she doles out relationship advice to her male companions.

From the book: Her geeky friend is excited that he has invented a reusable condom. He wants her to test it. She points out she is female and why doesn’t he test it himself. Turns out he is shy.

“I don’t have a girlfriend and I’m terrible with women.”

“There are brothels all over Aldrin! High-end, low-end, whatever you want.”
“That’s no good.” He crossed his arms. “I need data from a woman who is having sex for fun. The woman has to be sexually experienced, which you definitely are-”

“Careful . . .”
“And likely to have sex in the near future, which again–”
“Choose your next words wisely.”
He paused. “Anyway. You see what I’m after.”

Of course, throughout the rest of the book he keeps asking her if she has tested “his product.” She, meanwhile, is frantically trying to dig herself out of a dangerous situation that keeps escalating with absolutely no thought or time for any kind of sex.

Offered a million slugs (their currency) to blow up some harvesters, greed takes over, and she accepts the job, only to dig herself deeper and deeper into trouble.

However, Weir doesn’t forget his science as Jazz’s sharp wits and intelligence are needed to keep herself and the entire city alive when all goes drastically wrong.

I really enjoyed this one for its great character relationships and the hard core science perspective of what it means to live in an environment such as the moon provides. You get fast action, great characters, snappy dialogue with solid hard moon science.

Put this one on your to-read list. Sometimes those lists are right.


Filed under award winning scifi, Best selling science fiction, Cutting Edge Science ideas, ebook marketing, environmental issues in science fiction, Hard science fiction, LitRPG, Marketing and selling novels, Novels that take place in the moon, Science fiction thriller, Self-publishing

Science Fiction: On the Edge

I live in Oregon and the whole region around me is a-twitter about the coming total eclipse. I live an hour away from the coast area that lies in its path. However, my husband is not a fan of big crowds, so I expected we would view what we could from home. Then a week ago, he ups and says, “It’s a once in a lifetime experience. We have to go see it.”

A million people converging on the area, and he plans to drive somewhere to view it somehow. Details were sketchy.

Heaven help me… And it did.

I was moaning about this turn off events while bringing in the garbage cans, when my neighbor (doing the same) offered an invitation to join her and her husband at their place in Pacific City. We can leave a day or two early and hopefully miss some of the traffic. They are fun to be with, and what at first sounded like a disaster, is turning into whaeclipset could be a very memorable weekend.

It is exciting to be in a place where such a unique astronomical event occurs.

Something to tell my grandchildren about. If that ever happens. Something to mutter in my old age, “I remember when…”


This week I finished Edge of Dark by Brenda Cooper. It was nominated for the Campbell Award. I must mention that it is tied to previous books The Creative Fire and The Diamond Deep. I was unaware of this until I encountered a rant by a reviewer on Goodreads. Frankly, it didn’t disrupt the story for me at all. In my own series, several of the books are separated by spans of time and are also stand alone stories about future generations of the originals.

What makes this book worth reading is its approach on the issue of transhumanism. Each chapter is titled with a character’s name and represents his or her viewpoint. (three main characters)

Charlie stands for the environmentalist. He is a ranger on a planet called Lym that at one time had been mined and polluted. Under the rangers’ care, the wildlife and environment are being restored. The wildlife, however, can be very dangerous and the planet represents raw nature.

Nona comes from the Diamond Deep, an immense space station out in the depths of space. Her mother is dying, her father dead. Both were too late to receive the cocktail of life, now given to their daughter. Upon her father’s deathbed, she promises him to see a sky and watch a sunset. As her mother is dying, she reminds Nona of this promise and asks her to talk to a powerful relative, Saryana. Reluctantly, Nona does and learns that she owns her own spaceship and an inheritance. She’s rich. Saryana directs her to Lym and hires Charlie to be a tour guide for the young woman so she can experience what a planet feels and looks like.

Charlie expects her to be a spoiled rich spacer, but of course, I smiled as I watched a bit of impossible romance bloom between them.

Nona’s best friend is Chrystal who lives in the High Sweet Home, an outer ring space station. She lives with three others: two men, Yi and Jason, and her friend Katherine. They are scientists living in a commune and breeding genetically modified stock.

Outside beyond the dark are the banished cyborg and artificial intelligent robots that call themselves the Next. Far more intelligent than humans, and physically able to modify themselves, they do not need to eat, sleep or breathe. They are powerful beings who want to return and claim portions of planets, such as Lym, for the metal resources there. They capture the High Sweet Home and take Chrystal and her group, destroy their human bodies, and download them into robot bodies that resemble their original form to use as liaisons with the humans.

