Breaking Records

It occurred to me it’s been a while since I’ve shared a behind-the-scenes look at my work at Kitt Peak National Observatory. Now that the DESI spectrograph is on the Mayall Telescope and the NEID spectrograph is on the WIYN Telescope, we’ve fallen into a fairly regular routine where, most nights, I check in with the observing team at 4pm via video chat, then go to the control room where I’ll eat dinner, open the telescope and start observing through the night. We wrap up as the sun starts lightening the sky in the morning. Targets for the night are predetermined before observing begins for the night. Once observing begins, much of my job is watching that the telescope doesn’t try to move to a position where it physically can’t and I’m the first line of defense in case the telescope or instrument malfunctions. I also watch the weather to make sure rain, wind, or snow don’t damage the telescope.

A slice through the 3D map of galaxies from the first few months of the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI). The Earth is at the center, with the furthest galaxies plotted at distances of 10 billion light years. Each point represents one galaxy. This version of the DESI map shows a subset of 400,000 of the 35 million galaxies that will be in the final map. Image courtesy NOIRLab.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we expected that both the telescope operator and lead observer for the night would be working in the same room, possibly with some support scientists. As it turns out, I wrote a post recently describing how these plans had to change so we could operate safely in these times. As things currently stand, I work in a control room alone and coordinate with the rest of the team via video conference. You can read that post here: https://www.desi.lbl.gov/2021/11/17/social-distancing-while-mapping-the-universe/

All this steady plugging away, observing the sky night after night with DESI is paying off. It was just announced that after just seven months of operation, DESI has already surpassed 7.5 million galaxies mapped, which means it has already generated the largest 3D map of the universe to date. And we’ve only completed about 10 percent of the survey. When we’re done, we expect to have mapped over 35 million galaxies. The picture with the post is a slice of the map so far. The map is presented such that Earth is at the center. Each point on the map is a galaxy. I encourage you to take a look at the press release about the DESI results so far. It’s at: https://noirlab.edu/public/news/noirlab2203/

One of my favorite images at the press release is an interactive image where you can look the map above and compare it to all the data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey in New Mexico. Sloan has been an on-going, ground-breaking project in its own right. I was fortunate enough to be on hand when that telescope was dedicated and the survey began. At the time, I worked as an engineer for a 1-meter telescope just a few yards away from the Sloan at Apache Point Observatory. I think it’s fair to say that DESI would not have been able to achieve what it has so far if Sloan hadn’t paved the way.

As it turns out, DESI’s value isn’t limited to creating a big map of the universe. Yes, that’s important and hopefully it’ll give astronomers clues about how the universe is expanding and how that may be related to this thing called dark energy. However, DESI is also creating a giant database of all these spectra that researchers will be able to use for years to come to understand more about the different types of galaxies and quasars we’re observing along the way.

On a good night up here, everything seems quiet and routine, which doesn’t give me a lot to share here, but it is producing lots of data and expanding our knowledge of the universe. Of course, routine nights also give me a chance to ponder the universe and continue to inspire me. As always, you can find links to my books and stories at http://www.davidleesummers.com

Hot Anthologies for Cold Winter Nights

The annual Smashwords End of Year Sale is underway. All of Hadrosaur’s titles are on sale and I’ll be highlighting many of them over the course of the sale here at the Web Journal. The coupon codes for these discounts are automatically applied at checkout. One of the things I love about Smashwords is that they provide ebooks in all popular formats and they’re DRM free, so you can download them to your favorite device or gift them to friends without worrying about what e-reader they prefer. If you are shopping for a friend, just click “Give as a Gift” when you visit the Smashwords links!

Today, I’m featuring some great anthologies for those times when you want to curl up by a fire and enjoy an author’s work in one sitting.


Exchange Students

In Exchange Students you can study abroad! See new places! Meet new people!

In our exchange student program, you can literally study anywhere or anywhen you can imagine. We’ll send you to new planets. We’ll send you to new dimensions and realms of existence. We’ll send you through time itself!

