Category Archives: Author -J. H. Tabbott

JHT author notes, books, short stories, promotions, reviews, articles, and upcoming events.

Book Review: Mother Moon

I’m a bit particular when when it comes to SciFi. I strongly prefer what was once called “hard” SciFi, but is more often now considered “speculative fiction.” The key to the genre is in according proper respect to real science-i.e., staying within the realm of the possible, and not bounding over to complete fantasy or pseudo-science.

For a science fiction author, towing that line and still rendering a mind-bending, personal, and exciting tale remains more of a trick than readers may think. Bob Goddard does it well in Mother Moon, a story which weaves together the tale of a Moon colonists forced to fight for their survival after a comet hits Earth, and a rough hewn sailing family whose sea-life is threatened by religious oppression. I was first attracted to this book by its promising mash-up of these two stories.

Readers are given a quick early glimpse into each of these worlds, then the story focuses mainly upon the valiant struggles of an ensemble of lead characters working to save the moon base. Goddard shows us a team of smart, dedicated protagonists, who must use their talents and wits to overcome one quite credible crisis after another. During the lead-up to the comet’s impact, we learn their strengths, weaknesses, hopes and fears. And–as their personal stories unfold–it is easy to develop a strong empathy for them.

I found myself rooting for the main characters, Will, Lian, and Tamaya. But ultimately it is Nadia, the colony’s governor, whose strength, foresight, and professionalism is at the center of the story. Her insights, dedication, and (importantly) ability to inspire trust in the others, is what ultimately secures the future of the colony.

Goddard handles the science and mechanics of running a colony masterfully. He provides detail enough for readers to follow and understand, but never lets it slow down the story. The pacing is steady and engaging..

Periodically, Goddard takes us back to a the story of Yonoton, a ship’s master sailing with his sons on a square-rigged vessel, the Pelican, to trade with other lands. But his ship has been confiscated by a Cardinal to spread religion to foreign lands by force and brutality. It’s an unhappy situation for Yonoton, and he knows he too is at risk from being declared a heretic by the cardinal and his men.

I personally enjoyed when Goddard downshifted into Yonoton’s story. It is a very straight-forward tale, but I would have liked to see stronger insights on some elements (foreshadowing) it introduces. While both tales are about courage and bravery, Yonoton’s is also a morality tale, with an unusual finish.

Overall, Mother Moon has a satisfying and interesting ending that should delight many. I certainly enjoyed the entire ride, recommend it to anyone who enjoys SciFi, and particularly recommend it to those who prefer hard SciFi. It’s inspiring, and a good story.


Getting onboard

The above photo is both a vestige from my old job and a good argument why it was time for me to move on–the very last Jacob’s ladder I was ever required to climb.

Homey don’t do that no more (bad grammar deliberate)!

In fact, what I have admittedly become is a true Homey. I can do my principle work from the comfort of my desk at home. Phone calls and emails, which were once my life blood, are today more a distraction. And after I’ve worked all day (cough, cough), I don’t have to run down to a ship and work half the night. I am somewhat comfortably home-bound in my own personal gilded cage. And I write. And I publish.

Here’s the problem though. I do not market–so far, at least. And that’s embarrassing. There isn’t much point in publishing, unless you’re willing to put in the time and study required to market your work. If you believe in your work, and I do, you need to be a good parent, push it out of the nest, and teach it to fly. However, getting onboard with marketing your books can be be more daunting than that Jacob’s Ladder in the photo.

The trick is in limbering up. As an author, this means studying, learning new skills, making new contacts, and not being afraid to take the plunge (I know, poor choice of words, given the photo). That’s not something most can make happen overnight–especially if when you have obligations to a day job and family. And okay, maybe you’ll have to dip your toe in first, then wade in. Understandable.

But you need to at least wade in knee deep, or you’ll never get into the swim of things. Once you get a few basic things in place–for instance, a blog site–each new step will get a little easier.

As is evident, I’m no expert. Just barely up to my knees, myself. But study and effort will pay off. Have confidence. Believe in yourself. Climb that ladder.


Speculative Selection

Change Is Coming!

In my current Work-In-Progress, set in the near future, I portray Earth society as beginning a societal transformation as result of an external event–the knowledge an alien race intends to “acquire” Earth for all its assets (including its highly skilled workers). Earth has enough time and some unexpected resources to make preparations without worldwide panic. But the focus is on less on the alien threat, and more on overcoming the distrust between nations and molding public opinion. My protagonists must overcome those formidable obstacles and forge trustworthy alliances in order to prepare a viable defense for humanity. However, first they must discourage their government allies from spying, trying to steal dangerous alien weapons technology, and threatening each other.

I try avoiding the most common social issues of the day, except for casual acknowledgements they exist–because the focus in on a more fundamental change of perspective about humanity (which I hope at least would help inform such discussions). However it is that change of perspective drives the theme of the story. 

That said, I have found this novel far more difficult to write than my first, which set the stage. Now that my characters are back on Earth, there is so much more detail and technical research to cover, if I want the story to be realistic (which I do). 

Picking and choosing “near future” technologies I think realistically possible is both fun and a curse. At least one key technology I’ve used has already made a small splash into the news. Fortunately, with all the disasters in 2020, that story got buried fast. Good thing–because I want it to still sound cool and new when I publish.  Today, we are on the cusp of major developments in many fields. But this story is not so much about new discoveries, as it is about the practical, commercial application of those discoveries. Many new technologies that already exist just haven’t been introduced into popular applications yet.

More urgently, for my purposes, I need to second-guess whether already announced space projects concerning the Moon and Mars will actually stay within their projected time-table. I’d hate to leave ‘future facts’ out of my equation. And, of course, any one that I show as not happening on schedule could raise the ire and criticism of those with stakes in their timely success.

The last thing I want is to bet against progress, but I’ve little choice but to make my best bet based upon the odds. Elon – Mea culpa. I’d love to believe in your schedule, but I think it relies more on faith than logic.

The other major problem, I find, is getting a firm handle on government protocols and procedures. First off, there’s a bit of a skewed logic that rules most government affairs. There are logical reasons for some things, but these are mostly built around dealing with illogical situations. Much of government is based upon how to deal with the absurdly stupid, which is why government structures and laws can be so maddening. They’re not designed around sane activities.

In any case, I’m working hard to create a believable balance and a story that will take readers headlong into the strangeness of a humanity in rapid transition.


Cover artless

So here I am, thinking about what I should do next. And I remember–Cover Art! I plan releasing my new book in the fall, but I should already have a cover selected that I can splash across the internet in advance. After all, that’s one key to attract interested readers. Right?

Here’s the problem though… I have no idea what I should put on the cover. Producing effective cover art is, well, an art. It takes thought, research or the artwork on comparable titles, should provide hint of what you’ve included between the covers, and–most of all–reach out, grab readers by their collars and say “BUY ME!”

I suck at that. I dread guessing at what elements I should include in my cover, so I’ll just throw this out there. Make a suggestion! I know there are many talented writers out there who’ve worked through this dilemma before. Below I’ll list a mini-synopsis of the plot, along with a description of the most notable elements and characters in the book.

Tell me what cover images you feel would best reflect the story. I know there are some rules as to what works. I just don’t know the rules.

The Tides of Earth

After escaping their K’laadian captors and commandeering a ship full of alien technology, Maggie and her crew have finally returned to Earth, intent on using their newfound resources to defend humanity. The only trick is that some of the weapons they have onboard are too dangerous to trust to any governments and more dangerous to share with all governments.

So they devise The Terran Council, a body that will remain forever in exile and never interfere in terrestrial matters, but which will assume responsibility for protecting humanity from all alien threat. However, they need each nation to cooperate and work together as their allies in building that defense.

There is Maggie’s biggest obstacle. While immediate public support is strong, the Council faces an extremely divided world… not about to join hands and sing Kumbaya. Their government allies still want to steal their weapon technology. Nations are uneasy about keeping truce with other countries. Politicians just want to get re-elected. Terrorist groups don’t care about aliens–they still want to inflict harm on anyone in the way of their cause, including the Council. And businessmen still want to make a profit.

It’s a big bag of worms, but Maggie has to bring it all together, build new industries, come up with a viable line of defense, and win the worldwide support for a vote–where humanity decides whether to fight or flee. The clock is ticking, and they have six years at best before the K’laadian ships arrive.

Key character: Dr. Maggie Kestler, Physicist – early to mid-fifties, dark hair with gray highlights, competent and determined woman, capable of seeing through insincerity. Dedicated entirely to saving humanity both from itself and the K’laadians.

