I’ve mentioned in previous posts that my next books are a cozy mystery series. While working on those and developing themes for the second series of The Modest Proposal Institute I thought satirically of merging the two for a whole new series of Science Fiction Cozy Mysteries. An idea I thought too absurd to be taken seriously. Today, I discovered that books like that actually exists!
The books that share this theme don’t have their own category in Amazon yet but I can see this ‘genre’ has possibilities. The close-knit community of a space station or moon- (or mars-)base, with all its inevitable tensions, would be an ideal setting for a cozy mystery and has the added advantage of some unusual ways to commit murder. And not only murder; affairs, thefts, and all the other earthly crimes would be likely to occur under the pressure-cooker stress of isolation and the possibility of immediate death if something goes wrong. All things considered, I can’t understand why it isn’t already a huge selling category — other than the two diametrically opposite audiences, I mean.
Sci-fi books do include murders, of course, but they’re generally thrillers with lots of action and violence. It seems those two categories work well together. I avoided making The Modest Proposal Institute overly violent because I wanted the inevitable rolling out of Earth’s near-future and the collapse of Western nations to be the central theme. My next series takes place after that period so it can include more threatening environments for the heroes and more thriller-like responses from them. Very like my old favourite, Dr. Who when Tom Baker was the doctor. Check out DrWhoOnline for information about all the many Doctors. Sadly, series two won’t be a sci-fi cozy mystery just yet. It would make this writer’s life much easier:-)
I often ‘joke’ that the only part of book writing I like is doing the rough draft. Every other part is just like work. However, there are degrees of ‘don’t like’ that are worse than the others, which is a long way of saying that this week I’ve been learning how to do Amazon Ads properly. The days have been full days and all of it felt like work. When I become a best-selling author, I’m paying someone else to do the advertising and marketing for me. There are way too many spreadsheets and tables to fill with data for any sane person’s comfort!
I’m using The Modest Proposal Institute Boxset as my guinea pig for the ads in the expectation it will boost sales even as I’m learning the online advertising craft. We shall see. It better because I’m developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in my whole arm doing the data entry. Not to mention the numbness in the rear end from sitting for hours on end. Should any of my readers be thinking of becoming an self-publishing independent author I will give some advice — start with a bestseller so you can subcontract right away.
One thought about my Variable Probability Drive I’ve been considering during my training sessions is what would a world be like with species that didn’t share our DNA. So far as we can tell, we and very other living creature on this planet share the same DNA. Suppose, a comet or meteorite had delivered a package of different DNA here? The species that share DNA find it hard enough to get along. How would we co-exist with something quite different? Any thoughts? Beyond the obvious one of ‘we’d get along badly’ I mean.
The Complete Modest Proposal Institute Series boxset is back in Kindle Unlimited so, for those of you in Amazon Select, you can read it for FREE. For everyone else, it’s still available on Amazon at the low, low price of $5.99.
Much of my time right now is taken up with the soon to be published Cozy Mystery, In The Beginning, There Was a Murder, which I’m planning to publish on November 15, provided the world hasn’t ended due to the American Presidential Election. However, I’m still considering how the Modest Proposal Gang get on in their new universes and your ideas would be welcome. You might even become a character in one of the books, if that was something that interested you.
I dispersed the heroes in different directions because I want a wide variety of unusual places to write about. I’ve spent my life reading history and that suggests many opportunities for alternate realities but it can’t be just that. I’m looking for seriously different and just not quite finding it yet. An Earth where the Ice Ages wiped out human beings would be a great starting point. Which species would become ‘top dog’ and how would they compare to our travellers when they arrived? Douglas Adams, in ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, has his hero, Arthur Dent ask at one point, ‘Why is no one ever pleased to see us?’ and it’s a fair question. Would the ‘top dog’ on an Earth without people, be pleased to see us? I suspect not. Any more than we’d be pleased to see an evolved and armed lion appear in our midst. Here’s your chance to float some ideas to me:-)
I’m going off topic again this week because I’m closing in on finishing the first book in my Miss Riddell Cozy Mysteries series and I want to let my readers know when that is coming out. I mentioned it some weeks ago and said it would be out in mid-October or thereabouts. However, I’ve noticed there’s something going on out there in the wider world that will absolutely blitz any promotional activities I do for the new series. To be clear, the USA is having a Presidential Election and from mid-October until some days after November 3, nothing else will get noticed. I will, of course, continue to ignore this pointless waste of time and money because no matter who wins, the government always gets back in — as we used to say way back in the Sixties and Seventies. Nothing since then has changed my mind.
