Updates: Writing Research, YA Reading Recommendations

A. Was working on the Novel That Must Not Yet Be Named, and wanted to have somebody look through a backyard telescope, and realized I’d not done so myself since about age 10 – circa 1968. At that time I owned a cheap refractor which, nonetheless, allowed me to see, through the light pollution of L.A.,  the moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn (a blurry blob, but still.)  A slightly older kid, who lived across the street, had a very cool reflector with a sidereal drive that took forever to set up (well, by 10-year-old standards of ‘forever’). I remember trying to see the moon – incredible detail at the time – and having it wander out of the the field of view because it did not in fact move as one with the background stars.

Paul – for that was the neighbor kid’s name – had a backyard that was a bit of a tunnel: the trees and building blocked off a lot of the nearer ambient city light, and so created a darker viewing space. The cost was that only a fairly narrow strip of sky was viewable at any time. Me, I’d set up out on the sidewalk, meaning street and house lights washed out anything that wasn’t magnitude 3 or better. I’d just point the thing at anything I could see. I about lost it when I saw Saturn, although I wasn’t sure what it was, thought maybe it was Andromeda or some other galaxy until I checked and discovered that none of them were visible to the naked eye under less than perfect conditions. And somewhere – Sky and Telescope? They had it in the library – had a chart where Saturn would be that month, so I figured it out. Back in those primitive times, you had to go look stuff up. In, like, books, even!

Anyway, so I wanted to describe this dad looking through a telescope to see the long ship being built for the colonists as it orbited in the sky.(1) And I realized that I was going to totally blow the terminology, thereby blowing a portion of the intended audience out of the story. So, research. Only took maybe 20 minutes to find what I needed, but this same sort of situation is likely to come up about every 5-10 pages…

Now I want a telescope. They are way cooler now, with way more bang-for-the-buck, than in the old days. Lot of light pollution in this neighborhood…

B. If you’re looking for YA books to read to your kids, please check out John C. Wright’s Moth and Cobweb series, the first two books of which are out and can be found here and here. Like all good YA stuff, they also reward adult-level reading, so, even if you don’t have kids, you will enjoy them. My review of the first book is here. Bottom line: my 12-year-old loves it, and I’m having fun reading it to him. We’re halfway through book 2, The Feast of the Elves.

Then the plan is to read some Jagi Lamplighter. This, around the next book in the queue, which is Uncertainty: The Soul of Modeling, Probability and Statistics by William Briggs, which haunts my nightstand.

  1. Occurs to me if you were going to use an asteroid as the basis of your generation ship, you might want to tow it/boost it to a Lagrange point, to make getting stuff to it more handy. Earth orbit might be too risky/unstable, unless you plopped it opposite the moon.  Maybe? This is the sort of thing I’ll end up writing around rather than thinking it through – unless I can get back in touch with my rocket scientist friends (yes, I know some real-deal rocket scientists – because their kid went to the same preschool as our kid) and have them vett it…
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Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

1 thought on “Updates: Writing Research, YA Reading Recommendations”

  1. I had a reflector and a fairly dark night sky, Easton PA never being more than about 35 kilofolks in population. We were on top of the Heights and whatever City Lights there were were down below the cliffs. Around us was all residential fading off into rural. Don’t recall the scope’s power, but I saw Saturn’s rings with the rings tilted at just that angle that most pleases the eye. Jupiter had stripes and four evident moons, but I could not make out the Spot. Once I even spotted Uranus, at least if I read the star charts and aimed the telescope properly. Those were the days.

    Even today when the sky is clear of clouds, the stars are out in force. Sometimes I will pause before crossing to the house and just look.

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