TusCon 41 Schedule

TusCon41 TusCon is Tucson, Arizona’s annual science fiction, fantasy, and horror convention. Normally it’s held about mid-November, but this year it’s coming up early, on Halloween weekend. Once again, I’m honored to be invited as one of the guest authors. The Author Guest of Honor is Janni Lee Simner and the Artist Guest of Honor is Sarah Clemmons. You can find all the details at tusconscificon.com. Here’s a look at my schedule:

Friday, October 31

  • 7pm – Ballroom – Mingle with the Guests. This is your chance to learn who’s who at TusCon and chat informally before festivities begin.
  • 9pm – Panel Room 1 – Is It Still TusCon If It’s On Halloween. Normally TusCon happens around my birthday. This year it’s two weeks early. This definitely feels strange to me. Discussing the situation with me are Scott Glener, Bruce Wiley, Carol DePriest, and Curt “Fergie” Booth.

Saturday, November 1

  • 3pm – Panel Room 1 – Has the future become “unknowable”? Was it ever knowable in the first place? I’ll discuss how science and science fiction have changed with Anna Paradox, Cynthia Ward, and Jim Doty.
  • 6pm – Ballroom – Mass Autograph Session Get your wares autographed by any and all of TusCon’s guest authors and artists. If it has mass, I’ll sign it!

Sunday, November 2

  • 11am – Panel Room 1 – Don’t Quit Your Day Job. On this panel, we’ll be discussing the struggles of making a living in this crazy business of science fiction and fantasy writing and storytelling. On the panel with me are Eric Schumacher, Janni Lee Simner, Liz Danforth, and John Vornholt.
  • 1pm – Ballroom – Monsters vs. Megalomaniacs. We’re here to help you figure out how to tell the difference between these two groups. On the panel with me are T.L. Smith, and Paul E. Clinco.

Of course, if you don’t catch up to me in one of these great panels, be sure to stop by the dealer’s room and find the Hadrosaur Productions table where you’ll find many wonderful books, magazines, and anthologies, several of which contain stories and poems by people at TusCon. I look forward to seeing you there!

Collimating WIYN

About a week ago, I was assigned the task of collimating the primary mirror on the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory. Large telescopes like the WIYN work by using large mirrors to collect and focus light from distant stars onto a camera or a spectrograph. When the telescope is disassembled for regular maintenance, the mirrors have to be precisely realigned so that we get the very best possible image quality. Here you see a photo of me with my daughters in front of the WIYN primary and tertiary mirrors.

With Daughters at WIYN

Although I work with optical telescopes all the time, my specialties are more in the electrical and mechanical aspects of telescopes than with the optics, so this precision job was, to be honest, pretty scary. Sure, I’d helped the site engineer collimate the telescope plenty of times, but this time he left me with a set of instructions and went off to bed. I did my best, followed the instructions and everything seemed to go well. It was especially gratifying over the next three nights when the visiting astronomers reported getting half-arcsecond images. What that means is that stars subtended no more than half a second of arc on the sky, which is pretty tiny. That also means we’re minimizing the blurring one would expect to see from the atmosphere. I have to say, it’s the kind of thing that makes me feel pretty good.

The whole idea of characters being challenged to do new things they didn’t think they could do is an important part of my fiction. Recently, in Lightning Wolves, Larissa Crimson is challenged to find a way to make a set of unwieldy lightning guns portable enough to be practical in combat. She’s not sure if she has the skills necessary to do the job, but she gives it a shot and finds a solution.

WIYN’s newest instrument is a camera called the One-Degree Imager. It’s a camera that takes pictures of a large swath of the sky at high resolution, which means you can see things at great detail. If the telescope mirrors are misaligned, the camera cannot take pictures with the kind of detail it was designed for. So, the litmus test for the alignment exercise came this past Monday, when an observer took images of globular clusters with the One-Degree Imager. She also reported half-arcsec images, much like in the photo below. This photo, by the way, was taken with WIYN, but with the old mini-Mosaic camera before the One-Degree Imager was implemented.

A.Saha (NOAO)/WIYN/NOAO/NSF

A.Saha (NOAO)/WIYN/NOAO/NSF

Globular clusters such as the one shown above, are immense balls of ancient stars that orbit our galaxy. As it turns out, they feature prominently in my Old Star/New Earth series. Those novels are:

The ebook of the first novel is free. The paperback editions feature wonderful illustrations by Laura Givens. So, why don’t you start an epic voyage to the stars today!

