Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Register your e-book here

To register your copy of Patriots of Mars, simply enter your email address into the comments box below. (It will not appear on the site!) Registration entitles you to a free Kindle version of the next installment in the series. (If you want a version other than Kindle, note that in the comments as well.)

Your email address won't be sold or used maliciously, although I may noodge you to head over to Amazon and write a short reader review.

I reserve the right to end this giveaway at any time. But not today.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Dial 'F' for Frankenstein

One of the basic characters of Patriots of Mars is MOM, the sentient, manmade, wetware... well, you'd call her a 'computer' but they don't use that word anymore. Calling MOM a computer would be like calling your shiny new MacBook Air a fancy, high-tech abacus. It just isn't done.

A few years ago, William Sawyer began a series of novels premised on the World Wide Web 'waking up' to become sentient.

One of the commenters in the post linked above, however, noted that Arthur C. Clarke had more or less the same idea, years before the WWW developed. In his story, it's the phone networks (on which the web would one day be built) that achieve sentiency.

Gotta give Clarke credit - the title alone is genius, and clearly a meme whose time has come.

How memorable characters are developed

Going through some of my voluminous notes from the early stages of writing Patriots, I came across this Reason post about the complex character of Watchmen's Rorschach:

Rorschach’s sense of justice may make him hate most of humanity—he brags to himself at the beginning that if mankind begged him to save them, he’d justly say “no.” But by the end he sacrifices himself in the name of avenging the deaths of millions who he doesn’t know.

It's no wonder, given this, why Rorschach is beloved as the heart and soul of Watchmen by its fans. But Rorschach, in fact, was not exactly invented by author Alan Moore. Instead, Moore built him atop a Charleston comics hero called 'The Question', which had been acquired by his employer, DC. And 'The Question' was the creation of the legendary comic book maverick Steve Ditko.

Yet even Ditko is not the end of the Rorschach pattern, because Ditko's character was modeled after Ayn Rand's male protagonists.

Check out that Reason post, it's worth it. 

But wait - there's more!

Here's a synopsis (and a link to 125 pages more) of the legendary early story conference between pop-cult heavyweights George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Lawrence Kasdan for a new character they called Indiana Jones. 

...and a bit more: 'How Do You Come Up with Character Names? An Exhaustive List'

Technologies and ideas that shape the Patriots' world

Who's the author, and how do I contact him?

Q: Who's the author of The Patriots of Mars, and how do I contact him?

A: Information to come (blog is under construction). For the time being, just leave a comment - I'll see it and respond, if you give me a means to do so. (If you leave an email, don't worry - the comment will not be published.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What about Handwavium, MacGuffins, Unobtanium, and Technobabble?

Q: In this essay, you wrote about the Handwavium, MacGuffins, Unobtanium, and Technobabble that plague sci-fi. Doesn’t ‘Patriots’ also have its fair share of these?

A. Possibly. Probably. I’m not sure. er, I think that’s a fairly subjective call. 

My goal for ‘Patriots’ was twofold: 

(1) To create a world of its own - not necessarily free of Handwavium et al, but to have a relatively unique blend of tech that formed a reality I could more or less identify with (as opposed to Star Trek or Star Wars’ flights of pure fantasy.) I recognized that sci-fi baggage exists for a reason (as this essay details), but I still wanted to jettison as much of it as possible.

(2) To tell a story which works in the sci-fi form, rather than telling a ‘sci-fi story’. There’s a difference. This is not a story about greener green men or bigger ray guns or stranger creatures or stranger new worlds. Those are tired memes, and more to the point they’re the tail wagging the dog.

Our world is strange enough as it is, and I’d rather explore it in hopes of finding new revelations than follow sci-fi formula, however tried-and-true it may be.

If I had to evaluate ‘Patriots’ myself in terms of Handwavium et al, I’d say it contains very little Technobabble, and while I don’t consider the pursuit of the Nomad a MacGuffin, I suppose that might be a fair cop. 

There’s no Unobtanium that I can detect, unless one considers freedom for the Martians and the SIMs to be Unobtainium. That seems like a stretch to me.

As to Handwavium, much depends on how you define the stuff. Is The Guide an example of Handwavium, or an acknowledgement of the historical fact that there have always been some among us (such as Joan of Arc) who have said they could speak directly with God? Or, since the concept of multiple dimensions is now considered established fact, is it Handwavium to assume there could be entities in those dimensions who can communicate with us?

Likewise: Are the SIMs, the Interdim, Nirvana, the SuperOld, or Carmot examples of Handwavium, or logical extensions of paths we’re already deeply committed to? You’ll have to decide.

While you're mulling that over, check out these MacGuffins.

from F.A.Q.

Why was Patriots written?

Q: Why was Patriots written?

A: The reflex response that comes to mind is 'why not?'. But serious writing is a resource-draining affair, and some books are more challenging to write than others. With that in mind it's a legitimate line of questioning: Why did you write this particular book? What's its purpose, what did you hope to accomplish? (and so on)

Probably any writer writes partly to get paid, partly for prestige, and partly for his own enjoyment. The percentages of each motivation vary.

Sometimes a writer also writes because (s)he has something to say. (Mind you, every writer thinks they have something to say, but I assure you that’s not true. Or at least I can assure you that whatever it is, is often better left unsaid.) I admit that my motivation was that I had something to say, but the other motives come into play as well. And since it makes no difference if I say something and no one’s listening, it behooves me to spread the word and pitch as many copies of Patriots as possible.

Funny about the word ‘behoove’. It goes way back to the 12th century, and it sounds its age. But somehow, we just keep using it. We can’t seem to replace it. Instead, strangely enough, we’re finding new meanings for it.

Q: What are you trying to say, then?
A: That’s another funny thing. You spend about half the book or more learning what it really is that you have to say. You may have had an idea when you started out, but it can get pretty turned around by the time you’re through. The writing teaches the writer.

Q: But you still haven’t told me what you’re trying to say!

A: That’s because what the book has to say is largely up to you, the reader. That’s just the nature of the beast, my friend. I didn’t make the rules.

from F.A.Q.

I also think Nirvana is absurd

Q: I also think Nirvana is absurd. A fifth of the world’s population drugged into a stupor?
A: What, you’ve never heard of television?
Seriously: Of all the projections in this book, a drug such as Nirvana is a development I consider most likely to transpire.

from F.A.Q.

