Month: March 2004

Letter from David

Letter from David

Hi Todd,

Wow! Where to start?

It was a pure joy to meet you and talk with you at AggieCon. Thanks so much for the reading during the Pern panel, too. I missed the one on Friday.

Got a question for you. I was there when you were talking to Holly (AKA “NASA Girl”). You guys lost me in about three nanoseconds. I never once wondered how many gozillion mile per ounce of anti-matter anybody”s ship got or how they could come down through the atmoshpere without getting cooked. What are your thoughts in that regard?

How important is it to know the workings of real rocket science to make a story believeable for those who know/don’t know?


Hi David!

It was good to meet you, too! I always love meeting future writers. (I start sucking up early to get autographed copies of their soon-to-be bestselling books.)

As to your question — most of the time it either doesn’t matter or it matters a whole heck of a lot. For instance, if you were writing a story about a new science fiction invention — let’s say, the automobile — you probably wouldn’t worry so much about the details of its mileage as the fact that it could go as much as 20 miles an hour. If you’re writing a story where the damsel in distress who is tied to the railroad is saved by the good guy in his new automobile, it becomes important to think about the speed of the train, the speed of the automobile, and the distance that you need to cover. Otherwise, who cares?

However, if it *does* become important to your story, there are several tried and true methods for dealing with this:

1) Tell a different story (this is the whimp out approach)

2) Steal liberally from someone else’s research (this is the “where someone has gone before” approach)

3) Cultivate a brainy friend and engage them in doing the difficult physics for you (this is a very popular approach)

4) Learn it all yourself (I do this but I’ve got a Mechanical Engineering degree and sixteen years in the software industry).

5) Fake it (this is the “famous television series who would sue me if I used their real-name” approach). Use lots of high-tech sounding stuff without researching it a bit (warning: people like me (and perhaps Holly) would either spend our time laughing on the floor or frothing at the mouth depending upon how outrageously wrong you were).

I must admit that I use a combination of (4) and (3). I tend to shy away from (2) because it’s so much fun to do the research.

The cool thing about research is that sooner or later you’ll find yourself taking some evening classes and you’ll find all sorts of new ideas coming to your mind!

As for how important is your rocket science? Again, that depends upon how much of your story hangs on the rocket science. If you want to tell a story about the first men on Mars you’d better get your science straight. If, on the other hand, you’re telling a story about the first gardener on Mars and he’s waiting for the daily rocketship, you don’t have to sweat it nearly as much (in fact, “The daily rocket arrived …” may well cover the issue completely).

Nowadays, a lot of the norms of s-f have been well established. People believe that spaceships go whoosh! in space and fight dogfights like WWII fighter planes (they don’t). Still, there’s a lot you can get away with.

Read in the field helps a lot. It’ll give you an idea of what’s required and what you can get away with.

I hope that helps!


Letter from Mary

Letter from Mary


I just wanted to say how great it was to get to meet you at Aggiecon this weekend! I wish I’d been able to attend more of your panels besides just the book signing, though I really, really appreciate that you signed my book. =o) Hopefully my friend and I didn’t scare you too much, we aren’t usually quite that hyper.

It was great to talk to you about both Pern and art, specifically 3D graphics. I don’t know how serious you were about working on a dragon for you in 3D studio but I honestly would love to give it a shot if you’d like me to.

Due to the Con now being over (at least until we start planning for next year) I’ve finally had a chance to start reading Dragon’s Kin. So far I’m loving it and can’t wait for Dragonsblood. I hope to see you at Dragon*Con this fall. Thanks again for coming to our Con, it was awesome.


Hi Mary!

It was great meeting you and I wasn’t at all scared.

I’d love for you to take a stab at a good 3D graphic dragon. BUT, I say BUT I have absolutely no legal powers behind that. I don’t have any media rights and even if I did, I wouldn’t enter into any agreement until I had a chance to decide if the work was the sort I wanted. Sooo, if you want to go ahead, please do. I’d love to just see someone try to work out the flexions (or whatever those little moving bits are) for wings, fore- and hind- limbs as well as neck and tail. And it’s not like the idea of dragons are copyrighted. And, who knows? At the very least, if you’re interested, it’d be a neat project on which to stretch your skills and a nice demo reel (and there are other people who have dragons, aren’t there? I seem to recall a Smaug, and Eustace in Narnia, for example).

Regardless, I’ll be glad to see you at Dragon*con!


Writer’s Workshop — CORRECTION

Writer’s Workshop — CORRECTION

For those of you who are interested in writing yourselves, I’ve volunteered (again) to run a short story writer’s workshop at Dragon*con this year.

The workshop will be scheduled to run in the mornings over a number of days — so we can see the rest of the convention. I’ll be submitting a short story along with everyone else.

OOPS! This is the correct mail address:

You should contact for more information if you’re interested.

Letter from Holly (AKA “NASA Girl”)

Letter from Holly (AKA “NASA Girl”)


Hopefully you remember meeting me at AggieCon this past weekend in College Station. It was such an honor to meet you and be able to chat about the space industry and everything. I especially enjoyed the panel about “The Future of Pern” — your tangents always prove to be full of great stories. As soon as I have a spare moment, you can bet I will read “Dragon’s Kin”. Somewhere along the line, although the engineering courses here at A&M tend to take over my life, I intend to reread the Pern series in chronological order (opposed to publication order).

I have also been fortunate to find some of “romantic novels” (as the internet calls them: the non-Pern, non-science fiction ones) your mother has written, including those published as “Three Women” and “Stitch in Snow.” I am eager to complete my collection.

Now, down to business: I most certainly am interested in the Lunar Module Landing Guides!!!

Thank you again for all of the captivating conversations, and I wish you well in the editing of “Dragonsblood.”



I’ll be most delighted in sending you my Lunar Module Pilot Study Guides. I’m glad to find someone who is intrigued by them. They need a good home — and it sounds like you’ll give that to them!

Don’t forget to check out to learn about Burt Rutan’s efforts to win the X-prize (he’s backed by Paul Allen).

Also, when you get to play with orbital mechanics, let me know. Orbital rendezvous represent some of the most enjoyably squirelly mathematics I’ve ever had the pleasure to encounter.

And if you haven’t yet run the numbers, don’t forget to try playing with super-high specific impulse propellants — say, anti-matter/matter heated hydrogen (well, plasma) with an Isp of 300,000 — and note how much fuel you still need to make a least-time flight from Earth to Jupiter (for example). [I’ve done this, so I know.]

I’m sorry we didn’t have more time to talk. If I get back to Aggiecon again, I’ll dust off my brains and ask to do a couple of panels on space exploration.


P.S.: I’ll send you an email when I’ve got the LM Study Guides in the mail.

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