Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Ho Ho Holographic Universe? Guest blog by A.E. Williams

Well, it’s that time of year again: the time when ancient pagan rituals are subsumed by a mad rush to capitalist excess, religious introspection, old animated cartoons with questionable moral values and a plethora of musical assaults about improbable procreative events leading to the founding of paradigms.
But, none of that really matters…

Frequent visitors to the Speculative Fiction Showcase realize that there are certain odd things about the universe in which we live. For instance, why is it that, despite our best efforts, we cannot view other people’s dreams in ‘real time?’
Dreams make no sense, when told to someone else.
You: “I was floating in the ocean, only it was blood pudding, and the sharks were inflatable toy sausages, painted in paisley patterns. They had those eyes, those unseeing doll’s eyes… And, then, one tried to bite me, but I ate it instead. It made me gassy, and the next thing you know, I am in orbit around a neutron star!”
Your now worried friend: “Umm. That’s…interesting. Say, did you drink or take ‘shrooms last night before bedtime?”
You: “This means something!”
Your now concerned friend (muttered under their breath): “It means you’re a loony!”
You: “What? I didn’t hear that?”
Your soon-to-be-ex friend: “Sorry, I just was thinking about all this awful holiday music, and how it’ less ‘tune-ey’ than other kinds of music, like Gregorian chants, or that song by Mozart that’s pretty filthy.”
You (annoyed and irritated): “That reminds me, what are you getting me for Christmas?”
Your now almost non-friend: “A push on the UNFRIEND button…”

We can learn nothing from these kinds of communications.

But, in the physical realm, there are equally puzzling interactions.
Let’s take a look, shall we?

DARK MATTER – Despite space being mostly, uh, space, and empty, and a vacuum (presumably, see below), physicists and other people who spend a lot of time exploring this kind of thing say that the mass of the Universe doesn’t compute. That, in order to explain gravity (also see below) and the physics of celestial mechanics properly, that there is some huge missing quantity of matter that would allow the calculations to be properly described.
So, the concept was put forth about dark matter. This is some kind of special matter that solves the problem mathematically, but has not really been proven as existing. Like, we can’t detect it, see it or measure it directly. It’s all about gravity lensing, and how things ‘should’ work.
Unfortunately, we haven’t the technology to prove it, just yet.
But that doesn’t stop us from discovering new things almost every day!
Like a new universal force![1]

FIFTH FORCE – recently, some scientists were looking for dark matter and discovered something completely different. In physics, there are four observed fundamental forces or interactions that form the basis of all known interactions in nature: gravitational, electromagnetic, strong nuclear, and weak nuclear forces.
But, just last month, November 2019,[2] a team of scientists in Hungary reported that their scientific measurements had made observations regarding isotopes of Helium and Beryllium that seem to indicate the existence of this fifth force of nature.
Can the X17 particle bring about agreement between classical physics and quantum physics?
Stay tuned!

GRAVITY – Gravity is just this guy, you know? It manages to be everywhere and yet mysterious. It attracts objects to each other, and is mathematically consistent. What it is, however, remains an enigma.
For instance – why would light be unable to escape a black hole, because photons are massless, right? Yet, gravity is blamed as the reason for this. Gravity acts on mass. And, apparently, some other attribute of matter.
And, another interesting thing about gravity is the way objects cannot repel each other. Magnets repel. Electrical forces can repel. But gravity? Nope.

VACUUM - Just what is a vacuum? Is it the absence of ‘everything?’ That seems unlikely, right? I mean, think about the fact that, even in interstellar space, there are nebulae, debris from exploded stars, whatever the black holes are tossing out from their event horizons and probably some dead aliens.
Despite the vast distances involved, the space between things is littered with stuff. So, technically, NOT a vacuum!

