Tag: science fiction

An Unconventional Admiral in a Critical Assignment


Rear Admiral Terrence Murphy is the son of a famous admiral who died winning a critical battle in a decades-long war between the Terran Federation and the Terran League. Recently Terrence Murphy won his own battle. That minor success does not erase his reputation as a clothes’ horse and a fop. It is enough to win him an appointment as military governor of a backwater stellar system, though.

So opens “Governor,” a new science fiction novel by David Weber and Richard Fox. It is set in a future where humans occupy thousands of planetary systems scattered across the galaxy.

Human planets are split into several polities. The largest is the Terran Federation, centered on Earth. The Terran League is its main rival. The two have been locked in a stalemated war for decades.  Part of the reason for the stalemate is the Federation is unwilling to commit the resources to win the war.

About Those UFOs. I Have a Theory.


One night in the spring of 1980, shortly before midnight, I left my dorm room at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro, New Mexico, got in my pale blue 1972 VW Super Beetle, and drove west into the desert toward the tiny town of Magdalena. Magdalena, population 900 or so, isn’t precisely the middle of nowhere. The middle of nowhere, and my destination, was about 20 miles further west, in the high desert basin known as the Plains of San Augustin. The 1947 “Roswell Incident,” much featured in UFO mythology, purportedly occurred on that isolated plain, but that isn’t what drew me there that clear moonlit night.

The Very Large Array (VLA) is a group of 27 radio telescopes spread out in an enormous Y on the Plains of San Augustin. The dishes, weighing more than 200 tons each on their multi-story gantries, can be moved by rail to vary the size of the Y, the legs of which can be more than 20 miles long at their greatest extent. Using a technique known as interferometry, the array can achieve, in some instances, the resolving power of a single dish with a diameter equivalent to the span of the array.

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Have I got an infrastructure project for you! Let’s shift the Earth’s axis of rotation. Yes, you heard me right: let’s move the poles! The present locations of the north and south poles are sub-optimal. Too much real estate is locked away in the freezers of Siberia, Canada, and Antarctica. We should move the poles […]

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Cruising the Ancient Mediterranean in a Modern Cruise Ship


Eric Flint’s Assiti Shards stories are alternate history series where people from the present are cast into the past by shards of time-shifting artwork striking the Earth. It started with “1632,” with a West Virginia small town transposed with space from Thirty Years War Germany. In 2017, a new branch of the series began. In “The Alexander Inheritance,” cruise ship Queen of the Sea gets sent back to the ancient Mediterranean, the year after Alexander the Great’s death.

“The Macedonian Hazard,” by Eric Flint, Gorg Huff, and Paula Goodlett continues Queen of the Sea’s ancient voyage. It follows the cruise ship’s adventures navigating the narrow waters of the Mediterranean Sea and the narrow minds of Seleucid leaders attempting to control pieces of Alexander the Great’s disintegrating empire.

The Queen of the Sea won uneasy neutrality in “The Alexander Inheritance,” becoming a floating embassy for the various civilizations ringing the Mediterranean. It hosts passengers from most, serving as a platform where they parley. It also crossed the Atlantic to establish a settlement on Trinidad, from which it extracts fuel to keep the ship going.

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This is, I suppose, about as off-the-wall as a question can be, but my memory has once again failed me.  Many many years ago I read a story, surely science fiction, wherein the author posited that the number of pleasing musical score had to be a finite number.  As I recall, there was something in […]

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Being the Bad Guy for a Good Cause


Larry Correia is best known for hard-edged urban fantasy. His Monster Hunter and Hard Magic series involve lots of firearms and fantastic creatures.

“Gun Runner,” by Larry Correia and John Brown is hard science fiction, set in a distant future that has interstellar travel. Yet Correia stays true to form. It is hard-edged and involves lots of firearms and fantastic creatures.

