Friday, 30 October 2015

A conversation about Science Fiction and Gothic Literature

A Conversation with Helena Puumala, author of the Kati of Terra and Witches’ Stones Series

October 28, 2015 Garneau Pub, Edmonton, Alberta

Part Twenty-Two –Science Fiction and Gothic

Question – Last time we talked about “How evil should your villain be?”.  With Halloween almost upon us, it might be interesting to discuss the how Science Fiction, Fantasy and Gothic (Horror) interrelate.  What do you think is a good example of a Science Fiction/Gothic crossover, assuming that such a beast exists.

Answer – The obvious classic example is Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein.  The story about creating a live creature by animating dead flesh has both Science Fiction elements and Gothic elements, in as much as it uses the imagery of science (e.g. laboratories, electrical devices, a learned main character), but also the imagery of the Gothic (e.g. castles, a gloomy atmosphere, religious overtones, a general sense of dread and decay).

Question – So, basically the tropes of what might be called Victorian Gothic.

Answer – Yes, but interestingly enough, the book’s concluding chapters lead to the Arctic icefields.  At the time that Shelly wrote the book (1820s I think),  little was known about the Arctic and less about the Antarctic.

Question – For all they knew, ants lived in the Antarctic.

Question – Um, sure.  But the section of the book set in the Arctic, can quite reasonably be thought of as incorporating more of the American Gothic motif.  She wrote Frankenstein well before Edgar Allen Poe was published (1830s), so she could be considered ahead of her time in that respect as well.

Question – I might just note for the sake of some blog readers, that the Hollywood version of Frankenstein differs quite substantially from Mary Shelley’s book.  But in some senses, it is the story that most people know better.  So, feel free to call up memories of the book or the movie, as the case may be – they both have legitimate claims on being “the story”, in the popular mind.

What aspects of Frankenstein do you consider American Gothic?

Answer – Well, having recently studied the wiki entry on this, I would say that one key difference between the two sub-genres is that American Gothic often places its characters in raw nature, such as Shelly placed Dr. Frankenstein and his monster at the end of the book.  That differs from Victorian or German Gothic, which tends to be set in castles, abbeys, or other old, threatening, decaying buildings.  But the overall sense of dread and foreboding is common to both.

Question – And what aspects of Frankenstein do you consider Science Fiction?

Answer – Obviously, putting a creature together from human parts, then animating it with electricity, was a very “current” scientific idea of the time (excuse the pun).  But it can also be thought of as a scientized way of conjuring a spirit.  And the very fact that the main character, Victor Frankenstein is a young science student, is a standard trope of Science Fiction. But he can also be paralleled with the Gothic genre’s “religious figure gone wrong”.  So, Frankenstein can be thought of as classic Science Fiction, in as much as it made use of scientific knowledge and speculation of the day, but pushed that to a logical extreme, which infuses it with Gothic elements.  You can read the story either way.

Question – As you say, the idea of animating dead flesh with electricity was very much on the minds of scientists of the day.  It wasn’t that long after Galvani’s experiments, where he made the muscles of dead frogs twitch via stimulating them with electricity. But, as we know, re-animating the dead is now considered extremely unlikely, other than perhaps the paddles used to resuscitate heart attack victims.  But who knows what the future holds – there are a few bodies in cryogenic chambers, put there on the assumption that science will one day crack that nut.

What other Gothic have you read?

Answer – I have to admit, Gothic and Horror are not really my thing.  But I have read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and various pulp fiction type Gothic books as a kid.  Some Stephen King.  Harry Potter, if you want to consider that Gothic.  You have to like scaring yourself to really enjoy Gothic, and that’s not to everyone’s taste.

Question – I have seen you jump at the scary scenes of an X-files or Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, so I can attest to the fact that you scare pretty easily, at least while engrossed in a television show.

