My Writing

Thank you to all those who entered the Goodreads giveaway contest for my latest book, Schroedinger’s Cheshire Cats.  The ten winners have been chosen and their copies should already be in the mail.
Writing sci-fi has been an amazing experience for me.  I had always been a consumer of sci-fi, but I never dreamed that being a producer of it would be so rewarding a process.  Self-publishing has allowed me to get my work out into the world, and my publisher, Authorhouse, has provided the quality tools and support to do so.  But self-marketing is not my strength.  Although a few of my friends are into sci-fi, my e-mail announcements of new books usually generate only a few polite sales beyond those hardcore fans.  I ran ads on Facebook a while ago that produced a lot of hits on my website, but no apparent sales.  This was the first giveaway I attempted, and watching the 776 entries arrive was encouraging.  I hope that the ten winners will each write an honest review and that some of the non-winners will also decide to read the book.
However, the most appreciated results of this giveaway so far were the three new ratings SCC received; one three-star and two five-star.  To have strangers connect so positively with what you are creating is what a writer needs to hear now and then.  Those stars have given new life to my efforts within the next book, Perturbations Of The Reality Field.
My next self-marketing attempt will be this August at the LI-CON2 convention on Long Island.  I’ll be behind my little card table selling all five of my titles, hoping that being present among the right audience will produce some positive results.  Stop by and say hello.

Religion in Sci-Fi

The Quantum Thief, 2010, by Hannu Rajaniemi is set in a universe of “embodied cognition” where souls can have many minds and many bodies.  Mentioned at the beginning, one of the super-powers in the story, the Archon, is tasked with turning the matter of the physical universe into a Prison, “to increase the purity of the Universe.  This is what their Father, the Engineer of Souls, taught them to love.  This is the way the world is made right.”  There is much religion and philosophy within this book to ponder, but you’ll never have time to do that on a first reading because you will be too involved with following the Thief, Jean le Flambeau, as he struggles to escape this prison during a very exciting sci-fi mystery story.

Mathematics in Sci-Fi

The Quantum Thief, 2010, by Hannu Rajaniemi starts out with “the prisoner’s dilemma” an aspect of game theory and the mathematics of rational decision making.  Outside the prison, “the games are not pure and perfect in their simplicity, capturing all of mathematics in their undecidability.”  Escaping the prison puts the hero deep into the “matrix” and the cool aspects of the tale are computational and physics related.  There is a nice simile tossed in, “a replicating strategy family, like a flyer in a Game of Life,” meaningful only to those who know that game.

Mathematics in Sci-Fi

How To Live Safely In A Science Fictional Universe, 2010, Charles Yu.  Wow!  I loved this book!  It has mathematics to the nth degree.  Some of it in the form of inside jokes that made me laugh out loud.  Some of it, such as “equations that had sadness as a constant,” are in a “techno-poetic” style that I strive to achieve in my own writing.  Yu’s description of writing on a sheet of graph paper was absolutely fantastic, a journey into Minkowski space and the realm of “science fictional equations.”  If you don’t see the phrase “easy to use partial differential equations” as an oxymoron, but as a monster more frightening than Alien or Predator, then you won’t like this book.  But if “Zermelo-Frankel set theory plus the Continuum Hypothesis” sounds cool, go for it.
The story takes place in universe 31, “a smallish universe … Not big enough for space opera and anyway not zoned for it.”  “In terms of topology, the reality portions of 31 are concentrated in an inner core, with science fiction wrapped around it.”  The self-referential recursion of a book within a book within a book makes the paradoxes of time travel even more interesting.
I really, really liked “the wrapping”, but the “reality portions” in which the main character pursues his quest “find his father” are as deep and well done a theme as any I have read in sci-fi.  Absolutely wonderful!

Mathematics in Sci-fi

Simmons’ includes two specific formulae in The Fall of Hyperion, sqrt(Gh/c^5) and sqrt(Gh/c^3); Planck time and length.  Forgive the formatting, h is actually supposed to be the reduced Planck constant.  Although he says that these are the smallest regions of space and time which can be described meaningfully, he jumps into these “interstices of reality” which he also calls “The Void Which Binds.”  I don’t know much about quantum mechanics, but the speed of light, c, is supposed to be the limit, the upper bound, the ultimate.  So, how can you calculate with the quantity c^5???  Seems like that would cause an “out of range” error in the cosmic computer, no?