Captain Nicholas Holloway owns Multipurpose Supply VehicleTar Heel, an interstellar cargo ship. He is a gun runner. He and his crew are not in it just for the money. They provide banned weapons to societies who need them to fight animals on their home planets or to battle crazies with better political connections to Earth Bloc bureaucrats.

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Back in November, I published the novel Charis Colony: The Landing, chapters of which I had published here on Ricochet in their early stages of development. You can purchase the novel as an e-book or paperback here. What follows is an excerpt from a draft of the first chapter of a sequel. It follows the […]

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This SF novel from 1954 has uncomfortable relevance to our present era. It is set in the then-future year of 1990.  The United States is still nominally a democracy, but the real power lies with the social engineers…sophisticated advertising & PR men…who use psychological methods to persuade people that they really want what they are supposed […]

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A New World Battle in an Alternate Timeline


Eric Flint launched his Ring of Fire series in 2000 with his novel “1632.” Intended as a stand-alone novel, it tells the story of Grantville, a West Virginia town switched in time and place with an equal area of space in Thirty-Years War Germany. 1632 proved addictive to readers and writers. Flint wrote a sequel, inviting David Weber to collaborate. Readers ate it up. Flint then opened his playground to other writers, curating the results.  As of 2020 there are over 30 books in the series.

“1637: No Peace Beyond the Line,” by Eric Flint and Charles E. Gannon, is the latest addition to the series. It is a sequel to “1636: Commander Cantrell in the West Indies,” published in 2014.

“No Peace Beyond the Line” picks up where “Commander Cantrell” left off. Captain Eddie Cantrell is holding together a coalition made up of Germans, Dutch, Danes, Irish, and renegade English colonists. The English have defied their national government to remain in the New World. The Irish are members Wild Geese, Irish mercenaries estranged from English-occupied Ireland, formerly in the service of France. Led by the chief pretender to the Irish throne (held by King Charles of England) they are running a settlement in Trinidad, producing and exporting oil, with the cooperation of the local natives.

Resisting Terrorists While Suspected of Being Part of Them


Sean Danker wrote the novel “Admiral” in 2016, a tale of four castaways who have to cross a hostile planet to survive. Three are fresh out of their service academies traveling to their first service assignment. The fourth is the Admiral – an individual unlike any admiral the three newbies have ever met. That was five novels ago. The series was dropped by Penguin, the original publisher. Danker is continuing it independently.

“Snowblind,” by Sean Danker is the sixth novel in the Evagardian universe, the setting in which the events of “Admiral” took place. It reunites the three graduates from the first novel: Deilani, the medical officer, Nils, the communications and computer wizard, and Salmagard, the negotiator. This time they face even greater than the last time they were thrown together.

They are all stationed aboard the Julian, the Evagardian flagship. On off-hours, they get together for dinner at a restaurant on Sterling Station. All three are under a cloud due to their association with the Admiral. Deilani and Samlagard are suspected of disloyalty to the Empress.

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Now, having talked about why people dislike science fiction, I’ll say why I like it. I like most kinds of fiction, mostly for the same qualities, none of which is specific to a single genre. But what I like in and about science fiction includes these particular virtues: vitality, largeness, and exactness of imagination; playfulness, […]

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This Week’s Book Review: Stellaris


The Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop are a group who believe man can and must go to the stars. In 2016 the TVIW held a track on Homo Stellaris. Its task was to describe the foundations of a space-based society.

“Stellaris: People of the Stars,” edited by Les Johnson and Robert E. Hampson, is one of the fruits of that year’s workshop. It is a collection of non-fiction essays and science fiction stories about what it takes for humans to travel and live outside the Solar System.

Both non-fiction and fiction limit themselves to the possible based on today’s science. Extrapolation is permitted, especially in the life sciences. Faster-than-light travel and communications was excluded on the grounds that these cannot occur without some type of fundamental breakthrough in physics.