Answer – I suppose that’s part and parcel of being a certain type of writer.  I think a fairly strong sense of empathy is needed to create fully rounded characters.  You share their emotions as you create them, so it’s not surprising when you can also get caught up in the plight of movie or TV characters in peril.

Question – Even though you are not a big fan of Gothic, I think you have incorporated some of the tropes of the genre in your own work.  For example, the character Chrush, in Kati of Terra Book 3, is pretty Gothic.  He wants to prolong his life at the expense of others, as many characters in Gothic literature have, the obvious example being the vampire sub-genre.

Answer – That’s true, though Chrush does get his comeuppances.

Question – As did Dracula.  You also use some of the atmospheric imagery of the Gothic genre in Kati of Terra.

Answer – I suppose the Citadel in Kati 3, and the prison cellars in Kati 2, would qualify in that way.  And Kati’s having to traverse River City’s sewer system at night in Kati 1 is also kind of Gothic.

Question – And you used a fair bit of religious imagery in Kati 1 – for example, The Children of the Survivors, The Temple of the Morning Star of the Spring Equinox, the Temple District in River City.  Those are all pretty Gothic.

Answer – I suppose, though I was thinking that after a planet went through an environmental catastrophe, as the Drowned Planet did, a lot of religious movements would naturally spring up.  So, I wasn’t really intending it to come off as Gothic, though as you say, there are connections.

Question – So, all things considered, did you consciously use Gothic archetypes in your Science Fiction?  Or did it just happen?

 Answer – I would say that I didn’t set out to include Gothic elements, but one is a captive of one’s culture, so you can end up using these things unconsciously. 

Question – Just to close off, let me ask you about your short story “Beyond the Blue Door”.  That seems like very much a classical “American Gothic” story.

Answer – Yes, in fact my working title as I wrote it was “Northern Gothic”.  But that seemed a bit too general, so it was changed.  At any rate, it was a writer’s experiment.  Sometimes you want to dabble a bit, try out different ideas and explore other themes.  You might have an idea or an emotional context that you want to experiment with, and it might not be a good fit for your usual genre.  So, you stretch yourself a bit, and write in a different genre.

That’s the nice thing about the short story – you can do that, without investing the time and intellectual resources of the full-length novel.  If it works, you can attempt to incorporate similar ideas into your usual genre.  Or, you can pivot to a different genre, at least for a while.  It helps keep you fresh, or at least you hope it does.

Question – “Beyond the Blue Door” concludes without solving the mystery, exactly.  What do you think about that.

Answer - Often in Science Fiction, there is the tendency to explain away the mystery, via advanced technology.  That has its place, certainly.  It can be fun and intellectually satisfying. 
But in some ways, it is best to be like “Beyond the Blue Door”.  You have to leave the issue open.  Otherwise, you cheat the reader out of the mystery.

Question  - And some questions can have no conclusive answer, no explanation can be satisfying enough.

Answer – Just so.  Sometimes you don’t want or need closure.  You want to leave it up to the reader’s imagination to find their own closure.

Question – As always, it is up to the reader.  And that seems like a good place to stop, shortly before Halloween.

And here are links to some of Helena’s books that were mentioned in the conversation:

Kati of Terra, Book 1, Escape from the Drowned Planet  (where we meet the evil slaver Gorsh and his associates):
Kati of Terra, Book 2, On Assignment to the Planet of the Exalted (wherein a whole planet's elite has become corrupt and evil, with the help of Gorsh):
Kati of Terra, Book 3, Showdown on the Planet of the Slavers (Gorsh, and his yet more evil ally Chrush):

Beyond the Blue Door (free on Amazon for Halloween): 

And speaking of Frankenstein, here is an XKCD comic on that very subject.


Tuesday, 27 October 2015

The Magnetic Anomaly, a Science Fiction Gothic story, free on Amazon over the Halloween week

The Magnetic Anomaly, a Science Fiction Gothic story, is free on Amazon over the Halloween week (Wednesday Oct 28 to Sunday Nov 1, 2015).  The regular price is 99 cents.


