Book Trailer: All Those Vanished Engines by Paul Park

All Those Vanished Engines by Paul Park

In All Those Vanished Engines, Paul Park returns to science fiction after a decade spent on the impressive four-volume A Princess of Roumania fantasy, with an extraordinary, intense, compressed SF novel in three parts, each set in its own alternate-history universe. The sections are all rooted in Virginia and the Battle of the Crater, and are also grounded in the real history of the Park family, from differing points of view. They are all gorgeously imaginative and carefully constructed, and reverberate richly with one another.

The first section is set in the aftermath of the Civil War, in a world in which the Queen of the North has negotiated a two-nation settlement. The second, taking place in northwestern Massachusetts, investigates a secret project during World War II, in a time somewhat like the present. The third is set in the near-future United States, with aliens from history.

The cumulative effect is awesome. There hasn’t been a three part novel this ambitious in science fiction since Gene Wolfe’s classic The Fifth Head of Cerberus.

All Those Vanished Engines, by Paul Park, will publish on July 1st.

On Building a Pillar to the Sky

Pillar to the Sky by William Forstchen

Written by William Forstchen

The idea of a space “elevator,” or “pillar,” originated in the early 20th century, when the pioneering Russian theorist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky laid out the math for chemical rockets to achieve orbit. Even then, Tsiolkovsky saw the fundamental flaw: the amount of energy, to achieve orbital velocity and the ratio of weight of fuel to functional payload, was absurd, and if ever achieved would be incredibly expensive. Right now it runs close to ten thousand dollars for each pound of payload lofted to low orbit, compared to less than two bucks per pound to get you across the Atlantic or Pacific. Also, at the time Tsiolkovsky figured out the math, no such rockets existed and there was doubt one could even be built.

He therefore turned his genius imagination to an alternative. Why not use the energy of the earth’s rotation to impart velocity? All that is needed is a tower, built at the equator and approximately 23,000 miles tall, reaching what is now known as geosynchrous orbit. At that altitude, the centrifugal force of the earth’s rotation would actually keep the tower rigid. A payload could be lifted into space by an elevator system that uses electricity from a ground based station. Once it reaches geosynch, just push off from the top of the tower and “voila,” you are in orbit, or with a bit of an additional boost, on a trans-lunar or trans-Mars trajectory.

There’s just one problem: Building the tower.

It sounds fantastic even in our realm of science fiction…building a tower 23,000 miles into space. Of course, structural engineering 101 will teach such dreamers a cold, hard, basic lesson, that the higher the structure, the heavier the base needed to support the weight. The base for such a tower, built of steel, would be an absurd hundreds of miles across and take a millennium to build by conventional methods like stacking one beam atop another, in the manner of a NYC skyscraper such as the Flatiron building of my publisher.

Tsiolkovsky worked out the math for space pillar at the start of the 20th century and left us with challenge of figuring out what to build it with. Nearly eighty years, later the legendary Arthur C. Clarke turned his talent to the idea with the classic novel on the subject, The Fountains of Paradise. He did prophesize what was needed, a carbon fiber engineered at the molecular level, vastly stronger than any diamond, but even he, genius dreamer that he was, stated it’d be another two hundred years before such technology was at hand.

I was in my twenties when I read Clarke’s work and the idea captivated my imagination and stayed with me. While working on my Ph.D. and writing my first novels, the idea of a space elevator lingered. With the advent of the internet, I kept an eye out for research reports on the subject, eventually seeing the emergence of serious scholarly conferences on the subject, and most importantly, that the legendary NASA team had put some seed money into the concept, with several feasibility studies and publications about ten years or so back.

The emerging consensus, from those who turn dreams into hard reality with technology that works, is that the time is at hand. It seems farfetched, but when John Kennedy challenged America to reach for the moon by the end of a decade, our total manned flight time in space was just over fifteen minutes, atop a rocket with not much more than 1/50th the lifting power needed to get to the moon. We reached Kennedy’s goal in eight years and two months.

Thus, out of dreams going back to my childhood days of Apollo, coupled with the idea of my publisher and editor to put authors and NASA personnel together to share dreams and realities, I felt I had to write this novel about the building of the world’s first “space elevator,” what I call the Pillar to the Sky. One of the joys for me is that this is not some dream I hope is one day achieved a century or more hence…the reality is that it can be built now, within my lifetime.

