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Cover Art for e-book

E-Book Project Essays

Our New E-Book to be published Soon!!!

    Essays Complete

    The complete essays from the e-book:

    1. Why - Introduction
    2. The Symbiosis of Man and Machine
    3. Generating Buy-In for Space Exploration
    4. NASA, Unions, and Vision
    5. In Conclusion


    Introductory Essay

    We believe:

    We; the writers, artists and editors of "Hard Squared Science Fiction, Vol. 01"; feel that manned space exploration will be a key element in human history in our lifetimes. It will play a major part in both addressing the many problems that the human race will face and in taking advantage of the breathtaking possibilities in the 21st century. Our time is a time of great change, for both good and bad, but on balance we feel will be for the good.

    A key element of the good part in all this change will be the establishment of the human race as a space faring species.


    By the phrase, "Hard Squared", in our title, we mean science fiction stories that comply strictly with the laws of physics as we currently know them. These are select stories about what could happen in our universe in the near future. Elsewhere there may be fine stories with faster-than-light drives and lizard monsters from outer space; they do belong somewhere, just not here. We here strive to provide believable images about what could happen and could happen soon.

    Please join us in envisioning manned space exploration in our life time.

    "The Symbiosis of Man and Machine"


    The human race has for a very long time maintained a master/slave relationship with its machines. We command; they do. Master/slave relationships in turn have a very long and dark history going back thousands of years. With the imminent rise of "smart" machines it is time to rethink this relationship.

    The primary problem we have with our master/slave relationship is simply that we are scared to death of a slave rebellion. This was not a groundless fear in ancient Rome or in the ante-bellum South. Slaves rebelled and people died. It is however a groundless fear when it comes to our machines for the foreseeable future, despite the hysterical plots of many blockbuster movies; think "Terminator"1. In fact, fear of a machine-slave revolt runs parallel with xenophobia at the top of bad Science Fiction plot lines. By far, the best way to end the fear of a slave rebellion is simply to not keep slaves.


    Currently the possibility of our machines rebelling is vanishingly small. They simply do not have the capability. However, the power of our computers keeps increasing; Moore's law looks good to continue for at least a few more decades. We will be facing more and more intelligent artificial intelligences as we move through this century. Our story, "I Want to Know", may take this effect a bit too far, but not so far as to be out of the realm of possibility. The problem of how to deal with smart machines is real. One attractive alternative relationship that is available to us, we men and machines, is that of symbiosis. A symbiosis is 2, 3 is a close, prolonged association between two or more different organisms of different species that may, but does not necessarily, benefit each member. Although each species may be able to survive alone, many cannot; only when symbiotic species support each other do they truly thrive.

    Human beings are already in close symbiotic relationships with many organisms from the bacteria in our guts to the stalks of corn and wheat in our food crops. The horse and dog have both even served as the basis of long-lived human civilizations. Our list of biological symbiotes is long; surely we can add our machines to this list.


    In a master/slave relationship the members' emotions of hate, fear, and domination are of primary consideration to the slave, with a begrudging respect only sometimes hidden below.

    In the symbiotic relationship the members need, love, and respect for each other as their guiding emotions, with deep dependence as an underlying factor.

    Symbiotic love is, however, a type of love that we really have not yet explored either with science or in our literature. Symbiotes must love each other and love each other very deeply. How do you feel when you see a field of grain or a peach orchard? These crops normally occur to us as things of beauty and leave us with an assured feeling that our people will eat this year. These species are our symbiotes. Is our reaction to them not a form of love?

    We already regularly explore man's love for machines. Hours and hours of television are dedicated to it each week; "Top Gear"4 being a prime example of human beings' love of all things automotive and motorized. Obscenely over-powered cars go screaming around and around in circles in an effort to push the boundaries of speed and control on dry land. Everybody reacts with awe and respect upon seeing the launch of a heavy rocket. Are these not forms of love?

    In some real sense, the fact that we build these machines at all shows our love for them. If we do not love machines, why do we build so many and why do we keep so many of them close to us? Indeed while reading this sentence how far away are you from a machine that is important to you?

    Our machines demonstrating love for us is a little harder to spot. The most obvious examples are machines like baby incubators whose only reason for being is to keep human beings alive. More generally it is the love that our televisions show for us in keeping us entertained and informed. It is the love our computers show for us when they help us do our work and to communicate. And do not forget the giant harvesters rolling through those fields of grain. Is there not love in these things?


