Molecular Monday: Worldbuilding with Lithium

August 7, 2017

Once upon a time, long before I knew much about chemistry, I wrote a Sci-Fi story set on a moon orbiting some far-flung gas giant. For story reasons, I needed this moon to have some sort of valuable resource, and I picked lithium to be that resource. Again, I didn’t know much about chemistry at the time, but for some reason I guessed this lithium-rich moon would probably have a rust-red color to it, like Mars.

Fast forward to today. I’m currently in the process of revising this and other stories in the Tomorrow News Network series. One of the things I’m trying to do is apply a little more science to my storytelling. And regarding this rust-red moon, it turns out I sort of got this one right!

There is a compound of lithium and nitrogen called lithium nitride (chemical formula Li3N) which has the kind of dark red color that I wanted for my moon. Lithium nitride forms spontaneously wherever pure lithium comes into contact with atmospheric nitrogen, so it’s fairly easy to make. It doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to me that a lithium-rich moon would be covered in this stuff.

Of course the characters in my story need an otherwise Earth-like environment. That means Earth-like gravity, free oxygen, an active water cycle…

Okay, I’m not clear on just how rapidly everything would catch on fire in this situation, but based on a YouTube demonstration and some lab safety info I found online, it seems you should be careful about exposing lithium nitride to oxygen, and for God’s sake keep it away from water!

So yeah… it seems I have some to rethinking to do. Fortunately, there are other, less explosive lithium compounds I could work with.

Programming note: I’ve been doing Molecular Mondays as a once-per-month thing for a while now, but I feel like I’m starting to slip with my chemistry research. So Molecular Mondays will now return to its original biweekly schedule. So tune in two weeks from today when we’ll be talking about… I don’t know, probably lithium again.

Science in the Chronoverse

October 13, 2016

Here on Planet Pailly, I write about real science, or at least I try to. That’s not so much the case on my other blog.

Today on the Tomorrow News Network website, I’m starting a series of posts about the “science of the chronoverse.” It’s basically the made-up science I use to justify time machines and faster-than-light travel in my stories.


The first post is on primitive science. Although actually, “primitive science” is just classical physics, so I guess I’m not making stuff up yet. But I will be soon!

Why I Wrote “The Orion War”

March 26, 2014

Tomorrow News Network

I was reading a Sci-Fi novel a few years ago in which a group of primitive aliens were discussing their various religious beliefs.  One of these aliens turned to the human protagonist to ask about religion on Earth.  The human responded, rather snobbishly I thought, “Oh, we outgrew that stuff.”  I’ve known more than a few people who longingly await the day when religion is tossed upon the ash heap of history, and this attitude seems to be pervasive among science fiction authors as well.  “The Orion War” is my response.

1.3 Orion War

“What good has religion ever done for us?” these anti-religious individuals might ask.  They’d then point to the Inquisition, the Crusades, and the current discord over evolution, gay marriage, and stem cell research.  They might also point to the ongoing threat of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism.  Given all the trouble religion has caused us, wouldn’t it be better to simply…

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Sciency Words: Technocracy

March 7, 2014

Sciency Words Logo

Today’s post is part of a special series here on Planet Pailly called Sciency Words.  Every Friday, we take a look at a new and interesting scientific term to help us all expand our scientific vocabularies together.  Today’s word is:


Technocracy is a hypothetical form of government in which political power is given to technical experts, mainly scientists and engineers.  Government policy is set not by debates or elections but by experimentation through the scientific method.  The ultimate goal of a technocratic government would be to create a self-sustaining society, a society that lives in maximum comfort given the limits of its natural resources.

Although there have been plenty of examples of scientists contributing to public policy decisions, we have yet to see a true technocracy in action.  I think a technocratic political system might have some advantages.  In democracies, we elect our leaders, but that is no guarantee that the best or brightest people in society will lead.  Too often, it’s the better-funded candidate who wins the election, or if not that, it’s the candidate who does a better job rallying the crowd with an elegant speech.

In the Tomorrow News Network series, the government of the alien race known as the Hykonians is identified as the Hykonian Technocracy.  Also, in the T.N.N. story “Mother Mars,” the ancient Martians appear to have a technocratic form of government.  I find the idea of a technocracy fascinating, and I can see how some might think it’s an improvement over our current democratic institutions.  However, I have chosen to portray these fictional technocracies as deeply flawed and prone to corruption, because no political system is perfect.

