Friday, January 31, 2020

RED Friday Review: The Replicant War, Chris Kennedy

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(The Good Guy is in the mecha)

And here is THE LINK to the book. And if you click on the link and buy stuff, I get a pittance.
I think my condensed Goodreads review is already up, and I'm about to submit a (condensed) review to Amazon as well. If that goes up quickly, I'll post a link here. Otherwise, I'll put it in the comments later, when it does get posted.

A great good RED FRIDAY to all my friends and neighbors out there in Internet Land. Every Friday is RED Friday; we wear something RED, and we Remember Everyone Deployed. And to my family members who have stumbled across this, I believe I have solved the problem that kept me home a couple of weeks ago. Now, as soon as my transportation works out, I'll be there.

Today, I am reviewing Chris Kennedy's "The Replicant War." Now, while this book WAS a Dragon nominee, it was NOT one of the books I reviewed last August. That's because I only review nominees in four categories: Best SF, Best Fantasy, Best Alternate History, and Best Mil SF. "The Replicant War" was nominated in the "Best Media Tie-In" category, and that's an area about which I know nothing. 

SO: Why am I reviewing it at all? 
First, because it was written by Chris Kennedy. I have been quite impressed by the work his fledgling publishing house has put out, especially the stories in the Four Horsemen Universe. When I think of the long years of drought that was the 1970s and 1980s for guys like me, who grew up with SCIENCE! ROCKETS TO THE MOON! and the few, paltry items we found in those decades; well, the abundance of good writing available now is a delight.
Second, well, umm...mecha saves the world? 

So, let me get this out of the way first: as far as I can tell, the qualification for the  "Media Tie-in" category is that this story is based on an immersive online game, Worlds of War, which doesn't actually exist (yet). In fact, the tech to deliver the game experience doesn't exist yet.  
There is, however, a sho-nuff video game,  Turbolance, referenced in the story. I don't know anything about it, other than the description given in the text (knights with lances on motorcycles), but if you are interested in checking that out, THIS LINK is provided in the prefatory material.

Brenda Mihalko and Ricky Ryan are responsible for the cover art; fans of the 4HU will recognize the look and feel of their work. Nicely detailed scary things, etc.

Although we aren't given dates, I think we can assume from other clues that this takes place in the not-too-distant future. The only tech advances I could find is that hardware providing for a completely immersive gamer experience is available to the players, and they are only mildly astonished by the system's tech. 

Our protagonist is one Ryan Johnson, a senior majoring in Game Design at the fictional Oliver Wolcott University in Washington, DC. We meet him as he is prepping to enter the gamer for the first time, something he has been looking forward to ever since rumors of the game's release hit the internet.

Apart from the immersive experience, he follows a path familiar to anyone who has ever played a game of any kind. Certainly, his early experience is an exact match for a computer-based game, but I couldn't help but be reminded of the time my dad taught me how to play solitaire when I was in kindergarten. 

With all the similarities, however, there are enough differences that Ryan begins to suspect that there is more to the game than meets the eye. He's right.

And the review STOPS RIGHT THERE, almost, because spoilers, and I ain't gonna.

Almost: There is nothing about this that would cause a responsible parent from keeping it from their teenager. The language is PG-13; not too gory, no sexual content at all.
Almost: While the story DOES include lots of technology, and much of it gets blown to smithereens, it's the decisions made by the characters that drive the story. 
Almost: The Amazon description refers to "The Replicant War" as a ", action-packed LitRPG novel..." LitRPG is not a classification I was familiar with before last year, when I reviewed a book with that classification. That work was awful! It seemed to be nothing but screenshots of a game being played online. THAT'S NOT WHAT THIS IS! This is a correctly put-together story. No assembly required, etc. 

So, there you have it. It's a good read, and after six months, I have finally gotten the review done.

Peace be on your household.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Gold on the Hoof, by Peter Grant : Old + New= EXCELLENT

And, for those of you running an ad blocker, here's the cover image:

From "A Dash for the Timber"
 by Frederic Sackrider Remington

And here's the link; if you click on this link and then buy the book, I get a small (2.3%) referral fee. This is not a huge income thing for me; I made $1.63 during the last quarter of 2019, but evidently, I'm still supposed to disclose that lest people think me unethical. 

