Tuesday, July 25, 2006

My World Turned Upside Down

I've been reading (and will finish soon!) a recent collection from Baen Books called The World Turned Upside Down. It's a collection of short stories that had a deep impact on the authors (Eric Flint, David Drake and the late Jim Baen).

What short works of fiction or non-fiction have turned my viewpoint "upside down"?

H. Beam Piper: Omnilingual. This story is part of one of Piper's extended series, the Terro-Human Future History. For a long time I was not aware of other works by Piper, and especially not aware that there was a series. Imagine my cries of joy when Ace Books came out with a trade paperback called Federation and discovered that not only was it a series, but Ace was re-publishing them.

An expedition to Mars discovers the remains of a human-like civilization. In exploring the ruins, they come across a treasure trove, a library that is mostly intact. But how to read the books when there is no common link between the cultures of Earth and the cultures of Mars? Years before I started reading Carl Sagan, Piper introduced me to a Rosetta Stone for galactic societies. Toss in some characters that you don't normally encounter in a science fiction story (linguists, archaeologists) and a classic setting (Mars) and you've got a wonderful story.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Hammer! Hammer! Hammer!

(Part of the books read for 2006 and part of books read for 2007 and beyond...Omnibus posting!)

(Addendum: The 2007 update note...this entry is going to be a changing entry until I finish reading the third omnibus volume—coming later this year. I'll be revising the reviews, adding more reviews of the individual stories and the like. In the meantime, might I suggest you pick up either the first issue of Jim Baen's Universe or the recently published collection, The Best of Jim Baen's Universe, and read David Drake's tale, The Darkness? It's excellent.)

This will act as a large posting for all the reading I've done this past two years in David Drake's series of tales of a mercenary armored unit. I read them back when they came out from Ace, read more throughout the years as they came out from Baen Books, and now I've been reading them as they have either come out in new baen Books editions, as tales in the Jim Baen's Universe eMagazine or the new omnibus editions from Night Shade Books.

The reviews are pretty much as I wrote them originally (if recycled). You'll see my opinion changing over time, as I read or re-read more of the series. I've let the original thoughts stand; I may add thoughts after the third omnibus edition comes out.

Some of the books are available for free in multiple electronic formats from Baen Books. See: Paying the Piper. The Tank Lords.

See my previous general posting on the series here.

(Previously mentioned here, with some additional information on the miniatures game.)

David Drake: The Complete Hammer's Slammers, Volume One (Night Shade Books; 2006; ISBN 978-1-892389-69-5; cover art by John Berkey).

Made up of: Introduction (Gene Wolfe); Foreword: On Becoming a Professional Writer by Way of Southeast Asia; Under the Hammer; The Butcher's Bill; But Loyal to His Own; Caught in the Crossfire; Cultural Conflict; Hangman; Standing Down; Code-Name Feirefitz; The Interrogation Team; The Tank Lords; Liberty Port; Night March; The Immovable Object; The Irresistible Force; A Death in Peacetime; Afterword: Accidentally and by the Back Door. With the following "non-fiction" essays: Backdrop to Chaos; The Bonding Authority; The Church of the Lord's Universe; Powerguns; Supertanks; Table of Organization and Equipment, Hammer's Regiment.

Counts as twenty-three entries for the 2006 Short Story Project.

Counts as twenty-three entries for the 2008 Year in Shorts.

David Drake: The Complete Hammer's Slammers, Volume Two (Night Shade Books; 2006; ISBN 978-1-892389-73-2; cover art by John Berkey).

Made up of: Introduction (David G. Hartwell); Foreword: We Happy Few; At Any Price; Counting the Cost; Rolling Hot; The Warrior; The Day of Glory; Afterword: What's for Sale.

Counts as four entries in the 2007 Year in Shorts.

Counts as eight entries in the 2008 Year in Shorts.

Part of the 2009 Year in Shorts.

David Drake: The Complete Hammer's Slammers, Volume Three (Night Shade Books; 2007; ISBN 978-1-892389-80-0; cover art by David Martin).

Made up of: Introduction (Barry N. Malzberg); The Sharp End; Paying the Piper; The Darkness; Jim.

Counts as four entries in the 2008 Year in Shorts.

Part of the 2009 Year in Shorts.