Chrystal’s chapters are chilling. They are first person narratives where the reader experiences the emotions of a human mind forced into a powerful mechanical body against her will. Not all survive the transformation, and in fact, Katherine doesn’t make it.

The Next make the three, Crystal, Yi and Jason their ambassadors and lure Nona out to the Diamond Deep to save her friend. Charlie is persuaded to go as Lym’s ambassador. Since he’s never been off planet, adjusting to space is a challenge for him.

Brenda Cooper neatly presents all sides of the artificial intelligence debate. Charlie is the human who wants to keep his planet pristine and natural. Nona is the child of ship and station who only knows life in space. Chrystal experiences the vicious prejudices of the terrified humans who call her a thing and refuse her humanity. Even her own mother repudiates her. And Jhailing is the robot who teaches Chystal to survive her difficult transformation. She learns to speak to the other robots using a kind of mental telepathy. No longer does she need to eat, sleep, or breathe. Her powerful body can pick up a human and kill him with a throw. As many humans who are repulsed by the robots, an equal amount are intrigued with the thought of becoming a robot in order to gain immortality, great intelligence, and the strength of such a form.

The reader gets a glimpse of the frightening things that the shadowy, more advanced robots can do, including shape shifting and duplication and wonder at their true purpose in returning. The humans are given a choice of Uphold, Allow or Help as the council votes on their human response to the approaching fleet of Next.

The Spear of Light continues the story. Also, Cooper just released in June, The Wilders.


 Monday the world will go dark in the middle of the day. A reminder of the frailty of the human species in a powerful universe.

But it will only be for two minutes, and the sun will return.

President Trump will tweet something, and somewhere a terrorist or protester will commit a violent act, and we’ll return to the insanity of our vulnerable world.

With only science fiction to warn us that we should behave better or face the consequences.


Filed under Alien and human bonding, Alien worlds, artificial intelligence, Best selling science fiction, Cutting Edge Science ideas, environmental issues in science fiction, gene modification, genetic manipulation, Hard science fiction, modifying humans, Robots in science fiction, science fiction science, space ship, space travel, Transhumanism, Uncategorized

Saturn’s Run: Hard Science Fiction

Everyone likes a sneak peek.

So, I’m giving my readers of this blog only an advance squint at my new cover. It is so hot off the press that you might burn your fingers.

Oh, no. That’s right, we’re digital. Your fingers are safe.

Anyway, I’m in the throes of birthing my next book in my Terran Trilogy series called Somewhat Alien. I spent the week working with cover designer Toni Boudreault to get the look I want.

There’s a lot to think about when doing a cover. It has to be artistic, the fonts large enough to read in a thumbnail version, and it has to suggest a story that invites the reader in. This time I’m experimenting with two faces on the cover. This is to let the readers know that there is a relationship arc in the story. I include ships, space stations, and time travel for the more hard science readers, but have added cute rodent-like gebbits that stir up all kinds of mischief on the space station. Then, I throw in a recent controversy concerning immigration. After all, the main goal of the story is for the Terran aliens to land on the planet Alysia, and the native Alysians are less than welcoming. There’s a flavor of the recent headline news in the story.

In addition to that, details on the faces like the correct hair and eye color have to be checked. I have an art background and worked in an art gallery for eight years along with painting oil landscapes. You can see my work behind a few of my blog pictures. So, this is one of my favorite parts of this whole author gig. Toni handles the dpi and megabytes, along with a professional designer’s eye, while I make comments on the look and subject matter.

Next, I’m waiting on several Beta readers to report back. Already, Cathy has given me some great suggestions that I plan to implement in the story. I’m at the final tweak stage with  changes still happening.

So stay tuned. Launch will be at the end of June.

This week, I’m presenting Saturn’s Run by John Sandford and Ctein. This is a good story that includes science so hard that you could chip a tooth. So if that’s your flavor, here’s the downlow.

