Tag Archives: Cyan

351. Who Is Listening?

When EDGE accepted Cyan for publication, I was less than enthused about publishing in eBook format. I’ve changed my mind.

It wasn’t the notion that science fiction authors should embrace technology that got to me. It was who responded to my website.

Building a website has been a learning experience, and I sometimes feel I’ve only begun. At first, no one was reading, but I expected that. Eventually, views began. Even later, likes began. I kept writing. I knew that gaining readership is a long-haul process.

I found it addictive to view the websites of the people who responded to me. One of the most surprising things I found was the number of respondents who were clearly from somewhere in the world other than America.

I regularly put out eight posts a week, many of which require research, and I have a life to live. That doesn’t leave me a lot of time to spend under the hood of WordPress, but I did find 

           https://wordpress.com/stats/day/(insert your own url here) 

which lets you click see how many views and visitors you had on any given day. More interesting, it shows a map that tells you which countries those views came from.

I was blown away.

To be specific, these are the results from this year, January 1 through April 21.

USA                    45%
Canada              28%
India                   8%
Australia            5%
U K                      4%
Switzerland       3%
South Africa       2%
Hong Kong       about 1%
Morocco           about 1%
Ukraine             about 1%
Romania          about 1%
Singapore        about 1%
Ireland             about 1%
Czech Rep.      less than 1%
Spain               less than 1%
Philippines      less than 1%
Japan               less than 1%
Kenya              less than 1%
Germany         less than 1%
Jordan             less than 1%
Israel               less than 1%

Global, indeed.

So, back to the initial statement — Yes, I would like to have Cyan on every bookstore shelf and in every library, not just available on line. However, no matter what happens from now on, I will insist that whatever I publish in the future will also be released as an eBook.

This goes back the the very beginning, to my childhood. Growing up on a farm, at first I had only G&D books (Tom Swift and the like) purchased from a local hobby store. Then I found the county library. I didn’t see a real bookstore until I was in college.

Those books were my window to the world.

Today, a book hungry young person with access to the internet can find — and afford — eBooks, even if her or she lives in India, South Africa, or Ukraine. I like that, and I’m proud to be part of it.

350. Master Basho’s Dojo (2)

Regular readers will notice that these posts are coming later in the day.

Keir, back from Cyan, has found Uke Tomiki after his disappearance. You really should read yesterday’s post first, if you missed it.

They ate supper with the master of the dojo as the evening fog rolled in to mask the hillside and hide the view of the slum. The old man introduced himself as Basho. At Keir’s puzzled expression, he explained, “The name is familiar, perhaps? Basho was a seventeenth century poet, famed for his haiku. I took his name when I opened this dojo. I was born under another name.”

They sat on tatami and ate rice with scraps of vegetables and fish. It was not fancy, but there was plenty of it. Keir suspected Uke’s back salary assured that.

Keir had wanted privacy to talk to Uke, but the master of the dojo was soon engrossed in his meal, and ignored them so completely that it was as if they were alone.

Keir said, “Uke, I need you.”

“For what, Keir?”

“Will you come with us to Cyan?”

“Of course,” Uke smiled. “I was only waiting for you to ask.”

“Why did you wait? You knew that you would be welcome.”

Uke looked serene, but it was apparent that it was a hard won serenity. Much pain lay beneath it. He said, “Keir, my arrogance almost cost you your life. Or made your life a thing not worth living.”

“How so.”

“My testimony.”

“You were in pain, and you only told what you knew.”

Uke shook his head. “No. If I had acknowledged my pain, I would have never put you in danger. I hid my pain, hid my uncertainty, and attacked the court-martial board. Their whole lives were dedicated to the acquisition of power, and I threw in their faces the fact that they had no power over me. If I had gone in meekly, they would have treated me gently, and I would never have been badgered into giving them the testimony they used against you.”

“You can’t blame yourself for what they did. I don’t.”

“Blame is not the issue, Keir. I cannot control what they were and what they did. But I should be able to control what I am and what I do – and I didn’t. I attacked when I should have been silent. I would never jump a kavine with my bare hands, because I recognize its danger. I did not recognize the danger that panel represented. Worse, I did not realize that my attack would put you in danger. And I should have.”

