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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Revisiting Revived #amediting #scifi #romance


Despite my intention to give up this publishing lark, I've had cause to go back to some of my work. I've three stories with edits paid for, one with a cover and another eligible for one, so it seems a bit stupid to leave them languishing on my laptop when they could be out and possibly adding a few cents to my monthly income while I'm still job hunting. At least, that's my theory...
So I've dredged out Revived, my LERA Rebecca finalist and the long overdue second installment in the Venus Ascendant universe. Mainly because I think it might be the easiest to get done.
There are pros and cons to returning to a work after a long absence (a staggering 10 months later. Where did the time go?!). I can see it with fresh and more objective eyes. I'm not sick of the sight of it. But I've also forgotten details and it can be hard to spot where and what bits of the edits I did tackle before putting it aside abandoning it. Is it even the correct version?! What did I actually mean when I wrote that line however long ago? And the more persistent, is this actually any good?
I know there's a rather intense criticism with the overall theme in notes at the very end, but for now I'm just working through it from the start. And I'm still flummoxed for a title. But maybe I will publish something this year...

Status Update
Keir's Shadow is crawling toward the 85K mark. I've no idea how much more I might need to add before I can even think about editing it back down, but there's every chance that this one could end up over the 100K mark along with book one. Overall, Revived has just lost 160 words in edits. :P
What could it be?!
With my super secret project packed and about to head off to its recipient (ah, that awesome sense of a mission accomplished!), I'm back to the Tauriel cosplay, which currently involves fletching some arrows, trying to find some forest green fabric of the appropriate type, and some complicated stitchwork on the belt and gauntlets. As always, details will be posted to my Tumblr blog...when something is completed.

Chook Update
The girls are now getting more garden time but no new pictures this week (sorry!) as we've been clipping their claws and removing mud balls from their feet feathers (a common problem with Pekins). I'll make sure I have some for next time. Have a picture of our pond and the first frogspawn of the year instead.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Video Reviews: The Dish and The Martian Extended Edition

Although I occasionally do a movie review for a release that particularly impressed me (here's my last review of Passengers), I thought some random reviews of a SF with/without R videos might be of value (especially if I can sprinkle in a few titles that you may not have heard of).

This time I have:

1) The Dish--which isn't really SciFi in the way that Apollo 13 isn't SciFi, it's Science Drama. Or...in this case, Science Drama with a very humorous spin. It's based on fact, and both the video and the actual history are among those obscure little gems that most SciFi or space enthusiasts may not know about. Namely, that man's first step on the Moon was televised worldwide--but it almost didn't happen.

2) The Martian Extended Edition. You've probably seen The Martian a time or twenty, but this new version includes some of the original footage that wasn't included in the final motion picture release (the "extended cut"), plus over two hours of special features including some "never-before-seen" material. The Extended Edition also includes the original motion picture, so if you haven't yet purchased the movie for home viewing, you may want to tune in to this review.

The Dish

Starring Sam Neill (Jurassic Park) and Patrick Warburton (Seinfeld). DVD.

Originally released in 2001, this is one of those rare space-exploration based films that almost slipped by me. Twelve years later, I became aware of it when a copy was offered on the now defunct Brenda Novak Online Auction for Diabetes Research. The story sounded intriguing enough that I mentally ear-marked it as a "must see sometime." It just took me a few years to get around to that "sometime."

Though I seldom buy a DVD or Blu-ray sight unseen, the blurb and solid 4.8 star review average on Amazon for The Dish (from 53 reviews), persuaded me to take a chance. I wasn't disappointed.

Any space exploration enthusiast who wants to round out their experience of our early Apollo program would probably be delighted with this quirky little fact-based drama/comedy about a small Australian town, its people, their massive dish, and how it became the center of the universe for a few brief moments on July 20, 1969--the day a man first walked on another world.

But they only made it happen by the skin of their teeth and an act of "do or die."

The only less-than-optimal thing I'd note is that being a 2001 archive release, the sound quality wasn't the best, but it was passable enough to enjoy the story. Although there are no heart-pounding space rescues, or eye-popping special effects, there's enough humor, action, suspense, great characters and stirring pride contained in this story to please just about everyone.

This one's a 'Go'!

Special thanks to co-blogger Greta van der Rol (who has seen the real "Dish") for sending this link to more facts about the real Parkes Dish and this photo on her Facebook page - photo of The Dish which I've inserted it below. (Thanks, Greta!)

A photo of the actual Parkes Dish taken by Greta van der Rol

The Martian Extended Edition

Starring Matt Damon (The Bourne series), Jessica Chastain (Interstellar), Jeff Daniels (Speed), Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Serenity). Blu-ray + Digital HD streaming.

The added scenes in the Extended Edition were sometimes superficial, and sometimes enhanced the story with more depth and texture. (Such as, what else was Mark Watney doing while he waited for the rescue plan to be put in action?) Some scenes were very short--a second or two--and others were many minutes long and much more detailed. Most were seamless, and it took several seconds to register, "Wait. This is new."