Mind Your Manners

In recent weeks, my wife and I have been fielding questions from our daughters about the behavior of boys. Without getting too specific and to minimize embarrassment, I’ll just say that it’s reminded me that “boys will be boys” is a phrase that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It also made me realize that a part of me would have liked to have had a son, just to show that it’s possible for boys to be raised as gentlemen.

My friend, Loretta, and I are here to remind you to mind your manners.

My friend, Loretta, and I are here to remind you to mind your manners.

As my wife and I approach our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, one question I get frequently is, “How have you made your marriage last?” I actually find myself pointing to a quote by Robert A. Heinlein’s character, Lazarus Long: “Formal courtesy between husband and wife is even more important than it is between strangers.” In short, we do our best to always say “please” and “thank you” and try not to interrupt each other. We try to remember to check with each other when making plans. We don’t always succeed. Sometimes we hurt each others’ feelings, but the fact that we try and even succeed much of the time has made for a relationship that has lasted for many years.

To me, manners are less about Emily Post and more about remembering to respect the other party in a relationship—whether it be personal, casual, or business. Really, I could care less what side of my plate the forks are as long as you respect my feelings. In turn, I’ll do my best to respect yours. My wife and I have done our best to convey that lesson to our daughters and encourage them to seek out companions that respect them in turn.

At one point, I was on a convention panel that discussed whether the appeal of Steampunk was a desire to return to an era of more formal manners. I think there is something to that as far as the appeal of Steampunk to me. If you follow me here and on social media, you’ll find that I don’t speak a lot about politics. Part of that has to do with a tendency of people to forget their manners, especially when discussing politics and social issues on line. Rather than disagreeing and giving reasons for their opinions, they’d rather call the person they disagree with an idiot.

In the novel Friday, Robert A. Heinlein writes: “A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.” Whether you agree with this sentiment or not, I certainly find the lack of common courtesy in some on-line discussions discourages discussion of many issues for me. Certainly in this case, a loss of gentle manners becomes a way of shutting down political discussion, which of course, is utterly detrimental to our society. I hope this is an issue that will rectify itself with time. In the meantime, if you want to discuss politics with me, I’ll be happy to do so in person. I find people, for the most part, are still more polite when they have to look you in the eye.

The Pirates of Sufiro

As you can probably imagine from the quotes I’ve presented, Robert A. Heinlein has long been an influence on me and my writing. I think that’s most apparent in my Old Star/New Earth series and its first novel, The Pirates of Sufiro. The novel is free from my publisher Lachesis Publishing. Won’t you please give it a try?

Different Dragons II

Wolfsinger Publishing has just released the anthology Different Dragons II, which includes my short story “The Dragon’s Keepers.” Here’s the description of the book.


What happens when dragons are dropped unexpectedly on your front door step from a company you’ve never heard of? In China, a dragon comes up with a unique solution on what to do with all those maidens! Different-Dragons-II An amusement park is hounded by a sea monster the Indians had been feeding for centuries. Haunted by a ghostly dragon, a young woman flees across the snow wilderness, terrified her slaughter of the beasts means her own death. A family is murdered in the Middle East, and a dragon promises a young girl vengeance for their deaths. Are there dragons on a spaceship? You bet! Not to mention an usual dragon ride one pilot will never forget! And let’s not forget, how dragons can appear to be something they’re not, when protecting themselves or their family, from hidden magical dangers. These and other tales await within these pages of Different Dragons II.


In my short story “The Slayers,” I imagined a world where airship crews hunted dragons for the fuel that allows them to breathe fire. In “The Dragon’s Keepers,” I imagine that an airship captain of this world has come to realize dragons are intelligent and must be preserved. He has joined the fight to prevent the wanton destruction of dragons. With the help of a wizard’s daughter, he must find a way to stop a ritual dragon slaying.

