Communion Of Dreams


The $1 freebie.

Wait, what? How can something free be priced for $1.00 ?

Easy: today Communion of Dreams, which normally sells for $4.95, is completely free for anyone to download. Please – go get it, if you haven’t already. In fact, if you have already gotten it, delete that one and go get it again anyway. Why? Well, it’ll help my rankings if you do.

But I’m doing this today to help promote the Kickstarter for my next book: St. Cybi’s Well.

Currently the Kickstarter is just a bit under halfway over. It is also just a bit under halfway to the funding goal. So far, so good.

The thing is, though, that only 28 people have backed the project so far. Now, I love the level of support from those backers, and greatly appreciate the contributions. But so far this year over 20,000 people have downloaded Communion of Dreams for free. And the previous version of the novel had been downloaded over 35,000 times.

If each and every person who got the book for free just this year would kick in $0.50 — fifty cents — no, not him — we’d surpass the Kickstarter goal and I could concentrate on getting St. Cybi’s Well finished and published.

But that is unlikely to happen. So I’m asking for those who see this to do two small things:

  1. Go over, kick in a buck on my Kickstarter. Just $1.
  2. Tell others about it. Word-of-mouth is excellent promotion — it’s how some 60,000 people have heard of Communion of Dreams. Now, let’s convert some of that into support for my Kickstarter.

Self-publishing is incredibly powerful. But it is also damned tough. There’s no ‘advance’ from a publishing house to allow me to concentrate on writing the next book. There’s no budget for advertising and promotion. There’s no design department handling the cover and book layout. There aren’t editors to go through the text. There aren’t copy editors to pore through the proofs. All of that has to be handled by me, one way or another.

Communion of Dreams has gotten praise from people around the world. And not just for the story. Also for the professional quality of the text. That takes a lot of hard work and attention to detail.

I don’t mind that. I take pride in the finished product. But I could use your help. If you got Communion of Dreams for free and enjoyed it, please help me out today. It’ll help get St. Cybi’s Well out that much sooner.

Thanks!

Jim Downey



Farewell, Commander.

I didn’t watch it when it was originally broadcast, but I came to really enjoy and respect the science fiction series Babylon 5. It was intelligently written, well produced, and generally well acted. It’s now my ‘default’ evening viewing — we’ll watch an episode or two with dinner whenever we’re not in the middle of watching something else. As a result, I’ve watched the entire series through (as well as all the various movies and the short-lived spin-off ‘Crusade’) probably a score of times. And I still find things to appreciate which I hadn’t caught on previous viewing — there’s a reason it won two Hugo Awards while it ran.

One of those things is an increased appreciation of the performance of Michael O’Hare as Commander Sinclair. He was mostly involved with the series in the first season, but played an important part later as well. And of all of the episodes he was in, this little bit is probably my favorite:

Michael O’Hare passed away last night. He will be missed.

Jim Downey



Ride a painted pony*

“Could you take care of this for me?” I said. “I find myself surprisingly … attached.”

* * * * * * *

Just a couple pages into Communion of Dreams, there’s this passage:

He picked up a meal at the airport and ate in the car on the way over to his office, relaxing and watching the city roll by around him.

Early in the second chapter there’s this one:

The car he was in threaded through the old suburban streets, past still vacant houses and the occasional empty lot. Following the great death of the fire-flu, many homes had simply been abandoned.

The opening paragraph of Chapter 3:

‘What was it?’ he wondered as the car wound through the streets, stopping before the USSA building. He got out, standing there in the plaza, looking up at the golden plasteel supports and the draping glass fabric.

As a writer, particularly of science fiction, you have to know what to explain and what to just assume. By this I mean you have to explain certain things to the reader, enough to give them a grasp on important story elements, but that you can assume they will fill in the background with other less important elements on their own.

Nowhere in Communion of Dreams do I state that cars are largely self-driving. There’s really no need to. Most readers are used enough to the tropes of science fiction that they can read the above passages, and fill in that detail on their own. It’s a little trick which helps anchor the reality of the book in the mind of the reader quickly.

* * * * * * *

And, honestly, the notion of a self-driving car is only barely science fiction at this point. I mean, one of the primary issues right now is having our legal system play catch-up with the technological changes in this field. From a discussion on the Diane Rehm Show yesterday:

GJELTEN: So the — I guess what — driverless cars have been in development for many years. But the big news this week is this law that passed in California allowing some driving of self-driving cars. Tell us what’s in this law exactly.