I grew up believing that space exploration is our future. I hope that in some way this novel might push that dream forward. In closing, I will confess to a selfish reason for writing the book. I want to be one of those blessed with the chance to finally reach space, climbing upward on a Pillar to the Sky.


From the Tor/Forge February 3rd newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.


More from the February 3rd Tor/Forge newsletter:

The Week in Review

Welcome to the week in review! Every Friday, we comb through the links and images we found and shared this week, and pull the very best for this post. Consider it concentrated genre goodness from all around the web.


  • Introducing The Anderson Project on Very different stories, all based on the same work of art.

And, just to make Friday that much sweeter, here’s a list of sweepstakes and sales we have going on!

Goodreads Sweepstakes: Lockstep by Karl Schroeder

Lockstep by Karl Schroeder

About Lockstep: When seventeen-year-old Toby McGonigal finds himself lost in space, separated from his family, he expects his next drift into cold sleep to be his last. After all, the planet he’s orbiting is frozen and sunless, and the cities are dead. But when Toby wakes again, he’s surprised to discover a thriving planet, a strange and prosperous galaxy, and something stranger still—that he’s been asleep for 14,000 years.

Welcome to the Lockstep Empire, where civilization is kept alive by careful hibernation. Here cold sleeps can last decades and waking moments mere weeks. Its citizens survive for millennia, traveling asleep on long voyages between worlds. Not only is Lockstep the new center of the galaxy, but Toby is shocked to learn that the Empire is still ruled by its founding family: his own.

Toby’s brother Peter has become a terrible tyrant. Suspicious of the return of his long-lost brother, whose rightful inheritance also controls the lockstep hibernation cycles, Peter sees Toby as a threat to his regime. Now, with the help of a lockstep girl named Corva, Toby must survive the forces of this new Empire, outwit his siblings, and save human civilization.
Karl Schroeder’s Lockstep is a grand innovation in hard SF space opera.

Enter for a chance to win here!

(Ends February 25)

Also, don’t forget to check out our other sweepstakes!

Goodreads Sweepstakes: The Burning Dark by Adam Christopher

The Burning Dark by Adam Christopher

About The Burning Dark: Adam Christopher’s dazzling first novel, Empire State, was named the Best Book of 2012 by SciFi Now magazine. Now he explores new dimensions of time and space in The Burning Dark.

Back in the day, Captain Abraham Idaho Cleveland had led the Fleet into battle against an implacable machine intelligence capable of devouring entire worlds. But after saving a planet, and getting a bum robot knee in the process, he finds himself relegated to one of the most remote backwaters in Fleetspace to oversee the decommissioning of a semi-deserted space station well past its use-by date.

But all is not well aboard the U-Star Coast City. The station’s reclusive Commandant is nowhere to be seen, leaving Cleveland to deal with a hostile crew on his own. Persistent malfunctions plague the station’s systems while interference from a toxic purple star makes even ordinary communications problematic. Alien shadows and whispers seem to haunt the lonely corridors and airlocks, fraying the nerves of everyone aboard.

Isolated and friendless, Cleveland reaches out to the universe via an old-fashioned space radio, only to tune in to a strange, enigmatic signal: a woman’s voice that seems to echo across a thousand light-years of space. But is the transmission just a random bit of static from the past—or a warning of an undying menace beyond mortal comprehension?

Enter for a chance to win here!

(Ends February 24)

Also, don’t forget to check out our other sweepstakes!

Goodreads Sweepstakes: The Time Traveler’s Almanac

The Time Traveler's Almanac edited by Ann VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer

About The Time Traveler’s Almanac: The Time Traveler’s Almanac is the largest and most definitive collection of time travel stories ever assembled. Gathered into one volume by intrepid chrononauts and world-renowned anthologists Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, this book compiles more than a century’s worth of literary travels into the past and the future that will serve to reacquaint readers with beloved classics of the time travel genre and introduce them to thrilling contemporary innovations.

