Tag Archives: Verner Vinge

My First Book is Published!

Brighter than the Stars is available on Amazon. I held onto this book a long time before finally deciding it was completed.  But at some point you just have to put it out there and hope.  Not that I have much in the way of hopes for sales. This is mostly a project for self-satisfaction. I really like this book. The few people who’ve read it really like it. Whatever sales I get are a plus.

I don’t want to say too much about Brighter than the Stars. The synopsis on Amazon describes the basic plotline well. What I’ll do here is discuss some of the “hidden” extras I added, and talk a little about the alien species and what they really mean.

First of all, here’s the link to Brighter than the Stars:


As I wrote this book, I was listening to music. There is a very strong leitmotif of music throughout, starting with the obvious references to the 1960’s pop stars that the Cygnians emulate in their disguises while they are on earth. But there are many more subtle references. Here are some of them:

The section titles are all song titles. “Strange Days” and “Waiting for the Sun” are Doors songs. “Alien Shore” is from Rush.

The name of the capital city of Tertia, Juturna, is both the name of an album by a favorite band of mine, Circa Survive, and a Roman Godess.

There are other references to song and album titles in the section on Juturna. If you’re a Circa Survive fan, you might notice them!

The aliens.  Brighter than the Stars introduces the reader to four different alien species. Each represents an aspect of human nature by exaggerating those traits.  I thought long and hard about whether I wanted to create aliens that were completely different than humans, or to do the more common thing of making aliens with some human traits. Much science fiction dispenses with any real differences between aliens and humans. Yes, the aliens LOOK different, but they are scheming, power hungry, love their children, etc etc, just like us. For example, I just read Verner Vinge’s “A Fire Upon the Deep”, and loved it. But the Tines, while very different from humans superficially, seem to pretty much have all of our psychological traits.

My aliens are a compromise.  Each species emphasizes some part of our nature and diminishes other parts.

The Cygnians are the real stars of the book. They are herd animals that learned to fence-out their predators. Over time, the fences have become a kind of religious icon. They are conservative, obsessed with meeting quotas (herd goals), not strongly individualistic at all. While mostly passive and non-violent, they can become violent when threatened.

The Arcturans are wolf-like predators who live on a harsh world. They have an insatiable need for violence and a culture that tolerates killing far more than any human culture does. They are highly intelligent pack animals, but no pack survives long without a fatal conflict or two.

The Eridaneans are satyr-like creatures that have developed a culture centered on negotiation, compromise, and talking through problems. They can tire any opponent out with endless negotiating.  They are the creators of Tertia, a pleasure planet that tolerates the vast differences of many different species, and toleration is one of the Eridaneans most desirable traits. Unfortunately, getting things done seems relatively unimportant to them and they are notorious for talking about problems rather than solving them.

The Sirians are a very old culture that is so technologically advanced that individuals can spend their entire lives doing nothing but pursuing pleasure. And this they do with gusto.  In appearance, they are very similar to the big-eyed aliens depicted in popular culture. You can see their images everywhere if you go to Roswell New Mexico – and the Sirians were the ones who crash-landed there, by the way!  But Sirians are also deeply loving creatures who care very much about others. Because their planet is so near earth, they’ve visited us continuously for hundreds of thousands of years, and some Sirians have developed quite a strong feeling of attraction to humans. Their frivolous nature makes Sirians seem ridiculous to the very serious Cygnians who have no respect for them at all.

I could say a lot more, but why not take a look at the synopsis on Amazon, or even buy the book. If you do, let me know what you think.


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Brighter than the Stars – A Sense of Wonder

My first (and so far only completed) novel is a story that I wrote, in part, to bring back the sense of wonder I felt as a boy when I first read good SF. I don’t get that from novels written today very often. They can be good stories, well written, creative, etc, etc. But where’s the wonder? Where’s that feeling of the vastness of the universe? There have been some more recent books that evoked those feelings – Verner Vinge’s On/Off star in A Deepness in the Sky is an astounding invention. The long space voyages he envisioned help the reader appreciate the distances between stars, and the strangeness of the spider creatures definitely did awake my sense of wonder.

But too many books today are like The Windup Girl. This book received tremendous accolades and sold well, so who am I to criticize it? But let’s be frank; it describes a depressing, gritty, ugly world ruined by bioengineering. Who would want to live in it? Where is the inspiration of scientific discovery? And the ending unfortunately degrades into a sort of civil war. I’m SOOO tired of war themes in SF! But Paolo Bacigalupi is a tremendously talented writer – no arguments there. He just chose to write a book that depressed and disappointed me.

So I guess, in a way, I tried to write the anti-Windup Girl. Brighter than the Stars does have conflict, it does have a bad guy and it does have tension and resolution. But there aren’t any wars, science is presented in a positive light, and the problems that arise are problems caused by the limitations of living things – their fears, prejudices, and especially, their innate instincts.

I also tried to weave in certain themes, or leitmotifs into the story. There’s the sun, a stand-in for the fusion generators that drive the plot. There’s music, misunderstood by the Cygnians (the species that invented fusion power and is now trying to sell their fusion generators on Earth) who communicate with thought waves. There’s each species’ instincts limiting them, causing them to make mistakes. Another theme is the other, the sense of being an outsider. Thus two of the main characters are African-American, and the main conflict in Cygnian civilization centers around the fact that predator species from other planets, dangerous outsiders, are visiting them in places they’ve long secured from their own predators.

The action takes place on Earth and two other planets. The reader gets introduced to the grazing, pacifist Cygnians, the vicious, wolf-like Arcturans, the bureaucratic, satyr-like Eridaneans, and my favorites – the Sirians, the source of all the little green men sitings on Earth, and a species so technologically advanced that they spend all their time pursuing pleasure – especially sexual pleasure.

I’ll outline the plot in a future post.

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