Author Interview: Kristen Kooistra

Author Interview of Kristen Kooistra

For this month, I interview Kristen Kooistra, a dedicated writer who’s got her social media set up with a blog, Facebook author pageTwitter profile, Goodreads, and Amazon presence. Inspirational stuff.

Is your best friend a writer?

Kristin: No, he’s not. J My husband is my best friend and he’s never written more than a grocery list. He didn’t even really cross over into reader territory until we got married. I started handing him books and going, “You’d like this.” He still doesn’t read a whole lot, but there’s nights we’ll stay up reading our own things or I’ll read out-loud.

Do you think you could ever be best friends with your villain?

Kristin: Oh certainly, both of them. My two villains are my favorite characters and despite knowing they’re evil, I can’t help liking them.

Do you have a back cover blurb you could share with us?

Kristin: Yes! Here’s the one for Heart of the Winterland.

The Princess
On her 200th birthday, the enchantment that holds Princess Calisandra in a state of apathy breaks. Full of questions about her kingdom’s history and what lies outside the borders of her snow-cursed kingdom, she leaves home in search of answers.

The Sorceress
Fate has always been against Amee. Orphaned as a baby, she grew up with darkness snuffing out what little light she could find in her life. When her spirit breaks, she sequesters herself in the border forest. Powerful and angry, she waits …

The Guardian
An orb formed to protect Cali, Voice has never had a purpose beyond caring for the princess’s needs. But as she joins Cali on her journey and the spell that confined her breaks, she starts to wonder about her place in the world.

The Captain
Captain Kota, in forced exile from her homeland, swears that never again will she be powerless. Ascending the ranks of the Shayal guard, her latest mission is to find the one who has escaped Duke Bludgaard.

The Fugitive
A desperate search has brought Angel far from her home, but now Captain Kota’s relentless pursuit keeps her from her task. When she crosses paths with a naîve princess and a sage orb, she finds more than she anticipated.

What makes your books stand out from the crowd?

Kristin: First, I’d say the lack of romance. I still feel a little “ahhh” about that because romance is such a big deal for readers. A lot of people enjoy it as a subplot, and I kind of took a gamble with writing a story that didn’t have a romance. Especially with Fantasy, romance is usually involved. But I hope there’s people like me who love a book that focuses on other things.

Most of the praise for Winterland has been about the characters and how real they are.

Where do you see publishing going in the future?

Kristin: I don’t follow the trends of publishing, but I suspect it’ll be much the same as it is now.

For traditional publishing there’ll always be people who want to just write and leave all the other details of what it takes to get a book out there to someone else. There’ll still be people who only feel validated or accomplished if they’re traditionally published. And people who just know they don’t have the time, skills, or desire to learn how to properly assemble a novel(outside of writing it) and market it.

Same goes for self-publishing. There’ll always be writers like me who are control freaks and want to do it all themselves. Fail or win, there’ll be no one to blame but myself. There’ll be writers who don’t want to wait to get traditionally published, who’ll tire of getting turned down, or who want to take on all the work and not have to split the money.

And since I can see there being a significant portion of writers who want to choose self or traditional for any of those reasons(or others), I can’t imagine either is going away anytime soon. I also can’t really think of what new thing would come on the scene.

About Kristen

Kristen Kooistra fell in love with reading at a young age and never resurfaced. She loved solving mysteries, riding across the prairie, and sailing on the open sea. But her favorite books were those that held the fantastical. So when the time came for her to seriously approach publishing a book, it had to be fantasy!

Living in Michigan(her own winterland) with her husband, three kids, and two cats, she has lots of free time . . . Okay, so more like she squeezes in writing time late at night when only the cats are awake to pester her.

“Heart of the Winterland” is Kristen’s first novel, and though it started as a whim, it grew into so much more and has inspired a sequel(in progress), “Heart of the Sorceress”.

Tucked into a quiet countryside, Kristen spends most of her time being Mommy. She loves spending time with her family and hopes that her writing will entertain and inspire them as well.

