Friday, November 14, 2014

Old Promos, New Promos

In case you’ve been sitting on a fence biting your nails, trying to decide whether to plunk down your hard-earned ninety-nine cents on a copy of my ebook Panglor during its Bookbub sale, you’ve got through tonight to make up your mind. Then the price goes back up, and there’ll be nothing I can do to help you, except pat your shoulder as you learn to live with your regret. But you don’t have to live with your regret. Just visit any of the major ebook stores, and be decisive! Join the other 2500 wooters suckers readers who have, er, joined in! (That's a real number, by the way. It's been a great promo!)

This doesn’t mean there are no good deals after tonight, though. In fact, those crazy folks at Kobobooks have another special going, 35% off on selected ebook titles for the next week. Lots of stuff on sale, including my Chaos Chronicles: Books 1-3 omnibus (which they’ve grouped with boxed sets, rather than science fiction). There are some cool looking books by some of my friends at Book View Cafe. For example: Chris Dolley, Chaz Brenchley, Judith Tarr, and Cat Kimbriel. (I apologize to anyone I missed.)

One week only!

Here, in case you've forgotten what it looks like. And because blog posts look better with pictures.

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Riding a Comet!

The successful landing of Philae on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by the European Space Agency is a welcome bright spot in this month’s space news. Bright for science, and bright for the spirit of exploration. Well done, ESA!

As I type this, I don’t know if Philae has yet run out of battery power. In case you’ve been living in a mine this week, Philae dropped across space to a landing, but took a few unfortunate bounces and ended up resting on a precarious spot with too much shadow for its solar cells. I wish we could send it a light! I’d even contribute my Stanley car jumpstart battery, if it would help. Well, I’m sure Philae’s clever scientist-parents will make the most of it. And I can’t wait to find out what they learn. [Update: Apparently it has run out of battery power, after drilling into the comet, but before sending data back. Ow, that hurts. But there may be opportunity for it to recharge slowly, in the coming months, and maybe come back to life for a while. Let's hope.]

It’s amazing how little we knew about comets until we started visiting them in robotic person. We used to think they were basically dirty snowballs. Now we see that they’re much more like asteroids, but with some snow and ice to provide outgassing for the halo.

As I looked at the pictures of the comet, I found myself thinking of John Bandicut, fictional space pilot in my novel Neptune Crossing. John had to smack just such a comet really really hard, to keep it from hitting Earth. Looking at those pictures of a real comet, I reflected on how Bandie was one mongo brave dude to do such a thing. Even if he did have alien science working for him, and was half out of his mind with silence fugue. When I wrote the scene, I knew he was brave. But I don’t think I knew just how brave.

Thanks, Bandie, for riding that other comet!  (Even if you are fictional, and in the future.)

I like XKCD's view of the landing:

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Friday, November 07, 2014

Panglor Goes Off the Deep End

Panglor is kind of a weird guy, and Panglor is kind of a weird book. Much of it takes place on an extremely weird planet. You wouldn’t want to miss that, would you—all the weirdness? The guy feels as if he’s about to go off the deep end at any moment, and for a week the book is going off the deep end, at least with respect to price. (Is this another Bookbub special? Of course it is. Get the ebook for $0.99, for a limited time only.)

I wrote Panglor in my late twenties, immediately following my second novel Star Rigger’s Way, which is a coming-of-age space adventure. Star Rigger’s Way is full of youthful angst. Panglor is full of angst squared, and the thought: What might happen if the frustration, angst, and anger of the young adult of Star Rigger’s Way never got resolved. What might happen if a good space pilot went a little off the deep end emotionally, turning just crazy enough to become a little scary, but still (just) within the bounds of professional competency? And what if he met up with a young woman, smart and a little off balance herself, seemingly born just to become a thorn in his side?

And what if they both wound up on a planet occupying some kind of weird nexus in space-time, a place where reality itself seems broken, concealing a crucial discovery that will change the course of star travel?

You can find out, of course, by reading the book. As I said in an earlier post, this book didn't get much love in its original paperback from Dell, but has been well received as an ebook. I revised the text for a Tor paperback after the Dell edition, and that is the version in this ebook. (And, by the way, any correlation between the mental condition of the characters and the mental state of the author at the time of the writing is, er, purely coincidental.)

Panglor is listed as Book 1 in The Star Rigger Universe. Actually it’s a prequel to the Star Rigger Universe. It’s about the discovery that leads to star rigging. How we got from the discovery to the actual practice of star rigging is a story I haven’t written yet. Maybe I should!

Here's where you can get the $0.99 special: 
One week only!

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Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Haldemans Retire from MIT

Science fiction writer Joe Haldeman and his wonderful wife Gay have retired from part-time teaching at MIT, after thirty years of teaching students the craft of fiction writing (Joe) and the art of writing clear, comprehensible English prose (Gay). Florida residents most of the year—unless you call them Earth residents, because I’ve never known a more well-traveled couple—they’ve been coming to Cambridge every Fall for the last thirty years, and we’ve managed to snag a dinner with them many of those years.

Joe was one of the first professionals I met when I was a new writer entering the science fiction field. At the time, he was all the buzz in the industry because he’d snared a record-setting advance for his novel Mindbridge. He introduced me to Jim Frenkel, who soon became my editor and friend.  Years later, when Joe became seriously ill in the Fall of 2009, I had the privilege of stepping in for him, teaching his SF writing class at MIT for a semester.

Joe and Gay (Jim Kelly referred to them as “Joe-and-Gay, like space-time”) got to watch my kids grow up in time-lapse fashion. My younger daughter Julia once wondered aloud, as a teenager, why her own contemporaries weren’t as much fun as Joe and Gay.

Here are a couple of pix taken at their retirement dinner at MIT, on a balcony overlooking Boston’s beautiful Charles River basin.

Gay and Joe Haldeman, September 2014

Me, Joe, and Jim Kelly

We're going to miss our annual dinners. But if anyone has earned a happy retirement, it's Joe and Gay.

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