Tag: science fiction

Interview with a Starship Captain

Interview with a Starship Captain

I had an opportunity to interview Captain Thomas Jackson, captain of the Science Ship Maria Mitchell, currently assigned to retrieve an extended stay science team from Beta Hydri Four. He’s just come off a successful mission in the Eta Cassiopeia system where he and his crew of the Maria Mitchell stopped a centuries-old plague being fueled by a Pegasi privateer. Welcome, Captain Jackson.

Thank you. It’s nice to be here.

The pleasure is mine. I’ve had people asking me about you, your past, what makes you tick. I hope you don’t mind if some of these questions get a bit personal.

starship captain
Captain Thomas K. Jackson

I’ll let you know if you cross a line.

Great. So, Captain Jackson, you’ve been in the North American Space Administration for twenty some years now. What drove you to the stars so to speak?

I’ve always had a fascination with space, as long as I can remember. It seemed natural to go in that direction.

What did you study in college?

I’m an alum of Caltech, California Institute of Technology. My focus was aeronautics.  I met a friend, Dr. Scott Gregory, there, and he has been my ship’s astrophysicist for several years.

You’re from South California. Did you have a typical childhood?

We didn’t always live there, but after my younger sister was born we stayed put. I love the ocean. I spent every summer on the beach, camped on the beach, and I was a very strong swimmer. That’s how I ended up at Caltech. It’s still a private university, and I was awarded an athletic scholarship, on their swim team.

Is that why you joined the navy? You love the ocean?

I love flying. It was a means to an end, at least in the beginning.

So, Captain, what moved you to change from planes to rockets?

Just out of school, I was an intern, briefly, at the Jet Propulsion Lab, and went to Luna Colony on an assignment. Once you see the Earth from space, you are changed, forever. It’s indescribable. You can never go back to the ordinary again.

But you did.

I can’t say flying ion powered fighters off a carrier deck is ordinary, but I was in the navy until an accident ended my service.

Care to elaborate?

I had a mishap landing my vehicle on the deck and was injured.

Sounds like this is something in your past you would rather forget about.

You could say that, yes.

So, I’ll move on. You went from the navy to the space administration?

I joined the space program as a lieutenant but was bumped up to commander pretty quickly, then to captain. I left the navy as a captain so I was glad to have my rank again. Love a challenge, ordering people around (laughs). Not much more challenging than exploring deep space.

You were pretty young to be given a ship.

I took my first command in 2149. I was 37. That’s not so young. Just ask a teenager. Do you have a coffee service here?

The captain and I took a break and walked to the cafeteria for coffee.

So, back to the formal questions. Tell us, please, was there ever a major turning point in your life?

When I left the navy for the space program. And when I met my wife. And when I met my daughter.

Is there anything your parents did that you think significantly affected who you are today?

Absolutely. I suppose you want me to tell you what it is. My father is a dry alcoholic, but he was pretty wet when I was young. That will change the way you see things around you. Now my mother, she’s a gem. She insisted that I be friendly to everyone, to look for similarities, not differences. I think that serves me well, most of the time. I married a woman from another world, and that’s about as different as you can get.

Your wife, Rianya, is from Beta Hydri Four. She is the love of your life?

She is.

It must be difficult to captain a starship and have a family aboard. Are there other captains in the space administration with families?

I’m unique in that category. I dislike exposing them to the dangers, but we are all happier together. Missions are simply too long to be apart. There are dangers on Earth, as well. You can’t avoid life.

Indeed. What’s next, Captain? Do you still have any goals to reach for?

I’d like to see my daughter join me in space one day, not as a passenger, but as part of my crew.

If anyone can make it happen, it would be you. Thank you again for taking time to talk to us.

If you want more information, please click and enjoy!

A recent review

A recent review

Shameless plug: another 5 star review of Paradox. If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for? Click the picture and get the e-version instantly! Read it? Rate it! Read more stories with many of the same characters: Jackson, Quixote, Rianya, Bala, Lee, Watson, Bailey, Dukvita, the Kiians, and a new species coming up – the Zlogers!


