Tag: science fiction

Horror at an English Country Manor


Ishmael Jones hunts monsters. He solves mysteries and uncovers dark secrets. He works for Britain’s Organization, which does not officially exist within government. He feels like he is doing some good there, and working for the Organization allows him to maintain his anonymity.

“The Dark Side of the Road”, a science fiction novel by Simon R. Green introduces Ishmael Jones. Jones is a man apart; someone who respects only the Colonel, the Organization’s chief. Jones has worked with the Colonel on numerous field assignments. Two days before Christmas the Colonel contacts Jones requesting Jones join the Colonel for Christmas at the Colonel’s family home.

It is the first time the Colonel has invited Jones to meet his family. It must be important. The Colonel asks as a personal favor and says he will discuss the reason why Jones is needed when Jones arrives. Jones leaves London that night in a rented car for the drive to Belcourt Manor in rural Cornwall. Despite a vicious blizzard that has the roads shut down.

Adventure in Planetary Space


Dave Walker is a newly-minted spaceship engineering officer, aboard his first vessel: a clapped-out tramp freighter near the end of its useful life. While not much, it gets him off Earth, his life’s ambition. His other reason to make a pierhead jump to this ship? His stepfather is trying to kill him.

“Summer’s End,” a science-fiction novel by John Van Stry, is set in the near future, several centuries from the present. Humans reside throughout the Solar System, but Earth still dominates, especially in terms of population.

There is one world government on Earth. Ostensibly a republic modeled on the United States, in actuality it is an oligarchy, run by the elies, the upper-class elite. Most of the world’s population are doles, supported by the government for the votes that keep the elies in power. Dave is prole, the fraction making up the middle class. The only ones on Earth that work, their labor keeps the planet running. They work whether they want to work and for what the government gives them. Or else. That is why Dave wants to leave Earth so badly.

Quote of the Day: The Cradle of Humanity


“The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but mankind cannot stay in the cradle forever.” – Konstantin Tsiolkovsky

I work on the Lunar Gateway program. This is a proposed crewed platform that will trail the Moon and support crewed Moon missions. It is interesting work, and it sounds glamorous, but my job is prosaic. I am part of a team analyzing the data needs of Gateway. Last week I was given an unusual assignment. My boss’s boss was given a document to review and comment on. As is typical for these types of assignments, he gave the job to my boss. Due to a combination of people being absent and others being busy, he passed it on to me.

Ring of Fire In Transylvania


In 2001 Eric Flint wrote a one-off novel titled “1632,” featuring a West Virginia town transposed in time and space to Thirty Years War Germany. It spawned numerous sequels, resulting in multiple series captured under the Ring of Fire umbrella. It even gave birth to a new publishing house focused on these stories.

“1637: The Transylvanian Decision,” by Eric Flint and Robert E. Waters, is the latest book in the series. It is also the last book written by Flint. He died in July 2022.

Over six years since the Ring of Fire, up-timer Morris Roth, transformed himself from Grantville jeweler too the commander of the Grand Army of the Sunrise, stationed in Bohemia. Roth, who is Jewish, created the army to prevent the 1648 Chmielnicki Pogrom. He is trying to carve out a Jewish homeland in territories east of Bohemia, in what in the future became Russia’s Pale of Settlement.

The Power of the Atom


When the atom bomb flattened Hiroshima, the whole world changed. Already the belligerents in the Second World War had been far too happy bombing civilian targets to subdue the foe. From the poison gas of the First World War to V2 rockets and jet-powered fighters of the Second, the world witnessed science’s willingness to provide newer and more deadly weapons. Today I’m exploring not the weapons but the way we understand and react to them, the minds of all of us haunted by nuclear war.

When Nagasaki followed Hiroshima, the Second World War ended. Immediately we began to confront the specter of the next. If the Third World War was fought along the pattern of the Second, none of us would survive. Mankind had developed the ability to commit suicide. Have you ever stood at the edge of a cliff and felt the wild impulse to throw yourself off? Even more horrifyingly, it needn’t be an intentional choice.

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Although it was looking like more people would be coming to the Ricochet Meetup in Huntsville, Alabama, it ended up being just @neutralobserver, @stad, my wife and myself.  It was still a lot of fun.  The official meetup was just the evening of October 20th, but we had stuff going on for a few days. […]

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A Noir Mystery Set in Space


From the moment Dagny Blake entered Ezekiel “Easy” Novak’s office he knew she was trouble.  He took her job anyway. Her looks had nothing to do with it. Well, not much.

“Trouble Walked In,” by Mike Kupari, recasts the classic 1940s hard-boiled detective story in a science fiction setting. Novak is a private detective in Delta City, the largest city on the planet of Nova Columbia. He has a one-investigator office. His only employee is his researcher-receptionist Lily.

Seeking Revenge Becomes Something Else


Gregory Roarke is a Trailblazer. He and his Kadolian partner Selene conduct surveys of unexplored worlds. It does not pay as well as bounty hunting, the pair’s previous career. Trailblazing covers the bills, barely. And that only if you include the money they make diverting samples from their hiring client for resale elsewhere and unskilled short-term jobs they take between trailblazing contracts. It is safer than bounty hunting. That cost Roarke an arm before he quit.

“The Icarus Plot,” by Timothy Zahn, follows Roarke and Selene. As the book opens, they are one step away from getting their spaceship seized to cover debts. Things get worse when Roarke gets fired from his job as server cum bouncer at a bar. They stand to lose everything.

A reprieve comes through a thuggish sort named Geri.  He and an associate named Freki hire Roarke and Selene to survey of Bonvere Seven, a Terran-type planet. They pay well, and Selene is able to identify a very marketable seed, samples of which they extract and hide from their employers. Only the whole point of hiring them for the survey was to catch the two in an illegal attempt to hide samples from the employer.

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For several months I had been planning on attending the 2022 World Science Convention, which is being held in Chicago.  Then the organizers came out with their Covid policy.  Not only do all attendees have to show proof of their vaccination, but everyone must wear a mask at all times unless they are eating in […]

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The Wild West in Outer Space


John Abbott is the All-American boy of the future. He is scrupulously honest yet ambitious, getting ahead on his abilities. An accountant, he is a family man, with a wife, two young daughters, a family dog and a mountain of student loan debt.

“Abbott in Darkness,” a science fiction novel by D. J. Butler follows Abbott and his family as John Abbott pursues a career to pay off his debts. He has taken a job with an American interstellar corporation, moving his family to a planet circling a remote star. The move offers an opportunity to get rich quickly.

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When I was a boy, I wanted to be an astronaut. My favorite TV program was “Lost in Space.” I remember fervently praying that I would be allowed to be someone who could travel to distant stars. [I became a theologian instead. Some may see a connection there. 😊] Coupled with my space odyssey, I […]

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A Science-Fiction Cookout


Food: it is a central part of our lives. It is surprising how relatively little fantasy and science fiction centers upon food. F&SF explores the human condition, extrapolating the present into alternate realities. Why not explore food?

“Eat, Drink, and Be Wary: Satisfying Stories with a Delicious Twist,” edited by Lisa Magnum, takes on that challenge. It is a collection of nineteen fantasy and science fiction stories, with food as a theme.

The nineteen contributors go many different directions with their stories. This book contains hard science fiction, classic fantasy, and just about everything in between, including a variety of genres. There is an old-fashioned murder mystery, a noir adventure, classic horror, post-apocalyptic tales, and urban fantasy. Some stories are laugh-out-loud funny. Others are tragic. A few would serve for an episode of Twilight Zone or Game of Thrones.

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One of the sub-plots (maybe not the best term for it, but all I can think of now) of the “2010” movie (sequel to “2001: A Space Odyssey” in case anyone still doesn’t know that) is rising war tensions between the US and the “Soviet Union” which still existed at the time the movie was […]

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Combat Throughout Time Travel


Time travel stories are almost as old as science fiction. One of H. G. Wells’s earliest involved time travel. So is combat SF.

