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If you enjoy science fiction / speculative fiction / fantasy, I strongly encourage you to check out this anthology. Robinson’s newest collection of stories is priced at $0.99 and offers a range of worlds for you to experience. He’s fantastic at expressing the range of emotions (sometimes diffident or conflicted) that drive his characters through the story arcs, which does a wonderful job of pulling the reader further into a given world.

I truly enjoyed every story, but hoping he’ll eventually release separate anthologies based on “Mods and Rockers” and “Unremembered”.  “Mods and Rockers” added some punk flair to a dystopian future, and “Unremembered” was a haunting story of the aftermath of a war with beings and weapons that weren’t fully understood. The final story about the King in Yellow was wonderfully twisted.

Give it a read!

Variant Reflections – Digital Science Fiction Original Collection at Digital Science Fiction’s website

Jump to the Kindle edition on Amazon

Have you ever done a Google search and chuckled over the wording of the titles returned by the algorithm?

Our sun, dear Sol, has stellar siblings. This shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone who has a basic grasp of how solar systems form. The titles of various news articles proclaiming the discovery of one such sibling left me shaking my head in amusement:

Our Sun’s Long Lost Stellar ‘Sister’ Found

Astronomers find sun’s ‘long-lost brother,’ pave way for family reunion

Our Sun Has a Sister

Solar Siblings? The Sun’s ‘Long-Lost Brother’ Revealed

I’m not sure which is most amusing – the fact that everyone is shocked that multiple stars could form from one nebula, or that they couldn’t agree on whether a massive inanimate object should be a sister or a brother. Can’t we just call it a sibling and move on with our day?

Hooray for anthropomorphism! 

I’m returning to you after a long absence. No whiny explanations or self-pity, this time. Just straight up acknowledgment that not posting was incredibly lame and I need to do better in the future – especially since I want to publish more work.

Moving on.

Lots of cool space stuff happening lately, especially with the reemergence of “Cosmos”, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Check out The Wire’s write-up of the most recent episode. Tyson doesn’t sound stoned like Sagan did, but he has a direct and calm delivery style that suits the subject matter and educational aspects of the show. The writing is excellent – two thumbs up from this semi-evolved primate.

And on that happy note…back to work!

There’s an amazing amount of astronomical stuff to check out this week. First off, if you haven’t seen Cassini’s pictures of Earth from Saturn’s orbit, you need to look at them now. Our pale blue dot is stunning and incredibly delicate as seen from a billion miles away.

Earth as seen from Saturn’s orbit

Next up, have a look at the stunning eclipse of an extrasolar planet, as seen by astronomers at the Chandra Observatory:

Chandra Observatory shows view of extrasolar gas giant eclipse

NASA found a giant hole in our sun:

NASA’s SOHO finds giant hole in the Sun

And then NASA decided to catch a thief. Er…asteroid.

NASA plans to catch asteroid and tow it to the Moon

In other news, a Canadian company plans to begin streaming a live feed from two cameras on the International Space Station. There will be one fixed viewpoint camera offering a panoramic view as the station cruises around the planet, and there’ll be a second camera that people can use to zoom in on objects as small as one meter. However, you’ll have to pay for the privilege of zooming in on something in particular…

BC company plans live feed from the International Space Station

And finally, we have a bunch of cool stuff visible in the night sky over the next month:

Sky charts for August 2013 – Jupiter and Mercury and Mars, oh my!

Hope you enjoy everything. More flash fiction coming this week!

I flitted from one screen to another, not certain which moon to tackle first. Sheba and Herakles whizzed around their gas giant parent, their orbits traced out faintly against the stark background of space.

Their orbits overlapped, but their previous speeds had kept them distant enough from one another that they hadn’t collided. Until now. Sheba had taken a hit from a massive asteroid not long ago – enough to slow it and let Herakles begin overtaking it. The astrogation team told us the moons would collide within 42 hours.

Triton hovered menacingly above us, waiting to consume their remains. Its other moons seemed indifferent to the fate of their siblings.