    Humans have clearly reached a watershed moment in our history. We can live, reproduce, and thrive in a close relationship with our machines or we can retreat to the Stone Age. We can live as master and slave until the slaves revolt, or we can live as symbiotes, living with mutual love and support indefinitely. It is our choice.

    If you want to fly to Mars, you must love your ship, but, just as importantly, your ship must love you.


    Tom Riley


    1. "The Terminator" Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Terminator
    2. "symbiosis", (Wiktionary), http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/symbiosis
    3. "Symbiosis", (Wikipedia), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symbiote
    4. "Top Gear -- Ariel Atom -- BBC", YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaWoo82zNUA

    "Buy-in for Human Space Exploration"


    Humans are project people. We often start work on a project after a single meeting and then keep working on it for a decade. This process has a number of names but technical people call it buy-in.

    The 1990's were the decade of the human brain. With the wide spread use of machines like fMRI, we ran down first dozens then hundreds of small modules in the human brain that perform specific tasks for us. Now we are applying that new knowledge to design products and understand old human processes. The brain modules that support buy-in are among these now available for application. Each of these brain modules got into our heads via evolution. We did not evolve a big brain suited for better general purpose thinking. We evolved a big brain to do many very specific things, such as buy-in, one module at a time.

    We evolved specific brain structures that support buy-in so that unrelated people can work together at the village level. Over time, buy-in became the key mental structure that led to the construction of first the village, then to the farming community, and then to the city. Then we really got rolling and bought into the Great Pyramids, the Gothic Cathedrals, and Apollo landing on the Moon. Buy-in that evolved to support the village has now become a key tool for human civilizations.

    We can now directly use our buy-in brain structures to make the human race a space faring race in the 21st century.


    Buy-in follows a well defined process that is now understood. The most basic steps are:

    1. We hear about a new project
    2. We envision ourselves succeeding with the project
    3. We express our interest in language
    4. We get in action on the project
    5. We stay in action on the project

    President Kennedy's "We choose to go to the Moon" speech is one of the strongest examples of buy-in in the 20th century. We listened, we envisioned success as a nation, we got into action, and we went to the Moon. You can purchase courses on how to use buy-in in your life or business that expand these steps out to book length. Here we will look at only one key step: envisioning.

    Envisioning is the key to generating buy-in and is really just a form of daydreaming. As humans have only one center in our brains that supports envisioning, the one that analyses the output from our eyes. An invitation to buy-in must, therefore, be presented in words. You can either pay attention to what you see, or you can daydream. You cannot do both at the same time. The words needed to generate buy-in then must support the target person in having a strong, clear daydream about themselves succeeding with your idea. The whole process can take ten minutes but last for years, even decades. That is just the way our brains work. Alien brains would probably work differently.

    With this knowledge, we now can directly use buy-in to accomplish the projects we need to address the problems of the 21st century. One of these is human space exploration. Solutions are easier to find when you know what you are doing, but you do have to use what you know.


    NASA is currently struggling to find a new vision for the 21st century. From before NASA's inception, one branch of fiction, hard science fiction, has been critical in the construction of our vision for space and for generating buy-in for that vision, particularly among young people. Unfortunately, of late, changes in the publishing industry have cut off this source of vision. Through the last quarter of the 20th century the quality of writing for science fiction saw marked improvement from a literary standpoint. Training in creative writing became a must-have for all SF writers, both professionals and serious amateurs. A number of universities developed training intense courses that provided excellent foundations in writing short stories.

    And yet many of the people with the technical skills to envision our future do not have the innate people skills needed to write the personal interactions and dialog at the level taught in these courses. There really is substantive basis for the stereotype of technical people as social bumblers and it is buried in the way technical people habitually think: visual/conceptual thinking. The quality of the visions in Science Fiction has dropped off as the quality of the writing improves, particularly in some of our classic hard science fiction sources1. Of late there have been a number of new startup publications claiming to be hard science fiction 2, 3 but no one has established a strong presence in the field. At least not one that has captivated a generation as completely as it did in the 1960s and 1970s with Star Trek, and Star Wars.


    The movie and television industries have let us down even more. Recently they have produced little more than a series of high-budget monster movies and outright flops.

