Category Archives: Fiction

Thursday Doors: Self-Driving Car

More geeky doors for Thursday Doors!

The Computer History Museum near the Googleplex is a good place to take guests who are visiting for graduation (or anything else). I’m not a computer scientist myself, but I’m the wife of one and my dad, a chemist, has always been an early adopter of computer technology. I think we had one of the earliest IBM PC’s in our home back in 1981.

The museum is comprehensive, from Ada Lovelace to Steve Jobs. And I just felt like including this picture of one of the first computer video games, Spacewar,  because it’s cool. Spacewar was developed in 1962 and runs on a machine called a PDP-1.

Spacewar being played on a restored PDP-1 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View
Spacewar being played on a restored PDP-1 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View

But, let’s leave the desktop computers for a minute, and move on to computers that move! When we moved to Mountain View, it didn’t take long for us to see self-driving cars motoring around the neighborhood. They always have someone in them, though, who kind of looks like he or she is driving, so it’s not as odd of a sight as it might be.

The museum has one of these cars for visitors to sit in, both doors permanently wide open.

Side Door to Waymo Car

In my in-progress SF novel, set in the year 2074, I write about a patchwork self-driving car usage. Some cities and regions have only self-driving cars. Some are reliant on public transit like subways and trams, and have walkable and bikeable downtown areas. And in that world, for cultures who do use cars, I envision an autopilot option that comes with every vehicle, but that its use is voluntary. Some characters in particular don’t like to use that option, and their attitudes towards transportation serve to reveal more about their character.

Myself, I’m a fan of self-driving cars, at least as long as they’re electric and can be built to run on sustainable technologies. I believe they have the potential to increase safety and decrease traffic congestion. And I’ve never been so enamored of driving that not being at the wheel myself seems disappointing. Actually I quite like the idea of still being able to get around independently when I’m, say, 95, and my vision and reflexes aren’t what they used to be.

The author in the back seat of a Waymo car
Take me home, Jeeves!

Book Review: The Road to Beaver Mill by Annis Pratt

The Road to Beaver Mill: Volume Three in the Infinite Games SeriesThe Road to Beaver Mill: Volume Three in the Infinite Games Series by Annis Pratt

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book begins with an interesting set-up. I was especially taken with the author’s stated goal in writing the Infinite Games series: to show what happens to a society when its environment is degraded. Her blog, linked here, says that Infinite Games is the story of the Marshlanders’ struggle to create  communities in harmony with nature.  Continue reading Book Review: The Road to Beaver Mill by Annis Pratt

Mundane Monday: CITO Events

This past weekend was Earth Day in the United States. There were marches in support of science in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, which I agreed with and supported, but didn’t end up going to. I am an introvert and don’t like crowds. Continue reading Mundane Monday: CITO Events

Book Review: The Winter Knife by Laramie Sasseville

The Winter Knife (Minnesota Strange Book 1)The Winter Knife by Laramie Sasseville

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good YA literature will stay with me long after I am finished with it, even as an adult. I would have been in the prime target audience for this book when I was a teenager, and I would have devoured it (pun intended). The story was a pleasant surprise on several levels. First, the author has a real gift for character and voice, especially with young teens. She manages to tell a fantastical story without talking down or condescending to her audience, while at the same time not going to any of the despairing, hopeless, or crazy places I feared she might be heading with the supernatural element.  Continue reading Book Review: The Winter Knife by Laramie Sasseville

Book Review: Catalyst Moon: Incursion by Lauren L Garcia

Incursion (Catalyst Moon #1)Incursion by Lauren L. Garcia

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the first installment of an enjoyable saga, Catalyst Moon. I don’t read many series, though, and this book reminds me of why. Incursion does a good job of setting up the characters, the world, and the conflicts, but the pace is leisurely and once things are really getting going, the book ends. I might read the next one, but I have so many other things to read in the meantime that it will be months if not years until I get around to it. I don’t believe this book stands on its own.

Continue reading Book Review: Catalyst Moon: Incursion by Lauren L Garcia

Book Review: A Gleam of Light by TJ and ML Wolf

A Gleam of Light (The Survival Trilogy #1)A Gleam of Light by T.J. Wolf

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A Gleam of Light has many of the elements of a first-rate thriller: a sympathetic protagonist, mystery, conflict, and a fascinating backdrop. It’s clear that a great deal of thought and research has gone into this book. These elements, however, need to be put together differently to keep the reader really turning its pages.

Continue reading Book Review: A Gleam of Light by TJ and ML Wolf

Book Review: Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern, by Anne McCaffrey

Author’s Note: Anne McCaffrey was one of my favorite authors as a teen. A high school friend gave me a copy of Dragonflight and I was hooked. But as time went on and I read more of the series I started to see its flaws. I wrote this review in college, when I was closer to both my love of and irritation with the books. Years later, I read the Harper Hall trilogy to my daughter, who enjoyed it but who never showed any inclination to pick up McCaffrey’s work on her own. The Harper Hall trilogy probably remains my favorite of all of McCaffrey’s work.

Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern (Pern, #7)Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern by Anne McCaffrey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you enjoyed Anne McCaffrey’s previous six Pern books, you’ll probably enjoy this one. If you were getting tired of meeting the same characters with different names or beginning to get frustrated by the discrepancy between the books’ potential and what they actually delivered, Moreta will be more of the same.

Continue reading Book Review: Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern, by Anne McCaffrey

Book Review: Tales From Alternate Earths

Tales From Alternate EarthsTales From Alternate Earths by Daniel M. Bensen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked this idea for an anthology and even though the premise is popular and often tried, I was intrigued to pick it up and explore the stories. My favorites were “Twilight of the Mesozoic Moon,” which also had the best title and the most imaginative characters, and “The Secret War,” which provided a unique twist to a story I already thought I knew something about.

Continue reading Book Review: Tales From Alternate Earths

Book Review: The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

The Water KnifeThe Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Paolo Bacigalupi is a master of near-future dystopian science fiction. I’ve been dabbling in the genre, and reading this book made me realize that I have a long way to go with respect to world building. In many ways, this book is a textbook for how it should be done. The book is richly drawn, with complex characters, plausible extrapolation of current events, catchy slang, and unexpected twists and turns. With The Water Knife, Bacigalupi is at the top of his imaginative game.

Continue reading Book Review: The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi