Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A New Search for Amelia Earhart

According to media reports, the U.S. government is gearing up to resume the search for  Amelia Earhart, lost on the return leg of her around-the-world flight some 75 years ago.  Her disappearance, along with her navigator, Fred Noonan,  has been one of the great mysteries of the 20th Century. Was she secretly conducting a spy flight for the U.S. government over Japanese positions? Did she and Noonan survive? Were they shot down by the Japanese?

One of the more outlandish theories, besides the whole abducted-by-aliens thing, had Amelia being captured by the Japanese and forced to make propaganda broadcasts as the infamous Tokyo Rose (Never mind the fact that Iva Toguri D'Aquino was Tokyo Rose) and was recaptured by the Americans at war's end and placed in a sanatorium in New Jersey where she spent the rest of her days.

The new search will focus on and around the remote island of Nikumaroro, in what is now the Pacific nation of Kiribati. Searchers have found what may be fragments of aircraft debris and leather from a shoe Amelia may have worn. Most interesting is that an old photograph that some claim may show part of the lost Lockheed Electra's landing gear.

My connection with Amelia Earhart - besides my admiring her as a pioneer in many regards - is the fact that she was a major character  in both  Elvis Saves JFK! and War Plan Crimson, A Novel of Alternate History. Both books are available for just $0.99 and $2.99, respectively.  Of course, they're also both free to preview.  And both books are also available through such fine on-line retailers such as Barnes & Noble and Apple's iTunes Store.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Another Preview From Elvis Saves JFK!

   Here's another excerpt from my collection of short science fiction, Elvis Saves JFK...

A Date in November

"That's him." Brigadier General Lucius Clay, United States Army Time Corps, shoved the photo of the late 35th President of the United States across the desk.
I looked at the black and white glossy. The same features I knew from childhood: the confident smile, the firm jawline, the crowsfeet around the eyes, the gently tousled hair.  I caught myself murmuring his name. "John Fitzgerald Kennedy."

"The one and the same," Clay nodded, chomping down on his stale cigar. Even after all these years, the mantra still worked its charm. "We're sending you back to him, Stubbs. That's where it starts. That's where everything went off the tracks."
I said nothing. Instead, I looked past Clay to the little Geiger counter mounted on the cool grey concrete wall of the office. Every office, lab, workshop, corridor and barracks in the bunker complex had one. And they were all clicking. A little more louder each day.
A decade ago, just before the missiles flew, the broad principles of time travel - quantum theory, anyway – were understood.
And then the world ended.
All you should know is that we miserable few survivors are all slowly dying of radiation poisoning. Live births are almost a thing of the past... not that there's much of a world left to bring a child into. The sky is always the same colour as the ash-grey ground, and the wind blows cold and hard. And the times when the sunlight pokes through the clouds, you couldn't stand in it for more than a few minutes before burning your skin off.            
All we have is our history.
And our last chance.
Clay stood with me on the gantry-bridge to the time machine. It doesn't look like anything H.G. Wells would've built: two five-story superconducting terawatt magnetic plates standing parallel to each other, ten feet apart on a raised metal gantry twenty feet high. Below, lay what could've been mission control from when we still had a space program, with a forest of winking idiot lights and monitors and a small army of technicians to watch them. Between them and the magnets, there was enough coaxial cable coming and going for us to start our own phone company.  And all of it was parked in a nice underground chamber of its very own.
"All set, Stubbs?"
"Just be sure to drop me at the right co-ordinates... sir." They'd actually gotten better in the last six months. The early tests were literally shots in the dark. Now, through calibrating the plates, they could at least aim me in the right direction. I looked at them. The giant magnets still had a little of that white liquid nitrogen frosting on them. The whole rig was cooled by the stuff. I shivered a little. Cold.
Clay grinned confidently. "You should come out in Dallas, on November 21st, 1963, plus or minus one day."
"The day before... that's too tight, General."
"You know we don't have the power to focus the wormhole any longer. Besides, you're not the only one going back."
I knew that other men were also getting ready for their rides in the machine. We had a team going to 1968 and another to 1980.
"God, Stubbs, you look so... normal," grunted Clay. Normal for a pre-war world. I wasn't wearing the usual threadbare uniform everyone else around here wore. I wore a smart black suit that looked like it had come from the tailors. The Samsonite briefcase I carried had all the tools I needed for my job.
"I envy you in way, Stubbs," he said.
The warning klaxon hooted. You could see the blue flashes rippling across the plates as they came to life.
      "Good luck," said Clay as we shook hands. "Good luck to us all."