A condensed form of the review can be found on Goodreads and on Amazon; the Amazon review will let you vote on it, which I hope you will do. If I remember, I'll post a link to the Amazon review in the comments. CHANGED MY PLAN! Here's the Amazon review.

Greetings to all my internet friends and neighbors, who are providing me with encouragement to return to the Days of Review without clamor or threats.   And to any of my family checking in, really sorry I didn't get down to Macon this week, but the glass splinters in the dough for the candy rice balls was that one final detail that shut me down. I'll try again later.

It was indeed a fortuitous day when Peter Grant immigrated to this country. Based on what details he has chosen to reveal, he had already seen and done more than most could ever imagine, on the African continent and perhaps elsewhere, and he used his life experiences as a prison chaplain; you REALLY should read "Walls, Wires, Bars, and Souls" if you'd like to get a sense of what it means to be an authentic Christian, ministering to damaged men in a damaged prison system.

Grant is also one of the great geniuses of our times, which he demonstrated by marrying an Alaskan bush pilot. Where else could you get such a combination of steel nerves, insanity, attention to detail, and spirit of adventure? It's all wrapped up in the rather petite package we know as Dorothy, and if we seek her out for basic and advanced independent book marketing helps, rather than book a trip to Moose Droppings, it's only reflective of our limitations, not hers. She is quite an author as well, and together they appear to have one of those great marriage-chemistry things going, where the total is far more than the sum of the parts. 

"Gold on the Hoof" is the third (of four, so far) of the books in the "Ames Archive" series. It was released on August 26, 2019, and I grabbed a copy IMMEDIATELY, and read it as soon as I could get to it. And there, progress ended, alas. I'll not go into detail about the reasons for the pathetically long delay associated with this review, but O My Best Beloved, it is through no fault whatsoever of the book.

In fact, let me open this review by saying that the very best of the literature of the Old West is found here, absent features that might make reading those stories painful for the modern reader. FEAR NOT, though; this is NOT de-constructed, revisionist work, written solely for the benefit of those who wish to re-write history. 

Specifically, here are some things you won't find: a pretense that there was no lingering racial prejudice after the Civil War; the idea that the life of the aboriginal people of the American West was one of bliss and harmony with nature, until the white man came along; that all it took was hard work and a plow for frontier life to be idyllic. Furthermore, the real, unavoidable conflicts between a nomadic hunter-gatherer culture and that of the incoming farmers and ranchers is treated seriously, and sympathetically. This entire series is like that, which makes it the best treatment I have come across.

Walt Ames is a former Confederate soldier, who came West after the Civil War. Good fortune provided him with working capital, which he increased buying surplus, obsolete military weapons and refitting them to meet more current standards. He also recognized the need for reliable freight handling, and built up a good shipping business. Not without opposition, he lost a hand and a much-loved wife, Rose, to the bad guys in the process. They all paid with their lives, and forfeited their substantial takings to Walt.

Setting Walt apart from the robber-baron mentality of the super-exploiters is his easy-minded commitment to treating people with fairness. As a result, he has inspired great loyalty among his employees and associates. This quality is what allows him to turn the windfalls he receives along the way into solid working capital, and permits him to launch new businesses. 

The economics of his decisions are explained in enough detail to show that this is a plausible story; and, if Walt DOES stumble upon a few pots of gold at the end of rainbows, it always makes sense as to why those pots are there in the first place. In any event, his business plans are always based on hard-headed research and meeting real needs of real people, not "and hope we get lucky."

The core of the story is Walt's trip down to Mexico to buy good horses to sell to the Army, and for his own use. This permits some good discussion about the short-sighted practices of the past, which captured the best of the wild horses descended from those abandoned in the West by the Spanish, and left the culls to breed. That program has now resulted in only a very few good quality horses being available for captures, whereas in the past, many more would have been found. 

That's not the only example of the good research that went into the story; there is a nicely-done discussion of the economics of payment with government greenback dollars, not backed by specie, contrasted with payment in gold. As mentioned earlier, there is also a quite sympathetic treatment of the real collision of the way of life followed by the tribes which followed the buffalo herds, and the increasing violations of the territory set aside for them by buffalo hunters who were getting rich by selling hides. It's not ignored that the custom of following the herds is also what makes it feasible for raids between tribes, a hobby now expanded to prey on settlers moving west. And, we even learn how to cook a turkey without plucking it, so we can eat it for breakfast.

