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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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Jul 02, 2008

Thanks for the Locus Poll votes!

Filed Under:

Queen of Candesce was one of Locus Magazine's readers' favourite books last year

I just got the July, 2008 issue of Locus magazine, and lo and behold the results of the Locus Poll are out.  Queen of Candesce got an extremely respectable 830 points worth of votes, which places me in the company of authors like Ian McDonald, Charlie Stross, and Bob Wilson as one of their readers' favourite authors of 2007.  

I knew the magazine's reviewers liked that novel--and truth to tell, I've always gotten a great critical reception for my work.  But it's hard sometimes to judge how the readers--people who aren't in the book industry in one way or another--feel about my stuff.  This is a great boost.  To all of you who voted for me... thanks!

And, oh yes, there's only four weeks until Pirate Sun comes out!  So there's much more to come.

Jun 17, 2008

Publisher's Weekly on Pirate Sun

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Drum roll please...

It's almost here!  This is what PW has to say about the third Virga book:

This fast-paced virtuoso exercise in world-building is the third novel (after 2007’s Queen of Candesce) set in Virga, a 5,000-mile wide balloon with a central artificial “sun” and many nations clustered around their own smaller suns. ... Virga is wonderfully imagined, with itinerant gravity sellers, floating farms in nets of dirt, and battles in which one town invades another as buildings smash together and people gather at windows with homemade weapons. The intrigue surrounding a brewing revolution and the threat of invading forces carry readers quickly through this adventure and on to the next installment. (Aug.)

Jun 06, 2008

Review: Floating to Space by John M. Powell

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The airship to orbit program in detail--but with some flaws

John M. Powell is the sort of visionary who gets locked up as a madman.  But, like the best creative madmen, his ideas resonate with a wild kind of sense that nags constantly at you once you've heard them, until you start asking yourself:  what if he's right?

Powell's idea, and the subject of the new Apogee book Floating to Space:  The Airship to Orbit Program, is simplicity itself.  If zeppelins and balloons can take us to the upper atmosphere--140,000 feet and beyond--why can't they take us further?  Namely, all the way to orbit?Floating to space 

The first time you hear this idea you laugh--just the way you no doubt laughed the first time you heard of the space elevator.  Yet Powell's logic, when you hear it, is equally simple.  Why did the Mir space station reenter and burn up in Earth's atmosphere?  Why, because its orbit decayed.  But orbits don't 'decay'--not by themselves.  No, the actual reason why Mir and other satellites have crashed into the Earth is wind resistance.  There is a headwind even three hundred miles above the Earth; the space shuttle feels it when it's orbiting.  And if you fired a bullet at a high enough velocity, it could orbit the Earth four feet off the ground, except for that same pesky headwind (and a few obstacles).

Not only is there air in space, there's enough air that a big enough wing would create lift.  Powell describes that wing--a classic 'flying wing' in fact--in detail in Floating to Space.  Combining the technologies of high-altitude ballooning with ion drive engines and hypersonic airfoils, he proposes a mile-long hydrogen-filled wing, so diaphanous it would be torn apart by the slightest breeze at sea level.  But launched from a 'black sky station' at 140,000 feet, this orbital ascender can surf the upper atmosphere, gradually building both altitude and velocity over the space of several days, until it's in orbit.  There, it can play with the tenuous headwind to ascend some more, keep station, or descend as gracefully as it rose.

This isn't just literal pie-in-the-sky hand-waving.  Powell's company, JP Aerospace, has actually built many of the components of his vision, some under US military contract.  He's pursuing a slow but steady experimental program that is intended to pay for itself at every step.  His vision is rational and even economically plausible.  Financially, I'd be more inclined to invest in it than in the elevator, because even if the final ascender doesn't work, technologies like the black sky station could be huge money-makers.

All this is cool.  Unfortunately, as a document Floating to Space needs to be convincing, and it falls short in several key respects.  It's well packaged by Apogee, but was apparently never edited:  the text is rife with typos, grammatical errors and just plain bad writing.  These issues severely weaken the sense of authority that a book proposing something so radical needs to project.  I won't fault Powell for this, but I'm definitely slamming Apogee for doing a piss-poor job here.

 Also, although Powell does a pretty good job of describing the technologies and solutions that would make his vision possible, he glosses over some potential show-stoppers.  For instance, it takes some digging to find out that current supersonic models indicate that his orbital ascender would face impossible levels of drag, rendering the idea dead in the water (or air).  This may be a deficiency of the models rather than reality--but Powell needed to address this issue head-on, and give some idea of how big a risk this places on the whole program.  His failure to come clean on this one issue makes me suspicious of all the rest of his claims, and therefore creates a serious credibility problem.

I love Powell's ideas, but I can't evaluate their feasibility.  I recognize that to some extent he can't either; actual experiments are needed.  But if I had a hundred million lying around to invest in something, this book wouldn't make me want to invest it in JP Aerospace.  --Neither does the website, incidentally, which looks amateurish.  All of which is a shame, because I do think these ideas need to be explored, because at the very least the black sky station--a stable city sitting atop the atmosphere, where the sky is permanently black--is a stunning concept that could become a lucrative tourist and research destination.  It deserves investment, and Powell's other ideas deserve some investigation.