SPACE - This is one of those times when a pithy Douglass Adams’ quote springs readily to mind:
“Oh, no! Not again!”[3]
I am speaking about space as it is the thing keeping everything else apart.
The Bible tells us that there are the Heavens and Earth, and mentions the ‘firmament,’ which is where the stars reside, one imagines. What if the firmament were actually another dimension of space-time fabric? Some very famous scientists posited that, and some very famous science fiction authors used it as a plot device in their stories.
In the early 1900’s there was a concept known as the ‘ether’ or ‘aether’ depending on which expert you read.
This was a material that existed in our Universe that kept things orderly. Physical objects, such as planets and stars, (and us) were on the ethereal plane. But, beneath that was the sub-ether. You still hear this kind of term bandied about in science fiction, usually as hyper-space or sub-space, but it was around a long time before “Star Trek” was even a gleam in Gene Roddenberry’s eye.
The idea of the ether has been dismissed as an inaccurate model for our Universe. However, we seem to keep stumbling upon ideas that had been discarded long ago, and then rediscovered and repurposed for today’s existence.
Concrete and Damascus steel provide two examples of this.
Why not the ether?

TIME – By this I am referring to the idea that Einstein and Hawking posited, ie that time exists to make sure everything doesn’t happen at once.
But what IS it?
We can measure it, just as we measure temperature, on an abstract gauge of values that we created to instill some order to where we live. You can say “It is hot.” People may argue about how hot, or cold, it actually is, but we all understand the concept of temperature.
Time is defined similarly.
“It is young,” means that something is new, or newish. The opposite of that is “It is old.” And, again, we have created some arbitrary means of measuring this concept of time.
If you look, you see that things can be heated up. Then, they cool down. There is a direction component, a vector, regarding temperature, that is based on the thermodynamic equilibrium of a system. Energy is imparted, then dissipates. Second law, entropy, and all that…
But time?
Time’s arrow only moves forward, in our reality. Sure, we can simulate it going ‘backwards,’ but that is only an illusion.
Time travel is difficult not in that it may seem impossible, but in that it doesn’t really follow the same entropic rules as everything else. This is one of those factors that seem to make sense until you really think about it.
Like, if time decayed and went to some hypothetical ‘time zero,’ would it mean that all motion freezes? Does energy cease to exist? Would matter stop resonating or vibrating or whatever it is that string theory decides?
These are important questions. They may give us glimpses into why the Universe acts as it does.
But for now, they are just ideas to contemplate under the starry skies of the cool, crisp winter moon.

You really have to ask the question “Why, in a day and age that 97% of scientists have reached consensus on climate change, that tracking Santa Claus is still a thing?”
Seriously, and not to diminish your enjoyment of a fictitious, arbitrary celebration confiscated and mutated by various religions from the Druids and Celts, why does the United States military perform this silly task?
Unless…it’s not silly.
This is one of the things I add to my ever-growing list of things that are unbelievable, but still occur.
For example, here is a list of skeptical counter-arguments vis a vis AGW:

  1. Insurance companies are still insuring coastal properties.
  2. Most previous predictions have been incorrect or wildly inaccurate.[4]
  3. The US Military, while concerned with climate change, is mostly interested in weather control for tactical and strategic reasons.
  4. Food production is only going to increase as the Earth warms, so that’s a good thing?
  5. My farm will one day become waterfront property!
  6. Hollywood fiction, while somewhat entertaining, is just FICTION.
  7. Santa Clause is magic.
With these factors in mind, put me down in the “still not a climate change believer” column.
And, finally, for your reading enjoyment, a brief weather forecast from the North Forty.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the mid-80’s in North Central Florida!

It was 31F on Tuesday morning.

A.E. Williams
High Springs, Florida
December 5, 2019

About A.E. Williams:

 A.E. Williams has a unique background of military experience, aerospace engineering and intelligence analysis. 
Born near Pittsburgh, A.E. Williams is man of a mystery. As a young man, Williams served the United States government in various capacities, which he then followed with ten years as an outfitter. Williams finally retired and moved down to rural central Florida, where he ran a medium - sized tilapia farm. He did his writing at night, usually accompanied by a bottle of Maker's Mark bourbon and a large supply of Classic Dr. Pepper and ice.
A.E. Williams is the author of the exciting hard science fiction series Terminal Reset, which is about the effects of a mysterious force from billions of miles away from Earth that was formed millions of years ago. When The Wave strikes, everything changes! 

