Otherworldly Saturn   Leave a comment

Few places capture our imagination like Saturn. With its myriad of rings and moons, it shines above us in the night sky as it travels along the ecliptic.  It’s always been inspiration for sci-fi fans too. Anyone who’s ever glanced at pulp sci-fi fiction covers might have noticed ringed planets hovering in the background as a elongated oval-shaped finned spaceship rocketed past.

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“Tommy Tomorrow,” created by Jack Schiff, George Kashdan, Bernie Breslauer, Virgil Finlay, and Howard Sherman, DC Comics

Take, for example, our friend Tommy Tomorrow. Created in 1947, he roamed the heavens in his futuristic 1988 space jet, zipping past a rather featureless Saturn-like planet, as illustrated above, while another Saturn-ish red planet with gold rings spins in the distance.

Systema Saturn

Early drawings of Saturn. From the Systema Saturnium (Fig. 67)

Early astronomers struggled to draw what they’d seen through primitive telescopes. While they seemed to understand that its appearance changed in relation to its orbit around the sun and the earth, they couldn’t always account for its rings. A quick glance tells the viewer that something’s going on with Saturn, but just exactly what, they couldn’t be sure.

As telescopes grew more sophisticated, astronomers were able to recreate more accurate  images of Saturn.

Antique Saturn

19th century Illustration of Saturn

 

And photographers capabilities grew, so did their ability to capture Saturn.

1879 Jupiter and 1885 Saturn

A composite photo of  Jupiter (1879) and Saturn (1885)

In 1973, NASA launched Pioneer 11. Its mission included photographing Saturn. While previous photos of this planet taken from the Earth resulted in blurry, yellowish images, Pioneer 11’s photos revealed tantalizing clues about its nature, as well as its moons.

Saturn Pioneer 11

NASA image, Saturn and Titan as seen by Pioneer 11

None, though, can compare to the 20-year mission of Cassini. Launched in 1997, the Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative partnership between NASA and ESA to conduct an exhaustive exploration of the ringed jewel of the solar system. The images sent back are like none other.

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NASA, Cassini-Huygens mission image of Saturn

On September 15, 2017, the Cassini mission will come to a fiery end, as it crashes into the atmosphere of Saturn, ending a glorious 13-year run. It’s been an amazing journey, and without a doubt, its legacy will continue to fascinate astronomers and ordinary folk like me. You’ve done well, Cassini!

 

 

My Return from Oblivion with THREE Original Geek Vids!   Leave a comment

Well, it’s been a long and dreary summer, folks. Much too much to go into right now, but let’s say life’s been unloading a bunch of unwanted detritus onto my lap. I could tell you what that all means, but who wants to complain about how bad things have been when fresh images of Harvey flood the internet? No, my life’s not that bad, and I pray for those whose lives hang in the balance.

I promise a grand return to writing my official blog here, but in the meantime, as a way of getting started, I’m posting three videos my fellow geek D.A. Cruz has created. He’s very much the up-and-coming game and vid reviewer, so please check these out:

Snap Sci-Fi: Rejuvenation   3 comments

Credit: 1st edition of John Jakes’ novel The Asylum World (1969)

If ever there were a time for rejuvenation, this was it.

Philippa gazed at herself in the mirror. Twelve years on and she still managed to cling to the hope that her youth was endless. The evidence, reflected before her, proved otherwise.

But something deep within her began to change. She struggled to make sense of it.

A boring ex-wife, doomed to a midlife divorce and a minimum wage job. No hopes, no dreams, no anything. Each day she arose confirming this self-inventory, and every night she struggled to sleep, haunted by her personal truths.

But today, she noticed something not visible: her memory. She recognized the face in the mirror, but not its purpose. Philippa’s hands traced the contours of her cheeks, her neck, even pinching the flesh to examine its authenticity. Nothing. She turned away and walked the interior of her home seeking clues, feeling reassured that her mother’s artwork hung from the walls, last night’s leftovers expected to become today’s lunch, and Sunday’s crossword needed a few more clues to be solved.

