saturn run

Ctein has a double-degree from Caltech in English and Physics. He has written over 500 articles, columns, books, and manuals on photographic topics, and done research in everything from solar astronomy to computer screens, and from the seventy-year-old dye transfer printmaking process to state-of-the-art electronic color displays. He has made new discoveries about ordinary B&W photographic printing and new designs for computer printers. Most recently, he became a novelist, co-authoring Saturn Run with John Sandford, and is hard at work on a new novel, a disaster thriller, with Scifi author David Gerrold (who, among many novels, wrote “The Trouble with Tribbles” script for Star Trek.) 

Jonathan Lowe) How did your book collab with John Sandford come about? I heard he wrote you, and you didn’t want to do it at first, money being “the root of all evil.”

Ctein) This is, in fact, 99% true. We concatenated a couple of different conversations for the sake of narrative, and I never said money was the root of all evil. John stuck that in – he thought it amusing, but it is true to life.

Lowe) And the new book project? Not with Sandford?

Ctein)  No. After Saturn Run, I had an idea for a natural disaster thriller, based upon a paper that appeared in Nature about 15 years ago – a computer model of what kind of tidal wave would occur after a major Hawaiian offshore landslide, which happens every couple of hundred thousand years. John wasn’t available to write another book with me. He and I like working together, but he’s contractually obligated to turning out two of his series novels a year, and there are only so many hours in the day. We may well work together at some point in the future. I’ve got this idea for next book. I could write it myself, but it happens I like collaborating. More fun. About the time the Saturn Run was coming out a long time good friend of mine and science fiction author David Gerrold asked me if I might be interested in having him as a collaborator at some point. So I rung him up on the phone, pitched the natural disaster novel idea to him and asked him if he’d be interested in doing something like that, and he said hell yes. The new novel is tentatively titled “Ripple Effect” and it’s about 75% done.  Can’t tell you when it will come out, but I’m hoping within a year. In the meantime, a 35,000 word excerpt from it that stands on its own will be appearing in the May/June issue of Asimov’s science fiction magazine under the title “Bubble & Squeak.” To be clear, Ripple Effect isn’t science fiction. It’s a contemporary natural disaster thriller, set a few years from now for convenience, but it doesn’t make particular use of that. But it is hard science – all the actual disaster/geology stuff is as accurate as we know how to make it.

Lowe) Sounds great. Look forward to it. Do you have a mentor or someone who influenced you to write? Mine was Ray Bradbury, who answered every letter I wrote him as a teen fan.

Ctein)  I met Ray Bradbury when I was in college. Several of us got to go out to dinner with him. It was not long after I had decided that my chosen career would be photographer, not physicist, and nobody was objecting but it was not the sort of thing that one got a lot of explicit support for at Caltech. After dinner, Ray asked us what we planned to do with our lives. He got to me and I very hesitantly said, “Well, I was planning on becoming a photographer.” Ray clapped his hands and boisterously exclaimed, “Good for you!” It was the first time anyone had shown enthusiasm over my choice. It made a huge difference to me. That is why my first book was dedicated to Ray Bradbury.

Lowe) As was one of mine! Incredible. It’s a small world, after all. Thanks.



Fires to the West, Floods to the East

wallow fire

Flash Back: It was sad, the fire around Alpine AZ…I was just recalling it with my sister, who has brain cancer. And what an incredible place that was…so pristine, little traffic, vast forests…I saw a wolf and then a family of 7 deer in the road.  I had just driven through there on my way back to SC for the summer, and was warned by someone at a gas station not to take highway 191 up to i40 because of all the switchbacks (“it’s a huge waste of time” he said).  I took the road anyway, this road not taken, and was amazed….one of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever seen.  Didn’t pass a single car the first 50 miles, heading north through mountain wilderness.  When I came to Alpine it was so incredible I was even wondering how it might be possible to live there, and then I pick up the paper here in SC the other day, and see that it’s about to be engulfed in flames. Now such fires are commonplace and getting worse. I just can’t imagine driving back that way. Perhaps those trees, some of them, have grown back since 2011. Many of the biggest and oldest were reduced to ash. I thought of Avatar, caused by some careless camper or arsonist. Or lightning. Of course the East sees floods, from Texas to New England. Florida? The Sunshine State is often flooded as well. What’s next? 


