Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Link and Seas Now in Ebook

The final two titles of the new Ereads push appeared yesterday on Fictionwise! Now available in multiple, DRM-free formats are The Infinity Link and Seas of Ernathe. (And for a limited time, they're 40% off.) This is the first time in over thirty years that Seas of Ernathe has been in print. The Infinity Link has been unavailable for close to twenty years.

With the exception of Alien Speedway (see post of a few days ago), all of my novels are now available in ebook format. A number of them are, or soon will be, available in trade paperback, print-on-demand format, as well.

If you were thinking of giving some of these novels a try, now's the ideal time, while they're still discounted! See my ebooks page for all available titles.

"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." —Benjamin Franklin

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Monday, May 25, 2009

What Do West Wing and BSG Have in Common?

I wrote this days ago, and then forgot to post it! Ah, me. I got busy picking up my daughter from college, and one thing led to another, and here we are. In the U.S., it's Memorial Day, a time to remember with gratitude those who have fallen in defense of our nation. Maybe that's not such a bad occasion to offer some reflections on Battlestar Galactica, whose fictional crew sacrificed much in the defense of humanity.

As we all know, BSG ended recently, and my comments on that (which I posted earlier on another website) will follow in a moment. But lately my family and I have been watching another favorite show, The West Wing, from the beginning. (I picked up the complete DVD set for a relative song on ebay.) I've been vividly struck by two things these shows have in common:

1. Edward James Olmos! I had seen him before, as Judge Mendoza, but had not recognized the actor. Prior to BSG, I wasn't all that aware of Olmos, although I realize now that he's been in a lot of great stuff, including the movie Blade Runner (where, as in BSG, they talked about "skin jobs").

2. Brilliant writing of human drama and engaging dialogue, coupled with a thundering inability to write anything about science. In West Wing, if I feel any reference to science coming on, I steel myself to groan. I know I will. Perfect example: In one episode, Sam is concerned about a UFO that's been tracked for several hours from Hawaii to the American coast. It turns out to be harmless—a Russian rocket booster that (paraphrased from memory) "failed to achieve a high enough velocity to escape Earth's gravity." That's just stupid on so many levels. But let's start with the fact that a reentering booster would burn up in a matter of minutes, not hours, and that the tracking people would know exactly what it was the whole time. In the commentary below, I mention a similar lapse in credibility from BSG. The thing is, the writing on both shows was so terrific otherwise that I was completely willing to forgive these lapses. It's funny, because I would never overlook that kind of dunderheadedness if I were reading a work of hard science fiction. That must say something about the importance of expectations as a viewer or reader.

Here's my BSG commentary, reprinted from SF Signal's Mind Meld:

Much has been written about the end of our beloved Battlestar Galactica. I avoided reading most of it until recently, because I hadn't seen the ending and didn't want any spoilers. (Yes, I wrote the miniseries novelization, and at the time was given access to a limited amount of insider background informationthough not enough to keep me from writing a few things that shortly became "noncanonical." But I had no more idea than you did where the story was going in the end.) A couple of weeks ago, I finally watched the last few episodes in one long burst.

Whoa. Not altogether what I'd hoped for—but powerful stuff nonetheless.

My reactions were intense and complex. On the one hand, it was a stunningly choreographed conclusion, breathlessly paced, and to me at least satisfying in the sense that we finally found resolution, and our characters, battered and bruised, finally found a measure of peace. Even Kara. Yes, even Kara Thrace, Starbuck. The change of tone at the very end was perhaps a bit overdone. But I felt our people had earned it.

That they found and settled the world known to us as "Earth" came, of course, as no surprise. Most of us, I think, had been expecting an Adam and Eve story (or should I say, Adama and Eve) all along. How could it have been different? It seemed built into the very fiber of the series, from the start. And while the "Adam and Eve" story is perhaps one of the most clichéd ideas in all of science fiction, there is no reason that even a clichéd story cannot be retold in a fresh and engaging way. So I had long ago decided to forgive that point, granting that if the BSG people could tell it in a sufficiently original way, I wouldn't quibble.

So, did they or didn't they? Well...yes and no.

