Heavy Time – CJ Cherryh

Heavy Time by C.J. Cherryh My rating: 4 of 5 stars The Klondike days of asteroid mining are long over and it’s getting harder to make a living with the government and corporations slapping regulations over routes, assays, claims, flight certification. A lot of it the name of safety, but really it’s all about Earth …

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Engage engines

When I imagined the mission of the explorer ship Magellan to the Iota Persei star system thirty-four light years from our own planet, I knew I had to work out how the ship could get there. I wanted the trip to be short enough so the crew would still be relatively young when they reached their destination. …

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Futureshock

While the main focus of Horizon is the tense drama that plays out between the crew in the cramped confines of the ship, a lot of the grunt work in good science fiction goes into imagining the world of the future and how future events shape characters and create a believable background. The explorer ship …

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Welcome aboard Magellan

In my post Engage engines, I talk about the theoretical drive that boosts the explorer ship to an appreciable fraction of the speed of light in order to reach the Iota Persei system in a reasonable time — i.e. before my ‘stellarnauts’ grow too old. But the drive is only one part of the ship, …

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Meet the crew

Horizon is my debut science fiction novel published by HarperVoyager Impulse. It’s an SF thriller centred on a deep space exploration mission that goes very wrong, with repercussions for the future of all life on Earth. A lot of the action in Horizon takes place inside the cramped confines of the Magellan explorer ship, so the interactions …

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The internet is not your friend

Frederik Pohl and CM Kornbluth’s classic novel The Space Merchants posited a future where it was impossible to escape advertising, with marketing messages beamed directly onto our retinas. But they didn’t foresee how big data could be used, or misused, in the real world. Or how lethal the whole system could become. Your mobile phone carries a …

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Deadly supernovas

Richard Cowper’s 1974 science fiction novel The Twilight of Briareus is one of the weirdest alien invasion stories I’ve read. It made a big impression on me as a teenager, and the central idea of the book is still very strong (although when I re-read it recently its storytelling hadn’t stood the test of time). …

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Trust

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about an element of creative writing that isn’t often spoken about. It’s the writing equivalent of ‘ask and ye shall receive’. And really it’s what I like to think of as a matter of trust. I’ve been writing for quite a number of years now and in the past …

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Will AIs Want to Kill Us?

There’s a lot of fear around about Artificial Intelligence. South Koreans recently flipped out when Google’s AlphaGo defeated their Grand Master at the national board game. But will AI usher in the end-times for humanity? Certainly Hollywood seems to think so. Cue: Skynet, Age of Ultron, Transcendence, The Matrix, War Game; or, even earlier, Colossus: The Forbin Project; hell, even as …

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The Art of Worldbuilding

For me, the key to ‘worldbuilding’ is what your characters take for granted.” Ian MacDonald, author of Luna and Brasyl On the face of it, worldbuilding is closely associated with science fiction and fantasy. Think of the millennia-spanning mythology of elves, dwarves, ents and human tribes that informs JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings books, or Iain M Banks’s …

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Towards a practical utopia

AI is quickly becoming smarter than we are, beating our best players of games like Go and chess; and that robots in the workplace will be here sooner than most governments anticipate (especially the current US administration). Studies show that 46% of all American jobs and 54% of jobs in the UK are at high …

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Missing planets

In 2006 our nine-planet solar system dropped to eight when Pluto was downgraded to a dwarf planet. The reason for the downgrade was the discovery of other similarly sized objects in the Kuiper Belt: a region of space extending beyond the orbit of Neptune to a point fifty-five times the distance between Earth and the …

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Writing and Pinterest

Up until about six months ago I’d only used Pinterest to show scans of 20th-century science fiction book covers, many of which I’d had since I was an early teenager, and as another channel for promoting my book reviews and my first novel, Horizon. But as I’m creating the many alien beings, environments and spacecraft for the Lenticular Series …

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Silent Running

The 1972 film Silent Running imagines a future where Earth is so polluted that the last forests have been blasted into space in environmental domes to preserve them. Freeman Lowell, played by Bruce Dern, is forced to kill his fellow crew members to save the forests when the order comes through to destroy the domes and …

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Lotus Blue – Cat Sparks

Lotus Blue by Cat Sparks My rating: 3 of 5 stars World building is the real star of Lotus Blue, the debut science fiction novel for Australian author Cat Sparks. Very quickly in this novel Sparks creates a vision of a future Australia – an already ancient land – that’s further weighed down by centuries …

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Big Data has you

As the World Wide Web turned 28 years old on 12 March, Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the internet while working at CERN in 1989, warned that the rise of fake news, political advertising and misuse of personal data threatens to damage the potential of the internet to be a tool that ‘serves all of humanity’. …

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Ultraviolet

I’m not talking about Ultraviolet, the decidedly B-grade movie with Milla Jovovich, which is currently sitting at 9% on Rotten Tomatoes, but the rather excellent UK TV series from 1998. Here’s the teaser: CJD. AIDS. Global warming. For the first time in history, mankind has the ability to destroy itself. So now vampires need to …

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