89jodson@gmail.com

Judith Rook

Writer, Reader and general Book Fan

GREAT MINDS …

This is an image of a potential human city on Mars.  The image appeared in a presentation by Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceEx (and the co-founder of the Paypal organisation) in September 2017.

This type of settlement is what I envisage for Colonist, my recently completed novel, set not on Mars but on an exoplanet in the south quadrant of the Milky Way galaxy.

With all honesty, I claim I have not seen this image before today.  It is clearly a matter of separate minds with the same concepts.  I could not have drawn the image, but I’m very pleased someone else has done so. Thank you to those people who have made part of the setting of my novel so very precise and so supportive of the action.

I have put a link to the video presentation on the page Ideas – Science, Technical and Social.

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Background to “Colonist”

My nearly-completed novel emerged from a short story.  It was not so much the events of the story but the personality of Edmund Brale, the colony director, which was the impetus for the novel. As I wrote the short narrative, I began to see Edmund’s character as complex, and capable of carrying a strong ethical theme through a much longer work, especially if I turned him into a psychically gifted man. So I did.  Here is the story.

MANUAL FOR COLONISTS

Judith Rook  –  © 2017

“What are they?” Allen stared closely into the view screens. Receiving from exterior cameras, the monitors showed the planet surface around the landing area.

“No idea.” Brale set his face alongside the commander’s, peering at the images with equal intensity. “The surveys have picked up nothing like this before, and they’ve been over the whole place in detail, within a five hundred mile radius.”

Outside, in the half light of the planet’s dawn, two ridges had appeared, seemingly pushed up from the rabble strewn plateau. Two knee-high ridges in concentric circles, the closest perhaps a hundred metres from the small craft.

“Could we have set up vibrations?” The commander’s eyes did not leave the screen. Yesterday, carriers had transferred the first of the colonising equipment to the surface. But those larger craft had returned to the ship in low orbit, leaving only the two leaders of the mission to keep a final watch overnight.

“Doubtful,” said his companion. “Where are the other waves? Why are those two the only ones? There should be more.” He straightened. “We need a sample.”

Brale was the planetary expert, appointed to be the colony’s head for ten years. Trained in exoplanet physics, human psychology and international politics, he would be the person who very soon would formally step onto the planet in full diplomatic dress and, on behalf of mankind, claim it as Earth Colony Three.

On this particular landing, however, he was just general dogsbody and observer, until the commander gave the final word to bring the people down and begin the whole, irrevocable colonisation process.

He turned to the board beside him and began entering a sequence.

“No, Edmund.” Allen’s hand held his arm. “Not a rover.”

Surprised, Brale looked at his friend. The commander’s face was concerned. “I think we should keep this quiet, just for the moment, just until we have an idea of what these things are.

“If we send out one of the rovers, the main record will show it, and they’ll want to know why…” his hand waved upwards, indicating the colony ship. “But if the lander’s record drops out for a little while…?” After a moment, Brale grinned, slapped the commander’s shoulder, and reached for his helmet.

Half an hour later Brale, regarded the low ridges before him. He should have a companion, but someone had to stay with the lander. And who would have thought an excursion necessary at this late stage? Although support suits were not actually needed on the planet, general regulations said they still had to be worn outside, so both he and the commander had kitted up, and if anything happened, Allen could be with him in a matter of minutes.

Please don’t let there be anything wrong. Brale could not bear the thought of abandoning the years of planning, building and preparation, of extinguishing the eager hopes and expectations spreading throughout the ship in these last days, as the possibility of settling grew into a reality for the people now three years out of Earth.

He had been here all through the exploration phase, with his base on Colony Prime, one Earth month away. He had gone as far as anyone across this terrain. He had seen that it was viable as a support for human life. He knew this planet better than anyone else, and already he felt it could become home. Come on, Three, he said inwardly, tell me what this is all about.

He bent as closely as his suit would allow. These were not ripples caused by vibration. They were a build-up of some material, but so evenly formed, so evenly placed. How could it have gathered in such a seemingly intentional shape? Cautiously, he lifted a scoop of what appeared to be coarse sand and poured it into a sample collector.

Some of the loose material seemed to stick to his glove. Then, under a form of static attraction, it moved along his arm. Other particles rose over his boots, disturbed by his steps. With careful strokes he brushed himself clear, making sure the particles fell onto the ridges, and turned back to the lander.

