Communion Of Dreams


You can’t tell a book …

So, a week or so ago I linked to a new review of Communion of Dreams which was very positive overall. But the reviewer made a comment which echoes things some other people have said:

Another item that would likely help get this book moving is a different cover. I understand the imagery now that I’ve read the book, but definitely think it will keep hard-core sci-fi fans from buying a copy (and people do judge books by their covers).

Like I said, every so often a comment to this effect will pop up in a review. And I don’t spend much time thinking about it (and I’m not going to change the cover image at this point), but now and then I wonder just what kind of a cover would appeal to ‘hard-core sci-fi fans’ and still make any kind of sense in relation to the story. Maybe some nice images of Saturn or Titan from the Cassini mission? A depiction of some of the spacecraft (which aren’t described in much detail in the book), or perhaps the Titan Prime space station? Go with a charming post-apocalyptic montage of ruined cities and microphotographs of viruses? To me, none of these would fairly represent the story, and to a certain extent would unnecessarily limit the appeal to only ‘hard-core sci-fi fans’.

But I’m curious what others think. So feel free to post a comment here or over on FB. Over even on Amazon, as a comment on an extant review or in  new review of your own. In a week or so I’ll go through all the various comments I can find, and pick someone to get a jar of my latest hot sauce (or something else if they don’t want that).

Jim Downey

PS: there’s another new short review up on Amazon you might want to take a look at as well.



Linky-link.

Some quick links, none of which really warrant a full blog post.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Wanna be a black-hole hunter? Sure you do! The Galaxy Zoo folks have just launched a new project you should check out:

Search for Black Holes

Black holes are found at the center of most, if not all, galaxies. The bigger the galaxy, the bigger the black hole and the more sensational the effect it can have on the host galaxy. These supermassive black holes drag in nearby material, growing to billions of times the mass of our sun and occasionally producing spectacular jets of material traveling nearly as fast as the speed of light. These jets often can’t be detected in visible light, but are seen using radio telescopes. Astronomers need your help to find these jets and match them to the galaxy that hosts them.

 

We live in the glorious future, where beer concentrate is a real, practical thing!

For fans of craft beer, enjoying a decent brew while hiking or camping away from the car usually involves lugging around heavy cans of beer, which can turn a lovely trek into a grueling slog through the woods.

But now the folks at Pat’s Backcountry Beverages have created a solution – their new Brew Concentrates come in featherweight 50ml packets and can be reconstituted with carbonated water (courtesy of their trail-ready 16-ounce carbonator bottle).

 

Well, actually, the past wasn’t so bad in some ways, either …

When you think of illicit substances that are shipped in brick form, wine probably doesn’t come to mind first. And no, boxed wine doesn’t count. During Prohibition, however, drinkers got around laws that banned alcohol by dissolving bricks of grape concentrate in water and fermenting them into wine.

Of course, conscientious makers of grape bricks didn’t want to contribute to bad behavior, and responsibly warned buyers that, “After dissolving the brick in a gallon of water, do not place the liquid in a jug away in the cupboard for twenty days, because then it would turn into wine.” The makers of the Vino Sano Grape Brick even dutifully indicated what flavors one’s careless handling of grape bricks would result in: burgundy, sherry, port, claret, riesling, etc.

 

And a friend had to share this:

CHRIST_IN_CHRISTMAS_THH_0372_11603013.JPG

 

Via BoingBoing, this vid of a crow using a jar lid as a snowboard.

 

And also via BoingBoing, a bit of explosive seasonal fun:

 

I’ll leave it at that for now. I need to get back to work on St. Cybi’s Well. (Oh, and if you’re interested, I often post snippets from daily writing on the Facebook page, just for fun.)

 

Jim Downey



New perspective.

Via Phil Plait, had to share this:

Saturn

Saturn, obviously. But from a new perspective, as Plait explains:

But dominating this jaw-dropping scene are Saturn’s magnificent rings, seen here far more circular than usual. Cassini’s mission has been to observe Saturn and its moons, which means it tends to stay near the planet’s equator. But now scientists are playing with the orbit more, to do more interesting science. The spacecraft is swinging well out of the equatorial plane, so here we see the rings at a much steeper angle, and they are less affected by perspective.

And here’s the link to the full-size image, which is definitely worth a look.

 

Jim Downey



Spinning wheels.*

Gorgeous:

The Rose

The spinning vortex of Saturn’s north polar storm resembles a deep red rose of giant proportions surrounded by green foliage in this false-color image from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Measurements have sized the eye at a staggering 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) across with cloud speeds as fast as 330 miles per hour (150 meters per second).