Floating to Space deserves to be bought and read, too.  It deserves, in fact, better than it's likely to get.

Jun 04, 2008

First review of Pirate Sun

Filed Under:

Locus magazine calls my world Virga "one of the most intriguing and enjoyable story-spaces of recent devising."

I always eagerly await my reviews in Locus, but luckily they've been reviewing my Virga series well in advance of the books' arrival.  Pirate Sun will be published in August, but in the June, 2008 issue of Locus Russell Letson reveals all.  Though there's no easy pull-quotes from his review, it's clear that he really enjoyed the book.Pirate Sun

Actually, reading this review made me realize just how byzantine a storyline I've crafted:

Chaison wants to get back to Slipstream, but first he has to hide out in Falcon Formation, which turns out to be threatened with invasion by the neighboring nation of Gretels and to be harboring a resistance movement against its own authoritarian government.  Elsewhere, the defeated nation of Aerie... has developed another underground... if that weren't complicated enough, Chaison is being hunted by agents of his own government... an action that has caused turmoil in Slipstream and a crisis in the rule of the Pilot.  Oh, and...

Well, it goes on.  All I can say is, it seemed pretty simple to me as I was writing it.

As Letson points out (with some glee), Pirate Sun wraps up the main plotlines introduced in Sun of Suns, but doesn't answer all questions.  As he puts it, "even three volumes seems much too short a ride for the possibilities offered by Virga"--and I agree.  I'm currently putting the finishing touches on The Sunless Countries and (bonus!) I'm writing some Virga short stories and novellas, the first of which should be finished in about a week.

Meanwhile, I'm buoyed up by this first review.  It's an auspicious start.

Feb 27, 2008

"Little Brother" pulls no punches. Read it

Filed Under:

There is probably no book more likely to be banned this summer than Little Brother. Every kid should read it

Napoleon was denounced as dangerously liberal when he introduced a law forbidding husbands from beating their wives with any wooden implement thicker than their thumb. Even the most hide-bound American conservative is traitorously liberal by the standards of 200 years ago.  In fact, the history of these past two centuries could be seen as the record of humanity being dragged, kicking and screaming, out of a nightmare of violence and hatred inconceivable to us now--while at every stage, there's been people desperately trying to drag us back.

This long war--the real long war, and the only one--has its set-backs.  It's up to each generation to re-invent civilization, to reaffirm it and to fight once again against fear, prejudice and easy solutions. Often, the weapon of enlightenment for a generation is a book.  Sometimes, those books are just so much damned fun to read that you forget, for a while, that their purpose is deadly serious.

Little BrotherLittle Brother is huge fun.  It's nominally a "young-adult" novel (whatever that means) but it doesn't condescend to its readership.  People die in this story. People--good people, whom we cheer for--are tortured.  Not everything turns out okay.  But there's also triumph here, and it's our triumph, because Little Brother is a novel that is also a resistance-fighter's toolkit, a manual for subversives, and an inspiration.  There is probably no book more likely to be banned and burned this summer than Little Brother.  Every kid should read it.

Want specifics?  Well, the story begins with San Francisco's Bay Bridge being blown up by terrorists.  Four thousand people are killed, and a small group of high school students is rounded up in a random sweep by the Department of Homeland Security, and treated very, very badly.  One of them, Marcus Yallow, vows revenge when they're released, because his best friend Darryl has not been released.  He hasn't even been acknowledged to be missing.  He's just gone.  (Is this likely?  Ask Maher Arar.)

The book is the story of Marcus's (successful) war to take down the DHS.  If that were all, Little Brother would still be a great read, a wonderful revenge fantasy against the stupidities of the past eight years.  The thing is, that Little Brother doesn't just show Marcus taking down the DHS; it shows how he does it.  How you could do it.

This is where Little Brother leaves fictional territory, and becomes the kind of book that gets banned.  It teaches kids how to spoof government security measures.  It teaches them how to become invisible to the DHS's spying eyes.  It unlocks the secrets of cryptography, hacking, and disinformation.  It gives all these tools to you.  More importantly, it gives all these tools to your kids.

I'm old enough to remember previous salvos in the long war.  Back in 1974 Alan Wingard published The Graffiti Gambit, about a TV-signal hacker who scrawls graffiti across the faces of politicians as they're giving speeches on TV.  It's a grim book:  our hero's arrested, tortured, and eventually lobotomized by the Feds.  I was about 12 when I read it, the same age many of Cory's readers are going to be.  If you're under 25 today, Little Brother will serve as a good introduction to what's been going on all these years--updated for the 21st century.

If you'd like another perspective on the book, from someone who is under 25, check out Madeline Ashby's review.   She's more qualified than me to talk about the impact this novel is going to have.  Check out her comments, and then order your copy.

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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)

     “An 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. ”
    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."