Looking for Advanced Readers for The Formist Series!

Looking for Advanced Readers for The Formist Series!

Hello fellow writers and readers! I come to you today with both a request and an offer. I’m looking for people who would be interested in receiving Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) of my two (soon to be three) novels. They are part of a hard science fiction series set in the not-too-distant future that incorporates elements of conspiracy, intrigue, criminal investigations, colonization and terraforming.

As part of the deal, you’d get free electronic copies of each novel, and all that is asked in return is that you give an honest review on Amazon and Goodreads. They are published by Castrum Press and have received some rave reviews from readers. Here is what some people had to say (I used their initials to protect their anonymity):

“Compelling read in an immersive world!”- RU

“.. an exciting tale in this story. It was a very enjoyable read and I’m looking forward to seeing more..” – JJC

“A phenomenal debut novel. I really enjoyed reading this book.“- BTK

It’s good sci-fi, and left me itching to read the third book in the series, after I read the second, of course.” – CW

“..one of the best science fiction novels I’ve read in some time.”- CWG

I didn’t realize how deeply I was drawn into this book until I was about halfway through it!” – mzbeastle

This has been one of the most well put together books I have read this past year.” – TV

These reviews, however, are ones I am happy to attribute. The first is from Heather Archuletta, a writer, science advocate and self-described “pillownaut” who worked for the NASA Johnson Space Center and took part in their Lunar and Mars research programs. Here’s what she said:

“The Cronian Incident, which I recommended to my audience as my top Sci-Fi read of the year, is a treasure of planetary science.

And then there’s these two that come courtesy of Professor Abraham Loeb, the Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science and the Chair of the Astronomy Department at Harvard University. He’s also the founder of the Institute for Theoretical Computation and the Chairman of Breakthrough Starshot‘s advisory committee – an initiative to build an interstellar spacecraft that could make it to Alpha Centauri in just 20 years.

Here’s what he had to say about my first two books, respectively:

“An exciting science fiction adventure into the technological future. An exhilarating read for scientists and fiction lovers alike.”

“Exciting plot with a good foundation in science. This is not surprising given the author’s expertise as an excellent science writer for Universe Today. Inspiring ending. Highly recommended!”

Here are the links to the first two books if anyone’s interested in learning more about them:

The Cronian Incident (Amazon, Goodreads)

The Jovian Manifesto (Amazon, Goodreads)

Holiday Sale!

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Just in time for the holidays, The Cronian Incident (my first published novel) is available for free on Kindle! For those who don’t know, it’s a gritty, hard-boiled detective story set in the late 23rd century amid a backdrop of Solar System colonization, terraforming efforts, and factional politics.

The book has gardened a 4.7/5 star rating on Amazon. Here’s what the reviewers had said:

“This was one of the best science fiction novels I’ve read in some time. Its universe is vast in scope, its plot full of intrigue, its characters delightfully well rounded with just the right mix of flaws and strengths.

“This story was a good read that sucked me in and kept me wondering. I particularly enjoyed the world building aspects, and the overarching storyline which is clearly going to continue in the next book.”

“I really like how the action is taking place on various planets/moons of the solar system, and am eagerly waiting for further installments of the story.

“Mr. Williams delivers an exciting tale in this story. It was a very enjoyable read and I’m looking forward to seeing more from him.”

“The Cronian Incident (The Formist Series) (Volume 1) by Matthew Williams is a slow-paced, contemplative science fiction story that fans of The Expanse will really enjoy… Williams injects a realism into this splendid science fiction story that is reminiscent of some of the best in the genre.”

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And for a limited time, The Cronian Incident is available with its sequel – The Jovian Manifesto – for the bundle price of $0.99. So far, the book has gained a 5/5 star rating and some stellar reviews:

What’s so good about it? Everything!

“[I]f you liked The Cronian Incident, you’ll enjoy The Jovian Manifesto, so don’t hesitate to check it out and take a look.”

And Professor Loeb of Harvard University described it as follows:

“Exciting plot with a good foundation in science. This is not surprising given the author’s expertise as an excellent science writer for Universe Today. Inspiring ending. Highly recommended!”