Story elements: The K’Leestra47, a interstellar spaceship using both a gravity and Alcubierre drive. “Looks like a fat football” from underneath, but otherwise saucer shaped with articulated edges which rotate to form the Alcubierre drive. It has ten very large fan shaped holds/hatch covers–five on top, five on the bottom. Holds can be used for cargo or as hangers for other cargo and military spacecraft. Overall length is about 1500 meters. Overall height is about 300 meters. K’laadian troop/cargo transports, similar in design to the K’leestra47, but squarer in design and able to fit inside its holds. K’laadian shuttles– about the size of six school buses, similar looking to the transports. Kitty Hawk–decommissioned US aircraft carrier, refitted as training ship and based temporarily in the Australian outback, then re-assigned to the moon. K’laadian cannisters–described as schoolbus-sized drums with hollowed out, open ends. Referred to as a K’laadian ‘Swiss Army knives,’ because of their versatility. These can accurately and automatically target items as small as a dime from high Earth orbit, using highly focussed lasers (or any band of spectrum), gravity waves, or electromagnetic waves. It serves as both a formidable weapon and a tool. They is self-charging, using advanced technology, and can also beam energy to any available receiving stations.

Notable visual events–1. Total destruction (equipment only) of several military bases. 2. Lifting a 350 meter Drybulk (ore) ship twenty meters into the air, turning it around, and slicing it in half… all in about 10 minutes. 3. Launching a railroad engine into orbit then setting it on the the lawn of the UN Building. 4. Using a cannister to move a number of “stasis pods” safely into the hold of an old Drybulk ship that has been partly buried on the moon, with a dozen astronaut & and cosmonaut ‘wranglers’ assisting with any strays drifting out of position. 5. A bridge in St. Simons Island, Georgia being blown up by terrorists. 6. Heavy equipment being delivered by K’laadian launch to a mining colony on Mars. There are others, but these seem more notable.


Aspiring Writers

At the suggestion of Anna, a creative writing student in the Salt Lake City Children’s Network, I’ve added a link to Crossword Solver which has a useful Creative Writing Glossary. Kudos to Barbara Lincoln, at SLCCN, for her wonderful work encouraging and teaching these future authors.

I was honestly amazed they’d found this website, which I’ve seriously neglected, but that’s testament to the power of the internet. The good news is that I’ve today taken the first steps to rejuvenate it, upgrading both my WordPress system and my PHP to take advantage of the latest plug-ins and software.

I think I’ve finally learned that incremental–just small steps–are perfectly okay for posting blogs (and far easier). Everything doesn’t have to be a fully blown article to be useful to someone. Posts can serve just as well as tiny suggestions of thought, enough to help others ponder their own meaning and direction.

And boy, that’s a relief to know.


Gonggong (or formerly 2007 OR10)

This is a follow-up to my post “The Mighty Dwarf,” about the naming of 2007 OR10. I’m please to say she received her official name after her discoverers – Megan Schwamb, Michael Brown, and David Rabinowitz held an on-line naming poll in 2019. The choices were taken from various mythologies – Gonggong (Chinese), Holle (German), and Vili (Norse legend).

Based upon her physical characteristics, her discoverers favored Goinggong, which had associated names that could be applied later to her satellites. They’ve reserved naming rights to these for some future date, when they might know more defining detail. On February 5th, 2020, the Committee for Small Body Nomenclature (CSBN) accepted the name and officially announce Gonggong as a minor planet.

I confess I still like the idea of nicknaming her “Rose Red,” for Snow White’s sister, but her official name is certainly easy to remember. A real bell-ringer!


Water Clerk – Table of Contents

Water Clerk

Part one: Getting acquainted

A.  Forward – purpose of this book

B.  The preliminaries

1.  The key players – charterers, brokers, owners, operators, Customs, Coast Guard, agents, shippers, receivers, forwarders, terminals, & Customhouse brokers, vendors.

2.  The rule to watch – charter parties, government regulations, local practices.

3.  The types of cargo and vessels – break bulk, drybulk, tankers, containers, reefer, ro/ro.

4.  Logistics – What you’ll be managing

5.  Documentation – The types of documentation – government, international trade, surveys, & reports you’ll be handling.

C.  Types of agency service

1.  Liner services – containers & break bulk shipments

a. Brief history

b. Distinguishing features, agency service requirements

2. Tramp services – container, break bulk, full and part cargo bulk

a. (Very) brief history

b. Distinguishing features, types of agency requirements  (Full agency, husbandry, charterer or owner protective, third party representation)