It is a crossover SF/Gothic story, appropriate for Halloween reading, about a mysterious encounter in the far north.  Here's a summary:


An attractive woman in a blue suit handed a dossier to an older man in a blue uniform.

“Give me a quick recap”, he said.

“A geophysical crew went into the Canadian north. There were some regrettable accidents among a few ex-military who had become geophysical contractors after their service in the forces. A young man and young woman went temporarily mad from the stress of seeing that. They imagined things, terrible things. But both are known to have vivid imaginations; we have childhood records to verify that. It was all very sad. That’s the official story.”

He raised an eyebrow. “And unofficially?”

“Unofficially,” she responded, “I think we just woke something up that had been asleep for a very long time.”
This is a short story of about 6500 words, or about 35 to 45 minutes reading time, for typical readers.

Halloween story "Beyond the Blue Door", free over the Halloween week on Amazon

Halloween story "Beyond the Blue Door", free this week on Amazon

With Halloween approaching, Helena Puumala's Gothic tale "Beyond the Blue Door" is free this weekend on Amazon (Wednesday Oct 28 to Sunday Nov 1).


Here's a tale of a haunted house, of a sort. Really, two haunted houses are involved. But where does the greater evil reside - in the safe family domicile of our everyday world or in the creepy old abandoned farmhouse? And then there’s the question that we must all face eventually. What lies Beyond The Blue Door?

Note that this is a short story of about 7000 words, or a reading time of 30 to 45 minutes.

Amazon U.S.:
Amazon UK:
Amazon Canada:
Amazon Australia:
Amazon Germany:
Amazon Japan:

And here's a review by a Top 1000 (#610) Amazon Reviewer:

Sunday, 25 October 2015

A nicely written Amazon review of "Beyond the Blue Door"

Here's a nicely written review of "Beyond the Blue Door", by a major, well regarded Amazon reviewer.  Helena Puumala always does strive to make her characters real people that the reader cares about.  It's what she considers the most important job of a writer - well, that and a good story. :)

Links to "Beyond the Blue Door"

Link to Helena Puumala's Author Page

I hope the reviewer (shown below) doesn't mind the mention on our blog.  Needless to say, we don't know the reviewer and didn't solicit the review, though a well written review is always appreciated by a writer.

Friday, 23 October 2015

How Evil Should Your Villain Be?

