meow, cat, Siamese, catty

My Starship Cat Press Works

A comprehensive list of everything I've published under Starship Cat Press, all collected in one sticky posting.

Short Fiction

Red Star, Yellow Sign

Whom the gods would destroy, they first drive mad.

It's 1934, and the assassination of Sergei Kirov, Leningrad's Communist Party chief, has rocked the Soviet Union. When an up and coming young Party official is assigned to investigate, it looks like an open and shut case.

The further Nikolai Yezhov looks into the case, the stranger things become. Mysterious entities lie beneath the swamps upon which Leningrad was founded. Because he has stumbled upon these secrets older than humanity itself, Yezhov must be eliminated. But first he must be led to commit acts that will ensure that history will forever remember him as a vicious criminal.

The Secret of Pad 34

Who would put a ceiling on humanity's expansion into space?

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meow, cat, Siamese, catty

A Matter of Trust

Death Wave (Star Quest Trilogy #2)Death Wave by Ben Bova

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As I was reading this book, I realized that the central theme of both it and the one immediately before it (New Earth) is trust. In particular, how do you establish trust between two peoples who have basically nothing in common? In New Earth, there was the problem of getting humans to trust that the inhabitants of this incredibly Earthlike world -- and their creators -- were honest and not setting a trap (which was not helped by their practice of doling out information as the Earth humans showed they were ready by asking the right questions -- which read to the Earth humans like a certain kind of bureaucratic obstructionism). In this novel, Jordan and Adiri must convince the multitudes of Earth that the danger of the titular Death Wave is real, and not just a scam to cover for an alien invasion.

There were several points at which I was absolutely certain that Jordan was going to become a Martyr for the Cause, thanks to the agent provocateur who was supposed to be luring potential radicals out into the open and seems to have gotten on an alien invasion crusade of his own. However, it does seem to have achieved a happy ending, with some people quietly retiring to write their memoirs and a young man who'd been used as a tool instead finally achieving his dream of becoming someone who mattered, rather than just another face in the crowd.

View all my reviews
meow, cat, Siamese, catty


Thanks to tracking information, I've been watching our last merchandise shipment take a decidedly peculiar route to get to us.

It was shipped from California, so at first it was following a logical progression through Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Missouri. Then it went up to the Chicago area, but instead of coming back down to Indianapolis, it mysteriously went to Kentucky. Supposedly it's going to get here tomorrow, but I'm seriously wondering how it's going to make it in time.
  • Current Music
    "Waiting for the Hammer to Fall" by Queen
  • Tags
meow, cat, Siamese, catty

Getting Back in the Swing of Things

This evening I finished loading the van for our upcoming conventions. It ended up being more complicated than I'd anticipated, at least partly because of the dimensions of some of the merchandise our consignor sent us. If I'd realized just how long some of the boxes were, I would've put them in different places -- but by the time I discovered the problem, it would've taken a fair amount of unloading to get the items in those places. OTOH, if we don't sell them at Tampa Bay Comic Con, I can try to get them in better locations when I load out.

All the same, it really made me realize just how out of practice I have gotten in the past year and a half. I just don't have as good a sense of how things will fit relative to each other, and can't eyeball an available space to see what is likely to go into it. So I ended up wasting a lot of time trying one thing and then another before I got things loaded. And I still had to cut some low-priority merchandise we just didn't have the space to load.
  • Current Music
    "Taking Care of Business" by Bachman Turner Overdrive
  • Tags
meow, cat, Siamese, catty

Heads Up -- Writing Challenge Voting

It's that time of the week again. The polls are open for voting on the Readers' Choice Award for this week's Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Writing Challenge. As usual, read all the stories and choose your favorite. While I would love to earn your vote, I want the voting to reflect actual reader tastes.

And as always, please tell your friends about this award. It's really getting to be an echo chamber when we have only ten or twelve votes.
meow, cat, Siamese, catty

Writing Challenges

This week's Odd Prompts writing challenge at More Odds than Ends was from Fiona Grey: "The stuffed toy astronaut was clearly a warning."

I immediately thought of a plush Buzz Lightyear doll that we'd carried for a while in our retail business -- but how to work it in a story? Maybe in the Big Messy Project, as an anachronistic element in the 70's small town setting of the first part?

And then I thought of Phoenix in Cyberspace, and the connections started falling into place.


A Warning to the Wise

Playing the Rim Merchant game was fun, but Roger knew that he couldn't stay here all the time. If he didn't take breaks from time to time, people would start asking questions for which there could be no acceptable answers. Even a freelance software engineer, who wouldn't have the issues of being "on the clock" still had to get his work done sometime Not to mention time to sleep, eat, and take care of other biological necessities.

All of those things meant he needed to be logged out and back in Toni's LAN before the next Federally mandated Identity Break. He'd given the last three a perfunctory response, and Toni had said recently that there had been problems with obsessive gamers using bots to fake their Identity Breaks. If the watchdog software was getting an upgrade to detect those sorts of things, it would be even more important to do nothing that attracted their attention.