D.  Role of agency services

1. Owners agency (Husbandry) – responsibilities to the owners

2. Charterers agency – responsibilities to the charterers

3. Full agency – responsibilities to both the charterers and owners

4. Third party protective agents – (usually) responsibilities to shipper, receiver, or their representatives.

Part two: Getting things done

A.  Owner agency logistics – philosophy and importance 

1.  Understanding typical vessel functions & equipment

2.  Maintaining a very complete database of vendors.

3.  Keeping accessible records of past vendor performances & billings

4. Understanding local limitations

5. Communicating

B.  Charterer agency logistics – philosophy and importance 

1.  Understanding typical cargo operations, loading & discharging equipment

a. Break bulk handling equipment

b. Drybulk handling equipment

i. Types of cranes

ii. Loaders and unloaders

iii. Ancillary equipment – bulldozers, bobcats, etc.

c. Tanker discharge equipment

i. Chicsands

ii. Hoses

iii. Tanks

d.  RO/RO handling equipment

2.  Understanding stevedoring  – stowage, labor, and other mysteries of life.

a.  Stowage – how it may affect the cargo operation

i. Ship factors

ii. Labor factors

b.  Labor – how it may affect the cargo operation

i. Skill

ii. Gangs and gang size

iii. Labor rules

c.  Weather – how it may affect the cargo operation

i. Safety of labor

ii. Cargo safety

iii. Safety of terminal and/or vessel

3.  Understanding the charter party requirements

a.  The time restrictions on each port call

i. Laydays & laycan days

ii. Demurrage & dispatch

iii. Statements of facts – Importance to charterer

iv. Off-hire & on-hire

4.  Local knowledge  – terminals, tides, and restrictions

a.  Maintaining a very complete database on terminals

i. Each berth restrictions on draft, LOA, GRT, and beam

ii. Tide restrictions at or on approaches to terminal

iii. Elevation of dock

iv. Clearance (elevation) and reach of cargo gear

v. Key phone contacts – manager, dock office, & gate

vi. Any typical scheduling problems

vii. Any typical cargo handling related problems

b.  Maintaining a complete database on port restrictions

i. Pilotage tidal restrictions

ii. Bridge elevations and channel dimensions

iii. Vessel transit restrictions such as no pass zones, daylight restrictions, etc.

iv. Any local regulatory restrictions or requirements (Customs or Coast Guard)

v. Anchorage locations & restrictions

c.  Availability of layberths or anchorages for emergency repairs or temporary lay-ups.

5.  Communication logistics

a. Coordinating each movement of the vessel within the port

i. Pilots, tugs, and line handlers

ii. Officials, surveyors, port engineers, and port superintendents

b. Coordinating with the key cargo handling personnel

i. Terminal contacts – harbormasters, terminal managers, security personnel

ii. Stevedores, shippers and/or receivers

c.  Keeping principals properly informed

i. Charterers, owners, shippers, receivers, operators

ii. Terminals, stevedores, Customhouse brokers & Freight forwarders


The Tides of Earth – Chapter 3 – A Thump in the Night

Prelude The Expanding Sea of Earth cover 1

At 1:06 AM all was quiet. The lights outside the Kangdong palace shone brightly, making the surrounding countryside seem even darker. A moment later those lights went out, leaving the palace in deep darkness. Guards at the surrounding gates grabbed their portable radios, but found them just as dead. A van approached the main gate, but its lights went out too. It rolled to an unexpected stop short of the gate. A moment passed, and emergency lights began flickering on about the palace. Security teams sprang to alert. A blackout here wasn’t normal. Their Valishnikovs were held at ready as they approached the van.

Neither Seo-Yeon Koh nor her companions knew why the van had died. It was less a question than why the palace and perimeter lights had failed. That was serious. Moments later, the gate guard’s nervous approach was also serious. Mistakes are made when circumstances are unexpected. Cautiously, she announced her name before stepping out of the van “I am Leiutenant Seo Yeon Koh, Command Security Guard. We are returning for duty! I am stepping out of the van.”

She was the nearest to the door, and climbed out slowly. But she was sure they would recognize her… she was bodyguard to the Supreme Leader’s wife.

Recognition came quickly. The gate guard even seemed relieved, though still cautious. “Why did you stop and turn off your lights?” He asked.

Seo-Yeon quickly realized the palace lights, the perimeter lights, and the van’s dying were all connected. Bad! “Our car died when the palace lights went out. Do you have power at your post?”

“No!” The guard shook his head.

“Then we are under attack. Do you have a radio? We must contact the palace!”

“It is not working! We tried!” He looked at her, his dark sunken eyes imploring for answers.

Everyone had climbed out of the van now. They were the reliefs for the CSGs within the palace. Immediately, she knew they must get there. She turned to her companions. “It is an attack. We must get to the palace!” 

