Dec 05 2017

Yes, it’s December, and I’m late

Published by under T-Space,Writing

As you may have noticed, it’s now December and the long-awaited sequel Eridani cover 2
to The Reticuli Deception still isn’t available. I promised The Eridani Convergence for Fall this year, then November. Technically, the end of Fall isn’t until December 21, so I should just make it.

It turned out to be a much longer and somewhat more convoluted story than I thought, laying the groundwork for the next few books. (When done, I expect T-Space to cover a 12-book arc, including the Alpha Centauri trilogy and a final trilogy which wraps up loose ends. There will probably also be a few side novels and short stories set in the same universe.) Eridani cover 1 Rather than drag it out for another six months and 200 pages, I’ve done some major edits on Eridani to bring it in line with the other Carson & Roberts novels, without leaving major cliffhangers. The next in the series will be out next year. More about that soon.

The final cover is still a work in progress, with two different possibilities. (See above right). As far as the text, are just a few final edits left. Keep tuned, I am determined to have this available before Christmas.

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Nov 18 2017

Yet another nearby, possibly habitable, exoplanet (Ross 128 b)

Published by under Astronomy,T-Space

Scientists this week announced the detection of an extra-solar planet around the red dwarf star Ross 128, which at eleven light-years, is one of the dozen or so (depending if you count binaries as one) closest stars to Earth.

Artist's view of Ross 128 b

This particular planet, dubbed Ross 128 b in the standard nomenclature for newly-discovered exoplanets, is interesting for several reasons: (1) it’s “terrestrial”, meaning rocky and approximately Earth-sized as compared to a gas-giant, (2) it appears to orbit in the habitable zone, where temperatures are likely not too hot and not too cold for water to remain liquid (sometimes called the Goldilocks Zone, although it has nothing to do with porridge 😉 ) and (3) unlike most red dwarf stars, Ross 128 is relatively “quiet” — it isn’t subject to massive solar flares.

The last is worth noting. We’ve discovered planets in or near the habitable zones of other red dwarf stars, most notably Proxima Centauri (also known as Alpha Centauri C). That’s less than half the distance of Ross 128, but Proxima is known to undergo massive flares that would likely cook (through UV, not heat) any organisms living on planet Proxima Centauri b. So this recent discovery is much more conducive to life.

But not, as the saying goes, life as we know it. The sunlight on Ross 128 b (or Proxima Centauri b, for that matter) is dimmer than it is here on Earth. More of the star’s radiation is in the red and infrared range than in the visible frequencies of our Sun, and it’s particularly deficient in one the frequencies used in photosynthesis (as we know it). Life may well still exist on a suitable planet orbiting a red dwarf (and we don’t know for sure that Ross 128 b is suitable, just that it could be), but it will be different.

By the way, for an excellent non-fiction work on the possibilities, see David S. Stevenson’s Under a Crimson Sun: Prospects for Life in a Red Dwarf System published by Springer (2013). I used that book in my research for my upcoming The Eridani Convergence, part of which takes place on a planet orbiting a different red dwarf, Kapteyn’s Star.

(T-Space doesn’t have terraformed planets around red dwarfs. Perhaps the original Terraformers thought such systems weren’t worth the trouble. But they’ll be showing up more in the series. They comprise the vast majority of stars in the universe, it would be silly to think that none of them have planets of interest.)

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Oct 26 2017

MileHiCon 49, and book promos!

Published by under T-Space,Writing

It’s the weekend for MileHiCon, the Denver regional science-fiction convention, at the Denver Tech Center Hyatt-Regency hotel.
I will be there for the weekend, including panels Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, and the mass autographing Saturday afternoon. Find me and say “hi”.

My books will be available on sale at Robert Williscroft’s table (his books include Operation Ivy Bells, The Starchild Compact and Slingshot; if you like my stuff, you’ll probably like his.)

And for those who can’t make it, there are two Amazon promotions running. From Friday through Sunday, the ebook of Alpha Centauri: First Landing is free. The second volume, Alpha Centauri: Sawyer’s World will be on a “price countdown” (where the price starts low (99 cents) and increases over the next several days) from midnight Saturday (01:00 am Sunday 10/29 Mountain time) through the week, going back to full price next Saturday (11/4). Buy early! 😉 This is also a great opportunity to promote First Landing to your friends who might like it. Amazon lets you buy an ebook as a gift and they’ll mail a redemption code to your designated recipient; I assume that will also work for this price promotion.

And The Eridani Convergence is almost ready for release. I hope to have it available for pre-order in a week or so.

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Oct 01 2017

Tau Ceti exoplanets, new information.

Published by under Astronomy,T-Space

So it seems that Tau Ceti — a sun-like star just shy of twelve light-years from here — has exoplanets. Through a pretty creative application of mathematics and modeling to observations of the star, astronomers teased out signal from the noise in the data and initially (in December, 2012) thought they’d found five planets (plus a lot of dust) in the system, labeled Tau Ceti b through f (a is always reserved for the primary, the star itself). All of them several times larger than Earth, but probably not gas giants. (The star may have gas giants, but far enough out to make them too hard to detect with current instruments.)

This past August (2017), however, the estimates were revised. The data suggests only four planets, with b, c and d (the former inner three) being replaced by g and h (the labeling is purely chronological by discovery date). Both of these are too close to the star to be habitable.

Tau Ceti III (officially, Tau Ceti e currently), however, is within the Habitable Zone, where water could be liquid. Good thing, too, because that’s where I put it back in 2011 when I wrote The Chara Talisman. Unfortunately, it also turns out to be a “super-Earth”, coming in an anywhere from about 3.2 to 4.6 times the mass of Earth. I have several chapters set on Skead (as I call Tau Ceti III) in the upcoming The Eridani Convergence, although not all that mass is in the planet (it has a large moon, too).

The gravity is higher than Earth’s (in the 1.3-1.5 gee range) but not intolerably so. It does increase the escape velocity significantly, but warp ship pilots have a trick up their sleeves for dealing with that. I’m not sure what it does for the coffee crop, though. 😉

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Sep 09 2017

RIP Jerry Pournelle, 1933-2017

Jerry Pournelle passed away in his sleep yesterday. I heard about it this morning. I considered him a friend, and I will miss him.

I first read Jerry’s science fiction back when he was writing for Analog Science Fiction magazine, and later had the opportunity to work with him at Byte magazine. Byte flew me out to his Chaos Manor to get him up to speed on their new BIX system, a computer conferencing system based on my CoSy software. That didn’t take long, he was a very bright man, and we spent much of the afternoon into the evening in his study, discussing science fiction, space, fandom, and other common interests. As we were both headed to San Francisco the next day (he for a book signing, me to show BIX to the McGraw-Hill office there) he invited me to an after-party at his hotel. That’s where I met Larry Niven, Bob Silverberg, and Poul Anderson, among others.

I later worked with him, Niven, Anderson and a number of other writers, scientists and astronauts as part of the Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy. We (mostly he) helped get the DC-X project started — reusable, vertical-takeoff-and-landing rocket technology that SpaceX built on (indirectly) for their Falcon launcher.

Jerry and me in 1993 at White Sands for the first public (2nd actual) flight of DC-X (Jerry and me in 1993 at White Sands for the first public (2nd actual) flight of DC-X. Gods I was young.)

Jerry also inspired me, by example, to start selling my writing, both non-fiction and later fiction. In fact, through a series of events I won’t go into here (but involving the Council, L5 and an International Space Development Conference) he led to me meeting the woman I later married. When we had twin boys, we briefly (very briefly) considered naming them Jerry and Larry.

His passing isn’t a complete surprise; he was getting on in years and he had had health issues in recent years, but it is still sad to see him gone. His last public appearance was at the recent DragonCon, and now I really regret not making sufficient effort to attend it. My condolences go out to his family, who were all very gracious when I visited his home.

He inspired a lot of people, writers, scientists, and others. And while his opinions may have annoyed many, a large number of those still respected the man. He will be missed.

Ad astra, Jerry.

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Jul 28 2017

Launch weekend! (and price countdown)

Published by under T-Space,Writing

Alpha Centauri: The Return just launched on Amazon. This is the third of the Alpha Centauri series, and ties up the loose ends of the first two books–most of them, anyway.

There is a price countdown (actually, count up, but that’s not what Amazon calls it) promotion on the first two volumes, First Landing and Sawyer’s World. The promotion starts Friday night at midnight Amazon time (Pacific time, so 1 AM Saturday Mountain, 3 AM Eastern) and runs until midnight (Pacific) the evening of August 2. Price will start at $0.99 and bump up at regular intervals until it’s back to the regular price. This is just for the e-book versions. cover image

Alpha Centauri: The Return will debut at $3.99 and then bump back up to the regular price of $4.99 next week. It’s available now.

This will be the last Alpha Centauri book until perhaps around Christmas. Alpha Centauri: Kakuloa will cover the twenty-or-so years between The Return and the Jason Curtis short stories. Planned for release before MileHiCon in October is The Eridani Convergence, the next in the Carson & Roberts T-Space archeology series (also known as “Indiana Jones in Space”, grin.)

Enjoy!

Update: The Eridani Convergence is late. Early feedback confirmed my gut feel that the plot threads were getting too complicated, so I’m revising. The plan is still to get it out before the holidays.

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Jul 17 2017

Countdown to The Return

Published by under T-Space,Writing

The return to Alpha Centauri is coming. Or, rather, Alpha Centauri: The Return (book 3 of the series) should be available from your favorite Kindle store next week.

Due to a few last-minute production issues, it won’t make the hoped-for July 20th (anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing) release day. Sorry about that. Current target is now July 24th, which is the day the Apollo 11 crew returned to Earth. Maybe that’s a more appropriate anniversary anyway.


(The cover is not quite final. One of those last-minute production issues. But this is close.)

To quickly recap, Alpha Centauri Book 1, First Landing details the first mission to Alpha Centauri (which I guess is somewhat obvious from the title, grin). At the end of that, the mission forks. One crew elects to stay behind to explore the second Earth-like planet, while the rest come back to Earth to report their findings. The time-lines for Books 2 and 3 are in parallel, with Sawyer’s World set in the Alpha Centauri system, and this latest, The Return, following as Drake’s crew returns to Earth, find some interesting things in the returned specimens, and work to get another mission back to Alpha Centauri to retrieve Sawyer’s crew. Oh, and remember the Chinese from Book 1? We find out more about that in The Return also.

If you’re on my mailing list, I’ll be sending you a free short story, “Shake Up”, which is a bit of a sidebar to the series, explaining some off-scene events alluded to in the latest book. (If you’d like to sign up, you can do that here: subscribe)

The trade paperback version of Alpha Centauri: The Return will be available a little later, but within a couple of weeks.

Cheers!

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Jun 15 2017

Back from LaunchPad

Published by under Astronomy,T-Space,Writing

So, I’m back from the LaunchPad astronomy workshop for writers. It was awesome. Met some great fellow writers, and learned some more astronomy. (While a lot of it was refresher — which didn’t hurt — some of the stuff on exoplanets and galactic black holes was particularly new and useful.) If you’re a writer of anything, not just hard SF, look into attending this.

It took a chunk out of my writing time, but things are on track for Alpha Centauri: The Return next month. I’ve added an extra plot thread to cover what the Chinese have been doing all this time. (It turns out that Epsilon Eridani isn’t a very friendly system.)

The first two volumes of the Alpha Centauri series, First Landing and Sawyer’s World are doing well. BTW, when I last checked, Amazon was still selling the trade paperback of Sawyer’s at a few bucks off the list price. That also entitles you to the ebook at Amazon’s special “match book” price, less than a dollar.

The Eridani Convergence is still targeted for the fall, before MileHiCon. (The Eridani of the title refers to the star 82 Eridani, not Epsilon Eridani. Don’t blame me, I didn’t name them. <grin>)

I’ve been squeezing time in to read a few other books. Dennis E. Taylor‘s “Bobiverse” series is a hoot, and a very different take on near-star exploration from mine. I’ve also discovered Marko Kloos‘s (he was at LaunchPad too) “Frontlines” series, yet another very different take on the nearby stars (although coincidentally, we roughly agree on the time line). I’m halfway through the second volume (Lines of Departure). It’s military SF, and the first volume (Terms of Enlistment) has some of the same flavor as Heinlein’s Starship Troopers or Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, yet different takes from both. Very enjoyable reads, and I’m taking notes* for when interstellar war eventually breaks out in T-Space (four or five books from now, probably).

Happy reading!

*(Of course, the nature of interstellar travel in T-Space will make things quite different, and I’ll be falling back on some of my own military experience too.)

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May 29 2017

Quick update: First Landing free, Sawyer’s World released.

Published by under T-Space,Writing

A hasty and, sorry to say, a bit late update. Alpha Centauri: First Landing is temporarily available as a free e-book from Amazon. The second in the series, Alpha Centauri: Sawyer’s World is out and available (both e-book and trade paperback). After the free period, First Contact will go on sale at $2.99 (reduced from the original $4.99 price), or something roughly equivalent in local currency for non-US sites (I try to round down).

I spent most of the past week at a computer conference in Austin, and I’m in the middle of doing a re-finance on my mortgage, so things have been a little crazy for me lately even without making sure Sawyer’s World was ready to go this month as promised.

The next (third) volume, The Return, is almost complete, and it will tie up threads from the first two. Anticipated release is just after the July 4th weekend.

There will probably be a fourth in the Alpha Centauri series, Alpha Centauri: Kakuloa, following on after The Return but focusing less on Drake, Carson, Sawyer and company, and more on later events on Kakuloa (such as the rise and fall of the squidberry industry alluded to in the Carson & Roberts series), bridging the narrative gap between the first missions and (at least) the Jason Curtis adventures.

Happy reading!

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Apr 04 2017

Miscellany

Published by under T-Space,Uncategorized,Writing

Happy April! Just a few short updates here, then back to working on the next book. 😉

HTTPS – I’ve enabled the website for https access (thus https://www.alastairmayer.org and so on). At the moment, your browser might complain about the certificate. Temporarily I’m using a self-signed cert, which in general you shouldn’t trust unless you know what’s going on. But you shouldn’t be posting any sensitive information here anyway. No doubt you’ve seen it before with other sites.

Books and Covers – some of my older covers look a bit outdated, I’m looking into doing a refresh to coincide with new volumes in each series coming out. And I kind of want to change the ship on the cover of Alpha Centauri: First Landing to look more as described in the book. And speaking of looking outdated, this whole website could stand a refresh. Coming Real Soon Now.

Publishing ScheduleAlpha Centauri: Sawyer’s World is about to go to edit, and barring major changes should be out sometime this May. I’m hoping for sooner rather than later, I’ll keep you posted. (For faster updates, and some special offers, join my mailing list. See below.) The Eridani Convergence, third in the Carson & Roberts series (aka the Starship Sophie series, still trying to find a good name to differentiate those books from other mini-series set in T-Space) is past the halfway point on the first draft. Target is as soon as possible after Sawyer’s. There will be at least one more in the Centauri series, Alpha Centauri: Kakuloa, covering the return to that planet and segueing into the era of the Jason Curtis stories.

Mailing List – Some of you, I know, have been wanting more timely updates on what’s happening with the next books in the series, and I’d like to offer my fans something extra for their loyalty. Perhaps advance notification of special deals and events, freebie short stories or novelettes, background material that isn’t in the public wiki, that sort of thing. No spam. Here’s a link to the signup page.

Cheers!

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