It has been a while since my last blog. For the many readers who are wondering when the sequels to The Third Thaw will be released, here's an update:

Status of Sequels:

Book 2 is currently with Wido Publishing’s copy editor. Wido is planning to release this book in October or November.

This book has two interwoven stories: The first story concerns a character who has an identity issue – sort of a Frankenstein story, but with a new twist. It explores the issue, "what makes us who we are?": Nature versus nurture, society versus genetic traits?  Much room for classroom debates.

The second related story explores future possibilities in medicine, in a very fun and exciting way. Similar to The Third Thaw, this book explores speculative science in a pedagogical way within the context of an adventure.

Book 3 is coming along very nicely.  I expect to finish the first draft in just a few weeks. For those of you who enjoyed the epic journey of The Third Thaw, this one returns to its roots. It is quite an unusual story, building up to a classic climax (hero becomes martyr, sacrificing everything).  I've been writing this manuscript for almost a year, and I've read quite a bit of advanced physics in preparing. In keeping with my objective of a semi-plausible story, the science described is general and, for the most part, correct; but I have taken some liberties about "the unknown". (Isn't it nice there are so many unknown things in life?)

About my experience in writing: In writing this series, I've established a process of writing that is a cross between a "pantser" (as in "seat of the pants-er") and a "planner" (outliner). I do a minimal amount of outlining, using milestones for the overall plot. What matters most to me is plot structure and explaining technical subjects through the eyes of the characters. I write on the train, to-and-from work, a total of about an hour a day. Things seem to pop-out at the dialogue level, which is why I don't believe in over planning.  Some writers believe a "story fairy whispers in their ear". Sounds good to me. 

The first draft is only the beginning. After that, there is a great deal of editing with my writing coach and the publisher's editors. When the whole process is finished, buffed and polished, I've read the same book about twenty times.

I've discovered that publishing is an amazing process, filled with people who love books and the art of story telling.

Lately I've been reading about how movie and television producers are eagerly looking for new and original stories. But how "original" a story are they willing to accept? It seems the movie industry wants screenplays with cookie-cutter "3 act structures". Since "The Third Thaw" has six parts,  perhaps that's too much to cram into a 2 hours time frame. Oh well,... how about a television series?

Novel writers also tend to use standard plot structures which have proven appeal. We usually like to read stories about "a mission", where a hero has a goal that is obstructed by a villain, eventually leading to the hero becoming a martyr defeating the villain. It is conflict which keeps us turning the pages to see what happens next. But if a writer doesn't follow expected norms in plot structure and subject matter, there is a risk his/her novel will not be accepted. Again, just how original can a story be to be accepted?

(Ah hem,.... about to go into lecture mode...)

This leads me to one of my favorite writers, Theodore Dreiser, who wrote truly original novels. He was a rule breaker, writing about unconventional subjects which some readers of his era found disturbing. 

When Dreiser's first book, "Sister Carrie", was first published by Doubleday, Page and Company in 1900, the publisher's wife, Mrs. Doubleday, found the book so disturbing and immoral, the publisher decided to make no effort to  market the book. It was like shoving a literary masterpiece inside a drawer for no one to read!  Amazingly, in 1906, Dreiser was able to purchase the plates from Doubleday for $550, so that another publisher could print the book. In this roundabout fashion, the public finally discovered Dreiser's novel, which survived near extinction and became one of the most important literary works of the new century

If you haven't read it, please check it out. This book takes place in Chicago, about the time of the 1893 World's Fair. This is when Chicago represented something original in America, and not simply a neo-European cultural derivation. Chicago had become the food distribution central point of America; it had original American architects, such as Sullivan, Burnham and Wright; it was the birthplace of tall buildings, built with structural steel frames, and department stores, such as Marshall Fields.

Theodore Dreiser's depiction of how people lived during that time era is so minutely rendered, readers will feel as if they are there. There are two main characters: Carrie and George. When Carrie arrives in Chicago, she is young and has nothing; by the end of the book, she has achieved great success in New York City.  George, on the other hand, is quite successful, with a family and children – until he meets and falls in love with Carrie; after that, his life unravels, as he falls into complete and utter despair. Therefore the plot structure of this story illustrates diametrically opposing character arcs: Carrie becomes successful, whereas George becomes a failure.

The book begins as almost a trivial romance novel; but by the end, Dreiser's depiction of the ultimate failure of George is one of the most powerful social statements and tragedies I’ve ever read. Dreiser was a passionate writer, who excelled at describing details and inner thoughts.