The offer ends December 29th! Get em’ while they’re hot!

How Science Journalism Helped Me Become a Better Sci-Fi Writer

How Science Journalism Helped Me Become a Better Sci-Fi Writer

The following is an article that I recently published with Universe Today. And since it concerns my recently-published novels, I felt absolutely obliged to share it here. Enjoy!

Hello all. I hope our readers don’t mind that I’m taking a bit of a diversion here today to engage in a little shameless self-promotion. Basically, I wanted to talk about my recently-published novel – The Jovian Manifesto. This book is the sequel to The Cronian Incident, which was published last year (and was a little  shamelessly promoted at the time).

However, I also wanted to take this opportunity to talk about hard science fiction and how writing for a science publication helped me grow as a writer. By definition, hard sci-fi refers to stories where scientific accuracy is emphasized. This essentially means that the technology in the story conforms to established science and/or what is believed to be feasible in the future.

So when I set out to write The Cronian Incident, I wanted it to be as realistic as possible, both in terms of technology and setting. Many of the ideas I came up with, and much of the material I drew from, was inspired from my work here at Universe Today. Since I joined the team in 2010 and became a regular member in 2014, I’ve had the chance to write about space-related news, as well as exciting research and scientific breakthroughs.

MESSENGER image of Mercury from its third flyby. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

From the beginning, I felt that what I was writing about was inspiring me in my other major pursuit, which was to become a sci-fi author (something I had been pursuing for years). In fact, it was an article that I had just finished writing for our Guide to Space (The Planet Mercury) that inspired the entire series. After writing it, I began talking to a friend about how humans could make a go of life on Mercury, provided they had the right technology and followed proper precautions.

Basically, I said, Mercury is very metal-rich and close to the Sun, which would make it an abundant source of minerals and energy for our future selves. The only problem is that miners would have to remain on the dark side of the planet to avoid being incinerated. But since Mercury has a spin-orbit resonance of 3:2 – where it completes three rotations on its axis for every two orbits around the Sun – a single solar day works out to about 176 Earth days.

That means that as long as they stayed well-ahead of the terminator (the line between the day-side and the night-side) miners would have lots of time to pull ore out of Mercury without being cooked in their space suits! Meanwhile, I argued, permanent bases could be built in Mercury’s cratered polar regions, which are permanently shaded and have abundant supplies of water ice in them.

View of Mercury’s north pole. based on MESSENGER probe data, showing polar deposits of water ice. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington/National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, Arecibo Observatory.

Inside some of the larger craters – such as Prokofiev, Kandinsky, Tolkien and Trggvadottir – bases could be built where miners would stay between work shifts. Water and building materials could be harvested in-situ, and solar arrays placed around the edges of the craters could gather all the electricity they needed. With the right technology, some of this could even be beamed off-planet to Venus, Earth and Mars.

My friend then indicated that it would be very hard to get people to want to live and work on Mercury, to which I suggested that perhaps only convict laborers would ever be sent there. That set off the light in my head, and before long, a much larger idea began to take shape. I didn’t just want to talk about Mercury and miners, but how we might go about colonizing the Moon, Mars, Venus, and beyond.

I also wanted to do a story that explored the reasons for why humanity became a multi-planetary species. This is an increasingly relevant issue, thanks in no small part to many high-profile individuals who want to see a permanent human presence established on the Moon and/or Mars in this century. These include Elon Musk, Buzz Aldrin, Robert Zubrin, James Lovelock, and the late and great Stephen Hawking.

Artist’s concept for a possible colony on Mars. Credit: Ville Ericsson

Here too, I have had the privilege of reporting on what these plans are and how they have taken shape over the past years. I’ve also learned a great deal about the history of proposals to colonize the Moon, Mars, and other bodies in the Solar System. While various works of fiction helped me learn how authors have addressed these proposals in the past (such as Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Kim Stanley Robinson, et al.) there was also the theoretical work of scientists like Carl Sagan, James Lovelock, Freeman Dyson, Geoffrey A. Landis and others to draw upon.