What changed?

She opened a small drawer in her nightstand. Crumpled behind the junk that naturally accumulates within it hid a piece of paper. She unfolded it and read it out:

My Testimony

Be it said by me, Philippa Jrzowski, that no longer shall I exist. Instead, my soul will be inhabited by unknowns. My thoughts shall be those of indeterminate usefulness. I shall wrest whatever I can from what ever I become, if for no other reason than to live. And I mean, LIVE.

Enough, thought Philippa, enough. She smoothed out the paper and lay it on the comforter.

She returned to the mirror, gazing hard at the image before her. This time, however, a woman appeared more fierce than before. Philippa reached towards it and clutched its edges, bringing it closer, blurring her focus. She smiled.

“Exactly,” said Philippa. “And now, I mean to do just that.”

 

Dead Alive   Leave a comment

Few witnessed the death, and even if more had, they’d likely not report it. With civilization so remote, so distant, who’d be around to determine the cause? No one.

And so, the body began its slow decline.

Within a few days, a hard snow fell, encasing the body, preserving it. Winter turned fierce and harsh, almost without end. The cold turned the snow into ice, and before long, the body’s grave filled around it, until the snow and ice smoothed over the land, creating a featureless, anonymous plain.

As travelers came upon the area, others trod upon the grave, unknowing of its presence. Some stayed and began new life, some died nearby, but none possessed the knowledge of the body buried a thick distance below.

Centuries passed without incident until a certain curiosity occurred: the seasons lost their sting. Winter winds carried less snow, ice retreated early, summer grew in importance. Soon the bare earth revealed itself as hadn’t been seen since a forgotten era. With it, the ancient body greeted the sky and within it, an awakening occurred.

Curious nomads happened upon the frozen body, now becoming soft in the glowing sun. A few touched it. To them, it seemed as if it had only fallen asleep for a brief nap. They remarked how full of life it appeared.

And it was.

Life takes many forms. Humans are quick to consider life as an embodiment of themselves, or animals, a favored pet. Even the trees and blossoms constitutes life, especially when it serves to please.

What the nomads hadn’t counted on was the darker side of life – the bringers of death.

When they touched the body, they released what had been preserved in slumber, hiding in the folds and innards of a long-dead reindeer. Anthrax had been the cause of its death, and remarkably, it’d been able to survive many years. It didn’t take long for the disease to sicken approximately one hundred lives and cause the death of a child.

This event actually happened in Siberia in the summer of 2016, when melting permafrost revealed a reindeer’s anthrax-infested remains. Simple curiosity infected, sickened and killed a vulnerable population, unaccustomed to such diseases occurring at random.

It’s also a larger symptom of an inevitable situation – climate change. Geographical regions such as the Arctic tundra are now revealing their long-buried secrets, causing situations not even imagined. While so much focus has been placed on rising sea levels (with good reason), there are other side effects to rising temperatures. So if anthrax can be released so casually to an unsuspecting population, what other diseases are rising to the surface, ready to strike, under similar circumstances? Especially on those with limited or no natural immunity?

If this seems like science fiction, well, it’s not.

It’s worse.

Posted April 22, 2017 by seleneymoon in Climate, Nature, Sci-Fi, science fiction

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Menacing Tides   Leave a comment

A recent New York Times article discusses how theories first put forth in science fiction might provide a few insights on how to curb global warming. Despite the naysayers and deniers, with each passing Storm of the Century and inundating flood, it’s become obvious that nature is retaliating against mankind’s environmental unfriendly ways.

As one who’s spent her lifetime at the New Jersey coast, I’ve witnessed the rising seas. It’s subtle, at first. As a kid in the second half of the last century, I roamed the wide beaches, chasing seagulls and digging up clams. Our beach’s jetty stretched far out into the waves, ending in a massive pile of black mussel-covered rocks. During low tide, I could walk out behind those rocks. Even after a destructive hurricane, the beach might have been ravaged, but there was plenty of sand to place a blanket and enjoy the rough surf.