“And so . . .?”

“And so, I compounded my failure. I went from stupidity to stupidity. For a while, after the trial, I spent my time drinking, taking drugs, and walking dark streets alone, as if I were searching for death so that I would not have to face my failure. Eventually, I came to my senses and returned here, to regain my balance.”

“Returned?”

Uke nodded. Keir pushed his empty rice bowl aside and said, “When Stephan told me you had come here, we agreed that it was unlike you. You never seemed to have much feeling for your Japanese heritage.”

“That is largely true. My father was a fifth generation citizen of USA. He and his elder brother were most unlike one another. His brother embraced zen, became a black belt in several disciplines and spent much of his adult life in Japan. My father, on the other hand, loved football, beer, and everything American. What he knew about Japan, he learned in college. When he became ambassador, he went to Japan as much a foreigner as if his name had been John Smith. And I am my father’s son.”

“But . . .?”

“But even as a boy, I loved my uncle and, odd as his ways seemed to me, I spent time with him when he returned to San Francisco to found a dojo.”

They were silent for a moment, and the old man raised his chopsticks in a kind of salute. Keir said, “How old are you, Uncle?”

With mock formality, Uke’s uncle replied, “I have had the privilege of seeing the year ’06 once before, although I was too young to remember it.”

“Uke, are you ready to take on the world again?” Keir asked.

Uke looked toward his uncle, who nodded and said, “It is time.”

This is your last freebie. What are you waiting for – go download Cyan.

349. Master Basho’s Dojo (1)

What! You haven’t downloaded Cyan yet? It’s been available for weeks.

OK, I understand. You want one last tease. Since you insist, here is Keir, on Earth, looking for his friend and crew mate Uke Tomiki after he has disappeared.

Keir took the jumper to the San Jose airport, and the Rapitrans to within ten blocks of Uke’s dojo. It was not actually in San Francisco, but south fifty kilometers in the hills overlooking Santa Cruz. Until fifty years ago, the hills had been covered with redwoods, but not even the most stringent conservation measures could stand against the urban guerrillas who slipped in at night to chop away at their half meter thick bark. In twenty years of nightly battering, the trees had died one by one, and as each one fell, shacks took its place. Now the forest of giants had given way to a forest of slum housing, growing like mushrooms on the bones of the ancient trees.

Keir found his way through the roadless maze of polyfoam, packing crates, cardboard, and stucco, with starving children staring like beasts from the darkened holes that passed for doorways.

The dojo was built of grey wood, laboriously split and sawed from the bodies of the downed giants. Three living redwoods remained, towering above the rubble, protecting the dojo from the sun, and in turn being protected by the ones who lived there. The dojo was a low, open building. Some of the inner parts were protected from sight by moveable screens. A stern young woman with a staff stood in the doorway, and made him wait while she sent word of his coming to those inside.

A young boy led him inside. Keir wondered if he was there to seek enlightenment, or food.

He was met by a wizened old man with sparse black hair and a wispy goatee, who was not quite the cliché Keir had expected, but close. They bowed slightly to each other, and Keir said, “I have come to see Uke Tomiki.”

“I have been expecting you.”

Keir raised an eyebrow and the old man’s face broke into a smile. “No,” he said, “it is not mysticism. I had not been expecting you, personally, but it was clear that eventually one of Uke’s friends would come for him. He is not the kind of man the world leaves in peace for long. A dojo such as this could never be his home; only a brief resting place. I will take you to him.”

The little man led Keir beyond the screens. There, a dozen men and women of various ages sat zazen, in two rows, facing an altar covered with flowers. Uke was third from the left in the back row, and he did not notice them when they came in. Keir looked at the old man, but got no help. He was simply waiting to see what Keir would do.

Uke had taught them all the pose of zen meditation, so Keir knelt quietly at the side of the room, mimicking their stance, but he did not attempt to meditate. He simply waited, watching the ones who were meditating. The old man considered him for a moment longer, then left quietly.

