Exciting though it was, watching the latest Starship launch and ‘rapid unscheduled disassembly’ of the Super Heavy first-stage the other day reminded me yet again how little space flight seems to have changed since the Apollo missions well over fifty years ago, apart from the fact that NASA wouldn’t have been quite so cool about blowing up their Saturn V rockets every couple of months. I’m sure the SpaceX approach will be modified appropriately when the crewed missions start!

At the start of the month, after I’d written the peculiar dedication to my old friend Mary in the freebie I was about to upload (An Ultrakey for Dione, if you missed it), I also remembered a story Mary told meabout when she used to work as a librarian, before she got into politics, and which didn’t involve her punching anyone.

When male readers came to the library looking for something a bit ‘racy’, she used to recommend the Flashman books by George Macdonald Fraser. You’re probably not familiar with them (or with Flashman as the bully in Tom Brown’s School Days?), but apart from skilfully combining action, adventure and humour – plus a healthy smattering of amorous encounters – with painstakingly researched historical detail, the author claimed he had simply discovered Flashman’s memoirs andedited them for publication! I was very close to pinching the idea for the Backdoor Angels series, having started work on the first novel so long ago that I thought perhaps I could explain the inevitable evolution of the writing style by claiming the stories had been written by a group of junior lawyers based on witness statements related to a big trial towards the end of the saga!

The point is, I do tend to see the main events as things that have actually happened, and the characters as who they are, my job being little more than ‘editing’ the story as well as I can. This avoids the type of problem George R R Martin has – wondering how to finish GOT when the TV series has already done it for him – but means I haven’t always been as careful as I should be when it comes to structuring a story the way current convention says I should. That’s not the way it happened! I tell myself, forgetting that most novelists would give their right arms to have Martin’s problems. Anyway, the strange thing is that Callisto came first. That’s why I will continue to encourage people to read the new novel even if they haven’t read the first two – unless you can convince me to stop doing it! The Enceladus story covered by the second novel (The Safest Moon) was originally a sub-plot, and the first novel (Anything But Accidental) is essentially Roland and Mar’s backstory, into which Red and others forced their way. Who can stop Red? Or Mar, for that matter!

Enough said. Publication of the third novel in the series, Callisto’s Monstrous Secret, is still scheduled for next month at the usual special price! Here is the cover:

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