Even More Science… Plants this time

22 11 2015

There have been two articles about plants. Scientists have been able to produce electric circuits in roses. Yes roses! The first step to cyborg plants!

Whilst the experiment in itself is of little value, what it could lead onto could be of significant value. For instance a plant could be used to monitor environmental conditions in a greenhouse. If it is linked to the heating or lighting circuits we could engineer how to keep those conditions at optimum for the plants. It would mean less waste.

The article can be found here.

We’ve been aware for quite a few years now about the wood wide web – yes I did write WOOD WIDE WEB. It’s the association between trees and fungi in the wood. It not acts as a warning network of danger, but also as a transport system of resources. The article can be found here.


Add to this the previously reported discovery that plants have a quantum mechanics network, we can start to see that there is a very complex communication and logic laws acting in Earth’s plant-life. It begs many questions like:

  • Are all plants in communication with their neighbours?
  • What kind of intelligence do they have? [There are different systems of logic laws and whilst we humans tend to follow one, the plants may for good reason follow another – we just don’t know the answer to this.]
  • Do plants have a kind of hive intelligence? [In which case the research into swarm mechanisms, e.g. how birds fly in a flock, becomes even more important.]
  • Is the idea of Gaia really the wood wide web?

All these ideas could be placed in science fiction stories. But experience suggests that if you write about these ideas, people (editors and readers) find them so strange that they cannot come to terms with them. They are well and truly thrown out of their comfort zone, and seem to automatically refuse to even look at this section of science fiction.

This worries me. There is, as you’ve seen from previous posts, a whole wave of science rolling into our lives. How we live twenty, ten years from now will be very different from today. And yet, as far as I can see, only the big corporations are peddling anthologies about how they see their products are developing. It’s a kind of futuristic advertising.

We need the independent science fiction writers to show a more balanced futuristic picture. 

There are reasons why this is not happening at the moment. These include risk adverse publishers, fantasy being more popular because it offers escapism from the realities of today, and the scientists and engineers amongst us writers earn more in our day jobs as well as there being a skills shortage, so we’re rarely out of job.

A further complication is that science fiction is the natural home of sections of the community that feel, for whatever reason, shunned by the rest of society. They want their voice to be heard. I have sympathy for many cases, but the consequence is that the futuristic science fiction writing gets swamped out of existence.

It is in these kinds of situations that government funding for the arts is useful, but under the current economic climate this does not happen. Nor can I see it happening in the future wither because of the many up and coming demands on government finances.

So we are left with the

  • big mega companies pushing out science anthologies biased towards their products and ensuring their own future
  • few brave scientists and engineers who write science fiction, but in order to get their work published they have to tune out the unusual.

Is this where we really want to be as a society?

And even more science rolls on…

14 11 2015

It’s like an avalanche at the moment… So I’m going to do things in sections:

Phobos is breaking up: See here for more details. Given what is my short story Space Blind (unpublished, but a few people have seen it), this does not come as a surprise. What is interesting is the striations are a sign of imminent (in astronomical timetables) break-up. A useful snippet for a science fiction writer somewhere perhaps?


Pi and Quantum Mechanics Connection:

In 1655, an English mathematician, John Wallis produced the following formula for calculating pi – you know that pesky little number associated with calculating various properties of circles – which is:

 \prod_{n=1}^{\infty} \left(\frac{2n}{2n-1} \cdot \frac{2n}{2n+1}\right) = \frac{2}{1} \cdot \frac{2}{3} \cdot \frac{4}{3} \cdot \frac{4}{5} \cdot \frac{6}{5} \cdot \frac{6}{7} \cdot \frac{8}{7} \cdot \frac{8}{9} \cdots = \frac{\pi}{2}

Well, apparently a couple of clever physicists noticed this formula popping up in equations to do with the energy levels of an electron in a hydrogen atom. More details here.

This one has me particularly excited (no pun with electron energy levels intended) because I was working on a follow-on novel to my Miranda novel that involved quantum physics at this smidgen level, and it involved hyperspheres, which of course would involve pi…

[As I haven’t found anyone interested in publishing the Miranda novel, the follow-on novel has also quite naturally been laid to rest.]

Asteroid Mining Law: The senate has voted to pass the Space Act of 2015 that legalises asteroid mining. Details here. This of course is the USA. I’m not familiar with the details, but I hope that it takes due account of other countries’ interests. The question is: Why is this not being considered by our parliament in the UK?

New Dwarf Planet at Edge of our Solar System:

Up to now, Eris at 97 Astronomical Units (AUs) has been the farthest out of the dwarf planets in our Solar System [The other designated dwarf planets are Ceres, Pluto, Haumea and Makemake.] But they’ve found  one at 103 AUs, about three times as far as Pluto is from the Sun. Estimated at between 310 and 620 miles wide, it is half the size of Pluto. More details here.