Grant's depiction of Walt Ames is NOT that of a superman. Yes, he DOES get lucky from time to time, but he also has placed himself in condition to take advantage of luck when it presents. There is absolutely NOTHING else about the character that makes him a ....oops...what is the male equivalent of a Mary Sue? At any rate, he is NOT an impossible character. His sole defining quality is that of keeping faith, or, in doing unto others as he would have them do unto him. This keeps him (mostly) out of those interminable semi-Hamlet moments that seem to pop up everywhere in hero stories, where the hero has to berate himself on the horrid choices he has to make. Walt isn't immune to a bit of that; he does wonder if there were anything he could have done differently to prevent the murder of Rose. However, he makes his life plan VERY clear, in a small jewel of a conversation he has with Jimmy and Randy, two teen boys who are along for the trip to help with the gear and stock:
“Just remember – don’t go tryin’ to take a fight to anyone who doesn’t really need it. He gets a vote, too, an’ he may be better with a gun than you are. You don’t want to find that out the hard way unless you got no other choice.”
(Grant, Peter. Gold on the Hoof (Ames Archives Book 3) . Sedgefield Press. Kindle Edition. )
I found this to be a VERY restful and absorbing read; Chaplain Pearce, you'd like this one.  I wasn't really seeking "comforting" when started  the re-read (which was necessary after all these months), but I surely did need what "Gold on the Hoof" brought me. 

Well researched; good story; believable characters; recommend without qualification for any age.
Five Stars.

Peace be on your household.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Cold Case Murder Clue

Greetings, internet friends and neighbors, and a great good morning to you! And to those family members who have made their way here, I surely would appreciate the return of the big Tupperware containers. My gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, made a bodacious portion of mac and cheese (it's the ONLY mac and cheese I will willingly eat) and I have to put it in the icebox. If you can't bring it in person, at least send me a text (or comment on this post) and tell me where you might have hidden the larger food storage items.
I ain't playin' wit' you!
I need to store this!

This morning, I was thinking about a death, under mysterious circumstances, that was THE talk of the nation, a little more than a half-century ago.

Lacking anything that might reasonably be considered as proper crime scene evidence, for as contemporary documentation we have only the record (ummm...literally) of certain allegedly non-involved local residents discussing the death of a local teen. While this claims that the death was a suicide, the location and circumstances of the young man's death were sufficient to stir widespread speculation as to what really happened.

Time: Early summer. The actual date of the death of William Joseph McAllister is somewhat vague, but probably took place on or about June 1 or 2, 1967.
Location: rural Mississippi. Although a cursory impression of the community is that of just one more sleepy, dusty Delta farming settlement, appearances can be deceiving. Just shy of 12 years prior, another teen-age male had been killed in the exact same location. Despite the similarities between the cases, there has evidently been NO official effort to link the two murders. (Both were teens; both were guilty of nothing that could be regarded as a crime; both bodies were discovered in the very same river.) -FOOTNOTE 0-

Although the circumstances surrounding the death of a young man in rural Mississippi were vague in the extreme, that did not stop speculation. It is, perhaps, the very meaninglessness of this death that has provided so many with the desire to find answers. No one likes to believe that violent death can visit innocents without warning, but it was becoming quite difficult to hold on to this fantasy in the light of the casualty lists coming back from Viet Nam. Perhaps, the more a belief is challenged, the more we tightly hold on to it.

And yet, that attempt to hold on to the belief, plus our tendency to believe the FIRST witness to an event, blinded everyone to a critical clue, found in the opening lines of the single record we have. Admittedly, most of the speculation came from those living in cities and towns, places where the rhythms of agricultural life are unknown.

Still, once revealed, the blatant lie stands out, and cannot be unseen. To point it out, I must disclose certain agricultural truths.*FOOTNOTE 1: SPOILER CONTAINED IN FOOTNOTE*

Although farm life is a 24/7, 365 day/year occupation, there are DEFINITE seasons where some tasks MUST be done in a timely fashion, or dire consequences result. Most of these are related to the life cycle of plants, although animal husbandry needs prevail at times. During the (few) moments when neither of these tasks demand immediate attention of the farmer, the time is devoted to repair and maintenance of fences, equipment, and shelter.