Sanders Heathcock Darlington’s father is filthy rich, and in two years at the age of thirty, Sandy will inherit. Right now, however, thanks to dad, he works at the Caltech Astrophysics Working Group headed by Dr. Edward Fletcher, who is coming to regret the hire, no matter how much money daddy has promised to donate to the school. Surfing is Sandy’s current hobby along with playing guitar with a girl band called the LA Dicks. Often dressed in shorts and t-shirt, his make-work job is to double check one of the telescopes with a human eye and, if anything looks amiss, to pass it on to a Real Scientist who would evaluate the findings. The fact that he constantly scans his environment and flinches at unexpected movement as if expecting a sniper nearby, escapes most people’s notice. Still, he has a dark side to him that smart people sidestep.

Arriving at work late again, he just puts up his feet when the computer pings a critical anomaly. Close inspection reports an object decelerating, emitting hydrogen, with rich uvs approaching orbit around Saturn. A second computer check reports the same findings with a 99% chance of the object being real.

Fifteen hours later another meeting with the same group and a scary, dark-eyed man from Washington confirms the object is an alien ship. Fast forward to the oval office and President Santeros with eight select people, including Fletcher and the thin, dark -eyed man.

From there the story becomes a political race since the Chinese are readying a launch to Mars. Not wanting another country to get their hands on advanced alien tech, the American military and scientists advise President Santeros to convert the current International Space Station to a spaceship in order to beat the Chinese to Saturn. Unfortunately, the Chinese telescopes discover the alien ship and frantically begin to transform their Mars ship to a ship capable of reaching Saturn.

And the race is on.

Here Sandford involves the reader in some heavy science, discussing the ion propulsion engine, the various trajectories, needed space requirements and so forth. A frantic search for crew brings in an interesting cast of characters, and the ticking clock as the Chinese head to Saturn amps up the tension.

President Santeros’s security head, named Crow, knows ultra secret details about Sandy and urges the president to include him in the crew. Sandy is recruited as their cinematographer who works with a beautiful hard-assed reporter determined that this will make her an ultra star as they record every aspect of the journey.

Sandford does a nice job bringing in interesting people, then throwing a mole into the crew. While doing their main job, Sandy and Crow try to work out who is leaking vital information to the Chinese. A section also shows the Chinese crew and their problems as they race toward the aliens in a totally different style of ship. Technical details included.

Without giving away too much, Sandford also offers a reasonable answer to what they both eventually find.

If you can gloss over the extensive science explanations that show up in lumps, you will enjoy this story. If you are a science geek and have passed over my recent offerings of fantasy with werewolves and vampires, then this one is for you.


Filed under Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, Best selling author, Beta Readers, Cutting Edge Science ideas, first contact, Hard science fiction, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, Political Science Fiction, science fiction romance, science fiction series, Self publishing a cover, space ship, space travel, Uncategorized

Publishing Wrap-up 2016 and Five Scifi Selections for 2017

IMG_0174January has certainly gotten off to a contentious start. How does that affect book sales? I would imagine that readers are turning on the television to get the latest incendiary news distortion or taking to the streets to loudly voice their opinions…

…rather than quietly reading.

Kristine Rusch has a lengthy blog that talks about Indie publishing as a business and some current trends. She discusses the fact that sales were down in 2016 and the reasons why. Publishers say there was no breakout novel. Election noise took away reading time. The ebook publishing business is leveling off.

My sales were good until November, and then, I also saw a downturn. I’m seeing it in January, but I’m blaming politics and a lack of marketing enthusiasm. I’m a bit burnt out on marketing at the moment. I need to catch up on my writing and fill up the piggy bank because having the necessary funds to see you over the down part only makes good business sense.

She mentions that also. Here’s the blog:

January is one of the most fun months of the year for my blog because I get to select books to read for the year. Sometimes a book doesn’t meet the publication date (Thorn of Emberlain ) and sometimes I decide the book isn’t up to my standards and don’t mention it. (Split Second) However, it’s a way to prime the pump and get enthusiastic about reading. I have found lately that good science fiction is hard to find. There’s a mishmash of books out there but very little in the “got to read” category.

Anyway here’s my next five:

all-the-birds-in-the-sky1. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders. I keep seeing this on recommended lists. I have avoided it because I really don’t like apocalyptic novels. They tend to be downers rather than contain interesting science. There’s always a struggle with the environment, and too often zombies show up. But this is about a young girl who is involved in magic. A long ago geek friend she knows from Middle School gets back with her. Also, it takes place in San Francisco, and I lived in the Bay area for eight years. So, it’s on the list.

