Red Planet

Aloha – Over the years I’ve managed to acquire several first edition volumes of Heinlein’s early works, but I’ve yet to capture a copy of the Red Planet.  Common prices for a first edition of this 1949 volume often exceeds $1,000 and for my meager collection budget that’s out of range.

The novel itself is often considered Heinlein’s first critically successful work in the genre.  It still follows a model that I always appreciate:  the protagonist is a teenaged boy (exception Podkayne of Mars in which case it is a teenaged girl), he’s above average smart, and conservative in nature.  He has friends who are smarter, and sometimes are the individuals who solve a crisis, as in this case.

Two stories progress the novel.  First is the adventure element with Jim and Frank meeting and ultimately being partially adopted into the native Martian culture.  This relationship helps them cross Mars and warn their families about the evil plot against the Earth immigrants, leading to a rebellion, in which Jim and Frank are able to participate.

The true nature of ‘the bad guys’ leads the Martians to demand that the Earthlings leave their planet and return to Earth.  Ultimately the Martians relent because of the altruistic nature of Jim.

The Earthlings of Mars declare their independence from Earth, a common theme that emerges in Heinlein’s Solar System universe.

This is a must read for those who want to get emerged in the various novels about the Solar System, and some of the revelations that come from it (such as what the explorers in Space Cadet learn about the past history of the Solar System).  I like it more as a backdrop for other novels in the series.

Happy 4th,



Finally watched Hidden Figures

Aloha – I’ve been putting this off for months, but last night I finally watched “Hidden Figures”.  From the perspective of astronomy and science fiction it certainly doesn’t make it as a great space opera, but it works on so many other levels.  Having been a teenager when Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon, seeing the technology (or lack thereof) being used, and some of the mathematical fears that troubled the question of “how do we maneuver in an unknown environment?” was fascinating for a history buff and someone engrossed in science fiction.

The romance element of the film was weak, except for the idea of dating, romance, marriage, and sticking together.  This process has been a great loss to the African-American community, and now the population of the U.S. at large.

Perhaps the most surprising element of the film to me seemed intentional, but certainly rang true whether it was intended or not.  A husband of one of the mathematicians is on the side of civil rights through protest, while his wife is willing to step up and be reactive at times, yet she wins her battle of civil rights by working through the system and demonstrating her worth by example rather than simple demand.  In my mind, the film provided a perfect example of a process of getting respect through hard work, rather than just because “I want it.”

This is not a film I’ll watch over and over again.  But it is a film worth seeing and pondering.


Space Cadet by Robert Heinlein

When I think of Robert Heinlein juvenile science fiction I am often stuck on which one is my favorite.  A long time ago I determined that my favorite movies were based on which ones I would sit down and watch again the day after I watched it the first time.  So, they are not necessarily, and in fact, usually are not the most critically acclaimed.  Films like “Dave” and “Knight and day” come to mind.

In Heinlein’s work “Space Cadet” definitely fits in as one of my many favorites that I could sit down and read again, right after finishing it.  It is a coming of age adventure wherein young men can enter the Space Patrol to “preserve peace in the Solar System.”  This is loosely a series only in that Heinlein uses the same “universe” for his perception of the Solar System.  Venus is a swampy planet with ‘dragons’ who are highly intelligent and peaceful by nature.  Mars has its own population of weak boned highly intelligent creatures as well.  Humans are fairly new to the intelligent species of the Solar System, but are so aggressive that they have taken over de facto control of the worlds of the Solar System.

Four friends meet from different backgrounds and go through the training to be members of the Space Patrol.  Their adventure begins in the Asteroid Belt where they make a critical discovery, then are sent racing to Venus to investigate and ultimately resolve a problem with the local dragons.  The novel fits well together, and holds your attention.  It also requires the use of brains and skills rather than force to resolve the conflict.

The term ‘space cadet’ became popular in the 1950s, and spawned radio, television series, comic books and novels with a similar plotline.  In the 50’s space cadet had a more positive imagery.  But a decade later it became more symbolic of someone lost in their own imagination rather than reality.

So, is “Space Cadet” my favorite Heinlein novel?  Probably not #1, but certainly up there.



Salt of the Earth

Over a year ago I finished the manuscript for “Salt of the Earth”.  This was a move away from juvenile Science Fiction, to young adult science fiction.  I believe its the most complex and perhaps best book I’ve written to date.  Alas, no agents have found it compelling enough to pick up so I’ll probably self-publish.  All of my novels are character driven, as is this one.  The themes (multiple in this case) examine asteroid mining and the political as well as engineering challenges involved.

In any case, I ran across this article in today and thought I’d share it.  Doc

Robert Heinlein – Rocket Ship Galileo

Aloha – I was reflecting today on juvenile science fiction today versus when I was a juvenile, oh so long ago.  I was an adult before I read ee Doc Smith, and a young adult before reading Edgar Rice Burroughs science fiction (or fantasy) series.  But when I was about twelve years old I accidentally read a juvenile novel by Robert Heinlein and then another and another.

I am not sure if I red Rocket Ship Galileo first, or later in my middle school years, but I was instantly addicted.  Teenagers who are the protagonists in building a rocket ship under the direction of Dr. Cargraves, and fly it to the moon.  Heinlein was good at dealing with at least some of the engineering challenges they would face.  The story, and most of Heinlein’s other juvenile fiction would easily convert to Steven Spielberg’s style in bringing stories such as ET, The Goonies, or Super 8 to the screen.  Sadly less talented directors have butchered the stories that have been adapted to the screen.

Shout Out – Spielberg, take all of Heinlein’s juvenile fiction and adapt it to the screen.  Even the one’s where science no longer supports his universe, which was our Solar System.

The Orion’s Spur series, and Project Lilliput (unpublished) are really modelled on Heinlein’s style.  Salt of the Earth (unpublished) veers away from this model as I wrote that book for an older audience.

Meanwhile, if you need good summer reading, you can’t go wrong with Heinlein’s early works.

Status Update

Aloha – I’ve been gone for several months, but have returned from an extended vacation on Demeter.  I actually got lost in the caverns for several days.

Let me give you an update on my writing endeavors:

  1. Orion’s Spur series – All five books of the series are available on Amazon.  I want to get the hard copy versions out in the next few months.  I will also be publishing the short stories associated with the series (especially the one’s about crazy Debbie… I was just talking to her a couple of minutes ago).  On the back burner is the follow up series.
  2. Salt of the Earth – As much as I love the complexity of this young adult novel, the agents weren’t interested, so I’m queuing it up for Amazon before Christmas.  As far as pure writing goes I think this was the best thing I’ve written.
  3. Project Lilliput – The manuscript is complete and we finished editing and re-editing a couple of months ago.  I’ve sent this into one publisher I think may be interested in the novel.
  4. What’s next?
    1. I need to update the two non-fiction books I have out with new editions
    2. I have the story idea complete for a sequel to Salt of the Earth and love the working title, “Sea of Salt” centers between Jupiter and Saturn.
    3. Project Lilliput is laid out to a multi-book series, although it works fine as a standalone novel.  I am working on framing the story now.  The primary setting is Vancouver Island.
    4. I still have a true Space Opera trilogy worked out for all three books, I just haven’t decided whether to prioritize that series or work on 1-3 above.

For now, all five books of Orion’s Spur are available in e-book format on Amazon.