Thinking Thursday: Hard Science Fiction

Tomorrow I’ll be on this panel at ConFusion:

If You Liked ‘The Martian’…

Hard science fiction is serious business. Hard science fiction done well can be big business, as exhibited by Andy Weir’s mega-hit The Martian. What other hard science fictions stories are out there in The Martian’s shadow? And what about their science is so engaging?

So tonight I’m going to note some examples to serve as reminders.

That should be plenty of examples. It’s only a one-hour panel, and there are five of us.

Thinking Thursday: With a Little Help from My Friends

There are many reasons I’m fortunate to be writing today, instead of 30 years ago:

  • I hate mailing things. Really, really hate it. Don’t ask me why, I just do. Mailing a manuscript – at the special fourth class manuscript rate – with a SASE (Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope) pretty much demanded not just mailing, but a trip to the Post Office. That was a form of torture for me. Yes, I tried a few times over the years, but it was awful. I hated it. Today, all the markets I submit to take electronic submissions. For a while it was a mix, some electronic and some postal; and the postal markets were always dead last on my list. Sometimes after last.
  • Finding markets is so much easier.
  • Research… Once upon a time, research for writers meant getting in a car and driving to the library. Nothing against libraries, but that wasn’t practical at 3 a.m. Today, there’s a world of research material as close as my computer.
  • It’s a cliché that writing is a lonely business. It still is, usually: when you’re writing, you’re in your own head, putting thoughts into words. But if you need a break and some company, you have a world of friends right next door on social media.

But one of the most important reasons is the combination of research and social media: asking friends for help. I post a request for information on social media; and in minutes – every single time, it’s in minutes – my friends appear with feedback. Some of it’s right on point, some of it’s far afield, but all of it is freely offered and sincerely intended. It makes me truly grateful to know such smart, helpful people.

I’m the author. In the final analysis, either I do the work and do it well, or the story goes nowhere. All the responsibility, all the blame finally rests with me. But along the way, I get by with a little help from my friends.

Thank you for that. It means so much to me.

Thinking Thursday: Chorizo Pie

Thinking Thursday is supposed to be about random thoughts; but after nearly four hours of commuting today, my only thought is: I hate snow!

So instead of searching for a topic, I’m going to share a recipe I just discussed with my friend Tom Lavey of L&M Precision Machine Inc., makers of high-quality LRTs (Little Round Things). Here’s a Mexican-inspired variation on a traditional Irish dish…


1/2 lb. Chorizo (or substitute 1/2 lb. ground beef with taco seasoning if Chorizo is unavailable)

1 can whole kernel corn, drained

1 can diced tomatoes, drained

1 can refried beans, drained and whipped

1 large can black beans, drained

1 ½ lbs. mashed potatoes, whipped

1/4 cup shredded Mexican style 4 cheese mix

Chili powder to taste


1. Mash the potatoes thoroughly, and then whip them. You don’t want lumps, and you want them smooth enough to spread.

2. Whip the refried beans as well. Again, you want them smooth enough to spread.

3. Drain the corn, black beans, and tomatoes. Dice the tomatoes.

4. Depending on the brand, the Chorizo may be in a tube or a square. Break it into small, loose bits.

5. Brown the Chorizo over medium heat in a skillet.

6. Start the oven preheating to 400 degrees F.

7. Reduce the heat under the chorizo to simmer and mix in the corn, tomatoes, and black beans. Add chili powder to taste. Stir in thoroughly and continue to simmer until the oven is preheated.

8. Pour the Chorizo and vegetable mix into a large glass baking dish and spread evenly in the bottom.

9. Using a fork, scoop the refried beans on top of the chorizo and vegetables and spread out into a layer, being careful not to mix into the layer below.

10. Again using a fork, scoop the mashed potatoess on top of the refried beans and spread out into a layer, being careful not to mix into the layer below.

11. Sprinkle the top of the potatoes with chili powder to taste.

12. Sprinkle the Mexican style 4 cheese mix across the top of the potatoes.

13. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top of the potatoes is lightly browned.


Serves 3 to 5.