Science Fiction Writer

dmk

I mostly talk about writing and astronomy on this blog, as those are among my main interests, but these topics aren’t disconnected from the rest of events happening in the world. Astronomy not only gave us an unprecedented knowledge of space, it also provided us with our first real understanding of our position in the universe. And it was a humbling perspective.

In his famous “Pale Blue Dot” speech, Carl Sagan said:

“We succeeded in taking that picture, and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives.”

“To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

The fact is that now, over 20 years after he made this address we are still not looking after the world and the consequences of that are truly frightening.

Recent news is a mixed bag, in the Netherlands the national railway is now operating its trains on 100% electricity generated from wind power. A great example of hat can be achieved. Yet, at the same time, reports show that the global average tax  on petrol/gasoline has dropped by 13 percent over the last 12 years–leading to subsequent increases in consumption, and the release of even more greenhouse gases.

Despite the recent news that renewable energy supplies are now cheaper than fossil fuels, there are still only limited attempts to switch over. The obvious question is–why? The obvious answer is “powerful, vested interests” in the fossil fuels industry. This desperately needs to change.

Although astronomers have now identified over a thousand exo-planets, not one of these is known to be suitable for harboring life. Even if they did tease out the information that one of the planets can sustain human life, thy are so remote as to be unreachable in any but the most long-term view. Using our  current technology reaching Proxima–the closest star–would take us thousands of years. Even if we had some unexpected breakthrough, we would still be talking hundreds of years to transport people there.

Earth is it. Our only hope for the foreseeable future. We need to protect it, so that it can nurture us until we develop sufficiently to move into the stars. If we don’t, the result will be extinction.

Some people think we can’t afford to take the measures necessary, but the real question is–can we afford not to?

I’ve been working on various models for my book trailer and have tried to find a good way of creating panel lines for projects such as spaceships. This can be done with materials, but I’ve had better luck creating physical detail rather than using texturing.

Up to now, the method I’ve used has been slow and cumbersome, but after recently going through a bunch of tutorials on adding this kind of detail, I’ve found a method that seems to work well (at least for me) and is non-destructive to the base mesh. So I thought I’ share it for anyone interested. This introduces more polygons, so may not be suitable for models intended for real time rendering, but works fine for still images or video/animation.

Personally I find that a clearly written set of instructions is much quicker to follow than a video tutorial, so here goes:

  1. Add lines(edges) on model where panels wanted (might be able to use existing edges depending on surface)
  2. Mark desired panel lines as “sharp”
  3. Add “Edge Split” modifier, uncheck Edge Angle
  4. Add “Solidify” Modifier. Adjust Thickness to taste, check Only Rim to avoid back facing polys
  5. Add Bevel modifier, Adjust Width and Segments to taste.

You can now add or change panel lines by marking/clearing sharp on edges! Also, this method would allow you to turn off the panels completely if needed for a particularly complex scene render.

Here’s a shot of the modifier stack (Click to enlarge):

And an example before/after shot (click to enlarge)

Thanks to the following people for their helpful  youtube tutorials:

Andrew Price

Jason Clarke

Dan Brown CGI

I’ve speculated a couple of times on the possibilities of life on other planets (Life Everywhere and Water, Ceres and Life for example). Now we have more information to add to the growing likelihood that life is likely to be found anywhere that the right conditions exist, no matter how remote they may seem.

Recent discussion suggests that microbial life may exist in the dark clouds within the Venusian atmosphere, while other research shows yet more evidence that Mars may also have, at least at one time, been hospitable to life.

Planning for new missions to both worlds is currently underway and may finally confirm these speculations in the not too distant future. If it does, it will be a great day for the world and especially the exobiologists trying to determine the course that life may take outside the realms of our small planet.

Hopefully this will happen soon, and I stand firmly behind my “prediction” that we will find life everywhere. The nature of chemistry seems to naturally move in the direction of life-supporting compounds, making  and almost inevitably to life itself. Just imagine–the entire galaxy or even universe as one giant breeding ground for living organisms in all their myriad forms.

Just what might we find out there…? (Cue Twilight Zone music…)

Researchers at MIT have developed techniques for creating 3d graphene materials that are incredibly strong and lightweight. With tested strengths as much as ten times higher than steel while having only 5% of the weight (density).

The materials make use of structures called “gyroids”–a kind of sponge-like arrangement–to create three-dimensional structures with potential applications for building components for vehicles and other machinery.

Graphene has been known as a high tensile material for quite a while, but only in single-atom thick sheets that have limited practical uses. This new development could make it’s adoption far more widespread. It also may avoid some of the flaws caused by imperfections that naturally occur in such thin sheets.

The exciting thing here though is the potential for use in rocket and spacecraft design. When it comes to launching anything into space, the limit is always a case of the mass (weight) versus the thrust available. Simply put, the lighter the object you’re lifting, the easier it is to launch. So materials such as this could revolutionize space systems.