If you long for the days of Gene Roddenberry’s soulful Star Trek, or hope the Avatar movie might one day become a reality, then you are in for a treat with H.S. Rivney’s Paradox: The Alien Genome. The suggestion of a genetic cure from the world beyond captivated my imagination, as did the author’s writing style. For me, the vivid, unique descriptions illuminated this space odyssey to movie-screen proportions. A healthy dose of dialogue keeps the pace at warp speed with lots of techie jargon. But what really impressed me was the author’s sophisticated scientific knowledge—I would believe her to be an astronaut or a physicist in a previous life to dream up the concepts presented throughout the novel. The author creates a totally convincing world from ecosystems to geology, animal species to alien beings. One graphic scene was tasteful, accurate and evocative. But there’s a touch of intrigue and danger, as well as a softer side to this story, too. A great ending wraps up this exciting futuristic journey after traveling back to a nostalgic era of Kirk, Spock, and Sulu— I highly recommend the ride!

Patti Cavaliere, author of 5 star rated “Looking for Leo”, click me!

Homochirality – the foundation of life

Homochirality – the foundation of life

This is interesting as hell if you are a geek. If you’re too busy ranting about the election, sitting in front of a game console, or watching soaps, go ahead and skip this post. For those of you still with me, we’re talking about the subject of my first novel, PARADOX. We’re talking about chemicals, DNA, atoms, and the forces that make the world go round.


The image above is the molecule LIMONENE. A molecule is a compound of atoms, remember, which are the smallest units of a single element. A center has the neutrons and protons, and in shells around the nucleus zing the electrons. Molecules, like atoms, are three dimensional things. Think of them as Tinkertoys, it helps.

Water is a molecule, made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. It is always the same no matter how it combines because the two hydrogen atoms always sit in the outermost shell of the oxygen atom. That will never change.

Most molecules are chiral. They can exist only if the atoms hook up together in the correct order at the correct electron. DNA is one of those molecules. You’ve all seen an illustration showing the twisting molecule, sometimes two meters long, all scrunched up into a microscopic package – it’s truly amazing. All biological DNA but for a few archaic bacteria twist to the right.

Huh? Thglow-dnae only way I can explain it is this: The strips of DNA in the foreground are spiraling down FROM the right in the picture. If you see a drawing of the strips in the foreground going left, it is drawn incorrectly. But that’s not what the post is about. What I want to explain is how it got like this and why it’s important. The geeky part is coming, hang in there.

IT MATTERS which way the thing goes, because if you take a look at the LIMONE molecule above, if it chirals to the left, (L or S) it smells and tastes like lemons. If it spirals to the right (R or D) it smells and tastes like oranges. The molecule cannot match up with it’s own mirror image in 3D. Your hands are like that. The palms can meet, but that is not because they are symmetric. If they were symmetric they would look the same from your viewpoint. Place one over the other in front of you (not palm to palm).They are not mirror images of each other.

Where am I going with this? Remember, salts, minerals, chemicals can and mostly are asymmetrical. All over the world with few exceptions (which I’ll theorize about shortly) amino acids spiral to the right and sugars spiral to the left. In a lab environment, we’ve created compounds that still spiral, but in both directions. Why in nature are these compounds homochiral, but heterochiral in the lab?

soupWhat mechanism drives the biological compounds to homochirality back in the prebiotic world? If you think back to our atoms and their electrons, could it be that a tiny (really tiny) bit of energy happened to pull the molecule a little one way or the other? It could have just as easily been to the left as to the right. This small imbalance in the two different enantiomers is real and in my humble opinion could have been the result of the direction of planetary motion. Earth revolves counterclockwise around the sun and its own axis. By considering the earlier Earth and its molten core, a bit of centrifugal motion may have been the magic ingredient to push biology one direction or another.

I’m at the really geeky part now. If this might be true, then it might be true that on Venus, which spins clockwise on its axis, lifeforms would have the opposite chirality. And here is something we don’t know. How long ago did Venus flip? Most likely, it was early on when the solar system was forming, and models suggest that it was hit by some planetessimal, possibly the fragment of which became Mercury. Another time for that avenue.

So, if Venus were not such a hot and hostile place, would we be able to eat vegetation that arose there or only if it formed before the planet was kicked over? Are the theoretical life forms on Venus opposite from Earthlings and does their DNA spiral left? Are there both biological creatures – those that developed before the collision and after? Wouldn’t it be a fantastic mission, to land on Venus, pick up some creatures, and find out which way they tick?darwin-soup-252x300

More fodder for my science fiction novels, Paradox is exactly this scenario. The planet around Beta Hydri suffered a collision with a space body and was turned upside down so that the sun rises in the west and sets in the east. And the first life forms to develop were similar to Earth – right enantiomer DNA until the planet changed, and then new life forms developed with left enantiomer DNA.