As I’m currently writing the third book of The Third Thaw trilogy, I'm faced with a new puzzle: I have an idea for a plot that is very cool - however, I need something to happen that may break the laws of physics. The first two books in this series did not veer too far from real science; however, this third story may require an idea that is currently beyond human knowledge, but should be plausible, even to physicists.  

 

Searching for a plot solution, I found an old book in my basement: “The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe” by Roger Penrose. In 2004, I never finished reading this intimidating book because the math is overwhelming. Now that I’m older, I seem to skim math, as long I get the gist of the concepts.

 

Penrose’s book basically states that mathematics reflects reality. As humans have gradually discovered the hidden truths in physics, we are on a "road to reality". There are still many questions about the universe that current physics cannot explain.

 

In the beginning of this long journey, the “meaning of numbers” was a subject of great interest to Greek philosophers, particularly Plato.  “Why does math work?” is a very basic question we can ask ourselves about the nature of reality. The ancient Greek philosophers were particularly interested in the physical significance of integers and so called “rational” numbers; they did not believe in the existence of negative numbers. However, as Penrose explains, physicists have determined that all elementary particles have integer quantum numbers, including both positive and negative integers! Even more interesting, elementary particles seem to "do math" using complex numbers! 

 

Penrose postulates that "reality" may consist of three worlds: 1. Ourselves, 2. a physical world outside of ourselves and 3. a world of abstractions/math. This third world is commonly referred to as the “Platonic world”, consisting of circles, straight lines, numbers…Of course big existential definitions like these are controversial. I think it’s no stretch that this third world is a “world of thought”, which includes math and also such things as language and concepts of truth/falseness, good/bad, and stories.

 

Much of Penrose’s book covers the mathematical subject of topology. It is quite fascinating to read how physical laws, such as Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, require an understanding of topology.

 

Somehow I plan to use this information and boil it down into something fitted for a novel. I have an idea that I think will work; but if it doesn't, I'll need to write a different plot, which would be a shame, because this one will be very cool.

It has been nearly three years since I began writing the The Third Thaw. As ridiculous as this may sound, I wrote the first draft on the commuter train to-and-from work using a Bluetooth enabled keyboard connected to my Samsung cell phone (I've since progressed to using a laptop).  This was the first creative writing I had done since high school, when writing was pure torture using a typewriter and White-Out. I've re-discovered that writing fiction is actually fun!

I am a newbie to the writing world, and I am currently learning about book marketing. The Internet has created amazing opportunites for new writers like myself. The only down side is, there seem to be millions of writers out there selling books, like schools of little fish, gobbling every plankton in the ocean. It would seem that a good book will grow in popularity if there are enough readers required to generate "reader fission" - however there needs to be a certain  minimum "critical mass" of readers!

As an engineer, I've always been interested in scientific subjects, but I also enjoy reading fiction, too. My favorite writers are Michael Crichton, Lee Childs, Nelson DeMille - authors who write stories with plenty of action. On the deeper end of the literary spectrum, Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie is perhaps my favorite book. It is ironic that I have written a book categorized as science fiction, but I typically don't read scify, unless it is hard scify. A good example of "hard scify" is Jurassic Park, which is one of my favorite books. I have been particularly inspired by several science fiction movies, such as the original Time Machine and Logan's Run. And, of course, Star Trek, the original series.

The premise of The Third Thaw is based on an idea for interstellar space travel, seemingly within the grasp of present technology. This idea, which I believe I was the first to mention in a 2010 blog, seems to be gradually growing credibility in scientific circles. With all the advancements we are seeing in artificial intelligence, it almost seems "doable".

However, The Third Thaw is much more than just an idea about interstellar space travel. It is an exploration - a social experiment - of what it would take to re-create civilization. There will be implications sustaining civilization on a new planet. The story describes the various basic technological needs of this new community. As the characters attempt to recreate civilization, they discover their limitations on this planet..

The Third Thaw is also about the evolving relationship between humans and machines; in particular, the relationship of humans to artificial intelligence. This subject is similar to the theme of the fantastic 2013 movie, "Her", about a man who falls in love with a computer operating system. Similarly, The Third Thaw  comes full circle in the relationship of Adam and Clare, exploring the question Can humans have feelings for machines?

Finally, The Third Thaw story deconstructs society into basic components, as the naive characters learn about society. The scene where the Thaws learn about romance, marriage, money and raising kids, were the most fun for me to write.