The Formist Series is Almost Complete!

The Formist Series is Almost Complete!

Hey folks! As always, I feel like I’m overdue in posting an update and letting you know what’s going on. I guess it’s just the nature of my work, but at the end of the day, I just seem to have very little energy left to write anything. But that’s no excuse. So as always, allow me to apologize for not posting this sooner!

As the headline says, my first series of novels – which includes The Cronian Incident and The Jovian Manifestois nearing completion. It’s been quite the long road and there’s been plenty of peaks and troughs. But now that the finish line is finally in sight, I’m feeling excited! So let’s do this right and start by talking about this final installment in the series…

Inspiration for the Title:

First, a little Astronomy 101. Within our Solar System, as with all star systems, there is a line of demarcation of sorts. Within this line, volatile elements like water, carbon dioxide, methane and ammonia will exist is gaseous or liquid form. Beyond it, these elements will freeze.

As such, scientists have taken to refer to this border as the “Frost Line” (aka.”Snow Line” or “Ice Line”). In this case, the Frost Line refers to the space beyond the Main Asteroid Belt. This border is significant because the Belt represents the boundary between the Extropian factions of the inner Solar System and the Retros of the outer Solar System.

Whereas Venus, Earth, the Moon, and Mars are all populated by people that are super-advanced, the moons of Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus are populated by people looking for a simpler existence.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Initially, I was going to name it the Frost Line Accord, which (no spoilers) obviously refers to something important in the story. However, it was a friend of mine (hey Paco!) who recommended the word Fracture! He felt the word was appropriate for capturing the sense of disharmony and conflict that is taking place by this point in the series.

And so I decided to name it The Frost Line Fracture! You got to admit, it sounds better. And (no spoilers!) it also works better as far as the plot is concerned.

New Characters:

Several characters from the series of reprising their roles in the finale. These include Janis Amaru, Franklin Houte, Veronika Gallego, Adelaide Cheboi, Emile Chandrasekhar, Pinter Chandrasekhar, Xenia Elenko, Alastair Fionn, and Michael Adler. However, characters who have been introduced already (but only in passing) will now have their own important parts to play. They include:

Paulo Auriga:
Auriga is the leader of the Illuvian faction, a group dedicated to the terraforming of Venus. For years, he and Emile Chandrasekhar have been partners, but there relationship has become somewhat rocky since the events of The Cronian Incident took place.

However, with everything hitting the fan and Emile coming back from the brink, Auriga and Emile are once again plotting together. If there’s anything thing more dangerous than an Extropian with a ruthless mind and limitless resources, it’s two!

Terraforming Venus. Credit: Watsisname

Seamus Crannog:
Crannog is a terrorist or a freedom fighter (depending on whom you ask). He leads the Children of Jove (CoJ), the insurgent movement on Ganymede. Since its inception, the CoJ has fought for reform and the overthrow of the Jovian Alliance, which it views as a collaborationist government.

However, since the attack on Selket (for which they were implicated), the movement went underground and began fighting a guerilla war against the Alliance. He and his people are in a protracted conflict with the Jovian authorities and are fighting to stay alive.

However, his group is thrown an unexpected lifeline when a mysterious backer provides them with the necessary weapons and information to make a conduct a major strike. The only problem is, there’s a good chance he’s being played…

Rebecca Van Dinh:
For years, Van Dinh has controlled the Aquiline Front, an insurgency based on Callisto and the Jovian system’s oldest rebel front. Like the CoJ, they are currently in hot water because of the violence and the backlash of the past few years. Luckily, Van Dinh has been training her people for some time to be ready, and those skills have come in handy against government forces.

Unfortunately, Van Dinh and her cadres find themselves put in an impossible position. On the one side, Crannog appears to be taking marching orders from a third party who may not have the Jovians interests at heart. On the other, they swore to present a united front to the enemy. But as time goes on, it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell who the real enemy is.

Syfy Channel

Xaver:
People may remeber this individual from the first book. As a resident of Hygeia, Xaver presides over a rather large human trafficking operation. In the old days, Jeremiah Ward was tasked with bringing him down, but failed when his addiction to Glow caused him to leave two witnesses high and dry (who were then murdered by Xaver’s men).

Xaver is known for a few features, like the long dark crop of hair on one side of his head, or the dynamic tattoos (aka. dynamos) that mark his face. But the real draw are the rhodopsin and phosphorous implants in his corneas, which give his eyes a natural bioluminescence. It also provides him with natural night vision, which comes in handy when you’re spelunking around in Hygeia’s rocky corridors.

In time, Xaver will find himself face-to-face with another one of Ward’s old enemies. Will they get along, or is there room enough for only one monster inside the Frost Line?

