Thursday, January 8, 2015

Horizon: the real life PALs

In Horizon, each of the stellarnauts have their own PAL, a ball-shaped personal assistant that hovers in the zero G environment using small fans and allows the stellarnauts to talk to each other via video and audio link as well as acting as a recorder.

It's a cool concept and, like pretty much everything in the novel, it's based on actual scientific development.

In 2006, DARPA and NASA began developing football sized SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold Engage Re-Orient Experimental Satellites), which were upgraded in 2013 to be controlled by a smartphone on the ISS.

The latest news is that, like the PALs, they will soon be capable of autonomous movement following the installation of a wi-fi network on the ISS. Each SPHERES robot is powered by 16 AA batteries and moves using jets of compressed CO2.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015: continuing The Lenticular, expanding Horizon, consolidating Dimension6

Everyone seems to be getting oriented towards the new year as we take stock of achievements in 2014, recharge our batteries and think about what comes next.

Certainly for me the key piece of work will be honing the second draft of book two of The Lenticular series, and plotting out book three. I'm really looking forward to building on the bones of what I have already and I've invested in Scrivener to help me do that. Usually I'm a pen and paper man, so it will be interesting to see how this software changes the way I work.

The other thing that I'll be working on is a new and expanded version of Horizon. Yes, I know, Horizon is already out there but I like the idea of reworking things. No piece of writing is ever truly finished and musicians certainly have no problem revisiting and reinterpreting their own work, so why not authors?

There's a couple of things that have got me thinking about this. The core of Horizon was actually written around 2005, now a whole ten years ago! As a first novel it was a feat just to get all the characters meshing together and the plot working. Time moves on and the core would be very different if I wrote it today. The other thing that's got me thinking is some of the reviews that Horizon has received. While the reception has been on the whole positive - you can't please everyone - there's been some consistent comments coming through about wanting to experience more about what is occuring on Earth, and also to get into the heads of some of the other characters, in particular my transhuman, Bren. I'm excited by the possibilities and challenges that presents me as a writer. And I think Scrivener will be a help here too. The other thing in the back of my mind is that while Horizon was sold as a digital book, with an option for a print version down the track, I don't really expect a print version will be produced by HarperCollins because I don't think sales will be that strong. However, print rights revert to me in 2016, which presents me with an opportunity to publish a print version of Horizon, but one that is significantly expanded and maybe - who knows - with a whole new ending.

My final focus for 2015 will be working to consolidate Dimension6. I'm committed to making this magazine part of the Australian speculative scene for years to come. That's a lot of work, but it also has it's rewards. For example my last round of reading brought quite a few really good stories to the top of the pile, some from writers I hadn't heard of before. That's really exciting and I'm looking forward to sharing their unique voices and talents with you in the coming months. I'm still waiting on signed contracts from a number of authors but I can reveal a partial line-up at least for 2015.

Dimension6 issue 4 (27 March 2015)
'Dark History' by Jen White

Dimension6 issue 5 (3 July 2015)
'The Pass' by Jessica May Lin
'Red in Tooth and Claw'  by David McDonald

Dimension6 issue 6 (2 October 2015)
'Lodloc and the Bear' by Steve Cameron