Don’t believe me? This exciting anthology contains many tales of our thrilling and educational exchange student program. You’ll read tales of aliens coming to earth and humans traveling to alien worlds. You’ll meet a denizen of Hell who travels to Heaven. Some students will discover their super powers on their journey. Other students will have encounters with the undead. You’ll meet a law enforcement officer who travels to the realm of the fae to help solve a crime of truly interdimensional proportions.

Featuring twenty-two amazing stories by Roze Albina Ches, Jaleta Clegg, Ken Goldman, Paula Hammond, Sheila Hartney, Chisto Healy, Joachim Heijndermans, Sean Jones, Tim Kane, Alden Loveshade, Tim McDaniel, J Louis Messina, Jennifer Moore, Brian Gene Olson, David B. Riley, Katherine Quevedo, Holly Schofield, Jonathan Shipley, Lesley L. Smith, Emily Martha Sorensen, Margret A. Treiber and Sherry Yuan

Exchange Students is available for half off the cover price at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1005851. Coupon code SEY50 should be applied automatically at checkout.


A Kepler’s Dozen

A Kepler’s Dozen is an anthology of action-packed, mysterious, and humorous stories all based on real planets discovered by the NASA Kepler mission. Edited by and contributing stories are David Lee Summers, author of The Pirates of Sufiro, and Steve B. Howell, project scientist for the Kepler mission. Whether on a prison colony, in a fast escape from the authorities, or encircling a binary star, thirteen exoplanet stories written by authors such as Mike Brotherton, Laura Givens, and J Alan Erwine will amuse, frighten, and intrigue you while you share fantasy adventures among Kepler’s real-life planets.

“… the stories represent a glimpse of where science fiction might go if real exoplanets are taken as inspiration.” Melinda Baldwin, Physics Today

You can buy A Kepler’s Dozen for half off the cover price at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/325583. Coupon code SEY50 should be applied automatically at checkout.


Kepler’s Cowboys
  • NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has discovered thousands of new planets.
  • Visiting, much less settling, those worlds will provide innumerable challenges.
  • The men and women who make the journey will be those who don’t fear the odds.
  • They’ll be Kepler’s Cowboys.

Saddle up and take an unforgettable journey to distant star systems. Meet new life forms—some willing to be your friend and others who will see you as the invader. Fight for justice in a lawless frontier. Go on a quest for a few dollars more. David Lee Summers, author of the popular Clockwork Legion novels, and Steve B. Howell, head of the Space Sciences and Astrobiology Division at NASA Ames Research Center, have edited this exciting, fun, and rollicking anthology of fourteen stories and five poems by such authors as Patrick Thomas, Jaleta Clegg, Anthony R. Cardno, L.J. Bonham, and many more!

“If you’re in the mood for science fiction that’s heavy on the science, pore over this enjoyable collection that takes exoplanets and the American West as its inspirations. The stories and poems in Kepler’s Cowboys imagine wild and risky futures for the first generations of exoplanet explorers as they grapple with harsh environments, tight quarters, aliens, and one another.” Melinda Baldwin, Physics Today.

Kepler’s Cowboys is available for half off the cover price at Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/698694. Coupon code SEY50 should be applied automatically at checkout.


Already read these, or just want to browse for something different? Every single Hadrosaur Productions ebook at Smashwords is on sale through January 1. Find the complete listing at: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/davidleesummers.

Perry Rhodan Comics

Given my love of comics and my recent dive into the world of Germany’s Perry Rhodan space opera series, my birthday present from my wife this year was a complete digital set the Perry Rhodan comics published in 2015 by Cross-Cult Comics. The comic series is written by Kai Hirdt with art by Marco Castiello. The only catch is that these comics are only available in German. However, it provided a fun opportunity for me to dust off my German language skills and explore some Perry Rhodan as originally written. Cross-Cult’s Perry Rhodan series only ran for six issues and there are two three-issue story arcs. So far, I’ve read the first three-issue arc, titled “The Cartographers of Infinity.”

