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The Dark Colony: cover, with space station image The adventures of a young policewoman begin at a space station at the asteroid Terpsichore in the year 2060, and follow her and her team as they track down a secret colony where women and children are kept as slaves. This is "hard" science fiction, with no magic forces or time-warps, where space travel is hard and takes many months. Colonists invent and build their own equipment from local materials. While truly isolated, they are part of a movement which aims to create thousands of independent communities throughout the Belt.

Buy The Dark Colony on Amazon now.

Many thanks to James Davis Nicoll for a comprehensive and thoughtful review.. He sums up with "Penn’s decision to stick to plausible technology and its implications for an inner Solar System months and years across, was the right choice for this book. I look forward to future installments in this setting." I am hoping to see discussion of some of the issues raised at his site, too.

Thanks also to Martin Wisse for another very nice review. My favourite quote: "It’s a breath of fresh air to see the matter of factness with which modern, sane notions of consent and the existence of queer people are promulgated into the future."

A January 2015 review in Odyssey, the magazine of the British Interplanetary Society, was also very positive. My favourite phrase: "intricately constructed, with the author’s imaginative abilities leaping straight out at you from every page" quoth John Silvester.

Buy The Dark Colony Amazon Kindle USA< Amazon Kindle UK Paperback from Createspace

Portrait, balding, sixty-something,glasses

Starting with a degree in Ergonomics, I moved into the High Tech world in the seventies, emerging relatively unscathed twenty years later. I was around when the profession of User Interface Designer had invented itself, and it provided me with a decent living in Canada. I left that business in the late nineties, before the tech bubble burst, going freelance to write custom software for a number of small firms. Now I've retired from all that and moved back to England. I live in the summer on my narrowboat "Delta Vee" (for the uninitiated, that's the rocketry term for a "change in velocity", many narrowboat names refer to slowing down). The winters, I live in a up north, near Hexham. I have two lovely daughters, one a psychologist and the other a veterinary nurse.

Since reading early science fiction as a teenager, especially the books by Robert Heinlein, I have been obsessed by humanity's future as a space-dwelling species. The non-fiction book "A Step Further Out" by Jerry Pournelle revealed the serious challenges to this idea, and got me thinking about ways of overcoming them. Several ideas and years of calculation later, I had a detailed simulation of the colonisation of the Solar System, with named individuals travelling about under the control of a realistic simulation of the motion of the various lumps of rock that fly about up there. Turning the simulation into anything other than a vastly expanded virtual train set was the challenge. This book is an attempt at that. If you spend all your spare moments in a complex imaginary world, you can be considered insane. Unless you share it with some other people, then you are an author. The big questions people ask when I talk about this world are: why would anyone want to go, and why wouldn't it turn into wild-west chaos. I've found there is no short answer to these questions, and fiction seems like the best way to address them. The "why" question seems so obvious to me I can't assemble arguments to it. The "peace" question is so broad, it's going to take several books for me to answer it to my own satisfaction.