Looking at this from a contemporary angle, I went with the idea that the main drivers behind off-world settlement will be Climate Change and the accelerating pace of change brought about by the Technological Singularity (both of which are expected to culminate around the middle of this century). I also wanted to explore the long-term idea of terraforming, which was inspired by the Complete Guide to Terraforming series I was writing at the time.

This is where the hard part of hard science fiction came into play. In writing about colonies on Mercury, Venus, the Moon, Mars, and the moons of Jupiter and Saturn (the Jovians and Cronians), I did my best to describe the settings based on what is actually known about these bodies. As for how people would live on them, that too needed to be dictated by what we know about their environments and surface conditions.

Artist’s impression of SpaceX’s proposed Mars Base Alpha. Credit: SpaceX

It was a fortunate coincidence that my day job happens to include writing about these very things. That way, when it came time to describe what it was like walking around on the surface of Mercury or Titan, or describing how Martian settlers lived on the planet over time, I had something solid to draw upon.

In short, The Cronian Incident owes its existence to my work here. It also owes its existence to Castrum Press, who published the book after the 18 months it took for me to write it (in the summer of 2017). It’s sequel, The Jovian Manifesto, was published a few months ago, and I plan to finish the series off with a third installment titled The Frost Line Fracture (which should be completed sometime in 2019).

So far, the reviews for the first two books have been quite encouraging. Of The Cronian Incident, Professor Abraham Loeb himself – the Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science and the Chair of the Astronomy Department at Harvard University – said that it was “An exciting science fiction adventure into the technological future. An exhilarating read for scientists and fiction lovers alike.”

Artist’s impression of a possible lunar base. Credit: NASA/Pat Rawlings

Various reviewers who posted on Amazon have also had encouraging things to say:

“This was one of the best science fiction novels I’ve read in some time. Its universe is vast in scope, its plot full of intrigue, its characters delightfully well rounded with just the right mix of flaws and strengths.

“This story was a good read that sucked me in and kept me wondering. I particularly enjoyed the world building aspects, and the overarching storyline which is clearly going to continue in the next book.”

“I really like how the action is taking place on various planets/moons of the solar system, and am eagerly waiting for further installments of the story.”

“Mr. Williams delivers an exciting tale in this story. It was a very enjoyable read and I’m looking forward to seeing more from him.”

The Cronian Incident (The Formist Series) (Volume 1) by Matthew Williams is a slow-paced, contemplative science fiction story that fans of The Expanse will really enjoy.”

The sequel, The Jovian Manifesto, has also been well-reviewed:

“I don’t think I’ve been so involved in a science fiction series since I read the Honor Harrington books by David Weber. I snapped up a copy of The Jovian Manifesto as soon as possible, having immensely enjoyed The Cronian Incident when it first came out.”

It’s much faster paced than its predecessor and features some pretty awesome action scenes interspersed into a story involving a conspiracy and a plot to counter the conspiracy. There were also some great twists along the way, which I won’t give away here, and I really enjoyed the characters, who were diverse and well-developed.”

The Cronian Incident by Matt Williams. Credit: Castrum Press

So far, the settings have included a penal colony on Mercury, the floating cities of Venus, domed cities on Mars, a Martian space elevator, circular enclosures on Callisto, honeycombed settlements on Ganymede, settlements within the ice of Europa, and spartan domes on Titan. But before the series is complete, I hope to include descriptions of what life is like on Earth, the Moon, and in the Asteroid Belt in the future.

Beyond that, I also want to get into writing about interstellar travel, since that will give me a chance to explore the concepts and ideas we covered in our article, “How Long Would it Take to Get to the Nearest Star?” And, if all goes well, I would like to write about the greatest science fiction draw of all. You know what I’m talking about – Aliens! No spoilers, but that story arc could involve an idea introduced to me by Professor Abraham Loeb himself – hypervelocity stars that can carry their planets along for the ride!

But that’s all stuff for another day and another discussion. In the meantime, I hope people here will check out this series and enjoy what I wrote. If not, well that’s fine too. In addition to keeping up with the latest in space exploration and scientific research,  honest feedback is the only way I will continue to grow as a writer.

