A bright comet for 2013

Next year, Comet ISON will pass very closely by the sun and may give us an amazing show.  ISON stands for International Scientific Optical Network.  Usually, comets are named after their discoverers, but it was a pair of astronomers in Russia with a telescope that’s part of ISON.

This comet may turn out to be so bright when it approaches the sun that it’ll be visible in the northern hemisphere as the sun is going down.  I’m hoping for a long tail that’ll be visible for some time after sunset.  There are plenty of articles, but this one shows a photo of Comet Lovejoy in 2011.  Will we see something like this?

I’ve seen a couple of comets before.  The first was Hyakutake in March 1996.  I remember my sister and I going back to Edmonton after visiting our parents when I was in my first year of university, and I could actually see Hyakutake from the car.

But even better was Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997.  I had moved to Victoria to continue studying in university for my physics and astronomy degree, and during an astronomy lab session, we went to the roof of the building to see Hale-Bopp.  It was still somewhat light out, but the comet was incredibly clear.

Next year, we could see yet another bright comet.  I really hope ISON will give us an incredible display.  It’s expected to be bright starting in November 2013.

Will you be watching?  Have you seen any amazing celestial events?  Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Sequel poll now closed

I have now closed the sequel poll, which I had running for a bit longer than I’d expected.  I did get votes on 4 books, while the others had no votes.  So, here is the updated reading order:

  1. Gardens of the Moon – Steven Erikson (Currently reading)
  2. Revelation Space – Alastair Reynolds
  3. Guards Guards – Terry Pratchett
  4. The Reality Dysfunction Part 1: Emergence – Peter F. Hamilton
  5. The Silmarillion – J.R.R. Tolkien
  6. Dune – Frank Herbert
  7. His Majesty’s Dragon – Naomi Novik
  8. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe – Douglas Adams
  9. Macbeth – William Shakespeare
  10. Ringworld – Larry Niven
  11. A Clash of Kings – George R.R. Martin
  12. Speaker for the Dead – Orson Scott Card
  13. Wheel of Time 2: The Great Hunt – Robert Jordan
  14. 2010: Odyssey Two – Arthur C. Clarke

I’m not likely to do another poll for quite a while.  However, it’s possible I may choose my own book after this.  I’ve enjoyed the polls, and it’s given me a bit of an excitement about the unknown.

In the meantime, I’m also reading two other books, a non-fiction book that I read at night at home, and an eBook that I read on the train when I can’t sit down. I’d like to read at a faster pace.  That is, I need more time to read.  I’ll have to consider cutting down on some games and Youtube.

As always, comments are very welcome!

Official website now live!

I’ve finally done it.  I made an official blog for my future books and short stories.  There isn’t much there yet, but you can check out what I have planned.

In the future, I will have an in depth guide to my science fiction world, which has yet to be officially named.  It will contain maps, country profiles, world history, important events, and notable people.  It will also likely include information about native animals and plants.

Please take a look, and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them here.

Names, titles, writing, and websites

As the title suggests, this post is about many things.  I have a few things going around in my head right now, and I may as well get them all out in one post.

First of all, I’ve been doing some outlining work on my upcoming short story, and I finally have a main character name.  In fact, I’ve thought of names for most of the main characters.  I while back, I posted about how difficult it is to choose names.  For my main character, I already had a last name.  It was the first name that I had difficulty with.  But after a bit of research through name databases and checking with name meanings, I came up with a good one that’s appropriate for the character.

However, coming up with a title is even more difficult.  In fact, I’ve been having trouble with coming up with a name for the world.  I have an idea, but I’ll have it figured out soon, I hope.  The title, as well.

Earlier this summer, I posted about a writing challenge, to write scenes for various landmarks around the world.  I haven’t started yet, but I do plan to do this.  It may give me some inspiration.

Finally, websites.  This is a big thing.  I’m going to begin developing a homepage for myself, also with WordPress.  It’ll be my official author page, and won’t be updated like a blog.  However, it’ll have links to my various blogs, so anyone can see what I’m up to.  On that website, I will post updates on my writing process, as well as develop a kind of reference guide for the world I’ve created.  This blog will continue as always.

