Richard Lung

Biography

My later years acknowledge the decisive benefit of the internet and the web in allowing me the possibility of publication, therefore giving the incentive to learn subjects to write about them.
I have been the author of the Democracy Science website since 1999. This combined scientific research with democratic reform.

While, from my youth, I acknowledge the intellectual debt that I owed a social science degree, while coming to radically disagree, even as a student, with its out-look and aims.

Whereas from middle age, I acknowledge how much I owed to the friendship of Dorothy Cowlin, largely the subject of my e-book, Dates and Dorothy. This is the second in a series of five books of my collected verse. Her letters to me, and my comments came out, in: Echoes of a Friend.....

Authors have played a big part in my life.
Years ago, two women independently asked me: Richard, don't you ever read anything but serious books?
But Dorothy was an author who influenced me personally, as well as from the written page. And that makes all the difference.

I have only become a book author myself, on retiring age, starting at stopping time!

Smashwords Interview

How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Having just been published by Smashwords today, | can tell you it was quite a sense of achievement to get this far.
While "Dates and Dorothy" did not require a highly technical format, it consists of about 169 poems. So, it's not like having to format a dozen or twenty chapters to a novel.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The web gave me a new start to writing, making me try hard to understand challenging ideas. That's it: ideas.
They can be poetic appeals to the imagination, as well as scientific insights into the mystery of life.
Read more of this interview.

Where to find Richard Lung online


Books

If the Poor are on the Moon... The Work of Mother Teresa.
Price: Free! Words: 11,730. Language: English. Published: January 8, 2017. Categories: Plays » Religious & Liturgical, Nonfiction » Biography » Religious biography
The Work of Mother Teresa, to fulfill her mission of love, this play follows. Only the strongest devotion could endure such sustained hardships and manage such achievements for the care of the poor and neglected.
Echoes Of A Friend: Letters from Dorothy Cowlin. Comment by Richard Lung.
Price: Free! Words: 35,480. Language: English. Published: June 17, 2016. Categories: Nonfiction » Relationships and Family » Friendship, Essay » Author profile
A gentle and generous soul, with a quiet and sunny disposition, well liked by many, and more radical than most, a deeply serious human being, with an over-worked conscience, who I once told was a monster of honesty. This was Dorothy, the solace of the friendless, the maker, who made a maker out of me, in her own letters, unshadowed by thoughts of publication.
Science is Ethics as Electics.
Price: Free! Words: 117,500. Language: English. Published: June 15, 2016. Categories: Nonfiction » Science and Nature » Research & Methodology, Nonfiction » Social Science » Political science
A universe, by definition independent, implies its own freedom. The debate, whether the universe is determined or governed by laws of chance, takes the opposite ends to a range from zero to infinite choice. Science is measurement, whose logic is an increasing power of choice to give the most accurate information. Knowledge and freedom depend on each other. They are the dynamic of progress.
He's a Good Dog. (He just doesn't like you to laf.)
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 37,570. Language: English. Published: May 6, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Humor & comedy » Satire, Fiction » Poetry » U.K. Poetry
"A Boot Boy in the Great War" is a verse and drama novela. A publishing agent forbad any stories about the Battle of Jutland or the pet budgie. This collection manages to break both tabus, together with a host of other undesirables. Not to mention Dafty Tailchaser, who tells the tale of the Good Dog and others of his kind.
The Valesman
Price: Free! Words: 30,170. Language: English. Published: April 25, 2016. Categories: Nonfiction » Science and Nature » Farming, Nonfiction » History » Family history
This Yorkshire farmer worked six days a week from dawn to dusk. His only holiday was to France, which he got to tour three times, owing to a near fatal facial wound. Conscription no doubt made good use of his digging abilities in those trenches.
In The Meadow Of Night
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 37,580. Language: English. Published: April 19, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure, Fiction » Poetry » Themes & motifs
Mankind has reached for the stars from forever. Modern astronomy is still grounded in antiquity. The poetry of nature and folklore is joined by science fiction and fantasy. Humanity wonders at its own existence. The over-whelming grandeur of the heavens ever unfolds itself before us. Our transitory and insignificant nature is impressed upon us.
Science and democracy reviews.
Price: Free! Words: 93,370. Language: English. Published: October 12, 2015. Categories: Nonfiction » Science and Nature » Physics, Nonfiction » Politics and Current Affairs » Democracy
As they separately pursue their shared ethic of progress, scientific research and democratic reform conduct themselves as two different journeys, both here followed, as the evidence mounts that they depend on each other to meet the stresses that survival poses.
Literary Liberties
Price: Free! Words: 83,010. Language: English. Published: August 14, 2015. Categories: Essay » Literature, Essay » Political
Literary Liberties with reality allow us to do the impossible of being other people from all over the world. Just as this world may be only one of many, that we cannot reach, a human version of the many worlds theory may be made a fact thru fiction.
Scientific Method of Elections.
Price: Free! Words: 125,620. Language: English. Published: June 5, 2015. Categories: Nonfiction » Politics and Current Affairs » Democracy, Nonfiction » Social Science » Methodology
The sheer difficulty of genuine electoral reform is shown and explained. The defeat of democracy is also a defeat for science. Freedom and knowledge depend on each other. Therein is the remedy. I base voting method on a widely accepted logic of measurement, to be found in the sciences. This is supported by reflections on the philosophy of science.
Peace-making Power-sharing.
Price: Free! Words: 104,970. Language: English. Published: May 13, 2015. Categories: Nonfiction » Politics and Current Affairs » Democracy, Essay » Political
The first Canadian Citizens Assembly found out the best electoral reform, only to have the goal-posts moved against its adoption. Britain had half a dozen undemocratic voting methods, because only that one democratic method could work at all levels of government. The world anarchy of election systems are passed off as fashion statements. But progress in democracy wont go away.
Radical!
Price: Free! Words: 50,840. Language: English. Published: March 4, 2015. Categories: Plays » Religious & Liturgical, Nonfiction » Politics and Current Affairs » Activism
Radical! begins with a play, If the poor are on the moon.., about Mother Teresa (currrently freely available on the web). Monologs follow on artistic and scientific radicals (Berlioz, Sibelius, Sigmund Freud, JS Mill, Conan Doyle, Bernard Shaw, HG Wells, George Orwell, JB Priestley), as well as shorter features. Environmental verse and an essay on a statistical relativity conclude.
Dates and Dorothy
Price: Free! Words: 50,840. Language: English. Published: September 6, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » Biography » Literary biography, Essay » Author profile
Since coming of age I wanted to change the world, when, in middle age, the world returned the compliment by changing me. That is when I met my guide and mentor Dorothy Cowlin.

