Welcome to the world of my Science Fiction

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I have been writing about the early twenty-ninth century and its fascinating inhabitants for almost forty years. Thanks to the wonders of electronic publication I am now sharing some of the stories online.

The novels, Run from the Stars and Turn to the Stars, are now available on Amazon Kindle and in a print edition on Createspace.

On this website I will be blogging about the books, the background to the stories, how they came to be written and how some of the future technology works. But please don’t expect me to tell you how to make a faster than light drive. That’s a major secret.

There’s a great and wonderful galaxy out there. Lieutenant Jane Gould of the Arcturian Confederate Space Fleet (in the picture) is ready to take you on the ride of your life. So sit well back in your seat, fasten the harness and try to relax for those engines can kick.

RIP Heloise

The character of Dr Heloise McAlister, spaceship designer and dog lover, was based on a real lady engineer who spent much of her life developing jet engines.

I regret to inform readers that she recently passed away in her sleep.

The Day Cabin

I have not included the day cabin furniture in the drawing of the eighty-footer. This is because it can be changed for the various roles that the spaceship can fulfill.

Normally there are two airline-type seats facing forward at the rear of the cabin, and a two-seater couch facing backwards. The day cabin can be used as a meeting room with four people sitting facing each other. It can also be reconfigured quickly into an ambulance mode. The two sides of the couch fold down making a single long table for the casualty, while the person looking after them sits in one of the seats facing them.

When single-crewed and in ambulance configuration the officer will hand over the actual flying to the ship’s computers and autopilot, and concentrate on the casualty.

There is also a multi-bunk configuration, where up to eight marines can live in the day cabin at once, and a diplomatic configuration where the officer crewing the ship moves into the day cabin, turning the bed cabin over to a VIP. These are rarely used.

Goodreads

I’d like to thank the wonderful people who run Goodreads for the great job they do in keeping the site open as a free resource for readers and writers. It has reviews, book lists and discussion groups, and is one of the friendliest sites I’ve ever seen.

This is my author page

They have been kind enough to give me some very good reviews which you can read here.

 

Reviews

I’m pleased to be able to say that “Run from the Stars”, the first book, has attracted one four star and one five star review on Amazon.

Thanks to the reviewers for their kind words.

Homeworld Day

Strictly this was last Wednesday, but due to the confusion over calendars on five hundred plus planets with different lengths of both day and year it’s probably easier for readers on earth to celebrate it on next Wednesday, 9th March.

Homeworld day celebrates the moment when the settlers on Homeworld, the ancestors of the present Arcturians, came to the end of the supplies that they had brought from Earth on the starship Hope. Genevieve Powell – the Powell after whom the Powell vector is named – opened the last tin of condensed milk and used it to make tea for the people working in one of the farming domes, then went on to put milk from an Arcturian cow into her own tea.

Lise Schmitt, the mathematician who had worked with Powell on developing the drives, operated the camera which captured the moment from posterity.

So, on Wednesday, offer someone a cup of tea with the words “We are now free”. If offered one reply “Truly free.” That’s how Homeworld day is celebrated.

 

On turning

I spend quite a lot of my time reading, and occasionally commenting on, other writers’ SF. One thing that I have noticed only too often, and tried hard to avoid in my own writing, is a spaceship that thinks it is an aeroplane.

Of course spaceships do have to get down to the ground, and up to orbit again, and to do that they have to get through the atmosphere. The problem comes when a spaceship is in vacuum. the pilot pulls back on the stick and the machine executes a screaming high rate turn.

Er, no. You can’t do that.

Aeroplanes turn because moving the controls moves the elevators, ailerons and rudder. These push against the airflow and around she goes. My eighty-footers have control surfaces for use in atmosphere, have a close look at the top right hand corner of the cover picture of Run From The Stars and you’ll see one. But once the ship is in vacuum they do exactly nothing.

Changing direction in vacuum means ejecting reaction mass, in other words firing some sort of rocket engine. That means using up mass that you have taken on board and can’t replace.

And that leads to a whole set of new problems.

It’s that time of year

Christmas is coming, and with the human race spread out on over five hundred planets there are a variety of different traditional celebrations.

One of the most interesting is found on Greenworld. This is an unusual planet, as Jane explains to Ian Sinclair:

Sinclair turned to lean against the huge curved viewing window. ‘Any particular problems?’

‘Only my mother. Not only has she failed to grasp that I’m in Space Fleet now, and I’m not going to come home for good and settle down—but she’s also failed to grasp that colonised space isn’t just Mercia. Did I tell you what happened when I tried to talk to her about Greenworld?’

Sinclair’s eyes closed for a moment. ‘Eastern side and well in towards the galactic core. Isn’t there something odd about its orbit?’

Jane nodded. ‘No axial tilt to speak of—it doesn’t have any seasons. There’s a temperate belt round the equator which is populated, then it shades off into darker and gloomier forests as you head for the poles. The trees grow with no annual rings which makes the wood an expensive rarity. I’d managed to scrounge a little bit of the grainless timber and showed it to her. She as good as called me a liar.’

Living on Greenworld can be a little confusing. Every day is the same length and the weather hardly changes through the year. Because of this the Greenworlders make a huge issue of Christmas. Parties can go on for three or four days and meals take up an entire afternoon. Of course the date of Christmas has nothing to do with the Greenworld year, they use dates based on Old Earth’s calendar. The Greenworlders have also absorbed a lot of other cultures’ traditions, so Father Christmas has joined with Grandfather Frost and dons blue robes to hand out presents. St Lucy visits during the late afternoon but instead of candles her costume is alive with as many small lights as can be contrived by an engineer with nothing to do in the evening.

Greenworld Christmas is a wonderful experience, even if it can be overwhelming the first time.

Free Downloads at the Weekend

The first book, “Run From The Stars” will be available as a free download for four days from Friday 4th to Monday 7th September 2015.

This book will make you gasp, cry, fall in love and scream in terror.

If you like it positive reviews on Amazon will be appreciated.

This offer will not be repeated in the near future to make sure you download now.

Why do energy weapons go bang?

When I started writing about Jane I realised that the characters would need some sort of hand weapons. Firearms still exist in my future history, but the Arcturian Space Fleet officers needed something more, so I invented the hand energy weapon.

It is a short-barrelled hand weapon which has only two controls, the trigger and the safety ring.

Take the weapon firmly in your right hand, left handed officers will need to reverse some of the following instructions.

Put your thumb on the safety ring and push forwards. Release. Look at the charge indicator. Green means that it is fully charged and you have about one hundred shots on setting two, or three on setting seven. Yellow means that the weapon is partly charged, the length of the bar indicates how much charge is left. Red means that you are down to your last ten shots. Good luck.

Now, carefully pointing the weapon down the range, push the ring forwards and down. It will move through two detents, and you will hear a loud double click as the emitter sets live. You are now on setting two.

YOUR WEAPON IS NOW ABLE TO FIRE. KEEP IT POINTED DOWN RANGE. THIS IS IMPORTANT.

Take your thumb off the safety ring and it will pop back towards you. YOUR WEAPON IS STILL LIVE. Pushing the ring down now will give you access to higher settings

Now bring the weapon up, align the sights with the target and gently squeeze the trigger.

When the firing contacts close you will hear a loud bang and see a bright green flash. Look for the hole in the target, but remember YOUR WEAPON IS STILL LIVE, KEEP IT POINTED AT THE TARGET.

Put your thumb on the ring and push upwards. The ring will click through two detents and lock. Your weapon is now set safe.

So what happened? When the emitter sets live it takes a small quantity of material from the H-cartridge in the grip and moves it to the chamber. As the trigger contacts close this is converted to energy and emitted as a narrow beam. It is this beam hitting the target and causing a very rapid temperature rise that does the damage.

The beam is so intense that the air between the weapon and the target is heated and ionised as well. This air expands rapidly to get out of the beam. That’s what causes the bang that you hear.

The face that launched a thousand spaceships

Well, not quite a thousand, but enough to matter.

I am, of course, talking about Jane herself.

Jane’s childhood home was the farmhouse at Hallsfield on the planet Mercia. Jane is only three generations from the original settlers, her great-grandfather built the original farmhouse. Of course it’s been remodelled and extended over the centuries, but there are a couple of the original composite panels in the back wall of the machinery shed.

Jane’s early years were spent in the shadow of her older brother, Tom. Jane’s small size and unconventional ways of doing things meant that Tom didn’t quite take her seriously. But she soon learned how to assert herself, and the repertoire of tricks she developed to get the better of him in the end led to the outrageous stunts she has pulled off as a space fleet officer.

From an early age she could see that Tom would take over the farm when her parents retired, and that the best she could hope for would be to spend the rest of her life as his deputy. This, and a growing dislike of getting up early to see to the cows, turned her towards the idea of a technical career. She studied computing and electronics, and would probably have gone on to be a successful engineer if interstellar politics had not suddenly intruded into her life.

Peter Dean, a renegade space fleet officer, and Simon Garrett kidnapped Jane, no easy feat. They took her to Garrett’s house on Topanga, where affection began to grow between Jane and Garrett’s son, Andrew.

Space Fleet were aware of what had happened, but their search for Jane was making no progress. She, on the other hand, had bluffed Dean into believing that she was interested in him.

Then things became really complicated. Dean and Garrett were involved in a deep conspiracy and to fund it they had sold Jane to both the Khan of Nineveh and Archduke Kalbstein of Bavaria. With both deposits secured they then attempted to deliver Jane to the Khan. As Jane put it “You do not want to know what he wanted to do to me, particularly not when you are eating.”

Thinking that Jane will not survive the Khan’s attentions Dean lets her read the technical manuals for his spaceship. As bad moves go this is a classic, Jane has now memorised exactly how the drive systems work and what can make them fail.

Helped by Andrew she almost escaped. Aware of the problems she could cause Dean and Garrett set off in Dean’s eighty-footer to make the delivery to the Khan. With Jane in a straight jacket and strapped to the floor in the storeroom they feel reasonably safe, at least until Jane gets loose and wires a dead short onto the orthodynamic drive controls.

The resulting implosive starcrash puts the ship out of commission. Dean manages to dead-stick it back to the takeoff field but crashes on landing.

Jane, meanwhile, has been transmitting and space fleet are not far behind.

They believe that they can take Jane back to the farm and that will be the end of the matter.

Not so.

Jane has now discovered that she prefers spaceships to cows. She also has memorised the entire mechanism of the orthodynamic (faster-than-light) drive. This is not only highly secret but is also the key to Arcturian political, economic and military ascendency.

There was only one thing space fleet could do. They gave her a commission.

And that’s how a farmer’s daughter from a backwater planet ended up as an officer in planetary operations.