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Note: About two  years ago I posted a couple of draft pieces from a novel I’m working on called Charis Colony. Here is another from the finished product which I am now editing.  After Shirin Seethi returned the recording spools, data slides and equipment to the Wildlife Biology Division offices in the Sciences Ministry Building […]

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A New Addition to the “Black Tide Rising” Canon


John Ringo’s “Black Tide Rising” series posits a zombie apocalypse caused by a highly-contagious, genetically-engineered viral plague that destroys the upper brain functions and turns its victims into mindless cannibals. Ringo has since invited other authors to come and play in the highly-popular “Black Tide Rising” sandbox.

“At the End of the World,” by Charles E. Gannon is the latest entry in the “Black Tide Rising” series.  It follows nine teens on a summer senior year learning cruise when the plague breaks out. Told through the journal of Alvaro Casillas, one of the teens on the cruise, it follows their course through a nightmare world aboard Crosscurrent Voyager.

Crosscurrent Voyager is on a trip from the Galapagos to South Georgia Island in the Atlantic Ocean near Antarctica. Its captain, Alan Haskins, is a silent, gaunt Englishman. All the others on Crosscurrent Voyager are similarly outcasts. They have discipline problems, or are overlooked, bullied, and ignored by their peers. They are aboard because Crosscurrent Voyager was the sole remaining adventure cruise available.

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A comment on another thread mentioned Clifford Simak, and for some reason it brought an MD I liked when I was a young whippersnapper, Alan E. Nourse.  He wrote Science Fiction that I enjoyed but I think he died while I was still in HS.   So here’s a simple question: Any of the medical […]

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The Crimes of George R. R. Martin


or, In Which I Defend the Indefensible Man

If you follow the Hugos any more, which I don’t, you’d learn that popular author George R. R. Martin has stirred up quite the hornet’s nest. He’s being denounced as a racist, different types of -phobes, and others. His crime? He mispronounced artists’ names and he dared praised dead white men for their contributions in the past. Most notably, he talked quite a bit about John W. Campbell, editor of Analog magazine, and also Robert Heinlein, one of the winningest authors of the Hugo awards. For those who have claimed the Hugos as their own private club, this was unacceptable. And so Cancel Culture goes for George R. R. Martin not for failing to finish his series, but instead for Wrongthink.

A Noir Gumshoe in the Far Future


Major Bhaajan retired from the Skolian military and became a private detective, operating out of the City of Cries, the capitol city of the Skolian Empire, located on the planet Raylicon. She was raised in Undercity, a subterranean warren beneath the City of Cries. She is the go-to investigator for the House of Majda, who rules the Skolian Empire. They keep her on retainer.

In “The Vanished Seas”, by Catherine Asaro, a routine and boring assignment to observe reactions at a society party takes an unexpected turn. The woman hosting it, Mara Quida, vanishes during the party. Mara, the Vice President for Marketing and Sales at Scorpio Corporation,  was hosting the party to celebrate a major contract being won by Scorpio.

No one knows how Mara Quida disappeared. No one, including her husband Lukas, knows why she disappeared. Violence appears involved, but no one heard anything from the bedroom where Mara Quida swiftly and silently vanished away.

Janissaries Reaches a Satisfactory Conclusion


In 1979 Jerry Pournelle published Janissaries, a novel about a doomed troop of CIA mercenaries in Angola. About to be annihilated by a Cubans they are offered an escape: a one-way trip to the planet Tran. They and their leader, Rick Galloway, are expected to take over the planet and oversee production of a recreational drug that can be grown there every 600 years. Sequels followed in 1982 and 1987. Then, despite the third book ending with many unanswered questions, nothing.

Mamelukes, by Jerry Pournelle, Philip Pournelle, and David Weber, continues the series.

Jerry Pournelle made several announcements on his blog that he was continuing the series. As late as 2014, he announced 151,000 words had been written, and that only the final battle remained. Then he had a stroke. He never completed the book. Jerry Pournelle died in 2017.