Again this does not surprise me. I have written a short story (which was subbed in 2013 and haven’t had a response yet – sigh) that touches on the legal implications of this. It makes for interesting thoughts all round, and would actually be a basis for some darned good science fiction novels.

Well, that should give you all something interesting to write about if you were short for ideas for science fiction stories.

And that science keeps on rolling in…

4 11 2015

Well, there’s been a whole slew of new stuff found out about the solar system and trying to keep up with it all is going to be quite a task…

As expected New Horizons keeps on downloading new images of Pluto and its moons. Here’s a better image of the crescent…


You can just about make out some of the layering in the atmosphere!

Then one of its moons came up with a ‘surprise’ – Kerberos which from the image below looks like two ice-rocks close together.


That there are moons like this does not come as a surprise to me… let’s just say I’ve written a story that is as yet unpublished about such a moon, only it’s more complex than two ice-rocks. But the interesting point is that the such a configuration is stable – which means their mutual gravitational attraction is greater than the gravitational tidal forces due to the planetoid and its other moons.

And then there’s the intriguing craters on Charon. Roughly the same size and fairly close together. But one, Organa, has higher concentration of ammonia in the ice than seen anywhere else. Skywalker on the other hand is rich in water ice. The high ammonia picture showed up in the 2.2 micron filter.


Expect pictures from Cassini on its latest flyby of the moon Enceladus, through the plumes from the outgassing at its southern hemisphere.

Tomorrow (Thursday 2pm EST) NASA are going to make an announcement about what they’ve discovered about the Martian atmosphere. By all accounts they have the high profile leaders from the MAVEN probe ready to face the journalists. So it must be something significant.

And to add to the intrigue the Rosetta probe has found oxygen in the atmosphere surrounding the comet 67P. It’s come as rather a surprise to the scientists as oxygen is a highly reactive element. They are obviously trying work out why it’s there. So watch this space.

Reaction Engine Ltd has now got the go ahead to develop the SABRE with a grant of £60million from the government. This is on top of BAE Systems purchasing 20% of the company for £20.6million. This is big money indeed. But that SABRE engine, intended for the Skylon space plane, will also help fly a plane from London to Sydney in four hours.


OK so I got a soft spot for Skylon – it’s even been mentioned in my science fiction story Neptune’s Angel – no I won’t tell you what I did with it – go and enjoy the story.

Also expect an announcement soon about relationship between general relativity and quantum mechanics soon… not sure what it’s going to be – but here’s the link explaining more.

There is definitely a bundle of news here, all of which would inspirational for writing science fiction stories…

Short SF Stories…

31 10 2015

I was in Waterstones while in Bristol today, checking out science fiction books… as you do… when I noticed that there was something missing from their shelves – anthologies of short stories.

Admittedly I put it down to just one of those things. That was until I also checked out Foyles. Exactly the same. No science fiction anthologies.

You can still get anthologies on Amazon or if done by a local writing group, from that writing group. So have science fiction anthologies stopped being brought into book shops? Only time will tell, but I suspect the answer is yes. This is in part due to the cost in time, money and resources to producing an anthology. Which means novels are more profitable. So it’s not surprising anthologies could be disappearing from book stores.

I’m also pleased to say that Jupiter Issue 47 with my short story, Air of Freedom, is now available on Amazon as an e-publication. The link is here. Enjoy.


Following in the footsteps of a giant?

24 10 2015

I sat down with my second cup of coffee after breakfast to add a few sentences or paragraph to my current work in progress. Five hundred plus words and another one of those ‘where the heck did that come from?’ moments later, I realised that this story is one of those that sparkles with ideas. But I had to ask myself ‘why is this happening to this particular story?’

The work in progress concerns my third novel. My first I have long since abandoned because it is a beginner’s novel, the one where you write out your mistakes and ditch. It also has what I call the standard science fiction themes and action. My second is a serious novel where the main characters develop, albeit as a result of what happens to them rather than them actively progressing forward themselves. The third, which admittedly is being written alongside the second? Well, that just goes from strength to strength, surprising and delighting at every turn.

At this point, the penny drops. Another author took a similar path a long long time ago (but not in a galaxy far far away). I am of course talking about Jane Austen.


Her first novel was Northanger Abbey and written, tongue in cheek, in the gothic style that was popular at the time. It was published posthumously. And it would never have got published had not Jane Austen been a famous author by that time.