Preview copyright 2010 Michael Cnudde

You can buy Elvis Saves JFK! by going here for just $0.99 and is free to preview. And of course, War Plan Crimson, A Novel of Alternate History,  is on sale here for $2.99, and as always, it's free to preview.
Both War Plan Crimson and Elvis Saves JFK! are also available through such fine on-line retailers such as Barnes & Noble and Apple's iTunes Store.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Titanic Tour Through My Bookshelf ...continued

I recently invested a few bucks in David J. Kowalski’s The Company of the Dead (2012). I’m just into the book, but I can tell you so far, so good. It’s an alternate history story where the change in history centers on the sinking of the Titanic, which we will be, fittingly enough, marking the centennial of this April. At 700-plus pages it’s a big meaty read – almost as big as the ship itself – and it looks like one I’ll enjoy.

Going through my bookshelves, I found a few other alternate history books that feature the ill-stared liner. In Donald R. Benson’s And Having Writ… (1978), the Titanic still sinks but with a much different outcome. In the book, a party of well-meaning but inept aliens crash-lands on Earth in 1908. Convinced that the only way they can leave earth is to accelerate its technology through a world war or two, our heroes spend much of their time travelling the globe trying to convince the Powers that Be to get at it already.  If you can dig up this book at a second-hand bookshop someplace, I would recommend you do.

The unsinkable Titanic is still afloat in the second volume of Richard A. Lupoff’s hugely enjoyable two-book Flat Earth series, Countersolar! (1987).  The liner puts in a couple of appearances in a romp that is firmly rooted in the adventure pulps of the 1930s and 40s.

Finally, there’s Darwina (1998) by Robert Charles Wilson. The great “Miracle” that transforms Europe from the centre of Edwardian-age empires into a vast alien wilderness occurs in March 1912, about a month before the Titanic was set to sail. The Titanic’s sister, Olympic, is mentioned in passing so maybe I’m stretching it a bit to fit in this delightful book. Throw equal measures of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Philip K. Dick into a blender and you’ll get an idea of what this thoughtful read is all about.

I’ll just end it with a reminder that my own two contributions two the genre, Elvis Saves JFK! and War Plan Crimson, A Novel of Alternate History,  are available for just $0.99 and $2.99, respectively.  Of course, they're both free to preview.  Both books are also available through such fine on-line retailers such as Barnes & Noble and Apple's iTunes Store.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Update: PayPal Decides to Play Fair

The good news is that PayPal has now reversed its decision to censor the works it sells. It has now agreed with Smashwords not to censor and allow the sale of uncensored "legal" fiction. This is a not only the smart move by PayPal, but it is also the correct one.  I congratulate them for this.  Our civil rights just got a little safer today.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

So PayPal Wants to Play Censor...

I wrote this in response to this article in today's Globe and Mail where PayPal is telling the vendors it deals with to ban books PayPal deems "obscene:"

As an author with books published via Smashwords - no, not that sort - I find this attempt at corporate censorship disgusting. Free speech is an absolute right. Yes, you may find what other people are saying and writing to be juvenile, stupid or even disgusting  - but you don’t have to look at it or read it do, you? And for every idiot who stands up in a crowded movie theatre to shout “fire,” there are also hundreds who will stand up and say, “No, you idiot, there is no fire.” That’s your right.

At a time when our civil rights are increasingly under pressure (our right to privacy for example, through the Conservatives’ electronic spying legislation) we should not yield so lightly our most precious of civil rights – free speech to cold, grey corporate interests.