Sunday, July 29, 2007

Imagination and Science

I heart The History Channel. I heart Nova, too.

Unless new episodes of Grey's Anatomy are airing, I don't watch much network television. Too often, however, I catch myself with rear end firmly planted on couch, gazing at some scientific documentary when I should be writing or revising. I can't help it. I love to look at science. I have little talent for "doing" science, but understanding how these brilliant minds develop theories and make hypotheses often captures my imagination and jump starts my muse.

Recently, I saw a documentary on History Channel with the unlikely title "How William Shatner Changed the World." I was quite sure I'd be making a face and reaching for the remote in moments. Instead, I found myself staring, wide-eyed, and nodding my head.

You could call the general theme "life imitating art" but it's more than that. The documentary illustrated how Star Trek, through sheer imagination, created a destination for Science to follow in developing some of our current technology. As early as the mid-1960s, Star Trek showed us sophisticated devices and systems. Many of the kiddos who were uttering "Cool stuff!" and "Neato!" started thinking about how those things could be achieved.

As a result, many of the top scientists and physicists today were those who cut their teeth on Star Trek episodes. They saw interstellar travel, communicators, tricorders, transporters, photon torpedos, worm holes...and it inspired them. They wanted to start building roads to those "shining destinations" that the Star Trek universe revealed. They sought education and careers that would take them where they wanted to travel, "to boldly go where no man has gone before" in the real world.

Today we have technology like cell phones, wireless communications, PCs, the internet, space exploration, and advances in the medical field that have brought Bones McCoy's futuristic sick bay much closer to reality. What if there had never been a Star Trek to set that course? What if some of today's brilliant minds hadn't had a low-budget television series as a guide to spur their ambition? Would we be living in a very different world? Could be.

As a writer of Science Fiction and Futuristic Fantasy, I was delighted with the documentary's theme: Imagination and science are powerful allies. Imagination creates castles in the air, then Science strives to build the foundations under them. As a species, we are obsessed with creating roads to the shiny empires we see on imagination's horizon.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Book Trailers as a Marketing Tool

Check out my article on The Toasted Scimitar about book movie trailers for books. I've included three examples from authors Linnea Sinclair and Michelle Moran. Be sure to add your comments.

You Know it's a Well Done Spoof When...'re half way through the article before you realize it's a joke.

Had to share this one. Hey, it's almost Friday. Time for a good laugh. :)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Another One Bites the Dust?

Could it be the end of the Mars Rover mission, due to a massive dust storm?

Mars has been notoriously non user friendly to our probes in the past. NASA is holding its collective breath.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Our First 1000 Customers Have Been Served!

Spacefreighters Lounge has now surpassed its first 1000 hits. Your patronage is appreciated. I hope the blog is fulfilling its mission parameters as a muse motivator and research center for Science Fiction and Futuristic writers and fans.

Pull up a hover chair and join the celebration. The Billins is on the house. :)


Sunday, July 15, 2007


By Lisa Shearin
Ace Books
Urban Fantasy

Opening Notes From the Reviewer: If you’ve read my reviews before, you know I try to avoid spoilers for potential readers. Knowing what’s going to happen takes the joy out of the journey.

So, instead, I look at the elements…

COVER ART: Nice use of color and I like MC Raine’s slightly cocky, slightly whimsical expression. The outfit the MC is wearing and some of her accessories are described in the book. Great attention to detail, there. I like the active font that was used for the title. It’s fun, unorthodox, charming and mysterious—just like the story. I would have liked to see more characters portrayed, one in particular (more on him later)--but then again, maybe sexy, silver-skinned goblins are best left to the imagination.

INITIAL IMPRESSION: Intriguing hook. “Sorcerers weren’t normal, sorcery wasn’t natural, and Quentin Rand didn’t like either one.” These are the MCs opening thoughts that propel her into an adventure. Actually, “adventure” is much too weak of a word for what’s in store for this gutsy elf. I was pulled right into Raine’s head courtesy of First Person POV. By the end of Chapter One, she is already engaged in a fierce battle with a band of goblin shamans and temple guards. Chapter Two brings even more action and greater danger.

MAIN CHARACTERS: Raine Benares is a seeker, a finder of lost things, and a sorceress of moderate powers. Make that a world-wise, quick-witted, been-around-the-block-a-few-times sorceress…with a supportive extended family. Her occupation promises peril, because, as she mentally notes, “some things are better left unfound”.