2. The Unquiet Land by Sharon Shinn: I’ve been waiting on this one. I’ve read the previous books in the series (Elementals) so I know I will like this. (Rubs hands together)the-last-year

unquiet-land3. The Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson. New release. Time travel. Amazon best list. Charles Wilson (Spin) I’m in.

4. The Traitor ‘s Blade by Sebastien De Castell: Peter who works in Powell’s at Cedar Crossing has been their science fiction expert for a long time. He’s the liason for our Science Fiction Book Club. He knows his stuff, and when I whined about wanting a good book, he stuck this in my hand. Of course, I bought it and put it on the list.traitors-blade

5. Night Without Stars by Peter Hamilton. A hardback library find. Well, I’d actually been seeing this on a few a-night-without-starsrecommended lists. I’ve read earlier novels in the series also. It’s a big book which means it will take a while to read, but this is a far future space opera, and I’m ready for that.

By the way…don’t forget the second season of the Expanse starts on television tomorrow night February 1, Syfy channel. Watch that rather than the political insanity. Or, maybe the politics of the future there will look frightening familiar, and you can get a two-for-one.



Filed under alien life forms, Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, Alternate Universe Stories, Best selling author, Best selling science fiction, Dystopia Earth, fantasy series, first contact, genetic manipulation, Hard science fiction, Indie Publishing, Marketing and selling novels, Political Science Fiction, Science Fiction Detective Story, science fiction series, science fiction space opera, time travel

A Whiff of Science Fiction in a Good Thriller

Image 1With the rain coming in and A World Too Far published, it’s back to writing…no excuses.
I know the general overall scope of this next story, just not all the details—and the devil is in the details.

That’s when Larry Brooks’s story structure comes in handy. (The Storyfix) He uses a four point system. The first twenty pages is the initiating event with a hook. Something happens that shows the character’s life is about to change. The first 25% is the set up and the first plot point. We learn about the character and his world. The primary obstacle is defined.larry-brooks

The hero confronts the obstacle, but then there’s the pinch point at 37% of the way through where we are reminded of the nature and intention of the antagonistic force.

At the mid plot point we are 50% through and everything changes. New information shows up. The hero has to dig deeper and find new solutions to reach his goal.

At 62% into the story, the confrontation escalates. Obstacles change and evolve. The hero finds a new course, and new opportunities set up the final showdown. Protagonist takes command. We think the solution is in hand …but not so fast. Greater feats are required.

At 80% a plot point carries the final battle. The character has evolved, changed through the experience and a major confrontation occurs to prove his or her worth.

The resolution brings the final pages of the story where ends are tied up, actions are explained, and a sense of completion ends the story.

I use this outline to try to keep on track so my heroine is not off wandering in the weeds with readers asking : what’s she doing? What’s the point? There has to be a rub…conflict worthy of a story. And, for me, there can be multiple conflicts and lines of progression. Sometimes the conflict is outward, but sometimes, the conflict is internal. Sometimes both at the same time.

Brooks has a blog called the Story you might want to check out. He goes more in-depth  with the process.

Okay, now (sips coffee, rubs face) time to write.

legaciesThis week I read a book recommended by a new reader. What I like is that it’s a hidden gem not on any current list. It was published a while ago, but it’s new to me. That’s the beauty of this new publishing world. The reader comes fresh to the story if he’s never read it before no matter what the publication date. Ebooks are forever.

The other caveat is that it barely ekes into the science fiction genre. There is a science fiction element hiding in the story, so I decided to go ahead and mention it. It’s there so keep reading.

The book is Legacies by F. Paul Wilson. This is in the popular Repairman Jack series. Repairman Jack isn’t your average repairman, although his own father is oblivious to what he really does and wants him to move to Florida, buy a fleet of trucks, and with Florida’s great opportunities, expand his business there.

What Repairman Jack fixes is lives. He rights injustice. He defends the underdog. He lives off the grid, not daring to marry for fear of creating a data trail. In certain circumstances, he is willing to murder if necessary. He has no social security card, does not deal with banks or leave an identity trail of any kind. Often, his opponents were powerful men who did bad deeds. Consequently, over the years he has antagonized dangerous people. But he chooses his jobs carefully. There is a bit of MacGyver in him.

Dr. Alicia Clayton works with children who have aids. These are abandoned children of mothers usually on crack, heroine, or other drugs and have passed aids onto their child. Alicia runs a center to help these desperately ill children.hosts

She inherits her inventor father’s house after his death in a mysterious plane crash. Both house and Alicia carry deep secrets. Her half brother is willing to do anything to get the house out of her hands, but if she is killed, the house passes to the Greenpeace organization.

