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The Dark Side of the Universe

September 27, 2016

2000px-dmpie_2013-svgTwo weeks from now, I will be appearing on Stanford University’s Philosophy Talk, a nationally-syndicated radio show that airs on 100+ stations around the country.  They’re doing a show on dark matter, the mysterious stuff that makes up most of the matter in the universe.  It’s a remarkable fact that, despite everything we’ve learned about the world around us, we still don’t know what most of it is made of.

The headliner for the episode will be an astronomy professor from Yale, who surely knows a lot more about dark matter than I do!  I was brought in as a science fiction writer with a passing familiarity with physics, to do a little fun speculation about what dark matter might be and how it might affect our lives in the future.

The show airs at 10:00 PST in San Francisco on Sunday, October 9.  Other stations around the country may air it at different times.


Voila Superposition!

September 15, 2016

It’s another release day for Superposition!  Today is the day the French translation of Superposition is being published in France.  Here’s the cover for the French edition, which I think is pretty stunning.  (Though, what is it with Superposition and bald people?  There are no bald characters, and yet somehow all the covers have no hair!)


Faith, Religion, and Respect in Clockwork Dagger and Breath of Earth

August 10, 2016

breathofearth_500x332I asked Beth Cato to visit my blog today and talk about how religion plays a role in her fantasy novels.  Not many authors are brave enough to try to give their characters religious views, but Beth has done so, both with real faiths and those of her own invention.  Beth’s novels The Clockwork Dagger and The Clockwork Crown are on sale for $1.99 and $2.99 right now, so it’s a great time to give them a try.  Her latest novel, Breath of Earth, will be released in just a few weeks, on the 23rd.

Here’s Beth, on faith, magic, and respect:

When I began to write my Clockwork Dagger novels, I knew I wanted my heroine to be a character of profound faith. At the time, it seemed like many of the fantasy books I was reading–and enjoying– had leads whose devotion to religion consisted of taking the Lord’s name in vain. Some were downright hostile to religion.

I created Octavia Leander as a different sort of heroine.  She’s a profoundly gifted magical healer whose power arises from the entity she worships, the Lady’s Tree; the gigantic world tree is regarded as mythical, even by other healers. In Octavia’s steampunk, non-Earth world, people acknowledge the power and usefulness of magic, but it’s considered backward. I took inspiration from how the Force is regarded in Star Wars Episode IV. The power of magic is acknowledged, but with an eye roll. Octavia is sadly accustomed to disrespect toward the Lady.

Through both books in my series, I put Octavia through her own version of the trials of Job. I wanted faith to be Octavia’s defining characteristic, even as circumstances cause her to despair and call out to the Lady in a full-on jeremiad. However she questions and doubts, Octavia still turns to the Lady for both gratitude and comfort. She doesn’t lose that part of identity.

I’ve had people ask me, why take this different angle?  Personal experience. This kind of faith is very real within my family (though not in regards to a gigantic world tree). I didn’t have to look far for examples for Octavia’s fortitude and devotion.

I took a different approach with my new book, Breath of Earth. Unlike Clockwork Dagger, this new series is set on Earth: an alternate version of 1906, with America and Japan allied as a world power with China in their crosshairs. My heroine, Ingrid Carmichael, is a geomancer who can contain and use the energy that flows from the earth during quakes. In order to set her apart from Octavia, I wrote Ingrid as a woman who acknowledges God, but is not an active practitioner in any faith.

She has grown up in a world with different religious dynamics, too. Japan has had a heavy influence on San Francisco and American society as a whole, with Buddhism and Shintoism becoming more prevalent. Christianity has likewise worked more into Japanese society. Mythological creatures are not so mythological– just hidden or rumored to be extinct– meaning many other faiths are also touched on throughout the course of the book.

In Clockwork Dagger, I established my own religion, and that gave me tremendous freedom as a writer. In Breath of Earth, I had to pause and think through everything with care. After all, I was writing about “folktale” entities that are not folktales to some. They are real beings who should be respected.

However, as a writer, this also made things tricky. I, as the author feel one way, but my characters exist in a world full of biases and privilege. I needed to be true to my book’s time period. This made for a delicate balancing act, no question– and I’m sure readers will let me know if I err. That’s okay by me.

The Golden Rule is essential here. My fictional characters, like Octavia, ask for respect for their faith; it’s all the more essential for people of the real world to be accorded with proper respect for their beliefs as well.