Why are there so many dead links in 'Patriots'?

Q: Why are there so many dead links in Patriots?
A: One advantage of an e-book over a dead-tree-book is the ability to hyperlink, and ‘Patriots’ has an abundance of these. To be clear, when the book is released there will be NO dead links, but over time they are inevitable. Dead links can’t be prevented (one can’t control what happens on the sites one links to), but here’s what was done to buffer them:
1) I linked to ‘stable’ sites, like Wikipedia, whenever possible. Wiki’s intent is to be a persistent base of knowledge - in other words, they plan to be around for awhile. They may fail, of course, but at this time they’re as good a bet to be around in 10 years as anything on the ‘net.
2) Many links were buffered with internal definitions. That is, before a Patriots link sends you out to the web, it offers you an explanation of what was on the linked site when the book was written. If the site’s vanished, at least you have an idea what was on it. In a few cases multiple outbound links are offered in the definition, so that if one goes dead, another may survive.
3) Some links are pretty well explained within the text, or concern relatively trivial issues. In such cases, I felt building in redundancies (such as those described above) were more trouble (for you, the reader) than they were worth. Links are already a distraction from the story as it is - no point muddying the waters even further.
4) Some links are easy enough to look up again. For example, I linked to a Charlie Rose interview with Steve Martin in the FAQ answer to ‘Where do you get your ideas?’. That link went to a fairly stable site (YouTube), but if it gets moved, it’s pretty straightforward to do a web-wide search for the clip as it’s described.

from F.A.Q.

What's up with the covers?

Q: What’s with the dingbats and old-school type on the covers? And why two covers, anyway?

A: Re the number of covers: Are you complaining? You got two covers for the price of one!

Patriots was initially released with a front and an inside-front cover. Subsequent revisions may see the addition of a back cover and other art. (Which is one reason you should register your copy - early adopters will be offered free ‘upgrades’ and discounts on future volumes in the series.)

The reason for the two covers is this: Patriots was originally released as an e-book and sold via online booksellers (mainly Amazon, along with iTunes and Barnes & Noble). Therefore, the way most potential readers would first encounter the book would be in postage-stamp size. 

If you’re inclined to observe such things (and if you’re asking this question, you clearly are), you’ve already noticed that many (most?) of the books written and released in this e-book era (as opposed to older books that were merely scanned and repurposed for e-sales) have covers that are primarily type. Many of them just shout out the book title and the author’s name, and it's because that’s all you’ll be able to make out at the postage-stamp size you’ll first see them.

When I first saw volume after volume with nearly-type-only covers displayed online, I thought it was the result of cheap or graphics-averse self-publishers. But while many of these authors might indeed be those things, their decisions now strike me as largely pragmatic. 

Something similar happened when CDs replaced LPs as the primary media for music. CDs were so much smaller than LPs that album covers were bemoaned as a lost art. There just wasn’t the same room for the message, and art that had been designed for 12” LPs often looked ‘wrong’ when shrunk down to CD size. 

Eventually, musicians and graphic artists figured out how to make the CD format work for them. Well-designed CD covers conceded the smaller size and conveyed less information, but image-conscious artists began to include extras such as booklets tucked inside the jewel case. (Ultimately, most music came to be sold online, and we have come full-circle to the point where album art can be displayed at any size one cares to display.)

Where books are concerned, I felt that although an all-type cover was appropriate for the circumstances, it fell short of what a reader needs a cover for. Which is: To convey a sense of the book before committing an investment of time and money.
That’s why Patriots employs what I call a ‘wrapper’ (mainly type, for easy ID) and an ‘inside cover’ (an illustration and some additional text, for a feel of what’s inside). Here's the inside-front cover:

...and here's the front cover:

Re the old-school dingbats and type choices: I believe this follows a fairly recent but established trend in sci-fi type treatments. Over the years we’ve evolved from ‘3D-colossal’ type (Forbidden Planet, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Flash Gordon, The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, etc, etc) to various stabs at high-tech-slick (most everything from Star Wars and onward… Blade Runner comes to mind, but there’s tons of examples). 
Year after year new sci-fi books and (especially) films have attempted to out-futurize what came before it, until the conceit inevitably had to collapse. (And to accommodate this demand, typefaces have been trying to out-future each other since at least, well, Futura.) I’ve noticed WIRED magazine bucking the trend now and then with retro-type used, I guess, somewhat ironically and (I believe) quite successfully. J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek used a pleasingly worn metal logo (along with far too many ‘accidental’ lens flares) to give that film a lived-in, almost retro-tech look.
I thought this look was appropriate for Patriots, so I adapted it. I used old-school fonts (slightly modified) for the cover along with modified dingbats, and used visual clues that married old ideas to new in the illustrations. Patriots isn’t about the glamor or glory of getting to Mars. By the time the story takes place, all that stuff’s been worked out of our systems, and we have bigger fish to fry.
It’s sort of like the having a cell phone today. Sure, back in the 1980’s, having a cell phone (probably in your car - they were the size of bricks back then) suggested a fast-paced, high-tech life. Today, they’re pretty much an everyday occurrence. Well, that’s what being on Mars is in the time of Patriots. It’s not about being ‘futuristic’ or high-tech, it’s just a part of life, and I thought the graphics should somewhat reflect that. 
Of course, Patriots portrays a different world, and a different way of life. But it is that way for socio-political and human reasons, rather than ‘high-tech’ ones.

from F.A.Q.

I think the idea of stopping a spaceship with a cable is absurd

Q: I think the idea of stopping a spaceship with a cable is absurd.
A: Einstein said ‘If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.’ Also, that wasn’t a question.

Q: All right, then: Wouldn’t stopping a spaceship with a cable require a really, really LONG cable?
A: Yes. 
However, the real issue is in creating a Carmot-like material in a reliable manner. Once (if) that hurdle is breached, manufacturing it in large amounts should be a relatively trivial matter.