He and Allen would run the sample through the analyser carried by all landing craft. They would find what it was—and they would make a decision. He felt cold at the prospect, his mind contemplating the unthinkable.

Half-way to the lander now. He hoped no-one on the mother ship had picked up his unplanned excursion.

“Edmund!” Allen’s voice sounded through his speakers, alarmed, urgent. “Get back! Quickly as you can! Get back to the lander! The ridges behind you have changed. They’ve joined up. Only one now, but it’s big and it’s moving, closing in on you—fast. Edmund…!

In the suit he could not glance back, but he believed the commander and increased his speed. He heard nothing from outside—how could he?—but almost immediately there was a sensation. He felt something pressing on him, as sand had pressed against him once during a storm in the Sahara Desert back on Earth.

This sand was not driven by a fast wind, but it engulfed him. He was surrounded completely by swirling purple and brown particles, but not abrading, not buffeting, just covering him. They clung, moving slowly over his faceplate. Why didn’t they flow past, on their way to wherever dust storms on Earth Planet Three went?

He lost all sight of anything outside his suit, and the commander’s voice faded into the far distance. His legs grew heavy, walking became slow and finally stopped.

The interior mask display showed five minutes passing, then eight. He heard Allen’s voice again, calling his name and “Do you copy?”

“Copy! I’m all right—I think.” The brown and purple dust was thinning. He could see the lander and at the foot of the steps, Allen outside and fully suited. Brale raised an arm.

 

“It’s the prokaryotes!” Brale swung the chair around and stared at his friend. The analyser had done its job and identified what the sample was made of—the microscopic forms of proto-life which had caused the colonial programme to move slowly, in case these simple organisms had complex cousins elsewhere on the planet.

“It’s only the bacteria and archaea—nothing else. But in the highest concentration I’ve ever seen! There are so many, they’ve turned themselves into sand.” Brale’s voice shook. “I have no idea what caused this. It’s not happened on any other colony planet. It’s not happened here before.”

“That’s it, then. Tomorrow’s landing is out. We’ll have to investigate…” Allen turned to the bank of view screens once more, looking onto the landing area, and there was silence in the small craft.

Brale sank back in his chair, closed his eyes and wondered what he would say to the people on the seedship, the people waiting for the rest of their lives to begin, the people whose minds were filled with hopes and visions and the light of a great future. His own mind had frozen.

“Edmund, what’s that other type of basic organism? The one that builds potentially intelligent life? There is one, isn’t there?” The sudden sharpness of the commander’s voice jerked Brale out of the chair and across the cabin.

“You mean the eukaryotes?” Brale also looked at the screens and his heart began to beat furiously.

“Eukaryotes. Yes. You and I are made of eukaryotes, aren’t we?”

“Thirty-seven trillion of them, give or take.”

“It’s how life developed on Earth? The other two prokaryotic types got together?”

“They made cells with a walled nucleus. Walled nuclei build complex life.”

Outside the lander, the ridges had disappeared, leaving a stretch of brown and purple sand. It was an uneven surface, and it was moving. All over, wherever they could see, appearances of objects were emerging and collapsing back into granules. Brale thought he recognised a small lander, then a down-sized rover.

As the two travellers watched in fascination, a half-formed shape of a support-suited person rose near the ladder and lifted an arm, just as Brale had done not two hours earlier.

“Mission abandoned!” said Allen, his voice heavy and defeated. He turned from the screens. “We’ll have to go back to Earth. I’ll prepare the announcement.”

But in Brale’s mind, a gleam of understanding grew, followed by realisation and a sudden surge of exhilaration. He looked outside again, watching the sand making shapes of human artefacts. The suited figure was almost completely formed and was moving one raised arm slowly from side to side.

“No,” he said, placing his own arm around his friend’s shoulders. “Don’t do that. It will be all right. Take the word of your expert. Everyone can come down. Everything can come down. You can empty the ship. We’re going to be colonists.”

He went to the external hatch, keyed it open, and waved at the brown and purple sand below.

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My new Novel waiting in the Wings

COLONIST   by Judith Rook

I sometimes think about how humans will develop over the next 500,000 years or so.  Will they change from being modern man (homo sapiens sapiens in terms of scientific classification) to homo sapiens plus something else?  Will the course of natural genetic mutation produce humans with abilities we can only speculate about now?

Whatever happens, and something certainly will happen, it will be over a reasonably long time scale. But the human mind, in its speculative mode can skip along time scales without needing to fill in too many evolutionary gaps.