Richard Lung's tag cloud

acting    alan ayckbourn    aldous huxley    alexander solzhenitsyn    animals    apocalyptic    authors    birds    british poetry    charity    children    childrens pranks    christianity    citizens assemblies    composers musicians    corruption    cosmology    democracy and freedom    dogs    dorothy cowlin    dystopian    economic democracy    educational poetry and poems    election systems    electoral justice    electoral reform    english novelists    english poetry    environment    family    fantasy    farming    friendship    friendship adventures    george orwell    gorgeous    h g wells    harriet beecher stowe    human rights    inspirational and religious    introspective psychology    irving stone    j b priestley    jesus    lay nuns    leaders notable people    literary biography    logic of measurement    loneliness    love    love poems    margaret atwood    meditations    missionary    mother teresa    mysticism    natural selection    nature    nature walks    nuclear power    peace    peace movement    peter oborne    philosophers    philosophy of science    poetry    poets    political    politics    popular culture    postwar history    poverty    proportional representation    quantum physics    radicals    relativity    religious    religious cooperation    saints    satire    scientific method    scientific romance    seaside holidays    single transferable vote    social choice theory    social history    social scientists psychologists    sociology    space opera    speculative fiction    star gazing    statistical information    surreal    the arts    time    travel    two cultures    universal suffrage    values    voting methods    voting systems    wellsian    women authors    yorkshire   