More than that though, the gyroid structure can be applied to other materials too, enabling the creation of lighter weight versions of things like actual steel, concrete, and others. With the world’s resources limited, it is only sensible to be as efficient as we can wherever possible.

We seem to be on the threshold of a whole new world of materials science where we can control and build materials down to atomic (and smaller?) levels–an exciting time for engineers everywhere as well as those of us who dream of seeing humans spread to other worlds.

I’ve been a little quiet for a while and as usual I’ve suspended my advertising posts for the holiday season. Like many people I get tired of the incessant over-commercialization of this time of year and don’t want to be part of it.

The past year has been a mixed one for me. I had more surgery, but that healed well and it looked like things might be stabilizing, but more recently the wound has re-opened again. Although it’s slight, it’s still stressful and worrying.

From a writing perspective, this has been a tough year. I’ve released several new short-stories, but mostly I’ve been grinding away at my novel, which has taken a lot more work than I hoped it would to get ready for publication. But it’s very close now, and should be released early in 2017. After that it’s straight to work on the sequel, which has been sitting in the wings for some time now.

Along with writing, I’ve been experimenting with open-source software for graphics production and have been very pleased with the results. The capabilities of both Blender and Gimp have been a very pleasant surprise and can easily rival products costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars. They both have a learning curve of course, but all software does. For the money saved, the effort is well worth it.

All in all this year has been good in many respects, and I’m just happy to be in a position to carry on developing my writing projects. That for me is the most important thing. There will be a lot happening in 2017, that’s for certain and I’m looking forward to it!

Thanks t my readers and fellow indie authors for your support this year. Best wishes and I hope everyone can enjoy a new year full of happiness!

Today, I’m pleased to announce the release of my latest S.F. novelette, Fenton Treeby Is Missing. This one came about under unusual circumstances. Free copy to the first person who guesses where the name Fenton Treeby comes from! It was fun to write and I hope it’s equally fun to read. Here are the cover and back-cover description.

An entire town has vanished. And so has the world’s greatest scientific mind, Fenton Treeby. The Internal Security Bureau wants answers and fast.

ISB Agent Steve Boardman is assigned to the case, but it’s his first week back on the job after recovering from severe PTSD. To make matters worse, his assigned partner, Lynna, is as busy trying to prove he’s crazy as she is looking for a way to pin the disappearance on the Pan-Asians.

Boardman has another theory. One that might be Continue reading

I live in a small city called Sudbury in Northern Ontario, Canada. How that came about is a bit of tale in itself, but not the subject of this post. Needless to say it’s often seen as an eccentric choice by many when they hear about it. (“You’re moving to where?” Said the immigration officer at Pearson Airport in Toronto.)

SudbThe Big Nickel, Sudburyury is what a lot of people would call a “working town.” The main industry here and the reason the town exists is mining. In the past they mined gold and diamonds, but the real mineral power houses have always been nickel and copper–produced here for well over a century.  On the west side of town stands a giant Canadian Nickel as testament to the wealth hard-rock mining  has brought to the area and many areas and streets around town are named after mining and mining companies. Even Edison got in on the act and moved to Sudbury as a prospector in 1901, discovering the key Falconbridge ore deposit.

The legacy of such endeavors isn’t always Continue reading

When I’m writing a story I build up a collection of images that act as references for what’s in my head.  Much of the time these are things I find on the web, but as I write science-fiction sometimes I just can’t quite find anything that looks right. Or sometimes I want to work through how something might work if it were real.

When that happens I often build the object in 3D. This allows me to get more of a feel for the object in question and can help solidify my ideas and furnish me with details I otherwise might not think of. Many times very little of this detail makes it into the actual writing–it’s really background for myself. But sometimes these designs see the light of day in my book covers, such as the Three Lives Of Mary cover and the additional “character image” of Ben.

With Ben I had something very deliberate in mind Continue reading

Mary-r02-01-600Three Lives Of Mary

 By

 David M. Kelly

Copyright © 2016 by David M. Kelly

Mary gasped as her legs were ripped from under her and she slammed face down into the ground. Several tendril-like vines wrapped around her arms and legs and she instinctively pulled against them. Thorn-like bristles clawed at her burnished skin as the vines coiled tighter around her, despite her struggles.

She rotated her head one hundred and eighty degrees and simultaneously reversed the movement restrictions on her joints. She was now effectively lying on her back, which she hoped would give her a better idea of what was happening.

She was only forty-three minutes into her ground survey of ST2398-5 and had seen nothing unexpected—just the ever-present vegetation they’d detected from orbit. Plant life wasn’t unusual on planets inside a Continue reading

Today, I’d like to reveal the cover and description for my forthcoming short-story Three Lives Of Mary. Click the image to see a bigger view.

Mary is part of an elite CySapient team, surveying planets looking for potential worlds to colonize. Her partner, Ben, is a total conversion sentient spaceship—and her husband.

While investigating the surface of a rare, potentially habitable planet, Mary encounters a strange plant-animal hybrid that threatens to destroy her despite her near invulnerable Continue reading