Communion Of Dreams


But other than that …

Hey, another one-star review is up over at Amazon! That makes two in a row! Here’s an excerpt:

If you read this review, please know that I stopped reading after a chapter or so.

Why? Well, it’s hard to not see the similarities to Arthur C. Clarke, even if the story eventually takes a different turn. But that would have been OK if the writing had been better. Instead the author really whips through the logistics of assembling a team and arranging transportation to investigate the phenomenon. There’s no depth, little thought and weak writing.

But other than that, he thought my post-apocalyptic world was “somewhat interesting.” That was good to hear. 😉

I noted that this review was up last night over on the Facebook page, and a couple of people pointed out the simple truth that no matter what there are always going to be some people who just don’t like some things. That is something  I have said many times myself, going all the way back to the very early days of this blog.

So why mention it? Well, I’m just trying to be honest. With myself, and with you. I like to tout the good things which have happened, the positive reviews and other forms of feedback. So I figure I should also be forthright about the more critical things people say. But I haven’t lost sight of the fact that positive reviews outnumber negative ones by more than 10 – 1.

Anyway, so there’s that. Remember, there’s still a promotion going on, and we haven’t improved much on yesterday’s numbers. Maybe it’s a bit silly, but it’d be fun to break 25,000 copies in the first year — and we still have about 1,400 to go to do that.

Cheers!

 

Jim Downey



Well, when you put it like *that*…

I’ve noted in the past that there have been a number of interesting comparisons of Communion of Dreams with the works of Arthur C. Clarke in general, and with 2001: A Space Odyssey in particular.  Which isn’t surprising, since the book is an intentional homage to that book, referencing it directly at several points. I’ve tried to be clear that I am not trying to claim that my writing is on the same level as Clarke’s — if nothing else, I have only written one book and am very conscious of the fact that I am following along a well-worn path, one which he initially cut through the wilderness and many others have since trod. Still, it is flattering when someone else thinks that my book is good enough to even consider a comparison to 2001.

Well, that sort of thing has happened again, with a new review on Amazon which went up yesterday. It’s quite positive, and says things like this:

James Downey has written a very strong sci-fi story that, like all good sci-fi, takes the reader on a wonderful journey into the realm of future human possibilities.

Then, amusingly, it closes with this:

The only reason I did not give it five stars is because I don’t rate it as great a story as say the classic Isaac Asimov Foundation series or Frank Herbert’s Dune, but otherwise it is a book well worth the time to read and savor.

Yeah, when you’re judging my book against such classic works as those, hell, I’d give it only 4 stars as well. Once again, those works were trail-blazers, and that alone makes it difficult for anything which follows to be fairly compared.
Anyway. I’d like to ask two things:

  1. If you have read Communion of Dreams, and have not yet written your own review, please PLEASE do so. As I have hinted several times recently, I have something new in the works, and very much need as many solid reviews as possible in place to help people have a realistic idea of what to expect.
  2. If you’re on Facebook, please go “like” the Communion of Dreams page. And tell your friends about it. Again, this will help a great deal with what I have coming up soon.

 

Thanks – I really appreciate your help.

Jim Downey

 

 



Looking back: “…an awful waste of space.”

While I’m on a bit of vacation, I have decided to re-post some items from the first year of this blog (2007).  This item first ran on June 26, 2007.

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

A friend passed along this entry from today’s Quote of the Day:

If it’s true that our species is alone in the universe, then I’d have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little.
George Carlin

Communion of Dreams is, essentially, about what happens when we are unexpectedly confronted with the reality of the existence of extra-terrestrial intelligence. In this I am echoing countless other science fiction stories/novels/films, some more consciously than others. Most directly, I am paying homage to two authors:Sir Arthur C. Clarke, and Carl Sagan. For anyone interested in doing so, references can be found in my novel to both men, directly and indirectly.

And whenever you tackle this problem (whether or not there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe), you are also basically dealing with issues similar to religious faith. At least for the time being, we have no evidence, no scientific proof, of either E.T. or God. Friends who know me as a strong atheist have commented how surprised they were with how I deal with the issue of religion in Communion. Yet this is in keeping with how science fiction writers, and Carl Sagan specifically in his novel Contact, tend to approach this issue: leaving open the possibility and understanding the revolution in thought which it will demand when there is proof of E.T. (or God, for that matter). I don’t recall it being in the book, but there’s a line in the movie version of Contact which has always made sense to me, when the protagonist’s father says regarding the possibility of life on other planets: “I don’t know, Sparks. But I guess I’d say if it is just us… seems like an awful waste of space.”

