Bits and Bobs – C.A.T. Novel, Medical SF Competition, Spinning Black Holes and Mars

I know I have been rather quiet on what my writing projects are about recently, but that’s in part because I have been ‘heads down’ ‘typing away’. It’s better not to say too much about projects. This way, when stories get published, they can be read with a fresh eye and enjoyed as an unexpected experience.

So what have I been writing recently? Well, apart from one short story that had a deadline to meet, I’ve been writing my C.A.T. novel. It has been long in development. C.A.T. started out as a walk-on-walk-off part, quite literally. I used it later in the novel because it was convenient. Then it started taking over the novel. So we had to come to an agreement. It could have its own story, provided it left my novel alone. Well, you know the history of the C.A.T. stories…

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Of course, prior to that was Agents of Repair, published in Issue 29, Thyone by Jupiter.

Well, you guessed it… C.A.T. has taken over the novel, lock, stock and smoking barrel laser.

Now, I’m not going into details about the story line or anything like that. But a few things are worth mentioning. First off the novel lends itself to an interesting structure. It is, for good reason, being told as a series of novelettes. The first of these, Space Blind, got an honourable mention in the Writers of the Future competition. Or at least an early draft of it did.

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I have just now completed the first draft of the second novelette, Eternal Vigilance. Normally I wouldn’t say too much about this, but something very interesting happened in the writing of this story (in fact, after due editing and polishing, I think this is definitely going to be a ‘corker’).

I was checking up on my facts, when a stumbled across a science report describing an aspect about a place. It was something that was of no immediate use, but fascinating in itself. Ching.

“It was one of those ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if I could use it this way?’ questions. After all, engineering-wise it would be a great improvement on another idea in that great series by a great writer had! Hah! Don’t be daft. You can’t get it into that state.” went through my head.

What followed was like going forever round a revolving door from ‘yes it can be done’ to ‘no it can’t be done’ and back again. Being dizzy was an understatement.

in the end, one little tiny engineering detail, allowed me to do it. And I went WOW!

The moral of this little story is that if an idea is attractive to you as a science fiction writer, then not only ought it to be in the story, but also engineering may make it plausible.

… I’m not saying will, but may, and it is worth the effort of trying to so.

Whilst that idea appears in Eternal Vigilance, it won’t get fleshed out until the next novelette in line to be written and not fully until towards the end of the novel itself. What it has done in my mind, is turned a good story into something that might be considered ground breaking. (Only readers can make this judgement – hence the might.)


In other news, I picked this free to enter competition up from BSFA website. It closes 31st January 2016. Stories up to 3000 words and a limit of two entries per person. What for me made interesting reading was the list innovative medical  science fiction themes (and I’m quoting from their website here):

  • Frankenstein – reanimation 
  • The Island of Doctor Moreau – surgery, tissue grafting  
  • Brave New World – eugenics 
  • Flowers for Algernon – disability 
  • I Am Legend – contagious disease 
  • The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe – terminal illness 
  • Woman on the Edge of Time – psychiatry 
  • Never Let Me Go – cloning, transplantation

I’m not saying that the ideas all first appeared in the novels mentioned above, but they are what people naturally turn to when talking about them. Good luck to anyone who is entering the competition.


Finally there has been loads of interest in space recently. Mind-bending discoveries. But this picture is awesome…

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It is of two black holes spinning round each other. More details can be found here. I would like to know why we have the connecting lines of light and matter inside that that general ring of light and matter. What’s going on here? Is answering these questions good enough to generate a science fiction story?


Finally, I’m going to turn to Mars. They have just begun a year long experiment to see how people would react to a simulated environment on Mars. Of course similar experiments have been done in the past where valuable lessons have been learned, and I’m sure the same will be said of this latest in the future. However, two things bother me about Mars.

The first is how are they going to deal with the radiation problem? You either protect people from radiation or find a cure for cancer. The former is going to be very difficult. It will require quite a bit of effort. Similarly the latter. Which solution will get there first? If I had to guess, it would the cancer cure.

The second is the reports about there being evidence of life having once existed on Mars. There could eb consequences of this – see here for my short story A Fate of Dust. In the meantime here’s the picture of what Beagle II should have looked like on landing on Mars… and yes the inventions that were made for Beagle II have been used elsewhere in the space programmes.

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