To cut this long story short, I will now release the first book in the series, In The Beginning, There Was a Murder, around November 15, provided most of the irrational screeching has died down by then. As you see, I’m not missing my schedule, just consciously and sensibly delaying it. It will be available for pre-order on my Amazon Author Page about a week before November 15. If it sounds interesting, visit my page and order it. How will you know if it is interesting? Easy, I shall tell you about it here in this Cole’s Notes version.
Pauline Riddell is twenty years old, just out of college, and in her first job at an armaments factory. The time is 1953 and the place is Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, UK. The Korean War is hot, the Cold War is cold, and World War 2 is still fresh in everyone’s mind. Her friend is murdered and for various reasons, she becomes unhappy at the way the Police investigation is going. She decides to do some investigating herself and the rest is history. If a look back in time and a puzzle to solve are your passions, then remember to look out for it, coming soon to an Amazon near you. I haven’t finalized the cover yet but here’s one of the covers being considered. Tell me if you like it.
One of the problems I find myself running up against in writing from the standpoint of ‘probability’ rather than ‘improbability’ is it is much harder to think of it as humorous. My favourite all-time science fiction series are the ones by Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I know it’s an odd kind of sci-fi but that’s what it is and I love it.
My own series, The Modest Proposal Institute, has a dry, ironic flavour that is somewhat humorous but it isn’t funny the way The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is. That’s what I was looking for in the second series. However, that’s when I discovered the problem I mentioned in my opening sentence. Why is that? I’m not sure but I think it has to do with the thought that ‘probable’ is uncomfortably close to ‘actual’, whereas ‘improbable’ is too fantastical to be dangerous. Or maybe I’m just struggling to find anything humorous to say in 2020:-)
Traditionally, science fiction has dealt with the possible and likely, even the monsters we conjure up are usually not far away from things that already exist. I mentioned Dr. Who’s Daleks the other week and what are they but individual tanks. The Aliens in every movie often look just like something that shows up on a camera trawling the depths of Earth’s oceans — Loch Ness Monsters for moviegoers. They may be monsters but they’re too ‘real’ to be funny. What I was planning was things that are so improbable that they’re funny, like the Douglas Adam’s Bloodbladder Beast of Trall. It hasn’t come to me yet. I’m too focused on my new series of cozy mysteries, perhaps. If you have ideas for real monsters that are so unreal they’re funny, let me know in the comments below. You’re monster might get into the first book.
In last week’s post, concerning the next series of The Modest Proposal Institute, I mentioned the probability of non-carbon based life being the dominant fife form on Earth, had the conditions been only a little different. And how the traveller using a Probability Drive might encounter such an Earth with a large enough change in probability. Another possibility that has been used in books and movies is that of a dominant species in the past, like dinosaurs, evolving to be capable of what we would call ‘thought’, rather than just reacting to stimuli, had they avoided extinction. Asteroids pass by Earth all the time so the probability of one large enough to wipe out almost all existing life is pretty small but very possible.
Dinosaurs have been used in books and films but other possibilities are the mega-fauna that followed the extinction of the dinosaurs. I’m something of a fan of those giant creatures so an Earth where they still lived would be an interesting place for my probability traveler to visit. Similarly, the time before the age of the dinosaurs has plenty of possibilities too, though many of the creatures there look a lot like dinosaurs to everyone but an actual anatomist. Anyhow, if there are any lifeforms from the Earth’s past you particularly like, leave a comment and if I can make it happen, it will appear in one of the next series books.
While you’re waiting for the next series, be sure you’ve read all the first series, which you can find here.