Comments are always welcome!

I am a Geek

There’s a Venn Diagram that’s been going around on the Internet for quite some time now, so I’m sure you’ve all seen it:

Intelligence, social ineptitude, and obsession are the prerequisites for a nerd.  Until university, I was a nerd.  I did very well in school, I was quite shy, and I was a big Star Trek fan.  Now, I’m not socially inept, as I teach for a living, and have had a decent social life.  That leaves me with geek.  I am a geek!  And I’m proud of it!

Nerds and geeks are very important people in the world, especially in the fields of science and engineering.  Many of the electronics and devices that you use everyday were developed by intelligent people who were most likely obsessed with the very things that they worked on.  You know Arthur C. Clarke, the author of 2001?  Not only was he a science fiction author, but he was also the inventor of the communications satellite.  Not bad!

I mentioned that I was obsessed with Star Trek.  I still am, though not as much as I used to be.  I’ve branched out a bit.  However, I do have a goal of owning every episode and movie on DVD or Blu-ray, as well as wanting to read many of the novels.  But that’s not my only obsession.  I’m also obsessed about fantasy novels.  It’s my favourite genre at the moment.  I also love science fiction, which was my first literary love.  I’m even writing science fiction.

Back in my childhood, I was obsessed with knowledge in general.  I enjoyed reading encyclopedias, and I couldn’t get enough of dinosaurs and astronomy.  Soon after, my obsession with Star Trek started.  Around the mid-80s, I played around with BASIC programming on my Apple IIe computer, which resulted in my obsession with computers.  I breezed through my computer classes in junior high school and high school, as I’d already known all about the topics we studied.  For a while, I was very interested in cars, and much to the surprise of my classmates in high school, I even took an automotives class.  The auto class was basically a kind of applied science, or engineering.  It really shouldn’t be surprising that I was interested in it.

But these days, my obsessions include more than just the classic geeky things.  I also really enjoy nature, history, and architecture.  I like to take pictures of buildings, old and new.  Living in Japan makes this easy for me, as Japan has some amazing modern buildings, as well as a huge number of historical sites.  I love walking long distance, though I haven’t had a chance to do much of that recently.  I walked 35 km in one day two years ago.  I discovered Instagram last year, and have taken more than 500 pictures with it.

On the more brainy side of things, I love maps and geography.  I can picture them in my mind quite easily, and I usually know exactly where I am and how to get somewhere.  I also love statistics.  I’m always watching how many views my blogs get, where the people live, which pages are popular, and so on.  I read all about sports stats, especially for hockey and sumo.  How’s that for an odd pairing?  Population of countries and cities is  a very interesting topic for me, as well.  I’ve used both geography and statistics to develop the world I’m basing my writing on.  Obsessions can be very useful!

I’m very happy to be a geek.  Life is more interesting this way.  There’s something interesting everywhere I look.

Just a little edit:

I selected this post to be featured on Book Review Blogs. Please visit the site and vote for my blog!

Pondering Star Trek novels

I’ve been a Star Trek fan since the 1980s when The Next Generation was on TV. I have watched every Star Trek series and movie (although I did miss some of the last couple seasons of DS9, which I have on DVD).  However, I have never read a Star Trek novel.

I often wonder how good they are.  I prefer to read books that don’t tamper with canon.  But I’ve read that the first TNG novel was written before the first episode even showed on TV, and that the author was given a description of the characters to base her book on.  Not exactly giving me much confidence in that book.  But I’m very curious about Star Trek novels. Eventually, I’d like to read a large number of them.

So, my question to you is: Do you have any suggestions about which Star Trek novels would be the best place to start?

And just a reminder to answer my other book question.  Please vote on my sequel poll!

Introducing my world with short stories

My world has been in development for years, yet I haven’t completed any stories for it.  Well, now is the time to change it all.  I am ready.  I have a story, I have the characters, and it’s all been in my head for 12 years.  And what will it be?  A short story.

