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I've made my first novel, Ventus, available as a free download, as well as excerpts from two of the Virga books.  I am looking forward to putting up a number of short stories in the near future.

Complete novel:  Ventus


To celebrate the August, 2007 publication of Queen of Candesce, I decided to re-release my first novel as an eBook. You can download it from this page. Ventus was first published by Tor Books in 2000, and and you can still buy it; to everyone who would just like to sample my work, I hope you enjoy this version.

I've released this book under a Creative Commons license, which means you can read it and distribute it freely, but not make derivative works or sell it.

Book Excerpts:  Sun of Suns and Pirate Sun

I've made large tracts of these two Virga books available.  If you want to find out what the Virga universe is all about, you can check it out here:

Major Foresight Project:  Crisis in Zefra

In spring 2005, the Directorate of Land Strategic Concepts of National Defense Canada (that is to say, the army) hired me to write a dramatized future military scenario.  The book-length work, Crisis in Zefra, was set in a mythical African city-state, about 20 years in the future, and concerned a group of Canadian peacekeepers who are trying to ready the city for its first democratic vote while fighting an insurgency.  The project ran to 27,000 words and was published by the army as a bound paperback book.

If you'd like to read Crisis in Zefra, you can download it in PDF form.

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Retro replays: Europa habitable now?

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The news lately is all about Enceladus--but Europa still holds surprises

The most recent Scientific American contains a paper on the possible ocean under Saturn's moon Enceladus.  This is really cool news and well worth investigating further.  Europa, however, is still where the action is.  I've resurrected a year-and-a-half old blog entry from my old site that tells of some particularly spectacular possibilities:

A recent paper suggests if that Jupiter's moon Europa does have a subsurface ocean, then that ocean is probably highly oxygenated--i.e., breathable by terrestrial fish.

To quote the article's tantalizing abstract:

...Europa's ocean could reach O2 concentrations comparable to those found in terrestrial surface waters, even if 109 moles yr1 of hydrothermally delivered reductants consume most of the oxidant flux. Such an ocean would be energetically hospitable for terrestrial marine macrofauna. The availability of reductants could be the limiting factor for biologically useful chemical energy on Europa.

To translate: macrofauna=fish, and reductants=food. Current theory suggests that Europa's internal heat comes from the flexing of the planet due to its gravitational interactions with Jupiter and the other moons. This flexing may create enough heat in the moon's core to drive volcanic processes, creating the equivalent to the "black smokers" that pepper the mid-Atlantic ridge on Earth. Scientists have speculated that these vents might support some sort of life, but while they constitute a potential nutrient source, an energy source has been lacking. This paper suggests that energy, in the form of oxygen, might be common.

The mechanism for creating that oxygen appears to be radiation from Jupiter's radiation belts. When substances such as sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide land on Europa, they sit there and get fried for very long periods. The broken molecules produce Europa's atmosphere, which is pure oxygen. Eventually, the surface ice subducts like a terrestrial continent, pulling the now-split oxygen and carbon et. down and into the ocean. According to the article, at currently projected infall rates, even if a huge amount of that oxygen is immediately bound up with non-biological molecules coming up from below, the total amount available should be comparable to the surface of Earth's oceans.

If this is right, and there really is an ocean, and there really are venting processes at work in the deep, then Europa is habitable now--but not necessarily for us. Consider these mitigating factors:

  • It's a salty ocean--but it's Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) rather than our kind of salt. It may also be really salty (think thick soup), in which case only the most extreme halophile bacteria could survive there.
  • There could well be other substances, common to the outer planets, saturating the ocean--such as ammonia. Imagine a sea of Windex.
  • Pressure. I've seen no calculations of how much pressure should be crushing down on this sea. But even on a small moon, an ocean under 30 kilometers of ice should have mighty powerful forces compressing it. The ice could be as thin as 800 meters, but we just don't know.

Still--none of these factors makes large, native Europan life forms impossible. And even if the ocean is sterile, in the best case, we might be able to engineer terrestrial fish to withstand a lifelong Epsom salt bath, and populate it ourselves. If the pressure allows, we could dig domes into the ice ceiling and pump them full of nitrogen, and let the oxygen percolate up from below. I used all these ideas in my 2002 novel Permanence, to show what habitable worlds around brown dwarf stars might look like.

All of this makes a Europan mission increasingly important. After all, it may be small, but it's a whole world, and potentially a shirt-sleeve environment for humans. Stocked with fish and other organisms to provide a full food chain, Europa may, shockingly, prove to be a world we can terraform and live on indefinitely (unlike Earth, Europa might even survive the death of the sun). It's definitely worth finding out whether all of that is possible.

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About Me

I'm a member of the Association of Professional Futurists with my own consultancy, and am also currently Chair of the Canadian node of the Millennium Project, a private/public foresight consultancy active in 50 nations. As well, I am an award-winning author with ten published novels translated into as many languages. I write, give talks, and conduct workshops on numerous topics related to the future, including:

  • Future of government
  • Bitcoin and digital currencies
  • The workplace in 2030
  • The Internet of Things
  • Augmented cognition

For a complete bio, go here. To contact me, email karl at kschroeder dot com

Example: The Future of Governance

I use Science Fiction to communicate the results of actual futures studies. Some of my recent research relates to how we'll govern ourselves in the future. I've worked with a few clients on this and published some results.

Here are two examples--and you can read the first for free:

The Canadian army commissioned me to write Crisis in Urlia, a fictionalized study of the future of military command-and-control. You can download a PDF of the book here:

Crisis in Urlia

For the "optimistic Science Fiction" anthology Hieroglyph, I wrote "Degrees of Freedom," set in Haida Gwaii. "Degrees of Freedom" is about an attempt to develop new governing systems by Canadian First Nations people.

I'm continuing to research this exciting area and would be happy to share my findings.


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    Coming on June 18, 2019

    "Science fiction at its best."

    --Kim Stanley Robinson

    A Young Adult Scifi Saga

    "Lean and hugely engaging ... and highly recommended."

    --Open Letters Monthly, an Arts and Literature Review

    Sheer Fun: The Virga Series

    (Sun of Suns and Queen of Candesce are combined in Cities of the Air)

     β€œAn adventure-filled tale of sword fights and naval battles... the real fun of this coming-of-age tale includes a pirate treasure hunt and grand scale naval invasions set in the cold, far reaches of space. ”
    β€”Kirkus Reviews (listed in top 10 SF novels for 2006)

    "With Queen of Candesce, [Schroeder] has achieved a clockwork balance of deftly paced adventure and humour, set against an intriguing and unique vision of humanity's far future.
    --The Globe and Mail

    "[Pirate Sun] is fun in the same league as the best SF ever has had to offer, fully as exciting and full of cool science as work from the golden age of SF, but with characterization and plot layering equal to the scrutiny of critical appraisers."

    "...A rollicking good read... fun, bookish, and full of insane air battles"

    "A grand flying-pirate-ship-chases-and-escapes-and-meetings-with-monsters adventure, and it ends not with a debate or a seminar but with a gigantic zero-gee battle around Candesce, a climactic unmasking and showdown, just desserts, and other satisfying stuff."