LEVANDOWSKI: Well, this law is called SB 1298, and it sets forth the framework for the DMV to set up the guidelines that vehicles will need to adhere to in order to, in the future, be able to drive themselves with or without people inside them. It outlines the type of technical standards, the types of insurance requirements. Everything that you would expect a person to go through when they get their driver’s license, you would expect a vehicle that doesn’t have a driver in it to be able to have.

* * * * * * *

“I do feel that I’m a very lucky, lucky person, in all sorts of ways. And one of the ways in which I’m fortunate is Harry Potter set me free to write whatever I want to write. I don’t — you know, we’re not living hand-to-mouth — I, clearly I can afford to pay all of my bills and now my writing life is a great experience. I can really do whatever I want to do. So I’m a fortunate person — I’m a fortunate writer.”

From JK Rowling’s interview on “Morning Edition” today.

* * * * * * *

“Could you take care of this for me?” I said. “I find myself surprisingly … attached.”

“Sure,” said my wife.

Attached?

Yeah, to my car.

Which is a surprise. Because I don’t usually become attached to things. Oh, I keep some things for sentimental value, because they are somehow connected to an important person or event in my life.  But otherwise I tend to be very pragmatic about material things.

I got the car new 20 years ago. A Subaru wagon, which served me well. The last five or six years when it needed work I would weigh the pros and cons of getting the work done — was it worth it? Could I afford it? Could I afford not to?

See, I don’t *really* need a car. I work at home. For a while now when I needed to drive any distance, I took my wife’s car anyway, since it is a few years newer and in substantially better shape.

This past spring it developed some exhaust problems. The work it needed was more than the car was worth. I decided the time had come to just sell it and be done. Consolidating down to one car for the household would be a minor annoyance, but made the most sense.

Well, I made the intellectual decision. The emotional one, I found, wasn’t quite as easy.

Why?

I owned, and drove, that car for more than half the time I’ve had a driver’s license. There was simple ‘time in harness’ associated with it.

But there was more. Specifically, status.

I don’t worry a lot about status. As in, conventional measures of “success” in our society. When you don’t make a lot of money, you learn to not put so much store in such things, or it’ll drive you completely nuts. And as I noted earlier this year, I don’t make a lot of money.

But confronting the hard truth that I can not afford to buy a new car was a bit more than I really wanted to face. And selling my car meant exactly that. Because in our society, if you sell your car, you’re supposed to get another one. Preferably a new one. At the very least, a newer one. To not do so means you’re not successful.

And you should never, ever, under no circumstances, admit that you’re not successful.

So, yeah, the emotional truth was harder to come to terms with. Which would mean that I would be piss-poor at selling my car — at advertising it, at negotiating a sale, all that stuff.

But I’ve come to realize that there are other approaches to defining success, other strategies which can change how you accomplish things. My Kickstarter project is one such, stepping in to crowd-fund what a conventional publishing contract would previously do.

So I asked my wife to take care of it. She didn’t have the same emotional baggage to contend with. And she took care of it in her usual competent & efficient manner: last night the car drove away from our driveway for the last time.

Who knows? Maybe next year, after St. Cybi’s Well is done and available, it’ll be enough of a hit that I’ll be able to afford a new car. One which can partially drive itself. Stranger things have happened. Just ask JK Rowling.

 

Jim Downey

*Well, it seemed appropriate.



“What if we tried more power?”

Didn’t I just say that Randall Monroe is brilliant? Of course I did. That was writing about his artwork. And this morning he proved (once again) that his science is solid, as well:

Er, let me explain…

Monroe does the popular webcomic xkcd. If you don’t read it regularly, you should. Anyway, this summer he added in another feature called “What If?” which he explains with this subtitle: “Answering your hypothetical questions with physics, every Tuesday.”

And for whatever reason, today’s entry is in response to this question: “If every person on Earth aimed a laser pointer at the Moon at the same time, would it change color?”

Gee … where have I heard that question before? Hmm … perhaps in Chapter 9 of Communion of Dreams?

“You know, I could design a program that would enhance the image. Everyone who looked up at that would see our Moon,instead. Wouldn’t take much. I could even paint it red.”

“Paint it red? You mean the Moon?

“Yeah, old joke. There was this artist back at the turn of the century who had this project called ‘Paint the Moon’. He wanted to get everyone in the Western Hemisphere to focus these popular little hand-held laser pointers on the Moon all at once, with the idea that enough of the laser light would cause a red spot to appear. Had it all figured: what phase of the Moon was best to do it, how people could aim their lasers, the whole bit.”

“Crazy,” said Jon. Then, after a pause, “It didn’t work, did it?”