With a proper understanding of this agricultural rhythm, we can evaluate the alibis offered by those seemingly most interested in the death of the young man, especially since the actual date is disclosed. The first task mentioned is carried out by the narrator. It is tedious work, but does not require the massive upper body strength that certain tasks do. Cotton is a cash crop for farmers, and the health of the crop requires that each plant be given clear access to sun, rain, and not be in competition with those pesky weeds that seem to proliferate without cause. The cotton can be planted, depending on local conditions, any time from the first of April through Memorial Day, and, as soon as the young plants begin to show, and have developed a strong enough core, a trustworthy family member or hired hand is sent out to kill everything that isn't cotton. This process is referred to as 'chopping cotton,' although the cotton itself is NOT chopped.

A second essential farm task is haying. There are any numbers of grasses that can be used to make hay, and those are selected based on the needs for feed, as well as the needs and nature of the soil.  For reasons not fully developed here, however, **FOOTNOTE 2: SPOILER CONTAINED IN FOOTNOTE**, it is essential that the  selected grasses reach a certain degree of maturity, at which time the proper balance of nutrients is reached, and the non-nutritive woody components have not become dominant. As well as the time spent growing, the time of day when harvesting is critical; grasses cut in the early morning will not have stored the maximum of photosynthetic sugar, and will be wet with dew, making them likely to mildew while on the ground waiting to be baled.

The clue. And THIS provides us with the clue that we need***FOOTNOTE 3: SPOILER CONTAINED IN FOOTNOTE*** in order to determine a false statement in the alibi. For reasons related to local ground chemistry, weather, and common planting schedules,  IT IS ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE for the two tasks mentioned to be performed simultaneously on the date mentioned. Thus, we have a broken alibi, leading us directly to the (figurative) smoking gun. And, after more than a half-century, the case is solved.

From the record:
It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day,
I was out chopping cotton, and my brother was baling hay.
(Ode to Billy Joe, Bobby Gentry, 1967)

Peace be on your household.

Footnote 0:  I have seen no record that Bobbie Gentry had this in mind, but the Tallahatchie Bridge crosses the river in Money, Mississippi, immediately adjacent to the site of the store where Emmett Till allegedly whistled at a white woman, for which he was lynched on August 28, 1955. And yes, my 2020 mind just created the association between the two murders.
Footnote 1:  I don't know any agricultural truths. I used Google to look at stuff.
Footnote 2: They aren't fully developed, because I don't fully understand them, and they are boring to anyone without a vested interest in growing hay.
Footnote 3: No, it's NOT true, as far as I know, that chopping cotton and baling hay couldn't be performed on the same day. I just made that part up, because the story needed it.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

A Short Testimony of the Conviction of Things Hoped For

Greetings, etc; if I don't hurry through this, we will be late for church, and it will be my fault.

When I was a goof teenager, maybe 17 years old, I discovered a little bit about the Bible. And I briefly attended a Campus Crusade for Christ study, just long enough to memorize I Corinthians 13, about the still more excellent way, which is love.

From Campus Crusade for Christ, 1970

(No, I didn't understand it. But, at least I was exposed to it.)

Decades later,  I discovered the riches in what we have recorded as the second letter Paul wrote to the church at Corinth. I had life experience by then that allowed me to see truth in the words.

"...we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life;
9 indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead;
10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us..." (II Cor 1:8b-10, NASB)

In September of 2007, when I realized I could no longer do my job, I clung to verse 7:
we had the sentence of death within ourselves, so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead. 
I even spoke that verse to my boss, as we were arranging for my termination. Don't know if it meant anything to him at that point, but it sure meant something to me. It was what got me through those awful days at the very end.

This morning, I was faced with IRREFUTABLE evidence of His redemptive, resurrection power in my life, disclosed via, of all things, a gift made by my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, to a friend in need.

This is NOT Vanessa, but it is the image she has chosen to represent herself.

In September 2007, I could only walk blindly, in hope; today, I walk in hope realized.