She saw the determination on their faces. They’d trained for this, though never dreaming it would happen. Then their expressions changed. No longer looking at her… looking behind her. She turned, only to see the palace lights again go off, replaced by an eerie and silent darkness. Then came the rumble. It was low and muted, but steady–like something unstoppable.

“Do you have your car?” She asked the now frightened gatekeeper. She remembered seeing an old one–a GAZ. Decrepit compared to the UAZ Hunter. Decrepit enough? She hoped. 

Seo-Yeon had been well educated, so she recognized the EMP attack quickly enough. And EMPs played hell with most electronic and electrical systems. But an old Russian GAZ might not have an electronic ignition. As long as it wasn’t in use, it might still run.

She turned to her companions. “Quick! Push the van to block the entrance gate. Then we go to the palace.” She faced the gate guard again. “You! Start your vehicle. We will need it. And if your radios begin to work, call the palace. Inform them we are coming. We do not want to be shot by our own comrades.”

She entered the guard post and picked up the phone. Habit! She knew it’d be dead. An engine roared to order behind the shed. Good!  The palace was over a kilometer down the road. It’d be tight, but they could all fit in the GAZ.

There was an explosion in the distance. She froze, then looked toward the palace–still a dark shadow. But to the South, there was light in the sky above the tree line. She knew immediately what happened. There was a small armory back near their barracks. She guessed it was gone now. 

As the GAZ took off, it bounced down the road uncomfortably under their weight. Another explosion, but this time up by the palace. The helipad lit up in flames. And now there was a new noise–a harsh thumping sound coming directly from the palace. A second later they could see the new menace, silhouetted by the growing flames. One by one, impossibly, all the vehicles in front of the palace seemed to disappear. The thumping was accompanied by an unpleasant, almost groaning sound. And Seo-Yeon realized they were being crushed, ground into the dirt. The GAZ lost power. Two of the cars by the palace exploded.

“Stop! Out of the car!” She ordered. Now she felt mild panic. “Get away from the car!”

They obeyed. And in a panicked moment later, with a heart-wrenching crunch there was no GAZ… only the tailgate and rear bumper remained, partly embedded in the roadway. Now terror seized her. She saw it too in her comrades eyes. She couldn’t–could not afford to–imagine what could ever have done this. If she did, she’d freeze “On foot,” she ordered and led them on.

Ahead she saw the flames reflecting off the palace windows. But after another twenty meters she could see another obstacle. A long row of freshly turned earth blocked their path. Unexpected, this! It looked as though a giant plow had dug a deep gash into the ground… the rumbling sound! It had been the earth being split open.

Dirt was piled over a meter high on either side of the ditch, which looked over two meters deep. It extended East and curved North around the palace grounds. And it extended West… toward the park and the great pond. But she still heard the rumble. Why? The roads were clearly cut off. She listened. Then she heard it. Another low rumble, not quite in sync with the first. There were two invisible plows!  And then there was only one. The nearer one had stopped.

Her companions were looking at her, wondering–she guessed–what she was thinking. Why she hadn’t just led them across the ditch? It took another moment, and then she knew. Not just the roads! She thought of the great pond. “Hurry! We’ve got to get across! Quickly! And stay together!”

They scrambled over the top and slid down the soft earth into the ditch. Climbing up the other side was more difficult. Clumps of dirt came off in their hands as they clawed their way back up. When the second roar stopped, they heard a new noise. Seo-Yeon screamed, “Help each other. Quickly, over the top!” The first ones helped pull the next ones up. As the wall of water rushed past the spot where they’d just been, it tugged at the pants legs of the last to make the climb. But his companions held strong–a human ladder pulling him to safety.

“What the hell!” One of them said. 

“The escape tunnels,” she explained, out of breath herself. “They have flooded the escape tunnels so no one can leave.” She made a mental calculation. From the time their car had died until now… really it wasn’t much more than a few minutes. Not enough time to unlock and enter the tunnels, unless that was the first choice made. Unlikely. “Come, our leader needs us, and he is waiting.”


Outside the entrance to the palace seemed like controlled chaos. Now Seo-Yeon could see the thin remains of the vehicles that’d been crushed. Flames raged across the driveway where the cars spilled their fuel, and it burned higher over by the helipad. The palace guards were evenly spread out and armed, expecting the worst, and trained to defend until death. She could see their tension in their stance, and see it change when they recognized her team… walking in slowly, hands over heads. The palace itself was still dark. Only the flames illuminated the exterior.

Inside the massive lobby, Gun Gyeong Lee, leader of the palace guard, met her. It was immediately clear he had as many questions for her about what they’d seen on the outside, as she had about what he’d seen on the inside. 