Besides writing, Kristen enjoys reading(of course!), chatting with her writer’s group, sewing, swimming, gardening, and cooking(please no baking!). She’s also developed a fondness for water gun fights with her three year old. Actually, she’s found that most everything become a lot more fun with little kids.

Author Interview: Christina Feindel

Author Interview of Christina Feindel

Now I have some questions for Christina Feindel, a science fiction author who is giving us a perspective on her debut novel. Exciting stuff and inspirational.

Do you write full-time or part-time?

Christina: I’m self-employed full-time and then some, which involves some writing, but not really the kind we’re talking about. That takes up a lot of my time and energy. I try to find time for fiction every day, even if it’s only a few minutes, but the reality is it often takes a backseat to everything else. I’d like to be able to strike a 50-50 balance between my job and my writing someday.

What drew you to write in this genre?

Christina: My fiction is always very character-driven. I really think I could have told the same story (or at least, a very similar one) in just about any genre. And I was never very interested in sci-fi as a kid. But I find that as I get older, it’s a good opportunity to explore the concerns we all have about the future of our planet and our legacy as a species.

Q: How much research do you do?

Christina: That’s the nice thing about fantasy and science fiction. It’s often better the further removed from reality it is, the more it engages and challenges the reader’s imagination. But there are things you can BS and things you can’t, and the hope is that the readers can’t tell the difference. I think Scott Lynch said something like that about one of his books. I can take liberties with technologies we don’t have yet, but there are plenty of things we do have–a significant portion of my book takes place in a jungle, for example, so I wanted that to feel as authentic as I could manage.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Christina: I try not to make plans or get my hopes up or have unrealistic expectations. I just want to enjoy the ride. I’ve always written as a hobby and I’m perfectly content to keep doing that. I already have a job I love that challenges and satisfies me in completely different ways than writing does. But I hope that when the book does come out, it entertains whoever happens to pick it up. Even if it’s only one person.

Do you think that the book cover plays an important part in the buying process?

Christina: Absolutely. We all know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but we do anyway. Some books with amateurish covers might catch on, but I think those are few and far between. I freelance in graphic design, so the cover for The Revenant is something I put a lot of time and thought into.

Introducing Christina’s Debut Novel: The Revenant

the-revenant-halcyon-reach-book-oneWith its advanced weaponry, the ghost ship Revenant was supposed to turn the tide of the war… but went missing instead. Ten years later, the Federation’s hold on the three suns is firmly cemented and corrupt in every way, and any Separatist hopes or dreams seem to have gone the way of Old Earth and its dinosaurs.

Grayson Delamere was still a child when the war ended and she doesn’t much care why it was fought in the first place. In the cold, dark vac of space, most lives are short and brutal with or without the Federation’s interference. She’s worked hard and kept her head down, making her living as a mechanic on any ship that’d have her. If she’s broken a few laws and made a few enemies along the way, well, that’s just the way life is on the fringe of the Trisolar System.

But now, someone has discovered all of her dirty little secrets… and will hold them hostage to ensure Grayson’s help in the most dangerous job of her life: To recover the Revenant and rekindle the fires of rebellion.

About Christina

Christina Feindel resides in central Texas with her multi-talented husband, Noah. While traversing academia, civil service, and chronic illness in early adulthood, she founded the whole-foods blog and now works as a cook, photographer, and educator. She pens fiction in her spare time, with a particular passion for character development and genre-blending. More info about her and her debut novel The Revenant can be found at

Author Interview: Zeta Lordes

Author Interview of Zeta Lordes

Here’s an interview of yet another up and coming author. It’s great to see what others like to cover in their work!

Do you have a preferred tense or point of view you write in? And why?

Zeta: I always write in past tense versus present tense. I dislike present tense to both read and write… what it might gain in immediacy it loses in intimacy. For me, past tense is more conducive to storytelling versus story reporting.