Peace be on your household.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Stellaris: People of the Stars

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And here's the link!

Greetings to all my internet friends and neighbors, who have long been wondering if I was EVER going to return to my review habits. And to any of my family checking in, I still don’t have that family reunion ice cream recipe.

Some recent history. A few days ago, scientist/author Robert E Hampson, who has aliases known to many, pointed out that he had requested that I review a book.
Last August.

Now, at the time, he very graciously accepted the reality that I was in the throes of reviewing the nominated works for the Dragon Award, and couldn’t interrupt that frenzy. No problem, he said. Just get to it when it’s convenient, he said.

Well, neither he, nor I, had any idea that circumstances (armed with a bludgeon) were on the way, or else we might not have been so casual about the arrangement. But that, as they say, is all water over the dam, washing away villages downstream and creating havoc and establishing conditions for disease epidemics. So, we shall speak no more of that, and simply proceed with the review.

What kind of book is this? It’s the kind that will last you a long, long time, IF you are somewhat like me. I know this because a series with a similar format has lasted me for nigh on 40 years. I speak of “There Will Be War,” edited by the late great Jerry Pournelle, and the illustrious (or, wonderful, delightful, inestimable, still alive) John F. Carr (and if I were to allow myself to launch into everything I wished to say about this and them and that,  nothing else gets written. So, forcible stop).

More specifically, it’s an anthology that addresses a single topic (the future of humanity in space) through a combination of short fiction and non-fiction articles. Now, IF you are somewhat like me, you are going to immediately devour the short fiction first. And then, over time, you are going to return to the non-fiction, and you are going to become involved much more deeply. I tried to come up with a food comparison, as in fast food versus Thanksgiving Feast, but I could think of nothing that will do justice to either component.

Just know this: the short fiction also educates, and the non-fiction also entertains. Also know that the environments being considered for human life are lethal, so that failure to make the right choices, every time, results in extinction.

The content.

Foreword by Robert E Hampson. PLEASE don’t skip the Foreword! Not only do you get the story of the genesis of this volume, you also get a brief, interesting review of problems already encountered in real life in sustaining human life in space, as well as the science fiction treatments.

Burn the Boats by Sarah A. Hoyt. They say Sarah A. Hoyt is a real person, but I’m not so sure.  I’d say that she might be a cyborg, but for two things: she writes about cats in a way only a human could; she also ALWAYS respects the science in a story, but her stories are incredibly perceptive studies of the PEOPLE who interact with the science. The people in this story must accommodate themselves to changes they had NEVER considered, or go extinct. And they have children.

Bridging by William Ledbetter. At first, I thought this was a Norse fantasy, and I recoiled; I mostly don’t appreciate fantasy. It’s NOT, though; it just incorporates names (and maybe themes) from that mythology into a science fiction. There are two groups of space colonists living in close proximity, but one lives under a gravity field much stronger than that of Earth, while the other lives in free-fall. They hate and fear each other, because of ancient stupid acts, but if they can’t find a way to join, they both are at risk of going extinct.

The Future of Intelligent Life in the Cosmos by Martin Rees. The first non-fiction article in the collection, this one is particularly wide-ranging. (First impression? It’s more of a concept dump than I prefer.) Advances in bio-tech, AI, and space propulsion are all essential. A significant point: if the exploration is funded by the government, can the level of risk needed to progress be accepted? He thinks not.

Stella Infantes by Kacey Ezell and Philip Wohlrab. There is a tiny sub-plot in one of James Michener’s massive works (I THINK it’s “Hawaii,” but am not sure) about the missionaries who were sent on long voyages to set up missions on potentially hostile shores. Despite their reputation of being sexual prudes, almost all of the young couples had their first child SIGNIFICANTLY before nine months had elapsed after reaching their destination. If it was like that on long sea voyages, what about long space voyages? There is plenty of discussion here about medical implications of space pregnancy, and for that, I feel certain we can thank Wohlrab. Ezell, once again, utterly fails to disappoint in her ability to make a person in crisis come alive.

Maintaining Crew Health and Mission Performance in Ventures Beyond Near-Earth Space by Mark Shelhamer. With respect to long-term residence in space, it doesn’t even appear that we know what it is that we don’t know. Shelhamer examines the current process of assessing the risks, and then moves forward. The ability to simulate living in a gravitational field appears to be essential, but there is no way of controlling for everything that MIGHT happen.

At the Bottom of the White by Todd McCaffrey. Although there is some nifty tech in the story, most especially the technique of using people in re-entry ships to ‘bounce’ cargoes up and down (just read the story, ok?) what really makes this story pop is the evolved culture of a long-term trader, journeying between star systems, which have developed on their own, in isolation.

Pageants of Humanity by Brent Roeder. Tee-hee! Roeder has captured the brainless chatter of talking heads, providing commentary on a beauty pageant in which the outcome determines whether a far-flung system still meets the requirements for humanity. It contains some well-conceived rationale for making the determination, but it’s such a yock to read it presented this way. Loved it!

Homo Stellaris — Working Track Report from the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop by Robert E. Hampson and Les Johnson. Ummm...this is the report. It’s PACKED with info, and if you have any interest in people in space, read this. It’s a summary of a LOT of work, and I can’t further distill it.

Time Flies by Kevin J. Anderson. If you have chosen to travel, but not to arrive, how do you manage to do it? These are people who trade information and goods between far-flung star systems, and they have the technology to go into a super-slow time. Every so often, they shift from slow to normal time, to check on ship functions, and when approaching a planet. If you were able to, essentially, live forever that way, would you do it?

Our Worldship Broke! by Jim Beall. Although NICELY presented, I had to ask for help on this one. Fortunately, my son-in-law, Sam Blackstone, used to be one of the guys who run the nuclear tea-kettles on a submarine (and that’s all he can tell us). So, I had him read this one, and he said: a person without some engineering background might struggle with how some of the concepts work with each other. He really liked the accuracy of the article “speaking directly about the success of nuclear power and how the Navy organized it from the very beginning;” the people, places, and things Beall references are all as described. Sam also suggested I’d find reading up on Hyman Rickover, the Father of Naval Nuclear Power, to be interesting. Thanks, Sam!

Nanny by Les Johnson. The POV swaps between Angela, beginning when she is age nine, and Manuel, an adult crew member on an interstellar voyage. Soon we begin to wonder: how did all these kids wind up with no adults? We find out. 

Those Left Behind by Robert E. Hampson. Melisande, bka “Mace,” and her older brother Sandy are dedicated space people. Besides having the brains to do the science, they were highly motivated to get a way from home essentially destroyed by Dad’s alcoholism and Mom’s fluttering from cause to cause. So, they both opted for some physical changes, to make their bodies more adapted to working in space. A final home visit for a Thanksgiving meal became explosive (or nearly so).

Securing the Stars by Mike Massa. You cannot allow sabotage, or even sloppiness, to interfere with spacecraft systems; there are no convenient repair shops. Massa identifies some similarities between the isolation and hostile environment on a space mission with some Earth-based environments; the conclusions are inescapable: a space mission isn’t a democracy.

The Smallest of Things by Catherine L. Smith. Just because SOME things are similar in our exoplanets, that doesn’t mean they are really Earth-like. Smith shows us the challenge of alien strangeness, compounded by human goofiness.

Biological and Medical Challenges of the Transition to Homo Stellaris by Nikhil Rao, MD. Before we go, while we are going, and once we get there: what can kill us? What can just mess us up? Well….lots of things. Here are some of them.

Exodus by Daniel M. Hoyt. (Okay, if Sarah A. Hoyt ISN’T real, then they are doing a really good job of covering that up.) Ginny is a science geek born to parents who “Only know of physics like Ex-lax,” and are proud of it. She devotes all of her efforts to get away, but it turns out not to be that easy, because, evidently, a LOT of people want to get away, and then she finds there are some things hard to leave. This story does an EXCELLENT job of showing the results of alternative, and competing, research tracks: if the other guys make it work, all that you have done may go into long-term storage.

Afterword by Les Johnson. Nicely reflective on What It’s All About.

Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop,  by Joe Meany. A further explanation of the group, and how to join them in the goal of becoming People of the Stars, Homo Stellaris.

Well, there you have it. Grab a copy of the book, and read it for the next forty years.

Peace be on your household.