Author Archives: J.S. Harbour

About J.S. Harbour

Author of books on programming and game development.

Free Short Story: The Light of Truth!

Download this free short story!


Interesting story behind this one–inspired by Robert Heinlein’s “Life-Line”. I wrote it from inspiration to polish in about 8 hours in a single day–the fastest story I’ve ever written. To turn his phrase, I “stole from the best and filed off the serial number”. Heinlein fans will recognize the spirit of the story, written for a modern audience without plagiarizing the source. The setting, characters, are all different (as well as the ending), but the plot is the same.

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About the Author: J.S. Harbour has had a lifelong love for hard science fiction and especially the works of R.A. Heinlein. The Mandate of Earth was his first novel, inspired by The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. He worked for many years as a software developer and as a professor of computer science for five years. He has been writing professionally since 2002 with 19 programming books to his credit.


Fleeting Silence (Short)

cover 300Fleeting Silence is another short story in my summer series. Like the others in this series, I wrote this sometime around 1999 and never released it or tried to get it published. A quick revision and it’s ready to go!

A physicist researching quantum physics uses photon particle vibration to transmit data faster than light. If he succeeds, it will revolutionize space exploration, communication, and robotics. But, there may be an unforeseen cost. Tapping into subatomic particles may give mankind a powerful new technology, but an unexpected side effect could also threaten all life on Earth.

This short will be published in a collection volume later this year. It’s a good quick read so check it out on Amazon!


The Ring of Envy (Short)


The Ring of Envy is another short story in my summer series. This is an interesting one that I wrote sometime in 1998 or ’99 and sat on it for over 15 years. Upon opening the text for the first time in all those years, I realized there was a story here that just needed a little help and I like how it turned out after a minor revision.

Jake’s father gives him an unusual family heirloom, a ring with an enchantment that works only once per generation. But, there’s a catch, and what may appear to be a gift might be a curse in disguise.

This short will be published in a collection volume later this year. It’s a good quick read so check it out on Amazon!


The Light of Truth (Short)

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New short story is now available: The Light of Truth. Interesting story behind this one–inspired by Robert Heinlein’s “Life-Line”. I wrote it from inspiration to polish in about 8 hours in a single day–the fastest story I’ve ever written. To turn his phrase, I “stole from the best and filed off the serial number”. Heinlein fans will recognize the spirit of the story, written for a modern audience without plagiarizing the source. The ending is quite different as well.

Pick up your copy of The Light of Truth on Kindle today!


The Journal of Dr. McFadden (Short)

I wrote this short story 16 years ago and never released it so here it is today. It’s a bit odd but I think you’ll like the suspense and devastating ending! The theme is related to A.I. singularity theory with a hint of cyberpunk and dash of horror.

A neuro-scientist in the late 1990s is performing neurological research into solving brain disorders when she develops a radical new technique for treating—possibly even curing—Alzheimer’s Disease and ALS. She first experiments with a mouse, then a cat, and successfully uploads treated neuron data back into the test subject’s brain. The next logical step will be human trials, but to take that step, she must first demonstrate that her technique works without injuring the test subject. That takes time and funding, and there’s one big problem—animals don’t have a human cerebral cortex.

The Journal of Dr. McFadden


Solid State Rhyme (Novelette)

Solid State Rhyme OTHER SITESThe new standalone prequel to The Mandate of Earth is now available for Kindle! This is my first novella-length work of fiction, and was actually my first fiction story, originally written in 1997 but never released. This was the inspiration behind the novel so it’s a fitting prequel.

If you read Mandate already, this novella will give you a sneak peek into the lives of several important characters who played a big part in Mandate. If you have not read the novel already, then this is a standalone novella of about 100 pages and is an enjoyable story on its own. It was highly technical until reviewers suggested bringing down the reading level a bit. Now there’s still some tech here–after all, it is a cyberpunk story–but the coding chapters are not as intense. Best to get on with the story than get bogged down into such details. I love the tech, personally. :)

Daniel Grant is a quiet teenager with a penchant for mad science–computer science and robotics, that is. His “A-Life” project, based on a genetic algorithm he designed, wins first place in his secondary school technology competition. He keeps working on the project, obsessed with his “Bots.” One night, the bots begin to multiply and evolve, and they discover the Internet.

At first, a new software virus is reported, hitting networks around the world. They invade government and corporate computers indiscriminately. But the “virus” behaves strangely–rather than causing harm, the bots improve computers, replacing error-prone human code with their own. As cyber security experts around the world hunt them down, the bots must learn to adapt in order to survive.

Grab yourself a copy right now for Kindle!

Review: Methuselah’s Children

Methuselah's ChildrenMethuselah’s Children by Robert A. Heinlein

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel is extraordinary considering it was first published in 1941! The ideas and concepts presented are far beyond anything Heinlein’s contemporaries DARED to talk about in their work–like how a starship might go FTL. Not that the concept makes any sense to a physicist, but that he TRIED and that it still stands up today–good grief, it’s been 70-something years! Most sci-fi from the 1940s is embarassingly bad. Even Asimov’s Foundation series didn’t dare get into the tech, he kept it strictly “soft” sci-fi, except when describing portable nuclear reactors. For which, I really believe Asimov had no idea how even the big ones worked in the 1950s.

I was thinking, while reading this, that it might have come out sometime in the 1960s. Wow, was I surprised to learn the actual date!

The novel sets the stage for the Lazarus Long series, followed immediately by [b:Time Enough for Love|353|Time Enough for Love|Robert A. Heinlein||75443] (xx years later, that is). The Long character is not one of my favorites in sci-fi. He’s just a cranky old bastard, set in his ways, and that’s supposed to make it alright. Fine, he’s got the old grandpappy thing going on which Heinlein thought was funny. I’m not a fan, but enjoyed the ideas and situations.