Here’s the complete table of contents for the anthology:

  • “Introduction: These are the Tales” by Dana Bell
  • “The Dragon’s Keepers” by David Lee Summers
  • “The Stalker” by Lynn Donovan
  • “Such is the Jungle” by Quincy Allen
  • “Changling” by Rebecca McFarland Kyle
  • “Suntosun Shipping” by G.L. Francis
  • “Of the Generation” by Therese Arkenberg
  • “Dot’s Lunch – The Watchers along the Line” by Dave With
  • “His Lucky Color is Gold” by Rebecca Leo
  • “Hargmir, Ghost of Dragons” by David Turnbull
  • “Space Wings” by H.A. Titus
  • “Asim’s Gift” by Kathryn S. Renta
  • “Mr. Long’s School for Girls” by Rob S. Rice
  • “Bessie Returns” by Christine Hardy
  • “Amélie’s Guardian” by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

SummersTheSlayers

Different Dragons II is available at Amazon.com and Smashwords. What’s more, if you buy the book from Smashwords enter the code ED26N on checkout for a 25% discount as long as you visit before October 15. If you’d like to go back and read my other story set in this fantasy world, “The Slayers” is available as a stand-alone short story at Amazon.com and Smashwords.

Finally, as a reminder to those friends in Las Cruces, I am signing books today from 10am until noon at COAS Books Downtown. I hope you’ll drop in and say “hi!”

Schedule Cadence

Autumn has arrived, which means my working nights at Kitt Peak National Observatory will start getting longer until we reach the winter solstice just before Christmas. Autumn also heralds several other changes. Among them, I have a new supervisor and the National Science Foundation is no longer providing operational support for the 2.1-meter telescope. One upshot is that I’ve been looking at my schedule cadence with my co-workers. Here’s what that cadence looks like:

schedule cadence

Basically, my shifts at the observatory follow a fifteen day cycle. There are three “Available” or “on-call” days. I don’t work all of those, and most of the time I’ve been on call to help astronomers start their observing runs at the 2.1-meter telescope. Then I work at the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope for three nights. After that I work at the Mayall 4-meter telescope for three nights, then I get six nights off, and the whole thing starts all over again. Because it’s fifteen days, my schedule drifts through the work week. If one cycle starts on Sunday, the next one will start on a Monday, and the one after that a Tuesday.

Right now, it doesn’t look very likely this cadence will change much. Perhaps the only change is that instead of supporting the 2.1-meter, I may be set up to work from home periodically on the never-ending task of telescope and instrumentation documentation. The reason it’s never ending is that we’re routinely getting new instrumentation and to keep the telescopes cutting edge, they are often modified and upgraded.

Tales10-1-cover-big

Of course, between writing, editing and astronomy, I don’t really get many days off. I get to go home and shift gears. This upcoming break is pretty exciting though. I’ll be shipping out volume 10, issue 1 of Tales of the Talisman Magazine to subscribers and contributors. Although we’re taking a break after this year, we’re not letting up on quality. This is our tenth year and we want to make it a special one!

As a reminder, there are only four more days on the Lachesis Publishing Anniversary sale. All ebooks are half price. This would be a great time to try my science fiction novel, The Solar Sea, which tells the story of the first solar sail voyage to the outer planets. My novel Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order, which tells how a group of vampires came together to form a team of mercenaries in the middle ages is also on sale.

COAS-banner

Finally, on Saturday, October 4, I will be signing copies of Owl Dance, Lightning Wolves, Vampires of the Scarlet Order, and Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order at COAS Books Downtown in Las Cruces, New Mexico from 10am until noon. If you’re in town, I hope you’ll drop by!

Scientists of the Wild West

I’m a proud graduate of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology located in Socorro, New Mexico. The school was opened in 1893 as the New Mexico School of Mines. The first president was a chemist, Dr. Floyd Davis. Of course, in 1893, Socorro was still very much part of the wild west. For that matter, New Mexico and Arizona wouldn’t achieve statehood for nearly two decades. Now, I’ll hazard a guess that when you picture the wild west, your first image isn’t of scientists. Nevertheless, there were many scientists who found the west an attractive place to work. Among them was Mr. Steampunk himself, Nikola Tesla.

Tesla in Colorado

Tesla opened a laboratory in Colorado Springs in 1899 so he would have room to conduct his electrical experiments. He conducted experiments in wire telegraphy and electrical generation. At one point, he is said to have generated an artificial lightning arc over 135 feet long that created a thunder boom which could be heard over 15 miles away.