(All three of the Night Shade Books editions are scheduled to become available in electronic format via Baen's Webscription service sometime in 2009 or 2010. I'll update this with a link when they do become available.)

Addendum (January 27, 2007): I've dug up or purchased the various paperback editions of the series and the contents are listed below.

David Drake's Guide to Hammer's Slammers.

Hammer's Slammers (Ace, February 1985 printing, ISBN 0-441-31595-X): Introduction: Mercenaries and Military Virtue (Jerry Pournelle); But Loyal to His Own; The Butcher's Bill; Interlude: The Church of the Lord's Universe; Under the Hammer; Interlude: Powerguns; Cultural Conflict; Interlude: Backdrop to Chaos; Caught in the Crossfire; Interlude: The Bonding Authority; Hangman; Interlude: Table of Organization and Equipment, Hammer's Regiment; Standing Down. Drake's comments here.

Hammer's Slammers (Baen, April 1991 printing, ISBN 0-671-69867-2): Mercenaries and Military Virtue (Jerry Pournelle); But Loyal to His Own; The Butcher's Bill; Interlude: The Church of the Lord's Universe; Under the Hammer; Interlude: Powerguns; Cultural Conflict; Interlude: Backdrop to Chaos; Caught in the Crossfire; Interlude: The Bonding Authority; Hangman; Interlude: Table of Organization and Equipment, Hammer's Regiment; Standing Down, The Tank Lords. Drake's comments here.

Rolling Hot (Baen, September 1989 printing, ISBN 0-671-69837-0). Drake's comments here.

Rolling Hot is a short novel set in David Drake's Hammer's Slammers series.

Task Force Ransom is seriously undermanned and underequipped. The vehicles are crewed by burnouts, non-soldiers, newbies and mechanics. The commander of the taskforce is crazy as a Junebug. But, in order to swing the tide of battle (and to ensure that Colonel Hammer's soldiers get paid), they are forced to regroup after an attack, march through hostile territory, travel through urban terrain, force a bridge crossing and spoof a potential enemy armored battalion in order to relive the capital.

Based (according to Drake) on the Tet Offensive, Rolling Hot offers both good battle sequences and many "classic" attacks and maneuvers (e.g., forcing a river crossing). However, the story is peopled by misfits and burnouts. The book would have been stronger with a concentration on fewer such characters or a different mix of characters. Interestingly, as with many of the other titles in the series, Colonel Hammer never appears "on screen", only as a voice over the radio.

At Any Price (Baen, September 1987 printing, ISBN 0-671-55978-8): At Any Price: The Interrogation Team; Code-Name Feirefitz.

The Warrior (Baen, May 1991 printing, ISBN 0-671-72058-9): The Warrior; Liberty Port.

A rivalry between two members of Hammer's Regiment. Good characterization by Drake of two soldiers who know no other life.

The Sharp End (Baen, October 1997 printing, ISBN 0-671-87632-5). Drake's comments here.

An interesting variant on the "standard" tale of the Slammers (is there such a thing?). For more information, read Drake's comments, above.

The Tank Lords (Baen, July 1999 printing, ISBN 0-671-87794-1): Under the Hammer; Rolling Hot; Night March; Code-Name Feirefitz; The Tank Lords; Appendix; Afterword: We Happy Few.

A variety of shorter works, all good.

Caught in the Crossfire (Baen, September 2000 printing, ISBN 0-671-87882-4): Introduction; The Warrior; Caught in the Crossfire; The Immovable Object; Counting the Cost; Afterword to Counting the Cost; The Interrogation Team.

The Interrogation Team is one of my favorites, a very creepy tale. See comments on The Warrior, above. Counting the Cost is a strange tale in the series, I still can't say whether I like it or not (there are very few sympathetic characters in the end!).

Paying the Piper (Baen, July 2005 printing, ISBN 0-7434-7172-5): A Background Note; Choosing Sides; The Political Process; Neck or Nothing.

One of the best of the Slammer's tales. Read Drake's background note (above) for details on the genesis of the story. Probably the best (next to Rolling Hot) combination of character and story and probably my favorite Drake tale, next to the Lt. Leary of the RCN series.

Also: The Darkness, read as part of the 2006 Short Story Project (Magazine Division).