SUPPORTING CHARACTERS: I found the goblin Tam—Tamnais Nathrach—a mesmerizing individual. He is at once exotic, clever, steamy, and trustworthy in a dangerous sort of way. Tam is a primaru, a goblin shaman of royal blood, whose current gig is as owner of the classy nightclub, Sirens. Raine’s relationship with Tam is established before the story opens, and when these two get together, things sizzle. This is not a romance, though it certainly has a fair measure of intriguing sexual tension. But wait. Is there soon to be another man in her life? Spellsinger Mychael Eiliesor, a Conclave Guardian and fellow elf, becomes acquainted with Raine suddenly through a very unpleasant introduction (for him). Piaras, Raine’s young cousin, has a “kid brother” appeal and some developing powers of his own.

VILLAIN: Oh, it’s a cast of thousands. Some of the most notable are goblin Prince Chigaru, his brother the goblin king, goblin grand shaman Sarad Nukpana, creepy, oily shadows that can drink a person whole, and other magical beings that hunt and feed in the darkness of the ruins. Maybe foremost of all (and worst of all?) the Saghred itself, the Thief of Souls.

OTHER CHARACTERS: Raine has an extended family and a circle of friends that make frequent appearances at opportune, and sometimes inopportune, times to assist, shelter and counsel. A wonderful support group for any girl to have.

WORLD BUILDING: A nicely layered and districted Fantasy world of some complexity. Well-drawn cityscapes and ruinscapes. Several locales with considerable creep factor.

CONFLICT: In a nutshell, Raine acquires something she didn't want, attached to trouble she didn't need, and the attention of some evil personas/entities she definitely wants to avoid. Chaos ensues, along with a number of unexpected twists and turns and a journey through some of the darkest corners of this imaginative fantasy world.

ROMANCE: No romance, but plenty of tease and innuendo. In my opinion, more than enough to satisfy those readers who believe no story is complete without a romantic element. (Raises hand.)

READABILITY: Reading MLTF is like being in the head of a close friend as she observes, comments on, and reacts to the situation around her, sometimes with hilarious results. Sometimes with terrifying consequences.

EVIL AUTHORS GUILD STAMP OF APPROVAL: The Evil Authors Guild exists to encourage writers to inflict appropriate amounts of terror, angst and emotional torture into their characters’ lives, and to leave them twisting in the wind at every opportunity. Happily endorsed.

MOST QUOTABLE QUOTE(S): There is a perfect summary of Raine's relationship with Tam. When he asks if she trusts him, she replies: “With my life, yes. But not with the rest of me.” Raine’s initial impression of Conclave Guardian Mychael Eiliesor painted quite a portrait: “His eyes were stunning. Tropical seas stunning—and lock up your daughters and wives trouble.”

MAGIC QUOTIENT: Magic is used in imaginative and surprising ways in MLTF, and in at least one scene it had me ROFL. (Like gondolas, Mychael?)

SECOND READ: There’s so much going on here—character-wise, politics-wise, and plot-wise, that this one is perfect for multiple reads. Many of the subtler points come into sharper focus on the second (or more) pass.

OVERALL RATING: If you’ve read my reviews before, you know that I don’t rate on a number scale. Each novel is like sightseeing in a strange city. You learn about the territory as you go. I rate MLTF as a Chicago. It’s fast-paced and exciting facade covers a dark and sometimes threatening underground. It’s a hub of action, a melting-pot of fantasy icons and fresh ideas. It’s a big, big place with a lot to discover. A delightful destination. If you’ve never read Urban Fantasy before, let this be your first. And, oh yes, expect a sequel.

Does This Change Everything We Know?

[Please note: As a writer, I love to explore new theories and ideas. I have written the following article for speculation and further musing. I have not researched the validity of statements made, some of which are reportedly based on scientific evidence and some on personal hypothesis. If you want to learn more, please follow the links at the end of the article and develop your own theories.]

Recent articles are proposing a shocking new idea from the astronomers of the University of Massachusetts: We may not be who we thought we were. Not children of the Milky Way Galaxy at all, but adoptees.

There is recent evidence that our solar system was not originally part of the Milky Way, but was formed in the Sagittarius Dwarf galaxy, which has since been all but consumed by the monstrous Milky Way.