Plausibility-wise, the notion that the fleet would agree to transport all of the people down to a wilderness planet, equipped only with what they could carry, give or take a few Raptors, and send the rest of their considerable technology into the sun, was absurd. Suspension of disbelief—come back! What else can I say about that? Except it was probably considered necessary to the plot not to have too much star technology lying around to be unearthed by latter-day Indiana Joneses.

But BSG has never been about plausibility in the scientific or technological sense. Do we all remember back in—Season 3, was it?—when the fleet had to fly through an exploding star, instead of...um, going around it? And does anyone believe that after all this time, they would have left the fleet dependent on just one Tylium ship to supply the needs of everyone? Okay, forget scientific plausibility. It was never there to be an issue. When I wrote the miniseries novelization, this was something I encountered in a multitude of small ways, and I did my best to strengthen plausibility where it felt thin. But this BSG has always been about other things, anyway—humanity at war with its own worst elements, and the dark places of the soul where people find the strength to endure, and to fight back. For all of its edges, it was never hard SF; it was pure human-drama SF, and every time it careened near the edge of a cliff even in those terms, it always somehow staggered back.

So forget the scientific plausibility part. What about the angels? Starbuck—an angel? That seemed to stick in a lot of craws, including my wife's and daughter's, mainly because it seemed from out of left field, and not terribly...well, plausible. For one thing, how come Starbuck was a solid, hard-drinkin', kick-your-ass physical kind of angel, while the Six and Baltar angels were purely will o' the wisps, here this minute, gone the next, visible to no one else? And why did Starbuck have to go through such torment, trying to discover who she was? Is she the only angel who doesn't know she's an angel? I grant all of those quarrels. And yet—despite my qualms, I kind of liked it. For one thing, how many real SF shows have ever been willing even to entertain the notion of there actually being a God (even if he doesn't like to be called that, says Baltar), or heavenly or spiritual beings? BSG had the nerve to do that, and do it baldly, in midst of a gritty human drama. Did they do it successfully? Certainly not all the time, and probably not at the very end. But my hat's off to them for trying.

Having written a BSG book in which I was invited to make up answers to some questions that the producers couldn't, at that point, answer for me, I was perhaps a little oversensitive to certain small points in the conclusion. One that comes to mind is Caprica Six, who had no name in the miniseries. I called her Natasi in my novel (and no, I didn't notice that Natasi was "I Satan" backwards until a reader pointed it out). That seemed fine with the BSG staff at the time. Later, David Eick was quoted as saying that he'd imagined that Baltar never knew Six's name, even as he carried on a torrid affair with her. Truthfully, I never found that believable. Then we saw it happening, in the final chapter, and I went, "Gah!" You win some and you lose some.

I will defend the writers against charges of racism stemming from the interpretation that the fleet personnel obviously subjugated and lorded it over the indigenous population, right up through the present day. What (goes the argument) about the African origins of humanity, which present-day evidence strongly supports? Well, as I read the ending, fleet personnel gradually intermingled with the native population, as their remaining technology wore out or failed, and thus 21st Century humanity is very much a blend of the native and immigrant forms of human. So Lucy and Eve and all of our other forebears are still very much a part of the picture. As for the Cylon blood—well, I guess there's a little bit of that in our DNA now. Somewhere along the way, we lost the glowing spines, though. Tough break, that.

But now we know: "All Along the Watchtower" is in our racial memory. It just took Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix to give it back to us.

(Check out other authors' comments on the earlier Mind Meld page.)

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Alien Speedway to Return to Print

The one book of mine that's been missing from the ebook reprint schedule has been an odd little number that in a way is one of my favorites: Roger Zelazny's Alien Speedway: Clypsis. It's a borderline YA novel (actually written as YA, but published as regular SF), the first volume of a collaborative project between Roger Zelazny, author Tom Wylde (who wrote books 2-3), and me. I wrote it quickly, based on a background and outline that Roger had created. (I know: Me? Write a book quickly?)

I had a lot of fun with it, filled its cast with minor characters named after friends and family, and it drew a great response from the audience. For a couple of years, I heard from more readers about Clypsis than about any of my other books. And then it went out of print, and that was that. Ever since, I have been looking for a way to bring it back.