New Locations:

Ares:
People who have read the first two novels ought to recognize this place. It’s the massive installation that sits atop the Martian space elevator, where two counter-rotating sections provide artificial gravity and all major shipping to and from Mars takes place. It’s also where the home of the Formist faction is located, in a compound known as Sarak Lovelock.

Interesting fact, this place takes its name from James Lovelock, author of “The Greening of Mars” and a major proponent for terraforming the Red Planet.

Granted, Ares and Lovelock were both featured in the first story and served as important locations as far as plot incitement was concerned. However, in the final installment, they will be featured more prominently as the location where the story reaches its denoument. You could say there’s a “the circle is now complete” thing going on here! 😉

Christian Darkin/Science Photo Library

Gaia:
Similar to Ares, the Gaia Installation sits atop Earth’s space elevator, and is where people coming and going from Earth have a bit of a layover. As a massive transportation and commercial hub, it also has a few dens of eniquity tucked away within it. What better place could there be for evil men to meet up and share details of their grand machinations?

Hygeia:
Speaking of dense of eniquity, the asteroid Hygeia is also a location of some importance in the story. Located in the Main Asteroid Belt, Hygeia is the fourth-largest body between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, behind Ceres, Vesta and Pallas. Like all of the larger bodies in the Belt, Hygeia was hollowed to create a facilitiy and its rotation was sped up to create artificial gravity.

It is here that a certain someone (let’s call him Adler) is looking to discreetly book transport to Mars. Not surprising, since Hygeia is the place people go if they are looking to smuggle goods (and people) back and forth across the Frost Line. But to do this requires that they understand the inner workings of Hygeia and its operations, which are ruthlessly controlled by a series of clans.

These include the Devata (denoted by the mark देव), a clan run by the Bhakta family who control the docks and take a piece of everything coming and going through there. Then there’s the Chang’e clan, a gynocentric organization established by the matriarch (Qingshan) and denoted by a crescent moon who run all of Hygeia’s “special services” and a piece of the recreational substances market.

There’s also the Jokos, an old family clan that are identifiable by the Basque crosses on their necks who control the rest of that drug racket, as well as gambling and credit. Last, there are the Galeans, who represent themselves with an icon of an ancient sea-faring ship and who (predictably) control shipping and emerged in response to the Devatas taking control of the docks.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Phobos:
For those who don’t know, Phobos is the larger of Mars’ two moons. In truth, its two moons are believed to be asteroids that were kicked out of the Main Belt in the past and were captured by Mars’ gravity. As the larger of the two, Phobos will undoubtedly serve as a sort of gateway to Mars once it is colonized.

The way I see it, a base on Phobos would be built in the Stickney Crater, which is located at the tip of Phobos and measures about 9 km (5.6 mi) in diamter. This would allow for the colonists to simply build a dome over the crater’s rim and fill the inside with all the housing, buildings and utilities they needed.

Since the gravity on Phobos would be near-negligible, getting around inside would be interesting. The only way to avoid drifting around would be to have magnetized or adhesive boots, and people would have to reorient themselves as they moved from one place to another (since the moon is not round and travelling along the surface would be ill-advised).

Well, that’s what I’m working with, what’s new, and what’s familiar. I was hoping to have it finished this month, but history has taught me that deadlines need to be a little flexible. Regardless, it is coming together and it will be the culmination of this trilogy! I hope people like it when it comes out.

News From Space: Curiosity’s Latest Photos

curiosity_sol-177-1April was a busy month for the very photo-talented (and photogenic) Curiosity Rover. In addition to another panoramic shot of the Martian landscape – which included Curiosity looking back at itself, making it a “selfie” – the rover also managed to capture a night-sky image that captured two minor planets and the Martian moon of Deimos in the same picture. At a time when Curiosity and Opportunity are both busy on long-haul missions to find evidence of life, these latest pictures remind us that day-to-day operations on Mars are still relevant.

The first shot took place on April 20th (Sol 606), when rover scientists used the Mast Camera to capture the minor planets of Ceres and Vesta, as well as the moon of Deimos, in the same frame. Ceres is a minor planet with a diameter of about 950 km, and is the largest object in the main asteroid belt. With a diameter of about 563 km, Vesta is the third-largest object in the asteroid belt. Deimos, meanwhile, is the smaller of Mars’ two moons, with a mean radius of 6 km.

curiosity_nightskyIn the main portion of the new image (seen above), Vesta, Ceres and three stars appear as short streaks due to the duration of a 12-second exposure. In other camera pointings the same night, the Curiosity’s camera also imaged Phobos and the planets Jupiter and Saturn, which are shown as insets on the left.  Dr Mark Lemmon from Texas A&M University, a Curiosity team member, explained:

this imaging was part of an experiment checking the opacity of the atmosphere at night in Curiosity’s location on Mars, where water-ice clouds and hazes develop during this season… The two Martian moons were the main targets that night, but we chose a time when one of the moons was near Ceres and Vesta in the sky.

