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Where’s the Science in Fiction

December 19, 2013 Leave a comment

A couple of months back I wrote a back called Vitalis: Genesis. It takes place few hundred years in the future (give or take), and presents readers with a thriller / horror / scifi glimpse into the life of researchers on Jupiter’s moon, Europa. About the same time a movie was released called The Europa Report.

First of all, I hate when that happens. I released my book, Wanted, years ago and it turns out a movie popped up around the same time with the same name. Grr. Even further back I wrote some fantasy novels that featured a dual-wielding dark elf and a big and burly barbarian that used a magical hammer. I was just a guy throwing words on paper with no clue what I was doing, but shortly after R.A. Salvatore released The Crystal Shard unto the world and people loved the crap out of it and propelled him into bestseller status. Seriously. WTF?

To be fair, I really enjoyed Mr. Salvatore’s books too. For a while. I got tired of them and really annoyed with the essay he began each chapter or section with in his Homeland series. But that’s just my opinion, it in no way means his writing is anything less than top shelf, nor does it mean anybody else should turn their nose up at his books.

The point is obvious: get to the dinner table early or you’re left with scraps.

But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about the science in science fiction – or lack thereof. I did watch The Europa Report (after publishing my book) and I’ll be the first one to say it sucked me in and kept my attention. It was a little odd, but it worked, from a storytelling point of view. From a reality check perspective it was more or less about as wrong as wrong can get.

Europa, my friends, is frozen on the surface. Scientists theorize that there may be a liquid ocean beneath the surface, but that would be hundreds of kilometers down. In the movie the ice is only inches thick in some places. A minor flaw and it’s understandable how they might fudge things a bit since the characters were supposed to drill through the ice.

Atmosphere, gravity, and temperature. Europa has all of these. Not a lot (roughly 1/13th of Earth’s gravity and atmosphere, which mostly comprised of oxygen escaping the ice). Temperature is considerably warmer than absolute zero the movie mentions – although still cold enough to insure death by exposure would probably happen inside of ten minutes if not sooner.

So water, oxygen, and a temp above absolute zero thanks to tidal heating from friction and the gravity of Jupiter. What more do we need for life? Well, we just don’t know. That’s why they made the movie, to search for life and offer a possible explanation. My book, Vitalis: Genesis, starts on a similar premise but the life that they find comes from elsewhere. And when it arrives it changes things in a big and scary way.

So is Vitalis: Genesis any more likely than the Europa Report? Probably not even though I feel I did a better job of laying down the base layer of science to support it. But then I go all futuristic sci-fi on things and introduce concepts and technologies we haven’t discovered yet. As a writer of science fiction and fantasy that’s my job. To propose possibilities and to entertain. And you, my faithful readers? Your job is sit back and enjoy. Maybe even to wonder a little (or a lot). Entertainment mixed with something to make you think? That, to me, sounds like a damn good time.

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Mean, Green, Planet Eating Machine

October 16, 2013 Leave a comment

To be fair it’s not a planet I’m talking about, it’s actually a moon. And the moon doesn’t get eaten, but it does get transformed, revitalized, and recreated. Huh? WTF am I talking about? And where can you get whatever it is I’m obviously smoking?

I’m talking about Europa! One of Jupiter’s moons. That’s the setting for my brand new release, Vitalis: Genesis. Genesis is the 4th novel in my Vitalis series. Don’t worry, this one doesn’t have any alien impregnations or slimy creatures chewing through the bowels of unsuspecting people. It’s much, much worse.

Sure, Vitalis: Genesis is a science fiction book. That means cool special effects, robots, and some funky alien, uh, stuff. But it’s got so much more too! Like all my Vitalis books, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist or even a card carrying member of the nerd club to enjoy it. It’s loaded to the gills with action, drama, love, loss, and a depth of human interaction and emotions.

If that doesn’t make you want to check it out I’m not sure what will. Hmm, there’s boobies in the book too, does that help? What about cookies? Can I offer cookies? Oh wait, that’s a blog post for another day… Aw heck, give it a shot anyhow, I have yet to hear from anybody who hasn’t liked this one!

 

Vitalis: Genesis, book 4 in the Vitalis series by Jason Halstead

 

Research Station Europa is a small outpost of humanity exploring the possibilities of life on Europa. Dr. Winters and his team expected their discoveries of life to come from beneath the planet’s icy crust, not from the abandoned Vitalian crystals caught in the Jovian moon’s gravity well.

The researchers are soon faced with a new problem to solve: can they survive the alien infestation that is bringing the moon alive around them?

 

Vitalis: Genesis on Amazon

Vitalis: Genesis on Amazon UK

Vitalis: Genesis on Barnes and Noble

Vitalis: Genesis on Smashwords

 

Kobo, Sony, iTunes, and other retailers are coming along as fast as they can. Bear with them and keep checking back if that’s where you prefer to shop.

