A Solitude of Space

On Saturday morn­ing I received a second story rejec­tion from a big-name sci­ence fic­tion magazine, and thought, screw it, I’ll just pub­lish the thing as a Kindle ebook. I present ‘A Solitude of Space’. It’s a hard SF short story of the kind I like to read. I’m really pleased with the way this one turned out.

In it, Commander Harald Sternberg of the space­craft ‘Beautiful Not’ is thirty-thousand light years from Earth when his life is threatened by a burst of mat­ter from a nearby star. Soon enough, it becomes clear that the threat is to human­ity itself.

A Solitude of Space [235345]

The Martian: A Modern Classic


This week­end, my body has been clean­ing the house, doing some Kindle admin, mow­ing the lawn, and eat­ing. My mind, how­ever, has been on Mars, thanks to the audiobook The Martian by Andy Weir.

I’m not going to tease you: This is the best hard sci­ence fic­tion book I’ve read in years, pos­sibly since Dune. Bear in mind that:

  • I don’t keep up with cur­rent fash­ions in sci­ence fic­tion, so maybe there are bet­ter hard sci­ence fic­tion volumes out there

  • I don’t like polit­ic­ally earn­est (or even insin­cere) sci­ence fiction

  • I may not even know what hard sci­ence fic­tion is, given that I’ve included Dune as an example

  • This book isn’t a door­stop with eighty char­ac­ters, sub­plots, and a gloss­ary of swear­words used on the planet Ah’hrrhr!g. It’s as long as it needs to be and that’s that.

The Martian begins with astro­naut Mark Watney regain­ing con­scious­ness on the sur­face of Mars hav­ing been left for dead by his crew­mates. What fol­lows is a grip­ping novel that reads like Apollo 13 on an epic scale: to make it, Mark has only his wits, his sci­entific train­ing as a bot­an­ist and an engin­eer, and re-runs of 1970s TV shows. Meanwhile, NASA is work­ing around the clock to help him work out ingeni­ous solu­tions to life-threatening prob­lem after life-threatening problem.

Here are some things that occurred to me as I searched for more chores this week­end in order to pro­long my listen­ing time:

  • If you’re going to write about space, know about space.

    • Get shit right. If you wrote a novel about foot­ball, you’d be embar­rassed if you didn’t know the off­side rule.
  • Just because the set­ting is highly tech­nical, that doesn’t mean your char­ac­ters can’t be well-rounded, human, and funny.

  • If you’re not inter­ested in pub­lish­ing tra­di­tion­ally, go ahead and do it anyway.

As far as I’m aware, Andy Weir wrote this book as a free serial. That’s when he star­ted to pick up read­ers. The ori­ginal draft he uploaded to the Kindle had plenty of typos, but by doing his home­work and writ­ing well, Mark accrued so much good will that his rat­ings were sky high.

Now, the novel has been picked up by a major pub­lisher. Andy Weir deserves it. He didn’t set out to make money, but I hope he does, because I’ve paid a lot more over the years for sci­ence fic­tion that is well below the bar set by The Martian. You know what? I’ve just pre-ordered a phys­ical copy for £12.99. It’ll be released in early February and it’ll be going onto my shelf.

In case you didn’t between the lines, I liked this book very much. Here’s my Amazon review:

This book is, quite simply, one of the most engross­ing reads I’ve come across for a long time. It’s metic­u­lously researched, funny, mov­ing, and just about the pin­nacle of hard SF.

Conversations in the Margin of Déjà Vu

So I’m not a dir­ector. But, if I were, I’d be first in the chair when they asked me to chat­ter away about the movie. I’m a writer, and I’m doing the next best thing.

I’m not sure where I first came across ReadMill. Somebody on Twitter men­tioned it, I expect. ReadMill is a com­pany that provides read­ing applic­a­tions for mobile devices. So far so nor­mal. The Kindle applic­a­tions do this, too. What sets ReadMill apart is that its applic­a­tions are well designed–to judge from the iPad one, at least–and allow read­ers to have con­ver­sa­tions in the margins.

I’ve always thought that the high­lights fea­ture on the Kindle was a missed oppor­tun­ity for Amazon because of the rel­at­ive lack of inter­activ­ity. ReadMill addresses that.

So here’s what I did, and what you can do too (with most books).

  1. Sign up with ReadMill.

  2. Buy a book on any one of these ser­vices. I down­loaded Déjà Vu from the Kobo store, where it is cur­rently free.

  3. Download the ReadMill app for your mobile device.

  4. Sync your lib­rary and look for com­ments by other read­ers. If you have Déjà Vu, you’ll see my ‘director’s commentary’.

What kinds of things am I includ­ing? Well, I’m not sure what people will find inter­est­ing, so I’m adding bits of trivia, thoughts on the cre­at­ive pro­cess (nat­ur­ally), and hints about deleted scenes. You can see some of them on the ReadMill page itself.

At some point in the near future, I’ll be work­ing with ReadMill on a giveaway of Déjà Vu. For the time being, if you want to check out what it’s like to use (remem­ber that the app and my book are free right now), it’s worth a shot.