Fury From the Deep

When I was a kid, video recorders were not a common household item. People watched whatever was on broadcast TV when it was aired. If you missed it, too bad! Being a fairly innovative kid who didn’t want to be limited to experiencing my favorite shows when they aired, I turned to the one recording device a lot of people did have. I used an audio cassette recorder to record my favorite shows so I could listen to them whenever I wanted. It was pretty amazing how well that worked. Between the dialog, the music, and the sound effects, I could visualize episodes of Star Trek or The Wild Wild West just by listening to them. Fortunately, I wasn’t the only innovative kid out there.

When the BBC started making the series Doctor Who, they had no idea it would become a worldwide phenomenon or that people would want to watch episodes that had already aired. What’s more, the United Kingdom at the time really didn’t have syndicated television the way we did in the United States, so there wasn’t a market for rerunning shows after they had first aired. The upshot was that once an episode aired, the video tapes it had been recorded on were often recycled for other shows, which meant numerous episodes had been lost. And this is where the innovative kids (and probably some adult fans as well) come in. We still have audio recordings of some of those lost episodes, many of which feature the second actor to play the Doctor, Patrick Troughton.

As I’ve said in other posts, I think animation is an underutilized medium for storytelling. One of the more clever ways I’ve seen animation used in recent years is to recreate some of these lost Doctor Who episodes. We have audio and we often have still photos from the set to know how things looked. Artists can then retell the story in animation. Of course, there’s more to it than that. Audio engineers need to clean up the audio recordings from over 50 years ago. Also, you have to decide how much artistic license to employ. Do you retell the story shot for shot as close as you can? Or, do you enhance the creatures, sets and special effects to make it “better” than it had been before? At what level do you go too far adding new visual elements?

“Fury from the Deep” is a well-remembered “lost” episode of Doctor Who. The Doctor and his young companions arrive on Earth in the 1960s and find a natural gas production facility that’s being besieged by sentient seaweed. In this telling, it sounds silly, but decent script writing gives us a facility staff that’s sympathetic and trying to keep things operating all while our strange menace is slowly taking over the people in hopes of driving away the facility. Patrick Troughton shows himself as a great actor who can take all of this seriously, make us care about this problem, and see the seaweed as the intended threat.

The animators strike a nice balance and keep much of the original episode’s look. However, where the original episode gave us a few pieces of menacing, wiggling seaweed, we now get something that looks like it’ll sting you when you pick it up, as said in the dialogue. Where the original gave us a stuntman in a costume, we now get something that looks like a plant breaking through the plant’s pipes. We even get menacing seaweed coming out of the ocean.

I enjoyed this look back at an early episode of Doctor Who. Between this and other animated retellings of early episodes, I’m getting a better sense of how the series became so well loved that it would last for many decades. “Fury from the Deep” does include something of a milestone. It’s the first episode to introduce the Doctor’s ubiquitous sonic screwdriver. In later episodes, he uses it for many different tasks. In this episode, we actually see it used to remove some screws!

The DVD includes a radio play by Victor Pemberton, the episode’s author. The story is, effectively, an earlier version of “Fury from the Deep,” that features sentient mud in place of sentient seaweed. What makes the radio drama interesting is that the scientist who fills the Doctor’s place in the story is played by Roger Delgado, who would eventually play the Doctor’s nemesis, the Master, in Doctor Who. In a nice touch, the animated backgrounds for this episode include wanted posters for Roger Delgado’s Master. This is especially fun since Delgado wouldn’t be cast in the series for another two years. It seems a very appropriate touch for a show about time travel.

Dracula, Dead and Loving It

I grew up with classic Mel Brooks films such as Blazing Saddles, History of the World: Part I and Young Frankenstein. At 94, Mel Brooks is still around and still involved in the film business, though his later films don’t have the same reputation for greatness as his earlier films. So, I was a little uncertain when my wife brought home a copy of Dracula, Dead and Loving It, which, to-date, is the last film he directed. Although the movie didn’t quite reach the heights of Brooks’s earlier films, it still had a lot of great moments and I was glad to have watched it.

Nosferatu contemplates Dracula, Dead and Loving It

One of the things that makes Young Frankenstein great is the clear love Mel Brooks has for the Universal monster films of the 1930s. He pays homage to many of the great moments in Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein while poking fun at them. That same love comes through in Dracula, Dead and Loving It. The story largely follows the 1931 Dracula which starred Bela Lugosi but also includes send-ups of the 1922 Nosferatu and Bram Stoker’s Dracula from 1992.