“Any troops on the roads?”

“No, it all started just as we arrived at the gate…. Was the palace able to order reinforcements?”

“No. The radios worked for a few minutes… the signal was jammed! Does anyone outside know what’s going on here?”

Seo Yeon frowned helplessly. “Does anyone here know what’s going on outside?

Their eyes embraced each other in silent understanding. No one knew…


At 1:07 AM, Ryu Yong Sook’s barracks shook from the shock of an explosion. He jumped from his bed amidst a confusion of arms, legs, and shouting–as his fellow pilots grabbed their flight suits and gear to ready for battle. Where the battle was coming from didn’t matter. It was already here. Ryu looked furtively out the window and could see flames engulfing a jet far across the field. A loud hammering noise ruptured the night and punctuated the urgency. Getting their planes in the air to meet the aggressor was first order of business.

Shoving his feet into his shoes, he raced out the door and toward the tarmac. There was another explosion on the field. Clearly their planes were being targeted. He was the fastest and sprinted past other pilots in his wing. He had almost run past it, when he came across the first truck. He tripped and stumbled in a depression in the ground, but caught himself. It took a moment for him to realize what he was looking at. The vehicle had literally been squashed, as though some giant had crushed it under its foot. The pavement around it was also compressed–he’d tripped over its lip. He paused, stunned, then knew he must get to his plane. 

The hammering got louder. Now there was another explosion–this time at the head of the flight line. As new flames leapt up, he saw the silhouette of the next plane in line… for a moment. Then another loud clap, and its entire tail section disappeared. Yet the cockpit and wings were still there. Another clap, and the next tail section was gone. He remembered the truck… then remembered his plane.

He had to save it. It was the greatest freedom he’d ever had. His honor and his privilege. He raced blindly toward it, ignoring the thunderclaps, ignoring the hollering and growing warnings of his comrades. 

One of his ground crewmen caught up to him and shouted “Too late! Too late,” and pulled at his shoulder. Ryu Yong shook him off and ordered him to release the tie-downs. Ryu grabbed and pulled the wheel chocks. He needed to get into the air. Fast!

Everyone was shouting now, his fellow pilots imploring him to stop. As he mounted the pilot ladder to climb into the cockpit, they grabbed and pulled desperately at his legs to stop him. Another loud clap, closer, louder! Now they gave up and ran. He climbed into the cockpit. 

Now the loudest clap. The nose of the plane next to him momentarily reared up into the air then crashed to the ground. It was all surreal. He tried ignition… nothing!

The next clap deafened his ears. Ryu felt his plane buck up, then sink back, and he knew he would never fly again. Another clap, and the plane to his right did the same. No one will fly tonight, he now knew. 

He sat in his cockpit, unafraid. Any fear he may have felt before had been drowned in adrenalin. Any fear he felt now was buried deep in his future. For certain, he would never know the freedom of flight again…. 

Across all North Koryo, military bases, villages, and cities had blinked into darkness. Nothing new for most– blackouts were common. But efforts of soldiers and technicians couldn’t restore power.

And at 1:07 AM–in earshot of anyone living or working near a military facility–came the sound of explosions. Military armories combusted. Missile sites collapsed into rubble. Roads to secret labs were rendered impassable. Destruction of even the largest of military installations took little more than minutes. Yet all personnel were accounted for, with only a few cuts and scratches. And within two hours the unseen aggressor ran out of targets. 

But here and there emergency lights, once flickering back to life, stayed lit. Hospitals were minimally affected. Their generators still worked. Commercial flights were unaffected–international flights through Koryo airspace were too risky, so virtually non-existent. A single Koryo military flight lost all power, yet miraculously set down–fully intact–in the middle of a potato field. An amazed pilot reported that after he departed unhurt, its tail section was totally destroyed. And along its southern border, military outposts later reported what they thought to be a systematic carpet-bombing of the mine fields separating the demilitarized zones to the North and South. Even so, in a most significant night, no communications leaked across North Koryo’s border.


Seo Yeon’s details about her dash to the palace made one thing clear to Gun Gyeong Lee. All exits had been cut off. He would send guards to check the tunnels, but doubted she was wrong. Outside was a disaster. Yet there were still no aggressors to fight. No way even for the Supreme Leader to order a counter-strike.

