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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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These Aren't the Worlds You're Looking For

Filed Under:

The Stross Entries #3

Last week my wife and I read the chronologically-first Dragonriders of Pern book to my daughter. (She loved it.) DragonsDawn is one of more than a dozen novels by Anne McCaffrey set on the alien world of Pern, which in this story has just been colonized by humans.

I was struck by McCaffrey's detailed thinking about what colonization of another planet would be like--both because of the sophistication of some of her ideas, and the utter naivete of others. The colonists use genetic engineering to defend Pern's biosphere against incursions by an alien life form known as Thread, but nobody (least of all McCaffrey herself) seems to realize that the humans and their goats, pigs, food plants and associated fungi and microorganisms are themselves a catastrophic alien threat to the planet's biosphere.

At least the Thread and the native life forms have had some time to co-evolve. McCaffrey's colonists fan out from their initial base at Landing and spread seeds, spores, eggs and new species of megafauna all over the planet. They seem utterly unaware that this will cause massive displacement of species up and down the food chain, perturbing nearly every ecology in the world. They also seem unaware of the possibility that local life forms might be better adapted at some things, and might see them and their imports as food as well.

I raise this not to dump on McCaffrey (whose books are marvelous) but becauseDragonsDawn perfectly exhibits the conceptual blind spots that have gotten us into trouble on our own planet. Even more, however, DragonsDawn flags a giant blind spot among proponents of space colonization. This blind spot is the idea that the worlds we want to locate and colonize should be worlds like Earth.

The fact is, the last place we want to set up a human colony is a planet with a fully developed Earth-like ecosystem. Jared Diamond provides some of the reasons why in his excellent study of the European conquest of the Western hemisphere,Guns, Germs and Steel. European settlers didn't just come over and settle; the Vikings tried it and died out, and many early colonies in the Indies and America failed. Those settlements that were successful were the ones that had the benefit of knowledge earned through long experimentation in the micro-ecologies of the Azores, and the Canary Islands, and in Africa and Asia. More importantly, however, the successful colonies weren't bands of human beings--they were humans accompanied by the right mix of food animals, edible plants, and microorganisms. In other words, it wasn't European humans who colonized the Americas; it was European ecosystems. And the effect, both on the flora and fauna and on the humans already in the Americas, was apocalyptic.

A single species can't colonize another world; it takes a whole biosphere. Even your gut fauna have the potential to wreak havoc on a planet that's never encountered them before. You might think you could genetically engineer solutions to this whopping big problem, but the thing is, species-by-species interventions won't work. Most of the microorganisms in any randomly-selected drop of water are unknown to science, and you have thousands of species living inside you, all of which would need to be taken into account. Ditto for the new biosphere you're moving into; adaptation must be mutual.

So, these green, Earth-like worlds with their blue skies and oceans, warm breezes and waving, untouched forests--these aren't the worlds you're looking for. They're impossible to colonize without unforeseeable catastrophic results. We will want to look for them, to study them and admire them from afar, but we'd better not ever set foot there.

Instead, the worlds we will want to colonize (and I disagree here with Charlie's assessment that colonizing other worlds is impossible or impractical) are those that are fallow--Earth-analogues that could have developed life but never did. We might get luckiest on planets that do have life but where that life is stuck in the proterozoic stage, and has oxygenated their atmospheres but not yet colonized land. As long as we're willing to pave over that indigenous life entirely with our own, this might be the best way to go. Otherwise, however, for the purposes of eventual colonization, we should be searching for the Fallow Earths.

--Oh, hey, I just came up with a book title. Anybody want to pay me to write a novel around it?

Addendum: for the comment thread around this entry, head on over to Charlie's Blog.

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RSS feed available?

Posted by Trey Palmer at Aug 15, 2011 02:50 PM
Hmm. You got an RSS feed for this thing? To be honest I adore most of your books, but the blog is tended to so seldom that I frequently forget about it.


Posted by Karl Schroeder at Aug 25, 2011 07:19 PM
See the button at the bottom of the left-hand column of this page.
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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."