Robert Heinlein – Between Planets


Okay, this is one of several of my favorites from Heinlein.  We open with teenager Don Harvey out in the southwest desert on his horse.  His horse is startled and Don draws his pistol and shoots the nasty rattlesnake.  Old West suddenly meets the future as Don gets a cell phone call that he is being picked up by helicopter for an emergency.  It turns out that Earth is at odds with the colonized planets (particularly Venus and Mars).  Because of the potential of war, he is being recalled to Mars.

There is plenty of adventure before Don even gets off Earth, but things take a nasty turn when he gets to the relay station which has been taken over by Venerian troops.  The Venus rebels destroy the station, and Don finds himself declaring Venus citizenship and is whisked off to Venus, instead of his home on Mars.

What happens to him as he adapts to a planet he has not been on since early childhood draws out the best and worst of humankind, which is further elaborated upon in a later favorite novel, Citizen of the Galaxy… more on that on another post.

This is first and foremost another of Heinlein’s juvenile adventure stories in the arena of science fiction, but Heinlein is starting to address more complex issues.  Characters are no longer all good guys or bad guys.  But the dissonance is not carried beyond the bounds of a good story for teenagers.  Worth the read even today,



Total Eclipse of the Sun

I’m not too far off the path of the total eclipse of the Sun in 10 days, living in Utah.  I debated taking the day off and driving up to Idaho, or at least buying a pair of protective glass covers for the event as we still get around 80% eclipse right here.  The challenge I’m having is ‘what’s the big deal’?  If I had nothing to do, for example the wealthy friend of Carly Simon in “You’re so Vain” singing, “Then you flew your Learjet up to Nova Scotia
To see the total eclipse of the sun.”

On the down side, it is unlikely that I’ll live long enough to see another total eclipse of the Sun so maybe I’ll really miss it if I don’t make the field trip.

There is evidence that the Chinese and the Babylonians had figured out the schedule for these events.  They were considered omens for rulers, and indeed there are a couple of notable deaths that were later associated with solar eclipses.  Mohammad’s son, Ibrahim died during such an event, and Henry I of England died shortly after an eclipse, leading to the believe by many that the solar eclipse was a very bad omen for Kings and Rulers.  It is further identified with stopping at least one war:  Herodotus reported that a a solar eclipse in 585 BC convinced the Lydians and the Medes to end their war.

Maybe North Korea and the U.S. will come to a peaceable solution to their current hostilities.

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Robert Heinlein’s “Farmer in the Sky”

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In my continuing effort to bring you some of my early Science Fiction favorites I’d like to discuss Farmer in the Sky.  Heinlein again is ahead of his time as a central theme in the first half of the book is the issue of a blended family.  The evolution of the protagonist, teenaged son, William’s feelings toward his step-sister feels real as the story proceeds.

But when you get to the bottom line, Farmer in the Sky is an adventure story for boys.  As with several of Heinlein’s early books, it started as a serial; in this case in Boy’s Life, a magazine for Boy Scouts.

The blended family moves to Ganymede, the largest moon of Jupiter.  Interestingly, 60 years later the moons of Jupiter have gained scientific interest for potentially housing life and large bodies of water, although frozen beneath the surface.

Using artificial power sources, Ganymede is now habitable, although inhospitable.  Using concepts that would certainly find home with Matt Damon in “The Martian” the small colony is eking out an existence, and actually is making progress until disaster strikes.

The story shifts significantly in the final quarter of the book as evidence of an earlier ancient, alien civilization is unearthed by the protagonist.  Heinlein repeats himself as the William is involved in the major discovery and aid to the colonists, but he is the heart not the hero of the discovery.  In several of Heinlein’s stories he focuses on the heart and soul in the protagonist, but often they have almost a Forrest Gump relationship to the bigger, often cataclysmic events in society.

Keeping in mind that this was written as a serial, and is at times a bit choppy, it is still a great read.  As a young teenager I loved the book.  As an adult, I find some of the more subtle messages more interested and still smile when I reread the book.




Race to the Moon Part 2?

Google has presented a new space challenge offering $30 million to the first private group that build, launch, and successfully run a rover on the Moon.  This seems focused on future mining efforts on the Moon.  Of course there are some political challenges involved in mining on the Moon, as there are already treaties in place making it a hands off terrain for private enterprise.  Yet the paydays could be tremendous.  There are some distinct similarities to the Alaskan Gold Rush.  A handful of entrepreneurs will get rich, probably dwarfing the wealth of the Bill Gates and Walton family among others.  Still the up front investment will probably be more than a ticket to the Yukon.

