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Saturday, July 4, 2020


Kindle users
: Hart for Adventure is now available at the special introductory price of $0.99. Pre-order now and it will be auto-delivered to your Kindle on July 8.

Book readers: If you’d prefer an actual printed and bound trade-paperback book, God love ya, the print edition of Hart of Adventure is available for order now, at the special introductory price of $9.99.

Or what the heck: at those prices, why not buy both?

Friday, July 3, 2020


In celebration of the upcoming release of Henry Vogel’s latest novel, Hart for Adventure, we’ve put his entire catalog on sale! For the next few days the Kindle versions of most of his books will be just $0.99 USD each, and a few selected titles will be absolutely free! Load up your Kindle with a whole summer’s reading at a great bargain price!

Since Hart for Adventure is a new standalone book set in Vogel’s Terran Scout Corps universe—not part of any series but sharing a common background with his other Scout novels—you’ll probably want to start by picking up these other books: 

: The bestselling book that started it all. If you like your heroes brave and true, your heroines smart and feisty, and your plots rushing along with all the cliffhanger-driven energy of an old Flash Gordon serial, you’ll love this series!  Read ’em in this order:

Scout’s Law - $0.99

After finishing the original series Vogel did a remarkable thing, in that he gave his original heroes a happy ending and let them keep it. But because he wasn’t close to being finished with telling stories in the Terran Scout Corps universe yet, he wrote another book I wanted to call Scout's Honor: The Next Generation, but he titled:

Same universe! New characters! New adventures!

“If you loved the first 4 books, this one is essential to make you happy. This is how you hand the torch off to new characters, while still maintaining what made the first books great adventures. A good mix of John Carter meets Flash Gordon, in my eyes.”

For his next three novels, Vogel then did a pivot and produced something completely different: the bestselling Fugitive Heir trilogy.

I never knew quite how to describe these books without going into too much detail, but then a reviewer hit the nail right on the head by calling it a romantic comedy road-trip adventure in space!

Of course, Captain Nancy Martin proved to be such an appealing supporting character that she got her own spinoff series. This artwork should be flipped left-to-right, because you should read The Counterfeit Captain first.

The Undercover Captain - $0.99 (sale price may still be percolating through Amazon’s system)

After The Undercover Captain, Vogel decided to try something really ambitious and produced the Recognition trilogy. These books got good reviews and even made the shortlist for a major award, but never sold as well as we’d expected. Is literary quality and mature storytelling overrated? Is it just that the very expensive original cover art doesn’t click? Read them and let us know what you think!

Which brings us at last to...

“The shades of Poul Anderson and Gordon Dickson, James Schmitz and Andre Norton, Christopher Anvil and Keith Laumer must all be looking down approvingly on Henry Vogel’s THE LOST PLANET. Its two bright, engaging, and surprisingly tough protagonists, Glen and Elise, rollick across a palpably real galactic milieu stuffed with exotic aliens, nicely rendered worlds, and a suspenseful set of wartime maneuvers. Toss in a lighthearted love story and some cosmic mysteries regarding the forerunner race known as the Progenitors, and you have a space opera that will enchant, excite, and delight!”

—Paul Di Filippo

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Flirting with Syncretism • by Bruce Bethke

Once in a while it seems worthwhile to pull back the curtain and explain just how I got the idea to write something like yesterday’s “Culture Considered as a Generation Ship.” The piece didn’t really have a well-defined point of inception or a conclusion in mind when I began. Rather, a whole slumgullion of ideas were floating around and in play in my mind. In no particular order:
  • Henry Vogel and I were having a lengthy exchange of email concerning ideas for promoting the release of his latest novel, Hart for Adventure, which we’ll be releasing... next week, I believe. Among other things we decided to do a promotional sale featuring all of his previous novels, but there was a problem with The Counterfeit Captain, which put that book and its premise front and center in my mind.

  • At the same time I was copy-editing Helen French’s novelette, “Outrider,” which really put the whole generation ship concept into a prominent place in my forebrain.

  • At also roughly the same time I was trying to find the original file for “Jimi Plays Dead,” a story I wrote back in the 1980s about an A.I.-equipped electric guitar that in real time edits whatever its owner plays to make it come out sounding as it would have sounded if Jimi Hendrix had played it. At the time I wrote it, I thought the story was just pretty wiggy sci-fi. Now, I’m not so sure. (See the bit on autocorrect, below.) The original manuscript file, it turns out, was written using a program I no longer have and saved on a 5.25" diskette. It’d be faster to retype the story from the printed copy than to try to port and recover that computer file.

  • In the course of researching an unrelated matter, I ran across a cryptic reference to “the Scotch 206 scandal.” Given the amount of irreplaceable original content I have in storage on reels of Scotch 206 or 207 (same tape formulation; same problems; the difference in the part number has to do with the thickness of the polymer backing) this immediately got my attention, so I had to read up on it and ponder the implications. Interestingly enough there is a way to restabilize the oxides temporarily and recover content from tape that is beginning to delaminate, but the catch is, it only works once, and pretty much destroys the tape in the process. You get one shot at copying the content to another medium. No pressure there.

  • I’d recently read an article about researchers at UC Berkeley’s Hearst Museum of Anthropology using a new laser technique developed by physicists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to recover songs and spoken-word recordings from thousands of previously unplayable century-old wax cylinders. The collection includes a large amount of material in California’s 78 native languages, many of which no longer have any living speakers. To be honest, this is the kind of applied science that really fascinates me.