The earlier Mel Brooks films benefit a lot from the comedic talents of people like Gene Wilder, Madeleine Kahn, and Cleavon Little. It’s hard to say anyone in Dracula, Dead and Loving It rises to their level, but there are still some fun performances. Harvey Korman is one of those actors who appears in a lot of Mel Brooks films, and I confess I’ve tended to like movies more in spite of Korman than because of him. In this case, I thought Korman did a brilliant job of playing Dr. Seward. He “disappeared” into the role and felt very much like versions of Seward who appeared in the Universal and Hammer films, which made the humorous lines he delivered straight all the funnier. Peter MacNicol is another actor who I’ve seen in other films but didn’t especially stand out to me. In Dracula, Dead and Loving It, he channels Dwight Fry’s Renfield beautifully. One of the best scenes in the movie involves Korman and MacNicol having a dialog over tea while MacNicol surreptitiously snatches bugs and tries to eat them unseen.

Mel Brooks gives a nice performance as Abraham Van Helsing and also pokes fun at many of the tropes surrounding the character. Like Korman, his performance here is a little more understated than in other films where he appears and it works to the film’s benefit.

For me, Leslie Nielsen’s best film is Forbidden Planet where he really defined the role of the brave, stalwart starship captain for many actors who would follow in his footsteps. Unfortunately, Forbidden Planet was made at a time when Hollywood didn’t take science fiction seriously and Nielsen didn’t get many roles until he found his way into comedy. To me, his real comedy talent is delivering silly lines with the same kind of stalwart earnestness he gave to the Captain Adams part in Forbidden Planet. That ability served him well in Dracula, Dead and Loving It. He delivers a performance that pays tribute to both Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee. The only problem is that by this time, Nielsen was so recognizable that he didn’t quite disappear into the part in the same way that Korman and MacNicol did into theirs.

While there are stronger vampire comedies and even stronger Mel Brooks films, I enjoyed Dracula, Dead and Loving It and plan to give it another watch to see if there are other elements and classic film tributes I missed the first time. Although my own vampire novels are intended as serious works, I do throw in some light moments. You can learn more about them at: http://davidleesummers.com/books.html#scarlet_order

Main Mission

A week and a half ago, I shared the model of the Starship Enterprise’s bridge that I built. It seems I’ve been in the mood to build science fictional command centers lately, because I also recently completed a model of Main Mission from Space: 1999. This was, in part, inspired by my enjoyment of Big Finish Productions’ audio version of the series, which in turn led me to re-watch the first season of the 1970’s television series.

As for the model itself, I discovered it when looking up videos that might help with some points of assembly on the Enterprise bridge model. Some videos that turned up in the suggested play list discussed the Space: 1999 Moonbase Alpha kit, which includes the show’s first season command center, Main Mission. As it turns out, I remember seeing an early version of the Moonbase Alpha kit from when I was a child. I also remember asking my parents to buy it for me. At the time, they turned me down. It was probably for the best. That was during the height of my slap kits together as fast as I could, without really caring about the quality of my work! I discovered MPC had released an update of the Moonbase Alpha kit in the not-too-distant past and they aren’t hard to find for decent prices on eBay, so I bought one.

MPC Moonbase Alpha Model Kit

As of this writing, I haven’t actually built the Moonbase itself. I may share that at a later time, but I have tackled the miniature of main mission. Like the Enterprise bridge, it’s not a perfectly accurate replica. Two problems stand out at first glance. First, there’s a spiral staircase in Main Mission. In the show, it was a simple staircase with landings. Second, Commander Koenig’s office is too short. In the show, he had a lower level with a conference table and several chairs. It was actually a rather spacious workspace. The biggest challenge of this model is that it’s rather small, so painting details and adding decals took some care and patience. Still, I managed it. Here’s a look in from the top.

Main Mission from above.

I rather like the details in the decals they included. The big screen is a very accurate version of what was shown on television. The globe in Commander Koenig’s office was another selling point for me. It was such a memorable prop, I was delighted they included it in the model, even if painting it was a challenge. The continents don’t really match up with anything on a real globe, but they do give the impression of the continents as they looked in the show.

Main Mission from the side

The second view shows a more oblique angle, so you can see the computer banks on the lower level. Again, these were good decals. It also made me realize how similar the main mission and command center sets were in Space: 1999 and the earlier series produced by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, UFO. As with my Enterprise bridge model, one of the most fun elements was painting and placing the people. I tried to imagine something of a story in progress. I have Commander Koenig and Dr. Helena Russell speaking in the commander’s office. Dr. Victor Bergman is running in to tell them something. We have Paul Morrow, Alan Carter, and Sandra Benes sitting at consoles. One challenge was whether to depict the televised Main Mission, or as I imagine it might be in the audio. On television, the computer officer is David Kano. We see a person that could be him standing by the computer. In the audio, David became a woman named Dashka Kano. I have a woman that could be her standing near one of the Main Mission doors.

Main Mission and the Enterprise Bridge

This final image serves two purposes. It shows the Main Mission model with its roof panels in place and it also shows the model compared to the Enterprise bridge model. As you can see, the Main Mission model is a much smaller scale. One of the reasons I decided to get this model is that the Enterprise bridge model was pretty plain on the outside, so sitting on the table, it’s not very attractive unless you look inside. The Main Mission model makes a nice compliment on the shelf.

At some point in the not-too-distant future I hope to build the actual Moonbase part of the kit, but for now, it’s time to get back to writing.

Space: 1999 Volume One

At the beginning of February I wrote about the fun I had listening to the Big Finish Audio adaptation of “Breakaway,” the first episode of the Gerry and Sylvia Anderson TV series, Space: 1999. Big Finish is well known for their Doctor Who audio adventures, which typically feature actors from the series reprising their roles in brand new stories. Many of the Big Finish audio productions are notable for being on par, and in some cases, even better than the televised episodes. Unfortunately, actors such as Martin Landau and Barry Morse are no longer with us, so it’s perhaps no surprise that Big Finish cast all new actors to play the parts in their Space: 1999 adaptation. I was quite impressed with Mark Bonnar as Commander John Koenig, Clive Hayward as Professor Victor Bergman, and especially Maria Teresa Creasey as Dr. Helena Russell. As such, I was really looking forward to this month’s release of Space: 1999, Volume One which featured two original episodes and one remake of a classic episode in audio format.

Space: 1999, Volume One

The recording opens with a story called “The Siren Call.” In the original televised version of “Breakaway,” an important plot point is that Earth and the moon are receiving a signal from aliens on a planet called Meta. We then never hear anything more about Meta. In the Big Finish version of the opening story, the signal from Meta is tied directly to the moon leaving Earth’s orbit. That version of the story ends with the moon approaching Meta. This story resolves the Meta storyline. Aliens from Meta make contact and even seem to welcome the inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha. The only problem is that the first ambassador to the Moonbase is a fellow who walks and talks but has no heartbeat. The Alphans need a new home now that they find themselves so far from Earth, but they begin to wonder if Meta will prove as inviting as it first appears.

The second recording is a remake of the classic episode “Death’s Other Dominion.” In this story, Moonbase Alpha encounters a group of human survivors on a distant, frozen world. By all appearances these are the survivors of an expedition to the outer reaches of our solar system who had been lost seventeen years before. The only problem is that someone on the planet is also trying to warn them away. When Koenig, Russell, and Bergman investigate they find the survivors, but discover that somehow they had not only been sent deep into space, but launched far back in time! The probe survivors are over 900 years old. The story ends up being an interesting look at immortality. In the original episode, Brian Blessed gives a wonderful performance as Dr. Chaney Rowland, the leader of the survivors. Chris Jarman takes up the role here and sounds very much like Blessed.

The final episode in this set of stories is called “Goldilocks.” Moonbase Alpha discovers a planet in the so-called Goldilocks Zone of its star. It looks like a good place to settle. Commander Koenig leads a team, which goes down to investigate. They find a very nice planet and pleasant, telepathic people who learn human language very fast. They also find a horde of vicious, reptilian monsters who would be happy to eat humans. If that weren’t bad enough, it seems they awoke an even bigger menace on the planet. Will the Alphans have to run away like Goldilocks did to avoid being eaten?

Overall, these episodes were good fun. They do a great job of capturing the original series’ tone and flavor. If you’re a fan of Space: 1999 this will give you two new episodes to enjoy. What’s more, “Death’s Other Dominion” puts a new spin on the themes covered in the original episode. I only had one disappointment and really that was because “Breakaway” set such a high standard. In the new “Breakaway,” writer Nicholas Briggs came up with a clever, creative way to send the moon on its journey. In this set, I’d hoped the writers would explain why the moon travels from planet to planet so quickly. The moon doesn’t seem to be moving a significant fraction of the speed of light, so one would expect it to take centuries for the moon to move between systems. Instead, it seems like it only takes days or weeks to move between systems. Perhaps it’s now in an open star cluster where stars are closer than they are in the solar neighborhood, or maybe the speed of encountering new planets is a mystery to the Alphans, too. I could imagine some good story potential here, and hope they do explore some of that potential in volume two.