I’ll often write short stories in 1st person (POV), but I write longer pieces in 3rd person. 1st person is much more confining (for both reader and writer) in terms of how the story can unfold. In longer pieces I prefer the elements of 3rd person which offer a wider scope to the story telling.

Are there particular themes you try to bring out in your works?

Zeta: Some of my favorites are

  • Ambition — getting what you want and what price you’re willing to pay for it
  • Discovery — stretching your world view beyond what you know to discover new places, new meanings, and new strengths
  • Fear — how it drives us, how we deal with it, and how we conquer it
  • Personal Responsibility — ultimately the choices we make are ours alone, how do we deal with the repercussions, do they make us or break us
  • Power — the search for it, how we deal with it both internally and externally, the loss and gain of it

Do you have a specific reader in mind when you write? What are they like?

Zeta: I suppose I think of a reader very similar to myself. Someone who likes intrigue, a certain level of sophistication, complex characters with complex motivations, and a story that supports those ideals.

What type of obstacles do you most enjoy throwing at characters in your stories?

Zeta: A lot of this ties into my favorite themes. I force my characters to face their fears, the costs of their ambitions, and the cost/responsibility of power. I love giving my characters impossible choices which often leaves them giving up more than they get. Battering their beliefs and preconceived notions of themselves is also a favorite obstacle, tying into personal responsibility and discovery.

How do you feel about endings? Is there a type of ending you strive for?

Zeta: I’ll often play around with different endings for short stories. But in longer works I’m always going for the ultimate triumph of the human spirit. Not sugary sweet, but definitely uplifting and buoyant. I love happy endings!

About Zeta

Zeta Lordes is writer of Speculative Fiction (mostly a blend of Science Fiction and Paranormal) flavored with plenty of suspense and romance. When she’s not writing, she’s often playing with photo projects, like book covers for herself and other author friends.

She lives alone in a rambling house littered everywhere with books, and the company of three cats—who have their own litter.

She’s just started reaching out on social media. You can follow her here:


Author Interview: J. R. Creaden

Author Interview of J. R. Creaden

Here’s another self published author also writing science fiction. It’s good to see that they are out there. Also, it’s good to see someone with similar reasons for wanting to write science fiction. I’ll let you read on.

contact-filesWhen you develop characters do you already know who they are before you begin writing or do you let them develop as you go?

J. R. I get a strong grasp of characters before I begin. They develop from that point as I write, but I already know their background, personality, goals, dislikes, quirks, and even secrets by then. Characters continue to surprise me as I write though, and I often find that what I thought I knew about the characters was merely the surface, that their truth lies much deeper within the narrative.

Where do you see publishing going in the future?

J. R. I’m on hold about this. In my lifetime, I’ve seen books enter the digital age while traditional bookstores go out of business. This is very sad to me, even though I love the availability of stories on every platform. Not all readers have that kind of access, though. I hope we don’t trend too far away from physical publishing. Paper books survive much longer than app companies or cell phone batteries.

What drew you to write in this genre?

J. R. I blame my children. No, really. I never intended to write for young audiences, but my children’s heartache over not finding stories at their levels that “matched” their interests drove me to creating a series built around their interests.

Since science fiction is the genre I prefer to read, it seemed natural that I would write in it eventually. I love how science fiction can help shape the real world, and I hope to be part of the science popularization movement, drawing readers to think outside of what “is” to what “could be” if they try.

Kids these days are smarter than they get credit for, in my opinion, and I see young readers fighting against the tide of anti-intellectualism sweeping the West. I don’t want to give them easy scifi, I want to give them something they can sink into, that can carry them away but still be “real” enough that it drives them to ask questions about our own planet, our own histories, about entropy and evolution, and that can grow with them as they mature.

Do you read outside your genre?