This marvelous volume includes nearly seventy journeys through time from authors such as Douglas Adams, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, William Gibson, Ursula K. Le Guin, George R. R. Martin, Michael Moorcock, H. G. Wells, and Connie Willis, as well as helpful non-fiction articles original to this volume (such as Charles Yu’s “Top Ten Tips For Time Travelers”).

In fact, this book is like a time machine of its very own, covering millions of years of Earth’s history from the age of the dinosaurs through to strange and fascinating futures, spanning the ages from the beginning of time to its very end. The Time Traveler’s Almanac is the ultimate anthology for the time traveler in your life.

Enter for a chance to win here!

(Ends February 17)

Also, don’t forget to check out our other sweepstakes!

Goodreads Sweepstakes: Mentats of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Mentats of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

About Mentats of Dune: In Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson’s Mentats of Dune, the thinking machines have been defeated but the struggle for humanity’s future continues.

Gilbertus Albans has founded the Mentat School, a place where humans can learn the efficient techniques of thinking machines. But Gilbertus walks an uneasy line between his own convictions and compromises in order to survive the Butlerian fanatics, led by the madman Manford Torondo and his Swordmaster Anari Idaho. Mother Superior Raquella attempts to rebuild her Sisterhood School on Wallach IX, with her most talented and ambitious student, Valya Harkonnen, who also has another goal—to exact revenge on Vorian Atreides, the legendary hero of the Jihad, whom she blames for her family’s downfall.

Meanwhile, Josef Venport conducts his own war against the Butlerians. VenHold Spacing Fleet controls nearly all commerce thanks to the superior mutated Navigators that Venport has created, and he places a ruthless embargo on any planet that accepts Manford Torondo’s anti-technology pledge, hoping to starve them into submission. But fanatics rarely surrender easily…

The Mentats, the Navigators, and the Sisterhood all strive to improve the human race, but each group knows that as Butlerian fanaticism grows stronger, the battle will be to choose the path of humanity’s future—whether to embrace civilization, or to plunge into an endless dark age.

Enter for a chance to win here!

(Ends February 13)

Also, don’t forget to check out our other sweepstakes!

Goodreads Sweepstakes: Resistance by Jenna Black

Resistance by Jenna Black

About Resistance: Resistance is the second installment in acclaimed author Jenna Black’s YA SF romance series.

Nate Hayes is a Replica.

The real Nate was viciously murdered, but thanks to Paxco’s groundbreaking human replication technology, a duplicate was created that holds all of the personality and the memories of the original. Or…almost all. Nate’s backup didn’t extend to the days preceding his murder, leaving him searching for answers about who would kill him, and why. Now, after weeks spent attempting to solve his own murder with the help of his best friend and betrothed, Nadia Lake, Nate has found the answers he was seeking…and he doesn’t like what he’s discovered.

The original Nate was killed because he knew a secret that could change everything. Thanks to Nadia’s quick thinking, the two of them hold the cards now—or think they do.

Unfortunately, neither of them fully understands just how deep the conspiracy runs.

Enter for a chance to win here!

(Ends February 12)

Also, don’t forget to check out our other sweepstakes!

Goodreads Sweepstakes: Pillar to the Sky by William Forstchen

Pillar to the Sky

About Pillar to the Sky: From William Forstchen, the New York Times bestselling author of One Second After, comes Pillar to the Sky, a towering epic to rank with Douglas Preston’s Blasphemy and Michael Crichton’s Prey

Pandemic drought, skyrocketing oil prices, dwindling energy supplies and wars of water scarcity threaten the planet. Only four people can prevent global chaos.

Gary Morgan—a brilliant, renegade scientist is pilloried by the scientific community for his belief in a space elevator: a pillar to the sky, which he believes will make space flight fast, simple and affordable.

Eva Morgan—a brilliant and beautiful scientist of Ukranian descent, she has had a lifelong obsession to build a pillar to the sky, a vertiginous tower which would mine the power of the sun and supply humanity with cheap, limitless energy forever.

Erich Rothenberg—the ancient but revered rocket-scientist who labored with von Braun to create the first rockets and continued on to build those of today. A legend, he has mentored Gary and Eva for two decades, nurturing and encouraging their transcendent vision.

Franklin Smith—the eccentric Silicon Valley billionaire who will champion their cause, wage war with Congress and government bureaucracy and most important, finance their herculean undertaking.