If you’d like to purchase Space: 1999, Volume One, you can find it at: https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/space-1999-volume-01-2320. Big Finish also has a free 20-minute excerpt from “Death’s Other Dominion” at: https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/space-1999-death-s-other-dominion-excerpt-2458.

The Enterprise Bridge

In 1975, soon after the animated Star Trek series aired, the company AMT released a model kit of the Starship Enterprise’s bridge. I remember building that kit, but it was eventually lost to time. I know my patience and painting skills wouldn’t have done it justice. I also remember that two things disappointed me about that kit. First, it wasn’t the complete bridge. A few stations were around the outside were removed. Arguably, this made it easier to display on a shelf in such a way that you could look inside, but I was enough of a completest to want the whole thing. The other problem was that the original kit didn’t include Spock’s scope. This is that gray viewer Spock looked in to gain vital plot information. My understanding from newer websites is that it is, in fact, some kind of external viewing scope, probably with some sensor display overlays. The kit also didn’t include the library computer module on Spock’s station.

The kit was re-released for Star Trek’s 25th anniversary in 1991. The new version had more accurate decals. Both versions had figures of Kirk, Sulu, and Spock, but the new kit featured a re-sculpt. This version still didn’t include Spock’s scope or library computer. The kit returned in 2013. This time, they included all the consoles and Spock’s scope along with much better decals. This version still was missing Scotty’s scope on the engineering station. Yes, Scotty had one of those mysterious viewers, too! It was also missing the library computer module.

Late last year, after watching the second season of Star Trek: Discovery, which featured the return of the classic Enterprise I thought it would be fun to build the Enterprise bridge again and I looked for the kits. I soon learned the 2013 kit was hard to find and expensive when you could find it. The 1991 kit seemed the easiest to obtain. After watching a couple of weeks, a tempting eBay listing appeared. Someone offered two of the 1991 kits for less money than one kit alone. The only catch was that the seller didn’t guarantee the kits were complete. I decided to take the seller up on the offer. I figured I should be able to cobble together a complete bridge from two incomplete kits. It turned out, the kits were all but complete. I’ve only found one piece missing. I decided to turn the two bridges into the complete bridge.

An important part of this process was making better replicas of the science and engineering stations. I obtained some polystyrene plastic strips and sheeting from a model supply company and built my own scope and library computer module on Spock’s station. In the photo below, you can see the upgrades right after I applied a coat of gray paint. The station on the left is the version without the upgrade. I also built a scope on the engineering station.

Another feature of the old bridge model was that it had so few people and they weren’t great likenesses. I did like this 1991 kit’s people a little better, but the bridge never really felt complete. It turns out, there’s a 3D printing company called Shapeways that sells additional crewmembers for the Enterprise bridge. My wife and daughters bought me a set of crewmen to add to my bridge for Christmas. Here they are before painting.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of turning two of the 1991 bridge models into one complete bridge model is that there are two small stations on either side of the main viewer in the front that aren’t duplicates, but mirror images of each other. I considered taking one of the full size stations and cutting it, but I would have had to modify the detailing around the viewer over the station itself. I was saved by a change made for the animated series. In the animated series, they replaced the small port-side station with a second elevator door. Now, all of the plans for the bridge from the animated series, show a narrower entry into the front turbolift than the rear one, so I thought I might have to modify the second turbolift door. It turned out, the only things I had to modify were the floor panels and and the wall panel to the port side of the main viewer. Here are the two doors in my completed model.

Completed Enterprise bridge with two turbolift doors. Note, the engineering station has a scope!

I thought it was great fun to see that the Enterprise bridge actually could have two full-sized doors. It always seemed a poor design that there should be only one exit from the bridge. I will note, some blueprints of the Enterprise indicate the door next to the communication station attaches to a tube you can see on the outside of the bridge on the complete model of the ship. Personally, I don’t think an elevator shaft on a ship like the Enterprise would be that exposed, so I could be believe there’s space around the outside of the bridge to allow two turbolift cars. The next photo rotates the view, so you can see the finished science station in place.

Enterprise bridge model from port side stern.

Of the figures in the bridge, Kirk and Sulu are the two that came with the kit. All the other figures are the Shapeways figures. The AMT kit did come with a Spock, but I liked the Shapeways version with the iconic pose of Spock looking into the scope. A fun part of adding the people to this kit was telling a story with the characters’ placements. It looks like Kirk and Sulu are in conversation while Scotty is conducting some repairs. Meanwhile Spock and Lieutenant Jones are consulting on a scientific problem. McCoy is listening in to both conversations.