J. R. I read in all genres. I’ve taken a ten-year hiatus from historical fiction so my favorite authors in that genre can push out more works, but I know I’ll return. I don’t read much romance, but it falls in my lap sometimes along with paranormal fantasy, science fiction, high and low fantasy, women’s lit, mystery, crime, horror, memoirs, biographies. I read YA, MG, and children’s lit aloud with my children, but I read on my own even more.

Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

J. R. Covers have never mattered to me—the first thing I do with a purchased hardcover is toss that paper sleeve in the trash. I’m certain it factors into other readers’ choices, though. I like a cover to be recognizable and bold, otherwise I’m not particular.
Traditional scifi covers are some of my favorite art, however, and I think the role covers play within the genre is unique. For a space story, I definitely want to see an image of space on the book.

About J. R.

jrcreadenJR began her writing career as a child disgruntled with song lyrics. After some early success with poetry and essays, she spent decades distracted by songwriting and academia until her story dreams became too interesting to keep to myself. Her current YA space opera series Contact Files will soon be ready for public consumption or vivisection. Her goal is to share stories that inspire readers to embrace cultural diversity, the promise of science, and the value of humor and imagination to build a future that’s more Star Trek and less 1984. When she’s not writing, JR enjoys exchanging “your mama” jokes with her children, floating in lakes, and slaying virtual dragons.




Author Interview: Tabitha Chirrick

Author Interview with Tabitha Chirrick

This month I have an interview with an author who has perhaps the best Twitter name of all, ‘tabkey’. It’s good for me to see that some of the challenges I face are those that others have to deal with. For me this is grate news because it means that it’s normal, i.e. nothing to worry about.

When you develop characters, do you already know who they are before you begin writing, or do you let them develop as you go?

Tabitha: I usually have a general sense of who my tabithachirrick-overshadowed-ebook-small-smallcharacters are before I start writing. Maybe it’s just their archetype, or a twist on that archetype with a flavoring of personality, but I don’t start with nothing. I don’t put in more effort than that because…well. You put new characters on a page with a plan, and most of the time they take that plan for a ride. They end up having more romantic chemistry with their supposed nemesis than their destined true love, and they always acquire a much dirtier mouth somehow, or an impossibly clean one.

And I get that it can be a little off-putting for me to talk about characters like subliminal beings with their own free will rather than fictitious creations of my own mind, but actually writing the story dredges up a sort of subconscious influence. I’ve sort of accepted this as part of my process.

Writing the first draft is a game of “get to know you” with my characters. By the second draft, they can be completely different people. Case in point: when writing Overshadowed, I actually cut an entire character and merged her ghost with the MC’s sidekick-sort, and the result was not only a much more well-rounded character but a much cleaner, more effective cast.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing as far as content?

Tabitha: I struggle with transitional scenes. Getting characters from point A to point B while maintaining intrigue. If anyone reading this has ever read my work, you’ll know I try to keep the transitions implied through chapter breaks. Tayel and her friends will end a chapter planning a fuel heist, and the next chapter will open with them executing the plan. No hand-holding transitions required.

But sometimes I need to get characters to the next plot point within the chapter, and those parts are always a massive pain in my ass. Such scenes need to exist to maintain flow and a sense of time, but intrigue has to be maintained, as does the current level of tension. It also doesn’t hurt to have some character or plot development happening in the narrative so it’s not just filler space.

Obviously every scene should take these things into consideration, but transitions are the hardest because finding a unique way to do all this while showing my characters travel or complete a long, mundane task can become tedious. It’s always worth it in the end, though!

What are your views on social media for marketing, and which of them have worked best for you?

Tabitha: I do very, very little “hard marketing” on social media, which for me entails twitter, a blog, and goodreads. I don’t post buy links for my books unless they’ve just come out or there’s a sale or a giveaway, and I definitely don’t spam DMs to new followers. Basically: I don’t do to other people what I don’t want done to me. I don’t like spam, seas of buy links, or accounts that basically exist as a shop front for their work.