Colonist is about a time, somewhere in the said 500,000 years, when humans have begun to work systematically with the mind, when the psychic vision is powerful and operates alongside the physical senses. In the novel, only a few humans have this twinned ability and they have to be cautious in their interaction with the majority of humans who still are not psychically operant.

Naturally, the social background of the story is different from what we know in the twenty-first century. But human needs and wants are the same, and the same ethical expectations regulate human behaviour—or not.

Technological development has enabled humans to reach out from Earth to build the first colonies on the nearest viable exoplanets. They are under the protection of the central Earth government, which is strong. But there are also the vastly powerful commercial corporations which do not want to govern; they just want to dominate the world for their own financial ends, and they have their sticky fingers in the colonial pie.

Edmund Brale, the main character in the novel, is a psychic operant, and the theme is simple enough.  It is about how a man who, special among his fellow humans, tries to do right, both by himself and the people he has chosen to live with.

I have not yet decided whether I will publish this as an ebook, or try to place it in the print publishing market. I’ll probably make the choice more towards the end of the editing period.  Meanwhile posts about the novel will appear here on my blog. I promise; no spoilers.

 

Successfully from Historical Fiction to Fantasy

Here is my latest review.   

https://www.amazon.com/Lights-Dawn-Novella-Light-Darkness-ebook/dp/B07C1WNLJ8

This book sets out to be the first in a developing series, and if “Light’s Dawn” by Yvette Bostic is any indication, the series will be worth following. The theme is one which will certainly attract readers, and the change from historical narrative to fantasy is a slightly unusual structural feature which the author handles well.

There are one or two weaknesses running through the book. One is the slightly stilted use of the language, and at times a rather clumsy confusion of 21st-century idiom with the intended historical narrative style. There is also the slightly puzzling and unnecessary inclusion of point-of-view indicators at the head of each chapter.

However, the choice of characters is interesting, and their development is the author’s concern throughout the storyline, although they do not reach a very deep level of realisation.

A main intention of the narrative is to set up the main characters with super powers. This is more difficult to achieve than it would appear at first, but the author manages to create the transformations with necessary conviction.

There is plenty of action, and gore abounds, but this will be very satisfying for some readers. The antagonists are strong, and in some moments thoroughly frightening, which is generally necessary for a successful fantasy story.

All this goes to produce a novella of interest and considerable worth, which sets up a curiosity for the continuation of this particular storyline.

THE PRICE OF BOOKS

Here is a link you may be interested in:  http://getbook.at/onthehorizon.

I had decided not to advertise my involvement in the release of a bundle of 22 books for an unbelievably low price. However,I have changed my position enough to write this post and declare my inclusion in the boxed set.

I do not know the full sale price, but the set has been on pre-order for $1.67 USD, and to be honest, I still find the offer embarrassing. The release is tomorrow (May 1st).

There is an element of market research in the enterprise. It is certainly something of a unique offer, and the author/entrepreneur behind it, by name S.A. Gibson, wanted to push the set as high up the Amazon rankings as possible. For a few weeks he has worked hard and has met with success.

The collection has reached #27 and #32 in two categories, and #465 in the very wide category of “Science Fiction”. It is a considerable achievement, and it will be interesting to see how sales go after tomorrow.

But still I am not fully comfortable with the offer, although I was pleased enough to put one of my books on the list (“Planet Woman”) because of the slightly experimental nature of Author Gibson’s idea.

Getting down to the brass tacks of the matter; to offer a book of 90,000+ words for the standard Amazon price of around $4.00 US is wrong, at least from the point of view of this particular author.

The hours of individual hard work that go into the production of a well-presented, independently published novel, are shamefully unacknowledged and under-valued.

There is the danger novel writing could become something of a sweat-shop affair. Perhaps it is already happening. I have been startled, to say the least, to read on more than one occasion that some authors are pleased to announce their fourth completed book (fully edited) in a twelve-month period.

Some people may be swift writers and have no trouble at all with the flow of ideas, but even so, a fully completed novel every three months must call for a three/four-hourly, unbroken daily commitment to the production of the current work in progress.

And that is hard, very hard work, and worth much more than a tiny, measly percentage of $4.00 US.

Yet here I am, involved in an offer relegating 22 novels, all very readable and some of considerable quality, to the very bottom of the bargain bin.