In the last 20 years or so, the classification of biological life forms has itself evolved, and now we have Daredevil Kooky Prince Charles On Friday Goes Surfing. Daredevil stands for DOMAIN, and further divides the kingdoms into Archaea, Bacteria, and Eukarya (this last one holds fungi, plants, and animal kingdoms).  Should we find such life forms, on Mars or one of Jupiter’s moons how will we classify them? Do they get their own Domain or Kingdom,  will they exhibit the D enantiomer or the L, and why? Finding life on another world is more than exciting, it’s an entirely new science to explore. A hundred years ago there was no job for the pizza delivery man. A hundred years from now, I guarantee we will have exobiologists answering these very questions.


23 Skiidoo

23 Skiidoo

Just what are chromosomes? You hear about them all the time these days, in the media and the internet. Are those 23 wiggly strips of DNA that cursed you through high school biology class exams even worth your time when groceries, soccer, kids, work, traffic, and family all take a piece of you already?

glow-dnaGenetic engineering is arguably the most significant single tool humans possess to change their future. It affects everything you can think of. Eradicating viruses, eliminating bacterial resistance, stopping birth defects, cleaning up polluted water, increasing crop yields, all on the radar in the genomic future of humans. I’d like to elaborate on each of those, but suffice to say the essay would become a text book.

I’m only thinking of the human condition for this little blog. Let’s take a look at just a couple chromosomes so the task is manageable. By the way, I want to plant an image in your mind of the correct direction of a helix. As you look at the right side of the drawing, the bands in the fore of the diagram should be as this diagram displays, from the right downward. Why? Because a molecule of DNA is a chiral molecule, and on Earth at least, amino acids twist to the right (most sugars, however, twist to the left, chirally speaking. This is an entirely separate subject). Take my word for it or you can go see a detailed explanation here.

So back to chromosomes. Note that the letter N is not part of the word chromosome, I just want to draw your attention to that if you need to write the word and your spell checker is asleep. A chromosome, of which we have 23 pairs, is a really, really, long, long, long, complex molecule of nucleic acids, perhaps two meters long in some cases, all curled up tight and folded over itself countless times. Some of these chromosomes have as many as 5000 base pairs, those little bars that cross from one side to the other. So let that sink in. A two meter strand of microscopic nucleic acids, thousands of them, all compressed so small that 46 of them fit inside the nucleus of a single cell. Tiny is an understatement. I’m not sure I can think of an appropriate word other than microscopic or quantum to impress upon the eency weenciness and complexity of such structures. Suffice to say, they’re really small.

what-is-down-syndrome1Genetic engineers have found a way to reduce the severity of mental retardation in children with an extra chromosome 21 (Down’s syndrome) if they are aware of the mutation and can intervene before 10 weeks when the neural pathways begin to develop. New technology allows doctors to use fragments of fetal DNA found in the mother’s blood to diagnose the condition so an amniocentesis or CVS doesn’t have to be performed (increasing chance of miscarriage), which by the way is performed too late to correct the issue. Although heart development and characteristic features are already set, the mental retardation that accompanies Down’s Syndrome can be significantly reduced offering these children a more traditional future of independence and community acceptance.

We should respect nature, but not fear our ability to reduce suffering and lifelong disabilities if the technology supports intervention. We also will find that we must define what is a disability and to what degree. Is total blindness a given fix but nearsightedness on the fence? How much of a disability is really a disability? Will gene manipulation one day be used in the everyday care of pregnancy that an engineer can fix incurable disorders or will the simply undesirable disorders also be up for grabs? As we wade into the shallow waters of the primordial gene pool, we should be excited, responsible, and consider as many angles as possible before we go over The Cliff of No Return.

Book Signing in Las Vegas

Book Signing in Las Vegas

Hi Sci Fi Friends,

If you live in or are visiting Las Vegas, Nevada, come and meet me! I’ll be at The 221 Restaurant and Bar inside the JW Marriott Resort (on 221 N. Rampart), Saturday, November 5th, from 1 to 4 pm, signing my newest release, PARADOX: The Alien Genome. Hope you can drop by! If you have a friend or two that enjoy Science Fiction, send them out to get an autographed copy. They’ll thank you for it!  As a bonus, if you get Paradox, you will get Dangerous: Gamma Ray Games as a free bonus e-book on the spot as a gift from me. If you want to contact me with questions or to say hello, just submit the form below.

paradoxTAGParadox is about the follies of genetic engineering and the serendipitous discovery on a last resort planet, 24 light years from Earth. Everything that is wrong for the shipwrecked humans is right for the disaster happening on Earth. Time is their foe, the native population of Beta Hydri Four becomes their foe, and some humans on Earth will do anything to get the miracle DNA, even if it means an innocent baby girl must die.