In my mind, social media is about being social. It’s about engaging with other people on popular issues or like interests, so I make my time on those sites about that. I try to talk about things in my life I find exciting – like writing and video games and books – and I support people who are doing exciting things. Just by engaging on a social level, I hope to draw people who like the same things I do, and maybe one day they’ll see a sale or giveaway and try out some of the content I create.

Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

Tabitha: It’s a gift!

Writing is about humanity, about capturing the world or inventing new, better worlds. Fiction can carve through biases and create objective platforms for discussing liberties, it can unveil the true face of depression and make people empathize with something they themselves have never even experienced, and it always opens us up to new ideas, or at the very least, new adventures.

I think about the way Harry Potter affected my generation, about how millions of us were so deeply touched by a world of magic and bigger-than-life characters. One story told across seven books inspired a generation of new readers, took over Hollywood, got its own theme park, and constantly makes an impact in people’s lives (just check tumblr!).

To have the ability – or the drive to create the ability to write stories that have an impact is an incredible gift. We may never get to J.K. Rowling levels of status, but if one person reads your story and loves it, is maybe changed by it, isn’t that worth it? It is for me.

Maybe that’s a little pie in the sky. Of all the writers in the world, I’m certainly one of the least insightful and interesting, because I like writing about explosions and lasers (pew pew). But at the end of the day, sitting down to create stories others may love is the best feeling.

What is your favourite movie and why?

Tabitha: Okay, that’s kind of a big question. I love movies. The first one that popped into my head was Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, though, so let’s go with that!

I know it’s not the quintessential film-lover’s Citizen Kane or anything by Hitchcock or Scorsese, but Scott Pilgrim is such a lively and fun film. The story is pretty darn basic, but the characters are rapidly characterized, crazy and quirky, and the interactions between their vastly different personalities are hysterical. Edgar Wright’s directing is fantastic, and the visual humor adds just as much as the spoken.

I saw the movie first (didn’t read the graphic novel. I know. shame. shame. shame.), so knew hardly anything about it before watching. It of course opens as a typical love tale with a nerdy twist, which was neat, but then the movie explodes into an action flick and none of the characters bat an eye at the genre change, like superhero fights in the middle of rock shows are just everyday occurrences for them. Just fantastic. I freaking love that movie! I’m gonna go watch it again now.

About Tabitha

tabithachirrick_smallTabitha Chirrick is an author of all things speculative, geeky, and/or badass. Her most recent release is a YA Space Opera called Overshadowed, which she feels includes an about-right number of explosions. She makes her base in a little-known town so close to San Diego that it’s just much easier to say “San Diego.” She lives in San Diego.

Social Media Links:

The Economic History of the Solar System: The Regulation of Low Earth Orbit

The early periods of space exploration were characterized by a lack of cohesion. There were some joint ventures and agreements not to weaponize low earth orbit but in most cases, each nation followed it’s own path as far as space exploration went.

A growing problem caused by congestion in orbit changed this. At the close of the twentieth century there were over two thousand satellites in orbit. Within twenty years the number had doubled. Once debris and discarded boosters were taken into account, there were over half a million objects larger than a centimeter orbiting the Earth. None of these orbits were stable but, for many of the objects, the decay could take decades if not centuries. For the people of the day, space was congested and it was only going to get more so.

In 2009, the first accidental collision between satellites occurred when Iridium 33 and Kosmos 2251 collided. The space exploration community lived in fear of the Kessler Effect, the situation where debris from one collision hits another satellite generating a cascade effect until the amount of debris renders low Earth orbit unusable. In 2020, a small cascade that eliminated seven satellites over several weeks made the world take notice of this growing problem. The main space faring nations agreed that something needed to be done and the next two years were spent as the various nations jockeyed for position on who should pay. The newer space faring nations argued that costs should be apportioned according to the number of satellites in orbit. For Russia and the U.S., this represented a massive financial burden for satellites that were effectively dead. These countries used their veto to block those proposals and countered that each new launch should contribute to the clean up fund on the grounds that these were the satellites requiring a clear orbital path. In short, Russia and the U.S. argued that, if you needed a space, you should pay for it.