Which brings me to another favorite quote, one I’ve appended to my emails for the last several years:

“Sometimes I think we’re alone. Sometimes I think we’re not.
In either case, the thought is staggering.”
R. Buckminster Fuller

And I think that sums it all up for me, on both the question of God and whether there is other intelligence out there. For Communion, I come down on the side of proving the existence of one, and figure that is enough for one book to tackle.

Jim Downey



Encouragement.

I got a note from a friend earlier this week. She had just started reading Communion of Dreams, and was really impressed with it, and took the time to let me know. I thanked her for telling me.

And I was thankful — getting feedback from people like that is very affirming. Every author, every artist, likes it when their work is well received.

But I was also a bit bemused.

Why?

Well, because she seemed so *surprised*.

I can’t tell you how often this happens. You wouldn’t believe me. But it’s true. People who know me — friends, family — seem to be completely caught off guard by the fact that I’ve written a book which is actually quite good.

* * * * * * *

One of my relatives is pretty “old school” in the sense that he thinks that he should be parsimonious with praise. When I told him that I was going to grad school in order to study writing and literature, he said something along the lines of “what, weren’t you paying attention in college?”

When told that I was involved in the Ballistics By The Inch project, his reaction was that it was a waste of time, because “everyone knows the answer, it’s just 25-50 feet per second.”

I haven’t talked to him in years. I would bet that he considered the care-giving “woman’s work.” No idea what he would’ve made of the subsequent memoir. And Communion of Dreams?

Who knows.

* * * * * * *

A friend of mine used to always say: “It ain’t bragging if you can actually do it.”

* * * * * * *

There’s a new review up. Here it is:

As an avid reader, I go through many books quickly. I’ve read so much sci-fi stuff over the years, I have forgotten most or all of it. This book, however, is so wonderful and complex that I am certain it will stay with me. It brings in “hard” sci-fi in the Arthur C. Clarke tradition, marries it to cultural anthropology, sociology, psychology and all the other things I love. I was lucky to get this one for free for the Kindle during a promotion. However, it is well worth obtaining at full price. Downey has a flair for story telling and a firm grasp on even the deepest, most esoteric science and theoretical underpinnings. “Communion of Dreams” has been a joy to read. Highly recommended.

* * * * * * *

I got a note from a friend earlier this week. She had just started reading Communion of Dreams, and was really impressed with it, and took the time to let me know. I thanked her for telling me.

And I was thankful — getting feedback from people like that is very affirming. Every author, every artist, likes it when their work is well received.

But I was also a bit bemused.

Why?

Well, because she seemed so *surprised*.

I can’t tell you how often this happens. You wouldn’t believe me. But it’s true. People who know me — friends, family — seem to be completely caught off guard by the fact that I’ve written a book which is actually quite good.

This isn’t just about me. To some extent we all experience this. Hell, we all do this. A friend or a relative tells us that they’re writing a book, or a play, or a movie. Or that they are creating a work of art. Or that they are going back to school. Or that they are trying to lose weight. Or whatever. If we’re decent sorts of people, we make encouraging noises.

But when was the last time you actually considered engaging with that person? Actually *encouraging* them? I’m not talking about some bullshit “work hard, and anything is possible” line. I’m talking about asking about their project, their goal, their plans to bring it into reality?

I’m old enough, crusty enough, that I have pushed on to do things even in spite of lack of encouragement. Maybe that’s just because I’m a self-centered bastard who cares more about meeting my own goals than meeting the goals of others.

But think about how much better a world it could be if we really listened to one another’s dreams & plans, shared our enthusiasm, and our encouragement.

Jim Downey



Context matters.

Mel, our new cat, has settled in nicely. Well, nicely as far as she’s concerned. Our older cat, Hil, has a different perception of the matter.

That’s because Hil has largely been supplanted by this young upstart, who is a bit bigger, a lot stronger, and somewhat more aggressive. Hil hasn’t taken to cowering, exactly, but she has kept a lower profile and tends to avoid Mel.

Mostly.

* * * * * * *

People keep saying things like this:

The storyline itself I would put on a par with some of the best SF I have ever read. I felt much the same at the end as I did 50 or so years ago when I finished “Childhood’s End”.

And this:

This book is an unapologetic homage to the “hard science fiction” style of writing and to Arthur C. Clarke himself.

* * * * * * *

It’s not surprising that people see this, since from the very beginning I have been pretty open about both my intent and source material. I mean, here’s what it says on the Communion of Dreams homepage:

Welcome to Communion of Dreams. You’ll probably find that it is closest in flavor to the works of Arthur C. Clarke and the late Carl Sagan, two authors from whom I draw inspiration.

And there’s this passage from Chapter 6:

“Here’s what our artifact makes me think of,” Ng laughed. Slowly the artifact image started to change in a more pronounced way, becoming taller, narrower, and losing the hexagonal shape. The mottling drifted away, replaced by a hard, black, shiny surface. It was the iconic monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

* * * * * * *

Things change. Last month I sold 550 copies of Communion of Dreams. As I noted a couple of days ago, this month it’s dropped off, and will likely end up somewhere around what the April total was (about 275).