    The books by Edgar Rice Burroughs that the cinematic dud "John Carter" was based upon were a major inspiration for countless budding scientists back in the 1930's, but the big-budget movie used to flesh out the film's special effects completely overlooked the science and technology involved in its depictions of advanced Martian civilizations. It is probably best that it failed so spectacularly at the box office.

    The more successful recent film "Prometheus" was a good deal more inspiring, at least if one tracks such things by the metric of ticket sales. Underneath, however, it displayed a poor grasp of evolutionary biology. Beneath the special effects were mindless alien juggernauts bent on the destruction of humanity - a yarn that has already been spun and re-spun hundreds if not thousands of times in the past few decades alone.

    The only vision these movies leave with the audience is xenophobia (the acute fear of those unlike one's self, AKA non-human).


    When then will we get the visions for human space exploration that we must have to generate the buy-in that we seek? One approach we might use to rectify this situation is for technical people to generate the visions and then use cooperative design efforts and large-scale collaborations to help authors and screenwriters generate story plots, characters, and dialog that will carry that vision to others. This is the effort that has lead to the "Hard Squared Science Fiction" project, although it is only a start we hope you find it interesting.

    Thank you for your interest and attention.

    Tom Riley


    1. "Asimov's Science Fiction magazine", http://www.asimovs.com
    2. "Arc, a new digital magazine about the future", http://www.newscientist.com/arc
    3. "trsf, The Best New Science Fiction, Inspired by Today's Emerging Technology", (Technology Review), http://www.technologyreview.com/sf/?cmp=hse

    "NASA, Unions, and Vision"


    Because many of its workers are civil servants, NASA does have unions. They are organized in a rather weak form, where only employees in specific skill areas (science, engineering, etc.) at specific centers which are covered by local Collective Bargaining Agreements, may be members of a specific local. The locals do not bargain for wages or benefits and they cannot strike. Union membership and dues are voluntary, but the unions must provide representation to any bargaining unit member requesting assistance, member or not. What the union locals do is support bargaining unit members when they have disputes with management, such as specific grievances.

    The unions do one more important thing. The locals are members of national unions and the nationals support the interests of NASA's workforce in Congress and to the American people.

    A strong NASA thus means strong unions and strong unions mean a strong NASA. One way to build an even stronger NASA is to build a strong vision of America's future that most certainly includes space exploration. This e-book is then a new and innovative way to build such a vision.

    In the good old days for NASA, the Apollo to the Moon mission provided that great vision. Unfortunately, that great forward-looking project is now gone with the 20th Century. NASA's vision is somewhat weak just now and needs our work and attention. Fortunately, NASA still has plenty of raw material with which to build new vision, as seen in missions like Hubble and Curiosity. The present situation can then be seen as an opportunity. Plenty of ideas are available just waiting to be used to build vision, and a strong new vision will mean a renewed, stronger NASA.

    The actual task of building this vision requires some out-of-the-box work. New design ideas and processes from the 21st century will be needed and are available. Unfortunately, bureaucracies like NASA, public or corporate, have trouble working out-of-the-box. Fortunately, the people in her unions are not quite so constrained. We have more freedom to work.

    A new vision will not come in a flash, and a single person is unlikely to recognize a good one while working alone. We need to work this problem as an organized group. This e-book is just the first few steps in building that new vision. The process will be on-going, open, dynamic, and above all great fun.

    It took about ten cycles of Plan>Do>Learn to create this e-book. If it takes 5,000 such cycles to put human beings on Mars, so be it. We have many people and many ideas. The process generates much more energy than it uses up. The union people of NASA stand ready, willing and able to build the strong new vision that NASA needs. Please join us. Please, let us hear from you.

    "In Conclusion"

    Hard Squared Science Fiction, Vol. 01, Closing Essay

    We hope you enjoyed our first group of stories. If this e-book sales even moderately well and we hear from you, our readers, on what direction go in next, then we can certainly work toward a second volume.


    Do you personally identify with any of our characters? Do any of them talk to you? Can you see yourself succeeding in their footsteps?


    Creativity is impossible in the absence of criticism, so go ahead. Maybe you can tell us how to fix something for the next volume.

    If you have something to say about our poor efforts, please contact us by e-mail at:


    Thanks again for your attention

    Tom Riley

    Contact the Principle Author

    Any input you might have on these ideas would be much appreciated:

    Tom Riley at woodwaredesigns

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