California is under siege by high winds and flames. In the East there is freezing temperatures and flooding. Wild weather. Even Trump admits climate change (global warming) is happening. It’s about sea temps rising, overall. Not local conditions, which vary widely. What can you do? Change yourself. Your ideas, beliefs, actions. Even Billy Graham believed in climate change science. Read or listen to his audiobook Storm Warning.  Coffee? Time to wake up. 

John Oates, formerly of Hall and Oates

john OatesHis title was inspired by Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. There is also the rock band. And of course weather itself is going viral, with the Weather Channel now doing dramatic plane crash and disaster programming. In Change of Seasons, John Oates shares his story for the first time, from his own motorcycle accident to meeting Andy Warhol at the Denver airport during a snowstorm. He takes listeners on a wild ride through all the eras, personalities, and music that has shaped him into what he is: the first true account of the band and his memories as half of a genius music duo, perfectly paired, whose iconic songs have universal appeal and will stand the test of time. Not that either of them ever wanted to be considered half of anything. They are individuals who have sometimes collaborated, and through highs and lows they forged ahead, together or separately. Rebels and individualists, John was a journalism major in college when he met Daryl, who studied music education. A swirl of people and circumstances, including ever changing commitments, led them to collaboration. What happened next was both happy coincidence and the result of hard work and talent. Narrated mostly by his co-writer Chris Epting, but also by John, the audiobook is a surprising and long-awaited peek into the lives of two who once sang the words “No Can Do,” recommended for anyone who loves the 80s era, how time changes people, and yet how friendships forged early grow stronger. Technology may have killed much of the old school, as lamented by Joe Walsh at Daryl’s House. (“It’s drum machines, and you can tell.”) Yet Daryl and John remain true to their long-standing belief that technology is something to embrace. And so, with innovative videos and tours sponsored for the first time ever by outside corporations, (including a highly publicized Lear jet race) they created whatever it took to “push the envelope,” and to “stay ahead of the curve,” with the ultimate desire to keep making music. Today “Hall & Oates” remain the biggest duo ever, unique, and possibly never repeated. Who knows? No one can predict where it’s all going. Interestingly, when I showed my copy of the audiobook (order HERE) in downtown Greenville SC as a test, I discovered that some young people (18-25) didn’t know who they were. But then Clark Gable never heard of William Faulkner. When they met, Gable said, “what kind of work are you in, Mr. Faulkner?” Funny, because Nobel Prize winner Faulkner was writing Gable’s screenplay! (Gable’s narcissism is also recounted in the James Garner biography.) It was never just about the fame, with Daryl or John, as it is in much of the music business today. It’s about having fun doing new stuff, not flaunting what you have or who you know. I heard from co-writer and narrator Chris Epting, who told me, My experience recording the audiobook was really very special. It’s the first time I haven’t voiced a book alone, and so that in and of itself made it special. What really stood out, after having written the book with John, was realizing that when you have to read a book aloud it takes on a new meaning. You begin to notice things that you missed while writing it. There are nuances and tonalities in John’s writing that really fully blossom once read aloud. He has a very poetic way of crafting a narrative and I think it reads wonderfully on the page. But when read aloud, it has a deeper gravity and inner beauty. He does the intro to the book, along with a piece at the end, and so he is well represented in the story. But in the end it’s the words that matter, I think, more than the actual Voice speaking those words. Working with John gave me a tremendous insight to how he presents himself and what his thought processes. I think that helped me bring a certain context to the audio that a hired actor would not have been able to achieve. That’s what happens when you work with somebody on their story. You spent hundreds of hours together and really climb inside their brain. It’s a very intimate process and I’m very proud of the book that resulted from this collaboration. Again, John is a tremendous writer and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to experience the audio portion of this project because it gave me an entirely new perspective, working on it the last two years.”