At least the game provided a convenient way to put your character on hold while you took care of Life Stuff in meatspace: put your character in his bunk. The berthing areas aboard this ship might be small and austere compared to the staterooms paying passengers got, but they still beat enlisted quarters aboard a Navy vessel.

However, when Roger got to his bunk, he noticed something lying on it. An object he most definitely had not put there.

Looking closer, he saw it was a plush doll, a cartoon astronaut with a white spacesuit trimmed in green and purple. However, he didn't have time to ask about it, not with an identity Break bearing down. Better to just move it aside and hit the rack.

Moments later he was back in Toni's LAN, back in the little bubble house on the Moon that he'd created for her on Yuri's night. Toni wouldn't be back for at least another hour, which gave him some time to research that doll.

One benefit of being post-bio was being able to access images from memory as digital files, which made for convenient Internet searching. On the other hand, he had to be careful about how he uploaded those images, because the search engines had their own watchdog software. Although Toni doubted that they would be looking specifically for evidence of machine entities, it was best to avoid anything that cause them to flag his search for closer inspection.

On the other hand, all of Digital Dreams' games did offer the ability to do in-game image captures. As long as he made sure it looked like an unremarkable search by a bio gamer, it shouldn't be any trouble.

Moments later he got his answer: the doll was one Buzz Lightyear, a character from a series of movies that had been quite popular around the turn of the millennium. The character had been inspired by Buzz Aldrin...

The name awakened a multitude of memories from Roger's astronaut days – and once again the question of just how many of those memories Toni had painstakingly pieced back together from all the sources she'd amassed, and how many were proof that consciousness was indeed conserved, that the universe was in fact a sort of quantum hologram.

He pushed them away, deciding that no, he would not indulge his curiosity as to how Aldrin's career and life had proceeded. No, better to be satisfied in knowing that at least some members of the third astronaut selection group had come to such prominence that they would become figures of popular culture.

Not to mention that he could not afford such sentimentality when he needed to figure out just what message had been intended by depositing the doll on his bunk aboard the Morning's Bright Child. Was it merely someone's observation that he'd shown a little too much interest in the technical aspects of spaceflight, to the detriment of enjoyability of a game that was supposed to be pure handwavium in a Space is an Ocean world? Or did someone suspect what he was, and thus select a toy specifically tied to one of his fellow members of the Fourteen?

Perhaps it would be well done to find a way to get back off that ship on the next port of call. His character was a civilian on a commercial vessel, so jumping ship wasn't quite as serious as going AWOL from the Navy – but it wouldn't exactly help him advance his character, which wouldn't help him find the player whose avatar looked so much like Martha.


This week Fiona Gray and I swapped prompts. My prompt to her was: "Under the bonsai oak tree is a tiny house, with footprints coming in and out the door." Although I was thinking of the pixies of Maroa in the Ixilon 'verse, her interpretation of the prompt ended up being quite a bit darker

I also got an entry in for this week's Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Writing Challenge. My effort ended up drawing upon the tradition of HP Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, and particularly "The Colour out of Space."

As always, if you'd like to participate in Odd Prompts, just send your prompt in to to be assigned a prompt of your own. Or if you're not up to the commitment of trading prompts, you can always check out the spare prompts and see if any of them tickle your creativity.

There will be a new word and picture prompt up at Indies Unlimited on Saturday. Until then, the polls will open tomorrow for voting on the Readers' Choice Award, and will close at 5PM on Thursday.

In the meantime, keep writing
meow, cat, Siamese, catty

Writing Challenges

Sarah Hoyt's running late, due to a sudden illness. She's hoping to have the weekly promo post and vignette challenge up tomorrow.

marycatelli has a new vignette challenge on her LiveJournal. My response goes back to the Grissom timeline, as Tara almost forgets the anniversary of that timeline's first big space disaster.

Over at Victory Girls there's also a writing challenge. My response is actually a true story from my childhood, but I think it could just as easily have been from Alice Murcheson's childhood.
meow, cat, Siamese, catty

Saving the Hubble Space Telescope

On June 13 the Hubble Space Telescope's payload computer -- the "brain" of humanity's first orbital telescope -- stopped working. NASA engineers tried several times to restart it, without success. After doing some more extensive diagnostic tests, they determined that the computer itself was not the problem. Instead, it had been shut down in response to a problem in another system.

Hubble was last serviced in 2009, shortly before the end of the Space Shuttle program. Since the decomissioning of the orbiters, we no longer have any means of doing on-orbit servicing. While the SpaceX Crew Dragon is wonderful for delivering astronauts to and from the ISS, it's not designed for the sort of work that would be required to actually repair Hubble.

However, all is not lost. When Hubble was designed, it included backups for almost every critical system, including the payload computer. However, the way those backups were designed means that a whole group of systems will have to be switched over -- and if the backup system fails, Hubble's mission will truly be over.