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.

Lachesis Birthday Celebration

Lachesis Publishing is nine years old this month. I’ve been with Lachesis ever since they acquired LBF Books back in 2008. As a matter of fact, they just announced their plans to acquire my horror novel, The Astronomer’s Crypt. To celebrate their birthday, Lachesis is having a 50% off sale for all their e-books that are not already free or 99 cents during the entire month of September. The following six novels are available from the Lachesis Website. The titles are links, which will take you to pages where the ebooks may be purchased for the special sale price!


The Pirates of Sufiro

The Pirates of Sufiro – Free

This is book one of the Old Star/New Earth Series.

The Pirates of Sufiro is the story of a planet and its people—of Ellison Firebrandt, the pirate captain living in exile; of Espedie Raton, the con-man looking to make a fresh start for himself and his wife on a new world; of Peter Stone, the ruthless bank executive who discovers a fortune and will do anything to keep it; and of the lawman, Edmund Ray Swan who travels to Sufiro seeking the quiet life but finds a dark secret. It is the story of privateers, farmers, miners, entrepreneurs, and soldiers—all caught up in dramatic events and violent conflicts that will shape the destiny of our galaxy.


Children of the Old Stars

Children of the Old Stars – $1.49

This is book two of the Old Star/New Earth Series.

The Cluster is a vast alien machine that destroys starships indiscriminately in its quest for something or someone. Commander John Mark Ellis, disgraced and booted out of the service when he fails to save a merchant ship, believes the key to stopping the Cluster is communication. Clyde McClintlock believes the Cluster is God incarnate. G’Liat is an alien warrior whose own starship was destroyed by the Cluster. All together these three set out to solve the mystery of the Cluster before it finds the object of its quest.


Heirs of the New Earth

Heirs of the New Earth – $1.49

This is book three of the Old Star/New Earth Series.

The Earth has gone silent. John Mark Ellis and the crew of the Sanson are sent to investigate. When they arrive, they find vast alien machines known as Clusters in orbit. Fearing the worst, they land and discover that the once overcrowded, polluted Earth has become a paradise of sorts. The problem is over half the population is dead or missing and the planet’s leaders don’t seem to care. As Ellis works to unravel the mystery, sudden gravitational shifts from the galaxy’s center indicate something even worse is in the offing. Can Ellis save the galaxy from the heirs of the new Earth?


The Solar Sea

The Solar Sea – $1.49

This is a prequel to the Old Star/New Earth Series.

Humans settled the Moon and satellites orbiting the Earth were a common sight, but with the abolition of NASA, humans had no desire to go further and space exploration died.

Then, a technician from the Very Large Array, a radio telescope in New Mexico, discovers powerful particles orbiting Saturn’s moon, Titan, which could be a new energy source. Strangely enough, following the discovery’s announcement, whales around the Earth changed their songs overnight.

As scion of the powerful Quinn Corporation, Thomas Quinn builds a solar sail to find the source of these particles in Titan’s orbit. He gathers the best and brightest team to pilot his craft: Jonathan Jefferson, an aging astronaut known as the last man on Mars; Natalie Freeman, a distinguished Navy captain; Myra Lee, a biologist specializing in whale communication; and John O’Connell, the technician who first discovered the particles. All together they make a grand tour of the solar system and discover not only wonders but dangers beyond their imagination.


Dragons Fall

Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order – $2.49

This is the origin story of the Scarlet Order vampires. Read on, they are not your ordinary vampires!

Three vampyrs. Three lives. Three intertwining stories.

Bearing the guilt of destroying the holiest of books after becoming a vampyr, the Dragon, Lord Desmond searches the world for lost knowledge, but instead, discovers truth in love.

Born a slave in Ancient Greece, Alexandra craves freedom above all else, until a vampyr sets her free, and then, she must pay the highest price of all … her human soul.

An assassin who lives in the shadows, Roquelaure is cloaked even from himself, until he discovers the power of friendship and loyalty.

Three vampyrs, traveling the world by moonlight—one woman and two men who forge a bond made in love and blood. Together they form a band of mercenaries called the Scarlet Order, and recruit others who are like them. Their mission is to protect kings and emperors against marauders, invaders, and rogue vampyrs … and their ultimate nemesis—Vlad the Impaler.


Vampires of the Scarlet Order

Vampires of the Scarlet Order – 99 Cents

Vampires of the Scarlet Order is an action-adventure novel about an elite cadre of vampire mercenaries who have worked throughout history as pinpoint assassins. Under the command of Desmond, Lord Draco, the Scarlet Order was involved in wars with the Ottoman Empire, The French Revolution and even the conquest of the Americas. Now, at the dawn of the 21st century, vampires are too expensive, too untrustworthy, and frankly, too passé for governments to employ any longer. Nanotechnology can be employed to engineer more reliable super soldiers. What’s a vampire got to do for job security?