The problem is, I'm not the copyright owner. Byron Preiss Visual Publications was, because it was one of their many concept creations. Then Byron Preiss died, in a tragic traffic accident, and not too long afterward, his company went into bankruptcy. That left this book as a very small fish in a big, sad pond. But, in time, the assets of BPVP were bought by Brick Tower Press. And I have just received word that Brick Tower plans to republished Speedway, in both print and ebook format.

No indication of a date yet. But I'm most pleased.

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Stunning Galaxy-rise

My friend Victoria tipped me off to this breathtaking time-lapse sequence of the Milky Way rising over a stargazing party in Texas. If you have trouble viewing it in this window, go to http://vimeo.com/4505537. Be sure to click the little icon in the lower right to set the viewer to full-screen. It'll be the best 48 seconds of your day.

Galactic Center of Milky Way Rises over Texas Star Party from William Castleman on Vimeo.

"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and stars which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the daughter of man that you care for her?"
— Psalm 8, paraphrased from the NIV

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Carver SF on Fictionwise—Buy Now and Save! (really)

I've been promising for a while now that a whole bunch of my books will be showing up soon in new or revised ebook format. Well, I got word yesterday that some of my new eReads titles are now up for sale on Fictionwise.com, as well as all the older ones that have been reproofed and reformatted. That's right, you can get 'em now. As new titles on Fictionwise, they're 40% off for a limited time. These are multiformat, DRM-free—and the formats were recently expanded to include epub.

The new titles are:
Dragon Rigger
The Rapture Effect

Reproofed and reformatted:
Dragons in the Stars
Star Rigger's Way
From a Changeling Star
Down the Stream of Stars

(Several of those gorgeous covers are courtesy of the artists—David Mattingly, Shusei, and Jael—who allowed me to reuse the artwork from the original print editions.)

Still to come, early next week I'm told:
The Infinity Link
Seas of Ernathe

All these titles will appear shortly, as well, in the Kindle and Sony stores (though they will not be DRM-free from those sources). In addition, if I understand this correctly, they will appear soon at Baen Webscriptions, where they will also be multiformat and DRM-free.

Time for a book party!

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Astronomical Highs

In space, exciting things are happening. Two expensive and high-profile space observatories from the European Space Agency (ESA)—Herschel (infrared) and Planck (cosmic microwave background, or Big Bang radiation), were launched together on a single Ariane 5 launcher. A lot of breaths were being held on that one, but they're both in space now, bound for the L2 orbital point 1.5 million km from Earth, where they'll be able to conduct their observations far from interference. Here's the launch, from French Guiana:

In addition, Atlantis astronauts have been hard at work refurbishing the Hubble Space Telescope. I snipped this image from a much larger one on Astronomy Picture of the Day:

That's Atlantis and the Hubble, caught in silhouette against the sun, by a camera on the ground. Hats off to the photographer, astronomer Thierry Legault, who took the image—and to those astronauts, who have been called upon to whack and grunt at their wrenches, trying to loosen frozen bolts and praying they don't break anything, just like the rest of us working on our cars in the driveway.

I just have one gripe about the mission, which includes attaching a docking ring so that at the end of the Hubble's service life in five years they can hook up a propulsion unit and deorbit Hubble into reentry over the Pacific Ocean. I'd rather they boosted Hubble into a higher, longer lasting orbit, where one day we could retrieve it to bring it back safely to Earth and put it in the Air and Space Museum. Or, alternatively, we could establish it as a National Historic Site right there in orbit—to be visited by space-traveling tourists. Perhaps it could become the nucleus of the future (literal) space wing of the Smithsonian. Surely it has earned that right.

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Bread Loaf Without Me

I've blogged before about how much I've enjoyed being a writer/instructor at the annual New England Young Writers Conference at Bread Loaf, Vermont. Well, this year, I had to miss the fun. They rotate the staff, so as to keep the program fresh, and this year I was rotated out. (Unfortunately, most of my writer-friends from Bread Loafs past were there, so now I'm afraid they'll all be off when I'm next on.)