The ghosting uplink let me control the monitor with a thought. I flicked the pod towards Herakles, aiming at the Vitrous mountains, the highest range on the moon. The moon’s surface was deserted – all that was left of the mining facilities that previously occupied its surface were heaps of scrap. All usable equipment and robotics were evacced when we received the alert on the incoming asteroid. Nix, we called it. It seemed appropriate.

From a comfortable stellar distance, the mining transit ship sent monitoring equipment back to observe the impending crash. Everything was automated; everything controlled from a distance by humans, who didn’t live long enough to make a trans-system trip. Months, years of planning…decades or centuries waiting for the massive ships to reach their destinations. Decades or centuries of patient work as we used their equipment to strip planets bare.

Our species had found a way to warp space for instantaneous communications, but had yet to defeat the speed of light. Perhaps one day we’d set foot on a surface outside our own solar system. For now, we ghosted through uplinks to control equipment at incomprehensible distances, and our robotic extensions mined and constructed human-habitable cities on multiple worlds. We’d already had homes we could use once we managed to launch ourselves beyond Sol’s grasp.

All this faded in my mind as I watched Sheba’s greenish irregular surface loom nearer, the monitor’s lens serving as my eye. I loathed this immaterial existence. No sense of touch, sound, or smell – I would never set foot on any surface beyond Saturn’s moons. Even these doomed moons had more substance than I.

Copyright 2013 – Christine Clukey Reece

Patchwork

“I thought the survey team said most of this planet was arable.”

African inland delta - surreal natural Medusan art.

With thanks to Commander Chris Hadfield aboard the ISS.

Commander Thaller frowned in concentration as she highlighted sections of the image. “We’d better hope it has potential for it, at least,” she muttered to her second-in-command. “Otherwise, we’ll get to come back and rescue these settlers and they’ll fight us every pico of the way.”

The Explorer-class vessel Delta Bonita was on hyperbolic transit through the system, following an arc that would aim it back toward  Pax Sector HQ. Thaller’s shuttle, the Foxtrot, had brought over the first load of settlers and their gear. The Dee-Bee‘s hyperbolic course meant limited time for them to either turn around or put everyone on the surface.

“All right, listen up!” she called out as she manoeuvred into the passenger compartment. “Here’s a new screencap of the surface near our intended landing zone. There’s a mix of land types across your chosen latitude – mostly river basin, desert, and rock. You’ve got two minutes to make the call on whether to start the landing process or turn around and try the next planet on the list.”

After handing the photo capture off to the settler’s leader, Arton, she headed toward the cargo area to double-check everything was ready to offload when they hit dirtside. The surface patchwork wouldn’t give the settlers much land to live on unless they chose to stay in flood zones, but these people were determined to found their own colony. She gave it 10-to-1 odds that they’d demand an immediate landing.

The would-be colonists hurriedly unstrapped and huddled together over the picture, their voices quiet but intent. The extent of the river basin area appeared liveable, but it looked like there were few arable zones and they were far distant from one another. Each area looked able to support a small group indefinitely, but not all of the settlers together. Not without the ability to travel easily between those zones. Arton looked at his wife, his thoughts evident on his face.

Thaller came back into the passenger area, resealing the door to the cargo bay. “What’s your choice, people? Drop or go?”

Arton came smoothly to his feet, gesturing with the screen cap. “Commander, this igneous rock appears able to bear the shuttle landings and takeoffs, and it’s close enough to the delta area that we won’t have much trouble ferrying gear over. We drop.”

She nodded, studying the faces of the other settlers. They looked excited and apprehensive, but not terribly concerned about the dangers inherent in the planet’s topography. It was their problem now. “Very well, get strapped back in and we’ll pass along the alert to the other shuttle crews. We’ll be on the ground in about 15 minutes.”

Thaller managed not to shake her head in disdain as she strapped back into the pilot’s seat. Every batch of settlers thought they were unique and capable, but their shared hatred of the United Planets government kept them from properly evaluating planetary hazards. She gave it three years, tops, before they’d call for rescue…and she hoped the UP placed a high price on that service.

Dee-Bee, this is the Foxtrot. We are go for drop. Out.”

Copyright 2013 – Christine Clukey Reece

You gave us hobbitses, Gollum, Middle Earth, Gandalf, and the Sackville-Bagginses. Yes, I love the Shire most of all – mostly due to my lack of height – but I happily chewed my way through tales of other far and distant lands, vivid images of stately elves and graceful architecture springing into my mind’s eye.

Google, however, failed us today. They came up with some glorious doodles last year, but they ignored Tolkien’s birthday. [They also ignored Isaac Asimov’s birthday on Jan. 2nd.] I’ve sent several tweets their way asking why they didn’t do anything interesting, but no response so far. #Fail

Here’s a few links to help you celebrate the professor’s birthday. The first is fairly self-explanatory and absolutely lovely:

Middle Earth as seen from Space

Middle Earth

Middle Earth

 

And the second link…well, it appeals to my sense of humour. Enjoy!

The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins

In spite of my desire to leave Earth and establish a colony of non-stupid people on Mars, I’m still here. Turns out it’s a bit more problematic than I expected to talk Space X into holding a contest to help me get there. Ah well. They have some great competition topics and I guess I can’t be too upset that they’re focusing a little closer to Earth for now.

I’m working on a few story ideas, one of which is partially based on my previous flash fiction here. Another story is very loosely based on the space game I’m running in the Megaverse – not using any of their copyrighted material, just based on a few entertaining PC exploits. I’m sure my players will be thrilled to hear how they’ve inspired me to commemorate their deeds. *cough*

This year has passed in a bit of a blur. It’s been busy, we’ve dealt with stress and some health issues, and we moved to a large city. [Love the city!] Along with that, I’ve been fighting a huge case of something resembling writer’s block. The stories are there in my head, but I have trouble setting them down on paper or on screen. I’m not sure if it’s fear of writing garbage or fear of hearing negative feedback, but I’m working my way through that baggage and hope to post new material soon.

Things to look forward to in 2013:

  • New games
  • New gamers to hang out with
  • Exploring the city
  • More good movies coming out
  • Some great books coming out
  • Continuing my paleo cooking adventures
  • Comet ISON
  • Negotiating with Space X

That last one will be tough, but worth it. Mars ahoy!

Leonid Meteor Shower

My daughter stayed up late tonight to watch for the Leonid meteor shower.

She’s had an interest in space for a few years now and just received a telescope for her birthday. It’s pretty awesome watching her enthusiasm bloom into a passion for all things astronomical. We discuss different types of stars, how gravity affects planets and moons, the Kuiper Belt, dwarf planets, the speed of light, black holes…

Quick, to the internets!

it’s been an education for us both. When I don’t know the answer to one of her questions, we turn to the internets and figure it out.

We’ve had a lot of fun looking at various astronomy sites, but our absolute favourite is CosmoQuest. If you have time to DO SCIENCE!, check out their features:

Vesta Mappers

Moon Mappers

Ice Investigators

These allow people to help map out the surface of the Moon and Vesta and to look for ice in the Kuiper Belt. I’ve spent a fair bit of time cataloging craters on the Moon and finding chunks of ice, but I haven’t visited Vesta yet. She’s next on my list – and I can’t wait to see what they put up once NASA’s Dawn mission reaches Ceres.

We’ll be watching for the next set of meteor showers too – if you don’t already know the schedule, this handy list will help you keep track of what’s heading our way: Meteor Shower Guide. The Geminids are on deck and coming to a December sky near you.

This caught my eye as I was scrolling through my G+ newsfeed:

A little over 2000 light years away, toward the constellation of Cepheus, is a place where stars are being born. It’s a nebula, a gas cloud, and it’s called IC 1396. It’s monstrous, well over a hundred light years across – even at its tremendous distance, it’s wider than six full Moons in our sky.

Finnish astrophotographer J-P Metsävainio observed IC 1396, making a gorgeous image of it. But he wasn’t satisfied just doing that. He’d been playing with making 3D images for some time, and decided this might be a good opportunity to make a model of the structure of the nebula, and then create an animated GIF of it.

The results are… well, see for yourself:

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2012/10/08/jaw-dropping-rotating-3d-nebula/

I’m not going to ruin the effect by trying to post the .gif here, go check it out!

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