Conversation with Helena Puumala, author of the Kati of Terra and Witches’ Stones Series
October 1, 2015 Garneau Pub, Edmonton, Alberta
Part Twenty-One – How Evil Should Your Villain Be?
Question – Today, we are going to discuss that great necessity in fiction, the antagonist, or source of conflict, and how that relates to story. First off, let me just say that I am going to use terms like “villain” instead of “antagonist”, and “evil” instead of “antagonist’s motivation”. I know that’s not the jargon taught in English classes, but for much genre writing, especially Science Fiction and Fantasy it is generally appropriate and usually very descriptive.
Answer – I am comfortable with that language, preferring to write genre fiction over literary fiction, anyway.
Question - Ok. So, talking to one of your beta readers this week, I noted that she thought that your villains, especially in the Kati of Terra series, were scary and evil, and ultimately got what was coming to them. I was a bit surprised, because sometimes I thought that your villains could stand to be a little more flat-out evil. What do you make of that?
Answer – Well, I guess it shows how differently readers interpret story and character. A writer has to write character as truthfully as she can, and accept that the reader will always have the final say.
Question - That seems right - the reader is the co-creator of any story, as he or she experiences it. What are your main considerations, when you come up with your villains?
Answer – One thing that I try to do, is to keep my villains “human-sized”. I don’t usually care for psychotic super-beings that have the irrational desire to destroy the universe, or things of that nature, though that can make for a pretty engaging Doctor Who episode. I think that keeping my villains within the realm of human understanding makes my villains more frightening. When I was creating my villains, I wanted to bring something to life that was possible, though perhaps pushed to some logical extreme.
Question - Well, that’s interesting. Some might say that keeping your villains in the realm of the possible, makes them less frightening.
Answer – True. People respond to “scale of evil” differently. For some, the really heavy evil that destroys universes can seem almost comical, because they can’t take the notion seriously. Others measure evil by the scale of the damage it can do, so the greatest evil is the one that creates the greatest damage.
Question - In history that would seem true. I think that most people would agree that Hitler was a bigger villain than Jack the Ripper.
Answer – True, but I think fiction plays by a different set of rules than reality. It’s a more private realm. A villain, whether human or alien, that is motivated by greed or lust, or similar understandable motivations, is a being that we can relate to, since we meet people like that in real life. Indeed, there are times we share those feelings of the villain, if only for fleeting moments. Fortunately most people don’t have much capacity to act on their bad urges, though.
Question - Lucky for us. That seems to raise another central point about the villain. The very “humanity” of a villain like Gorsh (a sometimes hen-pecked husband, who is also a greedy and violent slaver) or Krush (a frightened old man, who is also a life-sucker) can make them oddly sympathetic. At the same time, though, it makes us recoil from them. The very fact that we can understand some aspects of their character, magnifies their evil it in our eyes.
Answer – I should note that I didn’t set out to emphasize some kind of moral paradox, when I created my villains. I just wanted to ensure that Kati and Mikal had worthy adversaries. They are foils, if you like, because all good adventurers need an evil opponent that can really test them.
Question - Ah, so we did drag in some English lit jargon,
Answer – You can’t always help yourself.
Question - The other thing about villains, is that in the vast majority of stories, at least of the genre variety, the villain kicks off the action. The decent hero would just go about his or her normal life, if it wasn’t for the villain doing something villainous.
Answer – In the Kati books, everything begins with Gorsh’s abduction of Kati, in his quest to exploit human beings for the furtherance of his private gain. It is the sin of greed that is the initiating force, and in a sense the driving force, behind the narrative. Similarly, in the Witches’ Stones books, it is the lust for galactic political power on the part of The Organization that threatens Sarah, and her society in general.
Question - Do you think that the initiating event, the evil that kicks things off, defines the level of evil that the story will include overall? Or can little evils lead to great evils?
Answer – I think that the early choices, especially the unconscious early choices, do set the tone of a story. But, it’s not that simple or linear; when I started Kati 1 with the evil men do for greed, I didn’t know that it would culminate with Krush, with the evil that men can do in their desire to extend their life indefinitely, to cheat death.
Question - Which allows me to segue into the notion of natural evil versus supernatural evil, although you may want to phrase it differently.
Answer – I might use the term “non-natural” rather than supernatural.
Question - It’s a less loaded term. In any case, Gorsh simply desires money and power, which you might say is the essence of natural evil.
Answer – It’s also the essence of our economic system, which is interesting to think about.
Question - Yes, Gorsh is capitalism writ large and unconstrained, until he meets up with Kati, Mikal and friends.
Answer – And Star Federation justice.
Question - Just so. But Krush represents something deeper and more frightening. He wants the unattainable and the twisted: unending physical life. He wants to cheat death. Any evil is excusable in his eyes, as it is in the service of defying death, humanity’s greatest evil.
Answer – It is the very epitome of what can go wrong when you let the ends justify the means.
Question - And yet, deep down, we have a twinge of sympathy for both Gorsh and Krush. We understand their motives, even as we recoil from their actions.
Answer – And that is probably what makes them so disturbing, even though I didn’t consciously set out to explore some sort of moral lesson. What was in my conscious mind, was simply to keep the evil on a human scale, in the service of a good story.
Question - And by humanizing evil, you make it more monstrous.
Answer – As Pogo said, “we have met the enemy and he is us.”
In Part 2, we will discuss the villain further, and the notion of evil in Science Fiction and Fantasy. We will also compare and contrast the SFF genre and the Gothic or horror genre, and talk about some examples that crossover, between those genres, whether fully or partially. With Halloween approaching, that seems fitting.
Here are links to some of Helena's books, with evil villains:
Kati of Terra, Book 1, Escape from the Drowned Planet  (where we meet the evil slaver Gorsh and his associates):
Kati of Terra, Book 2, On Assignment to the Planet of the Exalted (wherein a whole planet's elite has become corrupt and evil, with the help of Gorsh):
Kati of Terra, Book 3, Showdown on the Planet of the Slavers (Gorsh, and his yet more evil ally Chrush):