BethCato-steampunk-headshot100x150Beth Cato is the author of the Clockwork Dagger series from Harper Voyager, which includes her Nebula-nominated novella WINGS OF SORROW AND BONE. Her newest novel is BREATH OF EARTH. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat. Follow her at and on Twitter at @BethCato.

The Genius Plague… sold!

August 5, 2016

I’m delighted to announce that THE GENIUS PLAGUE is finally under contract!  Two publishers wanted it, and although “bidding war” would be an overly dramatic description, they were both willing to increase their offers and make concessions on terms in order to get the book.  When the dust settled, it was the incumbent, Pyr Books, that won the day–the same good folks that published SUPERPOSITION and SUPERSYMMETRY.  They’re great people, very enthusiastic about my work, and I’m thrilled to be working with them again.  Hopefully, I’ll have a release date to announce soon, and we can get it out on the shelves!

The cover art has not, of course, been created yet, but here’s a poor author’s concept of what it could look like:


Superposition E-book Mixup

July 26, 2016

If you recently bought the Superposition e-book, you may have gotten a surprise.  When you opened the book, you found not Superposition, but the sequel, Supersymmetry!  Not only that, but a few pages in, the book stopped suddenly.  End of book.  What’s going on?

The answer is simple.  The entire text of Superposition is there, plus an excerpt of Supersymmetry.  If you reset the book back to the beginning, you’ll find it’s all there, just as it’s supposed to be.  It was a small glitch, apparently–I think in the Kindle version only–that set the book pointer at the end of the book instead of the beginning.

Happy reading!

Superposition is a Kindle Daily Deal!

July 17, 2016

For one day only (today!), Superposition is a Kindle Daily Deal, which means it’s on sale in all e-reader formats (not just Kindle) for only $2.99.  Now, if you’re reading this blog, chances are you’ve already read Superposition.  But your friends, or their friends, might not have!  If you enjoyed the book, and think someone else might, please spread the word!  A quick social media mention can make a big difference.  When you do, keep an eye on Amazon’s Top 100 in Science Fiction and watch the book move.  Terminal Mind made it up to #5 once, but Superposition has never broken the top 10.  I’m hoping today will be the day!

“Today only, quantum physics science fiction thriller Superposition, by David Walton, is on sale for $2.99!


When Spooky Action Comes in Threes

July 8, 2016

A fan wrote me today and asked about a passage from Superposition, in which a character explains quantum entanglement using coins as an analogy.  He asked: What if there were three coins instead of two?  I enjoyed writing up the answer, so I thought I’d post a portion of it here:

In the analogy, I gave my “particles” a binary attribute (heads or tails) to show their relationship in an easy, intuitive way.  In real life, entangled particles are produced such that they each share a part of some initial value.  For instance, one particle decays into two smaller particles, and the attributes of the two smaller particles have to add up to the attribute of the original one.  You don’t know what the values are, but once you know one value, you know the other one for sure.  So, yes, you can entangle three (or more) particles, though it’s harder to do.  Which just means that there will be some value (or set of values) that connect them, because of how they were made.
So to relate it back to the coins, if you had two impressions of side A of the coin, and one impression of side B, and you looked at the B-side impression and saw heads, then you would know that both of the other impressions were tails.  If you looked at one of the side-A impressions and saw heads, then you would know that the other side-A impression was heads, and the side-B impression was tails.  In all cases, the particles are entangled, which means that the values are related, such that if you determine one, you know the others.  But because of quantum uncertainty, the values aren’t actually determined until you measure it.  (Which is the bit demonstrated by the double slit experiment.)
It may seem as if this would allow for faster-than-light communication, since the entangled particles clearly pass information faster than the speed of light.  (This is the concept behind the ansible, as referenced in novels by Ursula K. LeGuin and Orson Scott Card.)  But it actually can’t work that way.  There’s no way to control the values, so there’s no way for a human to pass information that way.  It could, however, be a fantastic one-time pad for encryption purposes.  If I have a set of entangled particles, and you have the matching set, then I can use the first N values of mine to encrypt a message and send it to you.  When you receive the message, you use the first N values of yours to decrypt the message, and voila.  Encryption no one can break, with a key that no one else could possibly have a copy of, since the values weren’t even determined until I encoded my message.  As long as no one has stolen your cache of entangled particles, our messages are safe.
All this stuff is what makes quantum mechanics fun!  And also, crazy and mind-blowing.  Thanks for reading!