All I can hope, in common with my 21 colleagues, I imagine, is that the enterprise proves to have great promotional value. That would be a strongly reconciling factor. We’ll have to wait for the sales figures to appear.

 

My Latest Review

I have just posted this review on Goodreads.  Why not on Amazon? Apparently, I have not spent sufficient money on Amazon retail products to qualify me for review posting.  An interesting example of the monopoly effect.  I probably never will spend the Amazon minimum each year, so my reviews will appear on Goodreads, here on my blog, and on Smashwords, if the book appears on that platform.  PS:  Just a reminder;  I don’t give star ratings on my blogs (see the “Reviews” page).

A well-executed Fantasy  by  an award-winning Author

Elves and witches with strange personal agendas populate this complex and interesting storyline.  Half-elf, half-witch, the young protagonist does not understand how she fits into a world where species conflict overshadows hidden truths which she is both destined and driven to discover. But through the development of her own unusual powers, she works as a catalyst to bring the forces of darkness and light into a balance.

The main characters on both sides of the conflict are well-drawn, and the playing out of their relationships is one of the strong points of the novel.  If the pace is slow from time to time, it is because the author builds the world of elves and witches with great attention to detail and a highly effective and colourful sense of setting.

Sometimes the conflict between the different interests becomes confused.  Motives and desires are not always easy to follow, and the introduction of a shadowy supervising agency adds a further complexity. However, the narrative progresses to a powerful climax, cleverly resolving all the tensions which the author has woven into this very well-executed fantasy.

 

My First Youtube Video

I am enjoying a technological triumph.

For months I have been considering preparing a book trailer for Planet Woman, and now it is finished. I’m not quite sure what I think about it, but  it is my first trailer, and somewhat raw, but I will probably make more.  My son creates electronic music and I have asked him to compose a soundtrack for the trailer.

Most satisfying for me is the fact that I uploaded it to Youtube, and I can bring it across to my blog, courtesy of that complex nest of algorithms which we complain about but which sometimes has its points.

Here it is:

Work In Progress: A Colony

I am a good way into my latest novel (70,000 words ≅).  The storyline deals with the setting up of a colony of humans from Earth on a viable exoplanet and the problems the colony director in particular has to cope with, including meeting two new alien species and dealing with Earth-based corporate power.

I have bitten a bullet and cast the director as a man with psychic capabilities. I imagine this will call down scorn from certain people, but hard lines. Julian May did the same thing in her “Galactic Milieu’ series. May died last year, but she left a remarkable body of work, some of which I expect will take her into the ranks of the ‘late great’ SciFi writers.

The working title of my novel is “Colonist”, which operates at more than one level. Oddly enough, no-one has used “Colonist” as a title. There are one or two “The Colonist” or “The Colonists”. I would have thought the title would have been over-used and I would have had to change it, but it could be that “Colonist” will remain as the title of the finished product.

More to come on this.

A New Enterprise for Authors

13th February 2018

I am tremendously enthusiastic about this idea for a new website platform for authors and their wide range of interests.  I particularly like the move away from Facebook.  When the site is up and running, I can see it becoming one of the daily “must-reads” for authors.

Naturally, it needs a bit of financial boosting at the beginning, and the site creator, Lucinda Hawks Moebius, has mounted a start-up promotional competition.  Here are the details.   https://www.facebook.com/events/1595983153790714/permalink/1598411556881207/

ME AND THE ROADWORKS

21.9.17.

September 2017 will be marked not only by spacecraft Cassini’s final descent into Saturn’s atmosphere, but also by one of the funniest episodes of my life. I think I’ll probably not forget it.
To reach my local writers’ group, I have to turn from a main road into a side road. On this particular day, the side road was blocked by “road closed” signs just before it turned a corner. A council worker was on hand to direct me back to the main road. I was in a benign, argument-avoiding mood, and agreed cheerfully. But I did suggest that signs on the main road would be helpful.
“Lady,” said the council worker earnestly, “if this was a whole-road closure, we would have all the signs you could wish for on the main road. We’d divert the traffic.”
“Not a whole-road closure?” said I. “Can’t I use the open half?”
“No. It’s closed. We’ve got the road up further on.”
“Then the whole road is closed?”
“No. It’s only a half-close.”
“But you say I can’t drive any further.”
“Too right! You’d be under a grader before you could spit.”
Thoughtfully I went back to the main road and worked out my own diversion to where I was going. Then I began to laugh. I’m still chuckling.

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