Category Archives: Writing

Robert A. Heinlein

One of my favorite science fiction authors, Robert A. Heinlein, died today – twenty-five years ago – on May 8th, 1988. Heinlein was one of the early pioneers and famously a guest commentator for the Apollo moon landing. In other words, he was the star among science fiction writers, and can only ever be surpassed by whoever gets to be guest commentator for the Mars landing, whenever that happens.

Heinlein became successful and famous through several “Juveniles”, books aimed at teenage boys.

I’d say that Heinlein’s most famous books are Starship Troopers – which popularized space marines and powered armor – and Stranger in a Strange Land, which fit right in with the Hippie subculture of its days.

Heinlein’s works are not without controversy; he often dealt with “taboo” topics – racism, nudism, and so on – and got decidedly weird later on, when many of his stories featured excessive amounts of incest and at least borderline pedophilia.

If you are not familiar with Heinlein’s work, I recommend the following reading list:

If you are ever going to read one Heinlein book, make it Starship Troopers – and if you have seen the terrible movie adaption, you must know that the book and the movie have almost nothing in common except for a few themes and character names etc.

I read several of Heinlein’s books before I ever realized they were written by the same guy. The Rolling Stones and Between Planets were among the earliest Science Fiction books I ever read, and especially The Rolling Stones is a great influence on what I am working on (Somnium, Dragonfly). Unfortunately I was too young to ever see Heinlein in person, and had I had the opportunity I would not have been able to have a meaningful conversation with the man. Even if I do not like his later works, I will always have great respect for Heinlein and his achievements.


NaNoWriMo 2011

Oh, right. NaNoWriMo starts in less than two months.

NaNoWriMo is the National Novel Writing Month – November, when a bunch of crazy people attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days. It’s a lot harder than it sounds.

I’ve taken part in NaNoWriMo since 2008, and made the goal in both 2008 and 2009, but a new, busy job, a new girlfriend, and illness all conspired in 2010 – I didn’t even reach 10,000 words.

I fully intend a successful comeback this year. Failure, as they say, is not an option. I intend to work on something set in my Voyagers universe, but I am still working on the specific planning.

Will anybody of you take part in NaNoWriMo? What will you write about?

Idol’s idols

“I was going to write like James Branch Cabell, which would have taken a lot of doing. Before that, I was going to write like Rafael Sabatini, and like Talbot Munday, and like Rider Haggard, and even, God help us, like Edgar Rice Burroughs. …  Eventually I decided to write like H. Beam Piper, only a little better. I am still trying.”

H. Beam Piper, The double:bill Symposium interview

NaNoWriMo 2009 "Won"

It’s done, one day ahead of schedule – I “won” NaNoWriMo 2009.

NaNoWriMo 2009 Winner

This year, it was particularly hard. Not only do I have a new job which kept me quite occupied, I also did not have any furniture at home, having just moved into a new apartment. Like last year, I encountered mental resistance to the project after some time, and just like last year I asked myself, “why the hell am I doing this?”

I am doing this, of course, to teach myself to be “creative” to a schedule. I did a better job of this than last year. I wrote on fewer days of the month than last year, and got much more done on those days. And while I did not complete the story yet, I am quite close.

What made all the difference is that I followed one of the lessons learned from last year: This time I created an outline ahead of time. Some adjustments were necessary, as I moved the story form one of my worlds to another, but these were relatively minor. I did not complete the story yet, but I am very close; another 2-3 days will get me there so unlike last year, I will get to “The End”. It’s still a crappy story, so unless I edit it into something fairly nice I won’t be posting it. 😉

I am not sure whether I will do NaNoWriMo 2010, but unless some other big project interferes, I probably will. I’ll try to take some days off of work next year, though: If I have an outline and write every day, I should be able to easily complete a story in the 30 days.

A conworld, by any other name…

…you have to worry about it actually meaning something in another language. There was the anecdote of the car company – Volkswagen, I believe; but it does not matter – which tried to sell a car brand called “Nova” in Latin America. No Va meaning “doesn’t go” or even “doesn’t work” ruined their product for them.

Whether this story is true or not doesn’t matter any more than who made this mistake. It still means that any words you invents, especially names of important places like planets or your protagonist names – need to be checked on-line. Otherwise you may add just a little more humor to your setting than you’d like.

I guess I was lucky. One of our Turkish translators tells me that “enderra”, in Turkish, means “rare”.

I can live with that.

Update: I’ve found some additional meanings of “Enderra”.

Outlining and new world map

Lately, Ive been working on the outline for my Arnâron writing project. I’m behind schedule with the writing, but after my NaNoWriMo experience I really want to nail down the outline before I write even a single line of actual story. I guess there’s no real hurry anyway. I’m on chapter 7 of 12 for my revised outline, the other 5 chapters are basically still bullet point lists.

In addition, I have been working on Thraeton, which is one of my many worlds, and intimately tied to Terra and Arnâron. Specifically, I have been working on its world map. Currently, it looks like so:

Thraeton - Plate Tectonics

One thing noteworthy about this is that I am using Google Earth for visualization. If you ever build a world, give this method a try; the .kml files are well documented and easy to craft.

Thraeton in Google Earth

You can load the current WIP of Thraeton into Google Earth using this .kml file. Enjoy!

Worldbuilding Links for January, 2009

Here’s an assortment of links you might find useful.


* Map-making tutorial using The Gimp.

Inspiration, Locations

* Photos from Paris Exhibition, 1900. In color.
* Abandoned subway stations in New York City
* The Uros people of the Titicaca lake live on floating islands, which is a cool style of living for a conpeople.

Science Fiction Stuff

* Tests have shown that it is possible to protect long-duration missions from solar wind using a magnetic shield.
* Scientists figured out that Mars’ loss of atmosphere to the pressure from solar wind isn’t a slow, gentle process; instead it is quite violent: Solar Wind Rips Up Martian Atmosphere.

NaNoWriMo 2008 Research

* Wikipedia on radioactive fallout
* Wikipedia on fallout shelters and blast shelters
* Mount Weather government bunker
* Gas masks vs bad smells: Gas masks do not filter out odors, unless they are designed for the job, but vick vapor rub is a work-around used by law enforcement and emergency workers.
* Geiger counters
* Compound bowsbow hunting is done in the US