“Nah. But that wasn’t the point. He always described the project as a ‘shared lyrical fantasy’, designed to bring people together for a single moment, all doing the same thing. The first attempt got quite a lot of attention world-wide from the media. Millions heard about it, and maybe tens of thousands participated. It is still considered a seminal art event – we studied it in school.”

“But . . . what’s the point?”

“Oh, I just always liked that grandiose sense of whimsy. There were a number of crazy things like that back then, before everything went to hell.”

Unsurprisingly, Monroe concludes that the laser pointers wouldn’t accomplish the task. But then he uses that as a jumping-off point to explore what it *would* take to accomplish the task. And then some. It’s a fun piece, and likely the image of his I posted above has just become another instant classic, not unlike this one (which is the not-xkcd-approved Official T-shirt of BBTI).

Jim Downey

PS: Thanks to the people who sent me a link to the xkcd What If? entry this morning — very much appreciated. Now, if anyone would like to pop by the xkcd forums and mention this connection, I’d greatly appreciate it. Cheers!



“He dreams of stopping the wave.”

“I think he actually plans that ahead.”

* * * * * * *

Interesting news item:

Study broadens understanding of quantum mechanics

(Phys.org)—Former and current USC Dornsife physicists have led a study that represents the first, quantitative account of the universal features of disordered bosons—or quantum particles—in magnetic materials.

The study published in the Sept. 20 edition of Nature magazine broadens our understanding of quantum mechanics and challenges the accepted predication in quantum theory.

“It’s remarkable to find such universality in disordered quantum systems,” said co-author Stephan Haas, professor of physics and astronomy and vice dean for research in USC Dornsife. “And it’s even more amazing that we may have finally identified a real-life example for one of the most elusive quantum glasses in nature.”

Yeah, OK, so? What’s that actually mean?

Potentially, a lot. Quantum particles are thought of as wave-forms, operating in a range of space/states (this is known as quantum superposition). This characterization leads to such particles being ‘trapped’ — unable to escape a given space/state due to interference — what is termed ‘localization.’ Having a way to control localization is the key to much finer control over quantum effects, and helps to turn it from a theoretical physical problem almost to an engineering one.  From the above article:

Quantum magnets and other occurrences in quantum mechanics could set the stage for the next big breakthroughs in computing, alternative energy and transportation technologies such as magnetic levitating trains.

* * * * * * * *

“He dreams of stopping the wave.”

Who? Gorodish:

Gods, I love that movie.

* * * * * * *

“Alwyn, wait up, bud,” said my wife, as our dog trotted past us on our morning walk.

He went a couple more paces, but stopped before he got to the entrance of a care facility. That entrance comes off a busy street, and we only want him to cross it with us so as to keep him safe.

“I think he actually plans that ahead,” I said. “He trots ahead here so that he can sniff that bush for messages.”

Jim Downey



Stuck inside of Columbia with the promotional blues again.*

Well, well, well. Some things to share.

First of all, thought I’d go ahead and post here the promotional video we made for the Kickstarter project. For those who might be curious about what I look/sound like, and who have yet to be tempted to go to the Kickstarter page:

A brief word about the Kickstarter’s progress so far, one week since launch: things are going well. We’re over $2,000 on pledges so far, from 20 backers. People have been contributing at levels from $5 to $500 — much appreciated! I’m a bit surprised that no one has just contributed at the $1.00 level so far, since that’s usually something which gets attention on Kickstarter projects where people just want to say “thanks”  for some previous efforts or lend a bit of encouragement for a favorite author or artist. But that’s OK, if people want to pledge at higher levels, I’m not going to complain.

Somewhat related to this, there’s a special drawing which may be of interest to those who are ‘into’ firearms — all the details are over on my BBTI blog.

I also want to give a head-up: Next Sunday (Sept 30) will be another promotional day for Communion of Dreams, when anyone will be able to download the Kindle edition of that book for free. You don’t even need a Kindle – they have emulators for just about every mobile device, reader, or computer system. Tell your friends! Spread the word!

Jim Downey

*With apologies to Mr. Zimmerman.



“Life on…”

It’s been a while, how about a little “paleo-future” fun?

Frank R. Paul was an illustrator of US pulp magazines in the science fiction field. He was born in Vienna, Austria… Frank R. Paul was influential in defining what both cover art and interior illustrations in the nascent science fiction pulps of the 1920s looked like.

Retro Futurism

That’s from a post a couple years ago which is quite delightful — though a bit dated (they even include Pluto as a planet, imagine!) — that you should check out: http://ubersuper.com/retro-futurism/

Jim Downey

 




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