The comic is set in the year 3540, which places it well after the early Perry Rhodan adventures I’ve been reading in Perry Rhodan Neo, and before the ones in Perry Rhodan Lemuria. In the comics, Perry is leading a deep space expedition aboard the Starship Sol. The Sol is a massive starship 6.5 kilometers long, holding 10,000 crewmembers. Among the crew are some characters, who I believe are well known to regular Perry Rhodan readers. These include: Gucky, a “mouse beaver” who is a telepath and can teleport people and objects from point to point; Tolot, a massive warrior with four arms; Belayn Parcer, a space jet pilot; and Irmina Kotschistowa, a human mutant who can heal through touch.

In this story, the Sol is lost in space and the crew is trying to find their way home. Fortunately, they find a space observatory crewed by an insect-like race called the Skra’Bji. Unfortunately, it’s under attack by a group of aliens called the Umal Pact. The crew of the Sol drive off the attackers, but they can’t read the data and the only surviving Skra’Bji named Tr’Frel is seriously wounded. So, they take her to her homeworld to find a blood donor. Once there, they discover her world has been occupied. Meanwhile, Gucky has entered Tr’Frel’s thoughts and learned her history and supports her cause.

The story is solid space opera adventure with lots of action. My only script complaint was that we have a few pages where it seems like someone is shouting NICHTS! (NO!) every two or three panels. The artwork feels very much like what one would expect to find in an American comic. The only character I knew before reading this was Perry Rhodan himself and he looked like the square-jawed American astronaut I would have expected from the books. I enjoyed the characters. The focus is largely on Perry and Gucky, but Belayn and Tolot both get great moments to shine. I can see a lot of story potential for Irmina and she had some great lines, but because she heals through touch, she’s dressed in a skimpy outfit and the artist does indulge in “male gaze” more than once.

If, like me, you know some German and enjoy space opera comics, Cross-Cult’s Perry Rhodan series is a worthwhile introduction to the Perry Rhodan universe. Digital copies are available at Amazon.com for $4.99 each and a hardcover collection of the first three-issue story arc is also available. I had fun exercising my language skills. I spent a lot of the first issue using Google Translate to refresh my vocabulary but by about the middle of issue 2 I was mostly just using Google as a check on my comprehension.

As always, you can find my space opera stories at http://www.davidleesummers.com. Just look for The Solar Sea or the books in the Space Pirates’ Legacy series.

DeadSteam II

I am excited this Halloween Eve to announce the publication of DeadSteam II edited by Bryce Raffle. My short story “The Sun Worshiper’s Ghost” is one of the thirteen stories included in this volume.

Just when you thought the nightmare was over, what was dead comes crawling back from the beyond. We warned you not to open that fateful tome. But you just couldn’t resist, could you?

Back with more chilling tales of the dark and supernatural, the anthology of dreadpunk, gaslamp, and dark steampunk returns to haunt you with mummies, witches, vampires, gorgons, ghosts. The second installment in the DeadSteam series from Grimmer & Grimmer Books, DeadSteam II promises an even darker, grimmer gothic than the first offering.

In addition to my story, DeadSteam II includes stories by DeadSteam alumni Karen J Carlisle, author of The Adventures of Viola Stewart, James Dorr, Bryce Raffle, Ross Smeltzer, C.C. Adams, E. Seneca, and Rob Francis, while also introducing newcomers to the DeadSteam series.

If you should sense someone lurking down by the river, some thing creeping through the forest, a sound from the attic, a strange pattern in the wallpaper that shouldn’t be there, a cold gust of wind on your neck…don’t look back. Just run. Run as far as you can.

But know this…we’re still here.

In my tale, a scientist named Augustus Harriman has reanimated a mummy with clockworks and engaged the services of a spiritualist named Dinella Stanton to invite the spirit of Prince Neferamum to inhabit his body once again. The original experiment went wrong, but the prince’s spirit lurks nearby and he longs to return to the world of the living. He also wants nothing to do with a clockwork monstrosity. Can Augustus and Dinella stop the prince from starting a new reign on Earth?

This story is a sequel to my story “The Sun Worshiper” which appeared in After Punk edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Greg Schauer. “The Sun Worshiper’s Ghost” is written so it stands alone, but you’ll pick up additional details if you read the earlier story and After Punk is a great read.

The original DeadSteam anthology is also a great read. My story there is “A Specter in the Light” and imagines mining engineers experimenting with a Tesla Coil in a cave near Socorro, New Mexico. The engineers uncover something very ancient and very frightening in the caves. The story is set in the universe of my Scarlet Order vampire novels and is inspired by real events around the early days of the New Mexico School of Mines.

All of these books would make great, spooky Halloween reads. Learn more at the links below:

The Martian Chronicles

Last month, I received an ad from Big Finish productions saying that their production of The Martian Chronicles would be going out of print soon. This audio production starred Derek Jacobi and Hayley Atwell whose performances I love. What’s more, Big Finish offered the production at a very nice clearance price, so I picked it up. It turns out the production was a dramatization of three stories that comprise what might be called the “Captain Wilder arc” in Bradbury’s famous collection along with one other story. The stories dramatized were “—And the Moon Be Still as Bright,” “The Off Season,” “The Long Years,” and “The Million-Year Picnic.” The production proved quite good and it made me want to go back and re-read The Martian Chronicles in its entirety. My only regret is that I discovered the production so near the end of its production run, I can’t steer you to it to listen for yourselves.

The Martian Chronicles is a classic example of a “fix-up” novel. It’s a batch of short stories, related by their setting on Mars and follow a rough narrative arc. The narrative arc describes the exploration of Mars by humans, how the Martians resisted human colonization, how humans prevailed and began to settle and ultimately how conflict back on Earth caused most humans to abandon the red planet. Unlike most novels, we don’t really follow one set of characters through these stories. Each story is its own independent narrative. The exception is the Wilder arc. Captain Wilder and members of his crew turn up in three of the stories. In the audio production, Derek Jacobi plays the good captain and we effectively see an abridged version of the full collection’s narrative arc through his eyes.

The Martian Chronicles

I first read The Martian Chronicles in high school. Soon after reading the book, I was fortunate enough to meet Ray Bradbury and he signed my copy. It was fun to look back in the book and see the chapters attributed to the distant future of 1999 and the early 2000s. When Bradbury signed my book in 1983, those years were still just enough in the future to make me wonder if the adventures could happen. When I re-read the book, I decided to get an ebook copy, so I could keep my signed copy in the best possible shape. I was surprised to learn that Bradbury and his publisher had actually revised the book after I read it. Those first missions were moved from 1999 to 2030. A story was removed and two more were added.

At first, I was disappointed that the ebook I picked up wasn’t identical to the version of The Martian Chronicles I’d first read back in the 1980s. But after a little bit, I decided to give this new version a try. After all, I’ve been working on a cycle of revising some of my first novels, some of which started life as fix-ups, to make them better. I did enjoy my read and I learned that the dramatizations weren’t slavish adaptations of Bradbury’s words. They interpreted the material and breathed new life into it, letting me see Bradbury’s words in a new light, which is something good drama can and should accomplish.

The Pirates of Sufiro

I was also surprised and delighted to discover ways The Martian Chronicles influenced my first novel, The Pirates of Sufiro. The first chapters of Pirates were written as short stories and the narrative arc I created to weave them together told the story of a colony’s rise and how human nature almost brought it crashing down again. I’ve never mastered Bradbury’s talent for beautiful prose, but I see how his love of his youth and family story helped me to take inspiration from my own youth and the stories of my own family when weaving a story set far from Earth. I learned to take the issues that concerned me and weave them into a new story. I was also fascinated to see that when Bradbury felt a part of his original vision was no longer fresh and new, he was willing to update it. If you’d like to learn more about The Pirates of Sufiro, the story I started dreaming up in the years after I met Ray Bradbury, visit http://davidleesummers.com/pirates_of_sufiro.html

Short Story Collections on Sale

The annual Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale is underway. It gets its name because where I live in the northern hemisphere, readers are loading up their e-readers for great beach reading and vacations. In the southern hemisphere, it’s the middle of winter and people are spending time in a warm and cozy place reading. All of Hadrosaur’s titles are available at deep discounts this month and I’ll be highlighting them all month long here at the Web Journal. If you’re looking for a specific title, you don’t have to wait for me to highlight it, just visit http://www.hadrosaur.com/bookstore.php and click on the book you’re interested in. On its page is a link to Smashwords if its available there. The coupon codes for these discounts are automatically applied at checkout. One of the things I love about Smashwords is that they provide ebooks in all popular formats and they’re DRM free, so you can download them to your favorite device.

Today, I’m featuring two short story collections I’ve been proud to publish. The first is an anthology edited by Sheila Hartney called Exchange Students. The second is a collection of related time travel short stories by Joy V. Smith.


In Exchange Students you can study abroad! See new places! Meet new people!

In our exchange student program, you can literally study anywhere or anywhen you can imagine. We’ll send you to new planets. We’ll send you to new dimensions and realms of existence. We’ll send you through time itself!

Don’t believe me? This exciting anthology contains many tales of our thrilling and educational exchange student program. You’ll read tales of aliens coming to earth and humans traveling to alien worlds. You’ll meet a denizen of Hell who travels to Heaven. Some students will discover their super powers on their journey. Other students will have encounters with the undead. You’ll meet a law enforcement officer who travels to the realm of the fae to help solve a crime of truly interdimensional proportions.

Featuring twenty-two amazing stories by Roze Albina Ches, Jaleta Clegg, Ken Goldman, Paula Hammond, Sheila Hartney, Chisto Healy, Joachim Heijndermans, Sean Jones, Tim Kane, Alden Loveshade, Tim McDaniel, J Louis Messina, Jennifer Moore, Brian Gene Olson, David B. Riley, Katherine Quevedo, Holly Schofield, Jonathan Shipley, Lesley L. Smith, Emily Martha Sorensen, Margret A. Treiber and Sherry Yuan

Exchange Students is available for 75% off the cover price at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1005851


Sugar Time is a collection of four connected short stories. Our protagonist’s name is Sugar. Sugar Sweet. But never EVER call her ‘Sweetie.’

When Sugar’s Uncle Max falls ill and his collaborators disappear, she investigates the old Victorian mansion where he conducted his research. She soon finds the collaborators—or what’s left of them—along with an angry Neanderthal. She also finds her uncle’s research project, a working time machine. Sugar must act quickly to unlock the secret of time travel so she can set things right and protect her uncle’s research.

Sugar Time is available for half off the cover price at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/567992

Kepler Anthologies on Sale

The annual Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale is underway. It gets its name because where I live in the northern hemisphere, readers are loading up their e-readers for great beach reading and vacations. In the southern hemisphere, it’s the middle of winter and people are spending time in a warm and cozy place reading. All of Hadrosaur’s titles are available at deep discounts this month and I’ll be highlighting them all month long here at the Web Journal. If you’re looking for a specific title, you don’t have to wait for me to highlight it, just visit http://www.hadrosaur.com/bookstore.php and click on the book you’re interested in. On its page is a link to Smashwords if its available there. The coupon codes for these discounts are automatically applied at checkout. One of the things I love about Smashwords is that they provide ebooks in all popular formats and they’re DRM free, so you can download them to your favorite device.

In the late nineteenth century, as astronomers began to describe Mars as a place with clouds, polar caps, and possibly even canals and vegetation, writers began to imagine it as a place people could visit. Now, early in the twenty-first century, we’re discovering planets around other stars. These anthologies imagine what those planets might be like.


A Kepler’s Dozen is an anthology of action-packed, mysterious, and humorous stories all based on real planets discovered by the NASA Kepler mission. Edited by and contributing stories are David Lee Summers, author of The Pirates of Sufiro, and Steve B. Howell, project scientist for the Kepler mission. Whether on a prison colony, in a fast escape from the authorities, or encircling a binary star, thirteen exoplanet stories written by authors such as Mike Brotherton, Laura Givens, and J Alan Erwine will amuse, frighten, and intrigue you while you share fantasy adventures among Kepler’s real-life planets.

“… the stories represent a glimpse of where science fiction might go if real exoplanets are taken as inspiration.” Melinda Baldwin, Physics Today

You can buy A Kepler’s Dozen for just $1.99 at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/325583


  • NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has discovered thousands of new planets.
  • Visiting, much less settling, those worlds will provide innumerable challenges.
  • The men and women who make the journey will be those who don’t fear the odds.
  • They’ll be Kepler’s Cowboys.

Saddle up and take an unforgettable journey to distant star systems. Meet new life forms—some willing to be your friend and others who will see you as the invader. Fight for justice in a lawless frontier. Go on a quest for a few dollars more. David Lee Summers, author of the popular Clockwork Legion novels, and Steve B. Howell, head of the Space Sciences and Astrobiology Division at NASA Ames Research Center, have edited this exciting, fun, and rollicking anthology of fourteen stories and five poems by such authors as Patrick Thomas, Jaleta Clegg, Anthony R. Cardno, L.J. Bonham, and many more!

“If you’re in the mood for science fiction that’s heavy on the science, pore over this enjoyable collection that takes exoplanets and the American West as its inspirations. The stories and poems in Kepler’s Cowboys imagine wild and risky futures for the first generations of exoplanet explorers as they grapple with harsh environments, tight quarters, aliens, and one another.” Melinda Baldwin, Physics Today.

Kepler’s Cowboys is available for just $1.24 at Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/698694

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 Masque of the Red Death

In November 2020, I resumed my regular commute to Kitt Peak National Observatory to operate the Mayall 4-meter and WIYN 3.5-meter telescopes. The observatory is quieter now than it was in March 2020, when I worked my last shift before the observatory closed for the pandemic. Only approved staff, tenants, and contractors are allowed on the mountain. The visitor center is closed and no tours are given. Still, twice a month, I make the drive to the observatory from my home in Las Cruces, New Mexico to the observatory west of Tucson, Arizona. I have an old iPod Classic that keeps me company on my drives. Sometimes I listen to audio books. Sometimes I just put it on random shuffle and see what plays. This week, after a nice assortment of songs, the iPod played Basil Rathbone’s reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death.” While it may seems a little silly to worry about spoilers in a 179-year-old short story, I may share some in this post. If you haven’t read the story, here’s a link to it at Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia: https://www.poemuseum.org/the-masque-of-the-red-death

I’ve always enjoyed this story, but it seemed to take on a more personal meaning now that we’re living through a pandemic. Poe’s “red death” is fictitious, but COVID-19 is real. I’ve known several people affected. Also, when I walk through my neighborhood, I often walk through the local cemetery, which is a quiet place with little traffic. However, I have noticed that it’s been much busier during the months of the pandemic. There have been times when I’ve seen the grave diggers preparing three or four graves in a single day. Before the pandemic, I typically saw them digging fewer than one grave per week.

As the story opened and Basil Rathbone described the crenelated abbey and all of its compartments, I found myself thinking of the remote observatory, high on a mountaintop. Each dome and building a little like the compartments of the story.

Kitt Peak National Observatory

While at the observatory, I tend to be alone in my “bubble,” whether that be in my dorm room or at the telescope. However, when I’m outside of my bubble, I wear a mask. Though my mask may not be a festive one, it still struck me when Poe described the masked revelers Prince Prospero invited to the abbey. Also, while I may be alone, I’m often on a video conference with several people taking data, so it can be something like a revel. I’m far from a prince like Prospero. Some days I feel more like the jesters or the staff in the abbey, still I know I’ve been fortunate to have relative job security during this year that’s been difficult for so many people.

Donning my mask for the festivities

The rooms where I work have new air cleaners and UV lights. Again, these new features bring to mind the eerie atmosphere of the apartments in the abbeys, but I stay alone in my bubble and these things have been installed to keep away the uninvited guest who crashed the party in Poe’s story.

This little exercise just goes to show how the best stories have a lasting power and can maintain a personal relevance. It also shows how I sometimes can see beyond the ordinary world around me into something fantastical. It’s much the process I used when writing my novel The Astronomer’s Crypt. I took what I had experienced at observatories I’d worked at and stretched those experiences just a little bit and asked what could be. The hope is that I produced something that’s both realistic and scary. And I hope the scares work because they seem like they could happen. If you want to learn more about the novel and watch the book trailer, visit: http://davidleesummers.com/Astronomers-Crypt.html

Two New Readings

Back in September, I shared two readings from the eSpec Books Author Reading series. I recently had the opportunity to record two new readings for eSpec Books. One comes from my story “The Steampowered Dragon” which appears in the anthology Gaslight and Grimm. The other is from Breaking the Code, my forthcoming novella.

My German Grimm collection.

The anthology Gaslight and Grimm presents thirteen steampunked fairy tales by authors like Jody Lynn Nye, Jeff Young, Christine Norris, Gail Z. and Larry N. Martin. As you might expect from the title, most tales in the volume are reimaginings of stories originally collected by the Brothers Grimm over two centuries ago. The project fascinated me a great deal in part because I studied the Grimm Brothers as part of a German literature class at New Mexico Tech. One of our projects was even to translate “Schneewittchen,” or “Little Snow White” into English.

Since that time, I picked up a copy of the Grimm tales published in Germany. One of the fascinating things about this collection is that it includes some notes by the Grimm brothers about the tales and variants they had heard. I have translated a few of the stories over the years for my own amusement with a particular interest in some of the lesser known tales, such as “The Griffin” and “The Dragon and his Grandmother.”

The story I wrote for Gaslight and Grimm, is a reimagining of “The Dragon and his Grandmother.” The original is set during a nameless war and three soldiers desert the battlefield. A dragon (or is it the devil, depends on how you translate it!) appears and offers the soldiers unlimited wealth. The catch is, the dragon will return after a few years and, unless the soldiers can answer some riddles, they will be the dragon’s servants for the rest of their lives. To give this story its steampunk twist, I made the villain a mechanical, steam-powered dragon. I also set the story in Afghanistan during the period of the “Great Game” when Britain and Russia vied for control of central Asia. Here’s my reading from the beginning of “The Steampowered Dragon.”

David Lee Summers reads from “The Steampowered Dragon”

You can learn what happens in “The Steampowered Dragon” by buying a copy from Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, or wherever fine books are sold.

My other new reading is something of a sneak peek at a forthcoming work. I recently shared the cover and the description from my novella, Breaking the Code. This excerpt comes from chapter one of the novella. Set in 1942, two Marine sergeants are in Gallup, New Mexico recruiting soldiers for the war effort. One of the young men they recruit is a Jerry Begay. In this scene, he returns home from the recruitment rally at his high school and tells his parents what happened.

David Lee Summers reads from Breaking the Code.

The very best way to get a copy of the novella is by subscribing to Cryptid Crate at: https://www.cryptidcrate.com. Not only will you get my novella and the goodies that come with it, you’ll get the other novellas in the series as they’re released.

If you would rather just get the book by itself, it is available for pre-order at fine bookstores including:

If you enjoyed these readings and want to listen to more, go over and subscribe to eSpec’s YouTube channel at: https://www.youtube.com/c/DanielleAckleyMcPhail/videos. Not only will you find a whole bunch of great readings, Danielle Ackley-McPhail has an unboxing video for the Cryptid Crate, which will give you an idea of what you’ll get when you subscribe!