Assembling Authors (Got Books?)

Assembling Authors (Got Books?)

il-library-6This past weekend the Las Vegas Valley Book Festival braved the high winds and welcomed authors and bookworms to meet up with dozens of other authors and bookworms at the Historic 5th Street School in downtown Las Vegas. Under warm, sunny skies, white tents popped up and hundreds attended this annual gathering of talented story tellers to meet authors, hear seminars, and enjoy some company of like minded folk.
I met some lovely people and wanted to let you, my readers, know about them, and also say thank you to them for taking the time to speak with me about their daily lives as well as their projects and books.

Local Author Renee Jean had three books available: Rescue Me, Survivor, and Never Give Up. She donates proceeds from some of her books to charity, including a local battered women’s shelter, Shadetree, in Las Vegas, and a dog rescue called War Dogs in Chicago that rescues death row dogs and trains them go to homes of vets with PTSD. She’s a Goodreads Author so go visit her at Renee Jean.

Originally from Canada, Emergency Room doctor L. M. Bryant held out a book and asked me to touch it, which would surely make any person feel better! Yes, a  book in hand cures any malady. Her novel, Book of Birds, caught my eye as a historical fiction post WWII in Canada, of two orphaned girls struggling to adapt to their new lives. Go to LMBRYSKI and say hello to this talented author.

Another lovely author from Irvine, California, is Jessica Therrien. Her ‘Children of the Gods’ series are on my active bookshelf and are just waiting for me to get busy and crack them open. A supernatural race, Descendants, are struggling to live with Humans: Are the Descendants truly gods or are they a threat to humanity?  She and author Holly Kammier, author of Kingston Court, operate a publishing company run by authors that want to keep control of their works called Acorn Publishing. Go check out their works at Acorn Publishing.

I’m swamped with some good reading to do, but am still writing on the next book about Captain Thomas Jackson and his crew, Rianya from Beta Hydri Four, and Zalara who saved generations of humans with her unique DNA (Paradox: The Alien Genome)




Free Again by Popular Demand

Free Again by Popular Demand


Dangerous: Gamma Ray Games had a great debut and dozens of copies are now in the hot little hands of happy science fiction readers. Did you miss out? It’s coming up for FREE again, on October 22nd and 23rd. Take a needed break from the election madness and read about what happens when two alien races fight over the rights to a nuclear reactor – and it’s not even running on either of their own planets!

Remember: an E-Book can be read on ANY device, including your computer.

Gamma Ray Games  udp_kcp

Here’s a short excerpt: 

“I didn’t find any documentation for radiation sickness or illness attributed to the reactor,” Beth explained, opening two books across the table. “I found illustrated books on anatomy, and basic medicine, but it’s all mechanical and organic. No references to antibiotics or advanced surgical techniques like organ transplants or even vaccines, only plant extracts and such. And I hate to think about it: sutures and needles for closing lacerations,” she winced and drew her mouth into a flat line. Captain Thomas Jackson smiled at his field medic’s genteel aversion to the archaic medical technology then turned to his geologist.

“And the thorium?” he directed at Jamul.

“Well…um, Tom…” the young lieutenant began haltingly, glancing at the Cetian company in earshot, “there are a few manuscripts on minerals and elements. I didn’t have time to translate them fully.” He put his hands on a stack of geology books and then opened one. “Monazite sand is abundant here, especially this continent. The sands are mined for thorium, above ground, and the process isn’t difficult, not like uranium. Since thorium isn’t stand-alone ‘radioactive’ the mining it isn’t nearly so hazardous.”

“Well, that’s a start,” Jackson said. “I can’t find anything here on electricity except one book on theory, but nothing that would support Cetian technology on 20th century Earth level. I did some research on the trip out here, though. A thorium reactor produces electricity the same way a uranium fuel reactor does, but because the thorium can’t burn alone like uranium it has to be hit with a constant stream of neutrons. There’s a quick two-step decay process, then fission. If you turn off the neutrons, the process will stop. The fuel stops burning, like cutting off the oxygen to a fire. If for some reason it gets too hot, that heat melts a plug underground, and the molten salts surrounding the core drain off, and the process also stops. You can’t stop a uranium fuel reaction. It has to burn itself out.”

“So it can’t meltdown?” Beth asked.

“Yes,” Jamul answered, “but the failsafe is instant so the radiation damage is nominal. This all works at normal atmospheric pressure. And, most important, thorium can’t, reasonably, be made into nuclear weapons like uranium.”