[1] Cue ‘Star Wars’ theme!
[3] Agrajag, as a bowl of petunias.
[4] Paul Erlich’s “The Population Bomb,” Alvin Toffler’s “Future Shock,” and John Naisbitt’s “Megatrends” have fared poorly in predicting the future. As opposed to my own 2019 predictions, which are 98% true!

Monday, December 9, 2019

Interview with Alexandra L. Yates, author of Humans, Volume 1: The Mark

Today it gives the Speculative Fiction Showcase great pleasure to interview Alexandra L. Yates, author of Humans, Volume 1: The Mark

Your first career was working in finance and travelling the world. What started you on the journey that led you to where you are now and the writing of Humans, Volume 1?

I’ve already had two careers, most recently working in an activist NGO trying to protect the environment. The ability to switch careers taught me that, so long as we work hard to learn new things and are willing to adapt, it is possible to change and do whatever we want. Writing is my third career and came from an intersection of interests: I love reading and always dreamt to write, I wanted to spend more time at home with my children, and I wanted to produce something that could be positive for young people.

Let’s talk about your first book, Humans, Volume 1: The Mark. Your web-site describes it as “post-apocalyptic science fiction adventure”. What inspired you to write in this genre, and what audience would you like to read it?

I remember watching the popular movie WALL-E with my children years ago and thinking “Wow! This is a movie for children but with such a powerful message!” Science fiction allows you to be completely free in your creative process, and I guess I like this complete freedom.
The main target audience is clearly teenagers and young adults. But a lot of us still retain a youthful and idealistic outlook even as we get older!

The novel is set in 2125 and follows the adventures of eight young adults. But their future is based on a cataclysmic event in 2025, the Ecological Wars. So their past is our (near) future. What led you to imagine the story in those terms?

Working in a campaigning NGO, I spent quite some time thinking about the future and potential solutions that would lead to a peaceful and green future. What happens in my book in 2025 is exactly what should not happen, of course; but as a fiction writer, I let my imagination run wild thinking about what the world could look like in 100+ years if the worst-case scenario happened.

How did you deal with the idea of having eight main characters? Do you follow them all or focus on one or two?

I wanted to create diverse characters so each young adult reader could identify themselves in the book, and I follow each of them. Their personas develop throughout the series, and I wanted them to surprise me. I have tried to create multi-layered characters and, for me, their flaws are actually what makes them most interesting.

The introduction to the book describes the main characters as “destined to become leaders of the Red World Government”. This left me wondering whether the Red World is another planet, or a transformed earth. Can you say anything about this or would that involve spoilers?

That definitively would be a spoiler! You’ll just have to wait until further along in the story.

Is it safe to say that matters of climate change and ecological catastrophe in the here and now are an important driving force behind the novel?

In ‘This Changes Everything’, Naomi Klein explains that what we are experiencing now with climate change should be a civilizational wakeup call and a catalyst for transformation. We are at a moment of acute danger for the future of our human species and I want to be part of the climate action that helps pull us back from the brink. Writing this book is a way of being part of this movement.

What led you to write a science fiction story in particular, and why did that genre attract you?

As a teenager, I had so much pleasure (and sleepless nights!) from reading science fiction. I wanted to reproduce this feeling, not just for me, but for others as well.

On your web-site, you have a playlist or soundtrack for your book. Can you tell us a little about the soundtracks you chose, and why? Do any of the characters have their own leitmotif?

Music helps stimulate my imagination. Each part of the book was written while I listened to a specific song. When writing, I choose a song that corresponds to the mood that I’m trying to create, and listen again and again and again, sometimes for a whole month, and as soon as I listen to the song, I move into a kind of meditative state and I am back in the book. The theme song of Volume 1 is Something Just like This by The Chainsmokers and Coldplay. For Volume 2, it is Scared to be Lonely by Martin Garrix and Dua Lipa.

Will there be a sequel to Humans: The Mark and when can we expect it?

I am planning 4 books. Volume 2: Those Who Have the Mark will be out this month. I am actually very happy with the second one. I feared, at the start of it, that I would not be able to get the same inspiration as for the first one but somehow it worked !

Is there any science fiction writing that you enjoy, and what about current films in the genre?