Q: I don’t mean making the stuff, I mean wouldn’t millions of meters of ultrathin cable be impossible to manage?
A: You mean like a cheap, overlong garden hose or all the cables you’ve stashed away from your old electronics? Well, the fact that all that cable would be unwound in space is an advantage, as show-stopping tangles are less likely there. The cable would more or less float along where it was left, until it’s reeled back in - an operation that would be overseen mainly by ‘bots.
More to the point, you have to compare the practicality of this method with the only other methods of braking we have employed (so far) in space:
• Atmospheric friction, which transforms momentum energy (inertia) into heat. This method is always dangerous (your craft could simply burn up) and in any event it is completely impractical for large craft such as those Patriots envisions. It’s also impractical for use with the space elevator, since the Patriots crafts are hauled up in the elevator in pieces and assembled in space. (Meaning that the entire, assembled, craft is too big to haul into orbit via the elevator.)
Friction braking only works if your craft is going to have an extended ride through the atmosphere - that is, if you’re going to land on the planet. Braking with a Carmot cable would be much more efficient in that your craft could remain in space (where it belongs, if you think about it), while only cargo and personnel would be transferred down (via elevator, or by shuttle if there is an emergency or an elevator is not available).
• Retro rockets, which again are insufficient to slow a large craft. Retro rockets are inefficient and clumsy, because you must accelerate the very same fuel (or at least propellant - the Patriots ships require only propellant, not fuel) you will later use to stop the craft. This means your travel is slower because you are carrying a great deal of extra weight (in fuel) that you need just for braking. And if fuel is lost along the way or miscalculated - well, you could be in for a very long ride!
The ships in ‘Patriots’, on the other hand, could be almost completely out of propellant and still brake successfully at their destination. They need carry only a modest amount of extra propellant (ordinary water, used in the form of IceXII pellets).
Keep in mind, I’m not including the ‘magic’ methods used in Star Trek where the ship simply stops because ‘we’re out of warp’, or vessels such as those in Star Wars which are similarly unconcerned about trivial matters such as the laws of physics.
Of course, all this hinges on the creation of the ‘miracle material’, Carmot. It’s not as if no one’s trying…

from F.A.Q.

Why isn't the space elevator atop a mountain, like Clarke's was?

Q: Why isn't the space elevator atop a mountain, like Clarke's was?
A: Clarke posited that the shorter the trip into space, the cheaper the elevator would be to build. Also, the trip up (and down) would be shorter, the mechanics of the thing more reliable, and all that.
The one thing Clarke did not consider was the logistics of getting people and materials on and off the elevator. That’s why Hammer built his elevator near Chicago, in the center of the U.S. and near railroads, highways, and air transportation. Hammer saw a burgeoning space-based industry on the horizon, and located his elevator accordingly. By contrast, to get to Clarke’s elevator one must first travel into one of the less-accessible parts of the world.
The other thing about Clarke’s location was that it was central to his story’s plot. No mountain, no story. So that had quite a lot to do with it (maybe everything, in fact, despite the rationale he offered).

from F.A.Q.

Couldn’t you have written Patriots without the space elevator?

Q: Couldn’t you have written Patriots without the space elevator and all that? I mean, why not just stick to Warp Drives and the stuff we’re familiar with?
A: Once a novel is well underway, changing a part of it is a bit like pulling on a loose thread in a tapestry: You might unravel the whole thing. So, I’m not sure if the essential story of Patriots could have been written inside a framework of Star Trek technology.
This is a legitimate complaint, though. Although science geeks love to complain about the extreme liberties taken with science by Star Trek and Star Wars, an argument can be (and often is) made that ‘we will overcome’. Meaning that the obstacles keeping us from the stars today will not be obstacles tomorrow, as technology marches on, and we don’t have to know how this will come about - only that it will. Fair enough.
However, I see a gap between Star Wars fantasy and the 2001/Mission to Mars/Andromeda Strain/Close Encounters genre of reality-based sci-fi. (To whatever degree we can agree that those films were actually grounded in reality, that is. At least it may be argued that they strove for a technologically contemporary setting.) There’s a place to build a world somewhere in-between those extremes, where the tech is beyond today’s reach yet still not so far removed that it becomes painfully obvious that the technological rules in force exist primarily as a convenience for the story. This is the sweet spot where films such as Minority Report live.
To me, the fantastic framework of the Star Trek or Star Wars worlds eventually serve to distance the reader from the plights of the characters inhabiting them. Those worlds eventually become rather useless baggage, or at best a curiosity. I expect this would also become true of the worlds of The Matrix or Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter if those stories were being extended beyond their original arcs (but obviously they’re not).
I think what happens is that readers accept those worlds (if they’re reasonably well-made, as all of those I mentioned are) if they become invested in following the character through his adventure. And the nature of those worlds inform that character and his(her) adventure, making them unique and special.
But Star Trek and Star Wars are franchises owned by corporations. (George Lucas, at this point, is a corporation.) The way they see it, those worlds are gold mines, and endless stories can be wrung from them.
I believe that’s the wrong POV in terms of fan satisfaction, and I think time has proven this out. The owners of Star Trek, for example, attempted to spin it out past the initial adventures of Kirk et al, and wound up with series (The Next Generation, Voyager, etc.) in which there was less and less interest as time went by. (Eventually, J.J. Abrams instinctively sussed out the core problem and created the most successful Trek in years, simply by recasting the original characters and taking them back to their maiden voyage. Insightfully, the film was called simply ‘Star Trek’.)
Lucas did a similar franchise extension with his Star Wars, and once again each attempt beyond the original three-story arc drew diminished interest and rising criticism.
That’s not to say that new Star Wars or Star Trek adventures are incapable of generating new revenue, since clearly they are. But it does suggest that the real excitement and interest in these worlds lies in an ‘organic’ marriage of story, world, and character. Once they drift apart, you’re tugging on that thread in the tapestry.
While writing this, I came across an episode of The Big Bang Theory (from 2011, titled ‘The Russian Rocket Reaction’) in which one of the geeky/nerdy characters says “I think I’ve outgrown Star Trek”. He hasn’t really, of course (if he did, there’d be no more show), but I thought that idea had resonance. I suspect that many of the people dressed as their favorite character at Comic Con conventions are actually signaling their readiness for that Next Great Thing, and are very wary of products that are little more than calculated copies of the Last Great Thing. By which I mean there’s an odd dichotomy at work: Just because someone’s dressed like Darth Vader, that does not necessarily mean they want more Star Wars. But it does mean they are open to something that excites them the way Star Wars did when they first encountered that world and that adventure.
This goes a long way in explaining the tremendous and almost immediate success of Harry Potter. His character was compelling, was set in a world uniquely his, and was faced with a special journey which required numerous books/films to fulfill. 
I should also add that the world Ms. Rowling created for Harry was inspired and pitch-perfect. Children spend much of their time at school, and they all wish they could attend a school like Hogwarts. It’s not so much that they want to cast spells or make potions, though for sure there is an element of that, but mostly because the school looked out for them with loving concern, dispensed just rewards and punishments, and offered vast opportunities for freestyle exploration and self-directed learning. (I wish I could go there myself!) Harry’s readers also wish they had an extended loving family like Ron’s, and (sadly) identify with Harry’s mistreatment at the hands of his acting step-parents. It’s quite telling how the tone-deaf imitators who arrived after Harry (you know who they are, I won’t name them) completely missed the central source of appeal of those books, and therefore failed to even come close to his sales figures.
[As long as I’m off on this tangent [Muggles=the divide between kids and adults. Brilliant, and probably a completely subconscious, uncalculated choice on the author’s part. [Wizard world - kids - attempt to understand Muggles - that’s Ron’s father’s job after all - but reverse does not happen. Nature of relationship to Muggle world changes, but tone is set in first book and that is what matters.]
In terms of Patriots, then: To set Josh and the boys off in a world with technology borrowed from, say, Star Trek‘s culture and confront them with problems inspired by other space adventures would not have made for much of a story. That story would not have been worth my writing, nor your reading. The characters, the story and the setting should be married in a fitting and special way. (Would Frodo have been as sympathetic a character if he had come from anywhere but the Shire?) 
And that’s why many things in this book work rather differently than they do in many other sci-fi books or films you’ve seen.