Smashwords book reviews by Richard Lung

  • The Many Benefits of Having No Friends on March 04, 2016

    The reader is never far from the authors thoughts, judging by the continual references to dear reader, gentle reader, my literary companion, and so forth. This is a conversation then or chit-chat, tho formally organised into chapters about the social round. Hence, the style is suitably simple. There are no literary allusions to authorities. The only authority is the authors personal experience. This is all well and good, because that is what we crave. Tho a fellow countrymen to the author, I still could be taken aback by the odd example of reckless crookedness, exposed by these confidences. Never mind, her observations rang true enough. This country seems to have thrown out the baby of good manners with the bath-water of etiquet. On occasion, such as the folly of co-renting, her distaste for her companion amounted to pure passion. Not of the sort I would recommend, despite an acute sympathy for her predicament. At this point, I was tempted to make a literary allusion to my favorite author, but, following Hartleys good example, I desist. Instead, I offer my most useful critical comment on this title. It is actually not about friends at all. It is much about the death, to esteem for ones companions, by a thousand cuts of more or less inconsiderate behaviour or slovenly disrespect, as well as confidence trickery and predatory scheming. Those companions, however, are not so much bad friends, as merely bad companions. The abject failures, in shared pleasure-seeking, dubious or down-right repulsive, which the book is largely about, is not friendship. The author seems to have no idea of friendship, as a sharing of interests, as is held by an author, more authoritative than we are. I would say the main interest, of the authors researches, are in finding what bores are everyone she has met. But she should know that is the whole point of friendship, in finding just those people, who share our interests and enliven our lives. And this reviewer speaks as an unexampled expert on isolation. I have been much helped by the cultural desert of so-called society, of which this book is perhaps an unintended satire. Its author may be not so much a hermit, as an all too typical sample of insular British sub-urban middle class aloofness, in their little boxes, as Madam de Stael wrote, long before Pete Seeger sang it of America.
  • The Voice of Fukushima: A Cry From The Heart - Ground Zero 01: Earthquake on April 02, 2016

    The voice of Fukushima – a cry from the heart by Yogan Baum This free e-book is the first, in a series, that eventually lives thru the M9 earthquake, and ends moments before the Japanese tsunami of March 2011. This is as if the author himself was one of its nearly twenty thousand victims. In his rush home, after the mega-quake, he very nearly was. So, the scene is set, from the point of view of a globe-trotter, who just happened to land, over twenty years previously, in a little fishing village, twenty or so miles south of the Fukushima nuclear power plants. The story is indeed a cry from the heart, drawing breath in asides about incidentals of Japan, and its family and working life, in which he came to share. His narrative doesn't shun odd coincidences, that crop-up. The author plainly states that he wants the reader to appreciate the feelings behind the words. But this is really one persons journey thru life, to which the nuclear-power folly is just an outrageous political intrusion. The personal story kept me reading, more than could a worthy text on the “hubris” of atomic power, however much I might sympathise. Yet, the author has an intelligent awareness that supposed human destiny is more like fate, perhaps terrible, yet not here over-stated. For me, the most moving passage in the book (it moved me to tears, to tell you the truth) is how the author honors the leadership of the then Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, later to be ousted, for business as usual: “Think of the more than 10,000 fuel rods in cooling tanks and you have over 14,000 fuel rods in Dai-ichi alone, all ready to run wild if not constantly cooled. Add the thousands in Dai-ni to gain a more complete picture. March 11 brought the world much, much closer to unspeakable horrors than most people realise. Only by a certain amount of good luck, the courage of some good men and the grace of the gods, as former Prime Minister Naoto Kan said in a recent speech, were we saved.” “… This self-effacing truly honorable Naoto Kan himself saved his own country from ruin, and the whole world from catastrophe. We were saved by the courage of two men, the other being plant manager Masao Yoshida… Kan was not to be bent: for that one time in his life he stood his ground in the face of overwhelming adversity and ordered TEPCO to continue cooling efforts… Yoshida testified he felt he was sure to die, but even though, he did not give up his post. Through his own personal example he got enough men to stay inside the ruined plant, literally crawling in the dark, to somehow save us all. These men plus two or three scores of firefighters from Tokyo,…” Business as usual makes for an enduring tragedy of the nuclear madness, not only in Japan. The British government (in league with the French) practises the death-worship of renewing its Trident totem of planetary life-threatening nuclear weapons and their nuclear-power accessory. The sequel books by Yogan Baum are likely to be at least as readable and enkightening on this dreadfully under-rated issue.
  • The Lost Star Episode One on April 09, 2016

    The setting reminded me of the original low-budget Star Trek series, where the office lifts and ventilation shafts were made to moonlight as a spaceship. And “Report to sickbay” meant a recliner couch in an alcove. However, the Star Trek creator, Pacific bomber veteran, Gene Roddenberry originally set out to make The Enterprise crew an assembly of universal peace. And while Odette C Bell has written less a space opera than a soap opera, she is perhaps as sympathetic a writer, revealing a mature and humane personality, that is most attractive. The legal standards of judging character by evidence, rather than hear-say from ones favorites, is truer to the timeless method of science, than typical SF technobabble. The author builds it into high drama, where secrecy obstructs the peace.
  • The Voice of Fukushima: A Cry from the Heart - Ground Zero 02: Tsunami and Worse on Jan. 22, 2017