Deimos was much brighter than the visible stars, Vesta and Ceres in the same part of the sky, in the main image. The circular inset covers a patch of sky the size that Earth’s full moon appears to observers on Earth. At the center of that circular inset, Deimos appears at its correct location in the sky, in a 0.25 second exposure.

Curiosity_selfieAs for the latest in Curiosity’s long-line of panoramic self-portraits, this one comes to us courtesy of Jason Major. As a graphic designer and amateur space explorer, Major assembled the picture from about the dozen or so images acquired with the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) instrument on April 27-28, 2014 (Sol 613). In the background, one can see the 5.5-km-high (3.4 miles) Mount Sharp (Aeolis Mons) that sits in the center of the Gale Crater.

One thing that Major noted about the picture he assembled is the way the cylindrical RUHF antenna and the bit of the RTG that is visible in the lower center seem to form a “toothy (if slightly dusty) grin”. But, as he stated:

…with almost 21 Earth-months on Mars and lots of discoveries already under her robot belt, Curiosity (and her team) certainly have plenty to smile about!

And the best is likely to still be coming. As we speak, Curiosity is making its way towards Mount Sharp and is expected to arrive there sometime in August. As the primary goal in its mission, Curiosity set off for this destination back in June after spending months studying Glenelg area. She is expected to arrive at the foot of the mountain in August, where she will begin drilling in an effort to study the mountain’s vast caches of minerals – which could potentially support a habitable environment.

mountsharp_galecraterIf Curiosity does find evidence of organic molecules in this cache, it will be one of the greatest scientific finds ever made, comparable only to the discovery of hominid remains in the Olduvai Gorge, or the first recorded discovery of dinosaur remains. For not only will we have definitive proof that life once existed on Mars, we will know with some certainly that it may again someday…

Stay tuned for more news from the Red Planet. And in the meantime, keep on trucking Curiosity!

Sources: sci-news.com, universetoday.com

Update on Curiosity

More news from Mars! It seems that after a full month of being on Mars, running routine checks on its equipment and snapping some breathtaking photos, Curiosity is ready to begin the first leg of its study mission. This consisted of finding a Martian rock, the first sample in Curiosity’s extensive contact surveys.

And, after a week of searching, the NASA team piloting the rover found a pyramid shaped rock that they feel will be perfect for their surface analysis. The rock is described as a pyramid-shaped hunk, likely composed of basalt, which they nicknamed “Jake Matijevic” after one of the rover engineers who died back in August.

The sample was located just three meters from Curiosity’s landing zone, now known as the “Bradbury Landing” in honor of the late, great Ray Bradbury, author of the Martian Chronicles. On Saturday, it will extend its arm, take possession of the rock, and begin chemical analysis to determine the rock’s primary mineral and precise composition.

Another important aspect of Curiosity’s mission began this week, as the rover set it’s camera eyes to the skies and captured photos of Phobos making a Solar transit. To be fair, this was not the first time a Martian eclipse was captured on camera. In fact, the Opportunity and Spirit rovers both snapped similar images back in December of 2010 and 2005. However, the images taken by Curiosity were of such high resolution that experts will be able to estimate the consistency of the interior of Mars itself for the first time.

Apparently, this is done by measuring the tidal forces these moons exert on Mars, examining how the planet changes shape ever so slightly as a the moons orbit about it. By measuring this “deformation bulge”, along  with the precise spatial orientation provided by Curiosity’s photos, experts at NASA and abroad will be able to conjecture what the core of Mars is made of based on how much the planet deforms. I always wondered how scientists were able to guess what lay at a planet’s core. Now I know, go figure!

Stay tuned for more news from the Curiosity and the Red Planet!

Source: Popular Mechanics

Curiosity Captures Martian Eclipse

Yes, it seems that Mars has eclipses too. And thanks to the presence of Curiosity and other rovers, we here on Earth are now in a prime position to watch them. As part of its mission to Mars, Curiosity recently turned its cameras to the Martian sky to photograph the Martian sunset, the panoramic landscape, and even managed to capture these photos of Phobos (one of Mars’ two moons) passing in front of the sun. Teams at NASA captured all the photos and compiled a video of the footage, which shows Phobos just hovering at the edge of the sun.

This is just the first step in Curiosity’s planned mission to study Mars’ two satellites – Phobos and Deimos – in greater depth. More in this in a coming post, so stay tuned for that and other news from the Red Planet. Go Curiosity!

Source: Universe Today.com, Space.com