One last view of the Enterprise bridge

One final feature to point out, I added a floor to this bridge. The original kit leaves that spot around the helm/navigation station and Kirk’s chair open. A small piece of sheet plastic allowed me to give the bridge a more finished look.

This was a fun project. It took a little longer than my usual model build because of the modifications, but in the end, I’m pleased with how it turned out.

Revenge of Zoe

Back in the spring of 2018, I was asked to drop by a Tucson comic shop for a brief walk-on appearance as one of the customers in a film called Revenge of Zoe. The film actually debuted at the TusCon science fiction convention in November 2018, but as with many small indie films, it then went onto the festival circuit. As it turns out, it won the Grand Prize for best Science Fiction Feature at one of those festivals, the Silver State Film Festival in Las Vegas. At last, the film is now available for anyone to view.

Revenge of Zoe Lobby Card

The premise of the movie is that two years ago, screenwriter Billy Shaw wrote a blockbuster superhero movie about the golden age classic comic book heroine “Fren-Zee”, aka “Zoe Muldoom Zephyr.” However, Billy couldn’t have done it without the help of nerdy comic book store owners Pete Raynoso and John Burns. But Billy got a little too full of himself and publicly took all the credit for the film.

Now, Billy is friendless, drug addicted, and broke. He’s also convinced that he’s being haunted by the ghosts of Fren-Zee’s creator Nick Levine and, more impossibly, by Fren-Zee herself. After losing his last valuable possession in a drunken poker game, Billy gets a miraculous phone call from his agent with an offer to write the sequel to “Fren-Zee” for a huge payday.

But first he must find a way to mend his relationship with Pete and John and get them to help him write the screenplay. Then, maybe the ghosts of Nick Levine and Fren-Zee will leave him alone.

Revenge of Zoe is a hilarious feel-good comedy feature film about a bunch of dysfunctional people who make their living in the world of fan culture. Shot largely in  real life, functioning comic book and game stores, Revenge of Zoe is about creativity, acceptance,  friendship and everything that makes fan culture awesome.

​The film features a terrific cast of skilled and likable comedic actors, and includes industry cameos from comic book creators, authors, at least one science celebrity and an amazing soundtrack contributed by some popular indie rock bands.

As with many people, I have long been fascinated with the process of television and film production. Back in 1989, I worked as an extra on the television series, Unsolved Mysteries. So, it was fun to return to another film set and this time actually have a real speaking part. As I say, my part was brief, but it still earned me a listing in the opening credits. Here we see me carrying my purchase to the counter just before my big moment.

In the foreground, you see Nathan Campbell as Pete, Eric Schumacher as John, and Michael Guyll as Owen sharing a group hug. Clearly I’m not sure what to make of all this. One thing that made this day memorable was meeting Robert Francis and his wife Elisa Costa-Francis who, a few months after this was filmed, would be on the production team for the cinematic trailer we filmed for The Astronomer’s Crypt.

As I said at the outset, the movie is now available for anyone to stream and it’s absolutely free to watch at: https://tubitv.com/movies/578850/revenge-of-zoe

Be sure to check it out!

Space Pirates’ Legacy Update, March 2021

Children of the Old Stars

This month marks the third anniversary of the re-release of The Solar Sea, which is the prequel to my Space Pirates’ Legacy series. I’m also nearing completion of updates to Children of the Old Stars, which is book three of the series in its current incarnation. I thought this was a good moment to take stock of where I am in this project and look ahead at what’s left to accomplish.

The Space Pirates’ Legacy series was originally released by LBF Books as the Old Star/New Earth series. The series consisted of The Pirates of Sufiro, Children of the Old Stars, and Heirs of the New Earth. The series title was something quickly cobbled together from the last two books. My publisher billed The Solar Sea as book four of the series. However, as I mentioned before, it’s more a prequel to the series and a standalone story. It’s been released as such in its current incarnation.

After the books of the Old Star/New Earth series had been released, I wrote several short stories about pirate captain Ellison Firebrandt and his crew before they are stranded on the planet Sufiro. I decided to put those stories together with new material and, once the rights to the other books in the series reverted to me, I decided Firebrandt’s Legacy was a logical, new first book in the series. I also decided to give the series a catchier name. Long before I came up with the name “The Space Pirates’ Legacy” series, I’d been referring to the Old Star/New Earth series as my legacy series because it was my first series published. Thing is, there actually is a space ship called the Legacy in these books and it has a prominent role in three of the four novels. What’s more, as you might imagine with books called “Children” and “Heirs” these are books about the heirs to the original space pirates. Space Pirates’ Legacy suddenly seemed like a good fit.