An hour passed. These people did not chant, so the only sound was the buzzing of flies and the distant, indecipherable sound of voices in the slum beyond the dojo. At first Keir considered Uke in his new surroundings, then he reviewed the work he had to do for the remainder of the week. It would take months of perseverance to achieve the no-mind state these people were searching for. You couldn’t just step in off the street and meditate successfully, so Keir did not attempt it.

Eventually, the old man came back and struck a gong. The meditators opened their eyes, shook their heads and began to swim back up to the world they had temporarily left. Keir was watching Uke when he stood and became aware of Keir. At first he seemed still off in that dreamy place, but suddenly his eyes cleared and a smile came to his face. He crossed the room, hand outstretched, and at the last moment, changed his mind and embraced Keir, saying, “My God, how I have missed you.”

To be completed in tomorrow’s post.

340. Federated Space Service

Regular readers will note that posts now come later in the day.

A week ago today, Cyan was delivered to those who preordered from Amazon, and went on regular sale. If you’ve read past the opening segment, you know that the explorers who returned to Earth found it greatly changed.

From Cyan: All seemed well, on the surface, but something profound was happening to the people of Earth. They were waking up to reality. When interstellar exploration had begun, few had taken it seriously. Now the process was flushed with success, and that success carried the seeds of its own downfall.

Suddenly, all over Earth, people who had been indifferent to space travel, except to mutter about a waste of resources, became truly aware of what was happening. And they didn’t like it. In the vague common mind of the beast, numbers began to move in slow, painful calculations.

A few thousand colonists; billions of the rest of us.

They — the rich, the powerful, the smart, the educated, the lucky — they will go to the stars and walk the green valleys of paradise. We — the downtrodden, the ordinary, the workers, the plodders, the ones who really make things happen, the ones who always get screwed — in short, you and me. We will stay behind.

In the general elections of 2103, and in a hundred scattered elections and revolutions in 2104, the people of Earth turned on their leaders and said with a loud voice that the spacers who brought in the ore from the belt, and the workers of L-5, and especially those who were finding new worlds, were no longer heroic friends but dangerous enemies. They would no longer be given freedom to do as they pleased, but would be harnessed to the common good.

This was the Earth Darwin returned to in 2105. When Tasmeen signaled Ganymede Station, she received a taped reply.

“Welcome home, Darwin. You will find the language of this year somewhat different from when you left. When the Dog Star returned in 2088, we found that it would be best to train comtechs in the jargon of your departure year, and that is the reason for this tape.

“The biggest change you will have to be ready for is that NASA no longer exists … because after the general elections of 2103 the people of North America decided to combine all space efforts into one military organization. You are all now members of the Federated Space Service.”

Tasmeen said, “I have a bad feeling about this.”

– – – – – – – – – – –

In point of fact, on our world, the war between NASA and the Air Force began on October 1. 1958, the day NASA came into existence and began to encroach on Air Force prerogatives. We’ll look at some of those early battles this week.

334. Making Videos for Cyan

I know from visiting your websites, that a lot, maybe most, of you either are or want to be writers. I’ve talked about some of the mechanics of that, especially in posts 133 and 134. During the last month, I’ve learned some more about how books are marketed in the age of the internet. I’ve had to make videos.

That proved harder than I thought it would, partly because of technology. Don’t think I’m a Luddite – I’ve been a computer nut since 1986 – but I don’t own a video camera. i don’t have kids to record as they grow, and I have no interest is seeing myself moving about on the computer screen.

Most of those who make videos to promote their books do so on their smart phones. I don’t have a smart phone. It is my firm belief that Alexander Graham Bell was an emissary of the Devil. I communicate the way God intended, by email, where I can correct my mistakes before I push send.

I finally used the camera built into my Mac. It makes a shaky, Skype-like picture, but that works well enough if you hold still and go into talking-head mode.

I didn’t want to ramble, so I wrote a script and tried out some videos. They stank (that’s the grammatically correct word that morphed into stunk about twenty years ago). It turns out that a glib, casual, conversational tone takes a hell of a lot of rewrites. I should have remembered that. I had to learn it two years ago when I wrote my first posts. I don’t mean numbers 1, 2, 3 . . .. I mean the ones you never saw because I trash-canned them.