Last week, in my post about DrWhoOnline, I talked about the advantages of the Tardis, Dr. Who’s spaceship, as a vehicle for writers (and not time or space travellers:-). In particular, how it was faulty and often didn’t arrive where the Doctor had set it to go. Like Douglas Adams’ Improbability Drive, in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the Tardis allowed the writers a wide range of story possibilities. My thinking in that, and previous posts, suggested that a Probability Drive narrows the field a lot — for writers! I’ve decided now, it doesn’t. After all, at some point in Earth’s past the conditions arose that favored carbon-based lifeforms, like us, and didn’t favor lifeforms based on other elements. But it’s possible there was a level of probability at that time where that wasn’t true and, consequently, one or more of the parallel universes running alongside ours is, for example, silicon-based.
If something as fundamental as that could have been different, then anything can be and my concerns for the number of stories are unfounded — thankfully. My first stories will be of small shifts in probability with small differences in outcomes. Al the obvious ones have been done to death (Nazi Germany winning WW2 seems to go on forever as does the British winning the War of Independence or Revolutionary War depending on which side you look at it from). The problem now is to find something that would have really made a difference. I’ll leave that to next week. While you’re waiting, why not visit my Amazon Author Page and check out all the books there.
Recently, the website, DrWhoOnline, has been featuring a The Modest Proposal Institute banner, which is drawing new readers to my boxset. I enjoyed Dr. Who when I was growing up and my kids did too so it’s neat to partner with a website entirely devoted to the whole history of Dr. Who. For me, there has only ever been one ‘real’ Dr. Who and that was Tom Baker but I’ll (try to) understand if you have another favourite:-)
In keeping with the Tom Baker favourite, I have to say my favourite villains were the Daleks. They still are. Admittedly they were clunky by modern cinematographic standards, not to mention their impracticality as fearsome warriors that couldn’t do stairs, the concept is better than anything else movie or TV science fiction has come up with since. Every villain from then to now has been a man wearing a funny costume and makeup, pretty well — or a CGI creation that looks like a man in a funny costume and makeup.
Similarly, I’ve been thinking a lot about Dr. Who’s transporter, the TARDIS, and how it resembles the Infinite Probability Transporter I’m imagining for my follow-up series. Dr. Who sets the Tardis to go places but when he (or now she) arrives, it is never quite where or when s/he expected to be. And no one is ever pleased to see him (or even her) — to quote Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. I think my transporter has the same exciting feature. The pilot can say ‘take me to 95% Probability‘ and the Transporter will take him there. However, none of us have any idea what a world that is 95% probable will look like. And you can be sure what or who lives in it will be as pleased to see us arrive as we are to see ghosts and UFOs in our world.
An earlier book of mine is featured on Books Go Social‘s NetGalley right now so I’m taking this opportunity to share it here this week:-) You can find it in the link below the cover.
For those of you who can still, dimly, remember 2001/2 and all the events of that time, here’s a humorous refresher. The events are real but the characters and their stories are not. It was a time of intense news, even real news — with 9/11, the invasion of Afghanistan, the War on Terror — and all while the Western world’s industries were outsourcing jobs to the rest of the world, which led to massive layoffs — called ‘downsizing’ or ‘rightsizing’ at the time. Euphemisms are wonderful thinks, aren’t they?
As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I’m examine ways in which an ‘Infinite Probability Drive’ (as opposed to Douglas Adams’ Infinite Improbability Drive) might function — at least from the viewpoint of the driver of the vehicle it’s propelling — for series two of The Modest Proposal Institute. It opens up plenty of possibilities, such as the ghosts and UFO’s that people see but can never quite tie down. Our heroes may appear as ‘ghosts’ in the parallel universes they visit, just as the universes they visit may appear ghostly to them.
That would be likely in the universes they visit that are very close to ours in probability; i.e. almost 100% the same but not quite. But what about the case where our hero sets the probability to a small number, such as one percent? If there are an infinite number of parallel universes and they are separated only by probability levels, then there must be some where this Earth never got life, or life began then died out — as some have suggested might have happened on Mars. Perhaps it did get life but not carbon-based? Many of these ideas have been explored by writers, such as what if the dinosaurs hadn’t been wiped out but continued evolving until they were the dominant species intellectually as well as physically — Dino Sapiens, in fact. Our ghostly heroes might see such a world as thin shadows but no one on that world may ‘see’ them at all. One thing I can be sure of, no matter what parallel universe they enter, the probability of finding any thinking being happy is almost zero. You have to be a non-sentient being for that to happen:-)