Her second novel was Sense and Sensibility, which Jane had to publish herself. This examines the interplay between common sense and emotions, which many people would consider opposites. My second novel also works through what many people would consider opposites in science fiction. The heroine, like Marianne Dashwood, gradually moves from one extreme to the other over the course of many ‘adventures’ during the novel.

Austen’s third novel was Pride and Prejudice. That just examines the social attributes of the time, as Jane herself put it, it sparkles.

So more by dint of accident than design, I’m kind of following a similar development curve to Jane Austen. Two key differences are:

  • Jane Austen was dealing with contemporary novels whilst my genre is science fiction
  • I don’t pretend to be as great a writer as Jane Austen

But the pattern is interesting:

  • 1st novel – imitating what is already being sold, but also commentating on it
  • 2nd novel – dealing with basic opposite characteristics
  • 3rd novel – examining variations on themes

Austen’s fourth novel was Mansfield Park, which has been described elsewhere as a moral tale. The fifth was Emma which is about an anti-heroine which the last was Persuasion, to my mind a commentary on the politics of the then society.

Will I continue to follow the Jane Austen pattern?

Only time will tell, but how really don’t see how the idea for my fourth novel would ever develop into a moral tale.

Now to get back to that sparkling novel.

And suddenly there a draft of drafts…

20 10 2015

What do these all have in common?

  1. Hodderscape August 2015
  2. HarperVoyager Impulse November 2015
  3. Angry Robot December 2015 – January 2016
  4. Gollancz January 2016

Yep… they are all open calls for science fiction novels by unagented authors.

Why the sudden rush?

Well although Hodderscape was only open for two weeks in August they had 1455 novels, including unfinished novels. Yet a few years back HarperVoyager had something around 4500 novels, but they had to be complete. That’s a drop to about a third, and if you take the different entry conditions, by more than a third in effect.

Did these publishing houses suddenly realise that there is now a lack of science fiction novels to be had? I wouldn’t have thought so. Angry Robot had an open submission window about every 18 months. So they’re no to blame for this bulge in open windows.

Gollancz recently stopped taking unagented submissions and this is their first window since then. So they are suffering a change of work practice. Even so, when you put their timing alongside the others, you would think it’s more than a coincidence.

HarperVoyager specifically said they are looking for military science fiction and urban fantasy. The others are all more general science fiction and fantasy calls. So a sub-genre coming into vogue is not the reason for the bulge.

My best guess is that they’re coming to the last of the backlog of novels to be published and are looking to replenish in-hand stocks or they think there’s going to be better market conditions for selling science fiction in a year or two.

Good luck to anyone that submits to any of these markets.

Vacancy – Science Fiction Role

17 10 2015

The rumblings about the potential dangers of developing technologies has got the attention of the United Nations. The event, organized by Georgia’s UN representatives and the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), was set up to foster discussion about the national and international security risks posed by new technologies. There was a focus on artificial intelligence. See more about the article here.

This does not come as a surprise to me. You only need to look at my short stories – Agents of Repair (in Jupiter Issue 29 – Thyone) and Neptune’s Angel.


This is a good example of what I mean about progressive science fiction – pointing out the potential impact of the way science and technology could develop.

But there is far more to the impact of artificial intelligence than I have portrayed in these stories.

  1. I knew the potential dangers of what I was writing about and was very careful to miss out some of the crucial technology bits. This was in part not to scare the knowledgable readers and in part not to encourage the development of artificial intelligence along certain ‘promising’ lines of development that could lead to problems.
  2. I have since been trying to predict how things could go with the ever increasing capabilities of artificial intelligence. It’s not as straightforward as it might at first appear. There are a lot of ifs and buts knocking around. More work needs to be done by the professionals in this area to get a better of handle on the matter. I just know enough to know how complicated and convoluted the debate will become.
  3. A crunch point will come when a fundamental decision about a matter of principle needs to made. Do we continue to develop artificial intelligence or do we curtail its abilities? Experience with other technologies suggest you can’t stop technology being developed that has the capability for being used for nasty purposes. What you can do is ring fence the technology for it being used for beneficial activities.
  4. But that requires the necessary legislation to be put into place.
  5. Whatever happens with artificial intelligence, it is going to affect the way we live. You only need to look at the difference home computers have made since the 1980s and the internet since the 1990s to our lives.

This is where science fiction has a crucial role to play. It can let people know what is coming around the corner with technology and point out what should be done with it to avoid disasters. It’s a kind of education process for the person in the street who does understand technology-speak (I refuse to use the word technobabble here because it is not babble).

Yes there are some science fiction stories being published about various forms of artificial intelligence. A few of them are even in the near future, but they are too few and far between all the other science fiction stories. There is definitely a vacant role within science fiction that is not being satisfied – portraying potential near future artificial intelligence roles in society and their consequences.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 289 other followers