To my surprise, I am about 75,000 words into writing a new science fiction novel entitled Bolivar's Game. (And no, it's not related in any way to Ender's Game.)

It's my first foray into creative writing (although I've been writing professionally for more than 25 years), and because I'm a engineer-scientist, it's definitely hard science fiction, adhering to real physical principles of our universe, but extrapolated to what might be possible in the not-too-distant future. Further, I'd say it's light science fiction because it's definitely intended to amuse. The book was inspired by the Stainless Steel Rat series by Harry Harrison.

It's been an interesting exercise to combine some of the science I do in my lab with some of the discussions we have in my classes, and translate them into a work of fiction. The book, set several hundred years into our future, follows the adventures of James Simón Bolivar, whose comfortable life as a highly successful criminal is disrupted when his society encounters telepathic aliens.

I will be seeking to get the book published when I'm done, so if you're an agent, an editor, or a publisher interested in a science fiction book by a real-life scientist, please contact me!

You can find an excerpt from the book below.

A little harmless violence,
when absolutely necessary

An excerpt from Bolivar's Game

   A question was right on the tip of my tongue when there came a sharp knock at the cafe' door behind me, the same one I had entered through. As far as I knew, it was still unlocked. I put a finger to my lips, and pointed with the other hand to the holster at Dan's side, the one with the Glock in it.

   He grimaced, but handed it over without argument. It was an old Glock 37, a .45 caliber blowback-style pistol which he must have found at a pawn shop because it hadn't been manufactured for well over a century. Despite a few scratches on the case it seemed to have been well maintained. I'd seen much older weapons still functional. I pulled back the slide to check, and as I expected no bullet was in the chamber. Dan was no killer and never had any intention of shooting me. I wondered if he even knew the pistol wouldn't have fired if he had pulled the trigger.

   Ejecting the magazine quietly to avoid alarming our visitor, I found it fully loaded with 15 cartridges. In my long illustrious career of crime, I'd always been able to get by without using a weapon except as a threat, but to save my precious butt I'd be very willing to shoot someone if I had to. Well, only a bad guy, of course.

   I racked the slide back as quietly as I could, muffling it with my hand, and felt more than heard a bullet push up into the chamber. Standing to the side of the door with my back against the wall, pistol held high in my left hand so my right could reach the doorknob, I called out to our unwanted visitor.

   "Yeah?" I whined in what I thought was a superb imitation of someone recently awakened, and rather annoyed by the fact.

   "San Francisco Police. Open up." The voice was deep, a big man's voice, and he didn't sound very friendly. But then, cops never do.

   "Let me see your badge." The door had one of those old-fashioned wide-angle peepholes that allow you to see who is waiting outside, and I put my eye up to it, fully aware that one gunshot through the peephole was all it would take to finish me. He was holding up a badge, and it looked authentic to me, although I didn't know a real SFPD badge from a dime store copy. Perhaps intentionally, he held the badge so close to the peephole that I couldn't see the visitor himself at all. I motioned to Kate and Dan to hide behind the coffee bar.

   If he really was a policeman, I had nothing to hide from him - not on this planet, anyway - and I knew exactly how the rest of my life story would read after shooting a cop. My tale was not destined to be so bleak, so I shoved the pistol into the rear waistband of my trousers, flapped my shirt over it, and opened the door, all too aware of the unpleasant fact that my visitor could be a real cop and still be mind-controlled by the DaeSani.

   I found myself facing a six and a half foot giant of a man, with broad shoulders and a bull neck as thick as his head, unshaven and weighing in at more than 250 pounds, and immediately wished I had decided to hide behind the bar with lovely Kate. The putative policeman was not in uniform; he wore khaki slacks and a navy sport coat over a pale yellow button-down shirt. Questionable taste, perhaps, but his clothing was not inconsistent with that of a police detective. On the other hand, he could just as easily have been a used car salesman.

   "I'm looking for Katherine Emerson and Daniel Fielding," the hulk said. "Have you seen either one of them?"

   "No, sorry," I replied, still feigning annoyance, "They used to work here, but a few weeks ago they suddenly quit. Had to move on, I guess. Haven't seen them since."

   "Mind if I take a look around?" said the colossus, moving forward, his eyes roving around the room behind me.

   "Whoa, there, big guy. Do you have a search warrant?" I stuck out the palm of my hand to block his forward progress, which socially prevented him from entering further, but physically was about as effective as a mosquito trying to stand in the way of a speeding truck. The behemoth looked down at my hand as if to emphasize its insignificance, looked me threateningly in the eye, and then broke into a menacing grin. He moved to push past me without even raising his hands, as if to emphasize my inability to affect his juggernaut-like progress.

   I took this to be a rather unpolicemanlike act. Marshalling all the power I had developed over decades of martial arts training, and having had plenty of opportunities to test my skills in practical application, I raised my left knee to my chest and kicked him directly in the solar plexus with the ball of my foot, a lightning-fast move that concentrated the clenched muscular power of my entire body into a few square inches of his chest, directly over a highly sensitive nerve junction of the human body. In my personal experience, this move - especially when your foe is not expecting it - has been known to double a man over and cause immediate vomiting.

   The leviathan stumbled back two big steps and increased the intensity of his evil grin. He lowered his head and charged directly at me with a deafening roar, 250 pounds of enraged muscle and bone headed directly for a collision with my fragile pink person, intent on reducing me to a quivering pile of jelly.

   This was not exactly the result I had hoped for, but in my experience every opponent has a weak spot somewhere, so I tried another angle. Nimbly stepping back with my right foot, I twisted my torso to sidestep his charge, and simultaneously grabbed the pistol out of my waistband, flipping it over in midair to grab it by the barrel. Unable to change direction quickly, the goliath charged right past me and as he passed I hit him as hard as I could with the butt of the Glock on the side of the head near the intersection of his neck and skull.

   His brutish momentum took him another few steps, but he crashed to the ground, flattening a table in the process, and was unconscious long before he hit the floor.

   Kate and Dan emerged from hiding, open-mouthed in shock. "What the hell did you do?" Kate screeched. Her gratitude was underwhelming, given that I had just saved her butt, so I simply ignored her shrewish outburst and proceeded to search the pockets of the sleeping giant.

For more, please stay tuned...