In 2022, a second cascade occurred taking out another five satellites. Orbital mechanics wasn’t going to wait for Earth bound politicians to come to an agreement. In a hurried session a compromise was worked out that Russia and the U.S. would contribute seed funding but a levy was to be imposed on all launches above the Kármán line with the clean up effort being launched from Russian or U.S. facilities. Once agreed, the new rules were strictly enforced as it was to the advantage of the major powers to limit those smaller countries looking to develop ballistic missile capability.

This provided the funds for the clean up and an available source of funds created the incentives required for commercial operators to develop the technology to deal with the mess in orbit. For all the visions of landing on Mars or mining asteroids, the first commercial ventures in space itself was to be the messy business of dealing with the garbage circling the Earth.

This wasn’t to be the end of regulation but it provided the foundation that was used from that point onward.

This post is part of The Economic History of the Solar System. The background for this series can be found here.

Author Interview: Alasdair Shaw

Author Interview of Alasdair Shaw

For this month, I interview Alasdair Shaw, a writer who seems to have taken a different path to a self publishing career, specifically through non-fiction before getting into science fiction. It’s great to see the flexibility that comes with self publishing.

Any amusing story about marketing books that happened to you?

Alasdair: I feel like I should make one up just to answer this question. Here goes…

I once bumped into Steven Spielberg at Cannes. He thought I had written Independence Day, probably due to the first installment of the Two Democracies: Revolution series being called Independence, and started talking about a sequel. A reporter overheard some of it and ran a big story about it.

Now, if I ever get famous, I am going to see how long it takes that bit of rubbish to appear on Wikipedia!

Have you written works in collaboration with other writers, and if so: why did you decide to collaborate and did it affect your sales?

The Newcomer Book CoverAlasdair: I have some short stories in science fiction anthologies. One of which, The Newcomer, I edited myself. I wanted to be involved in a joint project, something that would be greater than any of us individually would create. It also seemed a good way to introduce readers to authors they hadn’t yet encountered.

They have brought more people to my series, and also garnered a few very involved mailing list subscribers.

Do you let the book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?

Alasdair: Yes. Usually I aim for that time to be one where I am busy anyway, and so aren’t tempted. Having finished my first military science fiction novel, Liberty, I was posted to run a training exercise in south Wales. Days of caving, rock climbing, mountain walking, tactical exercises and live full-bore shooting forced the book out of my conscious mind. When I returned for the final edit, I saw several big flaws that needed addressing.

The Perception of Justice Book CoverWith my latest work, The Perception of Prejudice, I finished it just before Christmas then went back to it at the start of this month.

How much research do you do?

Alasdair: I spent a lot of time reading, searching, and walking the routes for my Walking through the Past series.

To be honest, I do very little research for my science fiction. The worlds are completely fictitious, so instead of researching real places I run things through in a sort of simulation in my head. I do a little digging into historical events that I want to resonate with references in my stories. The main piece of research is into the books, music, and artwork that Indie (my main character – a sentient AI) explores.

Was anything in the book inspired by your own personal experience?

Alasdair: Johnson’s command style is akin to some of the better officers I have met. She avoids micro-managing where she can, focusing instead on the big picture. She trusts her crew to do what needs doing, and refrains from pointless orders. It makes the story-telling harder – no “Shields up” to remind the reader they have shields when faced with an enemy attack, for instance.

One of the characters in my work in progress is partially based on my personal experience in life. Not his great riches, but his interpretation of the world and interactions with other people.

About Alasdair

Alasdair Shaw started his writing career with Walking Through the Past, a series of walking guides to archaeological sites in Britain’s uplands published by Archaeoroutes. He then got into writing physics textbooks, revision guides, and practice exam papers for OCR, Pearson, ZigZag Education and BBOP: School Physics Resources.