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

A Halloween stigmata story, Free on Amazon this week - The Boathouse Christ

For Halloween, a story about the intersection of the natural and supernatural.  Free, on Amazon, Wed Oct 21 to Sun Oct 25.


A teenage girl inadvertently materializes the image of a Christ on the Cross on the outside wall of her parents’ boathouse, at their cottage on a Northern Ontario lake. She spends hours praying to the figure while her parents and their neighbors express their distress. Then it is discovered that the girl, Terese, also has marks on her body, recreating the wounds of the Christ.
What is to be done?

Discover what happens as the uncanny events unfold, during one week in October, which just happens to include Halloween.

This is a short story of approximately 6000 words. 


Wednesday, 14 October 2015

"Northern Gothic Stories" on Kindle Countdown

The short story collection "Northern Gothic Stories" is in Kindle Countdown this week.  The six stories include some science fiction, some supernatural mysteries, and some crime fiction.

Amazon U.S.
Amazon UK:


Halloween story "Beyond the Blue Door", free this week on Amazon

With Halloween approaching, Helena Puumala's Gothic tale "Beyond the Blue Door" is free this weekend on Amazon (Wednesday Oct 14 to Sunday Oct 18).


Here's a tale of a haunted house, of a sort. Really, two haunted houses are involved. But where does the greater evil reside - in the safe family domicile of our everyday world or in the creepy old abandoned farmhouse? And then there’s the question that we must all face eventually. What lies Beyond The Blue Door?

Note that this is a short story of about 7000 words, or a reading time of 30 to 45 minutes.

Amazon U.S.:
Amazon UK:
Amazon Canada:
Amazon Germany:

Friday, 9 October 2015

New Horizons Pluto Presentation by Alan Stern at University of Alberta

New Horizons Pluto Presentation by Alan Stern at University of Alberta

On Monday Oct 5, 2015, Dr. Alan Stern, the head of NASA’s New Horizons Pluto probe did a talk at the University of Alberta.  It was enormously well attended and well received.  Here are some of my notes from the presentation, in point form.


The Speaker

·         Dr. Stern has a PhD in astrophysics and planetary science.  He has Masters degrees in aerospace engineering and planetary atmospheres.  Plus, of course, a B.Sc..
·         He is also involved in some private space ventures, including Golden Spike, which is a private venture with the ambition of returning to the moon.
·         Since boyhood, he always wanted to do space science.
·         Among other things he has:
o   Done scientific work at the south pole.
o   Flew high performance jets for high altitude research.
o   Been involved in 26 space missions (including the shuttle).
o   Been involved in many planetary missions.
o   Still considers the Pluto mission to be the one that stands out the most.