Sure, I wish that the numbers had just kept climbing. They had been basically doubling each month. But these things have a natural ebb & flow to them sometimes. Right now other books are getting the attention, getting the reviews, getting talked about. I haven’t spent as much time & energy promoting the book this month, and next month will probably be even worse since I’ll be overseas for much of it.

Still, we’ll see. You can help, if you want, by contributing your own review, by spreading the word to friends and forums. We all need to watch out for one another in this world. Whether you take that as a warning or a comfort, I’ll leave that up to you.

* * * * * * *

Mel, our new cat, has settled in nicely. Well, nicely as far as she’s concerned. Our older cat, Hil, has a different perception of the matter.

That’s because Hil has largely been supplanted by this young upstart, who is a bit bigger, a lot stronger, and somewhat more aggressive. Hil hasn’t taken to cowering, exactly, but she has kept a lower profile and tends to avoid Mel.

Mostly.

See, Hil has long been comfortable going outside. For Mel, “outside” was a New And Scary experience (her previous owners told us she’d never been out). We started going out with her for short periods, letting her know that we were there and she was OK. And then progressed to leaving the back door propped open a bit, so that she could go out on her own, but come running back inside when she got overwhelmed. Finally, we started letting her out and then closing the door behind her.

But only when Hil was outside.

Because, for all that Mel seems to dominate inside, she wants to have Hil around outside. And Hil, with remarkable kindness, stays with Mel, watching over her. If Hil comes in, Mel does too. If Hil comes in without Mel noticing, as soon as Mel does notice she’s howling at the back door.

Context matters.

Jim Downey



Falling on my head like a new emotion.*

It rained this morning.

* * * * * * *

There are two new reviews for Communion of Dreams up on Amazon. Here’s one in its entirety:

This was a thoroughly enjoyable book, full of intriguing ideas, appealing characters (including some quirky ones) and a well-crafted plot. That it is also a debut novel surprised me, and I hopefully look forward to more. James Downey can write!

* * * * * * *

Chatting over breakfast with houseguests yesterday, I was explaining how the logistics of publishing an electronic book work, that the best model currently seems to be to give away a buttload of free copies periodically, which in turn generates actual sales. It’s a bit counter-intuitive, as I have explained here previously, but it clearly works: after each promotional event giving away copies of the book, sales and overall ranking jump then tend to plateau with a slow drop-off. Two months ago Communion of Dreams was stuck at a ranking of about 30,000. More recently it was hovering around 3,000, and it wasn’t until about two weeks ago that the rate of sales started to fall off from about 20 a day to something more like 5 or 6. After Saturday’s promotion, Sunday almost 50 people bought the book, and sales overnight last night look decent — my guess is that it will again plateau around 20 sales a day for a while.

* * * * * * *

Here’s an excerpt from the other review:

I have been a reader of science fiction from an early age. I grew up with the great writers: Asimov, Henlien, Bradbury, Clark and F. Herbert … With that education of the genre I have found it difficult to find pure science fiction that comes even close to the standards I have for great books. With Mr. Downey’s Communion of Dreams, there is finally a writer I can look forward to reading his future works.

* * * * * * *

That’s the other thing which happens: more reviews following a promotional event. And reviews make a difference. I don’t mind a negative or critical review — they help other readers identify a book which may not be suitable for them, and I want people to be happy that they decided to invest the time (and sometimes money) to read my stuff. Yeah, sure, like anyone I like praise and people comparing me to true giants in the field of SF — it’s a real kick in the head. But even those writers had plenty of people who didn’t enjoy their work: just take a look at the reviews of their stuff on Amazon and you’ll see. Hell, Communion of Dreams has an aggregate rating which is higher than almost everything listed for either Heinlein or Herbert, according a my quick check just now.

Does that mean I’m a “better” writer? Don’t be ridiculous. It just means that so far a few more people have assigned a better arbitrary rating to this one book. No one gets universal acclaim. And I’d have to produce about a book a year until I am 75 to have the same level of output that these other writers accomplished (and to about 400 to be in Asimov’s league). *That* ain’t gonna happen.

* * * * * * *

It rained this morning.

That’s not extraordinary, of course. This isn’t a desert.

But it’s been about a month since we’d seen any significant rain. And it is welcome.

Jim Downey

*Of course.



“Better than 2001”? Wait – what???