But we still go about our daily lives without much change, right? Well, maybe not. As we are absorbed into the Milky Way, a galaxy of considerably more energy, things are being to change.

Our sun might be burning hotter. Dark spots are appearing and growing. Auroras have been sighted on Saturn and the magnetic field on Jupiter has doubled. The Martian biosphere may be changing, and there are early indication an atmosphere could be forming on the Moon. Maybe the most startling change is that Uranus and Neptune have registered polar shifts. If it's happening elsewhere in our neighborhood, will it happen on Earth? NASA information indicates there may already be a movement in the Earth’s poles. Polar shift is believed to have happened in Earth's past, possibly more than once. Are we in for another 'big shake up'?

And what are the implications for global warming, which the increased energies may intensify, but our emissions activities certainly accelerate?

In looking at the 'what ifs', we can't overlook the enigma of the Mayan calendar, currently the center of much speculation, as some believe it has predicted major events through time, and comes to a sudden halt in the year 2012. Research indicates this may be when our solar system will move through the central axis of the Milky Way galaxy.

If you'd like to read more, click on the following links:

Daijaworld: Massachusetts Discovery: Earth Part of a New Galaxy Rediff

American Chronicle Article: If This Be True, Then... by Philip F. Harris

All About 2012

Alignment 2012: What the Maya Left Behind by John Major Jenkins

Wikipedia: Sagittarius Dwarf Eliptical Galaxy

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Houston, We Have Water!

Meet HD 189733b.

The first hard evidence of water on an alien world was just discovered on this gaseous giant, described as a "hot Jupiter."

HD 189733b is in the Vulpecula the Fox constellation (only 64 light years, or about 380 million million miles from our Sun). Astronomers were able to analyse its chemical makeup and determine the presence of water.

Read the entire article here:

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Not Quite an Alien...

This strange creature dubbed an "octosquid" was caught off the coast of Hawaii.

For more information, click this link:

Friday, July 6, 2007

Dream Job...or Nightmare?

Got 17 months to spare? Want to make $92,000?

The European Space Agency is accepting applications from Russian citizens and other member nations of the ESA for six positions to be virtual astronauts on a simulated space flight to Mars and back. During the time "onboard" the virtual astronauts will eat packaged space food, experience communication delays that will range from a few seconds to forty minutes (just like on a progressing space flight) and handle 'emergencies'.

Read more here:

Hubble Finds Ring of "Dark Matter"

Scientists have suspected the existence of dark matter for some time. Now they have visual proof, thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope.

Dark matter has "...a unique structure that is different from the gas and galaxies in the cluster," said M. James Jee, Johns Hopkins University astronomer.

The ring has a massive width -- 2.6 million light-years across -- and was discovered in the cluster ZwCl0024+1652. The cluster is 5 billion light-years distant from Earth.

For more information, click the link below for an article on Wired Science:

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Independence Day = Mars Solstice

Did you know July 4th is the Martian Solstice?

Or that on July 7th the Dawn probe will launch with a mission to study the minor planets Ceres and Vesta in the asteroid belt (arrival 2011)?

These are just a couple of the interesting facts on NASA's Solar System Exploration site. Here's the link:

It will also be added to our permanent list of reference sites on the lower right.

Monday, July 2, 2007


By Linnea Sinclair
Science Fiction Romance
Bantam Books

OPENING NOTES FROM REVIEWER: I try to avoid spoilers in my reviews for all potential readers. Knowing major chunks of the plot takes the fun out of the read.

So, looking at the elements…

COVER ART: I can only dream one of mine gets such a great cover. The artist is Stephen Youll. It’s got "pick me off the shelf now!" factor. Dark, other-worldly landscape. Spacecraft in blast-off mode. Competent-looking, uniformed female captain, front and center. And who is that hunk behind the female MC? ::: flips through a few pages :::: Oooh, that’s got to be Admiral Kel-Paten.

INITIAL IMPRESSION: Dialogue is used effectively as an opening hook. “You might want to sit down.” You bet I did…book in hand. I was drawn into the MCs world, feelings and situation. I understood her past, her current dilemma--and her concern about her possible futures. Or lack of one.