I hope you’ll check out one or more of my titles from Lachesis Publishing! They have done a fine job with my books and the ebooks they sell directly are my favorite electronic editions. While you’re at their site, be sure to check out some of their other titles as well. There’s great science fiction from other authors such as Greg Ballan and Ann O’Bannon plus numerous romance titles. Their blog has many great tips for writers as well!

Las Cruces Events 2014

In September and October, I’m proud to be participating in two local events in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Earlier this year, I was delighted to hear that Zia Comics would be hosting the first annual Las Cruces Comic Con. The convention is now less than one week away. It takes place September 5-7 at the Las Cruces Convention Center.

LC-Comiccon-logo

Featured guests at the convention include Ray Park—Darth Maul from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and Toad from Bryan Singer’s X-Men—and Jason Ybarra—Baboo and other monsters from Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Events include gaming, a costume contest and a vendor hall full of people with goodies to tempt you. I’ll be one of those vendors. Look for me and my books among the artist tables!

On October 4, 2014, I will be signing my steampunk and vampire novels at COAS Books at 317 N. Main Street in Las Cruces.

COAS-banner

My vampire novels make a great Halloween read and this is a great time to pick them up as a gift for a friend or a treat for yourself as the nights begin to lengthen. If vampires aren’t your thing, consider a little wild west steampunk to entertain you as the autumn winds cool the air. COAS has long been one of my favorite used bookstores. They have a tremendous selection of books, movies, and games between their two locations. They have always been tremendously supportive of local authors. If you’re local to Las Cruces, or just visiting, I hope you’ll drop by. If you don’t live in Las Cruces, you can learn more about my novels by visiting the book page on my website.

Away to College

Today finds me in New Orleans, Louisiana, where I’m leaving my daughter to start her college career at Tulane University. It’s an exciting, bittersweet time and I find myself remembering when I went away to college thirty years ago. I grew up in Southern California and, like my daughter, wanted to experience some place different when I went to school. Of the schools I was accepted to, I decided on the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in the small town of Socorro. One of its strong appeals was that the offices for the VLA radio telescope were on campus. Moving from a city sixty miles east of Los Angeles to a town of 8,000 people was a huge change. Here’s the view from my dorm room.

dorm-view

I remember the combination of nerves and excitement from my first day. I looked forward to meeting new people. I hoped I would do well in classes and that the classes would actually be engaging. I remember the uncertainty about meeting my roommate for the first time. It turns out we got along rather well. Our relationship was not without difficulties, but I’m pleased to say we’ve remained friends even over the distance of time and space. New Mexico Tech proved to be an extremely difficult school, but I graduated in four years and I even spent my senior year working at the VLA doing preliminary site survey work for the telescope that would become the ALMA Array.

While working on my physics degree at New Mexico Tech, I pursued my writing. I worked on short stories and even a Star Trek novel I hoped one day to sell to Pocket Books. When I realized that would be a challenge, I created a new universe for that story. That work laid the foundation for The Pirates of Sufiro and its sequels. After graduating, I stayed for graduate school. During that time, I found my first writer’s group.

Since college, I’ve been constantly employed either in the astronomy or writing fields. I feel like my time in college set me on a good path toward a sustainable career and I feel good about the education my daughter will receive at Tulane. I will miss my daughter terribly, but I’m also excited for the opportunities ahead of her.

Now some people may read this and think that since my daughter’s attending a private university like Tulane we must be very well off, indeed. In fact, my daughter is able to go through a combination of scholarships and grants. My choice of career has had many rewards, but a top-dollar income isn’t one of them. What’s more, I may have full time employment at an observatory, but writing is a significant part of my income.

I hope you’ll take a moment to browse my books page to see if there’s something you’d enjoy. Each title and cover will take you to a page with more info and buying links. Of course, not only will you be helping us out as our family goes through changes, you’ll be getting an exciting, thrill packed story in return.

Space Battleship Yamato

In 1978, I was still under the spell of Star Wars, the original Battlestar Galactica was on the air, and I was eagerly awaiting the first Star Trek movie. One day, TV station KTLA from Los Angeles showed a Japanese movie that held me spellbound. It was called Space Cruiser Yamato. It echoed many of the space operatic themes of those other shows, but upped the ante in many ways. Life on Earth had been bombed into near extinction by a race of malevolent aliens. To save it, a valiant crew embarked on an interstellar quest for help aboard the only spaceship available—a World War II warship converted into a star vessel with the help of alien technology. Many characters gave their lives to save others and there seemed a real chance Yamato would not succeed in its mission.