Firebrandt’s Legacy

Back in May 2020, Lynn Moorer of the radio show “All About Books” interviewed me about the new first book in the series. In this universe, most ships have to jump to speeds greater than light at gravitational nodal points near stars. An important element of Firebrandt’s Legacy is how pirate captain Ellison Firebrandt lays his hands on a special kind of engine that allows him to jump to speeds faster than light without jump points. In her interview, Lynn asked me about the drives and how they work, plus she had me read some excerpts from the novel. The interview is archived on the Las Cruces Community Radio site at: https://www.lccommunityradio.org/archives/all-about-books-david-lee-summers9615141

I assembled Firebrandt’s Legacy with the help of my Patreon supporters. Each month, I shared one of the stories from the novel along with some commentary about how it fit in the story arc I was assembling, then shared the finished, polished chapter. Overall, I ended up with a book that pleased me. Once the novel was finished, I took my Patreon supporters on a deep dive as I tore my novel The Pirates of Sufiro apart and put it back together again. I shared each chapter as it originally appeared along with commentary about the chapter, then I shared the revised chapter. The Pirates of Sufiro was the first novel I ever wrote and it took quite a bit of work to bring it up to the standard of Firebrandt’s Legacy. Still, I think I succeeded and I believe The Pirates of Sufiro now works as a strong follow-up to Firebrandt’s Legacy.

The Pirates of Sufiro

Lynn Moorer interviewed me about The Pirates of Sufiro last month. This time, her interview focused on both the characters and the gadgets the characters used. She had me read three excerpts from the novel. You can listen to this new interview at: https://www.lccommunityradio.org/archives/all-about-books-david-lee-summers8108468

About a year ago, as I was wrapping up the first pass of The Pirates of Sufiro with my Patreon subscribers, I re-read the last two novels of the series. I didn’t feel those novels needed as much work as Pirates, but they still needed some work. In Children of the Old Stars, Ellison Firebrandt’s grandson, John Mark Ellis goes on a quest and seeks help from a warrior named Arepno. I felt like Arepno’s teachings needed to be fleshed out. The novel’s quest involves understanding an alien called the Cluster. Children of the Old Stars was probably my most “seat of the pants” novel. I didn’t outline. I didn’t work out exactly what the Cluster was beforehand, I just started writing until I came to what I thought was a satisfactory conclusion to the quest, which then created bigger problems and lead us into the final novel of the series. Looking back at it, I realized I needed more hints in Children of the Old Stars about what the Cluster really was.

At this point, I expect to wrap up Children of the Old Stars by early May. Once it’s complete, I’ll set a release date and format the novel for publication. I’ll give it one more proofread to assure that it’s still internally consistent. The novel should be out by this summer. Once that’s finished, I’ll turn my attention the final novel in the series, Heirs of the New Earth. This final novel doesn’t need as much work as the others in the series. I’m not certain yet whether I’ll give it the same “deep dive” as the other novels in the series. What I do know is that my patrons at Patreon will get the first look at the new edition and I’ll be discussing the process of its creation with them. If you’d like to join us, you can sign on at https://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers

Read an Ebook Week 2021

I’m pleased to announce that several of the books I’ve edited are part of the twelfth annual Smashwords Read an Ebook sale which is running through March 13. We have books that will transport you back to the weird and wild west, books that will take you to other realms and books that will transport you to the distant future. All of these featured ebooks are 75% off the cover price, which makes most of them just $1.00. Read on to learn more!


Legends of the Dragon Cowboys

Legends of the Dragon Cowboys brings you two weird western adventures by authors David B. Riley and Laura Givens. Their heroes ride boldly out of the Far East to find their way in a mythic land of danger, romance, and adventure.

In “The Venerable Travels of Ling Fung” by David B. Riley, a wandering businessman encounters a Mayan god, crooked enterprises and Yeti, the Abominable Snowman, when all he really wants is to open a gun store. Ling Fung is not any ordinary Chinese entrepreneur–he’s highly skilled in Kung Fu and he can shoot good, too. While his heart is set on business, providence seems to have other plans for him.

Laura Givens brings wily acrobat Chin Song Ping to the Wild West in search of adventure and fortune. He finds little fortune, but plenty of adventure. Chin Song Ping is a scoundrel, a gambler and a trouble magnet. His heart of gold lands him in schemes to outwit would-be gods, cannibal ghosts, insane robots, Voodoo despots and the ultimate evil–bureaucrats. But he is a romantic, and the love of his life is the true treasure he seeks. The odds are always against him but if he survives he will become the Western legend he always was in his own mind.