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Welcoming Change

September 24, 2013 Leave a comment

The title of this might imply that I’m offering some sagely advice on how to adapt and evolve. One might believe I’m offering up a secret to surviving the pitfalls of life, be they romantic, financial, dietary, or otherwise. A person could even go so far as to hope I’m going to reveal the secrets to success beyond their wildest dreams…

Well I’m here to say, “Not a chance!” I’m not peddling smoke and mirrors, my friends. What I’ve got is an update on the latest volume in my Vitalis science fiction series. And yes, it’s all about change.

I’m around halfway through it so far but I spent last night, after writing two chapters, outlining how the rest of the story is going to progress. I was very happy with how it turned out, at least in theory. Being roughly halfway through means I’ve written 25 chapters so far. My outline calls for 17 more. Knowing me the way I know me, that 17 could easily turn into 25 or more. Sounds like a pretty freaking big book, doesn’t it?

It’ll have substance to it, but I’m anticipating a word count in the 60k – 75k range. Nothing too excessively meaty. The chapters typically range from 1100 – 1800 words. A few pages of fast paced fun to keep the story moving, although there are a couple of outliers on both ends of the spectrum.

I will admit this one has given me a little bit of a test. I’m hoping to keep it geared more towards sci-fi thriller and horror and combining the typical fast pacing of my Vitalis series with the need to build up some suspense and mystery (and carnage) has been an exciting challenge for me.

So what’s this one about? Well for those fresh to the setting Vitalis is an amazing world over ten light years from Earth. A thick asteroid cloud has hidden the solar system from Earth until it was accidentally discovered a few years back (think Vitalis time, which is set a few hundred years in the future). Humanity has mastered interstellar travel via technology that allows them to travel through man-made wormholes from one system to the next. These are called jump gates. The problem is that someone has to travel to a new system at relativistic speeds to build one of these jumpgates before they can travel that way.

Blah blah blah, okay, enough backstory. In Provenance, the third Vitalis novel, there was an outbreak of sorts that allowed some native material from Vitalis to escape the planet and solar system. It traveled to the Terran homeland (we know it as Earth) with the intent of bringing Vitalian, ahem, enhancements to the root of the Terran Coalition of Systems. That attempt was met with heavy resistance. Along the way a little something special happened though. Vitalian material was dropped off at Europa, a small moon orbiting Jupiter. Why? Just in case the Earth mission failed.

Genesis follows the lives of the small crew living in a research station on the hostile icy moon of Europa. Deep beneath the surface of the frozen crust a liquid ocean surges with the tides caused by Jupiter. The crust is so thick that the scientists are only now beginning to get close to breaching it for the first time and sampling the salty ocean beneath. Until they lose contact with their mining rigs and sensor arrays.

It quickly becomes obvious this is no mere equipment malfunction. The ice is breaking apart and the temperature’s rising at impossible rates. Water and oxygen are spraying into the thin atmosphere and building pressure – an impossible task given the small size of the moon. Yet the burgeoning atmosphere is saturated with oxygen, not nitrogen, making it hostile to human life.

Life on Vitalis, however, thrives because of its ability to adapt and evolve. As one survivor of an early space ship crash onto Vitalis once said, “If Vitalis can’t kill you it will get inside you and change you. You can’t beat it, you can only join it. If you’re lucky.”

The inhabitants of Research Station Europa are finding that out firsthand.

My plan is to finish Vitalis: Genesis on or around the end of September. Then editing and cover art and all that jazz for a hopeful release near the end of October. A sci-fi thriller just in time for Halloween? I wish I’d planned it that way, but I’ll take luck and circumstance any day!

Stay tuned and if you haven’t had a chance to pick up the other Vitalis books in preparation, what’s stopping you? The first one (Vitalis Omnibus) is only $.99 at Amazon. Then follow it up with Vitalis: Resurrection and Vitalis: Provenance.

Vitalis, parts 1 - 7, by Jason Halstead

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

 

Wake Up Dead

September 23, 2013 Leave a comment

It’s Monday morning. That and the fact that I woke up feeling like I hadn’t gone to bed yet are no coincidence. Monday mornings require an alarm clock set to go off before most clinically sane people wake up. So do the other weekdays, but there’s just a special kind of hell to a Monday morning.

So I staggered into the bathroom and did my usual morning routine. Mostly. This was a little different. Today’s routine involved not only shaving off a weekend’s worth of scruff but also a frank evaluation of the dude looking back at me. In the mirror- not some creepy neighbor watching me shower.

It’s been a heck of a year so far. By and large, 2013 has been a very positive year. Some ups and downs and a few troubles along the way, but by and large we’ve made good things happen. I’ve got a great day job, my writing is going very well, everyone’s healthy and happy, and aside from our ongoing housing issues with our landlord and landlady, life is good. But it’s been a busy year too, and that means there’s been a price I’ve had to pay. Other than sleep, that is.