Occasionally, during a pounding thunderstorm or unusually high tide, water would back up by the storm drains. We’d use these as excuses to splash around, jumping off the curb and into the puddles. Nor’easters and hurricanes flooded the roadway and sometimes the garage, but usually the water went down fairly quickly. But as the century advanced, the beach retreated.

Skip to today. Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc with the island I grew up on and wiped out the beach, taking with it a few houses built on dunes that shouldn’t have been placed there. Surprising? Shocking? Well, yes, but no. Over the years, I’ve watched the shore disappear, growing shorter and shorter with each tide. That jetty and rocks that provided hours of entertainment buried itself under the sand. The streets flooded and became impassible with every rainstorm and high tide. One nearby restaurant posted a sign, “Occasional Waterfront Dining” because the street in front of it developed a sizable pond twice a day, as water backed up from the storm drain each high tide. That’s also how we knew the tide came in without ever going up to the beach.

It only gets worse with each storm. A major rebuilding of the beach, including jetty removal and berm construction, will only temporarily halt the rising seas. In the past, though storms took away the sand, in time the ocean swept it back towards the beach. That natural flow has ceased. Now, outraged citizens demand that something be done to halt nature. Little do they realize that’s impossible.

What’s even more fantastical about all this is the utter denial about what’s really happening. More and more houses are going up on this island without regard to the slow destructive forces overtaking it. Those looking for a place to relax during summer weekends and perhaps a nice place to stay over the off-season holidays refuse to acknowledge, or even notice, what’s going down. “It’s so beautiful,” says many a shoregoer. And yes, I’d agree. But not for much longer.

Sometimes it seems as if I’m part of a “Twilight Zone” episode, where a concerned citizen shouts to the crowd about the impending danger awaiting them, only to be at first ignored and then vindicated. Building houses on the coast will not stop anytime soon.

Neither will the rising seas.

 

Posted April 8, 2017 by seleneymoon in Nature, Sci-Fi, science fiction, Weather, Writing

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The Takeaway   Leave a comment

Jennifer Armentrout

Last weekend I attended the Liberty States Fiction Writers conference. As always, it was a splendid affair, full of other writers and readers eager to meet old friends, make new acquaintances, freshen up skills and even make a few pitches to agents and editors. I managed to do all of the above, and more.

Perhaps what influenced me the most was the above speaker – Jennifer Armentrout. She’s widely known as a Young Adult and New Adult writer, but one glance at her list of books reveals her prolific ability to write just about anything. Ms. Armentrout was the keynote speaker on Saturday, delivering one of the memorable speeches I’ve ever heard.

Jennifer Armentrout delivering the keynote speech at the LSFW Writers Conference

After listening to her, it wasn’t difficult to understand why she writes as much as she does. Sure, she loves her craft. Has a fantastic imagination. Can spin tales out of nothingness and make them live in universes not quite explored by others. But that’s not what hooked me. It’s what she does: take risks.

Anyone in a creative field has to either take risks or quit. It’s not a wimpy business for sissies, no way. Although there’s plenty of self-doubt to paint the Sistine Chapel over and again, one learns quickly that if one keeps that up, one’s going nowhere in the publishing world. Yeah, in drearier moods I count myself among the talentless and weak. And sure, who doesn’t need the occasional pat-on-the-back to be reminded that your prose is worth reading?

Jennifer won’t have it. She’s got books to write. Amazingly, she’s stuck with the same agent for her entire career, but she’s taken some incredible risks. Taken offers from publishers who might not have paid her what another would, but offered her greater freedom for her creativity. Not afraid to tackle a subject she knows little about. Maybe even try self-publishing and see what happens. At any rate, she sits down in front of her computer and composes her works for eight hours every day. Sometimes more. But she has to. It’s part of her, to dream, to create, to write.

