Rockets, Rhymes & Recipes

Where have I been these last few months? Planning the next black sky voyage.

It’s a novel about presidents and coup d’etats, Mars colonists and aliens, death and resurrection, volcanic recrudescence, and a few metaphysical speculations.

Station Ollie, in this working cover, is a geometrically realistic 3-D software model using the tetrahedral architecture that Oliver Harwood—a real spacecraft designer who had a hand in the Skylab Space Station design—invented in the 1980s and 90s. It consists of six standardized parts, all of which I’ve used in Station Ollie. The “Nodal Balls”, which are rhombic dodecahedrons (sorry—I had to throw that in for the woo-woo factor), serve both as air locks and docking connectors for the other components. These nodes are key to a modular concept that allows for the building of space-filling tetrahedral structures of great strength and variety using only those six standard parts. The elegance and logic of this architecture almost certainly preclude the concept ever being adopted by a bureaucracy infested organization or politically driven government.

With a few more drafts to go, the novel should be finished in about a year. Here’s the current working prologue to launch the ship. The similarity to The Darkest Side of Saturn prologue is intentional. Consider it indicative of some of the themes common to both books.

All aboard and bon voyage


A long, long time ago—about fourteen billion years more or less—the universe banged into existence. Immediately—commensurate with the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum physics—our baby universe began dividing into infinitely many sister universes weaving almost parallel but slightly diverging courses through meta-time. One of these would become the home of The Author. This narrative is not about that universe or the separate one containing Harris Mitchel and an asteroid named B, nor a somewhat different one containing pilot Steve Mylder who counted air combat missions in a brutal war. It is about the slightly different universe which contains neither Steve, Harris, nor B, but does house a president that Harris once met.

In that baby universe, in the beginning, gasses swirled, mixed, collided, and gave birth to galaxies and stars. Stellar systems formed consisting of mother stars surrounded and embraced by loving children: planets, asteroids, satellites, comets, and other odd siblings. In some of these systems, life ignited and began a long journey towards an unfathomable end, obeying Evolution’s holy trinity of Replication, Variation, Selection in a never-ending struggle to make order out of chaos and perhaps bring forth consciousness from unconsciousness, thus continuing a never-ending and hard-fought battle with the Great Satan, Entropy, who strives to make disorder from order.

A long time ago—about one billion years more or less—in one of these stellar systems in one of these galaxies, this evolutionary course resulted in the ignition of consciousness. A race of beings quickly came into existence able to control and direct its environment. It began expanding relentlessly outward, filling all available evolutionary niches—to the nearest planets, to the nearest stars, to the nearest arms of the galaxy and beyond.

A while ago—about one million years more or less—another race of beings also banged into consciousness and began exploiting its technological prowess to expand into every nook and cranny of its birth planet, eventually casting an avaricious eye on its neighbors.

A short time ago—about one thousand nine hundred and fifty years after the birth of a significant religious figure—a member of these later developed beings named Enrico Fermi lunching outdoors with his colleagues on a warm sunny day raised his gaze to the sky and shrugged with upturned palms, exclaiming in puzzlement, “Where is everybody?”

He meant, presumably, that with all the possibilities of advanced beings long preceding his own race, Where are all those alien beings? Why haven’t they expanded and overrun this corner of the galaxy, paving it over into a galactic parking lot to serve a galactic football stadium … and sadly, paving over his own unfortunately less advanced and hence defenseless sapient civilization?

Where is everybody? asked Enrico. There was no answer. For this devilishly speculative and unanswered question, he was honored in the naming of a paradox, namely the Fermi Paradox.

An even shorter time ago, a leader of these less advanced and hence defenseless sapient beings—a president—announced a program to colonize a nearby sibling planet. The planet was named after Ares, a god of war also known as Mars.

Yesterday—meaning an extremely short time ago Geologically speaking (or perhaps more appropriately for a planet named after Ares, Areologically speaking)—one of the three colossal and dormant Mars shield volcanoes riding atop a gigantic uplift named Tharsis Ridge awoke after a brief snooze of a hundred million years, more or less, and began again to stream its buried gasses into the sparse atmosphere of the planet. The first colonists-to-be looked down in awe upon this curious spectacle from an orbit far above.


Mars texture map: JHT’s Planetary Pixel Emporium at
Modelling software: Cheetah3D at


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