Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Observers - A Science Fiction Odyssey C.R.Downing's Book Tour 2018. Book #3 (conclusion)

My publisher is having a sale the e-book version of The Observers.

It's only $1.00.
Laughter guaranteed!

Book #3:
There is a link to Amazon for the title book in the line above this. Additional links are provided to original short stories involved in the development of the title book in the description of each story below.

Elevator Speech
Observers are expected to perform only that role for the Glieseian Ministry of Observation, Investigation, and Intervention (MOII). However, observers Mxpan and Zerpall are imprisoned twice, banished from two solar systems, threatened with selective destruction by targeting their DNA, trapped in android bodies after a faulty brain essence transfer, and forced into an ethically convoluted situation. The Observers is a comic sci-fi trip across the solar system that will keep you thinking and laughing.

Background Information

This story that triggered this book was written in the 1980s. However, it was not a novel. Neither was it science fiction.

It was a short romance story titled Magnetic Attraction.
There were no aliens. There were KGB agents.

The story morphed into what is the fourth mission by Zerpall and Mxpan.

As luck would have it, I found copies of the original story and an intermediate version, which includes Zerpall and Mxpan. However, in the intermediate version, the two observers were from the planet Rigel, not the planet Gleise.
Both versions are included in the PDF for this book. Here’s the link.

Cover contest
My publisher for The Observers was the same as for Traveler’s HOT L, Koehlerbooks.com. Koehler opted to have a cover contest for this book. Visitors to the website were offered two choices. After about two weeks, the cover with the most votes was given the most serious consideration for use on the book. Here are the choices.

My first choice was the eyeball with the solar system reflected in the iris (right photo). However, the original(shown here) had eyelashes on the eyelids, something Mxpan and Zerpall do not. By the time it was replaced, the other option (left photo) was far ahead. It was the cover choice.
While both are definitely science fiction covers, sunrise over the planet’s edge is mainline. The eyeball cover is dark. That turned off many voters.

Wedding Bells
My youngest son was married soon after the book’s release date. I dedicated the book to the newlyweds and gave them one of the first copies at the rehearsal dinner.

Around Easter 2018, that son told me that cover of The Observers was his favorite of all my book covers.
Doesn’t matter. It is a very cool cover.

Once aliens were added to the cast of characters, I had to make a decision as to the physical features of the aliens, now heroes of the book. At least hundreds of sci-fi books and movies have humanoid aliens as the protagonists or antagonists. I have humanoidish alien characters in the Traveler’s HOT L series.
Version #2 of the original story included a pair of aliens. While there was some humorous banter, it was limited. Mxpan and Zerpall were humanoid. The aliens were too flat and too pat.
So . . .
I had an idea—always potentially dangerous. In this case, it worked well.
First, I thought about famous comedic duos. Nearly all have a straight man and the punchline deliverer. Since that model has a proven track record, Mxpan, the boss in the partnership, became the straight “man,” and Zerpall the zinger.
Next, I wrote a short description of the physical appearance of a member of the alien species. I made them slug-like with massive brains, see-through cranial bones, and a massive IQ. They are asexual, too, a trait drawn upon heavily for the humor of the last mission.
I contacted a former student of mine--Marissa Kay. I sent her the description. She sent back her first draft. We negotiated. Her second draft was spot on! Behold Mxpan and Zerpall.

While much of the comedy is dialog-driven, the Gliesian body shape allows for physical comedy as well: Imagine a snail on a staircase. And, the brain capacity is so large that it allows for transferring identities between them and androids AND them and humans.

Science for the Fiction
All science in science fiction must be actual or explained in such a way that the reader is willing to suspend belief and accept the science as written. Two major suspensions are required in The Observers.
Faster than the speed of light travel.
The home planet of Mxpan and Zerpall is Gliese.
Mxpan and Zerpall were from the planet known on Earth as Gliese 581g. The actual name of the alien planet transliterates at best from Glieseian as U77amed M**n. Members of the native population of Gliese581g are known around the Milky Way and neighboring galaxies as Glieseians—after the star that holds their planet in place. Telepathy is their preferred method of communication. Vocalizing thoughts, while possible, is considered primitive and far too slow.

Since G581 is twenty light years from earth, unless beyond light speed is possible, the time to travel from one assignment to another is prohibitive. Therefore, they have hyper light drives in their vessels.
The target planet [Earth] was farther away from Gliese than any of them had journeyed—the trip from Gliese to Earth was five hundred and twenty-two Earth days at maximum velocity.
That’s much better than twenty years. Don’t you agree?

Brain Essence Transfers.
Twice in the book, M and Z swap brain essence with another entity. Italicized print indicates telepathic communication.
Alpha Centauri
“You will be on planet again. Coincidentally, that planet is Alpha Centauri. But this time we will be transporting brain essence from your Survey Craft into the AI systems of two androids on the surface.”
“I was under the impression that brain essence transfer was still in the experimental phases.”
That is correct, Mxpan. Your mission will be the first field test of the adopted procedure.”
“Seriously? That is sooo cool!” Zerpall gushed. “We’ll be footnotes in history books and medical textbooks. Isn’t that  just great, Supervisor Mxpan?”
“I am certain some individuals would have a greater appreciation for the honor than others. For example, I do not share your level of elation for being included in this experimental procedure. Mxpan’s response was measured.
“But we’ll always be the first! No matter how many others get brain essence transfers. Do you call the transfer BET?” Zerpall asked The Overseer.
“Not that I’m aware of,” The Overseer responded with carefully chosen words.
“Can I call it BET?” Zerpall asked.
“I don’t see how you can stop him—especially once we’re en route,” Mxpan transmitted his thought to The Overseer in isolation mode.

“I have located a suitable target population for an essential portion of this mission. An extraction team will be formed. That team will remove four humanoids from that population and return them to this ship. Once onboard, Zerpall’s and my brain essences will be transferred into the brains of two of the humanoids and their brain essences will be stored in the BET unit until our return when the process will be reversed.”
. . .
      Once back at the long-term hotel suite he shared with Mxpan, Zerpall collected his thoughts in preparation for sending his daily report. Partly because of the snail’s pace at which events with Dr. Darnell were proceeding, and partly because of increasing issues with his behavior, Mxpan had returned to the Mother Ship.
The reporting process was routine. He compacted the events of his day into a single, continuous thought, flipped on the long- distance telepathic wave amplification device, and was about to send the three-millisecond transmission when he stopped. He powered down the LDTWA and sat, his brow furrowed in confusion.
“What’s going on here?” Zerpall asked himself. “I’m all alone. My head hurts because, even though the brain in this cranium has plenty of capacity, my essence is literally re-wiring most of the cortex because it’s been so underutilized. I’ve lost my partner to what I thought was a super-cool BET process…”
There was a knock on his door.

You’ll have to obtain a copy of The Observers to learn more about BET, other scientific advances of the Gliesians, and enjoy the abundant humor. Remember, the eBook is currently on sale for only $1.00.

The next stop on this book tour is in “non-fiction land.” Book #4 on the list is Idea Farming A Science Guy’s Read on Writing.

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