So, those desperate to uncover the house’s secrets stop at killing her. Shadowy Arabs, a lurking Japanese ninja, and various nefarious characters enter the picture. Alicia wants the house burned, but competing shadowy international figures want the house at any cost. They offer millions, but for some reason Alicia will not sell. Everyone who helps her, from lawyer to private eye, ends up murdered. She is becoming emotionally unhinged trying to deal with what is happening to those who try to help. Someone of daring and cunning who is willing to risk his life to uncover the mystery is needed.

the-tombAnd so enters Repairman Jack under his many aliases to right the wrong and uncover the mystery.

Clever with many plot twists, this page-turner thriller will pull you in until the last surprising moment.

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Filed under Hard science fiction, science fiction, Science Fiction Detective Story, science fiction series, Science fiction thriller, Writing Tips and Lectures

Do You have a Yen for Some Hard Science Fiction?

Image 1Hard science fiction…so hard that it’s like knocking your head against granite. L. E. Modesitt, Jr. in his latest novel, Solar Express presents a compelling plot against the background of a developing war among the Sinese Federation, Noram (U.S. Military), and India. Much like the fear that drove the development of the atom bomb, fear of another country getting control through space drives these three power superpowers to secretly start weaponizing space.

And then an alien object is sighted headed in system towards our sun.

The problem becomes that Modesitt wants to get each detail completely accurate and properly measured. The main character, Chris Tavoian, low orbit shuttle pilot, is promoted to major and sent out on a covert mission to investigate the alien artifact, conveniently categorized as an asteroid to keep secret it’s alien nature. Each minute is painstakingly recorded, each angle of the artifact explored while under the time pressure of an approaching Sinese spaceship.Solar Express

Meanwhile, back on the moon, his love interest, Alayna Wong-Grant who discovered the alien object, and doesn’t understand why no one has mentioned it in the media, is investigating the mechanism of multi-fractal mini-granulations found in the sun.

See what I mean? More science with big words.

A thrilling plot, rife with politics, told through memos and emails between moon-bound Alayna and alien-probing Chris. Theirs is a relationship developed through correspondence, much like our online dating and email nowadays.

I wanted to really like this, especially since Modesitte is a favorite author, but I struggled through it. However, if you have been yearning for hard science among the slim pickings of good science fiction offerings of late, and an interesting plot, this may be a good read for you. Modesitt explains the rational for his novel.

My marketing has slowed because I have been catching up on my writing. My life as an author is like being on a seesaw. Personal life, writing or marketing? It’s hard to balance all three. I needed more time for writing, but needed to put a plan in place for marketing, at least for this month. Sales declined while my attention was on the wedding.

Caught in Time, my first in a series, will again be available for free Thursday, March 11 through Sunday March 13 through the KDP Select program. I decided to shortened the time to only three days to leave room for another campaign later. If I don’t promote, sales tail off.

I chose Free Kindle Books and Tips because I have not used them before as an ad venue, and also Choosy Bookworm. These are two new sites that I’m trying out, and I’ll let you know if they’re productive. I have to also balance the cost of promotion against possible sales.

I love writing this blog, but Facebook and Twitter are not my thing. My life is quiet because I like it that way. I get my excitement in my stories. Never mind SnapChat, and that other thing. I am verbal, but not able to think up witty things on social media.

Sharing results is helpful, so I’m offering a link to an interesting article on what makes people buy self-published books. Lots of pretty graphs and hard data by a favorite blogger of mine from the Emerald Isle.

For you fantasy fans, I must say that I’m enjoying the Magicians series on the SyFy channel even more than the books.

Isn’t that a switch? Check it out and my review blog on the book.

My Powell’s book group meets tonight and we’re discussing John Scalzi’s Redshirts. I’m ranting and raving about the editing. TOR is his publisher and promotes him extensively, so you’d think it would be better edited. I tried to find a science fiction ebook from a promotion, but the one I read was so poorly edited, I stopped completely and would not recommend it; the other was forty pages long and not worth recommending either at that length.

More on this in my next blog as I’m trying to finish Redshirts. Add finishing reading my books for my review blog to that wobbly seesaw.


Filed under aliens, Aliens in Science Fiction, Best selling science fiction, ebook marketing, first contact, Hard science fiction, Hugo winners, magic, Marketing and selling novels, Political Science Fiction, science fiction, Science fiction thriller

Alien Invasion

Image 1I’m back to the business side of publishing and writing, now that my daughter’s wedding is over. I’m finishing up my ninth book that is in the same universe as the other novels, but it doesn’t take place on the planet Alysia and has a different cast of characters for the most part. It takes place on a starship that is part of a fleet of ships seeking a habitable world.

Lots of fun to write.

Currently, one of my characters is designing robots to make up for the low population due to a recent epidemic. It made me think that finally robots are becoming more and more a part of our society. Years ago Isaac Asimov wrote his famous Caves of Steel, book 1 of his robot series. Even made it into a movie starring Will Smith. He had robots act indistinguishably from humans. We haven’t gotten there, but here is a link to an article that talks about recent strides in the (1)

If you’re not familiar with her blog, yet, then I urge you to look up Kriswrites by Kathryn Kristine Rusch. She and husband Dean Wesley Smith have had a foot in the traditional publishing world and a foot in the Indie world. Together they have written hundreds of books, a great number which are science fiction… And they live in Oregon.

A recent blog talked about the direction of publishing and compared it with television. It’s all good, but the choice bit for me was:

“As Hugh (Howey) and Data Guy have repeatedly shown, writers publishing indie make significantly more money per title (and in general) than writers who go traditional. Not too long ago, traditional publishing’s argument was that they brought the books to more eyeballs.

They don’t. Now the playing field is level. If indie writers publish trade paper books, audio books and ebooks on all platforms, then the writers will make more money on (good well-written well-produced) books than they would if they went to traditional publishing.


Those of us who have been in this side of the field have known it for a long time. We finally have more than our personal numbers. We have two years of data.”

To read the complete article go to: and catch up on her other informative blogs.

cixin liuThis week I read The Three Body Problem by Cixen Liu and was puzzled. This book was nominated for a Hugo. I can only suggest that since it was published by TOR, a lot of politicking must have gone on. I never notice Indie books getting nominated, even best selling ones. Hmmmm. Anyway, the author is Cixen Liu and the English translation is by Ken Liu. Cixen Liu is the most popular and prolific writer of science fiction in the People’s Republic of China. He has won their Hugo equivalent eight times already. Reviews on the book were extremely positive.

But I struggled through it, falling asleep repeatedly as I tried to finish. Better than a lullaby.Three Body Problem

The first third of the story deals with the politics of the Chinese Cultural Revolution and has no science fiction elements. The reader learns of the persecution and public murder of young Ye Wenjie’s physicist father and her subsequent framing by a colleague who writes an incendiary book and claims she is the author, not he.

She is sent away to a lumber camp to work for several years, but then is relocated to a secret military installation because of her technical skills. This is during the time when America’s SETI program was popular, and China didn’t want the West to be the one to make aliens their allies. This Chinese secret project sends signals into space and, after a time, Ye makes contact.

Enter the science fiction portion.

Various eras of Trisolaris are experienced by a character named Wang who plays a popular underground virtual game. Soon a group of scientist and others are playing this game and we learn of a world named Trisolaris that is sending the game to Earth. Ye has decided the awful human race needs to be refined by these aliens and signals them to invite them in. Since their world is highly unstable and headed toward an extinction event, they are eager to come to Earth and what looks like paradise.

Eventually a group on Earth forms to prepare Earth and help the aliens conquer the planet. Another group tries to seek out and eliminate these radicals who would destroy Earth by encouraging unknown aliens to take over the planet. Lots of spy games and violent arrests ensue.

Needless to say, politics fill the book. However, Liu doesn’t shy away from his hard science either, incorporating a lot of physics into the story. While I embrace science in a science fiction story, for me, the story dragged. In addition, the names were confusing. There was Yang, Ding, Wang, Shi Quang, and Ye Wenjie to name a few main characters.

Somehow, contact is made through this virtual game that gives the reader an idea of the world of Trisolaris, but as a story plot, it didn’t seem realistic. Still, an unstable world that has to deal with three erratic suns has its interesting side.

The Dark ForestThis is the first book in a trilogy not completely out in translation, and I’m debating on reading the rest. After all the commotion of advancing aliens, Ye still waits for them in the end, leaving the reader curious as to what might happen when they finally do reach Earth.

And thank goodness, the science fiction elements make the book more interesting.

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