“But, there is still some radioactive waste. And, now we’re left with a new question,” Jackson said. “If they aren’t making weapons from the thorium, why did Kiians put up a reactor here, in plain sight? And why a fission reactor? The Kiians are far more advanced than that. Why not a fusion reactor or better still a solar facility? And for that matter, why at all? Did the Cetians solicit or sanction it?” Jackson shook his head slowly and no one spoke for a few moments.

“Sir-um-Tom, so, why did Earth use uranium reactors if thorium was safer, easier to mine, less waste?” Beth asked. The two men looked at each other with little expression and then back at her.

“Weapons and politics,” Tom replied. “Uranium was used in weapons first, the Second World War, then as a power source. Testosterone ruled in the 20th century, and governments didn’t put up research money for just anything. War was profitable. Luckily that was short-lived, only a few major accidents over a hundred years and then we jumped to renewables.” He leaned on the table and glanced over the books. “What are Kiians getting from a thorium fission reactor they can’t get any other way? What is so valuable to warrant that…” he waved in the general direction of the reactor, “monstrosity?”

When they finished with the books to the limit of the translation reader they left the library with more questions than they’d answered. Tom took a last look at the map before they left to look for Quinaal.

“I hope you two studied your Cetian. It’s time we start speaking their language.”

“This is a charming town,” Beth said in a pidgin version of Cetian. “It’s like going back centuries in time. Everyone speaks the same language?”

“I imagine isolated populations speak their own language, like on Earth.”

“What are those?” Jamul asked and pointed to an ox-like animal harnessed to a wooden merchandise cart. The group paused to look at it.

“Didn’t see those the last time I was here,” Tom said. Perhaps half a kiloton, the animal appeared to be an awkward griffon but more primordial; it was less a mix of lion and eagle, more a mix of horse and a three horned chameleon-alligator. “Apparently, a Cetian beast of burden,” he stated. The lieutenant and the captain resumed their journey toward the metallurgist’s home when a moment later Beth screamed! The men spun about and saw the ensign sitting in the street, her hand bleeding copiously on the ground and on her garments.

Read More Read More

One Week Away

One Week Away

Next Monday September 26th, all day Monday, my novella Gamma Ray Games will be FREE
in the Amazon Kindle Store. You can read it on any device, no E-Reader necessary!
Tell a friend!
If you think a thorium reactor is harmless, think again.

 Get Your Copy Here
We’re over the hump!

We’re over the hump!

Placeholder ImageActually, I didn’t realize it was half way through the week until I checked on the Goodreads Giveaway – tomorrow is the last day to enter the give away for a signed paperback copy of Paradox: The Alien Genome. There’s over 200 requests, but the odds are better than average!

Speaking of Over the Hump – here in southern Nevada to the west of Las Vegas is a mountain range separating it from a rural town called Pahrump! They have a great little library there and I expect to be doing a reading there this fall. If you live in the land of Nye County, stay tuned and I’ll be updating when I know a firm date.

Also looking at doing a reading at the Neon Science Fiction Book Club here in Las Vegas. Again, no firm date, but wanted to give you something to think about. I’ll be visiting at the Vegas Valley Book Fair on October 15th downtown, but I was a bit too late for this year’s vendor list. Maybe next year I can make it!

Dangerous: Gamma Ray Games

And one more announcement. Dangerous: Gamma Ray Games will be FREE on Amazon Kindle one day this month, on Monday, September 26th. As always, it’s free to read if you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber. It’s a poolside read, just a couple of hours and it’ll give you a great introduction to Captain Thomas Jackson and some of his crew.

Contest – just one skill needed

Contest – just one skill needed


Hello Friends,

Sol seen from Titan
Sol seen from Titan

It’s another give away for Paradox – because the Amazon Give Away was a great success! This time you have to go to the Goodreads site and join for free, then you can enter all the book  give aways you want! All genres and authors, from one copy to a 100, try a new author and you might be surprised, and glad, you did. No risk, no money, just click that link above Saturn and enter.

By the way, Paradox is not the only available “read” – no time for a long novel? Check out my novella, 1/4 the size, 1/4 the price, currently available, Dangerous: Gamma Ray Games  at (yes) Amazon ($0.99).

One more reminder: If you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, read both for free! No contest needed!

Do you know a friend who might like a hard science fiction read for September? Intelligent readers wanted! No dystopia, no apocalypse, no invasion of Earth, but much in common with what we face today at home. Share this post with them. They’ll thank you if they win!