“Time Troopers,” edited by Hank Davis and Christopher Ruocchio, is a science fiction anthology combining the two themes: time travel and combat. Davis and Ruocchio assembled a stellar collection of tales ranging from short-short stories to novellas.

It is filled with stories by an all-star cast of authors. Contributors include twentieth-century science fiction giants Robert Heinlein, Keith Laumer, Poul Anderson, Fritz Leiber, A. E. Van Vogt, Robert Silverberg, and H. Beam Piper. 21st-century contributors include Davis and Ruocchio, Sara and Robert Hoyt, John C. Wright and Jacob Holo. Historian T. R. Fehrenbach and author Edmund Hamilton also provide stories.

Adventures in an Airy World


Augustus StJohn Thislewood III is the scion of an industrial barony in the planet Azure (a barony in terms of influence rather than actual nobility). Briz is an orphan, a young petty criminal who lives by her wits.

“Cloud-Castles,” a new science fiction novel by David Freer, opens with Augustus and Briz meeting. He has gone to Sybill III to uplift the natives. She is one of the natives. She starts their acquaintanceship by robbing him.

Sybil III is a gas dwarf with a habitable zone in its atmosphere. Two space-faring races, the mutually-hostile Thrymi and Zell used it as a neutral meeting place. Anti-gravity technology floated a trading plate used for exchanges and floating mansions for the Thrymi and Zell on) Sybil III. They created bioengineered floating plants for subsistence. Before humans began star-travel, the Thrymi –Zell War knocked both back to barbarism, from which they never emerged.

A Sino-American Battle in Space


The time is the near-future, perhaps 50 years from today. Commercial space is a major industry. Human presence in space is continuous and widespread. The United States even has a manned and armed spaceship in cislunar: space the Borman. Not a warship, it is a space-faring Coast Guard cutter, an orbital beat cop.

“Frontier,” a science-fiction novel by Patrick Chiles opens in this setting. Marshall Hunter, a new graduate of the Space Force Academy, wants a piece of that action. He wants to explore space.

Hunter’s dream is an assignment aboard the nuclear-powered Borman. He busted his final check flight on the first go-around. Although he passed it the second time around, he believes he is bound for a dead-end assignment due to the screw-up. His worst fears seem realized when he is given a headquarters posting.

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Sometimes people will ask, “What do you think will happen in the future?” My general response is, “Have you read any good science fiction lately?” I remember years ago reading H.G. Wells novel The Time Machine. Toward the end of the book, the time traveler fast-forwards himself thousands of years into earth’s future. He finds […]

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About 13 months ago I published Charis Colony: The Landing on Kindle Direct. Kristina Hofstede, a friend in the Netherlands who attended the discipleship school at the Augsburg House of Prayer a few years ago saw it and volunteered to design a new cover. I finally put the work up last night. It looks like […]

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A Return Trip to the Past and Future


In Michael Z. Williamson’s novel “A Long Time Until Now” First Lieutenant Sean Elliott and nine US soldiers traveling in a convoy in Afghanistan suddenly found themselves flung into the Earth’s Paleolithic Age. Other time-displaced people from throughout history were with them. All had been accidentally displaced through a time travel experiment conducted by the Cogi, people in the far future. The Cogi eventually rescued them.

“That Was Now This Is Then,” by Michael Z. Williamson picks up the story after the soldiers’ return.  Some have been discharged; others remained in the Armed Forces. All are trying to pick up their lives.

Now they are being recruited for a new mission in the past. The Cogi need help. It turns out Elliot and his team were not the only American soldiers stuck in the past. The Cogi have found another group. Worse, a Paleolithic human displaced forward in time shows up in a now-time American base.

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No one seems to care very much about what I have to say regarding Werner Jaeger or Hal Foster, and why should they? But I can always rely on getting interesting comments when I write something about popular fiction, especially spy thrillers and the like. I am fascinated by genre fiction, and in particular how […]

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