October 7, 2015

Astronomy Video of the Week: A Desert Solar System

Not your parents’ solar system…

Once, as a kid, we decided to make a poster depicting the solar system. Our poster, we decided, was going to be unerringly accurate, complete with planets and planetary orbits depicted to actual size. We quickly realized this would be a fool’s errand, with planets reduced to tiny dots. [Read more...]

Free Fiction Friday: A Standard of Deviation Part 4

On sale now…

Uneasy is the state of the human-enforced Pax Galactica, as our chief protagonist and quantum-hopping Librarian 3rd Class turned courier is finding out. This week, we invite you to meet the gas giant-dwelling Leviathans and hear of their plight. Can’t wait for weekly installments? You can read (and rate!) A Standard of Deviation and other original sci-fi tales in their entirety as well, as don’t forget to start back on Chapter 1.

Also, let know what you think of this latest universe where humans are privy to instantaneous travel and leverage it to their own advantage… we’ve got a few other tales in the ol’ brain brewing that are set in the Standard Universe…


A Standard of Deviation


David A. Dickinson

Chapter 4


A Leviathan that I’d named Arthur pulled up next to my skimmer as I neared the atmospheric capital. The Leviathan language was transmitted via low frequency pulses that I had played no small part in translating on previous visits. I could spot Arthur by how his internal organs flickered with recognition on my approach. How weird we must seem to them, tiny ape-like creatures inhabiting the skins of cold rocky worlds. [Read more...]

Astronomy Video of the Week: Falcon Takes Flight

Liftoff of a Falcon 1 rocket

on its first successful mission.

Image credit: SpaceX

What’s it like to ride on a rocket? Seven years ago on this day in 2008, a Space X Falcon 1 rocket gave us an amazing external view as it soared above the Omelek Island launch facility and Kwajelein Atoll in the central Pacific. The first successful launch after a series of three earlier attempts, the SpaceX Falcon 1 successfully deployed a boilerplate mass simulator nicknamed ‘RatSat’ in low Earth orbit. The launch marked the first successful commercial space venture, and opened the door to a new era of space privatization. [Read more...]

Free Fiction Friday: A Standard of Deviation Part 3

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And the tale continues. Let’s jump right into it this week, with as little fanfare as possible. Remember, you can read A Standard of Deviation and other original tales of science fiction by yours truly, and remember to start back with Chapter 1.


A Standard of Deviation


David Dickinson


I even felt a little guilty as I made the first jump of any update run. Secretly, I always looked forward to traveling as a way to kick myself out of the chronic workaholic rut. It’s selfish, I know… but the guise of ‘work’ gives me the perfect excuse to do what I love. I can escape and see some of these alien species, in person. Not many folks beyond the Terran military and the merchant class ever get to do that. Ambassadors and researchers like me were clumped into the less than one percent of “all others” that have ever jumped out this far along the Galactic Rim. Most folks on the Local Group worlds go their entire lives never encountering an alien species that might upset their idea of ‘normal’ beyond what you might see on a holo-vid or in a local planet-side zoo. I’ve always been glad that Lila has never asked to drag me to the zoo on New Seattle. Perhaps she just knows me that well. [Read more...]

Astronomy Video of the Week: Protecting the Planet

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft at Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

(Image credit: JPL/NASA).

Where humans go, our bacterial biome follows… but how do we protect future pristine environments from, well, us? The SETI Institute recently published a fascinating discussion on the topic of planetary protection as part of its weekly SETI Talks series. Titled Integrating Planetary Protection in Human Missions, Dr. Margaret Race discusses the past, present and future issues surrounding the sterilization of interplanetary missions. Dr. Race is an expert in the field of planetary protection science. And besides its paramount importance, the title of ‘planetary protection officer’ is simply the Best. Job Title. Ever. [Read more...]

Free Fiction Friday: A Standard of Deviation Part 2

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Ready for more quantum entanglement galaxy hopping adventure? The let’s jump right in to Chapter 2. Remember to start back with last week’s Chapter 1 of A Standard of Deviation, and you can read the story in its entirety, and other original tales of sci-fi by yours truly as well.