    The Voice of Fukushima: A Cry from the Heart - Ground Zero 02: Tsunami and Worse. by Yogan Baum. The first (and free) book of this trilogy looks back on the authors travels and settlement in Japan. He married and joined that hive of activity. But like a hive, it has an over-all tranquility. And the landscape of the authors past is one of peaceful remembrance. Until the mega-quake, when even the framework of that landscape is shaken. After a lively button-holing preface, we are back to the day the earth stood still – not! This beginning is the part of the book, like some Robinson Crusoe, I most identify with. Because the dislocation is not only of land and sea but of man from society, which remains more an English than a Japanese condition. The author puts it down to a general state of shock, which he was not aware of, at the time. The numbness wears off and my English stand-offishness envies the reassertion of social cohesion between extended family and friends. Above all, this is a human story, peppered with witty associations and rambling but compulsive asides, written as fluidly as a fugue, of the flight of the author and his wife from Fukushima, even as three reactor housings explode, one after the other. I didn’t know what that was about, till the author explained each of them. Outrageous, how blandly the British media covered them. The Guardian news-paper received leaked emails from the Energy Department, to nip in the bud, bad publicity from the Japanese nuclear disaster. I read a Guardian Comment Is Free conversation, part of which went something like this: Yes, the BBC was definitely on message. After a power-plant explosion, a studio comment went: Oh that’s all right then. Adolf Hitler said: If you tell a lie, make it a big one. Richard Feynman said: Reality cannot be fooled. Days after Fukushima nuclear under-went explosive destruction, when they could not possibly know, journalists, right and left, in a hysterical defiance of reality having made fools of them, proclaimed that Fukushima proved that nuclear is safe. This second account, in the trilogy, is not a catalog of catastrophes from the tsunami. We are not reminded, in much detail, of the reducing of towns to trash heaps, as if the ocean had fallen into the mental state of those hoarders, shown on TV, in the chaotic decay of their homes. There is no mention of the lonely tower bloc, left standing, surreally topped by a flat-based cargo ship. Tho living only 20 miles south of the nuclear power stations, which took a direct hit, the authors village was behind a somewhat sheltered promontory. When he prudently decamped to the hillside, with Japanese-like politeness, he did not intrude himself in front of the onlookers, from their vantage point. There was not much to see, anyway. With regard to all the tsunami videos on the Internet, he admits to not wanting to see the human tragedies. However, he does discuss his own psychological shortcomings of disregard for the danger, not immediately seen. He relates this, to videos showing people, on high ground, warning, those below, of the coming wall of water. But they don’t start to run, till they can see it themselves, when it is usually too late. This is a parable of the human condition. In particular, the author likens some 450 nuclear power stations, to colossal tops that have to be kept spinning, lest they crash down – meltdown. This, of course, is bad engineering practise. You don’t build an inherently dangerous structure and then add safety constraints, as an after-thought. You build a reasonably safe structure, in the first place. You don’t take over the ultimate weapon development of uranium fission and make do with it, for civilians, as “a hell of a way to boil water.” Instead, if there is any not too offensive form of nuclear fission, it might have some limited use as a niche technology. As one might expect, from a nearby resident, on his toes, the author has some disturbing revelations about the three nuclear meltdowns. Half a world away, they point up the arrogant infallibility, or infallible arrogance, of the British establishment in pursuit of a nuclear renaissance, that most of the public don’t want. This is all to do with the reassertion of government, here and there, as an instrument of domination rather than representation. Humanity is more likely to flounder, in its own deceit, than anything else.
  • Fatal Boarding on July 20, 2017
    (no rating)
    Fatal Boarding by ER Mason 2011 In the decades when e-books were still the joke of a promise that never happened, it was already true that one could never hope to read more than a tiny portion of all the SF books that had been written. This growing galaxy of the imagination can never be toured, any more than the stars themselves. What is certain is that there is a great deal of good and honest work there, intelligent and informed enough, to make one wonder why things have to be so bad. In this stalwart space opera, by ER Mason, things do go really bad, as the title ominously hints. The narrative character is not your prominent socialite, of the comic books. Difficulties, however, only bring out of this reticent personality his capability. Once in awhile, one comes across a story that says a little more (which I won’t give away) than the run of quite commendable fictions. Looking back at the opening lines of the first chapter, I can see this promise.
  • Unbounded on July 20, 2017
    (no rating)