The Goddard Space Flight Center—the novel’s pre-eminent hero, it’s enormous army of scientists, engineers and astronauts will design, machine, and build the space elevator. They will fight endless battles and overcome countless obstacles every step of the way.

This journey to the stars will not be easy—a tumultuous struggle filled with violence and heroism, love and death, spellbinding beauty and heartbreaking betrayal. The stakes could not be higher. Humanity’s salvation will hang in the balance.

Enter for a chance to win here!

(Ends January 15)

Also, don’t forget to check out our other sweepstakes!

Throwback Tuesday: Frederik Pohl’s best friends in SF give back in Gateways!

Welcome to a special Tuesday edition of Throwback Thursdays on the Tor/Forge blog! Every other week, we’re delving into our newsletter archives and sharing some of our favorite posts.

Genre fiction Grand Master Frederik Pohl was born on November 26, 1919. Sadly, he died in September of this year. Rather than remember the sorrow, we thought we’d focus on the joy we, and others, received from reading his work. To that end, we’ve delved into our newsletter archives, to July of 2010, and the publication of Gateways. We asked Pohl’s wife, Elizabeth Anne Hull, to discuss the tribute to her husband, from authors who have been influenced by his work. Happy birthday, Frederik Pohl, and know that we miss you! In the meantime, enjoy this blast from the past, and be sure to check back on our usual every other Thursday for more.

Gateways edited by Elizabeth Anne Hull

By Elizabeth Anne Hull

To celebrate my husband’s 90th orbit of the sun, I’m proud to have persuaded eighteen of the top writers in science fiction to contribute a story, and then to write an afterword, for this special anthology. Moreover, there are nine other appreciations of Fred, and these non-fiction pieces are exciting for me and for any serious fan who wants to know more about how we got where we are today in this literary movement Trufans call SF. For example, the memoirs by Bob Silverberg, Jim Gunn, Gardner Dozois, and Harry Harrison—themselves highly influential people who helped make the genre more respectable around the world—tell as much about the field and the way it was cultivated as they do about Fred and the way he encouraged each of them personally.

The main event here, of course, is the science fiction. Joe Haldeman, Mike Resnick, Frank Robinson, Harry Harrison, and Jody Lynn Nye each wrote a superb new tale. Many of the stories are inspired, either directly or indirectly, by Fred’s own fiction, most commonly by Fred’s favorite tale—the one he claims he is willing to have engraved on his monument when he dies—“Day Million.” I was delighted to realize that Gene Wolfe wrote that kind of singularity story, set in a world in an unspecified time—presumably our future—when humans had changed so much that their very nature has to be explained, or in Gene’s case, demonstrated by his first-person narrator.

The title of Cory Doctorow’s novella leaves no doubt that he was influenced by The Space Merchants, but what he has done with the concept is entirely fresh and original, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that fifty years from now “Chicken Little” will have become a classic in its own right.

In Jim Gunn’s remarkable four first-person narratives of intelligent alien races, he lets the aliens reveal themselves by what they say and how they say it, and by what they each choose to tell us about themselves.  I believe Jim was influenced not only by Fred’s many novels and stories in which he created original alien species but also by the many summers he and Fred spent critiquing young writers in the workshops at the University of Kansas.

Then there are some stories that are…well, Fred Pohl-ish stories, like Vernor Vinge’s piece. I was tickled to see Vernor write a story that I think Fred would be proud to have written himself.

Sometimes Fred’s influence was as an editor, when he put a writer’s work before the public. I believe Sheri Tepper’s satiric gifts were encouraged by Fred, and Ben Bova shows in his story that he understands that the sense of humor is just as important as the “sensawunda.”

This project has been a labor of love, not just for me, but also, judging from the fact that all the super-busy contributors found time to send their new works—Neil Gaiman’s coming all the way from China!—for everyone involved.

Oh, and one other thing I must mention: Fred has been nominated for a Hugo for Best Fan Writer—for Be sure to check it out.  The Master is still happily writing every day, and is currently putting some finishing touches on his newest novel, All the Lives He Led, scheduled for next spring from Tor.

This article is originally from the July 2010 Tor/Forge newsletter. Sign up for the Tor/Forge newsletter now, and get similar content in your inbox twice a month!