Season’s Greetings

We are now approaching the time when we like to survey the year. For me, 2013 was an eventful year, for apart from, and despite the June storms (no electricity, no email!) and the July-August earthquakes I self-published four fictional ebooks, and an ebook containing a brief account of my alternative interpretation of quantum mechanics. The fiction, of course, was not written from scratch, and even some of the final editing was done the year before The quantum mechanics ebook was written this year, although the actual content had been written down elsewhere in various places and the writing was mainly to make the various parts flow properly. Some was simply a lift from elsewhere, and tidied up and put into context. For those interested, the difference between this interpretation and others is that there is a real wave, it transmits energy, and it only has meaning when the wave function is real (which, from complex number theory, it is at the crest and trough).

However, readers here will be more interested in the fiction. A Face on Cydonia was conceived in 1996. I was desperately trying to get an agent for Red Gold, having had one, and nearly getting it published, so I thought having a second book might help. NASA was sending Global Surveyor to Mars, and I hoped the hype about the Cydonian face might get me the leverage I needed. Bad luck! NASA sank that face too soon! (I had hoped it could take a long time because they were surveying Mars in very thin strips, and it would take years to do the lot properly; I hoped Cydonia would be to the end, but no, it was near the beginning.) Anyway, I kept writing, and I failed to get an agent interested in that. There was a lot of ignorance on my part. What I did not know was that publishers would only consider works of 100,000 words or so from a first-time author. My book was about 350,000 words.

For much of the 2000s I gave up that, and eventually tried to get an agent for Puppeteer, but a New Zealand author with not much of a platform was not encouraging. Then I heard of kindle, and thought of self-publishing. Tough luck – Amazon would not deal with New Zealand authors (then). You had to have an American bank account and an IRS number, neither of which were easily obtained. So, eventually, when New Zealand was admitted in to the rest of the world, still not having an agent, I self-published. However, by now I decided that the original version of the Face was far too long, so at first I decided to split it into two, then I decided into three, largely because each third is rather different from the rest.  The new version of A Face on Cydonia establishes the major characters as they are assembled for an expedition to settle form once and for all whether there is something inside this rock. Each of the expedition has hopes for what it will contain, and everybody finds exactly what they did not want to find. The second book, Dreams Defiled explores how each deals with their new situation, and it explores the descent of Jonathon Munro into a life approaching pure evil. The third book, Jonathon Munros, explores artificial intelligence, when the machine is pure evil, and, of course, the race by society to stop the Jonathon Munros.

Of course, I can’t leave the year on that note. My latest ebook, Athene’s Prophecy is set in the first century, and a young Roman soldier has to dodge the erratic imperium of the other Gaius Julius Caesar (Caligulae – note he had two feet!) and prove that the earth goes around the sun. Which raises an interesting question – how many of the present day population could do that? Remember, your only sources of data are what you can see with the naked eye. So, there is something to think about over the Christmas-New Year period, while some of you are trying to keep warm, and I am trying to do the opposite. This shall be my last post for this year, but I shall return mid January.

May you have a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.


Theory and planets: what is right?

In general, I reserve this blog to support my science fiction writing, but since I try to put some real science in my writing, I thought just once I would venture into the slightly more scientific. As mentioned in previous posts, I have a completely different view of how planets, so the question is, why? Surely everyone else cannot be wrong? The answer to that depends on whether everyone goes back to first principles and satisfies themselves, and how many lazily accept what is put in front of them. That does not mean that it is wrong, however. Just because people are lazy merely makes them irrelevant. After all, what is wrong with the standard theory?

My answer to that is, in the standard theory, computations start with a uniform distribution of planetesimals formed in the disk of gas from which the star forms. From then on, gravity requires the planetesimals to collide, and it is assumed that from these collisions, planets form. I believe there are two things wrong with that picture. The first is, there is no known mechanism to get to planetesimals. The second is that while gravity may be the mechanism by which planets complete their growth, it is not the mechanism by which it starts. The reader may immediately protest and say that even if we have no idea how planetesimals form, something had to start small and accrete, otherwise there would be no planets. That is true, but just because something had to start small does not mean there is a uniform distribution throughout the accretion disk.

My theory is that it is chemistry that causes everything to start, and different chemistries occur at different temperatures. This leads to the different planets having different properties and somewhat different compositions.

The questions then are: am I right? does it matter? To the first, if I am wrong it should be possible to falsify it. So far, nobody has, so my theory is still alive. Whether it matters depends on whether you believe in science or fairy stories. If you believe that any story will do as long as you like it, well, that is certainly not science, at least in the sense that I signed up to in my youth.

So, if I am correct, what is the probability of finding suitable planets for life? Accretion disks last between 1 to even as much as 30 My. The longer the disk lasts, the longer planets pick up material, which means the bigger they are. For me, an important observation was the detection of a planet of about six times Jupiter’s mass that was about three times further from its star (with the name LkCa 15) than Jupiter. The star is approximately 2 My old. Now, the further from the star, the less dense the material, and this star is slightly smaller than our sun. The original computations required about 15 My or more to get Jupiter around our star, so they cannot be quite correct, although that is irrelevant to this question. No matter what the mechanism of accretion, Jupiter had to start accreting faster than this planet because the density of starting material must be seriously greater, which means that we can only get our solar system if the disk was cleared out very much sooner than 2 My. People ask, is there anything special regarding our solar system? I believe this very rapid cleanout of the disk will eliminate the great bulk of the planetary systems. Does it matter if they get bigger? Unfortunately, yes, because the bigger the planets get, the bigger the gravitational interactions between them, so the more likely they are to interact. If they do, orbits become chaotic, and planets can be eliminated from the system as other orbits become highly elliptical.

If anyone is interested in this theory, Planetary Formation and Biogenesis ( )

will be available for 99 cents  as a special promo on (and 99p on on Friday 13, and it will gradually increase in price over the next few days. Similarly priced on Friday 13 is my novel Red Gold, (  ) which is about fraud during the settlement of Mars, and as noted in my previous post, is one of the very few examples of a novel in which a genuine theory got started.

Discounted and new ebooks

Talk about getting something wrong. I had heard that there was a really good reason to discount my ebooks on Black Friday, and Amazon offers a means of discounting. Accordingly, I decided to get ready, I had plenty of time, after all (and Americans, please, contain your mirth here) I was going to set everything up for Friday December 13. Two things went wrong. The first was, oops – for Americans it appears Black Friday is something else. The second one was that I decided to discount my “Mars books”, but it turned out that I may have trouble with “A Face on Cydonia” because the KDP select period expires this week. Watch this space next week, but sooner or later it will be discounted.

Nevertheless, there will be discounts on the scientific ebook on my theory of planetary formation:

Planetary Formation and Biogenesis ( )

will be available for 99 cents  as a special promo on (and 99p on – these are the lowest prices permitted on each case) on December Friday 13, and the prices increase daily for about 5 days until they reach normal price.

Also on the promo is my novel Red Gold, (  ) which is about fraud during the settlement of Mars.  This ebook was written in the early 1990s, and to expose the fraud, a surprising discovery was required. The surprise was the discovery of what remained of the Martian atmosphere, which provided the nitrogen fertilizer necessary to make the settlement viable. The very first version that led me to the theory in the first book is outlined in the appendix, so this is one of the very few examples of how a theory got started. How important this is depends on whether the theory is correct, and I would love to know the answer to that one. A review, to help you decide:

Finally, and not on promo (because it has to be there for more days than it has) I have just published my latest ebook, Athene’s Prophecy ( ). Below, I have copied out the first paragraph, which I think gives some idea of what the book is about:

Pallas Athene was in disgrace, but she felt that it was worth every gram of it for she had immortalized herself, starting over three thousand years before she was born. Yes, she knew that her career as a serious classical historian was over, and being consigned to this miserable cell was not exactly a career highlight, but on the bright side the cell did not have a means of evacuation. If it had, and if there were even a remote possibility that such an evacuation could have been reported as accidental, she was quite certain she would have been consigned to the depths of space. Instead, all they could do was to put her in a shuttle and return her to Earth tomorrow. They would also make certain that she would never be given permission to use the temporal viewer again.