My Writing

One of the dangers of reading sci-fi while writing sci-fi is the “contamination” of original ideas.  When I first started writing, I sheltered myself from all contact with sci-fi books and movies.  I even gave away dozens of my classic paperbacks to a member of the younger generation to avoid being tempted to reread them.  My self-imposed exile has eroded over time, but recently I read two books that make me wonder if I should run off and hide again.  The first was Philip K. Dick’s Exegesis.  I wanted to know more about the man, and his writing techniques.  What I discovered were many similarities in ideas; hopefully not in his mental difficulties.  He was interested in what I was interested in, the nature of reality.  The second book is The Fall of Hyperion, by Dan Simmons, a space opera series jam packed with cool ideas.  So many ideas, in fact, that only because I take notes on what I read did the similar ones jump out and bite me.  Otherwise, I would simply have lost myself in the story.  I won’t share with you exactly which things that he mentions that are fundamental to my new novel, Perturbations In The Reality Field, but will share a quote from Simmons’ blog: “How do you break it to someone that ideas are a dime a dozen? That every writer has more ideas than he or she will be able to write about in a long lifetime? And, finally, that their idea (almost certainly) has not only been explored in fiction about 10,000 times”  His description of Zen Gnostics however, no churches, no priests, no holy books, no concept of sin, seems to fit in quite well with my Family of Man.

Mathematics in Sci-fi

Simmons’ includes two specific formulae in The Fall of Hyperion, sqrt(Gh/c^5) and sqrt(Gh/c^3); Planck time and length.  Forgive the formatting, h is actually supposed to be the reduced Planck constant.  Although he says that these are the smallest regions of space and time which can be described meaningfully, he jumps into these “interstices of reality” which he also calls “The Void Which Binds.”  I don’t know much about quantum mechanics, but the speed of light, c, is supposed to be the limit, the upper bound, the ultimate.  So, how can you calculate with the quantity c^5???  Seems like that would cause an “out of range” error in the cosmic computer, no?

Religion in Sci-Fi

Now that I have spent the last year absorbing Philip K. Dick’s Exegesis I would have to put his writing at the top of the list for “religion in sci-fi”!  There were 900 pages edited down from over 9000 pages of Dick’s exploration of the religious experience/mental breakdown he had in 1974.  Dick never firmly concluded much, but his multiple hypotheses about the nature of reality are fascinating.  One of his theories is that reality is perceived as a field on which something beyond it, intrinsically totally undetectable, impinges.  That something is Dick’s version of God.  I found so much within this tome that resonated with me that I have decided to change the title of my current work in progress from Ride-along Cassidy And The Cosmic Cabbie to Perturbations Of The Reality Field as an homage to Dick.

Religion in Sci-fi

Ubik, by Philip K. Dick, is all about the nature of reality and the soul.  If I had read Ubik before plunging half-way through his Exegesis I would have missed much of the meaning.  Even so, this is a complicated book that could be analyzed indefinitely.  It begins with a relatively simple concept of frozen bodies in “coldpacs” so that their souls continue in “half-life” before fading away towards heaven or hell.  Sort of a high tech purgatory?  When one character, Runciter, visits his half-dead wife to speak with her about how to handle problems in their joint business venture, a problem arises.  He is told, “She exists.  She just can’t contact you.”  He replies, “A metaphysical difference which means nothing to me.”  Metaphysical details dominate the rest of the story, although they are well hidden behind the bizarre plotline.  xxx

Religion in Sci-fi

Beyond The Elastic Limit: An Epic Fable by Howard Loring is a great time travel story.  The setting is a cosmos in which God, unsatisfied with the way mortals were handling things, stepped in personally with a clear Mandate to spread life throughout the galaxy and with the technology to do it.  This occurred, however, in the distant past of the Golden Age of Primus.  The story begins near the completion of the Mandate and involves holy war, heresy, and an interesting twist on the end times, or perhaps a new beginning.