This novel, specifically, deals with longevity, with an extended family that has used selective breeding to produce new generations of uber-humans with exceptionally long livespans. Long himself is 240 years old in this story. Pretty far fetched for just 3 generations of breeding healthy people? Completely unbelievable but Heinlein liked the idea, ridiculous as it is today. In the 1940s, genetic profiling was popular, even scary since the government got involved in sterilizing certain groups of people (yes, in the USA!). This was his take on that, and it’s not satire.

p.s. Read Revolt in 2100 before this for a better introduction to the Long series, as this novel follows events in that one.


Review: Friday

FridayFriday by Robert A. Heinlein

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I spent longer than usual reading “Friday” by R.A. Heinlein, pausing occasionally to run a self-diagnostic on how I feel about the issues presented in this controversial novel. So many people hate it with a vengeance that I wanted to be objective.

I had started reading it 15 years ago, and just don’t recall anything after the halfway point, so for whatever reason I didn’t finish it last time. Back then I was pretty heavily into Greg Bear, Asimov, Clarke, Baxter, and hadn’t gotten into Heinlein yet–he is so different from his contemporaries. So, apparently, I got distracted. I do remember enough to say I wasn’t upset with the book, did not stop because I hated it, just didn’t finish. There is a point half-way when the book slows down a bit.


The story takes place on Earth about 200 years in the future (as of 1980 when it was published), possibly later. We know the Boss’s birthday is 9/9/99, though the century is not given. So it’s at least 2099, perhaps 2199, given that FTL has been invented and nearby stars have been colonized.

Many critics judge Heinlein for the character Marjorie Baldwin aka Friday, for her promiscuity and attitude about being raped, saying that’s a man’s idea of a female character. Don’t jump to such conclusions!

First of all, Heinlein writes repeatedly–as if to remind the reader–that Friday is NOT HUMAN. She knows it deep down, can feel inside herself, that she doesn’t share human tendencies, emotions, attitudes.

Secondly, she was created in a lab and knows it. She has no delusion about being born to deceased parents. She’s not even an orphan, she’s a creation like a robot with the best genes of every race. Imagine how that might affect one’s sense of self worth, self confidence.

Imagine how she might work very hard to be accepted, to feel validated as a human being–knowing she is super-human, i.e. not human. She tries very hard! Sex is a tool sans ethics sans morals. I can accept that in a society 150 years hence without the psychology of a genetically engineered human.

Friday is an artificial person (AP), born in a creche, a lab, but she’s enough of a human to want to belong, and spends most of the story trying to belong, to feel like a member of a family.


She is so eager, desperate, to feel connected that she cries bitterly when Boss posthumously calls her his daughter, says he is proud to have been her adopted father. She also latches on to the artificial “home” she shares with Goldie, pretending to be a housewife to the working woman, makes a big deal out of buying a frying pan.

This is a good, well-developed character, not just a misogynistic whore the way she’s portrayed by ignorant reviewers who allow their own flawed morals get in the way of actually seeing this character for what she is–that’s called transference, I think.

That being said, I don’t find Friday a very likable character, though. I accept that she’s real in the story, not cardboard, not a sexpot written by a dirty old man (as Heinlein is sadly and wrongly portrayed by some critics). No, this is a complex character with complex psychology and sexuality is more a cultural thing than a personal one (some reviewers would call it a flaw). It doesn’t matter that everyone else around Friday acts the same way. Let’s just paint Heinlein as a corrupt old man. How disappointing that someone would be turned away from this novel because of another reviewer wearing their flawed morals on their sleeve. She is interesting, but not particularly likable. That also isn’t a mandate for a protagonist–she’s not a heroine, she’s pretty selfish at times, and conceited, and a bit entitled due to her rough past.

There is one thing I like a lot about this story. In an age where every sci-fi novel is written to be grandiose, and operatic, Friday is more like a memoir of a day in the life of a genetically engineered person in the 22nd century. There’s no galactic war, but sadly, humans don’t seem to have evolved collectively either, still fighting, still killing each other without remorse. But Friday never leaves Earth during the main plot so it’s not space opera.

There are a lot of future ideas Heinlein gets right and a few he gets wrong, but you can see his gears working on the harder ones. Banks merged with credit card companies. Corporations becoming larger and more important than governments, even waging war against each other, and paying for damage done to citizens. Gold as hard currency will never happen, but back then, “Gold” and “Platinum” cards actually meant they were backed by those metals; today they’re just marketing words and anyone can get a Platinum Visa in the name of their dog today.

He didn’t foresee government getting in bed with banking like it is today, with the legal extortion and credit blackmail and exclusions for bankruptcy. He was mostly on track with computer networks being global but failed to predict e-mail and cell phones. Which is strange because he did predict pocket phones in his 1951 novel “The Puppet Masters”.

I recommend this book but not as a Heinlein first-read. For a first-read I recommend “Starship Troopers” (which has nothing in common with the movie by that name).


Review: The Science of Interstellar

The Science of InterstellarThe Science of Interstellar by Kip S. Thorne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an outstanding science textbook filled with beautiful color illustrations. The emphasis is on the movie, Interstellar, but the science is real and drawn from Kip Thorne’s prior published books, plus new content specifically from the movie. It’s a TOUGH READ, though! It takes a while to get through it if your brain is engaged while reading. I found that I could only read 5-10 pages at a sitting before becoming tired. It’s tough material but only because it’s innovative and complex. I’m learning a lot of useful information. This is also an excellent science reference for anyone writing hard sci-fi.