Having said that, I still got to spend most of Sunday making a round-trip drive to Vermont—to pick up my daughter, who was there as a student. At least, I've now learned the route. She reported positively on the conference, but not so much on the head cold she came down with in the middle of it. We carpooled with a couple of other families, so two other delightful young ladies rode back with us. Shortly after arriving home, I found myself in the midst of another writer's workshop—this one in my own living room. The Advanced Workshop I'm conducting with Craig Gardner has just passed its midpoint, and we're really seeing good stuff emerge. I look forward to reporting future successes. I have complete faith.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Thoughts on the Conclusion of BSG

A couple of months ago, SFSignal invited me to contribute my views on the finale of Battlestar Galactica to a special they were running in their Mind Meld section. I couldn't at the time, because I hadn't seen the ending. But a few weeks ago, I finally got a chance to watch the last three or four episodes, all in one go. And yesterday, I grabbed a little time to put together my thoughts. They're online now at sfsignal.com. Let me know what you think!

"Fear not the future, weep not for the past." —Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Sunborn Paperback Slated for January 2010

I recently learned that Sunborn has been scheduled for mass market paperback release in 0110 — that is to say, January 2010. Yeah, that's a while, yet. So, if you've been waiting for the paperback — oh, what the hey, you might as well spring for the hardcover now, rather than wait that long, eh? Sure, I thought so, too. :)

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Interview at Odyssey Workshop

As I'm scheduled to make a guest-instructor appearance at the Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop in New Hampshire this July, they put some questions to me, which I answered in an interview that's just been posted online on the Odyssey blog.

As I answered some of the questions that I've probably not gotten around to answering here, think of it as Writing Question #10. (I was going to call it #X because I was too lazy to look back through the blog to see what the last one was numbered. But then I relented and checked, and saw that I'd called the last one #X-Z because I was too lazy then. So I figured I'd better check further. I think this is right.)

I have thoughts on marketing strategy, research, and other matters dear to the hearts of all who are interested in writing. Check it out.

"You will have to write and put away or burn a lot of material before you are comfortable in this medium. You might as well start now and get the work done. For I believe that eventually quantity will make for quality." —Ray Bradbury

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Those Crazy Guys and Their Flying Machines

While we're waiting for the "roadable" airplane, the Transition, to come down to our price range—not to mention fly (but they did get it off the ground, in the first short flight test!)—check out this baby: a flying motorcycle called the Switchblade:

Switchblade flying motorcycle

That's for me! You betcha! According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, "Samson Motorworks has been working on a flying motorcycle, the Switchblade, for two and a half years. The three-wheel motorcycle’s design features three lifting surfaces, like the Piaggio Avanti, and side-by-side seating for two people... The wings will fold beneath the motorcycle’s body... Cameras will provide visibility to the rear, and an optional ballistic parachute will be offered."

Oh man, I can't wait. (It hasn't flown yet, either, but it will. It will.) Buy a lot of those books from me, people—okay? A lot of books!

While we're waiting, here's a picture of the Transition in its first leap into the air.

Transition flight test

"Up in the sky, rocketing past
Higher than high, faster than fast,
Out into space, into the sun
Look at her go when we give her the gun."
—Space Academy Cadet Corps song,
from Tom Corbett, Space Cadet

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Mayday! Mayday! Eternity's End Is Running Free!

With any luck, I'll never have to call a real Mayday—but it is May Day! I guess I've lost my marbles, because I'm giving away the store! That's right, everything must go! Come and take it away! Come now, before I come to my senses! Yes, folks, I'm talking about Eternity's End:

Eternity's End (Tor Books)

That's the novel that got me nominated for a Nebula, and took me so long to write, it knocked the Chaos Chronicles on their ass by so many years I had to give away free ebooks of them to remind people—no, wait wait wait wait wait—wrong script! [Dammit, who gave me that paper?]

Let's try again. Eternity's End is my Nebula-nominated novel about a star rigger named Legroeder who sets out in search of the lost ship Impris, Flying Dutchman of the stars. And along the way, encounters interstellar pirates and some deep-cyber romance. This book is free range, free running, cage free, up on the web for you to download for free! That's in multi-format, DRM-free ebook format. Come catch one and take it home with you. And check out the other free ebooks while you're at it.

Paypal donations are warmly welcomed, as always—but only if you want to, and only if you think it's worth it.

Come check it out. Trust me, you'll like it.

And—very important!—kudoes and thanks to Anne King, for undertaking the huge task of proofing the manuscript and wrestling the book into the many ebook formats! Thanks, Ann!

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