The dude in the mirror directed his eyes downward and let me know, with a pointed glance, what the problem was. No, not THAT far down. No problems there, thankyouverymuch. I’ve had many weeks where I was lucky to make it to the basement to work out one time, let alone the 3 or 4 I used to enjoy. Between that and too much crappy food (junk food, eating out, etc.), I’m afraid I wouldn’t look presentable in a bikini. Then again, the leg hair and incongruous bulges might make the bikini an unpleasant viewing experience even if I was in the kind of shape I wanted to be.

So starting last night I’ve established a short term goal of two months to whip myself back into shape. Yes, I admit, this morning’s frank appraisal was planned. Normally I don’t like planning things because then the word “premeditated” gets thrown around, but this was an exception. I even took a pic in the mirror this morning to compare in a couple of months with the guy staring back at me. It should be a good time. The plan is simple, eat better and work out more. Nothing to it, right?

Actually no, it’s not difficult. So why haven’t I done it before now? First I needed to have a talk with my doctor. Not a “can I work out without dying” kind of talk, but rather the wtf is wrong with me kind of talk. He’d done some labs on me a month or so back and one of the many things he tracks has to do with iron. I give blood regularly and it turns out that can be a minor problem. Not life threatening by any means, but my body has a tendency to try and make a lot of blood. One of the reasons I give blood, outside of being a nice guy, is to keep my red blood cell count from getting too thick. Lots of those are a good thing, but too many can lead to complications including a stroke. And trust me, nobody wants to see me stroking out.

So I get bled out every now and then. Usually on purpose, although the occasional jack knife in the leg incident can lead to significant accidental blood loss too. My body goes crazy trying to replace that blood and it needs iron to do so. What it can’t get from normal sources it finds internally. It’s called ferritin, and that’s the iron stores in a person’s body. Mine, it turns out, was below the bottom end of the normal range.

Common symptoms of low ferritin include chronic fatigue / tiredness and headaches. Well I’ve had an increasing number of headaches lately and when I do workout I get exhausted damn quick. I was blaming it on only 6 hours or so of sleep a night, getting older, and the stress of a busy year. Mind you since I left the automotive industry my stress levels got a LOT better, but my crazy rental house situation is trying hard to fill the void.

I learned this stuff last Thursday (which was ironically two months ahead of schedule – turns out I drove from Novi to Lansing for my doc appt and I had the date wrong, by two months! My doc was due in for surgery but squeezed in time to meet me anyhow. Hell of a guy.). That night I picked up some iron supplements and also some other stuff he recommended to bring me back up to optimal levels. Now four days later, I’m already feeling back on top of the world. Last night’s workout only consisted of two exercises but I had the energy to take them all the way and would have done more if my kids hadn’t been wanting me to come and put up Halloween decorations with them.

So the new goal is this: 2 – 4 exercises per session with 4 – 5 workouts a week. I may even do a little cardio, although I can’t stand that stuff. I much prefer lifting hard and heavy. And no, that’s not a euphemism. As an example here was last night’s workout which felt great and left me wanting more:

Bench Press:

135lb x 10 reps (warm up)

225 x 8 (this felt really good and easy)

275 x 3 (could have done more but I was warming up for the next one)

315 x 1 (haven’t done this much in a while so I didn’t want to push myself too much. It felt good though)

315 x 1 (decided to do it again and I bet I could have done two, but the last time I really pushed myself while benching I ripped my pec off my arm and had to have surgery. My powerlifting career was ended so I can afford to minimize risks now)

Supinated grip lat pulldowns:

180 x 8

200 x 8

230 x 8

250 x 8

250 x 8 (good lifts all with the last set being difficult to do)

Most doctors, by the way, don’t check or care about ferritin. Or so mine says. I don’t care what he thinks of other docs, he does a good job with me. He even came recommended to me as one of the leading experts on men’s health. I’ve been seeing him for around 8 years now and I keep going back for more. Must be he’s doing something right. My only suggestion to people interested in optimizing their own health is to ask for a copy of any bloodwork you get done and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Google the tests and numbers to see what’s what and then ask away. If your doc doesn’t give you a satisfactory answer, maybe there’s a reason for that. I know I have yet to meet a general practitioner that knows much of anything beyond chicken pox, flu / cold, how to set a broken arm or finger, other basic ailments. That’s not a criticism, there’s a lot to know and it’s virtually impossible to keep up with everything. My criticism comes in when doctors discard something that they’re unfamiliar with or were told didn’t matter. But that’s a rant for another day. For now I only recommend keeping an open mind and being willing to look for a second or third opinion if you feel something’s not right.

I’ll post infrequent updates on how things are going more as a guide than as a narcissistic look-at-how-buff-I-am sort of thing. Will there be pics? I don’t know. Maybe, but probably not. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone but myself. Sure I take the pics, but I reserve my vanity for myself. I’m the person I have to impress. Well that and my wife, but she’s looking better and better every day all on her own.

Enough babbling! There’s work that needs to be done and a group of unfortunate people stranded on Europa that have no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into. And that’s without considering the guy who appears to be a mad scientist that’s locked himself up in the laboratory…

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.