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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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Jun 02, 2010

From worldbuilding to worldwatching

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It's amazing to be alive during the initial discovery of extrasolar planets. Too bad we're all so distracted

It's almost time to name Gliese 581d.  

Two billion years or so before our own solar system coalesced, this planet was formed around a dim red star that's now about 20 light years from Earth.  Gliese 581 d is therefore an ancient world, orbiting around a cold star.  But it may be habitable.

That's the conclusion of the latest study, by R. D. Wordsworth, F. Forget1, F. Selsis, J.-B. Madeleine, E. Millour, and V. Eymet (the paper is Is Gliese 581d habitable? Some constraints from radiative-convective climate modeling; you can find it on archiv.org).  They ran simulations based on what we know about the planet and its star, and conclude that if d has a sufficiently thick atmosphere of CO2, it could have liquid water at its surface.  Other studies of so-called "super-earths" like d hint that many or most of them will be water planets, global oceans.  And, when you factor in a recent study of habitable zones that indicates they could be much broader than first assumed, it seems that if this world has any sort of an atmosphere at all, then it's likely habitable.  So, here's what we know about d:

  • It's between 7 and 13 times the mass of the Earth, but its radius is unknown (however, likely around 1.15 times Earth's radius).  If it's as dense as the Earth, then its surface gravity is about 2 times Earth's; but Earth is the densest of the solar system's rocky planets.  If d is an ocean world, it's likely a lot less dense and its surface gravity may be the same as Earth's.  In that case, though, it is almost certainly an ocean world, with no accessible land at all.
  • It's may be tidally locked to its star, meaning that the sun stays fixed in one spot in the sky, and one whole hemisphere is in permanent darkness.  This is a condition usually taken to mean that the planet in question would be lifeless because the atmosphere would all condense on the cold side; but numerous studies have now shown that tidally-locked planets can retain their atmospheres quite well.  They do, however, tend to be windy.
  • It may well have a thick CO2 atmosphere (researchers suspect these are common) in which case, provided minerals are able to leach up from the depths of the planetary ocean, it may have been capable of hosting life for six billion years now.

There's a really good chance that d could support life--though you and I wouldn't want to live there, since we'd weigh twice what we do on Earth and the atmosphere would be toxic.  But it could still be a lush world, overflowing with life.

What does it look like on this world?  The sunlight of its permanent day isn't red, though we call Gliese 581 a "red dwarf."  To us, it would appear to have about the same spectrum as a 60 watt bulb, which is to say, yellowish-white; and daylight is a bit dimmer than it is on Mars, so with the naked eye, it's visually like wearing a good pair of sunglasses.  The human eye adapts to a wide range of light conditions, so you wouldn't really notice the difference.  But, if d has an atmosphere, the sky is blue.  Old as it is, d may no longer have active plate tectonics, so, like Mars, it probably doesn't have mountains or volcanoes.  But it won't be a cratered environment, either, if the atmosphere is thick enough for water to be stable.  --And speaking of water, the weathering effects of high wind and water over billions of years suggest that it's become a very flat world lately, with either a global ocean, many shallow seas and low islands, or vast dry plains.

But this is amazing--because we're talking about a real planet here, not some speculative possible world; and not some science-fictional dream.  d does exist; we'll soon know whether it really is habitable, and within a few years, may be able to detect signatures of actual life in its atmosphere.  Already, we've learned enough to know that there are billions of other planets sailing through the galaxy with ours.  If we learn that Gliese 581 d really could sustain life, we'll be able to begin estimating (roughly, at first) how many habitable planets the Milky Way contains.  Considering how close Gliese 581 is to us, that number could be huge.

So what do we name this new world?  It is ancient, far older than our own worlds; so it would be fitting to name it after one of the Titans, who are older than the Greco-Roman gods we've named our planets after.  If it's a sterile ocean, I vote for Oceanus; if it could host life, then my favoured name would be that of Oceanus's wife, the goddess of rivers and lakes: Tethys.

Welcome, Tethys, and may you divide history into two parts:  the long age in which we wondered whether we were alone in the universe--and a new epoch in which we know we are not.


Gliese 581 d-v1.jpg
Artist's image of Gliese 581 d (from Wikipedia)

 

Feb 16, 2010

Video of the Boskone Singularity panel

Courtesy of Michael Johnson

Here's the panel that Vernor Vinge, Charlie Stross, Aleister Reynolds, and I did at Boskone 47 on "The Technological Singularity:  an Assessment."  We critiqued the idea itself, its effect on science fiction writing, and its influence on our own works. You can watch it below; enjoy!

 

The Singularity: An Appraisal from Michael Johnson on Vimeo.