At one point, Tesla aimed his wireless receiver at the night sky and was surprised to hear faint beepings. Tesla believed he was picking up evidence of extraterrestrial communication and the press reported it as evidence of life on Mars. The truth might be far more interesting. It turns out that modern scientists who have experimented with Tesla’s designs have discovered that Tesla’s receiver was outstanding at detecting any kind of electrical discharge. People have used Tesla receivers to detect lightning on Jupiter, for instance. Such lightning is hard to distinguish from a telegraph signal, so it’s possible that Tesla actually made the first detections of extraterrestrial lightning.

Percival Lowell

Another scientist who was very interested in the possibility of Martian life was Percival Lowell. A former foreign secretary to Korea and scion to a wealthy Eastern family, Lowell could build an observatory wherever he wanted. Traditionally observatories had been built near the universities that housed astronomers such as Harvard, Yale, or Cambridge. Lowell decided to conduct one of the first surveys to determine the place where he could obtain the most clear nights on sky with a telescope. In 1894, Lowell decided to build his observatory near Flagstaff, Arizona. Lowell observed Mars extensively from the site. Years later a young astronomer named Clyde Tombaugh would discover Pluto while working at Lowell Observatory.

The wide open spaces and clear skies of the west clearly appealed to certain scientists in the late nineteenth century. In fact, Dr. Floyd Davis’s closing remarks from his inaugural address as president of the New Mexico School of Mines could, with only minor adaptation, apply to many homesteaders and ranchers of the period. “Education for such professional service is a knowledge of how to use the whole of one’s self, to apply the faculties with which one is endowed to all practical purposes. A liberal technical education broadens our views, removes prejudice, and causes us to welcome the views of others, and we no longer consider our methods the only ones worthy of adoption. It keeps us out of ruts and makes us desirous of being benefited by the experiences and teachings of others. SummersLightningWolves It stimulates great mental activity, and thus leads to skill, investigation, discovery and improvement.”

If you’d care to read about my fictional wild west scientists, check out Owl Dance and its sequel Lightning Wolves. The novels are available both in paperback and as ebooks.

Taurin Tales

Taurin-Tales

The anthology Taurin Tales is scheduled for release on October 15. Edited by J Alan Erwine, Taurin Tales is a shared world anthology featuring many authors I’ve enjoyed working with over the years including Ian Brazee-Cannon, Tyree Campbell, Anna Paradox, Laura Givens, and Rick Novy. The Taurins were created by science fiction writer, editor, and game designer J Alan Erwine. Once he had created them, he invited some of his favorite writers to play in the universe, and further flesh out these new aliens. Thus Taurin Tales was born.

The stories in this collection cover a large aspect of Taurin life … grand space adventures, small character studies, the tackling of difficult social issues, the past and the future of the Taurins.

My story in the anthology was inspired by something J said in the guidelines for the anthology. He said, Taurins have five eyes. They have two on the front of their heads that give them stereoscopic vision. They also have one eye on each side of their head, and one on the back of their head. Their front eyes are able to see into the near-infrared, but their other eyes are completely color blind, and they can only see about 100 yards before things become to blurry for them.

In my work at Kitt Peak, we frequently work in both the visible and the near-infrared. I decided to tell the story of a threat to a Taurin space station that was only visible in the near-infrared, meaning the Taurins could see it with some of their eyes, but not the other. Also, given the way atmosphere can scatter infrared light, this might be a danger not visible from the ground, only to those Taurins in space.

Here’s the complete table of contents for the anthology:

  • Hiding in Plain Sight by David Lee Summers
  • Something Alien by D. Moonfire
  • A Peaceful Evening by Ian Brazee-Cannon
  • Fade to Green by Tyree Campbell
  • Blindspot by Anna Paradox
  • Surf’s Up by Laura Givens
  • Sorting Through the Rubble by Ian Brazee-Cannon
  • Across the White by Rick Novy
  • The Iphis Crisis by Tyree Campbell

The print version of Taurin Tales is now available for pre-order, and if you order before the release date, you can get it for $1 off the cover price: http://nomadicdeliriumpress.com/blog/product/taurin-tales/.

The e-book version of Taurin Tales is available for pre-order in a number of formats from Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/472428. You don’t even need an e-reader to read it … you can read it right on your computer screen.