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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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The missing research program for space colonization

Filed Under:

We've spent decades studying the effects of zero-gravity on the human body, when we should have been studying something else

As the Shuttle age draws to a close, there seems to be revived discussion in the media about where manned spaceflight is headed next.  The short answer is, of course, "nowhere," but we still see enthusiastic articles about returning to the moon, or visiting Mars.  The problem is, if you look at budgets and research programs, it quickly becomes clear that nobody's really interested in either of those objectives.

For instance, if NASA were actually interested in putting people on, say, Mars, for extended periods--or on the moon or indeed anywhere but low Earth orbit--they would logically have long ago embarked on a research program to learn what the biological effects of Martian or lunar gravity are.  Instead, they've invested decades and billions into learning how humans react to zero gravity--an almost useless scientific endeavor, because the clear lesson from the start of that program was that living in freefall is a bad idea.  Conclusion:  whenever people are going to spend more than a few weeks in orbit, provide them with artificial gravity in the form of a rotating spacecraft.  There's no reason not to; the technology involved in spinning things around is not actually rocket science.

No amount of data about how the human body reacts to zero-G is going to answer the important question, which is:  how does the human body react to extended periods under fractional gravity--like the moon's 1/6 G or Mars's .38 G?  If there's a potential show-stopper to colonizing other worlds, it's going to be how our physiology responds to fractional gravity, not zero gravity.

At what gravitational level does osteoporosis start in human bones?  What's the minimum level for maintenance of cardiovascular health?  At what level do embryonic and infant development begin to suffer?  Maybe these questions can be tentatively answered from studies in zero-G, but any conclusions reached that way need to be empirically confirmed.  In other words, what manned spaceflight needs as its next step is a variable-gravity research station.  The ISS is useless for learning what we really need to know; what's needed is a very simple, rotating station whose gravity can be tuned up or down to simulate life on worlds ranging from Mercury to the moon to Mars, or Ganymede or Titan.

It's pretty clear that NASA's not interested in doing such research.  There is an opportunity here, however, for the private sector to step in.  Once Robert Bigelow's inflatable space stations come onto the market, someone could attach one to a spent booster stage and rotate the ensemble.  They could then do the necessary experiments and sell the results to NASA or, say, the Chinese, who are sure to be interested.

I'm going to add this item to my list of things to do if I had a billion dollars.    But as long as the world's space agencies lack a variable-gravity station, you can be sure they're not actually serious about establishing a human presence on our neighboring worlds.

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Good point

Posted by Adam Crowl at Aug 14, 2009 07:17 AM
Hi Karl

Excellent point. All the zero-gee mucking about is just stupid anyway since the old "1 rpm" figures used by O'Neill and co. are incorrect. A rotating habitat can be a lot smaller than a Stanford Torus. Benford & Zebrowski quoted 6-10 rpm as rotation rates people can adapt to, which makes partial gee stations even smaller. A 10 metre radius centrifuge gives a Mars 'gee' at 6 rpm and it's just 4 metres for Moon/Ganymede/Titan/Europa/Callisto 'gee'. Smaller bodies are half-Moon 'gee' or less. Not zero, but not far off.

Weren't always zero-gee obsessed at NASA. The old pre-Skylab MORL space station had a centrifuge and a few Saturn-V launched 'pop-up' stations were wheel-based. Shame they never flew, but the microelectronics revolution took away most of the need for human crews on satellites...
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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."