    Unbounded by Ander Nesser This is a great book of space exploration information, made into interesting incidentals of taking part in the journey, enjoying the excitement, without partaking of the undoubtedly real dangers of the enterprise. Unlike the old days of SF, that I grew up in, these are no longer so much a question of if, as when. The central narrative character, we identify with, is not a specialist. Called Ryder, it is as if he is along for the ride, before he proves his worth, as we all would hope to do. This is despite the fact that current technology remains hopelessly inadequate. Not even could we repeat, at short notice, the few faltering steps, taken nearly half a century ago, to our most conveniently placed giant moon. However, we could expect brisk progress, once the race makes up its mind. And up till now, all speculation has been blind-sided by the inability of science to detect the existence of planets, in the solar systems of our nearest neighbors.They would still take many thousands of years to reach, by current means of propulsion. But it is not beyond the bounds of possibility, that certain theoretical drive principles, using antimatter, fusion, or ion drives, might make inter-planetary travel, to our solar neighbors, practical on a historical time-scale or even within a current human life-span. The traditional SF resort, to instantaneous travel thru worm-holes, would require prohibitive expenditures of energy. And familiarity with the infinite intricacies of hyper-spatial geometry, that conceivably may come within the reach of advanced quantum computing. There is a great incentive for a concerted human effort, that would be required to take on such a challenging project. Unbounded was one of the last SF books, still in the dark about possible colonisation of relatively close solar systems. So it contemplates a mission, in terms of hundreds, upon hundreds of years. It doesn’t matter all that much, since even a journey to the nearest solar systems might be hazarded on similar terms, if space-ship technology cannot be brought up to speed. Ander Nesser doesn’t duck the big problems, which have yet to be solved. He assumes cryogenic stasis a done job. But the on-board scientists are still grappling with the limited capacity for surviving genetic damage from radiation in outer space. The possible nature of alien life forms are well discussed and imaginatively conceived. The rule for this success is the same as it was, in the first great modern extra-planetary SF novel: if you want to know the alien life forms of other planets, know them on this planet. For, the author of The War Of The Worlds, HG Wells was educated as a biologist. Nesser gives his marine aliens the names of wave properties, like interference patterns and so forth. Wells could have told his modern SF counterparts that democracy requires more than a show of hands or a plurality count. The colonisation ship is a hot-house of secrecy and distrust, not only between the crew, but between crew and ship control by sophisticated artificial intelligence. This is overlaid by the problem of whether to trust the aliens, who have been shadowing them, and which of their warring factions are genuine. All this drama of doubt and deceit supplies plenty of opportunity for a good old-fashioned space opera, to leaven all that “wonders of the universe” stuff. One of the authors many scientific diversions, which I do find diverting, comes when one faction of the aliens puts forward the computer theory of the universe. Reality is formed of building blocks, the sub-atomic quantities, called quantum. In this respect, it resembles the discrete bits of information, handled by digital computers. For all their aquatic exoticism, the alien factions sound remarkably like a human division between theological dogmatists and empirical scientists. The latter make a fool of the former, like in Galileo discourse on the two world systems. Of course, the author is making a deliberate reflection upon ourselves. One of the weaknesses, of this presentation of space exploration problems, is not the fault of this comprehensively read author. Rather, it is the traditional SF stumbling block of not being able to communicate with aliens, who do not know your phonographic alfabet. I guess the solution is the invention of an intuitively universal language of pictographic holograms, the technological equivalent of pictographic and ideographic sign language. This manageable problem may have achieved so little progress, because effective communication between humans, let alone beings from other planets, has not been a priority. There is too much vested interest, in controling people, kept in ignorant tribal conflict. The moral is that if we do not learn to live well with ourselves, albeit out-landers, we are not going to learn to live well with out-spacers. Likewise, the wilful ignorance of democratic method is a serious threat to informed consensus, as a necessary condition of stable progress, not least in the confined conditions of a long voyage into the unknown.
  • The Last Enemy - Parts 1,2 & 3 - 1934-2054 on July 20, 2017
    (no rating)