The Two Democracies: Revolution science fiction series starts with Independence, and continues with Liberty. A novelette, The Perception of Prejudice, comes out this month. The next full-length novel, Equality, will hopefully be released in summer 2017, followed by Fraternity the year after.

You can sign up to Alasdair Shaw’s mailing list at  and see what else he gets up to on his website at
The Two Democracies universe intersects with our own at and

The Economic History of the Solar System: First Commercial Ventures Era

The period in which governments monopolize space exploration quickly came to an end. By the early twenty first century, a number of private companies were focusing on ventures in space. Although some of these were spectacular (and fanciful) such as Elon Musk’s desire to set up a colony on Mars, most had viable commercial ends in mind.

There were two main areas of commercial interest, the space tourism industry and the booster industry. Of the two, space tourism was the sexier and more visible. Space tourism focused on providing the well off with a space experience. The first target for commercial space tourism innovators was the simple launch of a small compliment of tourists past the Kármán line allowing a view of the curvature of the Earth and a short period of weightlessness (along with the bragging rights of having been in space). These developments created the basic technology for launching groups of people into space but ultimately the stand alone space tourism industry was a dead end never fully progressing past the stage of taking paying passengers past low Earth orbit.

The problem that beset the industry was the increasing difficulty of getting tourists to each new stage. Getting past the Kármán line was one thing, getting the same sized group into orbit was something else. With each new target, the costs increase exponentially along with the risk – the higher the orbit the more complex and challenging the re-entry becomes. In spite of the vision of early science fiction authors, it was never feasible to get a paying group to the moon and return them to Earth – not as a stand alone venture. The benefit that the space tourism industry did provide was efficient and reusable means to get a group of humans into low Earth orbit. It was only later, once the development of permanent platforms supported by resources mined from space that the true value of this could be exploited.

The other major area of development was on launch vehicles. Government involvement was always historical, with the first exploration era based entirely on government owned launch vehicles. This made sense as the first launch vehicles were simply re-purposed ballistic missiles. The commonality of purpose between the needs of the ballistic missiles and boosters was short lived. With the miniaturization of nuclear warheads, ballistic missiles only needed to carry a modest payload for a relatively short distance but be ready for deployment within minutes. Boosters to put equipment into space demanded ever increasing throw weight and range and launch windows were usually well defined. Without the defence dollars driving innovation, it opened the field for the commercial launch industry who caught up with and then surpassed the government. The advantage the commercial launch industry had was focus on innovation in two specific areas. The first of these was cost to orbit and with its focus on payback, the private industry soon found and leveraged those efficiencies to bring down the cost to orbit. Innovations included reusable launch vehicles, reusable booster stages, and more efficient engines including hybrid engines that could convert from jet (requiring air) to rocket (using own oxidizing agent) operation. The second area of focus was on reliability. This was important to attract better paying customers and to reduce insurance overheads.

With private industry providing efficient and reliable transport to orbit, the government owned booster industry came to a close. Even the largest launch vehicles were commercial ventures. The remaining government involvement was that government subsidized and supported their own national carrier to ensure that their own military and intelligence agencies did not become reliant on launch vehicles from other countries. Each major space exploring nation (the U.S., Russian and China) had a healthy, though subsidized national provider of launch services. The launch industry always remained divided with stiff competition for the dollars of non-military customers who needed equipment launched into space.

This separation of ownership of the launch vehicle and payload was a crucial step in the race to explore space. It took the complex and risky task of getting items into space away from the government sector enabling them to focus on the actual exploration of space itself.

This post is part of The Economic History of the Solar System. The background for this series can be found here.

Self publishing and Insults

Every now and again there’s an article or something published that just screams for a reply.  Here’s one that argues self publishing is an insult to literature

Gatekeepers have existed in many industries and usually gatekeepers add one of two values: (1) marketing (2) access to otherwise expensive infrastructure (production and/or distribution). The e-publisihing trend affects (2). To compare: Recording companies were gatekeepers, especially in the age of LPs and CDs.  Physical shops were gatekeepers for clothing and fashion. Books are following that trend. Essentially Amazon (and Co.) reduce production and distribution costs to near zero.

This leaves (1) and it seems traditional publishers are their own worst enemy here. I hear so many accounts of books being published but not being marketed.

If production and distribution are free (that value has gone) and marketing is not provided  (that value never arrives) then what is the value that traditional publishing brings.

Quality? Really? I’ve read some traditionally published books that have very poor plots and flat characters. Spelling and grammar.  Potentially, yes. Traditional publishers may do a better job of enforcing spelling and grammar.  But if that’s the argument why self publishing is an insult to the written word, it’s a very weak one.

Besides, there’s another way to judge works according to their quality, let the market decide.

Traditional publishing also has a lot to answer for. The limited space for published work versus the high volume of submissions has created a side industry exploiting their clients. It’s so bad that there is a mini industry just to expose these abuses.  For every site listed here ( there is at least one (and probably many more) author who has been ripped off. That’s the sort of issues that a traditional publishing model creates.

Apart from the significantly higher commercial and legal risks you face when publishing traditionally (see you really going to sue yourself for missed earnings?) the main difference between the two is on where the slush pile resides. In the traditionally published world, it exists within the office of the publisher.  With self-publishing, it exists online. Amazon and other retailers provide a look inside, a ranking system and a robust and monitored review process to allow the slush pile to exist alongside the more successful works and some people who have seen it says something amazing work resides in the slush pile.

Ultimately the ease and cost of doing business in the world of written fiction has plummeted. The barriers to entry have significantly reduced. That’s something that almost every government aims for.

What I struggle with is why people are so dead against the democratization of the publishing world. It’s hardly as if the existing structure of traditional publishers have any robust regulation to protect those in the industry  (

The Economic History of the Solar System: The First Explorer Era

This was the stage that as which humanity made the first and most tentative steps into space. In this period, the most valuable thing to be gained from the exploration of space was knowledge and the side effects of the innovation required to get there. Almost nothing physical was collected from space itself apart from a volume of moon rocks. The only real benefit was the acquisition of knowledge. Governments drove this first period for two reasons. Firstly, there was no economic incentive and the exploration was expensive ans only governments had access to the resources required. The second reason was that the first stages of space exploration was an offshoot of the industry to develop more and more powerful ballistic missiles – a purely government agenda.  This era was characterized by low orbit manned missions, unmanned probes, high levels of national pride and a lot of mistakes.  The first targets were based in national pride. First man in space. First person to orbit the earth. First man on the moon. First space station. First man (or woman) on an asteroid then on Mars. Planet flybys were also popular targets though these had a beneficial side effect. The more people learned about other bodies in the solar system, the more questions that were raised with follow on missions generally aimed to answer these questions. This created a succession of unmanned probes to Mars and Jupiter in particular that revealed a lot about the conditions on these two planets.

Although the economic incentive wasn’t yet there, this period is crucial to subsequent eras. The knowledge gained during this period defined the targets for subsequent eras. For example the early period focused heavily of finding volatiles such as water on other bodies such as the surface of the moon.

The main reason this period lasted as long as it did is because of the massive costs of getting things into orbit. It cost of around $5,000 to $10,000 per kilogram to get an item into Earth orbit – more to get the item to another part of the solar system. The reasons for this high cost are getting the item out of Earth’s atmosphere and accelerated to Earth’s orbital velocity of 8km per second. This high cost to Earth orbit will be a significant driving force that shaped the economics of the Solar System ever since. Humanity could never fully overcome this problem despite such fanciful ideas such as space elevators, space tethers and anti-gravity drives.

Escaping Earth has always meant a brute force heft into orbit around our planet.

The next post will look at the first economic incentives, the First Commercial Ventures Era.

This post is part of The Economic History of the Solar System. The background for this series can be found here.