Adds 4 items to the 2007 Short Story Project.

Part of the 2008 Short Story Project.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

To the Edge of the World

A new book that might help me get over my O'Brian deprivation (when I finish my current re-read of his works).

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Thinking About the Singularity

When I started to shelve Rainbows End (Vinge's new novel), I realized that I had collections on the shelves that had only been partly finished a few years back. So...since the quest is to do at least 600 stories plus take care of some backlog, I'll add those two collections to the 2006 Short Story Project.

The Cookie Monster is a novella by Vinge that may or may not tie in with his new novel (I'll let you know after I finish the book!). It's a nice tale, and one more reason why the story in F&SF that I read wasn't all that good. 2020 Computing: The Creativity Machine and Synthetic Serendipity both tie in with the new novel, so I'll hold off on comments until I get through the book.

(2007 Addendum: The Cookie Monster was most definitely not part of Rainbows End!)

(2008 Addendum: Fast Times at Ridgemont High is a precursor to Rainbows End.)

The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge (Vernor Vinge, edited by James Frenkel, Tor/Orb, ISBN 0-312-87584-3).

Made up of: Foreword; "Bookworm, Run!"; The Accomplice; The Peddler's Apprentice (with Joan D. Vinge); The Ungoverned; Long Shot; Apartness; Conquest By Default; The Whirligig of Time; Bomb Scare; The Science Fair; Gemstone; Just Peace (with William Rupp); Original Sin; The Blabber; Win a Nobel Prize!; The Barbarian Princess; Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

True Names and the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier (Vernor Vinge, edited by James Frenkel, Tor, ISBN 0-312-86207-5).

Made up of: Preface (James Frenkel); Introduction (Vernor Vinge); A Time of Transition/The Human Connection (Danny Hillis); True Nyms and Crypto Anarchy (Timothy C. May); Eventual History: Version 1.x (John M. Ford); How is the NII Like a Prison? (Alan Wexelblat); Intelligent Software (Pattie Maes); The Right to Read (Richard M. Stallman); Cryptography and the Politics of One's True Name (Leonard N. Foner); Habitat: Reports from an Online Community (Chip Morningstar and F. Randall Farmer); True Magic (Mark Pesce); True Names (Vernor Vinge); Afterword (Marvin Minsky).

Rainbow's End (Vernor Vinge, Tor Books, ISBN 0-312-85684-9). 2008 review can be found here.

Counts as seven entries in the 2006 Short Story Project.

Part of the 2007 Short Story Project.

The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge counts as 17 entries in the 2008 Year in Shorts (an almost complete re-read in 2008).

True Names and the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier counts as 3 entries in the 2008 Year in Shorts (a complete re-read in 2008).

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Cloak of Aesir

John W. Campbell, Jr.: A New Dawn: The Complete Don A. Stuart Stories.

It's hard for me to write fresh reviews for this collection given that I've read man of these stories several times over the past three years (as I've done the whole short story a day project). But, nonetheless, each of these re-reads is as much time as the first time. This is a good collection and several of the stories: Twilight, Night, Out of Night, Cloak of Aesir, Who Goes There?, are absolute gems in my book.

Looking at the whole gamut of "Don A. Stuart's" body of work, you can see a lot of similarities to the pulp writer known as John W. Camppbell, Jr. In stories such as Escape, Frictional Losses Blindness, or Dead Knowledge, you have many pulp elements, super science and the like.

But then you get bits, like in Blindness, where the man striving to get that extra bit of science locked down makes a great sacrifice and returns to Earth to find that his sacrifice was not needed after all.

Or Dead Knowledge, with its creepy dead planet and the slow horror that the character's find.

There's the poignancy of Twilight and Out of Night, where Campbell/Stuart manages to take what Olaf Stapledon took whole books to write about and squeeze them into two short stories.

There are the Aesir stories and the Machine stories, where man has tumbled from his heights, is subjugated, but wins in the end.

There's The Elder Gods which shows me that Campbell was pioneering fantasy as much as science fiction. But it also shows me that modern practitioners of fantasy really (except for a few) haven't taken the field further than the pioneers.

Then there's Who Goes There? Still creepier than either film version. I'll bet it'll be creepier than the planned second remake. I dare you to read this story at night, during a winter storm. I double dare you. I double dog dare you!