He wondered briefly about the Moon message–the mysterious warning all had seen mere days ago. Official news said it was another American capitalist ploy–a Hollywood style trick. Unofficially, he’d read a translation from the Chinese a friend had given him. But if that were true, there should be years before any attack. This attack is right now, and real! He worried. Do the Americans now have this technology? If so, all could be lost. He sent Seo Yeon to guard the Supreme Leader’s wife, and ordered her companions to relieve their counterparts. He doubted anyone would be going anywhere for a while. Now, all he could do was wait.


At 3:00 AM Kangdong time a phone unexpectedly rang–the hard line to China’s Premier Chou. Supreme Leader hurried to take the call, his wife by his side. Seo Yeon obediently followed, and listened quietly at a discreet distance while the Supreme Leader. 

The Supreme Leader was angry, and insisted this was the American’s fault. He wanted to immediately counter-attack. Then he became very silent. The longer the Supreme Leader listened, the more color drained from his face. Twice he tried to interrupt. Twice he fell back silent. This was strange… and this frightened Seo Yeon.

After an interminable time, the Supreme Leader of North Koryo–Chairman of the Worker’s Party, Chairman of State Affairs, and Supreme Commander of the People’s Army–slowly, submissively nodded and agreed to whatever it was Premier Chou had said. Then he hung up. 

“Our great ally, Premier Chou,” he intoned–half authoritative, half subdued– “has negotiated safe passage to Beijing… until this immediate crisis is ended. A helicopter will be here in five hours. Only family and six staff will go. Transport will be arranged for all other when needed.”

Seo Yeon Koh knew immediately she would only go on the later transport….

What she did not know is that later transport would never come. 

Chou’s words to her Supreme Leader had been far more specific. North Koryo’s military power had been thoroughly gutted. The mine fields separating them from South Koryo now lay waste. The military could no longer protect him or his family.

But the danger wouldn’t come from the Americans or even the South Koryo forces. They had been ordered to stand down. The danger would come from the disaffected… the North Koryoan people and military who’d soon see the world in unfiltered clarity. When this happened they’d hold him responsible for their long suffering. No palace guard would stop them from seeking revenge.

So the compromise–Chou would give Supreme Leader and his family political asylum–permanent exile. The Americans would agree to a substantial demilitarization of the Koryo peninsula. Both the Americans and the Chinese would share the responsibility and expense for mending North and South Koryo. The re-united nation would remain independent of both. And, as was most important to the Terran Council, Koryo’s participation in the world vote would be guaranteed… an elaborate horse-trade, but a little something for everyone.


The Tides of Earth – Chapter 2 – Wake-up Call

Prelude front cover

Mike immersed himself in thought. Today was Show and Tell. They’d demonstrate to the United Nations the full power of the K’Laadian weapons. The decision, while returning to Earth in command of this ship–their prize–had been difficult. But there was no going back. We’re in it now! It’ll only get tougher, because now they needed to buy or pry away the political support they’d need to build a planetary defense.

They found no other choice. Humanity had to be defended, but the captured weapons were too powerful–too dangerous entrust to any one government… even more dangerous to share with all. The K’Laadian’s view toward human civilization may have been cold, but it hadn’t been entirely inaccurate. With these weapons, mankind could tear itself apart.

Creating an independent council was Maggie’s idea. Completely independent from Earth governments. Never to interfere with earth’s local affairs. Maggie’s plan. But it was Tracy who’d recognized the full truth. 

They had already learned too much themselves. Earth’s governments and competing factions would never stop seeking control of the technology. Their knowledge would always make them a target–a threat not only to themselves, but to their families. That same risk would face all who joined them.

Mike glanced at Tracy and frowned. She still scanned the globe nervously. The harsh new reality meant end to any chance at a normal life. Self-imposed exile… for them and anyone they recruited. But harder for her, Mike knew… a life now defined by morbid duty and dashed dreams.

Tracy interrupted his thoughts. “You’re sure the canisters are ready? All the parameters right?”

“We’ve prepared all we can,” Maggie answered instead. “The practices have been successful. Targeting software has been perfect. No reason to believe it’ll fail now. And better us than the K’laadians picking targets.”

“We’ve got it covered.” Mike reassured. “Listen, the UN needs a demonstration. They’re just going to get a bigger one than expected.”

“There’s an understatement,” a thin smile broke on Maggie’s lips, “but we haven’t come this far to fail now. We stick to the plan. There must be full cooperation to hold a worldwide vote. No government interference! And certainly no exceptions for dictators! It’s everyone’s choice! Whether to fight or to flee–all humanity must decide.” Maggie shook her head, “they’ve got to learn to work together.”

Well, this ought to do it! Mike mused…. There’ll definitely be some soiled britches today.