In the Tomorrow News Network series, the Hykonian Technocracy has a long history of conflict with the people of Earth.  It all began with a certain incident in Roswell, N.M.

Despite the potential advantages of a government run by Einsteins, I fear the disadvantages are far greater.  There’s probably a good reason this form of government does not already exist somewhere.  But what do you think?  Would we be better off under a technocracy, or should we stick to the political system we already have?


February 26, 2014

1.1 Medusa Effect

It’s been a while since I updated anything on the Tomorrow News Network website.  I’ve been neck-deep in revisions of the 2012 stories for the last few months.  When I started writing T.N.N. over two years ago, I was very much a novice.  I’m not going to claim that I have since mastered the art of writing, but I am far more competent at my craft than I used to be.

I have also started working with an editor who has taught me the difference between “borders” versus “boarders,” “prescribed” versus “proscribed,” and “farther” versus “further.”  My editor has also called my attention to a number of other embarrassing errors that I am now in the process of fixing.

Today, I am happy to announce that the revised versions of the first two Tomorrow News Network stories are available on the T.N.N. website.  Revisions of the third story are coming soon.  In fact, I had a meeting with my editor today concerning story #3, “The Orion War,” and she tells me that the updated version is much stronger than the original.

1.2 99 White Balloons

For those of you who’ve read these stories before, I hope you’ll take the time to read them again and see how they’ve improved.  And if you’re new to T.N.N., I beg your indulgence as this revision process goes forward.  Any typos or grammatical errors you find will be corrected in due time (probably).

Please click here to start reading the new version of “The Medusa Effect,” the “pilot episode” of the series.  Click here to read the new “99 White Balloons,” which focuses on the true story of Roswell.

2013 Blog of the Year Award

December 2, 2013

Today on the Tomorrow News Network website, I’m accepting my first Blog of the Year award!  It’s very exciting, and I feel both honored and humbled by this recognition for my short story series.  I want to thank my friend and writing buddy, Linda Frindt, for nominating me.

Click here to visit Linda’s blog, and click here to check out my shiny, new award!

Indie Life: Good Cover Art Is Worth 100,000 Words

November 13, 2013

IndieLife7Today’s post is part of Indie Life, a blog hop for independent authors hosted by the Indelibles.  Click here to see a list of participating blogs.

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They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but your cover art is worth much more than that.  Potential readers might not even bother to look at your book (much less buy it) if the cover doesn’t somehow catch their attention.  When I first started my indie life journey about two years ago, someone told me that I must hire a professional editor and I must hire a professional illustrator.  I chuckled at the time because I am a professional illustrator, or at least a semi-professional illustrator.  How hard could it be to do my own cover?

It wasn’t until I sat down with a blank sheet of paper and started thinking about how this one illustration—this one illustration!—could make or break the success of my first book and perhaps my whole career as a writer that I began to freak out.  I started sketching, then I stopped and started over, then I stopped and started over again.  Normally a project like this would take me a week, two weeks maximum, but this illustration took almost a full year.

Drawing and painting have always been easier for me than writing, but this was worse than any writer’s block I’ve ever experienced.  Many times, I wondered if I should give up and hire someone less personally involved in my book to do the cover for me.  I knew perfectly well that was the only reason I was struggling.  But I kept working on it, and as of this past Sunday I finally finished.  Here is the long awaited cover art for Tomorrow News Network: Volume One.  Please let me know what you think!

Live from the Newsroom

As for the editing, I did hire a professional to help me with that.  Even if I were a professional editor, I wouldn’t trust myself to catch all the mistakes in my own manuscript.  For that, you need a genuine outsider’s perspective.  So far, the editing process has been far less stressful than doing my own cover art.  I’m happy to announce that, while I still don’t know the exact date yet, the day my book comes out is tantalizingly close!

P.S.: If you’re in need of an illustrator, my services are now available.  Please email me at if you’re interested.  I promise it won’t take me a full year to do your cover art; I’d only inflict that kind of delay on myself.