A Standard of Deviation


David A. Dickinson

Chapter 2


And that’s where I come in. Couriers like me bring the Standard around, the engineers read it, and the primacy of Earth’s exploitation of the galaxy stays intact. I might even discover a fascinating (to me, anyway) new tale of mythology or artistic flourish from a forgotten race, and I always make sure to take and bring back a picture of the host star of New Seattle for Lila. That is, if I can manage to find it in the sky for her. [Read more...]

Book Review: Alchemy & Steam edited by Kerrie L. Hughes

On sale now.

Been to a major ‘Con lately? Then you’ll note that the Steampunk genre is alive and well, in the form of retro costumes straight out of the 19th century, replete with high tech gear including cybernetic implants, targeting monocles and the like.

Fans love to party like it’s an alternative reality 1899, that’s for sure.  This week’s review takes the concept a step further, and invites 13 fresh new speculative fiction writers to imagine brave new universes. [Read more...]

Astronomy Video of the Week: To Nuke the Moon

Thor launches from the Cape.

Image credit: British Pathé

There are lots of strange proposals from the early Space Age that —thankfully— never came to pass. We recently came across one of those stranger proposals in an old newsreel courtesy of British Pathé. An amazing resource, British Pathé hosts thousands of old newsreels from the mid-to early 20th century featuring a treasure trove of grand old vids with rocket launches, solar eclipse expeditions, and much more. [Read more...]

Free Fiction Friday: A Standard of Deviation Part 1

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Hooray… Friday… and here’s your weekly dose of free sci-fi from yours truly. This week, we’re starting in on a brand new tale in an exciting universe. This one’s got it all; an imperial Earth, killer Von Neumann robots, intelligent gasbags, and swashbuckling librarians (3rd Class, thank you very much). If you can’t wait for next week’s installment, you can read A Standard of Deviation and other works of original scifi in their entirety.

On with this week’s exciting new tale…

A Standard of Deviation


David A. Dickinson

Chapter I


Sometimes, the strangest ideas in the universe can sprout from the humblest of seeds. My grandfather once told me that kernel of wisdom when I was a little girl as we both watched a Spican Nematode I was raising sprout from its host and take wing. That was long before I had moved to New Seattle and taken up residence and a new job with my life partner, Lila. Of course, this was also before she told me of the rare and inoperable form of brain cancer that was lurking inside her brain stem… Lila was like that, never wanting me to make an undue fuss over her. [Read more...]

Review: Search and Recovery by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

On sale now…

Things are heating up in the Retrieval Artist Universe.  We recently completed book four in the eight book Anniversary Day saga by Kristine Kathryn Rusch as part of our ongoing campaign to catch up with the growing pile of review books that have stacked up while we were on a one year sabbatical.

The Anniversary Day saga follows the aftermath of a massive attack on human colonies on Earth’s Moon and the efforts to uncover just who was behind them. Fans of the series and this space will recall our reviews of Book 2: Blowback and Book 3: A Murder of Clones. We’ve also reviewed The Enemy Within by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, as well as one of our all time faves, the Diving into the Wreck saga. [Read more...]

Astronomy Video of the Week: Chasing Barnard’s Star

Speedy Barnard’s Star. Click here for the animation.

Credit: The Virtual Telescope Project

Double wow.

When it comes to stellar motion, the pattern of constellations you see tonite will look pretty much the same on the day that you die as they appeared on the day you were born. Sure, we’re all whizzing around the core of the Milky Way Galaxy with our stellar neighbors, but the distances between the stars is so vast, that this motion (known as apparent or proper motion) is tiny from year to year. [Read more...]

Free Fiction Friday-Helium Party: Part 6

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And here’s the long anticipated conclusion to our on-going tale Helium Party. And as always, you know the drill: be sure to start back with Chapter 1, or you can just read Helium Party and other great tales of Sci-fi in their entirety.

On to the conclusion!

Helium Party


Dave Dickinson

Chapter 6

“Get ready with those countermeasures, kid…”

I grabbed the trigger and toggled the switch marked “E/O CHAFF”. Several inbound guided flechette rounds were already zipping by our vessels, with the intent of slicing open our thin hulls.