Good stuff.

Another wonderful volume from NESFA Press. Public service announcement: Buy books from these folks.

Made up of: The Man Who Lost the Sea (by Barry N. Malzberg); Twilight; Atomic Power; The Machine (The Machine Series #01); The Invaders (The Machine Series #02); Rebellion (The Machine Series #03); Blindness; The Escape; Night; Elimination; Frictional Losses; Out of Night (Aesir Series #01); Cloak of Aesir (Aesir Series #02); Dead Knowledge; Who Goes There?; The Elder Gods; Strange Worlds; Wouldst Write, Wee One?

Counts as nineteen (19) contributions to The 2006 short story project.
The Space Beagle

So, there I was reading The World Turned Upside Down when I thought I'd take a little time to read the first section of Voyage of the Space Beagle by A.E. Van Vogt to compare with Black Destroyer (the original version of the first part of the book).

Space Beagle is less an original novel than the disparaging-sounding term "fixup novel". Fixups are usually made up of several stories, sometimes published over a long course of time, sometimes from different periods of the author's life. Some fixups work, some do not.

(Before I talk about the first part of the book, gosh, I did it again. I had re-read the book in 2002. But before you knew it, I was hooked and going to M33 with the Space Beagle and had finished the silly thing! So, what follows is less a comparison between Black Destroyer and the first part of the book than a new review of the book!)

The book is made up of four of van Vogt's tales: Black Destroyer, War of Nerves, Discord in Scarlet and M33 in Andromeda. Of the four, the first and third work, I think, the best.

In Black Destroyer, we're introduced to the Space Beagle, a ship from Earth (and populated entirely by men), setting out for one of our neighbor galaxies, M33 in Andromeda. (Interestingly enough, M33 is probably not the galaxy you think of when you think of Andromeda. That would be the more famous, and, to the naked eye, more visible M31. M33 is a lot harder to spot under your average twenty-first century sky; it is a much larger and diffuse object. But, if you can spot it, and look at it with binoculars or a low power/wide field eyepiece in a telescope, it is quite a sight!) In the original story, the Space Beagle is crewed by 100 humans; in the book, it has a crew of 1,000. In the story, there is nary a mention of the "working crew", most of the characters are scientists. In the novel version, there is not only much more attention paid to the crew of the ship, but there is also a sizeable military contingent (and part of the tension comes from times when the science crew debates who is in control with the military crew).

However, despite this, it is intended to be a peaceful voyage of exploration. In fact, Space Beagle is the earliest, to my personal recollection, tale like this (i.e., a heavy emphasis on scientists), well before Star Trek.

The story Black Destroyer and the first part of the book are similar enough in the broad strokes. In both, the Beagle lands on a planet where civilization crumbled. They run into an apparent animal (which is named Coeurl, however that name, with a lower-case "c", also is applied to the race). They bring the animal on board, where it manages to get loose, kill a number of crew (the number differs significantly between the book and the story...but the story is set on a much smaller ship!), grab a lifeboat, and almost escape back to his planet to rescue more of its kind so they can invade our galaxy. It seems the coeurls feed on "id" (which turns out to be the potassium, why van Vogt chose a famous psychological term for this, is beyond me). They drained their planet of life and would be happy to do the same to the rest of the planets out there.

There are some parallels to "Don A. Stuart's" (John W. Campbell, Jr.) famous Who Goes There? The story is especially interesting because, in its original form, it is told almost exclusively from the first-person (creature?) viewpoint of Coeurl. The biggest difference, other than ship size and crew makeup, is the presence or absence of the main character of the book version...the Nexialist, Elliot Grosvenor.

Nex-al-whaaa? Well, let's see what the book says:

The guard looked again at the card, and then said as he handed it back, "Nexialism? What's that?"

"Applied whole-ism," said Grosvenor, and stepped across the threshold.

Which is about all you really need to know. In some ways, it is a pretty neat idea. The science of Nexialism is a sort of super-science, one that looks for links between the various specialties and finds ways that they might work together and come up with solutions that individual specialists might not see. So Grosvenor would be able to look at the results of the biology lab, some of the geology results, toss in some astronomy and come up with a solution to the problem.

The weak point to this made-up science is that van Vogt tosses in a number of other things that don't really work. Grosvenor uses sleep-teaching, hypnosis, subliminal messages, etc. So you end up with something more like something that L. Ron Hubbard might have preached.

Having read both the original and the novel, which is a better tale? The novel is stronger for having the bigger ship and the more diverse crew. But Grosvenor does not really play a major role in the first tale and doesn't really add much. So, I'd vote for the original tale (and recommend a look at the original magazine cover, what a wonderful painting!)

I have not been able to find original versions of the other tales in the book: War of Nerves, Discord in Scarlet and M33 in Andromeda. I would like to read them, someday, to see how much Nexialism and Grosvenor added or took away from the stories.

The second tale deals with a telepathic encounter with a race that inhabits a solitary planet between our galaxy and M33. What is intended as a friendly communication has deadly consequences for the Space Beagle. Grosvenor makes full use of his sleep-teaching and other devices in order to save the crew. Given the lack of direct conflict or interaction between the humans and the aliens (Riim), I found this a weaker tale.

The third tale is a winner. The crew finds a humanoid alien floating in the space between the galaxies. They bring it on board and it escapes (don't these folks ever learn?). Like a good John W. Campbell, Jr. or E.E. "Doc" Smith space opera installment, we don't have a re-hash of the encounter with Coeurl, this alien, Ixtl, is much nastier and much more powerful. This tale makes a lot of use of Grosvenor, but also the character Korita, a historian (who puts forward in several parts of the book of a cyclic theory of history somewhat along the lines of people like Spengler).

The fourth part is also weak in that the crew reaches M33 to find it inhabited by a gas creature. As with the third tale, there isn't much interaction between the humans and the alien, resulting, I feel, in a less interesting tale. This time around, though, the following caught my attention:

To the men, darkness made no difference. The Space Beagle crouched on a vast plain of jagged metal. Every porthole shed light. Great searchlights poured added illumination on rows of engines that were tearing enormous holes into the all-iron world. At the beginning the iron was fed into a single manufacturing machine, which turned out unstable iron torpedoes at the rate of one every minute and immediately launched them into space.

By dawn of the next morning, the manufacturing machine itself began to be manufactured, and additional robot feeders poured raw iron into each new unit. Soon, a hundred, then thousands of manufacturing machines were turning out those slim, dark torpedoes. In ever greater numbers they soared into the surrounding night, scattering their radioactive substance to every side.

Was this tale by van Vogt the first science fiction appearance of the von Neumann machine?

So. It was a fixup. Two of the stories are weaker. Was it worth it? Heck, yes. van Vogt has a less than stellar reputation these days, but he remains one of my favorite authors. Books such as this, along with The War Against the Rull or Slan were among my formative books in the field, along with authors such as Norton or Nourse or Clarke or Heinlein or Asimov or Smith. I can see problems with style or plotting, I can pick holes in the science, I can laugh at the technology, but these tales started me on the road that has given me a life of reading pleausre. So, it was worth another visit to the Space Beagle and its crew and the weird critters that litter the spaceways, Coeurl, Ixtl, the Riim and the gas creature. Hmmmm...it's been a long time since I've read Rull or Slan, it is time for a visit to them!

(Finally, to compare and contrast, here's a "classic post" from SF Signal! Nice to see those kids reading the classics now and again.)

Counts as 4 entries in the 2006 Short Story Project.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Annual Best SF

Donald A. Wollheim (editor): The 1972 Annual World's Best SF.

I used to have a bunch of these, but lost them at one point or another. Before the various massive "best of" annuals that we have now from folks like Dozois, Wollheim and a few others put out relatively slim volumes. I'm now in the process of buying these again whenever I spot them (I'm trying for all hardcovers!) and have a good chunk of the run. Each volume starts with an introduction by Wollheim going over the year in SF. It's a brief article compared to the massive briefings given in some of today's annuals! It's very interesting to take a look at the table of contents. About half the time you end up saying "who?" when you come across a name, for the rest it is either a name that has been forgotten or overlooked or somebody who (lucky for us) is still going strong!

Larry Niven: The Fourth Profession. A story that ties in to both his Leshy Circuit series and his Draco's Tavern series. An alien race is visiting Earth. One of the crew spends several nights at a bar, sampling Terran drinks. In exchange, he gives the bartender several "knowledge pills". Unfortunately, the bartender does not quite remember what he learned from each of the pills!