  • In case you missed it, Merriam-Webster recently changed the definitions of some well-known and commonly used words. Seriously. Here in the Internet Age, you can’t even count on a word to mean what it meant yesterday. If you don’t find that disturbingly Orwellian, you need to read 1984 again. 

  • Free speech, censorship, and the general problem of people who can’t stand the idea that other people might not agree with them—these are topics that are always on my mind, but especially so lately. Do I really need to explain why?

  • Finally (I think), I happened to be in the room when my wife was having yet another battle with autocorrect, which insisted on changing the words she’d actually typed to be the words that Google in it’s infinite wisdom decided she should have typed. Again, while it at first seemed amusing, on further reflection, and particularly with “Jimi Plays Dead” floating around in the back of my mind, it began to seem like a disturbing harbinger of the world to come.
So you take all those ideas and observations, put them in the old cognitive blender, press the button for purée, and voila! A 1200-word column emerges!

And now, as your reward for reading the foregoing, here’s a sneak peek at Henry Vogel’s newest novel, Hart for Adventure.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Culture Considered as a Generation Ship • by Bruce Bethke

I made a disturbing discovery the other day. 3M’s Scotch 206/207 recording tape, the standard for pro audio studio work in the 1970s through the 1980s, is unstable unless stored under exactly the right conditions of temperature and humidity. Given enough time and less-than-perfect storage conditions, the adhesive holding the oxide to the backing will deteriorate, causing the oxide to flake off the moment the tape is loaded onto a deck and played back. When 3M made this stuff 40-some years ago they apparently never imagined that this might happen someday, or that customers might be keeping reels of tape for so long.

Of course, 40-some years ago 3M also never imagined that the linings of their toxic waste landfills would also deteriorate someday, permitting their carcinogenic chemicals to leach into the underground aquifer and contaminate all the drinking water wells in this county. And yet people still ask why I am an environmentalist...

Rewind. (An obsolete verb: ask your parents what it means.) The reason I find the Scotch 206/207 issue so disturbing is that I have miles of it in storage, waiting for the day when I would have a little free time and be able to put my recording studio back together and resume puttering with electronic music again. An entire career—nearly 15 years of original master tapes—is possibly reduced to unrecoverable fragments of oxide now. I have not yet been able to work up the courage to open any of the boxes and find out.

Ironically, this is not the first time something like this has happened to me. Twenty-some years ago I had a little free time and started transferring some of those master recordings to CD-R’s, along with the backups of otherwise unrecoverable files from the first twenty years of my writing career. Unfortunately the brand of CD-R media I used for those copies and backups turned out to be made with an organic dye that unless stored under exactly the right conditions of temperature and humidity (do you detect a pattern here?) is prone to developing the same kinds of fungal infections that can invade and destroy the coatings on old 35mm camera lenses.

Hours upon hours of original music masters. Twenty years of manuscript files. Reduced to a stack of unreadable fogged-up CD-Rs that may as well be plastic coasters.

Monday, June 29, 2020

On Writing: The Curse of “Write What You Know” • by Bruce Bethke

Aspiring fiction writers and Creative Writing instructors share a lot of really bad advice with each other, but of all these, “Write What You Know” is probably the worst, or at least the most misunderstood. I hold this one piece of advice and everyone who shares it personally responsible for all those whiny novels about angry middle-aged housewives trying to work up the courage to file for divorce, those excruciating short stories about the terrible angst and drama of growing up gay and Jewish in suburban New York, those tedious novels about 20-something-year-olds with newly minted MFAs who are simultaneously working at Starbucks, breaking up with their girlfriends, and struggling to find their existential purpose in the world, and most of all, for all those wretchedly unreadable novels about middle-aged small-college Creative Writing instructors who are going through their midlife crises, estranged from their own children, separated from their wives, crushed by self-doubt because they never really pursued their dream of becoming a novelist, and tormented by their desire to have an affair with that hot and perky 19-year-old in their 10:00 MWF American Lit 201 class.

(Or perhaps even worse: the corresponding attempted novels by hot and perky but marginally literate 19-year-olds who are like totally creeped out by the way that smelly old professor—I mean like, seriously, really old, like, he must be almost 45!—stares at them all the time in their 10:00 MWF American Lit 201 class, but then again they’re just starting to realize that there might be an easier way to get an “A” in the class than by reading that big fat book by that Moby guy.)

C’mon people, this is fiction! “Write What You Know” isn’t a license to give voice to your inner Theodore Dreiser and whine at length about all the tedious and frustrating details of your daily life! It’s a spice you can use to add flavor to what you write! Use it sparingly!

Especially if you’re writing science fiction: write what you don’t know! Write what nobody knows! If you’ve had an interesting and exciting life, write an autobiography! If you’re only twenty years old and all you know is what you’ve read in other people’s books and seen in other people’s movies and TV shows, get out of the dorm! Live a little!

If you’re writing science fiction because you are in fact the latest reincarnation of an alien who was exiled to Earth ten million years ago and you must purge all your negative memories before you can return to your home planet—look, they’ve made great strides in psychiatric medications in recent years. You really should give them another chance.

Saturday, June 27, 2020