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Still it doesn’t look a lot more desolate than Wyoming

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Other than blue skies… and oxygen/nitrogen mix.

Are we likely to see actual mining on the Moon in the next 25 years?  I think the technology is close even now.  They’ll have to find ice/water (which they have found).  The biggest issue will probably wind up being the international trade barriers.


Dealing with a genius and solar eclipses

Aloha – It is an interesting month as my daughter, son-in-law, and two of my grandsons are visiting.  Daniel is a genius and suffers (or is blessed with) autism.  The common definition would be ‘high functioning’ as he is an extraordinary thinker (for age 11) and moving into mainstream gifted programs.  His biggest challenge is the inability to deal socially with others.  He sees the world through rose colored glasses.

Yesterday we were at a city park and discussing the upcoming solar eclipse.  He informed me that the next total solar eclipse is on August 21st of this year.  2:33 pm is a good time to be in Idaho Falls if you want the best view of this amazing event.  Lunar eclipses are a time a dozen, but total solar eclipses are rare.  He informed me that the next solar eclipse isn’t until 2024.  We then checked, and the following event isn’t until 2090.  We then drifted into a discussion of whether he would still be alive in 2090, and he informed me that I obviously would not be.  I laughed, frankly I’ll probably be lucky to make 2024.

It turns out that if he lives to 62, then his chances of making the 2090 eclipse is 50-50.  Amazing what you can learn on a smart phone in a park.

For those interested, Daniel is a character that appears in the prologue and epilog of several of the Orion Spur series books.  He’s a super grandson with frequent quotable quotes.

Meanwhile check out your map (on a path from South Carolina to Oregon) for the exact time and place to be to see all or at least a part of the solar eclipse.

Best wishes,


The Debate within

Aloha – I’ve been batting a decision for several weeks now.  Drafts for Salt of the Earth and Project Lilliput are both complete.  I’ll likely publish Salt of the Earth later this year (chapters of both books are in the blog archives if you’re interested).  Salt of the Earth is a young adult science fiction novel, and probably the most complex single novel I’ve written.  Project Lilliput is a juvenile science fiction novel and more of a fun adventure story.

So the debate I’m arguing with myself about is what to write next?  Both stories have an adequate ending, but plenty of options to continue the story.  I’ve even framed out the second novel, Sea of Salt.  I also have a three-part full-fledge space opera with another fun character I’ve wanted to develop for several years.  If I start that series I’ll be tied up for probably two years writing the saga.

I also need to wrap up a non-fiction book It Aint the End of the World, which means months of editing (must get this one done).  Then should I write updates for the other two non-fiction self-help books?  Yes I should.

In the next few weeks I’ll have to make a decision as my nervous twitch that says its time to stop editing and begin writing again is starting to surface 🙂  Doc

The Space Between Us

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Okay I admit it, I’m a hopeless romantic.  In many ways this movie, released in January 2017 reminds me of a mix of Robert Heinlein and Nicolas Sparks.

Asa Butterfield (known for Ender’s Game, Hugo, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children stars in this film that focuses on a boy born on the first private mission to Mars for colonization.  Turns out his mother didn’t know she was pregnant and the corporation fearing a PR nightmare keeps the boy a secret after his mother dies in childbirth.  Fast forward 16 years and we have a developing city or base still populated by scientists, and one 16 year old boy, who is now frustrated with his secret existence.

Somehow he has a Facebook type relationship that has developed with a girl his age on Earth who is in foster care.  This was probably the biggest challenge for me.  Their conversations are real time, ignoring the speed of light limitations of their messages.  Aside from the predictable mystery that the boy goes to Earth to solve, the story works well for self-discovery, delight in experiencing Earth, and of course a girl.  There is solid chemistry between the two leads when they get together.

I do worry about Asa Butterfield as an actor.  His wooden performance here seems in keeping with the role, but perpetual innocence and safeguarded emotions probably won’t serve him well in an adult career.  He may want to take hints from Daniel Radcliff’s efforts to transition to an adult actor.

All in all it is not a great movie, but it is a pleasant way to spend an evening without the movie being overwhelmed with CGI.  It is a movie I can sit down and re-watch frequently; but don’t go in with great expectations if you rent or buy the DVD.