from F.A.Q.

Are the events in 'Patriots' meant as predictions?

Q: Are the events in Patriots meant as predictions?

A: I would not call anything in this book a prediction, but I would say many of the descriptions are projections of the path we are on as of 2011. For example, the development of a material such as Carmot seems likely. So do powerful drugs such as Nirvana, widespread shortages of key materials (especially certain metals), longer lifespans, population growth, self-aware manufactured intelligence, constraints of freedom, and gains for the few and powerful at the expense of the many.
Other things, such as abundant, cheap electrical power, I would classify as a hope based on certain breakthroughs. The development of cheap electrical power is roughly equivalent (in my mind) to the development of cheap, abundant computational power which has led to a wealth of inexpensive ‘smart’ devices far more powerful than the Univac-like machines that guided the moon landing. In other words, such things certainly can (and have) happened before.

from F.A.Q.

Who (or what) is The Guide?

Q: Who (or what) is The Guide? What happened to the Mandarins? What becomes of Josh’s mother? Who will rule Mars? How can you end the book with Earth in, er, the state you leave it in?

A: That last question definitely flirts with spoilerdom. 

Patriots is only the first of a planned series. Only some of the questions it raises can get answered in the first installment, but enough do get resolved (I believe) to make the book satisfying in itself.

from F.A.Q.

What makes 'Patriots' a ‘young adult’ book?

Q: What makes this a ‘young adult’ book, and what ages is it intended for? (Maybe I’m past the age range that should be reading it?)

A: ‘fess up, now - you weren’t too old to go to those Harry Potter movies, which kind of reminded you of Lord of the Rings (right?), which are also ‘children’s books’. (Tolkien wrote the ‘Ring’ books to entertain his own children.)

But you say you’ve drawn the line at Twilight and Percy Jackson and the Olympians? Good for you! See? You know your boundaries. You don’t need me (or anyone else) to tell you what they are.

Q: I just don’t want to be walking around with an age-inappropriate book that will have people snickering at me. That’s not going to happen, right?
A: Well, you carried those ‘Where’s Waldo?’ books around for years and that didn’t affect your graduation or ability to hold a job, so I’d say you’re in much less danger of embarrassment here…
Seriously, Patriots engages subject matter suitable for adults. It’s not a ‘children’s book’ or ‘young adult’ book in the sense that it doesn’t pander to a demographic (as so many of them do). But it does feature children in prominent roles, which is unusual as most adult fare goes. The book also strives for simple prose, which while good for children (who have had, after all, less reading experience than adults), was also Hemingway’s approach to his craft.
Patriots does cover themes young adults should be exposed to (there’s more to life than romantic vampires), and it does feature young protagonists. It also features some extremely OLD characters, but that does not make it a book exclusively for senior citizens, if you see what I mean.
There’s a lengthy exposition of what makes (or doesn’t make) something a ‘young adult’ book here.

from F.A.Q.


Ordinarily, F.A.Q. Means ‘Frequently Asked Questions’, but since this list was compiled before Patriots was released, no questions have yet been asked about it.

So let’s call this section ‘Featured Anticipated Questions’, in which I guess at some issues Patriots might raise, and attempt to answer them. Check out the list below, and if you see a question you’d like answered, click the ‘Q’ to get the ‘A’.

Q: What makes this a ‘young adult’ book, and what ages is it intended for? (Maybe I’m past the age range that should be reading it?)

Q: Who's the author, and how do I contact him?

Q: Who (or what) is The Guide? What happened to the Mandarins? What becomes of Josh’s mother? Who will rule Mars? How can you end the book with Earth in, er, the state you leave it in?

Q: Why was Patriots written?

Q: Where do you get your ideas?

Q: Are the events in Patriots meant as predictions?

Q: Couldn’t you have written Patriots without the space elevator and all that? I mean, why not just stick to Warp Drives and the stuff we’re familiar with?

Q: Why isn't the space elevator atop a mountain, like Clarke's was?

Q: I think the idea of stopping a spaceship with a cable is absurd.

Q: I also think Nirvana is absurd. A fifth of the world’s population drugged into a stupor?

Q: Why are there so many dead links in this book?

Q: What’s with the old-school type and dingbats on the covers? And why two covers, anyway?

Q: Sir Arthur Clarke was a knight of the British Realm. Why are you picking on him?