Second Five Star Review for The Jovian Manifesto!

Second Five Star Review for The Jovian Manifesto!

My second review has come in! And this one comes from my friend and colleague Rami Ungar. While we are friends and fellow-writers, I can always count on him to be honest. I tell you, I owe this guy several reads and reviews at this point! In any case, here’s what he had to say (like I said, honest!):

A deep and action-packed follow-up

I received an eARC from the publisher and was eager to read this book. I really liked the first book in the Formist series, so I wanted to see how the sequel held up.

Turns out, it holds up pretty well. It’s much faster paced than its predecessor and features some pretty awesome action scenes interspersed into a story involving a conspiracy and a plot to counter the conspiracy. There were also some great twists along the way, which I won’t give away here, and I really enjoyed the characters, who were diverse and well-developed. I do hope they show up in the sequel.

If there were any issues, it’s that my copy had some typos in it. Just a letter or word missing here, some bad punctuation there. Nothing really glaring or book-ruining, but they were there. But that might’ve just been because I got an eARC and the actual book is free of these issues.

Anyway, if you liked The Cronian Incident, you’ll enjoy The Jovian Manifesto, so don’t hesitate to check it out and take a look.

Two Bits of Good News!

Two Bits of Good News!

More good news, folks! As I announced a few weeks ago, The Jovian Manifesto came back from Castrum Press with a number of editing suggestions. This book is the sequel to The Cronian Incident and the second book in the Formist Series. After incorporating their edits, I also included ones provided by my darling wife (she’s such a good editor!).

And now, the manuscript is back at the Castrum getting a final read-through before going to print. According to the publisher, the book should getting a mid-summer publication. Naturally, I am quite excited that the sequel is being published roughly nine months after the first novel. While the publisher and I were hoping to get it out sooner, one simply can’t rush the creative process. Believe me, I’ve tried!

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Credit and Copyright: Castrum Press/©Duncan Halleck

In the meantime, my publisher and I have been talking about releasing an anthology of my short stories. These stories are actually a collection I’ve been hoping to publish for some time; but somehow, I never got around to it. I’m lousy at self-editing and of course, I have been busy with other projects. In any case, many of the stories were originally written as part of the 2013 April A to Z challenge while others were added afterwards.

Originally, I had planned to release this anthology under the title Flash Forward. However, I never managed to get through the lengthy editing process so the stories were never published. However, one of the stories, titled Jericho, will be included in Castrum’s upcoming release – Future Days! As for the other short stories, that remains to be seen…

This summer will be a busy one and will involve multiple releases. And if there’s any time to spare, perhaps the wife and I will take a much-needed vacation. Stay tuned for more news!

The Jovian Manifesto, More Good News!

The Jovian Manifesto, More Good News!

Some good news on the publishing front. My latest novel, the Jovian Manifesto (the second installment in the Formist Series), is back from the editor and I’m now making corrections. Once that’s done, it’s back to the publisher for another run-through, and then it will be ready for publication. While I can’t give a precise date, a realistic estimate at this point places the release date early this summer. And I’ve already seen some sample artwork, and it looks awesome!

And while I don’t want to spoil anything, I can say that the second book has plenty of action scenes! One thing I worried about in book one was that it had a rather slow buildup. Of course, that’s a consequence of having a story with multiple settings and an intricate plot. Nevertheless, I wanted there to be more action scenes in the second and third books, and ensure that they occurred throughout.

Credit: NASA

Suffice it to say, there are a few combat scenes that involve powered exosuits, some exotic locations, and the aforementioned space combat. Writing these scenes was admittedly a bit of a challenge, since its kind of hard to predict what combat would look like where super-advanced technology is involved. In a society where anything can be synthesized and manufactured at the atomic level, what kinds of weapons, armor and ships would be possible?

In other news, The Cronian Incident is still getting reviews. At this moment, it has accrued 12 reviews on Amazon (with an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars) and 16 on Goodreads – with an average rating of 4.0 out of 5 stars. Hopefully, the second book will do just as well.