Maggie inhaled deeply and reflected… Khreseea, their former captor, had been right about one thing–humanity was immature. But she had been wrong about K’laadia ruling Earth. Humans didn’t like being told what to do. Millenia of genetics and conditioning stood in the way. We have to decide for ourselves.

“Time to make the phone call.” Maggie said. “Mike, lock targeting. Engage the moment I hang up. We need to wrap this up before the UN goes in session.”

Mike leaned back and took a deep breath, ready. “Won’t be a problem. Targets are all tagged. I expect we’ll be done in two hours.”

“No casualties?” Tracy frowned. She didn’t want to jeopardize public support. More so she didn’t want it on her conscience. The UN demonstration would be a piece of cake. This unscheduled pre-demo operation is what worried her.

Mike smiled sympathetically. “We’ve done all we can, but there’s no guarantee. We hit the targets fast enough–before they can man their weapons–and we’ve got a pretty good chance. You’ve seen it work. If all goes well, best their military will be able to do is stand by and watch.

Maggie listened to the exchange, looked down at her com station, and shuddered. It’s time! No choice! She’d accepted it, now hoped she was right. Here on out everything they did would be under intense scrutiny… and they needed all the public support they could get–even for this!

At 00:30 AM Beijing time, morning of the UN general assembly program, Maggie reached out to Premier Chou. It took another ten minutes for his staff to get his translator, although the K’Leestra47’s computer could translate if needed.

“Premier Chou, my apologies for disturbing you at this hour,” she didn’t know if there was a proper protocol…” but there is some urgent business concerning North Koryo, and only China can help resolve it.” She heard a torrent of words in the background that she couldn’t understand, then the interpreter answered. It amounted to one reciprocal pleasantry, and then–as she interpreted it–a “what the fuck do you want”–or a close approximation thereof.


A Mighty Dwarf – the naming 2007 OR10

Just yesterday,  I was excited to see that Dr. Megan Schwamb, who discovered 2007 OR10, had decided to name it.

 I had somewhat randomly chosen this dwarf planet to use in my novel–Prelude: The Expanding Seas of Earth.  Moreover, early this month I had contacted both Dr. Megan Schwamb and Dr. Mike Brown, and asked why no one had ever named it. I even offered my suggestion for a name–mentioned in my author notes (see below)  

Dr. Brown promptly replied to my inquiry, saying to stand by–the name would be coming very soon. A nice surprise! Technically, his right to name it expired in 2017 (after ten years). And no one has bothered in the two years since… until now.

Dr. Megan Schwamb and her colleagues have now provided their favorite choices, and invited astronomy fans to help select which one will be officially submitted. Hopefully, some preferential consideration will be accorded them. After all, they found it.

I also hope they won’t be offended that my story’s characters used it for target practice…. I can assure it was all for a good and necessary cause, and that no major planetary features were harmed in the exercises.

And while anyone can now officially submit a suggestion to the International Astronomical Union (IAU), I won’t be among them. I think those who found it should still have final say. These are the people whose work and dedication inspire us to look outside our small world… and dream. 

From my author’s notes:

Heavenly Bodies  

Kuiper Objects – When this story was written, 2007 OR10 was still the correct designation for the dwarf planet Maggie’s crew uses for target practice. However, by the year this story begins, someone will probably have already named it–thus a potential story flaw.

Naming rights for 2007 OR10 expired in 2017, so technically anyone can name it. The International Astonomical Union adjudicates this, and there are strict guidelines as to length and type–for instance, no pet names.

Professor Michael E. Brown***(Caltech), who held the rights, never officially named it. However, he did nickname it “Snow White” for being bright. He has a healthy sense of humor–it was the seventh dwarf planet his team had discovered since 2002.

Dwarf planets must either be very bright or very large to be detected. It was later determined 2007 OR10 was larger and reddish in color, suggesting presence of methane frost. So the nickname no longer quite fits. The good news, from my perspective, is that Snow White had a sister named “Rose Red”. Serendipity methinks! Still, I restrained myself from calling it “Rose Red” in the story. If someone named it otherwise between 2017 and publication, I’d have egg on my face.

Thankfully, given the transit time round trip between K’Laadia and Earth, Khreseea could only have uploaded Earth’s Kuiper Belt data prior to 2017. Thus they couldn’t have learned the new name.

***2007 OR10 was discovered by California Institute of Technology astronomers as part of the PhD thesis of Megan E. Schwamb, who was at the time a graduate student of Michael E. Brown.[15] (cit. Wikipedia). Hopefully, she ultimately gets to name it (only seems fair).