While writing a novel is my goal, I think it’s best to start small.  I plan to write a series of short stories based in my created world, and the first one I am writing will set up the entire premise of the my universe.  It will give a beginning to the story, and it doesn’t require a novel.  It will be a short story, or possibly a novella.  I will introduce you to my world and the characters that live in it.  It hasn’t had an official name, but I have one in mind.  You see, this world is a planet orbiting a real star, one that is similar to our sun and has been a target for a search for exoplanets.  None have been discovered so far, but that doesn’t stop me from writing science fiction about it.  That’s what’s wonderful about speculative fiction.

I’m getting my creative juices going now. I’ll be writing whenever I can.  I hope you’ll enjoy the final product!

Blog updates

I’m doing a little tweaking here and there on this blog this weekend, so don’t be surprised if you see something new or a completely different look.

I’ve already added a review listing page, which you can go to from the menu above.  I have listed most of the books that I own according to author’s name, though I will add a couple more ways of listing the reviews.  I’ll also be reviewing a limited number of TV series and movies, mainly science fiction.

I’m getting a bit tired of the design of this blog, so I’ll be changing the theme this weekend.  I want some more colour and an additional side bar.  In the future, I’ll be adding more menu options at the top to list some of the series/themes I write about.

Hope you enjoy the new design once I change it.

Book Review – Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card is the first of several novels that follow the life of Andrew “Ender” Wiggin. The war with the Buggers has been going on for decades, and while Earth had defeated their massive fleets in the past, Earth needs a commander who can lead them to victory once and for all.  They do this by selecting genetically engineered children for battle school, and they have to endure intense training to become the best soldiers possible.  This book follows Ender’s training.

The above premise is quite simple, but there are facets to this story that were somewhat unexpected, making it much deeper than I’d thought.  It’s a very quick read, and at the pace I read books, this was the fastest book I’d read all year.  It is very easy to read, as it is very direct and to the point, with brief descriptions and quick action.  It’s not particularly detailed in the narrative, but the dialogue drives much of this book.  We hear Ender’s thoughts and everything he says.  Although it spans several years, the book is only 324 pages.

There are several central characters, including Ender, his older brother Peter, older sister Valentine, the head of the battle school Colonel Graff, and several other students of the battle school, particularly Alai, Bean, Petra, Bonzo, and Bernard.  Ender starts off as a 6 year old boy, and his character is compassionate, intelligent, and sometimes lacking in confidence.  He’s a mix of Peter’s aggression and Valentine’s pacifism.  Although much of the story involves Ender and the people at battle school, Peter and Valentine do play an important part in this story back on Earth.  I particularly like the characters of Alai and Petra, as they have a lot of integrity and are good kids.  Sometimes Ender’s attitude bothered me, so I couldn’t completely empathise with him.  Although I was rooting for him, he often seemed to do some things too perfectly.  Colonel Graff was an infuriating character.  He was supportive, yet too harsh.

The story took place almost exclusively on the battle school space station, though occasionally back on Earth.  The setting wasn’t described in detail, but I could imagine it well enough.

The plot seemed straightforward in the beginning.  For much of the book, I could read without many surprises.  However, it was quite interesting.  The battle tactics were very detailed and the psychology of living in a space station and using zero gravity were quite good.  I enjoyed reading when they were getting used to the battle room’s zero gravity.  Later in the story, things started becoming more intense and the motivations were more mysterious.  It had me guessing what was going to happen.  By the end, I was very surprised.  It was a very good ending that provides many possibilities for further books, which of course there were several.

I had a hard time thinking about how to rate this book.  I wasn’t feeling the story as much as I would have liked.  I couldn’t identify with the characters as much as I wanted.  It was almost excellent.  However, it was very, very good and an easy book to read.

4.5/5 stars.  It’s too good for a 4, but didn’t impress me enough for a 5.  But it’s very highly recommended.