MAIN CHARACTERS: Captain Tasha “Lady Sass” Sebastian is intelligent, strong-willed, self-assured, and always up for a party or at least a pitcher of iced gin. I like her immediately. She’s coffee-fueled. She makes me root for her and she makes me laugh. Admiral Branden Kel-Paten is cold, calculating, angry, aloof, and impossible to read. But that’s how he’s wired, quite literally. Like, Tasha, I start out with a healthy dose of skepticism and suspicion. As I learn more about him, his past, and his present, I am thrown off balance and then won over, like she is. It takes time. He’s a difficult individual to get to know but the discoveries are more rewarding because of his complex layers. In the end, I cheer for these two. I am upset when their world—make that universe--falls apart. I need them to have a happy ending.

SUPPORTING CHARACTERS: Doctor Eden Flynn is a strong enough character to be an MC in her own right, and Jace Serafino, pirate and outlaw, is equal parts worthy hero and enigmatic scoundrel. The two main female characters are close friends and conspirators. The two main male characters are often at violent odds, and I found myself on Kel-Patent’s side every time.

VILLAIN: There is no stand-out villain. It could be Kel-Paten. It could be Serafino. Or an important Triad politician. Or the Faction. Or any of a number of questionable characters. Not knowing who the real enemy is half the fun.

OTHER CHARACTERS: There is a cast of effective and memorable personas, not the least of which are two who share the adventure with, and the affection of, the MCs. They aren’t human. They’re Tank and Reilly, a fidget and a furzel. These are not silly alien sidekicks. They are very recognizable and entertaining entities who play an important role in the outcome of the story. The other various crew members, friends, and past acquaintances are also well drawn, even in brief appearances.

WORLD BUILDING: An appropriately complex array of shifting alliances and enemies, influential organizations, ancient religions, legends and a certain unknown menace called The Faction. Good descriptions of setting throughout, from the spit-and-polish corridors of Kel-Paten’s flagship, Vaxxar to the refuge of a lush forest or an orbiting “raft.”

CONFLICT: Conflict exists on almost every level, but central plot themes focus on issues of trust versus perception. The animosity between the two male leads is sometimes intense. The romantic conflict is realistic. The characters have a deep chasm separating them and no talents for bridge-building. Or do they?

ROMANCE: The sexual tension begins as a faint flicker and allows the reader to develop an emotional investment before it becomes an ion flare. It’s through the MCs sexual encounters that their paradoxes are revealed.

READABILITY: Major Snarf Factor. Shall I explain? Last summer, I started reading a best seller but couldn’t get past Chapter Six. Not because it isn’t well-plotted, intriguing or effective writing, but because I simply didn’t have the time to finish it, and no motivational Snarf cracking their proverbial whip and chanting, “Must read more!” In contrast, I picked up GAMES OF COMMAND on Tuesday night and finished it Saturday afternoon, despite three fourteen-hour days at work. I made the time to finish it. I couldn’t put it down. It was a white-knuckle “what happens next?” adventure. I was Snarf-driven. This book should have a warning label: Addicting Substance. Determined by the Surgeon General to Result in Severe Sleep Deprivation.

EVIL AUTHORS GUILD STAMP OF APPROVAL: The Evil Authors Guild exists to encourage writers to inflict appropriate amounts of terror, angst and emotional torture into their characters’ lives, and to leave them twisting in the wind at every opportunity. Enthusiastic approval.

McClellan’s Void. Just the tag elicits mystery and foreboding.
Neverwhen. Suggests a place that can’t be described in physical terms, like Anne McCaffrey’s “between” or Never Never Land.
Psy-Serv. *suppresses shudder*

SECOND READ: What fun! All the subtle hints and nuances suddenly jump off the page. Kel-Paten’s personality quirks have deeper meaning. Tasha’s offhand comments crackle with irony. Little things that seem like visual details become major icons. This one is written for a second read. Maybe a third, a fourth…and beyond.

OVERALL RATING: I don’t rate novels on a number scale. Each novel is unique and, just like sightseeing in a strange city, you learn about the literary ‘points of interest’ as you get to know the territory. This one has adventure, excitement, shiny technology, a gritty underbelly and a variety of surprises. GAMES OF COMMAND is a Las Vegas. Definitely, a Las Vegas. And just like Vegas, if you haven’t ever been there, my advice is that you should make the trip. Soon.