Q: In one of the essays, you wrote about the Handwavium, MacGuffins, Unobtanium, and Technobabble that plague sci-fi. Doesn’t ‘Patriots’ also have its fair share of these?

from The Patriots of Mars [Postscripts & Essays]

Introduction to Terms & Concepts, and a Timeline

The Patriots of Mars was written to be understood by a reader with no familiarity with the terms and history that were invented for it. The most critical concepts are either explained in the text or understood by context. 
Still, like any offering in the sci-fi or fantasy genres, you’ll encounter many unfamiliar terms in these pages. This can’t be helped. After all, it wouldn’t be much of an adventure if everything was familiar, and one thing we expect from fantasy or the future is the unexpected. That’s partly what draws us to such tales. 
The Patriots story exists within a complex world that has been shaped by historical events and technological progress that a reader could not know going in. Some readers may prefer to have these facts in advance. Others may want to deepen their understanding of Patriots after they are invested in the story. And thanks to e-publishing, readers can also opt to get as few or as many linked definitions as they like as they move through the story. (Most of the material in this section is linked throughout the ‘Patriots’ text.)
So here are the concepts and terms that inform the Patriots’ world. They are listed more-or-less in order of importance, and end with a Timeline of events.

The Interdim 

It’s the Internet - but much faster, more pervasive, and far more robust. The Interdim enables the instantaneous transmission of data and/or energy (but not matter) via interdimensional gateways. 
Transmitting matter this way is a different… matter. It cannot be shuttled from one dimension to another for the same reasons you or I cannot literally become two-or-four-dimensional. It’s a trip you couldn’t survive, assuming it could happen at all. 
This sort of quantum-level data transmission is (at this writing) being experimented with in labs around the world. At the moment, the subject is shrouded with a fair amount of mystery and at its fringes, it even takes on some supernatural aspects. However, since it has obvious, immediate and significant (i.e., lucrative) real-world applications and no (known) physical laws preventing its inception, I assume Interdim communications are inevitable, and will be the norm in the Patriots’ era. Therefore, the Interdim is baked into the book’s landscape as a fact of life in the times ahead. 

The Age of Miracle Materials

In the Patriots’ time of scarcity, we can make matter perform new tricks.
There’s something about a shortage of materials and the ability to get more out of them that historically go hand-in-hand. Maybe it’s because necessity is the mother of invention, or maybe it’s the grinding, relentless march of technology in an age where there are more humans sharing available resources than ever before, every single day. The primary reason for Mars’ growing importance will be as a source and/or gathering point for vital materials such as potable water, copper, and iron in addition to metals and minerals that are already rare on Earth (and may soon be practically nonexistent).
This scarcity of resources is referred to in Prologue II, in a scene set in the year 2051. This book was written (mostly) in 2011, at a time when materials were already becoming scarce, so by 2051 we’ll be feeling the pinch pretty acutely. There are 6.75 billion people sharing the Earth today, and by 2051 the pie will be cut into much smaller pieces. (In 1960 there were 3 billion people on the planet. One hundred years later - less than 50 years from this writing - there will be well over 10 billion. And there will be 25 billion or so in the Patriots’ time.) 
In the Patriots’ world, ‘miracle’ material technology has resolved some of the problems we currently associate with subsistence on Mars. This is achieved in ways both seen and unseen. For example, the hazard of living on a planet that is bathed in toxic levels of cosmic radiation is largely resolved for dome-dwellers via electrically-charged nanochips embedded into their structure. These chips deflect or convert (depending on type) most harmful radiation. (Traveling or living outside the domes is more problematic, as is the issue of micrometeorites, but this is just a Reader’s Digest view of Patriots-era tech, so we’ll move on.)
Other materials advances mean:
• A pocket-sized device need not remain so when it’s out of your pocket. (And why would you want it to?) ‘Memory’ crystals and metals can be ‘taught’ to assume various alternate shapes as needed. 
• Everyday objects such as coffee-shop countertops can serve as computer displays when asked to do so (though very few people use words like ‘computer’ in the Patriots’ time - I’m merely using the current equivalent term). Even humble printed materials can actively converse with whoever is holding them. The process of ‘printing’ interactive surfaces tomorrow will be as cheap and ubiquitous as printing with ink is today.
• A liquid-appearing medicine may, in some cases, actually be a stream of nanobots with mechanically-(not chemically)-based healing properties. 
• The Space Elevator becomes practical. (See Prologue II, or the Space Elevator entry further down.)
• Some doors (such as those on the buggys) open and close without so much as a hint of a seam to betray their existence. (This is especially helpful for keeping the superfine Martian sand and dust out of inhabited spaces.)
One miracle-materials-enabled device worth singling out is the ‘bubble’, which is a type of space helmet favored by most anyone who has reason to travel outside the domes. 
There are two big drawbacks to just about every ‘non-bubble’ space helmet you’ve ever seen:
(1) They’re bulky, awkward and immobile and impractical for long stretches of use. (2) They don’t deal with micrometeorites very effectively. In fact, they’re prone to shatter.
The bubble, by contrast, is made of a thin, lightweight polymer. It ‘feels’ more organic to the user, almost like not wearing a ‘real’ helmet at all. It’s extraordinarily resilient and can even change shape under pressure. It has the singular distinction of being ‘hard’ on the outside (where it encounters less air pressure) and almost-fluidly pliable on the inside (where the pressure is). When a micrometeorite strikes it, it ‘gives’ (in response to pressure) instead of shattering. And if the bubble is penetrated, the inner surface flows toward the hole (toward the lower pressure) to quickly seal it.
In most bubbles, the top and back of the head are reinforced with harder, radiation-reflective materials. These areas are not transparent, and contain cushioning materials in case of an unseen blow to the head. 
The transparency of a bubble can be controlled. It can be made opaque or reflective to an outside observer, while still allowing the wearer to see out.
Bubbles aren’t suited to the hard vacuum of space (they’d pop), and offer relatively little radiation protection, but they are a utilitarian Godsend on Mars.
The ‘Patriots’ world is a time when materials of many kinds appear almost alive, and behave in (mostly useful) ways we would find ‘miraculous’ today.

Miracle Materials + The Interdim = MOM

MOM (the service offered by M.O.M.I. - The Multiple Operation Machine Intelligence Company - the world’s most profitable corporation) is the result of a class of semi-permeable, self-folding miracle materials pioneered by the famous materials scientist Dr. Charles Hammer. Hammer’s breakthrough enabled the eventual production of self-organizing SIMs (Simulated Intelligence Modules) that simulate the organizational structure and cognitive functions of the human brain.
‘Artificial intelligence’ is not a new concept for sci-fi fans, but ‘Patriots’ does things a bit differently. Since MOM gets a good deal of explanation in the book itself, I’ll just summarize a few points and add some missing details here. 
• MOM is self-aware, as you’d expect from an artificially-intelligent entity.
• MOM is the operating system empowering all the world’s robots (almost ubiquitously referred to with the suffix ‘-bot’).
• MOM runs most of the world’s systems (financial, communications, traffic, etc.).
• MOM operates from a few central locations (mostly from the former Fort Knox), via the Interdim. She also uses the Interdim to direct electrical power to precisely where (and when) it is needed.
This last point has special significance. At present, most of the electrical energy we produce is lost in transmission. It’s extremely inefficient, and requires that electrical power be generated relatively close to where it will be used. The batteries that power many of our devices and some of our vehicles are also inefficient. 
By transferring power instantly from its source to the point of consumption, MOM eliminates nearly all power waste. She also makes it possible to build power plants anywhere they are expedient. Usually this means out-of-the-way (cheap & uninhabited) places near readily available fuel supplies. This is why new power plants are built on Mars rather than Earth. The result is that the Patriots’ era is one of cheap, abundant power. It is also an age where a microbot can be built as small as needed, rather than being limited by the size of its battery.
With power cheap, easily transferrable and abundant, it is used in many ways that are unthinkable in the present age of energy scarcity. For example, the great cargo ships that move materials and equipment from Earth to Mars have electromagnetically-charged hulls. These ships spin on their axis to create centrifugal ‘gravity’ and to generate an electromagnetic field (similar to Earth’s) that deflects cosmic radiation. This requires an enormous amount of energy, none of which is generated on board these ships. The ships carry only a necessary propellant (water) and the equipment to produce it in (compressed) Ice-12 pellet form for later flash-expansion (very rapid heating to generate propulsion). 
As was noted before, the Martian domes (as well as the ‘Starscraper’ buildings under construction) are impregnated with nanochips designed to redirect and convert harmful radiation. These chips are also enormous consumers of electrical power, which would have made them impractical in an earlier age.
Theories re the teleportation of data and energy, similar in some ways to theories about transporting matter, are currently being advanced and tested. Terms being tossed about on this subject include quantum entanglement, energy teleportation, and even quantum pseudo-telepathy. Related theories about pocket dimensions, interdimensional portals, etc., (and therefore possible interdimensional transportation) are part of string theory.


This is a device people use to communicate with MOM and use her services. It must come in contact with the skin at some point. Comm-pods are commonly worn in wrist-band form, or held against the skin with an adhesive patch. Some people wear them as belts, which requires that holes be cut in the pants between belt loops. (Some pants come ready-made for this purpose.)
The need for contact with the user’s skin is twofold:
(1) To identify and confirm the user, MOM constantly runs biometric scans.
(2) MOM maintains an electrostatic image of the user’s body language, allowing the use of predefined gestures to interact with MOM. (More about that in a moment.)
MOM sends data to the device(s) of the user’s choice. In the Patriots’ time, most infants are injected with ocular and aural implants at birth. This allows most people to see and hear data directly from MOM. This is disruptive, and only used for important or brief exchanges. For example, MOM might make a simple control panel ‘float’ in the user’s field of vision, while tracking body language to determine what choice the user has made (what virtual button was pushed). 
Most data is not sent this way, but to designated devices for retrieval at the user’s convenience. Sometimes a comm-pod will buzz or vibrate, like a cell phone, to let a user know that an urgent message is waiting for attention.

Flags & bands

Comm-pods have three settings for letting the world know where you are:
1) Flag-up (anyone can find you)
2) Flag-halfmast (only friends can find you)
3) Flag-down (no one can find you)
Regardless of the flag setting, MOM knows the user’s location as long as the comm-pod is in contact with the skin. 
Listening to a ‘local band’ means you’re set up to send/receive any chatter within a certain area, except for conversations set to ‘private’. It’s the equivalent of hearing the other people in a room on Earth, except that on Mars there are situations where you cannot hear anyone around you unless you are set up to hear the ‘local band’. ‘Common band’ is a similar arrangement, except that there are no distance constraints. Common bands are usually shared by friends or people of similar interests. One can also opt to hear their local and common bands simultaneously, or not at all.

Pressure Suit

There are basically two types of ‘wearable protection’ on Mars and in space. One is an EVU (extravehicular unit), which is worn in hard space. The other is a pressure suit, which is worn on Mars.
An EVU resembles the type of spacesuit you’re probably used to seeing - bulky and clumsy. (The EVUs in ‘Patriots’, however, have a good deal of nanomotor assistance, and with some practice can move with reasonable grace.) 
Because Mars has a degree of protection from the dangers of space (cosmic rays, micrometeors, zero air pressure, etc.), less protection is needed and the suits can be lighter. The ‘pressure’ in a pressure suit is not air pressure, as it was, for instance, for the astronauts who walked on the Moon. The only air pressure in a pressure suit is in the headgear. The pressure in a pressure suit is maintained by a large number of bands woven into it whose tension against the body is controlled by tiny servomotors. The amount of pressure exerted by any given band is monitored by MOM, who because she is tightly linked with the user, can anticipate muscle movements as they happen (even reflexive ones) and adjust to accommodate them. A layer of microfibers lies between the user and these bands to both evenly distribute pressure and to wick moisture away from the body. (A series of microchannels woven into the fabric directs body moisture to a central collector.) Over the bands are layers of other superfine fabrics designed for specific protective purposes (such as deflection of at least some cosmic radiation), topped with an outer layer whose function is mainly style.
Pressure suits are worn not with ‘space helmets’ but ‘bubbles’, which were described earlier in The Age of Miracle Materials.


Nirvana started out as an experimental drug developed by a New Jersey pharma lab. It was designed to allow patients to remain fully alert and responsive during neurosurgery, while minimizing their anxiety about the procedure. 
The drug worked beautifully and without the undesirable aftereffects of similar products. However, it did manifest a slow-developing side effect that was not noticed until well into the second round of clinical trials: The former test subjects became increasingly depressed, and eventually killed themselves.
When this was discovered, development of the drug was abandoned. But the test survivors and their families threatened the company with a class-action suit unless they provided a remedy to avert the inevitable suicides.
The solution the parties agreed to was for the company to provide, at no charge and in perpetuity, a version of the drug that would stave off the depression. 
Over time, the users came to believe that the drug had opened up new spiritual vistas to them, and they spoke openly about their experience. Despite its well-publicized drawbacks others asked to try it, and it became an underground fad that soon grew too big to remain hidden. With suicide the cost of withdrawal, it was an extremely difficult habit to break, and few did. (See also the Timeline further down, years 2052 and 2072.)
‘N-hed’ is pejorative slang for a Nirvana user. Most Nirvana users refer to themselves as ‘Seekers’. 
That covers the most important references. Here’s a roundup of most of the others:

• politics: The Party / The World Council
See the Timeline, years 2115 / 2088.

• politics: Earth-First / Transnats
‘Earth-First’ is a political action committee funded by the larger transnats and others with business interests on Mars. Its goal is to ensure that the Party and public opinion favors Earth’s interests over Mars’ local interests. The Earth-Firsters are particularly active among those in Mars’ domes, since they are the most likely to feel resentment towards Earth’s policies towards Mars. (They are not tolerated among the New Australians, however.) 
The term is also used in reference to anyone espousing ‘Earth-First’ policies, regardless of actual affiliation (or lack of same) with the actual PAC.
‘Transnats’ are mega-corporations whose business and financial interests extend beyond (transcend) the (national) borders of any one country. They wield significant influence and quasi-governmental power.

• places: New Australia / Phase One & Phase Two Domes
See the Timeline, years 2090 / 2080 & 2120.

• people: The Outliers / The SuperOld / The Mandarins
See the Timeline, years 2122 / Through 2230.

‘Mandarins’ is a slang term used to collectively reference the Chinese ruling class, many of whom are SuperOld.

• events: The Madness
See the Timeline, year 2087.

• things: The Artificial Van Allen Belt / The Space Elevator / Hoppers / Eggs / Gnats, Moths and Turtles

The ‘Artificial Van Allen Belt’ was proposed by the World Council in 2093, but was never completed. It was to be an orbiting swarm of microparticles, somewhat like to Saturn’s rings, that would receive a constant magnetic charge. The idea was to test a theory popular in that time, that the Madness had been caused by Mars’ lack of a magnetic field.
Most of the Belt that was completed was over the Martian South Pole, covering New Australia. Researchers wanted to see if this prevented another Madness-like incident, and in fact none occurred. But the cause/effect relationship was disputed and the Belt project fell into disfavor - especially when it was reported that the contractors were heavy Party contributors who did not follow the project’s guidelines.
The ‘Space Elevator’ is an idea generally credited to Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in 1895. Simply put, one end of a cable is attached to the Earth and the other to an orbiting counterweight. To reach an orbiting altitude (space) one only has to ride an elevator up and down the cable.
The only reason men used rockets instead was because no suitable material existed to make the cable. Charles Hammer announced a solution in 2051, and space elevators were put into service shortly thereafter. This marked the beginning of Terran/Martian commerce.
A ‘Hopper’ is a jet built for travel in the Martian atmosphere. The special jet engine burns CO2 using Magnesium. Takeoff is not achieved with the jet engines, however, but with water-propellant rockets (which are also used to slow the craft for landing).
The jets are called ‘Hoppers’ because they cannot maneuver well in Mars’ thin atmosphere. They must be aimed at wherever they’re meant to go, like a frog that - once it hops - has irreversibly committed to his direction.
‘Eggs’ are a common reference to the torpedos carried by most space vessels. The purpose of these torpedos is to turn away space debris in their path. The reason they are called ‘eggs’ and not torpedos is because they are not designed to explode on impact. (Exploding oncoming space debris would not resolve the issue, but multiply it.) 
The ‘eggs’ shatter on impact, releasing a thick epoxy that traps the shell against the object. The impact moves the object safely out of the flight path, and tracking devices in the egg allow the object to be easily identified in the future, for possible retrieval by a scavenger or drone ship. (They are obliged by law to recover any ‘tagged’ objects they encounter.)
‘Gnats, Moths and Turtles’ are robotic devices used by the military. They are about the same size as the creatures they are named for. (Thanks to the Interdim, they need not carry batteries, which make such devices impossible today.)
‘Gnats’ swarm around an enemy, gathering information while also distracting and pummeling him. A swarm of gnats can wear a soldier to exhaustion while leaving him otherwise unharmed - very useful when you want to take an enemy alive.
‘Moths’ seek out cameras and/or lights, rendering them useless.
Gnats and moths require an atmosphere in which to operate (they fly, after all). When this is not available, ‘turtles’ are used in their place. (Turtles are less effective and generally slower - hence the name.)

• things: Ice XII / diamond dust

‘Ice-12’ (aka Ice XII) is the frozen form of water used as a propellant by spacefaring ships (sometimes called steamships) and hoppers (see hopper, previous entry). It is used instead of ordinary ice because Ice XII offers greater compression, and it is the rapid expansion of the ice (via laser-powered engines) that drive these vehicles.
Ice-12 engines heat their solid propellant (ice) so rapidly that they split water molecules into their hydrogen/oxygen component atoms. Afterburners then ignite the escaping gases for an additional boost.
‘Diamond dust’ is the superfine ice residue left in the wake of Ice XII-propellant steamships. It is also, though not as conspicuously, left in the wake of the current generation of rockets. It can form naturally as well, and can have spectacular optical properties.

A timeline of the events that have shaped the Patriots’ world:

2035: A young materials scientist named Charles Hammer demonstrates the permeable membrane that would lead to simulated intelligence and, eventually, M.O.M.I. (See Chapter 2: The Cheesemaker’s Dilemma) This invention would make him one of the wealthiest men alive.

2037: Early-stage testing begins of the drug that would become known as Nirvana.

2042: Standards for the instant, inter-dimensional transmission of data and energy are established. Ownership of the basic technology, however, is unclear, and a firestorm of lawsuits and counter-suits ensues among numerous universities and researchers. This does not prevent equipment manufacturers from racing to patent various devices implementing these new techniques.

2049: M.O.M.I. brings the stock market to its knees with a program that precisely forecasts investor behavior. In a highly controversial decision soon after, the company is empowered to set most equity prices (excluding its own).

2051: Charles Hammer demonstrates the first practical carbon monofilament product capable of enabling a space elevator. (See Prologue II: Charles Hammer’s Demonstration) His product, dubbed Carmōt, would make Hammer a second fortune.

2052: Nirvana, though officially a banned substance, is in widespread ‘underground’ use. 

2053-2079: Mankind’s first space elevator is completed, and a crew is immediately dispatched to Mars to construct a second. Newly-formed companies committed to the building of giant cargo ships, and other new space-based ventures soar in value. The early infrastructure for a true space-based commerce is being built.

2072: The U.S. Government’s ban on Nirvana is rescinded by the Supreme Court on ‘freedom of religion’ grounds despite bitter protests and spirited demonstrations from established religious groups. The ‘Seekers’ religion (and Nirvana use) explodes in popularity, eventually claiming a fifth of the world’s population.

2079: M.O.M.I., which already runs most of the world’s systems, introduces the world to its Ambassador-bots, setting off an explosive revolution in widely-affordable robotic technology. The tagline “‘Bots for the Rest of Us” is born, and the company’s already-rapid growth explodes.

2080: Mars’ Phase One Dome is completed. From this working base it is expected that many more domes will be built, followed by planet-wide terraforming. 

2087: The mass suicide known as ‘the Madness’ shocks the world. Most workers on Mars are evacuated. Robots and and a handful of supervisors remain behind to maintain a bare-bones level of the resource-harvesting which has become vital to life on Earth, but anticipated expansions are postponed indefinitely. Either due to this or coincidentally, the world economy suffers a decade-long meltdown.

2088: The U.N. disbands, but only with the understanding that a new international organization with a broader mandate is to be assembled. It is widely believed that the new body’s primary focus will be to establish agreements for the governing of Mars, a subject which had been highly contentious until the Madness and economic upheaval on Earth brought Mars’ development to a standstill.

2090: A plan to relocate ‘high-risk’ prisoners to a Martian penal colony wins approval as the first order of business for the newly-minted World Council. Groundbreaking for the first New Australia dome, near Mars’ South Pole, would begin a couple of years later. 

2093: The first Martian development project since the Madness - the artificial Van Allen belt - is approved by the World Council. 

2115: In the U.S., Democrats and Republicans merge to form ‘The Party’. This is the result of (a) a longstanding trend towards centrism for both sides, and (b) the locking-in of ‘N-Hed’ support by the Democrats, forcing a Republican capitulation. Alternate parties to the left and right rise and fall, but the main power struggles now take place between factions within the Party itself. The Party also makes inroads towards political organization among non-U.S. Nations, though this activity is hotly contested. 

2120: New Australia is doing far better than expected, despite world government’s extralegal interference in its affairs. The first expansion of their dome is undertaken. Memories of the Madness have largely faded, although no explanation for the incident has ever gained broad acceptance. Workers are beginning to return to Mars, as demand for raw materials (which, despite the poor economy, never waned significantly) is again escalating. Resources that had been devoted to the unfinished Van Allen belt are quietly reassigned to the construction of a Phase Two dome.

2122: As genetic therapy and other breakthroughs make lifespans beyond a century more common, the word ‘SuperOld’ is coined, and an industry to serve (and profit from) their unique needs begins to take shape.

2125: Author/philosopher Marc David begins to attract a zealous following with his message that religion and science share common roots, and that a new ‘post technology’ era lies ahead. He also stirs controversy with his criticism of the SuperOld movement, calling it a ‘cul-de-sac’ that ‘avoids the real problem’.

2130: The New Australians increasingly test the limits imposed on them by Earth. One such initiative is to enter an industry where the bureaucrats had not thought to impose onerous tax burdens or ‘preferred vendor’ constraints: Entertainment. They discover there is a low barrier to entry, and no competition from Earth, in making vids featuring low-gravity stunts. They focus their early efforts on motorcycle stunt races around the Martian landscape, ‘death wrestling’ matches and ‘adult’ films. For the latter, they launch a worldwide ‘Mars Needs Women’ marketing campaign which generates an overwhelming response. This permanently turns the formerly all-male New Australian colony into a true and sustainable settlement. (N.A.’s government overseers had always assumed the colony would simply die off sooner or later, so their policy was to indefinitely postpone any decisions that did not further their own interests.) The influx of females prompted demands for an immediate second expansion of their dome. To the further irritation of their overseers on Earth, the New Australians offer to finance the expansion themselves.

Through 2230: Martian industry continues to expand briskly. Despite conflicts with authorities on Earth, second and third expansions of New Australia are completed, and their growing entertainment business offers them an unexpected means to reach out and influence popular opinion in their favor. 
The larger, more modern Phase Two Dome is completed, while the Phase One is rented out to long-term or favored workers. Asteroid-harvesting businesses using small drone ships that tow their cargo start to bear fruit, and plans are laid for a second space elevator so that material may be processed on Mars for transport on the Earth-bound cargo haulers.
Vast fortunes are being made on Mars. Supertall buildings popularly called starscrapers have begun construction, presumably as pied-à-terres suitable for these masters of the new universe.
As a gateway to opportunity, Mars attracts gatekeepers from the government and corporate worlds bent on insuring that only the ‘right’ people come to Mars. Of course, there are always those who do not wish to have such decisions made for them. As a result, there is a growing shadow population of unauthorized ‘Outliers’ on Mars. They cannot live in the domes, so they find ways to live in hidden places. They frequently work ‘off the books’, allowing the transnats to avoid taxes and other fees, but increasingly they are forming their own growing underground economy.
There are somewhere between one and two million ‘legitimates’ on Mars at any given time, and probably two or three times that many unauthorized persons. With such numbers, conflicts arise due to a lack of local representation. The Martian Chancellor’s Office, which represents Earth’s governments on Mars, often finds it useful to blame these conflicts on the Outliers, and the legitimates often find it useful to accept those claims. The Outliers, of course, have no recourse for their grievances. But they do outnumber the legits - to their growing concern.

2231: The ‘Patriots of Mars’ proclaim their demands for self-government and other rights issues.

from The Patriots of Mars [Postscripts & Essays]