    The Last Enemy parts 1, 2 and 3 by Luca Luchesini. The title is borrowed from a well-known soubriquet for death. Genes stop generating. Suppose a drug could make life as immortal as cancer cells, described in that modern classic “The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot. The author gives a plausible fiction of the coming of the anti-ageing drug. It has to carry some conviction, if the social problems of its invention are to be seen as more than academic. The inventor perceives that he is riding a tiger, as any number of his kind will stop at nothing to take away his gift to humanity. In his search for helpful associates, the narration shows a great breadth of sympathy with people of all cultural origins. Individuals are better than organisations. The author gives the impression of considerable awareness of the worlds various secret agencies, and of the entwinement of legal and illegal practices. And again a certain common humanity is manifested by the individuals within them. Eventually, tho, the inventors closest partners develop diverging interests and distrust seeps in. All of which has to be allowed for, philosophically. Disguising their immortality is itself a formidable identity problem. Again, the author gives a plausible scenario of how even the best laid plans may be discovered inadvertently by the ever watchful security services. Besides the personal problems of the inner circle of immortals, the passing of the decades requires the background scenery of a future history. We are shown rising big powers wars for resources, with technology losing the battle against climate change. The power of parasitism seems to render human weakness inevitable, no matter the technical advances that could bring security to all. Even as the human race faces extinction, the author goes so far as to suggest that the immortality treatment may become self-sustaining and confer beneficial side-effects to memory and mental ability, in effect creating a new species, another vision of the Superman. Something of the sort may happen, for all I know. Only lack of imagination leads us to doubt a continued increase in human longevity (unless the human parasite kills the human host). However, the technical problems are likely to prove much more intractable, and such progress, as is made, may bring with it commensurate drawbacks, before we even consider the sociological and psychological implications
  • To The Stars on July 20, 2017
    (no rating)
    To The Stars the Harry Irons trilogy part 1 by Thomas C Stone The nice simple title, To The Stars, is a return to bread-and-butter line SF. What Brian Aldiss, in Billion Year Spree, ironically dubbed "the stars my detestation", has given way to post-modernism. This story does not suffer fools gladly. Sooner or later, characters are dispatched by their own flaws, more than by hostile aliens. As to those, the author eventually subsides into a Heinlein-like complacency about indomitable humanity, that introduces Time Enough For Love. In one of his SF novels, CS Lewis does an amusing skit on human imperialist ambitions in outer space, (before they could even escape Earths gravity well) by having an interpreter give a satirical translation of such hubris. Such space operas have not really escaped the cultural gravity well of planet Earth. At any rate, Robert Heinlein was a great story-teller. And Thomas Stone knows how to keep the reader on the tight-rope walk of his adventure story. It is perhaps not giving too much away to say that the primitives are more sympathetic than the technological aliens. The author has us recognise that advanced intelligence may not bring benevolence. (The movie, Mars Attacks was perhaps the ultimate farce on that scenario.) This pessimism is off-set by the always appealing possibility of futuristic artefacts falling into our laps. This, we primitives on space-ship Earth can vicariously imagine future generations "picking-up".
  • Virgo 97 on July 20, 2017
    (no rating)
    Virgo 97 a science fiction thriller by Italo Marago Man-made climate change might turn Earth into another Venus. Stephen Hawking said so, the other day, about President Trump reneging on the international Paris climate change accord. As far back as the 1950s, the greenhouse effect is mentioned, in The Space Merchants, by Pohl and Kornbluth, so far ahead of the game is classic SF. The climate is controled by so many unknowns, in so many equally unknown complex inter-relations, that no-one really can be sure what will happen. The releasing of vast amounts of such potent greenhouse gases as methane into the atmosphere from melting continental permafrost looks like the start of a runaway climate crash, that could very quickly become impossible to stop. This doomsday scenario has concentrated the minds of contemporary science-fiction writers. Many of them naturally turn their eyes to that least unpromising bolt-hole, for any remnants of humanity, Mars. Virgo 97 is the take of Italo Marago. It is an SF thriller, as he says, because we are not just dealing with the logistics of survival but also the illogical humans who supposedly are trying to carry them out. The ingenious plot is aided by Marago making do with flawed but redeemable human material. Be prepared for appearances to be deceiving.
  • The Wandering Island Factory on July 20, 2017
    (no rating)