I could hear the calliope music playing over the comm system as the dispensers emptied in rapid succession. If this was Lanky’s bizarre idea of combat music, it seemed to be working. The clouds of metal fiber would temporarily confuse the rounds as they sliced away at empty space. [Read more...]

Astronomy Video of the Week: A TESS Preview

An artist’s conception of TESS. Image credit: NASA

Just wow.

A new space telescope set for launch in 2017 promises to blow the doors wide open on exoplanet science. TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is, in many ways, the successor of the Kepler Space Telescope, but also promises to surpass Kepler’s legacy. Like Kepler, TESS will watch thousands of stars for tell-tale dips in brightness signaling the presence of an intervening planet. Unlike Kepler, TESS will orbit the Earth in an elliptical 67,000 x 232,000 mile orbit, enabling it to cover a large swath of the sky. [Read more...]

Free Fiction Friday: Helium Party Part 5

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Here it tis… our weekly healthy serving of free science fiction for you, the discerning public. Be sure to start back on chapter 1, and you can read Helium Party and other tales of original sci-fi by yours truly.

But now, let’s join our intrepid gang The Citizens of Silliness in orbit around Jupiter:

Helium Party


David Dickinson

Chapter 5

“Lanky, Tinker, standby to deploy those catcher pods…”

I watched the console as a beacon lit up ahead. Of course, the outline of the flashing indicator was in the obligatory clown-head shape.

“You’ve got full helium bladders to pick up!” I exclaimed.

“You’re a smart one, there, Toots,” Crunchy replied. “Think we’d go home empty handed?” “We drop ‘em, and we pick em up.” [Read more...]

Book Review: Recycled Pulp edited by John Helfers

On sale in September 2015!

Remember the pulp novelettes of yore?

Named for the woodsy, low cost paper they were printed on, dime store pulp novels were an integral part of many readers’ childhoods. They were formulaic, sure, but we always knew the tales within would deliver.

The folks at Fiction River recently challenged authors to concoct some pulp tales of their own, and the results were far from rigid or predictable. [Read more...]

Astronomy Video of the Week: Ode to a Solar Eclipse

The end of totality over the Faroes.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons/Schnuffel2002/under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license

The sight of a total solar eclipse is pure unforgettable magic. The March 20th, 2015 total solar eclipse provided a unique artistic backdrop for a live musical performance. As the shadow of the Moon touched down over the North Atlantic and raced towards the Faroe Islands, the Faroese metal band Hamferð (the ‘ð’ is a voiced dental fricative pronounced like the ‘th’ in the English word father) was ready. [Read more...]

Free Fiction Friday: Helium Party Part 4

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Rogue clowns in space hungry for helium, what’s not to love? Here’s this week’s latest installment chronicling the further adventures of the Sons of Silliness. Be sure to start back on chapter 1, and read Helium Party and other works of original fiction by yours truly.

Helium Party


David Dickinson

Chapter 4

The vessel was tiny, a nod to the clown cars of yore. It came complete with an oversized windup key that served as the ignition for the anti-matter cascade, which seemed to always be Lanky’s job to get out and crank. The first Gemini astronauts probably had more space in their cramped capsule. The crew consisted of four, with Crunchy, Lanky, Tinker and I crammed into the good ship Laughing Stock. Of course, Crunchy was initially against my accompanying them, until I mentioned my skills handling a gas-giant skimmer as a kid growing up on Mimas. Plus, he’d softened a bit over time to the ‘get your poignant plight out to the people’ angle. I also knew that The Terran Solar News Miner was paying the Citizens handsomely for my service. I agreed not to disclose any tactical secrets, and we were off on an illicit hunt to smuggle in more helium. [Read more...]

Astronomy Video of the Week: An EPIC Moon ‘Photobombs’ the Earth

The Moon transits the face of the Earth courtesy of DSCOVR.

Image credit: NASA/NOAA

By now, you’ve seen last month’s amazing animation courtesy of NASA. The newly launched Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) captured this beautiful sequence last month on July 16th showing the Moon transiting the face of our fair planet. DSCOVR sits about a million miles away – four times the Earth-Moon distance – at the sunward L1 Lagrange point as it monitors the Earth. The images were taken using the Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC), and the entire sequence spans just about five hours time. [Read more...]