Writing two masters theses and a bunch of novels did not prepare me to write posts. I had to learn a whole new, casual style. This month I learned that written-casual is not the same as spoken-casual — even if it is written as a script before it is spoken. It took quite a few tries to make the transition.

Eventually I made three videos for Brian at EDGE and he will put them on Youtube. They are an introduction to Cyan, the story of why I wrote Cyan, and a reading from Cyan. The first is already up; click here.

I’ve also tacked on the script I used in the Introduction to Cyan.

____________________

Hi. Welcome to my world, or at least to one of them. I’ve always been a fan of near future novels of exploration. There are so many things about traveling at sub-light speed that make for a great story.

Besides, it won’t be long until scientists have charted the actual planets around all the nearby stars. Then we won’t be able to make up our own planets.

Put those ideas together and you have Cyan, which is the name of me newest novel and the name of the planet that it takes place on.

In the year 2080 a crew of five men and five women, scientists all, set out for Procyon where they find a planet that stands straight up in orbit, with bands of unvarying climates. About 45 degrees north, is paradise.

But paradise with teeth — virgin, wild, beautiful, but very dangerous. Keir, our crewleader’s task is to keep his fellow explorers alive. He’s good at his job, but on a planet crowded with predators, that may not be enough.

For these scientists from vastly overcrowded earth, after years confined within the starship, the beauty and emptiness of Cyan is intoxicating.

They have one year to decide if Cyan is suitable for colonists, and it turns out to be perfect. But then one of the scientists picks up a flaked stone. This is not a natural occurrence. Someone, or some thing, has made it.

The explorers have discovered the Cyl.

The Cyl are a stone age group. They look nothing like man and their intelligence is low, but they are about to become much more. Evolution moves quickly under Procyon’s intense radiation, and the Cyl are poised to make the leap to full intelligence.

Earth needs Cyan to ease its massive population, and the Cyl need to be left alone to find their own destiny. Lines are drawn among the explorers and the resolution of the problem threatens to tear them apart.

____________________

When you get your copy of Cyan, you will see that this introduction actually only covers the first fifth of the novel. Giving a full summary would have made the video far too long.

331. Solitaire for Ten

Cyan is now available for pre-order through Amazon, with the eBook arriving April 17th. Meanwhile, I plan to repeat a few year old-posts that were designed to stir the blood of would-be readers just before an earlier release date that didn’t happen. This is one of them.

————————————-

In the novel Cyan, the starship Darwin carries ten explorers at relativistic speeds to explore the Procyon system.

Ten explorers, eleven light years from Earth. As the only humans on the entire planet Cyan, the death of any one is sure to send shock waves reverberating through the group.

Keir Delacroix, groundside leader of the explorers tried to put this into perspective upon the death of one of his colleagues. You will note a deleted name, to avoid a spoiler.

It seems to me that funerals are for the living, for saying things that we already know, to put life and death in perspective and find some comfort.

“We are alone here. We are more alone than any other humans have ever been. When one of us hurts, we all hurt. When one of us dies, a piece of the whole dies. We must be very careful with one another, because we are all we have.

“We come from an Earth that is overflowing with people. One death there is nothing. Had **** stayed behind, and died, no one would have noticed. Here, that death puts our whole world out of balance. And that is why we are on Cyan — to find a world where individual lives can be valuable again. At least, that is why I am here. Not as a scientist; not even as an explorer; but as a man searching for a place where humanity can find its soul again.

Death is a hungry beast, seldom satisfied with just one victim. And exploring a new planet is no safe endeavor.

—————————————

When pioneers arrived on the east coast of North America, the forest they faced was vast. It was later said that a squirrel could travel from the Atlantic to the Mississippi without ever having to touch the ground. That forest is no more.

When Heinlein’s pioneers reached the stars, flaming laser axes in hand, they wrought similar destruction. Today’s reader would not accept that.

I wrote Cyan as an exercise in seeing, not what could happen, but what probably would happen, in near-term stellar exploration. That includes both the pressures for colonization from an overcrowded Earth, and a knowledge of the ecological disasters which need to be avoided.

The explorers on Cyan are careful in their daily actions and in planning for future colonization, but they are not prepared to find a truly half-human species. Viki Johanssen, crew anthropologist, demands that Cyan be placed off limits to colonization, for their sake. Keir disagrees, and colonization plans go forward.

Viki is faced with a decision. What if she stayed behind when the Darwin returned, to study these creatures while they were still pristine, before human colonists come in? What would you do, if you knew that mankind’s only chance to study this half-human species was now, even at the expense of becoming the only person on an entire planet, certainly for decades, perhaps forever?

Would you choose to stay behind?

328. Still not a Frog or a Kangaroo

220px-Litoria_tyleri    220px-RedRoo

Cyan is now available for pre-order through Amazon, with the eBook arriving April 17th. Meanwhile, I plan to repeat a few year old-posts that were designed to stir the blood of would-be readers just before an earlier release date that didn’t happen. This is one of them.

——————————————-

Flashback: 1963, riding in a car, reading an article, probably by Arthur C. Clarke, on why humans should go into space. A little fish, swimming in shallow water, said to his father, “Why don’t we go up on the land and see what we can find?” The father fish responded, “Why would you want to do that?”

I read the passage out loud, but no one was interested, so I relapsed into nerdy silence.

Years later I found that the now accepted theory is that fish in shallow waters, accustomed to using their fins against the sea bottom, began to use them to navigate mud flats at low tide as mud skippers still do in mangrove swamps today. Legs evolved from fins.

It didn’t happen this way on Cyan. (This is a follow-on to posts 320 and 321. If you missed them, we’ll wait for you to read them. Done? Good.)

On the planet Cyan, hundreds of millions of years ago, primitive chordates developed a split vertebral column, which resulted in twin tails. When they moved onto land, their tiny front steering fins were never used for locomotion and their twin tails (they had no back fins) became legs.

As Gus Lienhoff said when he dissected the first one Cyanian creature the explorers had collected:

Look, no pelvis. Look at this complex of bones. Some are fused, some flex, and these four are cantilevered. And look up here; no scapulae, just three extra thick, specialized vertebrae. Tiny front legs, powerful back legs with twice as many joints as you would expect, and absolutely no hint of a tail. Not even anything like a coccyx. A truly tailless, truly hopping biped. I wouldn’t have believed such a thing was possible.

Not a frog, not a kangaroo.

Frogs are quadrupeds with overdeveloped hind legs, like rabbits. They have a vestigial tail, like a human coccyx. If you look at a frog’s skeleton, it looks a bit like a massively deformed human. They can leap, but they also walk.

Kangaroos have a five-legged gait when walking. They lift up on a tripod made of small front legs and a powerful tail to shift their massive hind legs forward. Then they stand balanced on their hind legs while moving their forelegs and tail forward. 3 – 2 – 3 – 2, etc. When they run, they depend on their tail for balance, just as some dinosaurs used a massive tail to keep their foreparts from tipping forward.

Cyanian bipeds, from the simplest to the most complex are hoppers. They all have short, grasping forelimbs; not quite T-rex hands, perhaps, but too weak to knuckle walk, as apes do. They can move miles with grace and speed, but moving inches puts them into a condition of stumbling clumsiness. There are tree dwelling tailless bipeds on Cyan; how they navigate is a mystery I didn’t get around to investigating.

When a trio of Cyl (intelligent Cyanian creatures created through recombinant DNA – its a long story) first enter a human habitat . . .

They were awkward inside the dome where the furnishings of the place made a maze for them to negotiate. As bounders, they were creatures of the unobstructed open plain. This human habitation was utterly foreign to them, not because of the steel from which it was made, or the interlocking triangles of its geodesic construction, but because it was cluttered. How could one hope to move about in it?

I explained all this to the artist who did the cover for Cyan. I also sent a crude sketch of what I had in mind, with many disclaimers about my (non)skills as an artist. The resulting cover shows a Cyl slightly different from my vision, but better. That’s what good SF cover artists do. However, it is an upper body portrait, so the secret of bipedal tailless hopping remains unresolved.

If I really want to know how it works – and I do – I would have to construct a skeletal robot and see how he moves. But there is no way I’m going to have that much free time anywhere in my near future. I have too many other books to write.