Proof of … Something

An update, for those who are following along at home: This morning I received the proof copy of Walking on the Sea of Clouds, which includes notes and corrections from the copyeditors for me to check.

Meanwhile, the folks at WordFire Press have sent Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) — uncorrected copies — to reviewers. I have electronic versions of the ARC that I’m also sending to folks who want to review a pre-release version.*


(Click for larger image.)

Still no definite release date yet. It’s supposed to be a Spring release, and technically Spring begins next Monday — but Spring runs all the way to the Summer Solstice, so we have a few weeks to finish putting all the pieces together!

Stay tuned …

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*If you want the ARC to review, or you know a reviewer to whom I should send one, let me know!

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Look: It’s a Book Cover!

At least, that’s what it looks like to me:


(Click for larger image.)

What do you think?

The novel is a Spring release from WordFire Press. Stay tuned for more information!

And if you know anyone who might be interested in a near-future science fiction story of survival and sacrifice on the Moon, encourage them to watch this space or sign up for my newsletter for updates.

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Cyrano de Bergerac, Science Fiction Author

(Another in the continuing “Monday Morning Insight” series of quotes to start the week.)

That title is not a joke.

Before we get to it, let me admit my ignorance: I did not know, until I started looking for this week’s quote, that Cyrano de Bergerac — the real-life de Bergerac — was one of the earliest science fiction authors.

Today is Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac’s birthday (6 March 1619 – 28 July 1655), and it turns out he was not just a character in a story who helped his friend woo the woman he really loved. That was made up by Edmond Rostand, whereas in real life de Bergerac was a French soldier, a playwright, and — as it turns out — a science fiction novelist.

He actually wrote two science fiction novels, both of which were published posthumously: L’Autre Monde: ou les États et Empires de la Lune (The Other World: or the States and Empires of the Moon, 1657), and Les États et Empires du Soleil (The States and Empires of the Sun, 1662). The first was published as the “Comical History” of the States and Empires of the Moon, thanks to being renamed by Henry Le Bret, de Bergerac’s friend, who also excised material he considered objectionable.

But let’s get to the quotes….

This bit in L’Autre Monde may come across as comical to us, until we consider that de Bergerac wrote it over 300 years before the Apollo program made the Moon’s nature more familiar to more people:

“I think the Moon is a world like this one, and the Earth is its moon.”

My friends greeted this with a burst of laughter. “And maybe,” I told them, “someone on the Moon is even now making fun of someone else who says that our globe is a world.”

I read some foreshadowing of H.G. Wells in there, as I think of how The War of the Worlds opens. We know so much now about our Solar system that we did not know then. (And as one whose forthcoming debut novel concerns the early days of a lunar colony, I confess a bit of jealousy: it might have made my own writing easier if I hadn’t had to try so hard to make the fiction part live up to some real science.)

But de Bergerac did not limit his imagination just to the Moon. Consider that he wrote this in the 1650s:

I think the planets are worlds revolving around the sun and that the fixed stars are also suns that have planets revolving around them. We can’t see those worlds from here because they are so small and because the light they reflect cannot reach us. How can one honestly think that such spacious globes are only large, deserted fields? And that our world was made to lord it over all of them just because a dozen or so vain wretches like us happen to be crawling around on it? Do people really think that because the sun gives us light every day and year, it was made only to keep us from bumping into walls? No, no, this visible god gives light to man by accident, as a king’s torch accidentally shines upon a working man or burglar passing in the street.


A representation of the Copernican model of the Solar System. (Image: “Harmonia macrocosmica …,” by Andreas Cellarius, 1661, from Wikimedia Commons.)

What would de Bergerac have made of our efforts to peer into the depths of space, by which we have found dozens of exoplanets — planets orbiting distant stars? I think he would be pleased, and perhaps a little disappointed that we had not yet found ways to reach them.

I think de Bergerac’s literary achievement is all the more impressive when we put him and his novels in relation to other science and literary luminaries:

  • Copernicus (1473-1543): formulated the heliocentric view of the Solar system
  • Galileo (1564-1642): confirmed by observation the Copernican view
  • Johannes Kepler (1571-1630): in addition to formulating the laws of orbital mechanics, also wrote in 1608 what some consider the very first work of science fiction, Somnium (The Dream), published in 1634
  • Francis Godwin (1562-1633): Anglican bishop, wrote The Man in the Moone, published in 1638
  • de Bergerac (1619-1655): The Other World: or the States and Empires of the Moon, 1657; and The States and Empires of the Sun, 1662
  • Voltaire (1694-1778): in addition to his philosophical works, wrote a short story about an alien visitor to the Earth, Micromégas, 1752
  • Mary Shelley (1797-1851): Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, 1818
  • Jules Verne (1828-1905): From the Earth to the Moon, 1865

I had been under the impression that Frankenstein was the first science fiction novel, and had no idea that so many authors had explored the notion of space travel two centuries before Verne’s classic was published. Maybe you knew all that, and knew that Cyrano de Bergerac was more than just a character in a story. I’m glad I know it now, and probably shouldn’t have been surprised to learn just how far back science fiction started — just as authors today extrapolate from the findings of current science, why shouldn’t authors have done so 350 years ago?

My dad is fond of saying, “Learn something new every day.” Maybe this can qualify as your “something new” for today. But even if it doesn’t, I hope you learn something new today, and all this week!

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Monday Morning Insight: “We Choose to Go to the Moon”

(Another in the continuing series of quotes to start the week.)

 

On this date in 1962, President John F. Kennedy delivered what has become known as the “Moon speech” at Rice University. Perhaps the most famous passage of the speech is:

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win….

To the Moon

(Image: “To the Moon,” by Alex, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

It really is a marvelous speech — I say that as a speechwriter as well as someone who has always been inspired by the thought of going to the moon — and you can read it in its entirety at this NASA page.

In particular, I like the fact that Kennedy clearly understood that the Moon could be the first destination, the first waypoint, the first step in the larger endeavor of exploring space and establishing a presence there. Consider this part, that comes a few paragraphs before that famous passage:

… man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred. The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in the race for space.

Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolutions, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it — we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace.

Kennedy, of course, was talking about his generation: the “greatest generation,” as Tom Brokaw called it, the generation that volunteered for, fought, and won World War II and then came home and built this nation into an economic juggernaut. The question this raises for me is whether our current generation is prepared to carry on in that tradition — whether we are “determined and cannot be deterred,” whether we have such grand dreams and bold visions and the courage to pursue them.

I hope so.

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Novel News!

Given that “novel” can mean “new,” that title may seem a bit redundant — but in this case it refers to the literary type of novel.

Here’s the news: I’m pleased to announce that I’ve contracted with WordFire Press of Monument, Colorado, to publish my near-future science fiction novel, Walking on the Sea of Clouds!

(Image from NASA-Goddard and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.)

 

As you might gather from the image above, Walking on the Sea of Clouds has something to do with the Moon. Specifically, it’s about the early days of the first commercial lunar colony.

We already have lots of stories that depict successful, thriving lunar bases and colonies either as primary locations or as jumping-off places; two of the most famous, of course, are Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. But before there can ever be large, sprawling bases on the Moon there first have to be small encampments with only a few people living somewhat precariously — and that’s what my novel is about. It’s a story of the struggle to survive in a harsh environment, the drive to succeed in a dangerous endeavor, and the sacrifices that we may have to make to achieve our dreams.

I’m very pleased to be working with WordFire Press, which was started by bestselling authors Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta. WordFire is a small and relatively new press with an impressive list of books in its catalog, ranging from reissued midlist titles of established authors like David Farland, Alan Dean Foster, Jody Lynn Nye, and Mike Resnick, to new titles from up-and-coming authors including my friends Cat Rambo, Ken Scholes, and Brad Torgersen.

So, these are exciting times for the Gray Man! As we go through the editing and production process, I’ll post occasional updates, and of course as we get closer to completion I’ll post plans for the novel’s release and any “book launch”-type events we pursue.

And I hope we can interest you in going Walking on the Sea of Clouds!

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First Indian Lunar Mission

Five years ago today — October 22, 2008 — the Indian Space Research Organization launched a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle from the Satish Dhawan Space Center, carrying a lunar mapping satellite.


(Technicians prepare Chandrayaan 1 for orbit. Indian Space Research Organization image.)

Chandrayaan 1, or “Moon Craft 1,” was India’s first lunar mission. The spacecraft achieved lunar orbit on November 8, 2008, after a series of orbit-raising maneuvers. It returned images and data — including from a “Moon impact probe” that it released — until contact was lost in August 2009.

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The Future of the Space History Series

I started my space history series of blog entries five years ago this month. I’ve never claimed that it was authoritative or museum-quality, or even particularly complete. But since I’ve concentrated on hitting events on their 5-year anniversaries, I’ve gotten to the point that I would be repeating entries.

Air and Space Museum
(If you want museum-quality coverage of space history, you’re better off going to a museum. “Air and Space Museum” by Rob Crawley, on Flickr via Creative Commons.)

For instance, I posted about today’s anniversary of the Explorer 5 launch five years ago (although then I missed the event by one day). But I don’t see the point of repeating things I’ve already catalogued, so the nature of the series is going to have to change.

I plan to be more selective about entries from now on. I may pick out select incidents that are particularly important to me, or I may pick more contemporary items to highlight. I haven’t decided exactly how I want to proceed.

If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them! For instance, yesterday Guy Stewart suggested this story about Lunar Orbiter 1 taking the first picture of Earth from the Moon, which happened 47 years ago yesterday. Great story, Guy!

So, to sum up: Many thanks to everyone who has enjoyed the series, and let us know what you think we do from here on out!

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Pioneer Zero: First Attempted Lunar Mission

Fifty-five years ago today — August. 17, 1958 — the U.S. made its first attempt at sending a spacecraft to the Moon.


(Pioneer 0. NASA image.)

Called alternately Pioneer 0 or Able 1, the satellite launched on a Thor-Able rocket out of Cape Canaveral. Not only was it the first attempt to reach the Moon, but it was “the first attempted lauch beyond Earth orbit by any country.”

Unfortunately, the first stage of the Thor exploded 77 seconds into the flight.

Failure was suspected to be due to a ruptured fuel or oxygen line or a faulty turbopump gearbox. Erratic telemetry signals were received from the payload and upper stages for 123 seconds after the explosion, and the upper stages were tracked to impact in the ocean.

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The Spirit Rover Begins Its Martian Journey

Ten years ago today — June 10, 2003 — a Delta 2 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral carrying Mars Exploration Rover A, or “Spirit.”


(“Spirit” Mars Exploration Rover. NASA image.)

Spirit was one of two rovers designed to traverse the Martian surface to search for evidence of life, characterize the Martian climate and geology, and improve our understanding of Mars in advance of sending people to explore. Spirit’s twin, named “Opportunity,” launched a month later. Their mission’s scientific objectives were to:

1) search for and characterize a variety of rocks and soils that hold clues to past water activity,
2) determine the distribution and composition of minerals, rocks, and soils surrounding the landing sites,
3) determine what geologic processes have shaped the local terrain and influenced the chemistry,
4) perform “ground truth” of surface observations made by Mars orbiter instruments,
5) search for iron-bearing minerals, identify and quantify relative amounts of specific mineral types that contain water or were formed in water,
6) characterize the mineralogy and textures of rocks and soils and determine the processes that created them, and
7) search for geological clues to the environmental conditions that existed when liquid water was present and assess whether those environments were conducive to life.

The rovers landed successfully on Mars in January 2004. They originally were only supposed to operate for 90 Martian days (a little over 92 Earth days), but Spirit operated until March 2010 and Opportunity is still going.

In other space history …

The same day Spirit launched, Sea Launch placed the Thuraya 2 communications satellite in orbit from the Odyssey platform. Thuraya 2 is owned by the United Arab Emitrates, and provides service to the Middle East, India, etc., from geostationary orbit.*

And on this date 40 years ago, the Radio Astronomy Explorer B — also known as Explorer 49 — launched from Cape Canaveral on a Delta rocket. Its sister spacecraft, RAE-A (or Explorer 38), had been launched in July 1968. RAE-B conducted radio atronomy from an orbit around the Moon, and operated until 1977.

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*Noted primarily because I like Sea Launch, having gone on one of their launch campaigns.

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Exploring Earth’s Atmosphere, a Lunar Flyby, and a Space Odyssey

Fifty years ago today — April 2, 1963 — two quite different launches happened in the U.S. and the Soviet Union.


(Explorer 17. NASA image.)

The U.S. launched Explorer 17, also known as Atmospheric Explorer A, the first in a series of satellites to study the upper atmosphere. The satellite launched in the late evening — already April 3rd, UTC — on a Thor-Delta rocket out of Cape Canaveral, and operated until its batteries failed in July 1963.

Earlier in the day, the Soviet Union had launched Luna 4, the “first successful spacecraft of their ‘second generation’ lunar program.” It launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on a Molniya rocket — a Modified SS-6 (Sapwood) ICBM. Interestingly, the USSR did not reveal Luna 4’s intended mission, but “was announced it would travel to ‘the vicinity of the Moon.'”

Rather than being sent on a straight trajectory toward the Moon, the spacecraft was placed first in a 167 x 182 km Earth orbit and then was rocketed in a curving path towards the Moon. Luna 4 achieved the desired initial trajectory but during trans-lunar coast the Yupiter astronavigation system failed (most likely due to thermal control problems) and the spacecraft could not be oriented properly for the planned midcourse correction burn. Communications were maintained, but Luna 4 missed the Moon by about 8400 km (sources give reports of 8336.2, 8451, and 8500 km) at 13:25 UT on 5 April 1963 and entered a 89 250 x 694 000 km equatorial Earth orbit. The spacecraft transmitted at 183.6 MHz at least until 7 April. The orbit is believed to have been later perturbed into a heliocentric orbit.

… It was speculated the probe was designed to perform a soft landing on the Moon based on the trajectory and on the later attempted landings of the Luna 5 and 6 spacecraft, as well as the advances made over the 3 years since the successful Luna 3 flyby. (And the fact that a lecture program entitled “Hitting the Moon”, scheduled to be broadcast on Radio Moscow at 7:45 p.m. the evening of April 5, was cancelled.)

Before all of this happened, on this date 55 years ago President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent “draft legislation to Congress establishing the ‘National Aeronautics and Space Agency.'” The name was soon changed to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. You can read more about NASA’s beginnings here.

Finally, 45 years ago today — April 2, 1968 — 2001: A Space Odyssey premiered at the Uptown Theatre in Washington, DC. This page includes a retrospective on its early run.

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