Getting Funding for the Mission

·         The New Horizons Pluto fly-by came 50 years to the day after the first Mariner fly-by of Mars.
·         Pluto, of course is the last planet to be visited, while Mars was the first.
·         There has been a widespread desire for a NASA mission to visit Pluto for decades, at least since the 1990’s.  Funding has always been an issue, of course.
·         Even without good photos of Pluto (the best one until New Horizons was from Hubble, and it showed only a small number of pixels), there was general agreement that Pluto would be a very interesting object.
·         As more was learned about the Kuiper Belt (Dr. Stern used the pronunciation “Kwipper”), it was realized that Pluto was the prime example of a whole new class of Kuiper Belt objects, rather than an oddball “midget” planet, far off in isolation in the distant reaches of the solar system.
·         Gerard Kuiper, in 1951, had theorized that there should be a zone in the outer solar system from whence many comets originated.
·         In 1988 a team of Canadian researchers (Duncan, Quinn, Tremaine) established conclusively that there must be a Trans-Neptunian belt, where short-period comets originated.
·         Kuiper Belt objects then  began to be discovered – 1 in 1992, 4 by 1993, 10 by 1194, over 1500 now.
·         In fact, it is now considered likely that there are more Pluto sized planets than “regular” planets, as well as billions of comets and hundreds of thousands of “planetoids”.
·         All of this gave impetus to a Pluto mission, now that it was realized that it could teach us much about this new aspect of our solar system.
·         Many programs were advanced, but New Horizons was finally given the green light in 2003.
·         The spacecraft had to be designed an launched within 50 months of getting the go-ahead, in order to catch the launch window that would allow the Jupiter fly-by gravity assist.  The timelines were tight, but they did it (obviously).
·         They also did it within budget, or at least pretty nearly so.  Note that their budget was only 20% of that allowed for the Voyager mission.

The Spacecraft


 Photo from JPL New Horizons
·         The New Horizons spacecraft only weighs about 1000 pounds or 450 kilograms.  That’s about the size of a baby grand piano.  Voyager was much bigger.
·         Its plutonium powered generator put out about 250 watts at launch (that’s about the same as a solar panel on my garage).  It’s now down to about 200 watts.
·         By the 2030’s, the power will probably have decayed to a level that is too low to maintain communications with Earth.
·         Its instrumentation is small, but has a lot more “firepower” than Voyager’s did, due to advances in computer science, miniaturization, etc.  That’s one reason that so much can be done with only 200 or so watts of electricity.
·         There are seven science instruments in all, including cameras, spectrometers, telescopes, dust counters, and plasma instruments.
·         As an example of technological change, a spectrometer on Voyager had 1 pixel.  A similar instrument on New Horizons has 64,000 pixels.


The Launch


Photo from NASA media archives site
·         In January 2006, the spacecraft was launched with an Atlas 5 rocket, the largest currently available (over 70 meters in height).  It has 5 rocket motors, each about 25 meters long.
·         The rocket that propelled New Horizons out of Earth orbit gave it a 14 gee kick (an acceleration of about 140 meters per second per second).
·         It took 9 hours to cover the Earth-moon distance, Apollo took several days.
·         This made it the fastest launch speed ever.
·         After that, it got a further speed-up, via a gravitational assist from a Jupiter fly-by, in Feb 2007.  The spacecraft steals a little bit of Jupiter’s angular momentum, and gets accelerated in the process.
·         Some good science was done during the Jupiter fly-by.  This also allowed testing of various spacecraft instruments, navigation and so forth.
·         Then, the spacecraft hibernated for 8 years.  Mission personnel used this hiatus to do extensive planning and scenario testing.


The Pluto Fly-by

:Photo from NASA mission pages
·         In January of this year, New Horizons was awakened.
·         Some mid-course corrections were done, star field photos were taken for navigation, etc.
·         By April, the images of Pluto and Charon began to exceed those that Hubble had taken.
·         The fly-by, of course, occurred on July 14 (my wife’s birthday). 
·         The fly-by was fast, a matter of hours at closest approach.  So, a lot of science was done in a short time, which required a lot of computer memory.  The need to pivot the ship as it passed Pluto-Charon made it temporarily out of contact, so that also necessitated storing a lot of data.
·         Thus far, only about 10% of the data has been transmitted to Earth.
·         New data comes in daily, via the deep space tracking network.  So, new things are constantly being discovered.  Multiple experts pour over the data, from geophysicists, to particle scientists, to astrophysicists, to … well, lots of different specialties.
·         Spoiler alert: Dr. Stern hinted that a big discover was in the pipeline for later this week.