The Wild West just got a lot wilder!

Midwest Book Review says, “These two Western novellas are seasoned a dash of exotic adventure, featuring cowboy protagonists who hail from the Far East and pursue their dreams in the tough-as-nails frontier. Riveting from first page to last, Legends of the Dragon Cowboys is enthusiastically recommended for public library collections and connoisseurs of the genre!”

Get the book for just $1.00 at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/751811


Armageddon’s Son

The Ethereal War duology features ex-CIA agent Erik Knight who has alien DNA which gives him superhuman powers. However, he doesn’t know the extent of those powers and that scares him. What’s more, in these two novels, Erik finds himself caught in the middle of the ultimate war, the war between heaven and hell!

In Armageddon’s Son, the forces of Light and Dark wage war on and above Earth as each side seeks human allies to advance either the destruction or salvation of an ignorant mankind. In one bold, desperate act, an agent of Chaos has stolen the most powerful and coveted holy relic from the very heart of Vatican City, The Ruby Crucifix of Christ. This powerful relic was carved from the very cross where the savior was nailed, and is stained with His blood. This holy relic is said to be the instrument to end Armageddon and herald a new age of Man.

Ex-CIA Agent Erik Knight is recruited to assist his mentor, Martin Denton, in discovering the identity of the mysterious thief and locate the stolen relic. The agents soon realize the clergy of Vatican City have secrets and political schemes surpassing even Washington DC’s politicians. In order to solve the mystery, the agents must break through the papal code of silence and accept that the world as they know it is mere illusion, hiding a brutal physical and spiritual war of ‘Good’ versus ‘Evil’. As Erik Knight digs deeper into the mysteries of faith, he realizes his own alien ancestry is linked to biblical prophecy. Is he the fabled ‘Armageddon’s Son’?

Armageddon’s Son is available for just $1.00 at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/928557


Battle Lines

In Battle Lines, the hidden battle between good and evil approaches a boiling point. Each side accuses the other of violating rules set down by the Creator at the dawn of time. The theft of The Ruby Crucifix from Vatican City enrages the forces of light, while the unauthorized birth of Armageddon’s Son spurs the forces of darkness to take desperate, hostile action. As both sides prepare for war, a third party, the rogue arch demon Molec, escalates hostilities by issuing a forbidden soul bounty on light’s new prophet, who happens to be the son of the Hybrid, former CIA Agent Erik Knight. The Hybrid and his trusted ally, Martin Denton, must confront demons, angels, aliens, corrupt politicians and evasive clergymen each with their own agenda and hidden motives as they hunt down Molec in a desperate, final attempt to avoid a catastrophic, world-ending battle which would have repercussions across the galaxy and the multiverse.

Battle Lines is available for just $1.00 at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/957504


Upstart Mystique

Upstart Mystique is an exciting science fiction novel that takes a good hard look at what makes us human.

On its way to a distant colony world, the space vessel Marco P loses all power and an unknown force convinces the navigator that a distant, dead world is the vessel’s true destination. Commander Malcolm Carpenter orders the crew to abandon ship to protect them and to learn how to defeat whatever force has intercepted his ship. The crew discovers a small group of inhabitants, the only people on the planet who were not uploaded into a vast computer network—a computer network captivated by upstart humans and their imaginations. To free his crew and his navigator from the planetary network’s grip, Commander Carpenter must face a moral dilemma. Can he save his crew without condemning a planet’s inhabitants and their digital ancestors to death?

Get Upstart Mystique for 75% off the cover price at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1010602

Saturn’s Shrouded Moon

I love a good mystery and I love exploring new places. These two facts go a long way to explaining why I love astronomy. The universe is vast and we know so little about it. The NEID spectrograph at the WIYN telescope on Kitt Peak is just getting started on its mission helping to learn about planets around other stars. The DESI spectrograph on the Mayall telescope is starting its mission of mapping the northern sky with hopes of understanding dark energy. Of course, dark energy is one of those fundamentally great mysteries because we see evidence of its existence, but we really don’t know yet what it is. Fun space operas like Star Trek or even my Space Pirates’ Legacy series make space exploration look inevitable and even easy, but in fact, we’ve barely started. People have only been to the moon a few times and robots have just visited a few of our neighbor worlds in our own solar system. We have almost a hundred billion stars in our galaxy alone.