In addition to the added scenes, several cut scenes are also included as features that weren't put back into the Extended Edition, a couple of which should probably have stayed IMHO--primarily the "sleeping arrangements" discussion that would have further clarified the Johanssen-Beck relationship, and a musing by Watney while looking out the port in Earth orbit that was quite poignant and most likely intended to preface the original ending.

I'm not sure if the new scenes themselves were worth what amounted to a double purchase for me, but the special features certainly did. There were some closer looks at The Martian special effects, sets, story development, science, etc. that were amazing. I also saw two science panels, one facilitated by Andy Weir (the author of the novel) about the efforts to send a manned mission to Mars. The other panel was a bit more manic--having one panel member that was obviously excited about his work and somewhat eccentric--but the information they brought forward was mind-blowing.

Synthetic biology. Replicators. CRISPR. Cutting edge technology that's on the verge of taking us in new directions we haven't even imagined up until now. Why take food to Mars when we can generate it once there? Why bother with the time and expense of developing and shipping supplies to Mars (ala the Ares Missions) when we can build them in place from components that exist on the planet itself? Why send humans to Mars to live and work in environmental suits and habitats when we can adapt the human body to thrive in the Martian environment? Wow.

The Martian Extended Edition ended up offering some great viewer Easter eggs, packaged with a jaw-dropping learning experience. Well worth the price for me, even though I already own the original release.

It was a 'Go' squared.

Have a great week.


Friday, February 24, 2017

TRAPPIST SYSTEM BOASTS SEVEN POSSIBLE NEW EARTHS



So, how’s this for a scenario? Not two, not three, but seven Earth-like planets circle a small, cooling star in a system a mere 39 light years from Sol. The rocky planets, all of a size to match our blue-green home, orbit tightly around their dim star, packed so closely together the sky of the outermost planets are filled with the faces of their sisters. The huge disk of their sun floods the landscape of each planet with reddish light, just warm enough for liquid water—and, perhaps, some outrageous lifeforms.

Artist's conception of a planet in the TRAPPIST-1 system (NASA/CalTech)

Well, yes, I’m a creative goddess, we know, but I didn’t make this up. I’m describing a newly discovered system referred to as TRAPPIST-1 after the European Southern Observatory's Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile that was used to find it. Michaël Gillon, an exoplanet researcher at the University of Liege in Belgium, and his team found and named the fascinating collection of planets that outdoes our own solar system, at least in terms of number of possible candidates for study. After all, our familiar yellow star can only claim three planets of the “terrestrial” or rocky, Earth-sized variety: Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars).

Gillon explains the excitement the discovery caused: “Before this, if you wanted to study terrestrial planets, we had only four of them and they were all in our solar system. Now we have seven Earth-sized planets to expand our understanding. Yes, we have the possibility to find water and life. But even if we don't, whatever we find will be super-interesting.” 

Of course, studying them from 39 light years out won’t be easy. Gillon and his fellow researchers determined the number of planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system and their relative orbits by noting the impact the bodies had on the red dwarf star they were observing in the constellation Aquarius. They refined their initial discoveries with observations with the Very Large Telescope array in the Atacama desert in South America and others. But closer observations to detect atmospheric components and thermal emissions from the planets (using telescopes like the  James Webb Space Telescope after it launches in 2018) will be needed to tell us what conditions are like on the planet surfaces.

After all, alien observers from afar might assume that three of the four of our terrestrial planets in the Sol system would fall into the “Goldilocks” zone that could harbor liquid water, and, thus, life. Mercury, of course, is too close to the sun to sustain atmosphere and is fried to a crisp. But Venus is the cloud-covered victim of global warming run amuck and Mars is dead and cold, having suffered a loss of its dynamic inner core. In the TRAPPIST-1 system, three of the seven possible candidates fall into the Goldilocks zone—where the dim sun might provide enough warmth, but not too much—but scientists simply don’t know enough to speculate whether conditions might favor life as we know it.

It’s no doubt those scientists will be working overtime to find out more about our neighbors in TRAPPIST-1, as well as Proxima b, the planet circling our nearest star neighbor, Proxima Centauri. Meanwhile, the current planetary count (confirmed to a 99 percent probability) is 1284, according to NASA’s Kepler orbiting telescope. That extrapolates to nearly 10 billion possible Earth-like planets in the galaxy. Lots of fodder for space adventures there!

Cheers,
Donna

**Information for this post taken from, “Scientists Discover 7 ‘Earth-like’ Planets Orbiting a Nearby Star,” by Sarah Kaplan, Speaking of Science, The Washington Post, February 22, 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2017/02/22/scientists-discover-seven-earthlike-planets-orbiting-a-nearby-star/?utm_term=.84a891c29377








Thursday, February 23, 2017

Mining asteroids - another kind of gold rush?