    The Wandering Island Factory by TR Nowry. The title has shades of Roald Dahl about it, that deceive the inner eye. In the grand science-fiction tradition of Jules Verne, the hero of the story is a new technological marvel, conceivably just round the corner, if not completely round the bend, from present engineering capabilities. The 21st-century Propeller Island, to which the title might allude, is a manufactured floating island of lava piped into solid interlocking blocks of pumice, lighter than water but immensely strong.Eventually, even pumice will sink and break up, unless somehow impregnably water-proofed and reinforced against hundred foot waves. Like every good science-fiction writer, he knows how to sweep past the main practical objection, in a sentence, buried amongst all the plausible circumstantial construction details of this prestige project. The story takes its time, thru a long slow development of man trying to get by, and get along with a mate. Will patient devotion pay off? Will the jobs and the money and the relationship run out? Jules Verne would never get us down with such mundane considerations. Like TR Nowry, Verne (From The Earth To The Moon) was aware of the shortcomings of the solar science of his day, before solar fusion was understood. Whereas Nowry picks up on the respectable alternative science hypothesis that climate change is mainly dependent on fluctuations in solar radiation, connected with sunspot activity. (Veteran popular science writer, Nigel Calder co-wrote a book with one of its leading scientists.) As the seas rise, under global warming, a sort of Swiss family Robinson embark on a miniature version of floating volcanic island, in a basalt block of a boat. In this way, they seek to avert the worst effects of the solar apocalypse. They are perhaps as much a danger to themselves as is global warming. The heroine has a “morning cough.” All of them are more or less heavy smokers of “cancer sticks,” as cigarettes are aptly described in the story. It will transpire that the author is as addicted to those cancer sticks for the planet, of uranium fuel rods. The heat from the volcanic rock of an artificial island can be harnessed (with steam turbines) to generate electricity. More permanently, geothermal (or hydrothermal) energy can be created by the difference in heat between surface water and cool ocean depths. (The thermodynamics of the Carnot heat engine.) The author suggests that the resulting surface cooling effect might prevent the onshore devastation of hurricanes. However, the author or narrative character deprecates wave power. Wind turbines, he insists on calling “unsightly” “windmills,” like any propagandist for nuclear power. Of a rising sea level, drowning nuclear power reactors, needing water cooling by sea or river, all the narrator can say is that he doesn’t see any three-eyed fish. While politicians are regarded as totally unscrupulous as money sharks, and no cynicism is spared for human folly, the narrator promotes uranium reactors - forever poisoning the planet to drive turbines a few decades - instead of allowing the wind to drive turbines for free. People are indeed strange.
  • The Spiraling Web on July 22, 2017
    (no rating)
    The Spiralling Web by Ryan Somma Here is a book about computer geekdom, with a most readable difference, made memorable by the poetic imagination with which it conceives the graphics of cyberspace. The juvenile geeks are memorable too. And there is real passion in the resistance to the corporate closing down of freedom of digital information and its dozily complacent apologists, in all their mercenary mindlessness. Plenty of scope for the web to be invaded by a spider and fly conflict; the main character trapped in the real world, and so forth. This goes on at a good whack and eventually spills out uncontrollably into reality. This climaxes in a movie-esque apocalypse. Not only is the day saved, as usual, but the web spirals into a power and knowledge utopia of multi-dimensional cosmic proportions, courtesy of exponentially increasing artificial intelligence, with the digitised ancient library of Alexandria thrown-in as a sweetener. Yeah right.
  • In Constant Contact on July 22, 2017
    (no rating)
    In Constant Contact by Tom Lichtenberg This is a rather slender story that has latched on to the claustrophobic trend of the Internet to manufacture friendship. It requires some persistence. But I could not quite let it go, because the small world of the narrator, in his Corporation cubicle, yet harbors an active mind, perhaps an over-active mind, given to worry to no good purpose. He is the classic little man, in the big organisation, who, wearying of his futile passive role, makes some small contribution of his own, that he perhaps was not quite supposed to, and trembles ever afterwards at the consequences. Yet he is vaguely comforted by an intuition, that he is the stooge, that the big names cannot do without. “Friendship was a slippery thing, solid one day and vanish the next. People changed, they moved on. Good friends were not only hard to find, they were nearly impossible to keep, at least at the same level forever. Your best friend one day could be your enemy the next, or just drift away, become an acquaintance, before you had any idea what had happened. And there were so many facets of friendship. It could never be clearly defined…”
  • Transplant on July 22, 2017
    (no rating)
