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Ode to Ephemerides

October 18, 2017

I had some ephemerides; they came to me one day
As classic two-line elements; I thought them here to stay.
We met each other’s needs with sympathetic reciprocity
While cheerfully extracting time, position, and velocity.

Their charming eccentricities were known on every side.
Their propagating following was wonderfully wide.
Our pastor even praised their inclination in a homily.
To find them sad or out of sorts was rare: a true anomaly.

I had some ephemerides; I loved them as a friend,
But all orbital beginnings are bound to have an end.
Our friendship proved ephemeral; distrust began to climb
And grave uncertainties were bound to creep in over time.

Our peace was soon perturbed by gravity and relativity.
Telemetry discrepancies appeared with sad proclivity.
We had a nasty fight about their semi-major axis
Which turned into an argument about their periapsis.

I had some ephemerides, but nothing on this Earth
Is constant in its happiness or lasting in its mirth.
No joy that life can give me could provide the same dynamics
As my brief and tragic love affair with celestial mechanics.

With apologies to Patrick Barrington.

Why You Should Say Bad Things About My Books

October 17, 2017

For an author, customer reviews are like gold.  The more people review our books on Amazon (or Goodreads, Audible, etc.), the more likely customers are to take the book seriously, and — even more importantly — the more Amazon’s AI bots will promote the book and combine it with others.  (“People who bought X also bought Y!”)

As human beings with egos, however, the reviews we tend to love are the ones that rave.  (“This is the best book written this century!  I would kill my own mother just to read it again!”)  These make us feel better than reviews that mix the good and the bad, and we want to think they do a better job of convincing others to buy.  If we think that, though, we’re wrong.

Imagine you’re in the market for a new widget.  Knowing nothing about widgets, you check out the reviews.  The first one has five stars and says, “This widget is so awesome you will want to marry it after one use! Never buy another widget again!”  You roll your eyes, because this review tells you nothing.  You wonder if maybe the widget-maker’s mother wrote it.

The next review you see has one star.  It reads, “Stupid widget broke the first time I took it scuba diving.  Piece of trash.”  This is a little more helpful, because it tells you where not to use it.  Since you had no intention of scuba diving with it, however, you read on.

The next review reads, “Widget did needed it to as a casual hobbyist.  The self-cleaning feature left streaks on the chassis, but didn’t affect its function.  Great value for the price, but consider model B if you’re going to be using it every day.”  Now THIS is helpful!  You are also a casual hobbyist, so you go ahead and purchase the widget.

The same is true of books.  As authors, we admire the reviews that stroke our egos, but over-the-top praise with no substance isn’t useful to customers.  We’re afraid reviews with anything negative to say will turn away readers, but in reality, it’s the balanced reviews that are more likely to result in a sale.

So… if you’re a friend, and you’re planning to review The Genius Plague (and please do! it helps!), go ahead and say what you really thought.  The point of a review is to help readers find books they will actually like, and in the long run, that’s better for me than unrealistically high praise.

TGP in the WSJ!

October 13, 2017

Hey, The Genius Plague was reviewed in the Wall Street Journal!  Here’s the review:

I think you need a subscription to read it, but here’s the best quote: “Walton has brought hard sci-fi roaring back to life.”


The Plague Is Spreading!

October 6, 2017

THE GENIUS PLAGUE is out!  I’m delighted to finally bring this book to all of you that I’ve had only in my head for so long.  I’m really pleased with this one.  If you want to know what it’s about, I think the best description of it is what I wrote on John Scalzi’s blog.  It’s available in trade paperback, e-book, or audio book versions, so take your pick!


The Genius Plague excerpt

September 30, 2017

Only three days left before the Plague starts spreading across the nation!  If you can’t wait that long, however, you can start reading right now.  I just posted an excerpt of the novel.

“A page-turner of the highest order.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Original and frightening.”
Publishers Weekly

“Beautifully done.”
—Mira Grant, New York Times–bestselling author of Feed

“A triumph from first page to last.”
—Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning author of Quantum Night

—Jack McDevitt, Nebula Award–winning author of the Alex Benedict and Priscilla Hutchins novels


Escape Velocity

September 4, 2017

I had a great time at the Escape Velocity convention in downtown Washington D.C. this weekend. I got to chat with Joe Haldeman for half an hour and then be on a panel with him (about Drones, AI, and Military SF). He was articulate, insightful, and brought a perspective to the topic of having fought in a war (Vietnam) because of a non-voluntary draft, because he didn’t want to go to prison. He also nailed a lot of the current issues with drone warfare when he wrote Forever Peace a good twenty years ago. (My 17-year-old daughter also got to sit and chat with Joe’s wife, who told her stories about when she and Joe started dating when they were both teenagers.)

I also briefly met Cas Anvar (who plays Alex Kamal in The Expanse), who was gracious and charming, saying how much he appreciated the storytelling skills of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck and their involvement in making The Expanse a high quality show. He also said it would be awesome to star in the Superposition TV show when it gets made, and I should tell them to give him a call. (This last was pure politeness — he doesn’t know me or the book, but it was still an awesome thing for him to say.)

I enjoyed all the other panels I was on, and those I attended, and appreciated that there was more of a serious science track than at a lot of the conventions I go to. And as always, enjoyed hanging out with old friends and meeting new ones!

Another shot at Hollywood

August 16, 2017

It looks like the SUPERPOSITION television series possibility is not quite dead yet. The big company that bought the option originally officially invested in it for a while, but ultimately decided not to renew let the rights revert to me.  However, the screenwriter who was working on the show (Harley Peyton, who was a principal writer for Twin Peaks back in the day) and the director (Jeremiah Chechik) still think it has promise, and want to take it and pitch it to studios directly. So we’re going forward with that.  Pitch season is coming up, and we’ll see if anyone bites. The chances are low, I think, but it could happen! Fingers crossed!