Tag Archives: The moon

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

Artificial Intelligence in Science Fiction

IMG_0174Artificial intelligence…dangerous enemy or friendly helper?

Science fiction has been debating this question for years. As early as 1968, Robert Heinlein wrote The Moon is a Harsh Mistress where a High Optical, Logical Multi-Evaluating Supervisor, Mark IV, or Holmes IV, is installed on Luna base to compute ballistics for pilotless freighters and control their catapult. This used only 10% of the computer’s capacity, so Luna Authority keep adding on  hardware and decision boxes and additional duties until by year three, it controlled all the phone systems, other computers, air, water, sewage, temperature systems for all of Luna. It had voder-vocoder circuits that supplemented all read-outs, print-outs and decision making boxes.Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Then it woke up.

Became self aware and took an interest in good jokes and pranks.

One which was issuing a paycheck to a janitor in Authority’s office in Luna City for $10,000,000,000,000,185.15. (the last five digits being the correct amount) So Luna Authority privately contracts a Manuel Garcia O’Kelly to figure out what went wrong and he discovers that the computer has become self aware. Rather than tell anyone, he starts to converse with the computer and names it Mike, after a Mycroft Holmes character.

The story is about the friendship between an incredibly powerful, but lonely computer and Manuel O’Kelly, or Man as everyone calls him

And how they engineered a rebellion on the Moon to gain freedom over Earth’s totalitarian control.

There is some magnificent politics in the story. To date, Luna has been a dumping ground for criminals, reminiscent of Australia. They are under the boot of Earth Authority like all good colonies, and are tired of the treatment. Problem is that they cannot transition back to Earth because of the long term effect of Luna’s light gravity and Earth’s heavier gravity. After living on Luna, their bodies cannot handle Earth’s heavier gravity and consequently once stranded on the moon, they cannot return to Earth.

Unfortunately, it’s a hard story to get into because of the dialect. Manuel tells the story in first person narration with a heavy Russian accent that throws the reader out of the story time and again. Maybe it’s Heinlein’s joke to have a Russian engineer the rebellion. Remember back then (1968) Russia and the U.S. were racing to be the first on the moon. Also, “Mike” (the computer) constantly refers to Manuel as Man.

You think you’re on an L.A. beach.

Hey, Man. What’re you doing, Man.

It took me a while to warm up to this classic story of computer and man (Man), but eventually after swimming through all the dialect and political theory, I ended up liking it.

Heinlein has a radical life philosophy, so be ready to read with an open mind and enjoy the intricacies of orchestrating a Lunar rebellion, complete with a Russian accented computer contractor that shouts slogans such as, “Give me Liberty or give me death.”

DragonshipThe other book that I read recently from the 2013 list is Dragon Ship by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. It made an interesting contrast to Heinlein’s story. Both are about self aware, super powerful  computers that interact and become “friends” with a particular human.

For those of you who have criticized the Liaden stories as “romance science fiction,” this isn’t the case here. The protagonist is Theo Waitley who is now grown up and captaining her first starship. This ship is from “old tech’ that is forbidden and dangerous. The ship’s original design was to service a now dead trader. The self aware computer that runs the ship has been out in the deep waiting for its captain for centuries. It wants a reason to exist. The captaincy key makes it way to Theo’s hand and she takes on a trading route with the ship for the Korval clan that is fraught with danger.  She also takes on an ex-lover who is being eaten alive by a nano-virus and is secured in the ship’s medical unit fighting for his life.

The computer not only acts very human, but creates a second persona when Theo needs more crew. This second self aware entity has feelings, a job description and to all intents and purposes the rest of the universe thinks it’s another human on the ship.

This is fifth in the series and I recommend you read the earlier ones. I love the Liaden stories and always look forward to the newest one. I love the strong family ties in their story, the emotional hook and the interesting tech. This one has all three…

So enjoy.

Veronica Sicoe posited the question on her blog  What if the Internet became self aware?

This was interesting because it appears that the fear of an aware internet lies in the elusiveness of its existence. A supercomputer that has boundaries can be overcome.

“I can’t do that, Dave.”

And next you know Hal is singing “Daisy, Daisy.”

“War Games” was an interesting movie that had an aware computer using real missiles for his “game.” That was frightening, but checkers proved the solution.

But an aware internet has no central core, no rack to unload, no central hub to disengage, no trick game to occupy it and consequently, is unassailable. There may be no solution if a self aware internet goes rogue.

And who wouldn’t with the crap that humans often put on it?

You can start with the porn.

Do you think that we will, sometime in the future, have an aware supercomputer, and will it be friend or foe?


Filed under artificial intelligence, artificial nature, Best selling science fiction, Book reviews, Classic science fiction, Cutting Edge Science ideas, downloaded personalities, ebook science fiction, Hard science fiction, Political Science Fiction, science fiction series, space ship, space travel, super computer, The moon in science fiction, Uncategorized

The Science Part of Science Fiction

“Science fiction isn’t here to say, ‘This is true or that will happen,’ it’s here to say, suppose it did, then what?” —Peter Watts.

Science fiction walks a thin line between what can happen, what might happen, and what’s complete speculation …right now. People reading it, want believable science and get in an uproar if the science isn’t right. But there is also the fiction part. The imaginative part that elicits the impossible and improbable. And is fun to contemplate, that makes a good story.

So, here’s the thing…

Today’s science may not be tomorrow’s science and science fiction should push those boundaries. Make our scientists consider the improbable.

My father said that he was told that humans would never leave Earth because of the escape velocity needed.

But scientists went ahead and developed solid rocket fuel anyway, and took off for the moon. Ten years ago black holes were a theory, a myth, and now scientists have proof that they exist and even believe that there is a black hole at the center of most galaxies. Maybe, they are the engines of creation.

The Universe is vast. To get anywhere within a reasonable lifetime, we need faster than light or a trick tunnel or the story is stuck in our solar system.

So I did that in Past the Event Horizon. Had to. And it’s been done before often enough that the public accepts the convention. The movie “Contact” showed a wormhole that enabled travel across deep space. So it must be possible. We have filmed evidence. Carl Sagan said so.

However, I want a lot of my science as accurate as possible in my space stories and thus this week, I read If the Earth Had Two Moons by Neil F. Comins….because you see, my world of Alysia has two.

This non fiction novel is interesting. It contains ten thought provoking speculations on our solar system. Each one starts with a short fiction story and then buckle in for the detailed science follow-up. Other chapters  are: “What if the Earth Were a Moon?”, What if the Earth’s Crust Were Thicker?”, What if the Earth Had Formed Somewhere Else in the Galaxy?”, “What if the Earth had two Suns?”, What If Another galaxy Collided with the Milky Way?” and other equally challenging hypotheses.

Great fodder for science fiction stories.

The writing is reasonably easy to read, but be aware that there are illustration, graphs and numbers involved further on. Science…real science. It’s a book you sip in concentrated sittings, but it’s guaranteed to stir your imagination.

Heads UP!

Orycon is this coming weekend. It’s our big annual Science Fiction Con and I have manuscripts in two workshops. Bill Nolan of Logan’s Run will be one of my professional critiquers again.

I’m stoked.

I’ll let you know how it goes in my next blog. Stay tuned.

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