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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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Solar power sats get real; and more on the Verne gun

Lighting the fuse and running away

Solaren corporation has signed a deal with Pacific Gas & Electric to orbit a 200 megawatt solar power satellite by 2016.  I mention this not because the news is amazing (it was inevitable, really) but because their plan gives me some nice numbers to plug into my Verne gun calculations. The Verne Gun

You might remember my enthusiasm over Next Big Future's recent discussion of Project Orion and the spinoff notion of using nuclear bombs to loft very large payloads into space (wheeee!).  I called this idea the Verne gun in a feeble public relations attempt.  Anyway, Brian Wang's calculations over at NBF gave a figure of 280,000 tons as the lift-capacity of a single 10-megaton bomb.  At the time, I suggested using ten or so of these suckers to lift an entire continental powersat infrastructure into space.  But I didn't have hard numbers about how much mass equaled how much power.

Solaren have conveniently stated that their 200 megawatt, self-assembling power transmitter could go up in five launches of 25 tons each.  Solar power satellites are far more efficient per-solar-cell than ground-based plants, so they have a much smaller industrial footprint and almost no environmental footprint at all.  They run 24 hours a day.  So that means that the engineers at Solaren can do 200 megawatts of baseline power with 125 tons orbited.  To put it another way:

1 gigawatt baseline power = 625 orbited tons

Launching this much mass using conventional rockets is expensive, but obviously not entirely out of line, or they wouldn't be doing it.  But, here's a question:  how much baseline power (97% uptime) could be orbited using a 10 megaton Verne shot?  The answer: 448 gigawatts.  

The United States currently uses 4 terawatts of power per year.  About half of that is coal.  So four firings of the Verne gun could orbit enough power to obsolete the entire American coal-power system.

The big problem wouldn't be radiation from the launches (which would be effectively zero) but the astronomical insurance costs attendant on putting so many eggs in one launch basket.  Maybe a few dozen 100 kiloton shots would be better...


Document Actions

Launch Costs

Posted by ansible at May 16, 2009 05:01 AM
Launch costs are extremely expensive right now. They've actually be unnecessarily high for a long, long time.

There are a number of political factors involved, not the least of which is that if you have the ability to launch a satellite into orbit, you have nuclear ICBM capability as well. This is, of course, what the original Space Race was all about in the 1950's.

Basically, there has been a long standing trend to design launchers with relatively high performance, and consequently low design margins. Often, there are no considerations for the costs of ground support, for example.

However, if we were to take a clean-slate approach to launcher design, we may well end up with some big, dumb boosters that could place stuff in LEO for at least 1/10th the cost that commercial launches cost now.

This has been discussed quite a bit in Usenet newsgroups like A typical approach is to have clusters of rockets which cross-feed fuel from the outermost tanks. When those are empty, they fall off. It doesn't matter if you need 3 or 4 stages to get to orbit, if the stages themselves are cheap to design and build. People worry about fuel costs, but kerosene and LOX are a small fraction of typical launch costs... go ahead and waste some fuel if it will make the design simpler and lower overall costs.

The main point is to do the entire system design with low-cost and reliability in mind. It can be done using mostly 1960's rocket tech with modern computers and navigation. Check what the Armadillo Aerospace guys are up to, and what they've accomplished with just a few million dollars of funding.

Low-mass power-supply

Posted by Adam Crowl at May 17, 2009 09:11 PM
Hi Karl

That 200 MW for 25 tons is impressive isn't it? Just think what could be done with a 200 MW Mag-Beam for boosting a second-stage to orbit after it had been launched to altitude via a beefed-up Space Ship 2 or some such. It's also the desired power-level for a VASIMR propelled ship flying to Mars in just 39 days. A bit more juice and it could propel cargo-pods to Mars via a Mag-Beam in a similar time frame - after a VASIMR cargo-ship dropped off the decceleration Mag-Beam facility, that is.

Lots of coolness is possible with in-space power-supplies of that lightness. And a 200 MW array is still putting out 8 MW at Jupiter.
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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."