As a teenager, I adored reading the Dune series from Frank Herbert and all the books of a French science fiction writer named René Barjavel. For current films, I of course like the Hunger Games and Divergent series. But for the past three years, since I started this project, I have been deliberately avoiding reading or watching science fiction, so as not to contaminate my imaginative process.

You write in French in the first instance. How do you deal with translation?

I am French but have worked nearly all my career in English, and this is also the language I mainly use with my husband. I have always continued to read fiction in French (while I read non-fiction in English), as this is my way to unwind at the end of a day. As a consequence, it was natural to write in French. But I wanted to publish in a language that my non-French speaking friends could actually read, so I decided to translate it into English as well. I finish the book in French first (fully edited) then I spend 4 weeks translating it. It is very tedious but it’s the only way to make sure the English version completely matches the French one. Then I go through several round of editing with some native English-speaking friends to fix the grammar and the style. That takes me another 6 weeks. Then, I am finally comfortable with publishing it.

You mention the importance of making women the lead characters in your writing. Why is this important to you, and is this a growing trend amongst women writers?

I have heard so many times from my daughter, my son and their friends that all the heroes in books are always boys, and even when female characters are strong, it is always the male who saves the day. I believe that literature needs more women as lead characters. This will change the perceptions of our little girls and boys, which, in turn, is critical if we want to realise true gender balance in our society.

It is odd how much pushback there seems to be about having women as ordinary characters. Odd partly because in some writing they have always been there. Why does it induce such violent reactions now?

We live in a period of great change where the role of women has evolved significantly in a very short period of time. I live in a country, Switzerland, where, in one Canton, women were only given the vote in 1971, a few years before I was born. A hundred years before that, women had no say at all in how society was run. Such rapid change over a few generations (in the context of the history of humanity), whatever change it would be, would induce violent reactions for those who have less resilience and are afraid of change and how it will affect them.

What are you reading now, and are there any films or TV series that you love?

I am reading the first book of Arnaldur Indriðason, Sons of Dust, who is an amazing Icelandic writer of crime fiction. I just finished the first season of Designated Survivor. I love it when I can’t go to bed because I have to finish a book or watch the next episode of a series. I am trying, in my books, to get the reader hooked and desperate to learn the secret, hence why I try to introduce mystery into the novels.

What are you planning next on the literary front? And do you have real concerns for 2025 and beyond?

Volume 2: Those Who Have the Mark will be out this month, and I am already writing the third. I hope to publish the third book next year, and the fourth one in 2021. I have to rush and finish the series before 2025! More seriously, I have tremendous concerns for the world we are damaging for our children, but I believe in them. The next generation sees the world differently, they are resilient and creative, and they will hopefully find the solutions where we have failed so far.

About Alexandra L. Yates:

Alexandra L. Yates started her career in finance working for a number of major international companies in France, Germany and the UK. After the birth of her two children, she was inspired to join an international NGO in Amsterdam and help make the world a better place for them to live. Now, she is embracing a new challenge through writing, and her debut novel is dedicated to all those fighting to save the planet. She currently resides in the canton of Vaud in Switzerland with her husband and children.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for December 6, 2019

It's time for the latest weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web, this week with the best SFF novels of 2019 and the decade, The Mandalorian, The Rise of Skywalker and Star Wars in general, His Dark Materials, Watchmen, tributes to D.C. Fontana, the Christine Feehan trademark scandal and much more. 

Speculative fiction in general:

 Best of 2019 and the decade:

Tributes to D.C. Fontana: 

Film and TV:

Comments on The Mandalorian, The Rise of Skywalker and Star Wars in general (warning: spoilers):

Comments on His Dark Materials:

Comments on the latest version of Watchmen:


Writing, publishing and promotion:



Classics reviews: 

Con and event reports: 


Science and technology:

Free online fiction:

Odds and ends: 

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Autumn on Mars (The Four Seasons Cycle, Book 1) by SMA

Release date: November 24, 2019
Subgenre: Science Fiction Romance, LGBTQ Science Fiction

About Autumn on Mars:


Tripp doesn't know who he is, how he got here, or why this gorgeous man with dark eyes is the only familiar thing in sight.