New Findings about Pluto and Charon

Photo from NASA mission pages
·         We now have good pictures of all of these:
o   Pluto: 2400 km.
o   Charon (big moon): 1200 km.
o   Nix (little moon): 50km.
o   Hydra (little moon): 50km.
·         Nix and Hydra are cratered, very bright (ice?), not round (too small).
·         Charon
o   Has a world spanning canyon.
o   The north pole is dark (tholins, a sort of nitrogen?).
o   Some craters have dark ejecta, some light.
o   Charon has a complex geology.
·         Pluto, “the other red planet”
o   Note that NASA has a 64 meg photo that you can download.  This has surface detail down to 100 meters in size.
o   “The Heart” (Tombaugh Reggio) is the biggest and brightest feature.
o   Pluto has an unexpectedly hazy, high atmosphere, which could be seen well in the photos taken after the fly-by, back towards the sun.
o   Mountains are present, which was something of a surprise.  They show that the layer of nitrogen ice must be quite thin (nitrogen ice won’t support much weight, so if the nitrogen layer was thick there would be very subdued surface relief).
o   At minus 200 Celsius, water ice is hard as steel.  It could “build mountains”.  The nitrogen ice is just a frosting on the water ice.
o   The surface features dendritic patterns (like river valley systems on Earth).  So, some fluid must have flowed in the past, when the atmosphere was thicker.
o   Some ice fields feature “ovoids”, which would indicate convection cells in the ice (something like bubbles in porridge, but happening on a glacial time scale).  So, there must still be a heat source under the surface, contrary to what theory had predicted.
o   Sputnik Planum has no craters, indicating that the surface has been “re-done” in the recent (by geologic scales) past.  Again, this indicates that there must be a heat source.
o   As Dr. Stern put it, “Pluto’s engine is still running”.
o   There are other geological features (some huge) that were not expected.  The same is true for Charon.
o   Some parts of Pluto and Charon are similarly coloured, a sort of red.  Is the same process at work?  Have they exchanged matter somehow?
o   Pluto may have a subsurface ocean.  Data that may help establish whether or not that is the case has not been downloaded yet (but what about Thursday?  Much speculation about that announcement in the audience.  Could it be the water announcement?).
o   If so, there is always a chance of life.
o   The heat source is perhaps the biggest surprise.  Nobody has come up with an explanation.
o   The mutual gravitation of Pluto and Charon shouldn’t be responsible, since they are now tidally locked (though “a lot of smart people” have tried to make that work).
o   Later note regarding the Thursday announcment: Pluto’s sky is blue and there is water ice on the surface.


Media Response

·         A huge media response, as we know.
·         People love exploration, especially the idea of “first contact” with an entirely new planet.
·         Perhaps this will create political pressure for another mission to the Kuiper Belt (or beyond).


After the Fly-by

From JPL Where is New Horizons
·         New Horizons is on its way to a small (about 50 km) Kuiper Belt body.
·         It is expected that it will make a close approach on Jan 1, 2019.
·         The spacecraft will eventually leave the solar system.
·         It should be healthy until the 2030’s at least, based on the decay time of the plutonium in its electrical generator.  So, we should be getting feedback about the outer solar system for decades.
·         There are many other fascinating Kuiper Belt Objects which ought to be explored.  No doubt they would hold surprises for us.
All in all, it was a great talk.  And I have a shirt just like the one he wore under his jacket, so the man has style!  :) 

And here’s a link to the livestream of the presentation:

And here's a link to a Dodecahedron books SF book, which involves lots of space travel, since my social media prof said you should always include a link to your book.  Besides, all work and no play makes for a dull scientist: