Friday, October 30, 2020


As if this year from Hell hasn’t brought enough trouble, our family is dealing with an urgent health emergency this week concerning a beloved elder. So, today’s post will offer no extensive discourse on the state of the world, or science, or fiction, or anything much else. But there is a lot going on this weekend, for which I can provide these brief reminders.

It’s Halloween! Celebrate however you can, but safely! (Because the scariest thing out there right now is the huge uptick in coronavirus cases.) I plan to park myself on the couch with some popcorn and an adult beverage and watch some scary movies. Check out my review of some perennial favorite creature features on my podcast website My Moviehouse My

There’s a full moon! Yes, on Halloween night. This is a so-called “blue moon,” (meaning it’s the second full moon this month) also a “hunter’s moon,” giving night hunters light to stalk by. Conclusion: don’t be out in the woods to make yourself prey for some furry, big-toothed creature.

Good news, we gain an hour on Saturday night! Set your clocks BACK on Saturday night (actually, Sunday morning at 2:00 a.m.) to gain an extra hour for the loss of Daylight Savings Time. Those of you with animals and/or young kids at home have nothing to celebrate in this, of course, because those creatures do not understand time changes AT ALL! They will still demand to be fed at the regular time, which will appear to be an hour earlier by your new clock. *sigh*

Finally, early voters, get it done! This weekend (either today in some cases, or Saturday) is the LAST CHANCE for citizens in many states to vote early and avoid long lines at the polls on Election Day. So, voters in Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia, if you haven’t done so already, don your mask, get thee to your local early voting place, and do your duty! Don’t bother mailing an absentee ballot at this point, it’s too late! Drop it off at a designated drop box or your local board of elections office to make sure your vote counts!

Cheers, Donna

Monday, October 26, 2020

Cell Network on the Moon by 2022!?

Yes, you read that right. 

NASA is planning to build the first 4G mobile cellular network on the Moon, and they've selected Nokia to help them do it. In fact, they have fourteen other partners involved to work on technologies that will sustain development on the Moon, according to NASA officials.

The future is here!

Though Nokia is probably best known for their early cell phone designs, the company also has the capacity to build vital infrastructure from cell towers and satellites. The Finland corporation will work with Bell Labs to build a lunar cellular network, planned for a late 2022 launch.

"Reliable, resilient and high-capacity communications networks will be key to supporting sustainable human presence on the lunar surface," said Nokia Chief Technology Officer Marcus Weldon in a recent press release. He also remarked that Bell Labs is once again "planting the flag" for unconventional pioneering and innovation as we make our first steps onto another world. 

The contract is said to be in the amount of $14.1 million and will "provide a speedy connection to any device within range of a base station."

NASA's Artemis program is planning to send astronauts on a lunar mission by 2024. Can you imagine being one of the first to get a selfie from another world? Or a tweet that the lunar landing vehicle has just touched down? 

It's another amazing stride forward as our technology continues to advance by leaps and bounds. Be sure to catch Donna's Friday blog about several other exciting new advances (plot bunnies!) by following this link: 

Room for Optimism in Today's Science News by Donna S. Frelick

Reference information for this blog can be found here:

Chron: NASA is Launching a 4G Mobile Network on the Moon 

Popular Science: The Moon will soon have Cell Service

Is Pets in Space 5 the Best Collection Yet?

On October 6, the fifth annual Pets in Space® volume was released and the response has been tremendous!

If you read some of the reviews, the "best collection yet" has certainly been a repeated theme and it's saying quite a lot considering the first four volumes were pretty amazing themselves. 

It's an especially proud achievement considering the authors were dealing with varying level of stress in their personal lives due to the pandemic crises while in the process of penning these stories. 

Yet, reading the reviews immediately invoked shades of Oprah: "You get 5 stars! And you get 5 stars! And you get 5 stars!"

Let me recap just a few of the many comments made by readers:


Another perfect anthology! -Five star Amazon review

THE BEST OF THE BEST -Five star Amazon review

Terriffic -Five star Amazon review

Great anthology! - Five star Amazon review

And what a yummy smorgasbord of delicious SFR delights it is. Reading Reality Reviews - Five Stars

Absolutely fantastic collection of stories from so many outstanding authors. Loved each and everyone. Ready for more. -Five Star Goodreads review

Also, don't miss co-blogger Greta van der Rol's reviews on three of the Pets in Space 5 books at the links below:

Greta van der Rol: Juggernaut - A Pets in Space 5 Story

Greta van der Rol: The General's Holiday is a Great Read

Greta van der Rol: Another Winner from Pets in Space

While the authors are all extremely happy to have delivered such a well-received collection of works, we're also a little concerned that time is running out for our charity, Hero-Dogs

Our donation window ends on Veterans Day, November 11th! That's just a little over two weeks away.

If you haven't yet purchased a copy of this exciting new Pets in Space® offering, please consider doing so today so a portion of your purchase can go to help Hero Dogs. But also, so you can grab this wonderful volume of science fiction romance stories--in spaaaaaaaace--before it's gone forever! 

These volumes only run for a limited time before they are permanently removed from sale. You may still be able to track down a story or two if they're republished in the future, but certainly not at a price of less than 42 cents per book! And I do mean 'per book'! Most of these stories are novella to full novel length! 

That's a whole lot of great reading that will give you an escape from the here-and-now, and help a fabulous charity like Hero-Dogs while you're at it. 

Click here to see all the available vendors: 

Pets in Space 5

Have a great week. A very Happy Halloween...and Happy Reading!

Friday, October 23, 2020


Time again for news from the world of science! (Yes, you remember science—the thing that depends on verifiable facts and repeated experimentation to prove logical theories?) Today’s news is genuinely exciting and, in addition to providing more plot bunnies than a patch of cerebral clover, these stories leave actual room for optimism!

Osiris-Rex loves Bennu. At least, judging by the kiss the NASA spacecraft gave the asteroid on Tuesday, the first step in its mission to collect dust and rock samples from the rugged bit of space voyager to bring back home in 2023. The rendezvous with the asteroid has been underway since launching from Cape Canaveral in 2016 and included a prolonged orbit of the asteroid for data collection. Though data sent from the spacecraft confirmed the sample collection was successful, it will be as long as a week before scientists at NASA will know for sure whether the samples actually made it onboard safely. If something went wrong, Osiris-Rex will have another chance to complete the collection before the sample capsule parachutes into the Utah desert on its return home. Even at this stage, however, NASA scientists were over the moon. As NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstine said, “We are on the way to returning the largest sample brought home from space since Apollo. If all goes well, this sample will be studied by scientists for generations to come.”

Osiris-Rex: One small step for machine-kind . . .

Cheap, clean and abundant energy? Wouldn’t that be the answer to everyone’s prayers? But scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) believe they may be well on the way to making good on that goal with a working prototype of a fusion reactor. They have developed a design for a compact fusion reactor that mimics the sun, smashing hydrogen atoms together to release energy, thus generating less radioactive waste and using less fuel than any conventional energy process.

The search for the dream of fusion, which does not generate planet-warming greenhouse gases, has so far taken decades, but the MIT team says in a series of peer-reviewed papers that construction on their tennis-court-sized reactor, SPARC, could begin as early as next spring. Construction might take three to four years, with a goal of beginning production of energy by 2035. This would be a leap forward over SPARC’s closest competitor, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor in France, which has been underway since 2013 and is not expected to produce any fusion reaction until 2035. The MIT improved design uses superconducting magnets to contain the extremely hot and high-pressure reactions going on inside the reactor, producing as much as ten times the energy it consumes. Martin Greenwald, co-lead scientist on the MIT team, is optimistic, but he does add one caveat: “If we can overcome the engineering challenges, this machine will perform as we predict.”

Goodbye to plastic? No matter how hard we all try to reduce, reuse and recycle, it seems there is just too much plastic for our planet to handle. It fills up our garbage cans, our landfills, our oceans. It strangles our sea creatures, settles at the bottom of the deepest ocean crevices, poisons even our tiniest humans through the milk they drink in their baby bottles. But what can we do? The corporations that rule our lives won’t stop putting their products in cheap plastic containers, and most of us have no choice but to buy what they sell.

But scientists at the University of Portsmouth in Hampshire, England have been working with a plastic-eating enzyme called PETase (a natural digestive substance discovered in a landfill in Japan in 2016). They have found a way to accelerate this chemical’s ability to break down the avalanche of plastic in our environment—by combining it with another enzyme called MHETase. The new “superenzyme” breaks down plastic six times faster than PETase alone. Better yet, the process dismantles the petroleum-based product, leaving behind the basic building blocks of the stuff so it can be used over and over again. Not that the superenzyme works superfast; it would still take days or weeks to recycle that soft drink bottle you just tossed in the trash. But researchers are looking for ways to speed the process and scale up operations. At this stage of the game, any progress is welcome.

Meanwhile, on Mars. First, we hear there may be exotic lifeforms flying (swimming?) around in the dense clouds of Venus. Now, it seems, Mars may be hiding an environment ripe for microscopic life in salty ponds below its barren surface. Italian scientists reported their findings last week, more than two years after identifying evidence of what they believe to be a network of underground lakes in data sent back from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter.

The research team, led by Roma Tre University’s Sebastian Emanuel Lauro, used more than 100 radar observations from the orbiter from 2010 to 2019, analyzing the findings with a method similar to that used on Earth to detect buried lakes in the Antarctic and Canadian Arctic.  High concentrations of salt in the water likely kept the lakes from freezing as Mars, once warm and wet, gradually became dry, barren and cold. The surface temperature at the South Pole of Mars averages an estimated 172 degrees Fahrenheit but gets temperatures warm underground. The scientific team urged future missions to Mars to target this region, calling the area of potential biologic interest. Co-author of the paper outlining the team’s findings, Roberto Orosei, of Italy’s National Institute of Astrophysics, insists it’s possible the subsurface lakes may have been “a place where life could adapt and survive.”

And if that’s not a plot bunny, I don’t recognize a fluffy tail when I see one.

Cheers, Donna

*Information for this week’s post provided by:

“Nasa Osiris-Rex spacecraft lands on asteroid Bennu in mission to collect dust,” The Guardian, October 22, 2020.

“MIT Researchers Say Their Fusion Reactor Is ‘Very Likely to Work,’by Victor Tangermann,, September 29, 2020.

“A new ‘super enzyme’ that digests plastic waste six times faster, has been engineered, scientists say,” by Lynn Hasco, (PA Patriot News), September 29, 2020.

“Clouds of Venus could harbor life, new study shows,” by Andrea Leinfelder, Microsoft News, September 14, 2020.

“Salty lake, ponds may be gurgling beneath South Pole on Mars,” by Marcia Dunn, AP News, September 28, 2020.


Thursday, October 22, 2020

Another winner from Pets in Space


I've just read another fantastic story from Pets in Space and once again, I'm very impressed. This time, I went for the story that features three creatures which had to have come from dear old Earth – JC Hay's Mittens not Included.

Here's the blurb

Three little kittens have lost their way…

Layth Ali thought he was happy. On board the Sentinel of Gems, he is allowed to run the medical bay as he sees fit, and the crew appreciates his talents. Most importantly, the smugglers don’t ask him questions about his past or pressure him to leave his self-imposed exile. But when a new passenger and her precious cargo get dumped in his lap, it’s all he can do to deflect her incessant questions and keep her at arm’s length.

Meja Aquarone knew she was courting trouble when she stole a litter of kittens from the lab where she worked, but she refused to allow their perceived flaw to become a death sentence. Now she’s on the run, hoping that the crew of the Sentinel can smuggle her someplace safe without her employers catching her. She wasn’t expecting to find someone on board who understood the tiny creatures or who shielded his compassion behind layers of armor, but ten minutes with the ship’s doctor leaves her curious to know more.

Forced to go to the one place he swore never to return, Layth feels the walls closing in around them. With a corporate bounty on their heads, and three cats becoming increasingly difficult to hide, Layth and Meja must decide what they’re willing to sacrifice to gain the safety they desire, and if that protection is worth being alone.


 Ah, genetically engineered kittens, not yer average ferals, then. Designer companion animals with the associated price tag. Like all manufactured luxury goods, anything that was not up to spec would be destroyed. Except Meja isn't prepared to let that happen to 0511-A, B, and C. Naturally, Golden Ratio Companion Animals isn't prepared to have inferior animals sold off, so Meja's in the crosshairs when she steals the litter.

It's a more than plausible premise and I quickly took to Meja, a genetic scientist ready to take a huge risk to smuggle the cats to a safer life. To do that, she takes passage with a group of smugglers. One of the crew is the ship's medic, who finds himself having to look after the new arrival and her trio of kittens.

The kittens are as cute, curious, and mischievous as you'd expect – and it seems some people in the future still get allergic reactions. I can relate to that. 😏 They also have a way of getting under people's skins. It's interesting to notice how several members of the crew change because of their presence.

There's a lot to like about this story. For a start there's the believable physics. The Sentinel of Gems uses a rotating arm to create gravity. That means there's very little gravity at the centre of the ship where the engines are located. In one scene, Layth heads down to the core to visit April the engineer who hails from a low gravity environment. They (as in not he or she) are very tall and thin and don't like to venture into gravity often – what you'd expect from a person born in those conditions. The description of drifting in the engineering area and sharing tea from pouches is much like what you'd expect from a visit to the ISS.

Through it all, of course, there's the love story as Meya and Layth slowly get to know each other, forced together by a mutual obligation to look after Meja's charges. After all, the kittens are worth a lot of money. Gradually, Meja peels away the layers of armor that Layth has wrapped around himself. What's the story with the scrap of material he keeps in his pocket? What's his background? There's plenty of emotion in their physical encounters but Hay leaves the nuts and bolts to the reader's imagination. And in the end, Layth has to come to terms with his past if he's to move on into the future.

The rest of the crew are wonderfully diverse and convincing: Barnes, the tough, no-nonsense captain (how Meja ends up on her ship is a great scene early in the story). Hicks, the competent pilot who sneaks out to play with the kittens at the end of her shifts. Barr, the rough, tough security guy who'll do anything for his shipmates.

It was a terrific story and once again a five-star read.

Grab a copy of Pets in Space, folks. You're sure to find something you like and it supports a great charity.

This is my third Pets in Space 5 review. Read my reviews of Laurie A. Green's story, Juggernaut, and Pauline Baird Jones's story, The General's Holiday.


Have you bought your copy yet? You really should. 

Nook  Amazon Kobo Google  iBooks





Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Pandemic Greetings: What Karate & Courtesy Have to do With Covid

I’ve seen a lot of different pandemic greetings in an effort to stop the spread of germs from handshaking. There’s waving, nodding, toe touching, the Vulcan greeting, fist bumping, and elbow touching (which I don’t understand because didn’t you just sneeze into your elbow and now you want to touch your germ-y elbow to mine? Ew!) But the greeting I like the best is bowing.

Please, can we adopt the Asian custom of bowing into American culture?

Here’s why I like bowing. First, there's no touching involved which avoids sweaty palms, limp grips, and other unpleasant handshakes. It also avoids the awkward or uncomfortable hugs you’d rather not give or receive.

Second, bowing is more than a greeting. It is courtesy. It is respect. It is gratitude. It is a small act that conveys great meaning.

Gichin Funakoshi is known as the father of modern day karate because he brought his Okinawan martial art of self-defense to mainland Japan, which contributed to its introduction to the rest of the world. *Stay with me, I have a point.* In his book, The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate, he states, “Karate begins and ends with rei." Rei means esteem, gratitude, courtesy, and respect. Respect for others and respect for ourselves. This respect is demonstrated every time we bow. *Told you I had a point.*

In karate class, we bow onto the dojo floor to show respect to the place in which we learn. We bow to our sensei (teacher) to show gratitude, courtesy, and respect for their knowledge and the lessons they will teach. The bow signifies our willingness to learn and our appreciation for being taught. We bow to other students to assure them of our desire to work together to advance both our training; we are not facing off in combat.

My Okinawan weapons teacher, Mitsutada Iha, explained a proper bow as standing with heals together, toes apart, and hands at your side. With a straight spine and keeping the head in line with the back, hinge forward at the waist about 30 degrees. Mitsutada Sensei said, “You are showing the most vulnerable part of the body—your head—to someone.”

Let that sink in for a minute. You are trusting another person with the most vulnerable part of your body, and you are doing this without seeing them. Contrary to what Mr. Miyagi in the original karate kid told Daniel-san, you aren’t supposed to look in the other person’s eyes. That shows mistrust. Looking down humbles you. It’s a vulnerable position that demonstrates trust. That’s a difficult concept for many people to accept. I can’t speak for other nationalities, but most Americans don’t like showing vulnerability. In fact, when shaking hands we’re taught to give a firm handshake, as a limp hand shows a sign of weakness, and to look the other person in the eyes.

According to Funakoshi, "True rei is the outward appearance of a respectful heart." Anyone can go through the motions and bow at all the proper times, but if they don’t have a sincere heart, they don’t possess true rei. Remember rei is respect and courtesy. Funakoshi’s book guides the reader through the spiritual aspects of martial arts, which is much more than striking, punching, and kicking. Karate-do is a way of life. Its philosophy is meaningful in martial arts and in our everyday lives. These principles encourage us to take a deeper look at ourselves, at how we live, and how we treat those around us.

Funakoshi says, "The difference between men and animals lies in rei. Combat methods that lack rei are not martial arts but merely contemptible violence. Physical power without rei is no more than brute strength, and for human beings it is without value. All martial arts begin and end with rei. Unless they are practiced with a feeling of reverence and respect, they are simply forms of violence. For this reason martial arts must maintain rei from beginning to end."

I believe everything should maintain rei from beginning to end. Whether it’s home life, school/work life, sports & recreation, or a simple greeting, we should treat everyone and everything with reverence, respect, and courtesy. If we did, the world would be a much nicer and safer place to interact.

What do you think? Are you living your life with true rei? Do you treat yourself and others with courtesy, esteem and respect even when their lives or opinions differ from yours? What about your characters? What changes can you make right now to demonstrate the rei in your heart? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

K.M. Fawcett
Author and Martial Arts Instructor

Friday, October 16, 2020


As I write this (on October 15) it is the first day of early voting in North Carolina. Early voting has already started in many states and is due to start soon in others. I'm off to cast my vote today and to start my temporary job as a poll observer, helping to make sure the voting process goes smoothly for all voters at my local precinct. For that reason, I'm going to limit this week's post to this reminder to everyone to do your civic duty when and as you can this election season. See you next week.

Cheers, Donna 


Celebrate 100 years of women's suffrage by voting!


Monday, October 12, 2020

Pets in Space® 5: Great start! But Our Work Isn't Done

As the Pets in Space® 5 authors come up on our first full week after release on October 6th, we have some good news to report. Actually, it's probably more in the great news category.

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are a few K worth of visual communication for you. :)




And then there's this. In the Science Fiction Space Opera category on Amazon, Pets in Space® 5 came within striking distance of the bestselling science fiction novel of all time, Dune

In fact, Pets in Space® 5 was #3 within two days of release. Dune was #1 some fifty years after release! Although Pets in Space® 5 didn't hit #1 in this category, its placement against what is considered by many as the greatest science fiction novel ever written spoke to its successful launch. Definitely something to celebrate!


But now that the first week whirlwind is over, our work isn't done. You see, we still have several weeks left in our Hero Dogs donation window, and we want this to be the best year ever for our contribution to this wonderful charity. 

Why is Hero Dogs so Important?

Over the last four years, Pets in Space® authors have donated over $15,300 to help place specially trained dogs with veterans and first responders, free of charge. The organization even provides the training necessary for the Hero Dogs recipients to work successfully with their new partners. But that raising and training of Hero Dogs isn't cheap and requires funding from donations to carry on the work. 

Pets in Space® 5 will once again donate 10% of all pre-orders and first month’s royalties to help the great people at carry out this noble mission. Many of our fictional stories involve special animals helping their human (or alien) counterparts, but Hero Dogs does this in real life! So please open your hearts and grab your limited release copy of Pets in Space® 5 today so together we can continue to assist this wonderful charity! (See the Pets in Space® 5 cover on our right sidebar to view all available vendors.)

What's that? You've already grabbed your copy? Then if you found it to be a great read (or even a dozen great reads!) please leave a review on Goodreads, Amazon or the vendor of your choice, and tell your friends, readers, peers or book buddies about Pets in Space® 5 so we can once again maximize our contribution to help this worthy organization do the great things they do. 

Also, consider following Hero Dogs on Facebook and sharing their posts on your timeline or page to increase awareness of this organization. You can find their page here: Hero Dogs Inc.

Thank you! And have a great week.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Inventing Rusty: Guest Blog by Alexis Glynn Latner

Today I'm hosting fellow Pets in Space® 5 author Alexis Glynn Latner with a special blog about the pet in her story, "Pastfinders." Thanks for visiting Spacefreighters Lounge today, Alexis!

Here’s the most important thing about the pet in my PISA 5 story, “Pastfinders”: Rusty is a trauma service animal. There are some VERY unusual traits and special effects in his makeup, but he exists to help a traumatized warrior live a better life. Rusty has a real-life prototype. A dear friend of mine has PTSD, which is an incredible hardship for her. But she has a service dog which has been incredibly fortunate for her. She’s not a military veteran. The PTSD came from a car wreck—an impaired driver smashed into her car on the freeway in broad daylight. Like my friend, my story’s hero, Haze, had the extreme misfortune to be traumatized while going his way on a sunny day on what should have been a safe world. Luckily Rusty finds him and it makes all the difference in the world.