Yamato-Anime

This show was not the first anime I’d seen, but it was certainly the most dramatic and serious. I was hooked. A year later, I learned that the movie had been cut together from a TV series. The series debuted in the United States under the name Star Blazers. At first, I was disappointed. They changed the names of all the characters. They even changed the name of the ship. The Yamato was rechristened the Argo. It wasn’t until high school that I learned the names were changed for both the movie and the series by the American companies that dubbed them into English. A friend shared video tapes he’d purchased in Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo neighborhood. That’s how I first met Captain Okita, Susumu Kodai, and Yuki Mori in their original forms. I didn’t understand all the words, but my friend narrated the show and I fell even further under its spell. That’s when I learned the proper name of the series: Space Battleship Yamato

There’s no doubt the show had an influence on my writing. Suki from The Pirates of Sufiro was an homage to Yuki Mori, the Yamato’s radar operator and nurse. It seems pretty obvious when I present the names side by side like this, but when Pirates was released, most Americans knew Yuki as Nova Forrester. Likewise, Space Battleship Yamato first made me consider how big a disaster humanity could survive and what it would take to stand up to that threat. Following that path led me to Heirs of the New Earth. That novel also includes a nod to Yamato’s Chief Engineer Tokugawa in the form of Chief Engineer Kimura who finds a way to launch the grounded pirate ship Legacy.

space_battleship_yamato_movie

I was delighted to discover that Toho Studios made a live-action version of Space Battleship Yamato back in 2010. Two weeks ago, I received my copy of the Blu Ray disk. The new movie is amazingly faithful to the source material. They did swap the genders of some key characters, but that was fine. One of my problems with the original Space Battleship Yamato is that the cast had too few women. Another interesting, and sad, choice was the death of a major character. Even so, the theme of personal sacrifice was important in Yamato, so I see this in keeping with the spirit of the original.

I’ve seen some on-line comments which suggest that the movie borrowed heavily from J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek and Ron Moore’s re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. There’s probably some truth to that, but close as the movie is to its source material, it seems just as fair to suggest those productions borrowed from Yamato in the first place. Among other things, I gather George Lucas was strongly influenced by the space dogfights of Space Battleship Yamato and R2-D2 bears more than a passing resemblance to Yamato’s robot, Analyzer. After all, Space Battleship Yamato first aired in 1974, a full three years before Star Wars.

I recently discovered that the first season of Space Battleship Yamato has been remade. The new version is called Space Battleship Yamato 2199. Information and a 13-minute trailer are available at starblazers.com. Unfortunately, it looks like each disk of the seven-disk limited edition set is retailing for $35 to $45 depending on vendor and format. That price is a little steep for my writer and astronomer income. I hope they’ll eventually release a mass-market edition at a lower price or release it to one of the streaming services so more of us can enjoy it. Even so, I’m delighted to see that after 40 years, Yamato is still traversing the heavens on its quest to save Earth.

Monsoon Season

It’s monsoon season here in the southwest, and fortunately this year we’re getting much needed rain both at home in Las Cruces and at Kitt Peak National Observatory. During monsoon season, the clouds typically roll in around four or five o’clock in the afternoon, then rain. Sometimes they disburse and sometimes linger into the morning hours. Either way, the warm temperatures and cloudy skies make it tempting to spend a lot of time where it’s dry, enjoying the air conditioning and reading a good book. One place I like to discover good books is at science fiction conventions and I spent last weekend at Bubonicon in Albuquerque.

Bubonicon Dealer's Table

The photo shows me at the Hadrosaur Productions table in the dealer’s room. In addition to dealing, I was on several panels. Two that were closely related to my steampunk writing were “Sci-Fi and Southwestern Fiction” moderated by Walter Jon Williams and “The Weird Weird West” moderated by John Maddox Roberts. One highlight of the first panel was discovering that Laura J. Mixon had family connected to the Roswell Incident. As it turns out, my undergraduate advisor, an atmospheric physicist named C.B. Moore claimed to be responsible for the Roswell Incident, saying it was a nuclear sensing balloon that got away from him. Both panels touched on Tombstone, Arizona along with the technology that has long been present in the Southwest. For example, Nikola Tesla had his lab in Colorado Springs. What’s more, railroads and mining companies brought a lot of technology into the southwest.

During the convention, I had the opportunity to read from my novels Lightning Wolves and Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order. Speaking of which, if you’re looking for something to read as summer wanes into fall, I’m giving away a copy of Dragon’s Fall over at The Scarlet Order Web Journal, but you need to hurry if you’d like to enter. I stop taking entries on the afternoon of Sunday, August 10. By the way, this lovely graphic for Dragon’s Fall was created by Sharlene Martin Moore. If you’re an author and would like her to create one for you, visit http://graphicsbysharlene.wix.com/graphicsbysharlene.

Dragons Fall Card 2

As for my own reading, I’m wrapping up the submission period for Tales of the Talisman Magazine. We’ll be closing to all submissions at midnight Mountain Daylight Time on August 15. Please note, I have a short list full of outstanding stories. Thanks to those who have submitted. If you haven’t heard back from me yet, I’m hoping to have answers to you by the end of August.