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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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Some numbers to argue about

Which is more efficient, electricity or gasoline? A complicated and surprising answer...?

I've been waxing nostalgic lately over the placidity of my blog in comparison to the knock-down, drag-out free-for-all that is Charlie Stross's (where I guest-blogged for a couple of weeks this summer). So I thought I'd share an interesting bit of data that came across the twitterverse yesterday and (while it may not be news to you, is news to me) bears some contemplation. It is simply this:

According to various sources, including apparently the United States Department of Energy, it takes between 4 and 7.5 kWh of energy to refine one gallon of gasoline. To drill and transport that gas takes another 1.5-3 kWh. So, the average energy cost of one gallon of gas is roughly 8 kWh, or even more.

A lot of that energy is provided by fossil fuels, chiefly natural gas; but a big proportion of it is provided in the form of electricity.  Those who have totaled it up find that a gasoline-powered automobile uses more electricity to run per mile than a comparable electric vehicle. The total energy cost of the gasoline economy is therefore at least double that of an electric economy. 

A corollary to this is that a complete conversion to electric vehicles would not place any more strain on the grid than there is now; it would simply distribute it (because right now much of that energy is going to fixed installations, and with an EV economy it would be going, at least potentially, to millions of individual houses). So a 100% EV economy would not require any increase in electricity production, only an upgrade to the grid (and lots of companies, such as GM, are designing that grid). In fact, all things being equal, in a 100% EV world, electricity demand should go down somewhat.

The remaining issue for electric vehicles, then, would be battery disposal, because their toxicity is high when they contain lead, but with Li batteries is becoming lower and lower.

Except that...

This isn't quite the whole story. What remains to be factored in here is the electricity cost of manufacturing the EV's batteries. I haven't yet found numbers for this cost; if anybody can supply it, that would be helpful. 

And while we're at it, we should do a complete parts count for the additional complexity and wear-out rate of internal combustion engines, and factor in the electricity cost of those components...

...And round and round we go.

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Hard to compare apples to apples

Posted by Michael Williams at Oct 18, 2011 12:02 PM
If you consider gasoline refining as 'energy generation', then you can apply costs to generation, be they electricity (or other energy), money, time, etc. and you can get a cost per unit of energy generated.
Then, if you consider electrical generation the same way, you find that electricity can be produced much cheaper than gasoline for the same energy output. Coal is the great equalizer here, burning coal to generate electricity to refine gasoline seems wrong.
So consider solar - less cost to build a solar plant than a petroleum refinery, and then the energy produced is 'free', where the energy produced from a refinery needs to be brought in as raw and processed. What's the lifespan of a solar plant? 30-50 years seems to be what most industry folks say.
What about the batteries? If we got rid of gas refinery as part of the equation I think we'd still be much better off going forward with electricity as a whole.

Do you have more info onsmart grid infrastructure?

Posted by Sheila Miguez at Oct 19, 2011 09:16 AM
One of my friends was wondering about the feasibility of an electric fleet in California, for example, where she lives. (and her family runs a parking-lot street cleaning business where gas prices really hit them, so she's wishing for some immediate solution, if there is any)

Smart Grids

Posted by Karl Schroeder at Oct 19, 2011 10:02 AM
I don't think I can point you to any more references than you can find using a straightforward Google search--unless your friend wants to ask me in my capacity as a working futurist, in which case I'm happy to research the trends and potentials.

There's a lot of discussion on the internet about smart grids, with new stuff like iphone apps that coordinate with your car to charge during the cheapest part of the day. That's a good place to start; but if you want to send your friend to me, I'd be happy to talk to her about a more detailed research project.

I wish there was an office for this

Posted by Sheila Miguez at Oct 20, 2011 08:01 AM
I wasn't logged in (and NoScript may have not interacted with the login directly above the comment entries) and I hope that when my reply got committed anonymously that it didn't chop off most of my reply. Oh well.

Recap: I am better equipped to look things up for her and speculate on off the shelf versus something that could be hacked together, but I don't have time to do it, and I was hoping maybe there was diy or something to point her to. And while writing the comment, I realized that advice like this would be something nice for the municipality to provide for small business owners, but that probably doesn't exist (yet?).

Recap Ps. congrats on the defense.
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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."