Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Frozen Frogs, Cryoprotectants and Holy Days in Space

I've always struggled to think up holiday themed stories. Maybe because I have a hard time picturing Christmas or Easter in space, or that by the time we develop interstellar travel, that we may no longer celebrate such things. After all, Christmas as we know it is a relatively new invention compared to the pagan holidays that existed long before.

But last month I finally came up with a story based on Halloween, or rather the older holiday of All Hallows Eve. And as I debated whether to try and push the story through for publication for THIS Halloween or hold onto it for a whole nother year, several people suggested writing a collection. My poor muse stared at me with a 'look, it's taken me two years to manage one holiday story, don't get your hopes up' kind of glare. Yeah, we're back to that weird brick wall of just not feeling the whole Christmas in Spaaaaaaace thing, despite the fact that it's a huge festival even marked by non-Christian societies.(I'm not saying no one should write Christmas in Space. Just that I have some issue with doing one myself. I'm weird like that).

So I had a think. Several of the traditional Christian holidays we celebrate now are set on dates originally owned by pagan holidays. It has been suggested that Easter is from the Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn, Ä’ostre. In the UK we still mark the passing of Midsummer, celebrated by modern day pagans, and a popular festival in other European countries. Christmas is tied to the winter solstice. And the idea about the solstices being important stuck in my mind. They're a major astronomical event celebrated by several cultures, when the sun appears to stop in its path before reversing. Working on the principle that most planets we might first attempt to inhabit will be similar to our Earth, the chances are they will also have a summer and winter solstice (of course, with a Universal calendar, all holidays celebrated at this stage could easily still be observed, but it's that whole Christmas in space thing again). It wouldn't matter where in the universe you were, you could probably still observe a solstice holiday set to the individual rotation of the world you were on.

And then I came across this premade cover by the talented Gayle Ramage, and muse perked up. Although I think the man in the image is meant to be stone, the snowy background had me thinking ice planet to tie in with the winter theme, and I already had an idea for a holiday. Now I needed to figure out the rest of the story. (BTW, the title and name on the cover will be changed - Gayle just puts random examples on the premade covers to give buyers an idea of how it might look. You should check out her site--there are some fab scifi ones! I've grabbed three of them so far, and two are for stories I haven't even written yet!).

Which leads me to the frozen frogs. I know what you're thinking! You get the frozen part, but what the heck is the deal with the frogs?! Well, I was trying to think of a way a species could survive living exposed on a planet that is essentially in permanent winter. I remembered a documentary about a frog that could freeze and defrost without any permanent damage to itself. Let me introduce you to the wood frog (Lithobates sylvatica) the most widely distributed frog in Alaska

Now, taking the fact that Alaska is a strangely chilly place to find a little amphibian like a frog, you might be wondering how it could survive somewhere so cold, where the temperature can drop as low as -60 degrees F. *shivers* This amazing little frog survives the winter by hibernating, but it can actually tolerate its blood and tissues freezing, something that would kill any other animal. How does it do this? What magical properties does it have that allow it to not only freeze, but to defrost without any harmful side effects? Urea and liver glycogen. Both natural organic chemicals that we can find in all living things. But in the wood frog, these act as cryoprotectants, which limits the amount of ice that forms and helps prevent cell shrinkage. They can survive up to 65% of their body becoming frozen. Amazing, huh?

So from holiday themes to cryogenic frogs in one blog post. :P

 Pippa's Journal

This week I finally sent off a submission (wish me luck!), managed to stay on track with NaNoWriMo(still surprised), and I'm about to send out my second newsletter! Have you signed up yet? Go here. This month's has the latest giveaways and freebies, so if you miss it be sure to sign up for the next one. There'll be more fun stuff coming in December.


November is anti-bullying month, so I'm donating this month's royalties from my YA scifi novel Gethyon to the UK charity Childline which supports and offers advice to children being bullied and abused. I hope you'll help me support this cause. Go here to find out more. 

I'm also taking part in a huge giveaway for the next two weeks - a $100 Amazon gift card is up for grabs, along with a ton of books, swag, and other goodies. Go here for your chance to win. 

The very lovely Liana Brooks is at my blog today with an excerpt and blurb for Even Villains go to the Movies, Book Two of the Heroes and Villains series. Stop by here to find out why I love this series so much, with a mini review of the book. Plus Liana is giving away a movie bucket or $25 Amazon gift card. Yummy! 

And swing by the SFR Brigade blog here to find out how aspiring SFR author Rachel Leigh Smith came up with the naming system for her aliens. 

Finally, I'll be over at Romancing the Genres blog on Friday, talking about how I got around to writing a holiday story at last, and with a recommendation of another holiday themed threesome for you to enjoy! 

Ping Pong

Laurie - Congrats on your final in the Launching a Star contest! Awesome! Loved the turn of phrase segment too.

Donna - great review of Ender's Game. I do like stories that turn the idea of who the real villains are in a story upsidedown. Reminds me of Liana Brooks' Even Villains fall in Love, and also the film Enemy Mine. Also Neal Asher's Owner trilogy, where the main villain thinks she's the good guy, and the hero could go either way.


  1. Thanks for the shout-out, Pippa! I had a lot of fun figuring out my naming rules and looking stuff up.

  2. Those frogs are so cool - hmm joke there.
    I'm not good at holiday themes either. Christmas stories too often end up as far too sweet. Who wants to ruin Christmas!

  3. I remember an episode of STAR TREK TOS that featured turkeys for Thanksgiving, but no Christmas episode. Strange, huh? But there's no particular reason the contemporary romance folks should have a lock on holiday stories. The celebration of tradition far from home or the ways that tradition has been adapted would seem to be great fodder for SFR.

  4. Those frogs are so interesting! I saw one of the nature shows on TV where they actually filmed a frog going from frozen to defrosted. Pretty amazing. If frogs can do it naturally, I have to think there's something to this cryo tech.

    As for holiday stories, I was going to say that I've never been tempted to write one, because I don't generally read them. And then I remembered one of the first stories I ever wrote (eons ago) was a Christmas story. Maybe I'll try my hand again someday.


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