If you're interested in future tech at all you will have come across stories about mining asteroids. It has been a feature in SF stories over time. Linnea Sinclair's stories like Rebels and Lovers and Gabriel's Ghost talk about mining platforms, out in the long dark to mine floating rocks, and abandoned when the lode ran out, or other reasons.

I've had my turn, too. One of the arcs in my story Starheart is about what happens at a mining platform orbiting a gas giant. Workers are employed to mine the moonlets - or asteroids - orbiting the planet. Think Saturn and you're about right.

As usual in my stories, there's a romance - but there's also a mystery surrounding this mining platform and what happens there. Here's an excerpt that goes with the image at the top of the post.



Santh shouldered his pack and joined the line of brand new miners waiting to disembark onto the Tabora mining platform. He scratched at his hair, now ridiculously short and almost black. They could have hung him upside down and used him for a sander. He'd never forgive Brian. He'd said short but he'd been cut so close he was almost bald.
   The line shuffled along, ten men aiming to earn a fortune and go home rich. The fellow in front of him stood a whole head taller than him with shoulders to match, while the one behind, about his height, was stick thin. All types, from all over, all after a fortune. Once in the airlock, the pace picked up.
   He stepped out of the hatch and onto the platform, so like any other space station. Their boots clanging on the floor, the men were herded out of the docking area and into the platform itself, most gazing around them. He was probably one of the few who'd actually been to this gods forsaken joint before, drab utilitarian form-work disappearing into the distance above and below, covered with bad paintings of various landscapes to hide the shabbiness.
   A man dressed in maroon Company uniform waited for the new arrivals.
   "Are we all here?" he said, smiling when they'd gathered around him.
   Well, he should know, shouldn't he? He went through the names, ticking them off on a sheet. Santh almost forgot his adopted name was Jim Jonson.
   "Welcome to Tabora. My name's Mister Orlando," said smiling boy in the maroon suit. "I'll show you your accommodation first, then I'll take you on an orientation tour."
   Santh tramped along behind Orlando, who led them to a lift. The man was quite cute, nice butt, but he had one of those smiles with too many teeth. The car zoomed up eight levels, where they straggled out again into the accommodation block.
   At least they each had their own room. If you could call it that. Santh dumped his pack on the bed. Standing here if he held out an arm and stretched a little he could touch the wall on the other side of the bed and the other way he could touch the closet door with his elbow bent. The shared ablutions block was down a fenced-off walkway. They'd built the accommodation around one of the utility cores, lots of vacant space punctuated with walkways and aerials. If you peered, you could just pick the gray matt floor bottom maybe two hundred meters down. Not a great place for anybody afraid of heights.
   A man emerged from the next cell, grimacing. "Not exactly the comforts of home."
  "Just somewhere to sleep, I guess." Santh held out his hand. "I'm Jim. Jim Jonson."
   Dark eyes lit up in a pale face. Santh's hand was grasped like a lifebuoy. "Ace. Ace Connor. You been here before?"
   "No," Santh said, easing his hand away. "You?"
   "Me neither."
   Orlando ordered everyone back into the lift and took them to an observation platform. Eerie light flooded the room. The entire far wall appeared to be transparent, giving an uninterrupted view of the gas giant Tabora. Rivers of red, orange, brown and grey drifted together in whorls and swirls like oil on water. It was almost romantic, a silent, perpetual dance, slow and stately.
   "Looks peaceful, doesn't it?" Orlando said. "The winds down there blow at quarter of a million klicks per hour. But don't worry. If you ever get buffeted by the wind, you'll have already been crushed to a pulp by the gravity, so you won't notice."
   He'd made his point. Quite a few people sucked in an audible breath.
   "For any of you who didn't realize, this isn't a real window, by the way. It's a giant screen showing you sensor data. Now, if you'll look carefully here," he pointed at a dark, ragged line barely visible against the planet's light. "You'll see a ring. That's what we mine. Go out there, break up the asteroids, bring them back in the hopper of your vehicle. They are fully shielded, tough little buses specially designed for this environment so you'll be quite safe if you follow the rules."

 Starheart is the third of the Ptorix Empire series and is completely stand-alone. It's available everywhere.  

SH cover payhip


Freighter Captain Jess Sondijk has her life under control until the Confederacy’s Admiral Hudson boards her ship in a search for contraband. Sondijk and Hudson have their own set of questions.
For Jess, it’s a matter of her husband’s perhaps not so accidental death. For Hudson, it’s that somebody’s trading with the alien Ptorix – and offering them a large enough prize to induce them to part with their beloved starhearts, the jewels they call the windows of the soul.

While Jess’ interests are more personal — abducted friends and family — Hudson’s are broader — the end of his career at best and interspecies war at worst — in a deadly game of political intrigue, murder, and greed.

Which will win, following hearts’ desires or chasing starhearts, with the stakes higher than either is willing to pay?

This book contains sex scenes and strong language.
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