Joanna Russ: Gleepsite. It's interesting to see what ages worse. Technology in science fiction or "messages" in science fiction. This is "message" SF. Nothing to see here, move along...

Stephen Tall (Compton Newby Crook): The Bear with the Knot on His Tail. A fairly long entry in the book, part of a series that was eventually re-issued as a collection (The Stardust Voyages) and even eventually produced a sequel (The Ramsgate Paradox). Think of it as a Starship Enterprise crewed by slightly odd people. The story revolves around a large exploration ship that investigates a signal coming from a star in the constellation known to us as the Big Dipper, or Ursa Major, hence the "bear" that had a "knot on his tail" of the title. The story feels like the author was trying to be like Poul Anderson, but, alas, fails. I will eventually dig out the collection and re-read it; I have to admit to having only the faintest of memories of the book.

Michael G. Coney: The Sharks of Pentreath. I found this story interesting in that I don't recall it ever being mentioned in any of the essays I've read on the origins of cyberpunk, transhumanism, and the like. However, I have to wonder if it influenced anybody like William Gibson or Vernor Vinge, let alone the following "generations" of people like Ken MacLeod or Charles Stross. In order to lessen the load on the Earth, most of the population is put into a form of stasis, and only allowed to exist as breathing, moving entities for part of their lives. The rest of the time they are in that stasis and can only interact as small, mobile robots. Small robots, for example, can be crammed several hundred to a transport that used to carry a dozen or so humans. Small robots can visit a pub, visit a beach, visit a resort, without actually consuming much in the way of resources. A grimly sarcastic little tale.

Poul Anderson: A Little Knowledge: A minor entry in Poul Anderson's Technic Civilization series. It does, however, encapsulate one of his recurring themes (know-it-all Earthmen are tripped up by their assumptions). Some amusing bits in the depiction of the alien and the increasingly frustrated Terran pirates.

Christopher Priest: Real-Time World: It was interesting to read this, given that Priest is again in the spotlight (with The Prestige coming to the screen). Wolleim gives the tale one spin in his opening comments, I saw an entirely different interpretation. This was a kind of psychological version of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. One member of the crew of a space station (which feels like a precursor to the station depicted in the novel version of Solaris, as opposed to how it was depicted in either film version), is observing the other crew members by manipulating the flow of information and seeing how it comes back to him. However, he forgot the principle behind the discovery of Heisenberg: the observer impacts the observation.

R.A. Lafferty: All Pieces of a River Shore: If I hadn't seen Lafferty's name on this, and if the character's had mentioned the Missouri rather than the Mississippi, I would have sworn this tale had been written by Clifford D. Simak. I don't know if it was intentional or not, but the style of dialogue, the character names and background, etc., all are very strongly reminiscent of Simak's work. Good tale about a strange painting that isn't, slightly damaged by a overdrawn "surprise" ending.

Made up of: Introduction (Donald A. Wollheim); The Fourth Profession (Larry Niven); Gleepsite (Joanna Russ); The Bear with the Knot on His Tail (Stephen Tall); The Sharks of Pentreath (Michael G. Coney); A Little Knowledge (Poul Anderson); Real-Time World (Christopher Priest); All Pieces of a River Shore (R.A. Lafferty); With Friends Like These (Alan Dean Foster); Aunt Jennie's Tonic (Leonard Tushnet); Timestorm (Eddy C. Bertin); Transit of Earth (Arthur C. Clarke); Gehenna (Barry Malzberg); One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty (Harlan Ellison); Occam's Scapel (Theodore Sturgeon).

Counts as eight entries in the 2006 Short Story Project.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

$39.95 Is A Really Good Price For A Book That Weighs This Much

Can you think of a better recommendation? 941 pages of space opera goodness! I'm heading for the bookstore tomorrow with my forklift!

So many anthologies. So many novels. So little time. So many ex-lovers to get rid of.

Part of the 2007 Short Story Project.

Addendum (June 30, 2006): Went to the store, cash in hand. I was told that the book would not be on the shelves until July 11, 2006. Oh well! In the meantime, maybe I'll work on Second Stage Lensman by E.E. "Doc" Smith!