    Transplant by D B Reynolds-Morton This is a lifeboat story, tho not The Cruel Sea. A private company of rich and “reasonably sane” men try to launch a sample humanity away from the world before it destroys itself. It will take an interminable time before the survivors reach a doubtfully habitable destination. The story begins when the passengers have long since forgotten their origins and the life-support systems are well past their sell by date. I got the impression that the author enjoyed laying on every moan of superannuated machinery and every responding moan of the hapless inmates. Everything is on the blink and the verge of collapse. It is only a matter of time before the patching, by the largely inept passenger-crew, has to stop. That time comes… This tale, which is a good example of the genre, fascinates us, because we are like those coddled dependents ourselves, at the same time, at the mercy of malfunctioning governments. The moral of the story is that society would be happier and work better, if governments suffered their citizens to be more self-reliant, i.e. democracy.
  • The Glass Hummingbird on July 22, 2017
    (no rating)
    The Glass Hummingbird by ER Mason The opening drama is a tour de force of ingenious realism, that gives little hint of the nature of the main body of the book. It is well worth reading in itself as a self-help rescue improvisation. From there, we move on to the stock in trade of what turns out to be a science fiction. This being the furtive inventor, in his secret basement. The characters pass thru a dark mirror portal, in shades of Through The Looking Glass. And enter Dreamland. This has something to do with the collective unconscious. At any rate, the dream walkers gain access to nefarious doings, which the story is about desperate attempts to prevent. This tale is so much technological window dressing for what looks suspiciously like a Secret Service experiment in remote viewing (previously called clairvoyance) as described in the book, Psychic Warrior, by David Morehouse. (As an autobiography, a debunker cited the comment: Don't worry, it's going to be a novel, anyway.) This classified project was closed down (so we are told) which does not suggest that it was particularly effective, despite some claims made for it. And I have to admit that they did not make much impression on me. (That was even before reading the debunking.) I will say tho, that ER Mason has fictionalised a similar dream atmosphere, to that described in the remote viewing experiments. In common with his quite different SF adventure, Fatal Boarding, there is an under-lying spiritual pre-occupation.
  • The Colonisation of Mars on Aug. 06, 2017
    (no rating)
    The Colonisation of Mars by Larry William Richardson. The author spent much of his working life in arctic Canada, which must be a head start for imagining the Martian tundra. Much of this SF novel is about the narrative characters roaming thereon. This makes for a lonely story, but that suited me, as I am a lonely story. The plot hinges on actual plans for superannuated scientists to be shipped on a one-way voyage to Mars. The author is skeptical about the old-timers having much exploratory drive left. Apparently, once you’ve been out on the sands of Mars, you’ve seen it all. And the residents prefer to stay put in their Mars dome. However, the narrator is relatively young, younger than me, tho that’s not saying much. And he prefers the roving solitude of a computerised no-comforts-spared moon buggy. The Martian geography is spiced up a bit by frequent encounters with Martian space junk, real and imaginary, in the shape of secret high-risk hapless voyages from earth. These scenarios are totally unbelievable yet they work. It is rather as if we are reading SF, over the decades, telescoped into one novel. These forlorn expeditions emphasise that the Martian desert is deserted. Indeed, the narrative interacts increasingly, not with humans but with artificial intelligence. In an off-earth culture of unfettered innovation, they become the genies of the Arabian Nights working their magic, making the cavernous volcanoes of Mars habitable, and ultimately providing habitation to replace the human body before death, if in a somewhat limited form. As this book is the first in a series, however, it may be that better things are to come, in the realms of the authors imagination.
  • Rise of Man Book 1: Ascendance on Aug. 06, 2017
    (no rating)
    Rise of Man book 1: Ascendance by E Wayne Stucki. Extreme culture clash between primitive and modern man is a well worked theme in the SF genre. And it is well worked by this author. The opportunity is well taken to make some easy but still amusing sly digs at colonialism. Most of the story follows an imaginative reappraisal of how early man might have grown in skill, by having to adapt to the environment. In the process, it is a rather pleasant evocation of the simple life, without having to endure its hardships. The family even stumbles upon a garden of Eden or earthly paradise. There seems to be an enduring hankering after the nuclear dream, amongst some science-fiction writers, ever since the over-the-top propaganda of the 1950s. They have not woken from their dream, to find that it is a delusion. (Because civilian [uranium fission] nuclear energy was, first and last, a hand-me-down and stooge to military nuclear weapons.) There are hints of that naivety here, and have been, at least since Walter M Miller Jr wrote A Canticle for Leibowitz. For them, the cloud of nuclear fallout has its silver lining, with some compensating adaptation, frequently miraculous, to weigh against the undoubted genetic devastation. For the radiation research geneticist, Alice Stewart, it posed a threat of irrepairable harm to the human gene pool. However, this issue does not spoil the plot, which does not depend on a nuclear bomb radioactivity as a causal factor. And it cannot be said from the book what the author actually believes about this issue.