A Biot’s Odyssey – A science fiction novel by Alex Binkley to be published this fall

A Biot’s Odyssey, a sequel to Humanity’s Saving Grace, is set 30 years after Earth’ first contact with the Beings, another species living in the Milky Way. The main characters in the new story are the biological robots developed by the Beings. The Biots are coming to terms with their development into an independent species through the evolution of their predictable programing into individual personality traits similar to those of humans and Beings.

The Biot Genghis is serving on a transport starship when it encounters a mysterious derelict space craft. He succeeds in boarding it and after he’s joined by four more Biots, the craft powers up and takes off with them. As they explore the craft they discover nine shutdown robots. It travels to a rundown space station where a few functional robots greet them. Unknown to them, the Beings send much of their fleet of Galaxyships after the runaway craft.

The robots were built by a species called the Secunds whose civilization on seven planets has been nearly wiped out in attacks the survivors blame on their rivals the Dublos. Genghis, Kelsey, the first Biot to command a Fleet Galaxyship, and Woodsy, a maverick robot, discover the Dublo worlds were attacked at the same time as the Secunds and set out to find the aggressor.

For more information, check out the first chapter.


Our Story, a review of “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”

If you’re looking to give your brain a good workout, I heartily recommended Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. The author does a superb job of bringing together the history of humanity from the early days of Hominids and demonstrating how and why we ended up where we’re at today and where we might be headed. It makes the reader want to investigate all the topics Harari raises in more details. 

Its big picture approach stands out in contrast to the far too often narrow minded analysis of humanity’s problems and accomplishments we see in the news media. I gave it 5 stars in my review of Goodreads. com out of respect for its thoroughness and readability even though I don’t agree with a few of his conclusions. And there’s nothing brief about the book. There are parts I look forward to rereading (when I get my copy of the book back) because I would like to reflect further on his arguments. I found reading a couple of chapters at a time and then thinking about the content before reading more was the best way to approach the book. 

Edgar Mitchell

A tribute to the late Edgar Mitchell, the sixth American astronaut to walk on the moon whose accomplishments were overshadowed by his belief in UFOs and ESP. Of his time on the moon, Mitchell famously said, “You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch. ‘”

Short story success

Misque Press is including my story Woods beyond the Walls in its next issue of Hero and Heroine, an anthology of paranormal, fantasy and science fiction stories. It’s about a boy celebrating his 13th birthday who discovers his ability to perform some tricks is just the beginning of his gaining powerful magical abilities that will make him feared by many. Someday the story will be the opening of Consciousness Rising, still a novel in draft form.

What’s neat about this issue is fellow Ottawa writer Martin Bueno has a story in it as does Larry Pinaire, an American, and Heidi Kneale who lives in Australia. I know them electronically from on-line writer’s groups. A link to the issue will be posted when available.

Ode to the Beta readers

So you’ve finished the first draft of your novel and are wondering what to do with the 70,000 to 90,000 words or more you have poured hours of time into. Well editing it is one important next step because there are bound to be spelling errors, typos, the always dreaded missing words and characters who appear where they’re not supposed to be.

However it’s just as important is to find people, often called Beta readers, who will read the draft with a critical eye. Not only will they point out the faux pas noted above, the good ones will have lots of questions and ideas that can make your story much better.

The last thing you need at this point are readers who will only tell you the story is wonderful and they loved it. Baloney. It’s just a first draft; it can be improved in many ways.

You’re really blessed if you have Beta readers who not only have the ability to spot the obvious mistakes but also the background to pick out your faulty assumptions and unlikely conclusions and tell you what’s wrong. Their comments and suggestions can generate plenty of ideas to enhance the plot of your story. This is an adult process that doesn’t require bruised egos.

Example. In one story, I have an artificial intelligence who has long wished to possess a sense of smell. It finally receives that ability while it is being rebuilt following a serious accident. In the original draft, the human who oversaw the rebuild takes deep breaths trying to convince the A.I. to mimic him and discover its new sense. A Beta reader pointed that sniffing was the way people and animals used their nose to check the world around them. The story was fixed making it more plausible in the process.

Other readers have pointed out technology errors or events that are unlikely to have occurred. Never reject those suggestions without thinking through how they could improve the story.

Sometimes a Beta reader will simply misunderstand part of your story. However, you should still consider rewording it because if that reader didn’t comprehend your sentence, paragraph or page, odds are good other readers won’t either. You don’t want the people who buy your book to be put off by sections that don’t make sense to them.

Remember that it will take the Beta readers time to review your work and make notes. It’s best to provide them with a paper copy that has plenty of room for jotting down ideas. While they’re doing that, work on another story so by the time you return to the draft that has been reviewed, it will be fresh in your mind.

When your book is published, make sure you give credit to your Beta readers. The big name authors do that because they know how much they depend on the close attention their Beta readers pay to making the story as good as it can be. There may be only one byline on the cover but a lot of people have contributed to make the book as interesting as it can be. 

Memories of another refugee crisis

The news photos and television footage of Syrian refugees arriving in Canada brought back personal memories of another influx of people from a different war torn region of the world.

Back in 1980 my parents were part of a community effort in Brantford, Ont. to bring in families of Vietnamese boat people. They found homes, clothes and the other amenities of life for the newcomers who arrived with very little. In time, the newcomers became active members of the community. The son of one couple took engineering with my son at Western University. Others have done well in businesses they started in the city.

When the Brantford delegation picked up their families at Pearson Airport and drove them to Brantford, there weren’t any politicians present making it into a photo op. What they undertook was practically unheard of back then although I remember Hungarians coming to Canada and Brantford in the aftermath of the failed Hungarian revolution in the 1950s.

What my parents and thousands of Canadians across the country did enabled 100,000 Vietnamese to come to Canada. We’re a better country for it.

Years earlier, Mum and Dad brought a young man from Antigua and put him through two years of high school, university and teacher’s college. In the process Vernon became a member of the family and went on to become a school principal in Brantford.

When Dad was in his final years became at times despondent about the ravages of old age, my siblings and I looked for ways to cheer him up. One that worked was asking him how many people in the world had white, black and Asian kids who called them Grandpa. Dad thought about it briefly and with a big smile, decided he might be unique.

One of the Vietnamese who arrived later was a small man named Sun. The Vietnamese called my Dad Father. Pop would always greet Sun by saying his name in a loud voice to which Sun would reply Father. Dad loved to imagine people nearby trying to figure out how there could be a connection between the two.

I’m sure that Mum and Dad and other now mostly departed folks who worked to bring the Vietnamese to Brantford would have felt especially gratified when groups representing Vietnamese Canadians raised funds to help Syrian refugees settle in Canada.

My parents and their friends did what they did because it was the right thing to do. Just as bringing the Syrians to Canada and the other groups in the years since the arrival of Vietnamese was.

Teaser: Chapter 1 of my next book

I’m posting Chapter 1 of A Biot’s Odyssey, the sequel to Humanity’s Saving Grace. The story is set 30 years after the first book and tells the story of the Biots’ efforts to recognize themselves as a species equal to the humans and Beings and to save two other species from annihilation by an insane artificial intelligence.

In the coming weeks I will post chapter 1 of my science fiction story By Intelligent Design, my science fantasy story Ultimate Wizard and my fantasy piece The Circle.

Hope you enjoy.