Perhaps the most powerful engine driving her is a simple matter of her health. At a routine eye exam, it was discovered  she has retinitis pigmentosa, or RP. It’s the gradual withdrawal of one’s ability to see. It’s a cruel disease. As it progresses, the peripheral vision fades, resulting in ever-increasing tunnel vision, until the curtains close forever. There is no cure. At the present time, her vision is still with her, although her peripheral vision is fading.

No one can predict when or how long her vision will last, but Jennifer isn’t waiting for the lights to dim forever. She’s got stories to tell. She’s not waiting for blindness to set in. She doesn’t feel sorry for herself, nor does she expect anyone else to. So there she is, eight hours a day, writing like there’s no tomorrow, taking risks, and nothing will ever stop her.

It gave me a whole new perspective on not only writing, but life. We are put here on earth to succeed. If we don’t, we’ll fade. Why should I let anything hold me back from trying my very best to endure? Aren’t my words worth the risk?

Why, indeed?

Why I Write Science Fiction   Leave a comment

Tomorrow I’m going to a writers conference. I’m expecting the turnout to be a little low, mainly because of the awful weather we’ve been having.  Unless you’re planning to go skiing, two feet of snow with more expected tends to put people in a sour mood. That doesn’t mean the conference won’t be fantastic; it will. We have two huge NYT bestsellers as keynote speakers, a whole batch of editors and agents from big names will be taking pitches, fantastic workshops to take and panel discussions to watch, among other things. Besides, there’s going to be friends I hardly ever see in attendance too, so that means some serious catch-up time over a few, so we can discuss our works and lives.

I joined this well-respected group several years ago, under the influence of my sister Gwen. It’s called Liberty States Fiction Writers and it’s been around for longer than I care to admit. We’re in the process of making many changes, including the website, to accommodate our growing membership and genres represented. Most of our members are published, some by big names. There’s even New York Times bestselling novelists that are part of the team.

If anything, I’ve invested a lot of myself with LSFW, and in turn, they’ve given me the confidence to forge ahead, even when I’m sure I’m a failure. Even the most confident of writers need a bonk on the head occasionally, or a few words of encouragement at least, to get moving towards that computer and be creative. I never imagined I’d be able to write an entire book, and here I am well into the second.

Many writers I’m around are romance novelists. They’re all great at it. Come up with real tear-jerkers and tales of sorrowful gladness. Stories range from no-holds-barred sentimentality to BSDM. That’s fine. Even LGBT romances are on the upswing – good news.  One of the best LGBT writers I know is a fine, humorous man and an excellent teacher whose lessons I apply to my work.

Me, though, I’ve never been one for sentimentality. You might even call me a cynic. True love didn’t conquer me. It led me down a golden path and kept me hidden, until it gave me the boot. I’ve never had much success with romance, so anything I’d write regarding that subject might sound dismal, hopeless and anything but happy. No Hollywood endings for me, no siree!

Instead, I found solace in situations that simply didn’t exist here on Earth or in our timeline. Sure, the characters might inhabit a strange world, but it’s my world, dammit, and if I want my characters to explore the possibilities of atomic substructures in subspace, so be it. Scientists quibbling over launch trajectories in equatorial locations seemed so much more interesting than, let’s say, getting flowers from a handsome fella. Not knowing what lies within that abandoned research facility on the moon and worse, who – or what – attacked it is definitely more intriguing than what dress the bride’s going to wear. Genetic mutations, nanoscience, coded machinations set to manipulate and govern sure beat the heck out of will she or won’t he.

That’s not to say my characters don’t believe in romance. They do, they engage in it and it doesn’t turn out well for them, either…but they find themselves working on scientific issues and dodging conventions while building worlds using insane technologies and writing sick codes. They don’t have time for flowers and chocolate. They get right down to business, then figure out how to beat the enemy at his/her own game.

They say you write about with what you’re familiar. To me, that’s sci-fi. It’s been my best friend since post-toddlerhood, has never let me down (although I’ve been disappointed a few times) and keeps me on the level. And creative.

So that’s my story. What’s yours?

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