But he does know this:

It's Autumntide on Mars and love is in the air!

—Embrace the wonders of Fall in this dreamy and evocative MM seasonal romance—
Louisa May Alcott meets the science fantasy of Ray Bradbury!

Tripp is a young employee of the Division, corporate authority in the Crater region. Reserved and sardonic, he's inexplicably drawn to Dolan—a goofy, enthusiastic romantic with a body made to remember.

But it's not just strong arms pulling Tripp toward this onyx-eyed man. Both colleagues are victims of amnesia caused by their recent interplanetary re-assignment. Though they don't even recognize themselves, they're driven by intense chemistry that feels too familiar to be coincidence ...

With work suspended for the month-long Autumntide festival, can Tripp let his walls down and learn to love—even when he's a stranger in his own head?

Experience the festivities as two lost souls find each other—again—under the ochre skies of Autumn on Mars.




“Anyway, here’s Wonderwall.”
The man standing behind him snorts, but smirks despite the sound. Where has he heard that phrase before? He taps the quipster on the back. “Do I know you?”
Mr. Wonderwall turns and grins. “Do you?” He holds out a hand, eyes running up and down the other’s body. “Dolan. Very nice to meet you, … ?”
The other shakes his head, but can’t stop the smile. He gives in and takes the proffered hand. “Tripp. Nice to meet you, Dolan.”
“I agree completely.” Dolan runs his gaze along Tripp’s body one last time, then winks and turns back to face the front of the queue.
Tripp rolls his eyes, but can’t stop the warmth from flushing up to his neck as he quickly scans those broad shoulders and strong back.
He has no intention of being charmed by some buffoon.
But, it was such a big hand …
His face goes red and he chews his bottom lip, glad Dolan has turned the other way to resume conversation with some unknown woman.
What had the man been talking about? It sounded like something from Earth That’s Been—ancient history. He doesn’t recall ever having much interest in that topic himself, but knows that it’s something of a hobby for some people. A bit of rearward-facing fantasy to keep employees entertained and occupied out here in the system.
Tripp recognizes nobody else in the queue. To be expected, having just arrived on Mars after four months in hiber-sleep. But the confusion and a sense of being unmoored is lasting longer than usual this time, after the offloading and resuscitation.
Most passengers are back to their usual selves within a day or two, but it’s been nearly a week since he disembarked … at least, he thinks it’s been that long. Time is fuzzy lately.
Employees should report such circumstances to medical authorities promptly, but Tripp doesn’t want to. He’ll feel like himself soon, he’s sure.
Anyway, a part of him has always enjoyed this period. The post-hiber haze after interplanetary travel. Inhibitions loosened. Memories scattered. Vague euphoria in the air as neurochemicals rebalance and legs remember how to navigate gravity again. As bodies remember how to live again, after so many weeks spent in suspended animation.
He forcibly halts his lip chewing.
He wants to live again.
Over the loudspeaker, some bored functionary says, “Come on, gentlefolk. Everybody wants to get out of here for the holiday. Nobody clocks out without entering the lotto. New arrivals and transfers from the last transport, to the left. Old hats to the right. Tighten that line up, got too many of you in too little space right now.”
Tripp dutifully shuffles forward a bit, close enough to start feeling the heat coming from the strong body in front of him.
Dolan glances behind and winks again.
Tripp pretends to ignore it, unconvincingly.




About the Four Seasons Cycle:  


 Four seasons. Four worlds. Four loves.

Join Tripp and Dolan as they walk the Annularity, rising each season on a new planet, in a new settlement, with no memory of their past.

But true love creates its own future.

Celebrate every major holiday of the year—and experience the magic in our own solar system—as Tripp discovers the endless bounds of a relationship so strong it transcends the stars!

They have been here before. They will be here again...

Autumn on Mars
Winter on Pluto
Spring on Titan
Summer on Europa

About SMA:

SMA writes LGBT-themed scifi from his home base in the United States. Book One of his debut series “Twisting Fates” is available now, with Book Two releasing on September 9, 2019. His untitled Four Seasons quartet will begin releasing Autumn 2019.