A fascinating short video and full explanation can be found on NASA’s site:

PASADENA, Calif. – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has provided scientists the first close-up, visible-light views of a behemoth hurricane swirling around Saturn’s north pole.

In high-resolution pictures and video, scientists see the hurricane’s eye is about 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) wide, 20 times larger than the average hurricane eye on Earth. Thin, bright clouds at the outer edge of the hurricane are traveling 330 mph(150 meters per second). The hurricane swirls inside a large, mysterious, six-sided weather pattern known as the hexagon.

Very cool. If I ever have reason to revise Communion of Dreams, I would certainly include reference to The Rose since most everything happens on and around Titan.

 

Jim Downey

*Of course. Via MeFi.

 



Goldilocks and the three exoplanets.

As something of a follow-up to yesterday’s post, news today of the discovery (thanks to the Kepler mission) of three exoplanets which are very good candidates for harboring life. First, their size is within an order of magnitude of Earth’s — and, specifically, less than twice the size of Earth — meaning that they’re not gas giants such as Saturn or Jupiter. Secondly, and at least as importantly, they fall within the “habitable zone” in their star system. That’s the so-called “Goldilocks Zone” where liquid water can exist (it’s not too cold and not too hot).

This is exciting! As it is put in the article:

Two of the three detailed in the new findings in the journal Science are of particular interest: Kepler-62-e and Kepler-62-f. William Borucki, the chief scientist for NASA’s Kepler telescope, says the planets are slightly wider than Earth, but not too big. Kepler-62-e is a bit toasty, like a Hawaiian world and Kepler-62-f is a bit nippy, more Alaskan, Borucki tells the AP.

“This is the first one where I’m thinking, ‘Huh, Kepler-62-f really might have life on it,’ ” said study co-author David Charbonneau of Harvard. “This is a very important barrier that’s been crossed. Why wouldn’t it have life?”

Why, indeed?

 

Jim Downey



Its a start.

The description of Communion of Dreams on both the back of the book and on the website/Amazon is this:

The year is 2052, and the human race is still struggling to recover from a massive pandemic flu some 40 years previously.  When an independent prospector on Saturn’s moon Titan discovers an alien artifact, assumptions that we are alone in the universe are called into question.  Knowing that news of such a discovery could prompt chaos on Earth, a small team is sent to investigate and hopefully manage the situation.  What they find is that there’s more to human history, and human abilities, than any of them ever imagined.  And that they will need all those insights, and all those abilities, to face the greatest threat yet to human survival.

It was pretty easy to come up with that. It was written well after the fact, after all. The book had been done for years, worked over and tweaked endlessly.

Well, as I am getting things set to do the Kickstarter project to allow me to concentrate on writing St. Cybi’s Well, one of the components we have to get into place is setting up a website for it. To do that I needed to have the same sort of short description of that book as the one above for Communion of Dreams. But St. Cybi’s Well *isn’t* done yet. Far from it. I have a lot of ideas/thoughts/scenes for it, accumulated over the last nine years. I basically know what the book is going to be, but the story and the characters will evolve as I write. Nonetheless, I had to come up with a description.

This is what I came up with. See what you think:

Darnell Sidwell had a problem. Well, two, actually. One was the onset of an eye disease which threatened to end his career as a shuttle pilot for the Israeli Lunar Transfer, to the so-called New Ma’abarot colonies. That brought him to Wales, where his sister operated a spiritual healing center – a last, absurd hope for a man who didn’t believe in miracles.

The other problem was a small matter of a murder. His. But he didn’t know about that yet. Just as he didn’t know that the whole world was about to be plunged into the fire-flu.

It’s a start.

Jim Downey

 



We have liftoff.

Via Phil Plait, this brilliant bit of high-speed film of the launch of Apollo 11 – right there on the pad:

Narration by Mark Grey of Spacecraft Films.

Jim Downey

(Here’s a hint: these DVDs would make great gifts for a certain SF author . . . )



Got them low-down, no-good, post-ballistics-tests blues.

Man, I still feel like someone beat me with a bag of nickels.

I wonder if this is just an effect of having subjected myself to a lot of blast shock over a four day period? Shooting a lot of the ‘real world’ guns (we test something on the order of 40 with all the different ammos available from the previous tests) wasn’t such a big deal. But some of them – particularly the Bond derringers in the larger calibers – were just brutal to shoot 20 – 30 times in a row. And the blast from the short barrels of the chop tests could knock your teeth loose.

Anyway, I ache everywhere. And I’ve been fighting a mild depression for the last couple of days. At first it was just masked by being tired (the tests were hard, and I got too little sleep). Also, I figured that the emotional energy it took to be in close proximity to several other people constantly over five days time was a component – don’t get me wrong, I like everyone involved in the testing a lot, but I am just not used to being with people that much. But I have now had some time to recover, and I should be past the worst of that.

So, a little post-project blues. Or maybe the blast shock, repeated several thousand times, has something to do with it. I dunno. I’ll write more tomorrow, in the meantime take a few minutes to enjoy these great images of the Saturn system from the Cassini spacecraft, courtesy of the Boston Globe’s Big Picture series.

Jim Downey

(Via Phil Plait.)



Oh! Lookit the purty pictures!

Do you like APOD? Dig great shots of space? Love to poke around the various and sundry sites where NASA has images?

Then boy, are you in luck:

NASA AND INTERNET ARCHIVE LAUNCH CENTRALIZED RESOURCE FOR IMAGES

WASHINGTON — NASA and Internet Archive, a non-profit digital library based in San Francisco, made available the most comprehensive compilation ever of NASA’s vast collection of photographs, historic film and video Thursday. Located at www.nasaimages.org, the Internet site combines for the first time 21 major NASA imagery collections into a single, searchable online resource. A link to the Web site will appear on the www.nasa.gov home page.

The Web site launch is the first step in a five-year partnership that will add millions of images and thousands of hours of video and audio content, with enhanced search and viewing capabilities, and new user features on a continuing basis. Over time, integration of www.nasaimages.org with www.nasa.gov will become more seamless and comprehensive.

“This partnership with Internet Archive enables NASA to provide the American public with access to its vast collection of imagery from one searchable source, unlocking a new treasure trove of discoveries for students, historians, enthusiasts and researchers,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale. “This new resource also will enable the agency to digitize and preserve historical content now not available on the Internet for future generations.”

How many images are we talking about? Over 100,000 at present. Completely searchable. The homepage is broken down into several categories (Universe, Solar System, Earth, Astronauts) and contains an interactive timeline of the space program going back 50 years. Each search generates a page of thumbnail images – Titan calls up almost 1,500 – leading to photos, animations, audio files, and artist’s renderings.

Wow. Just wow.

Damn, and I have work I need to get done this afternoon . . .

Jim Downey

(Via MeFi.)



Annoying, yet exciting.

Gah. I am either having a relapse of the very stubborn flu that had me laid low last month, or am fighting some new bug with similar (yet still considerably less severe) symptoms. This is highly annoying.

So, I’m about to go take a nap. But first a couple of quick notes, and then a bit from Phil Plait’s blog about a recent discovery that is very exciting.

Note one: downloads of the .pdf of Communion of Dreams have crossed 8,200 and downloads of the audio version continue to climb as well. That’s exciting.

Note two: heard nothing yet from the agent I mentioned contacting the other day. No surprise – I expect that it will take a month or so to hear from them. But I needed something else to note.

Now, about the news from space . . .

I have written previously about the Cassini probe’s 10 year mission to Saturn, and how there have been a lot of great images and information coming back to scientists about that planet and its moons. Information that helps to confirm what we knew when I was first writing Communion (since most of the action of the book takes place on and around Titan.) But there is news which would potentially require me to revise the novel slightly – not about Titan, but about its sibling Enceladus. You may have heard something about this, but I’ll go to the Bad Astro Boy himself for the news:

Life’s cauldron may be bubbling underneath Enceladus

A few days ago I wrote about how the Cassini Saturn probe dove through water ice plumes erupting from the surface of the icy moon Enceladus. The pictures were incredible, but it may very well be that the other detectors got the big payoff.

They detected organic compounds in the plumes.

Now remember, organic molecules don’t necessarily mean life. What Cassini detected were heavy carbon-based molecules, including many that are the building blocks for making things like amino acids and other compounds necessary for life as we know it.

Edited to add: Carolyn Porco, imaging team leader for Cassini, says:

[…] it is now unambiguous that the jets emerging from the south polar fractures contain organic materials heavier than simple methane — acetylene, hydrogen cyanide, formaldehyde, propane, etc. — making the sub-surface sources of Enceladus’ dramatic geological activity beyond doubt rich in astrobiologically interesting materials.

Whoa. I mean, *whoa* . Seriously. It ain’t life, nor even proof of life – but it is *damned exciting*.

Now, a nap.  All this excitement makes me tired.

Jim Downey




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