Nov 26, 2009

Virga on the iPhone

Visit the App Store for some Karl Schroeder reading

Just when I thought life couldn't get any stranger, MacMillan starts releasing my books as iPhone apps!  This is very cool.  Since they apparently don't have the licensing rights to sell the app into Canada, I can't confirm its presence in the iTunes Store; however, you can find my latest Virga novel, The Sunless Countries, at appshopper.com.

Not only that, but The Year's Best Science Fiction: 26th Annual Collection is also available; it contains my popular Virga story, The Hero.  

And here's what they'll look like in your iPod or iPhone:

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Oct 08, 2009

Another nail in the coffin for the "tragedy of the commons"

Local communities manage forests better than governments, reports New Scientist

Few ideas have been so thoroughly misused as Garrett Hardin's notion of the tragedy of the commons.  Hardin's idea was that "multiple individuals acting independently and solely and rationally consulting their own self-interest will ultimately destroy a shared limited resource even when it is clear that it is not in anyone's long term interest for this to happen" (to quote Wikipedia).  There are some historical cases of this happening (i.e. the Boston commons).  There are, however, many more cases where it did not; and the idea is often used to try to justify the privatization of public goods.

I've found when I travel to the United States that the tragedy of the commons is a popular idea there, despite the fact that the historical evidence for it is equivocal, at best.  Commons were a widespread feature of European life for centuries, and mismanagement of them was extremely rare.  Now, New Scientist reports on a new study that shows that forests that are managed locally (i.e. as a commons) sequester more carbon than institutionally, governmentally or privately managed forests. 

One significant comment in the article was the following:

They argue that their findings contradict a long-standing environmental idea, called the "tragedy of the commons", which says that natural resources left to communal control get trashed. In fact, says Agrawal, "communities are perfectly capable of managing their resources sustainably".

This really comes as no surprise.  But it needs to be reinforced, particularly for people who've drunk the koolaid of the notion that public goods either can't exist or can't be managed efficiently.

Sep 24, 2009

Sourcemap - a hint of political software to come

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It's still in beta, but it's what it'll evolve into that's so interesting

From worldchanging.com comes an interesting posting about Sourcemap, an open tool for visualizing the supply chains that contribute to the products you buy.  It's a great idea:  name a product, and you can see where its pieces were sourced, who built what and where--in short, who's involved in making your life happen.

This is great, but it's the step after Sourcemap that really interests me:  when the app can fully trace the corporate ownership of the entities involved, as well as their publicly-available information things like campaign contributions.  Because the stuff you buy isn't just made by people and corporations; it's made by political movements and their supporters.  For good or ill, in the near-term future we're looking at being able to instantly, seamlessly, and completely boycott entire polities by simply filtering your buying options. Imagine an iPhone app where you aim the iPhone's camera at a product on the shelf in the store, and the iPhone tells you how in-line with your own political stripe (how green, or how Republican) the aggregate entity that built it is.  Instead of deciding which of sixteen varieties of spaghetti to buy based on the colour of the box or (God forbid) the price, you can do so based on whether the companies owners support progressive family planning programs in Africa.

The prospect is both terrifying and exhilarating.  Terrifying because products can no longer succeed or fail entirely on their own merits.  Politics will enter buying in a big way.  --Exhilarating because of the prospect of laying bare the world as it really is--a world where purchasing decisions have never been innocent, but we have previously never had the ability to follow through on that knowledge.

Sep 20, 2009

Things may be about to change

...In a big way

While our attention was elsewhere, a truly earth-shattering change has been in the wind--a development most experts have dismissed as impossible, but which now increasingly looks like it is going to happen.

According to Lyle Dennis over at the AllCarsElectric blog, EEStor has applied for certification from the Underwriter's Laboratories for its ultracapacitor technology. If this is true, then the secretive company may really have succeeded in creating the ultimate in electricity-storage technology:  a device capable of running your car for hundreds of miles on one charge, and of recharging in under five minutes.  A device that is not a battery, and hence never wears out.  A technology that would make intermittent power generation sources such as windmills directly competitive with baseload generation sources such as coal.

Canadian electric car company Zenn Motors has licensed EEStor's technology for a soon-to-be-built fully electric sedan.  Zenn is betting the farm on EEStor, and they seem remarkably confident.  Naturally, we hear outrageous claims about new technologies nearly every day; and many industry watchers have been skeptically tracking EEStor for years.  The expectation has been that any day now, the company would disappear, and its executives would later be found living high off the land in Ecuador or somewhere.  That hasn't happened, and now the company appears poised to release an actual product--according to Zenn, by the end of the year.

If it happens, this will be a truly disruptive change.  It would be nothing less than the first nail in the coffin of the fossil fuel age.

And here's more on the developing story, from Zenn's point of view.

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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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    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."
    --SFRevu.com


    "...A rollicking good read... fun, bookish, and full of insane air battles"
    --io9.com


    "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."
    --Locus