But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Today, I want to focus on one small world within our own solar system, Saturn’s moon Titan. It’s the second largest moon in the solar system and one covered with a dense atmosphere. It’s a place of real interest for those people seeking life in the solar system. The Cassini mission discovered that Titan has a salty sea underneath its icy crust. Its atmosphere is teaming with organic molecules that get deposited on its methane-ethane lakes and seas. We’ve sent a probe to Titan’s surface and we’ve even made good headway at mapping the surface. We’ve even started naming some of the features on Titan’s surface as you can see in this map from the US Geological Survey.

Map of Titan

By the way, you can download a good, high resolution PDF of this map at: https://planetarynames.wr.usgs.gov/Page/Images. It’s the one called Titan with VIMS Bacground and Radar Strips. I love that we have a map of Titan with this much detail, but this map also makes me think of old maps of the Earth with great undefined places. You can even imagine the legend “There be dragons here” somewhere on this map. We have learned a lot about the solar system and the universe in the last century, but this map makes it clear we still have a lot to learn about Titan.

This is one of the reasons I enjoy writing science fiction. I like to dream about the things we might find in the solar system and in the galaxy. I like to consider the more blurry places on the Titan map and wonder what might be there that could surprise us. In my novel, The Solar Sea, I imagine scientists discovering particles that travel through time on Earth’s moon. Once they understand the energy signature of these particles they go looking for them throughout the solar system and discover them in great abundance on Titan. This becomes the reason the Quinn Corporation decides to build a solar sail spacecraft to go find these valuable particles. The thing is, when they get to Titan, they look beneath the shroud and find…

Well, that would be spoilers. Fortunately though, you can get the book as part of the amazing Expansive Futures SciFi Bundle. The bundle includes eighteen great science fiction novels curated for the SFWA by Amy DuBoff. This is last call. The bundle is only available until Thursday March 4 at https://storybundle.com/scifi

Perseverance on Mars

It was exciting to see the successful landing of NASA’s Perseverance rover in Mars’s Jezero Crater this past week. Although I don’t study Mars as part of my work at Kitt Peak National Observatory, the red planet has long fascinated me. I love the journey of discovery we’ve taken in learning about the planet from the nineteenth century through the present day, from early observers who noted linear artifacts on the planet’s surface and thought they were canals to modern day engineers who are sending robots to explore the red planet. I have been asked why we need another rover to drive around a crater rather than going to a more exciting place like Olympus Mons, the tallest mountain in the solar system or Valles Marineris a canyon that dwarfs Earth’s Grand Canyon. The simple fact is that the primary mission of Perseverance is to look for evidence that life existed on Mars. No mission has looked for direct signs of life since the Viking landers in the mid 1970s, a mission I followed with keen interest as a kid!

Close up of a river delta in Jezero crater Perseverance scientists hope to explore. Image credit: ESA/DLR/FU-Berlin

Perseverance’s landing site was Jezero Crater, which shows evidence of once having held water. There are inflow and outflow channels, plus a river delta. This makes it a great site to look for evidence of either existing or fossilized microbial life. Not only is the landing site interesting, but the rover is not just a copy of previous successful rovers. It also includes the ability to gather samples, save them, and put them on a rocket which can be blasted into orbit, where a future mission can bring them back to Earth. This is a truly exciting aspect of this mission. When I heard geologist and astronaut Dr. Harrison Schmidt speak at Bubonicon a couple of years ago, he emphasized how valuable samples in an Earth-based laboratory can be. He pointed out that geologists are still making discoveries from the lunar rocks he brought back in the 1960s. Getting some Martian rock samples back on Earth would be a real treasure.

Perseverance also includes some cool features. My personal favorite is the Ingenuity helicopter. As I understand, this little helicopter is currently stowed in Perseverance’s belly. When it’s deployed, it’ll give engineers the opportunity to test powered flight on Mars. If this works, this might allow us to send more sophisticated flying craft to Mars in the future that could go farther and learn more than the wheeled rovers we’ve been sending. Another cool instrument on Perseverance is a microphone. Believe it or not, for as many times as we’ve been to Mars, we don’t know what it sounds like to be on the surface. As a writer, I look forward to that extra layer of sensory experience.

You can follow Perseverance’s progress on NASA’s website. This map shows where Perseverance is and will chart it’s progress as it begins it journey of discovery: https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/mission/where-is-the-rover/

You can learn more about the rover and its mission objectives at: https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/mission/overview/

Although this mission doesn’t take us to some of Mars’s more dramatic sites, it does pave the way for future journeys to those places. I really want to see those places and I imagine a visit to both Olympus Mons and Valles Marineris in my novel The Solar Sea, which is available until March 4 as part of the Expansive Futures StoryBundle. In that bundle, you get eighteen excellent science fiction books for one low price. Learn more at: https://storybundle.com/scifi