A profound bond forms between Haze and Rusty. This isn’t just a plot device. Service animals and their owners form very deep bonds. My friend says about her dog, Rinnie, “She saved my life, then made it worth living. Two hearts, one beat.” Of course, I DO show my story’s heroine, Mercury, worrying about what the bond between Rusty and Haze means for her!

It was clear to Mercury where the creature’s loyalty lay now: bonded to Haze. Where does that leave me? In frustrated tension, Mercury thought there was no way this situation could possibly get more complicated or fraught or, in a word, worse.

Then she hastily squelched that thought lest she tempt the god to demonstrate otherwise.

Rusty’s name came from a different source. When my fiancé Mark was a teenager, he had Rusty the Wonder Dog, a mutt of unflaggingly cheerful and adventurous disposition. Rusty even flew in a glider once. A glider is an engineless airplane that stays aloft on warm air rising under clouds and wind deflected up by ridgelines. Visualize a cockpit with a young pilot in the front seat and his dad and dog in the seat behind him while he flies the glider a couple of wingspans from a ridge where sheep are grazing. Standing on Mark’s dad’s lap, Rusty watched the sheep intently. And he was fascinated by a vulture nearby in the air. I think hearing about Rusty’s glider flight was part of why Rusty in “Pastfinders” turned out to be a creature with the ability to fly written in his alien genes.

Rusty the Wonder Dog was a great pet. Trauma service animals aren’t just pets, though. This is because they are required to think: to assess situations independently, protect their owner from danger, and yet be perfectly calm in situations that aren’t dangerous. People with PTSD have runaway flight-or-flight reactions in their nervous system. They suddenly feel in danger, even that there’s something that wants to kill them. The service animal knows better. The person tunes into the animal’s reaction and calms down. It’s like magic. It’s how some people with PTSD finally get a night’s sleep. This is exactly what our PISA charity, Hero Dogs, wants veterans and first responders with PTSD to have: a companion animal with keen senses and an absolutely trustworthy disposition. Better days of life, and better nights’ sleep. PTSD I’m proud that we support Hero Dogs!

That Rusty has a raptor’s big golden eyes, talons on his back feet, a feathery ruff on his neck, and opposable toes on his forepaws is fantasy, of course. Yet . . . an animal who can do what service animals do has real magic. I just turned the truth inside out to show the inner, invisible magic as the fantastic exterior of such an animal.

Interestingly, there is no correlation between canine breed—or lack of recognizable breed—and aptitude as a service dog. A dog whose breed or mix of breeds sounds ideal can flunk PTSD service dog training. A dog from the pound can be perfect. There might even be a dog like this in a pound near you, or in your neighborhood some cold night this winter as a stray. It will be an ordinary dog on the outside—and a magical protector on the inside.

Alexis Glynn Latner writes tales of romantic adventure that touch readers’ hearts and their minds as well. 


I found "Pastfinders" a fascinating and engrossing story in a remarkable setting that hooked me right from the first sentence. "Pastfinders" is just one of twelve amazing reads--all with unique and memorable pets--in Pets in Space® 5.


It’s time for an escape! Pets in Space® 5 is back for the fifth amazing year! Escape to new worlds with twelve of today’s top Science Fiction Romance authors. They have written 12 original, never-before-released stories filled with action, adventure, suspense, humor, and romance that will take you out of this world.

The giving doesn’t stop there. For the fifth year, Pets in Space® will be donating a portion of the first month proceeds to, a non-profit charity that supports our veterans and First Responders. If you are ready to forget the world around you and make a difference while you are having fun, grab your copy before it’s gone! 

Find Pets in Space® 5 at these vendors:

Amazon   |   Amazon UK   |   Amazon CA   |   Amazon AU   |   Kobo     

Nook   |   Apple Books   |   GooglePlay

Friday, October 9, 2020


Despite everything it does look like we’ll have a new fall season of television, with new episodes of returning shows and even some new shows to keep us all from going stir-crazy as cooler weather descends and we’re still stuck at home with COVID. It doesn’t look like a big season for SF, but there are a couple of shows worth trying.

NeXt for example, a cyber-science fiction outing on Fox Network, was developed by creator Manny Coto (executive producer on Star Trek: Enterprise’s last season). The show follows the efforts of an FBI agent (Fernanda Andrade) and a tech genius (Mad Men’s John Slattery) to stop a self-aware artificial intelligence from taking over the world.

John Slattery reveals the face of the enemy in NeXt.

The first episode begins with a few harrowing scenes as a scientist carrying vital information attempts to escape someone (or something). We later find out he’s figured out the AI program he’s been working on has passed the “singularity,” that is, it has become self-aware, and is reprogramming itself—gaining new knowledge—at an alarming rate. The program is supposed to be isolated from the Internet, but, of course, it’s somehow found a way to link up to the web, and can hack into anyone’s phone, laptop, car computer systems, hospital life support, etc. So, the scientist trying to warn others about this is toast.

And so will we be if our good guys can’t figure out how to pull the plug. There are complications, of course. Our tech genius is suffering from a rare, fatal, neurological disease that makes him hallucinate (so he’s a little, um, unreliable). And the FBI agent’s young son, being bullied at school, has turned to his home computer assistant “Iliza” for comfort. Guess who has hacked that technical marvel?

None of this is new, naturally. And we’ve seen it done better before on television, too—take Person of Interest, for example. Still, while we are all chained to our phones and computers and Alexas and what-not—not to mention all the computer-assisted steering and braking in our cars that could be hacked—it is worth thinking about the implications of the computer that starts thinking for itself. That super-cyber-intelligence won’t have humanity’s best interest at heart, you can be sure. So, one more television show about this subject, with decent acting and a believable premise, can’t hurt.

After all, almost everyone working in the field, and the greatest minds of our generation—including Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates—have warned us that we will not win a fight against computers that can learn to think for themselves. NeXt gives you a good sense of that central technological issue without a lot of jargon-laced info-dumping on the screen.

On the other hand, sometimes context is necessary to understand what is going on with the science. The latest import for Masterpiece on PBS, a British politico-SF drama called COBRA, could really use some of that explanatory background. Not a lot. Just a few lines of dialogue here and there, or a sexy professor or something.

Otherwise this story of Britain’s Prime Minister, his Cabinet and government science wonks trying to cope with the impact of a massive solar storm may lose much of its audience before it has a chance. Science fiction is not the usual subject for a Masterpiece series in the first place, so I suppose the writers for UK Comcast production company Sky Television just thought to focus on the political intrigue and personal problems of PM Robert Sutherland (Robert Carlyle of Once Upon a Time), his assistant Anna Marshall (Victoria Hamilton of The Crown), his nemesis, Home Secretary Archie Glover-Morgan (veteran actor David Haig) and others. They all do seem to have their challenges, aside from the big one they are trying to face together in Cabinet Office Briefing Room (A), which is where the series gets its name.

The problem here is that it’s not crystal-clear what kind of disaster a solar storm can cause. Yes, we know solar flares can wreak havoc with communications and computer programs. And, without the shielding provided by the Earth’s atmosphere, those problems can be severe. (Solar flares caused some of the problems in GRAVITY, if I remember correctly.) But usually the atmosphere protects us, and the disruptions are minor.

In COBRA, we are led to believe the storms on the sun are so massive as to pose a dire threat not only to computer systems—avionics, medical technology, navigational systems, communications, etc. But they also knock out power all over Britain (and presumably large parts of the world) for a long period of time. Mind you, the show does not propose the storm is producing an electromagnetic pulse of some kind. That I could understand. Instead, how and why the power goes out is not explained—something about voltages and transformers. No one ever mentions why backup generators won’t work, in hospitals or crucial facilities, for example. I’m not suggesting we have fifteen minutes of whiteboard work and talking heads to explain it all, but a few lines to address these questions would be helpful.

But that’s the problem with science fiction. As writers we walk a narrow line between the science—which requires enough detail to build the world your characters live in, but not enough to put your readers to sleep—and the characters’ relationship to the science, that is, the emotional impact the scientific situation has on them. The best science fiction illuminates the situation the characters face and then focuses on their all-too-human reaction, while not wasting time with unnecessary and lengthy explanations. Readers (or viewers) shouldn’t need a degree in physics to understand the plot; neither should they feel they need to turn off their brains when the book (or show) begins.

After one episode, I’m not sure where COBRA will fall on this scale, but, so far, it’s not too promising. At least the acting is superior (in the style of almost all British imports) and the political intrigue is interesting. We’ll see where it goes.

(Hear all my complete TV and movie reviews on my podcast My Moviehouse My Rules. New episodes every Wednesday.)

Cheers, Donna