So, for some time now I’ve been following Thomas Evans’ The Archaeologist’s Guide to the Galaxy. He offers very intelligent, insightful, and sometimes biting reviews of a lot of books – but it was his writing about Science Fiction which caught my eye and got me reading him regularly. I haven’t mentioned it here, for one very simple reason: I wanted him to read, and hopefully review, Communion of Dreams. And I didn’t want there to be any doubt about whether or not my comments biased him.

Well, now that concern is moot. Because he just posted a full, formal review of Communion.

Now, the usual thing would be for me to excerpt some of the things he says about my book, and tout it all over the place. Like the title of this post. Yeah, he basically says that one aspect of my novel is better than one aspect of 2001: A Space Odyssey. And I could justifiably paraphrase him to claim that this was the summation of his review. Well, were I a press agent for a big publishing house, I could. Or would, rather, regardless of whether it was actually justified or not.

The actual passage from his review says this:

The topic of possible ancient alien contact is brilliantly handled and to my mind, makes perfect sense (within the context of the book that is). Indeed, it has quite the opposite effect that most such stories have on me, and is one of only two such conclusions that I actually liked. The other was Arthur C. Clark’s 2001, so that is very august company to keep, and to be honest, I thought the way that Downey handled it in this book was superior. I won’t go into any further details, for the question of whether or not there even was contact is one of the most interesting and intentionally downplayed elements of this book. Suffice it to say that the way this book addresses the whole concept of the ‘object’ is well worth the read.

See? There’s more nuance there than just a pull-quote.

Just as there is in the entire review. Which is why I like this fellow’s reviews. He’s a SF writer himself, and thoroughly understands the genre. He knows its ins and outs, understands the strengths and weaknesses of a given author or story line, identifies the tropes and traditions. He doesn’t pull punches, has his own quirks and preferences. Above all, he has intelligent reasons for the things he says about books, and explains those reasons.

So I was flattered that he would take the time to read Communion, let alone write such a complete review of the book.

And it is an excellent review. No, not in the sense that he thinks the book is excellent. In the sense that he clearly says what he likes and dislikes about the book, and offers his opinion on to whom it might appeal. Yes, there are a lot of positive things he says about CoD, and that gives me a nice ego-boost. And I don’t agree with some of his criticisms of the book. But those criticisms are honest and fair – he makes a strong case for why he says what he says, and on that basis I have no complaint with his conclusions.

See for yourself. Go read the review. Leave a comment about what you think of it there on his site. Or not. But do yourself a favor and add him to your regular reading list. I have.

Jim Downey



A wisp, glowing green.

From Chapter 3:

Wright Station was one of the older stations, and its age showed in its design. The basic large wheel structure, necessary when centrifugal force simulated gravity, was still evident, though significantly altered. The station hung there as they approached, motionless. The aero slowly coasted toward a large box well outside the sweep of the wheel, connected to the wheel by an extension of one of the major spokes. This was the dock, and it was outside the AG field.

Sound familiar?

Though I do think that were someone to film Communion of Dreams, this scene would more closely reflect this reality, taken from the ISS:

Still, it is fascinating that we have already so deeply connected music with space imagery. And that what is seen as a pale blue dot in the distance is, up close, a living world with a thin sheath of atmosphere – a wisp, glowing green.

Tomorrow is a promotional day: the Kindle edition of Communion of Dreams will be free for any and all to download. Share the news.

Jim Downey



Big round number.

What topic could possibly warrant being the subject of post #1,000?

None.

I have no big announcements to share, no news, not even a scrap of intelligent musing on something obscure. Things are pretty much just what passes for routine here currently: getting conservation work done, waiting to hear from the publishers/agents, going through the day-to-day of life.

So, I’ll just break the tension (well, *I’ve* been feeling tension over it) and share this amusing item:

Neil Armstrong Talks About The First Moon Walk

Well, this doesn’t happen every day.

In yesterday’s post, I talked about Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s walk across the lunar surface back in 1969 and wondered, how come they walked such a modest distance? Less than a hundred yards from their lander?

Today Neil Armstrong wrote in to say, here are the reasons:

He also posts the entirety of Armstrong’s email. It’s not often that you get to read history from one of the men who actually made it – it’s worth a look.

So, on to 1,001: A Blog Odyssey.

Jim Downey



Daisy, Daisy . . .
September 8, 2010, 6:04 pm
Filed under: Arthur C. Clarke, Artificial Intelligence, movies, Music, Science Fiction, Space

I haven’t written about it a lot here on the blog, but I have discussed the matter elsewhere: Communion of Dreams is, in many ways, a retelling – or an homage – of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I have always loved the movie, Kubrick’s ambiguous ‘message’, and the implications of what was behind the discovery of an alien artifact on the Moon.

So, when I saw this today, I had to share: 2001: A Space Odyssey

Here’s the one that most resonates with CoD.

But check out all the images – wonderful!

Jim Downey