Heaven’s River – A Quick Description of the Megastructure

*** Spoiler Alert ***

If you haven’t read the book yet, best stop now.





Heaven’s River – The Topopolis

I’ve seen a few comments that Heaven’s River is not sufficiently well described in the book, so I’ve put together this post to describe it in more detail.

First, let’s start with an O’Neill cylinder, something most people are far more familiar with. Think Babylon 5. An O’Neill cylinder, at its most basic, is just a large drum, rotating around its axis to create centrifugal pseudo-gravity on the inside surface. There are different designs for introducing light into the cylinder, but the one used in Heaven’s River is a fusion-powered light source on a structure that runs down the center of the cylinder.

That’s great, but possibly a little exposed. One good meteor punch and all the air drains out of the cylinder. And like Johanssen said in The Martian, we need air to not die. So stick a non-rotating shell around the cylinder, made of rock or other friable material, to absorb meteor impacts. We make it non-rotating and separate from the cylinder so that it doesn’t place a load on the cylinder. In order to keep the outer shell and the inner cylinder from touching, we place magnetic bearings in the gap.

So far, so good. But with a single cylinder, you can enter and exit through the ends, preferably along the axis where there’s no pseudo-gravity. With a topopolis, not so much. Think of a topopolis as an O’Neill cylinder stretched to a ridiculous length. After all, for any given diameter, a length of ten miles isn’t any more of an engineering challenge that one mile. Or a thousand miles. Or, as in Heaven’s River, a billion miles.

The last thing we do is connect the two ends of the billion-mile-long O’Neill cylinder, so that now you have a loop. In the case of Heaven’s River, instead of going around the star once at a distance of three hundred million miles or so, the structure goes around the star three times at a distance of one hundred million miles or so. There was no engineering reason for that by the way, I just thought it was fun.

But now you have a structure with no convenient ends to enter and exit through. What do you do? Well, the only thing you can do—enter and exit from the side. Of course, that’s easier said than done, because the cylinder is spinning at eighteen hundred miles per hour. And it’s sitting inside a stationary shell. So you have to go through the stationary outer shell, somehow accelerate to a half mile per second while following the curve of the inner shell, then somehow get in through the inner shell. That’s where the Spin Transfer system comes in. You land in one of the nine space ports on the outer shell and get into one of the Spin Transfer system vehicles. The vehicle accelerates along a track on the inside of the stationary outer shell until it matches speed with the inner shell, then the vehicle clamps on to and docks with the inner shell. From there, it’s just an elevator ride to the inner surface of the rotating shell.

Heaven’s River itself has a fifty-six-mile radius, and was built in sections of five hundred and sixty miles each. Think of the sections as individual O’Neil cylinders that got glued together during construction.

Each section has a barrier at each end, which is made to look like mountains, in order to preserve the illusion. The barriers are actually designed to close off the end completely in case of some kind of catastrophic blowout.

The interior of Heaven’s River has four main rivers running through it, each going in alternating directions. But because the Quinlans are semi-aquatic, the rivers were designed to meander, to have tributaries, feeder streams, and so on. This increases the available river and shoreline, which is the ideal Quinlan habitat.

The interior terrain has topography, i.e. hills, valleys, and so on. But there is no reason for the builders to have carted in and dumped a bunch of rocks and dirt to make those hills. In fact, the extra weight would just increase the engineering requirements. So the topography is baked right into the interior shell. You see something similar in Ringworld, where the protagonists are able to see a negative of the ringworld topography when looking at it from the underside.

This design creates empty space under the hills and mountains, which is a perfect place to put infrastructure, including administration and maintenance centers.

A couple of other points…

Like a ringworld, a topopolis cannot have a stable orbit. Technically, it isn’t really even orbiting. So there will be facilities for adjusting the trajectory. I didn’t bring this up in Heaven’s River because it wasn’t relevant to the story, but I would visualize some kind of magnetic levitation system that plays off the star’s magnetic field.

A topopolis ‘bends’. Riker and Bill get into this a bit in the book, but the basic point is that the bend is so slight that no expansion joints are needed and there is really no issue of material fatigue. Most structures in our real lives bend far more than that on a regular basis.

Seiun Award Nomination

So this is pretty cool. We are Legion has been nominated for a Seiun Award Nomination, which is the Japanese equivalent of a Hugo. Here’s the link to the news: https://locusmag.com/2019/04/2019-seiun-awards-nominees/

And a screenshot:

I should note that I found out about this when my saved Google Search for “We are Legion” coughed up the link.

Outland Publish Date Announced

I’ve been informed that Outland (audio) will be published May 16 2019. Since audio is the most complex to produce, we always base pub dates for e-books and paperbacks on the audio date, so those will be out the same day.

OUTLAND is in the can

Yesterday, my editor accepted my latest version of Outland with no more modifications. That means, barring something from the copyeditor, I’m done. Now it goes into Audible’s queue, where (among other things) they will get it narrated and produced.

And yes, Ray Porter will be doing it. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Audible likes to keep author/narrator teams together. And I would be happy to wait if Ray’s schedule required a long lead time or some such.

And this means that I’m now back to writing the next Bobiverse book(s), working title “The Search for Bender.” I say book(s) because it looks like it’s going to be a duology. And spoiler alert — the end of book one will be a cliff-hanger, and a doozy. Bob and the Bill Wonder will be tied to the front of a Zamboni, while the Penguin and his henchmen–er, no, wait, I’m having a flashback. Sorry.

So stay tuned–same Bob-time, same Bob-channel–for more updates as they happen.

Many, many things.

It has been a freakishly busy couple of months. Actually, the whole year has been insane. I’ve been to New York for the Singularity Trap launch, to San Jose for Worldcon, to St. John NB for FogLit, and to Los Angeles for the Visioneering summit. I think I may be travelled out.

The Visioneering invitation came out of the blue, and of course I jumped at it. Terranea is a beautiful location, and this is a significant event with real-world effects.

I was invited to host a table for a “Jeffersonian Lunch” event. There were, I think, five different tables with different SF authors hosting each. That evening, I was part of an “Ask Me Anything” event, where each author showed a favorite clip from movie or TV, then answered questions (not necessarily related to the clip). I showed the clip from Forbidden Planet where Morbius is showing Adams and Ostrow around the Krell facility. “Twenty miles; twenty miles. Listen–circuits opening and closing. And they never rest.”

Here’s the AMA part, which immediately followed the clip:

The Visioneering conference is large-scale. Really, the XPRIZE foundation behind it is large-scale. They don’t just talk–they actually do things. While I was there, they announced they had disbursed one of their prizes for a device design that can extract water right out of the air.

I’ve also been placed on the Science Fiction Advisory Board:

I’m having a major bout of Imposter Syndrome right now.

Oh, and I met David Brin, Hugh Howey, and Robert Picardo at the summit. Pretty good week, all in all.

Here are some random pix:

Option Deal Signed

I’ve been getting questions on a regular basis about a TV series or movie for the Bobiverse. Finally, I can come clean. I’ve signed an option deal, which might end up being a movie, or a Netflix series, or a TV series, or honestly, nothing. It’s an “option” deal, so they still have to find a producer to take it on. Option deals expire.

(This is me trying to be an adult while dancing around like a crazy person)

Anyway, here’s the announcement in Publisher’s Marketplace:

Dennis Taylor’s WE ARE LEGION (WE ARE BOB), the first in the Bob Universe series, optioned to Endeavor Content, by Joel Gotler at Intellectual Property Group, on behalf of The Ethan Ellenberg Agency.

Visioneering Summit

I’ve been invited to attend the upcoming Visioneering Summit, October 18 – 21, at Terranea Resort in Los Angeles. I’m excited to help vet future prize concepts at Visioneering2018


Fog Lit Festival

The Fog Lit Festival is on Sept 26 – 30th in St John, NB. I’m booked for a reading, a panel, and a workshop. This is entirely new territory for me.

My events (All on Saturday, Sept 29th):

12 – 2 pm
Workshop: World Building

3:30 – 4:30 pm
SF Panel: Scientific accuracy in SF, space monsters, and more!

8 – 10 pm
Authors, Ale & Acoustics
No, this isn’t a bunch of drunken writers wailing on a guitar. There will be beer, and there will be music, and there will be readings by authors from their latest books. Including me.

The full festival schedule can be found here.

Hardcover set (Signed Limited Edition) is available

Today is release day for the signed, hardcover limited edition of the Bobiverse books. Not problem-free, sadly. The books were boxed in the wrong order, which is not a big deal but looks hokey. Ethan’s getting the supply company to rebox them. It shouldn’t delay shipments, though, as long as they can stay one box set ahead of orders.

There are also some issues with non-USA destinations. I tried to order a set from the Canadian website, and couldn’t find it. Tried from the US website and it refused to ship to Canada. Ethan & Co are working on it. It seems to be Amazon’s byzantine setup and options process. The only way to really tell if you get it wrong is when things don’t work. But we’ll get there.

Edit: Link to the sales page: Signed Limited Edition Hardcover

For those who are asking, The Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency is my agent, and they’re handling the sales and distribution of the set.

Updates, Folks

I’ve been catching hell from fans because I’m not supplying updates often enough. So, here’s a core dump…

Blog Cleanup
In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve moved most of my top pages to ‘Old Pages’. They were out-of-date or no longer relevant items, such as sample chapters for books that are now published. I didn’t want to delete them because of the number of visitor posts that I’d lose. I’ll try to keep this site better organized in the future.

I have finished the rewrite (it’s gone well past an ‘edit’ in scope) and handed it off to my editor. He is hoping to get to it within a week or so (as of Aug 20th), and we’ll probably knock it back and forth for the month of September. Then it goes into preproduction at Audible. That takes somewhere around four months or so, generally. The big uncontrollable variable is Ray Porter’s schedule. So, all in all, I’m thinking Feb or March of 2019 for the release.

Bobiverse Sequel
I am currently writing the next Bobiverse book, working title The Search for Bender. Three guesses what it’s about. I did an outline for the book and discussed it with my agent and my editor, and the consensus is that this is either a very thick book or possible a duology. We’ll see. But I want to have it (or them) written by the end of 2018. So, given the earlier-mentioned constraints, we’re probably looking at early summer 2019. If it turns out to be a duology, the books will be released very close together. I don’t like waiting a long time for the next book, and I know you don’t. I will post updates on this from time to time.

I was at a breakfast meeting at Worldcon where the subject came up of the apps that I wrote for the Bobiverse books. They were: a timeline app, a stellarium app, and a relativistic time/distance calculator. They all require various amounts of work, because between the time that I wrote them and now, Microsoft brought out Windows 10. Among other things, XNA doesn’t work on Win10, so now I have to convert to MonoGame. Also, I moved from VS2010 to VS2017 and of course everything broke.
But anyway, I’m going to clean up those apps and post them on something like Codeproject.com . And soon, because I need the apps working again to get the new Bobiverse book right.

Worldcon (sort of)
Worldcon was very interesting and entertaining, but I found myself dissatisfied with a few of the seminars because of what I see as a common problem with these one-hour single-serve events: mostly, they rehash what’s already been said, without going into a lot of new detail. Or they review the material, point out the outstanding questions, admit that these are hard questions, and never deal with them.
So, because I’m got nothing better to do and I’m not busy at all, I’m going to start irregularly blogging, and I’m going to begin by spouting off about some of these subjects. I am by no means an expert on them, so it should be great fun.

And that is, for now, it.