Science in the Fleet: The Promise of Technology as a Panacea for Human Impacts

FleetCover1-REACHToday marks the release of Fleet: Wide Open, part 2 of my serial maritime science fiction adventure. With half the story revealed, we now see the roll technology plays in both the history and the day-to-day operations of the fleet. Specifically, we see three major technological advances that seem as though they would have been major solutions to the environmental problems facing the fleet, yet somehow, the world continues to fall apart.

In our world and the world of the fleet, we often hold up technological innovation as a panacea for global problems. It’s easy to look towards the next big advancement as the solution to our current woes — from alternative energy sources to groundbreaking trash removal devices — but what is often lost in the hype is the human component. Yes, technology is a necessary component of global environmental solutions. You can even look at the arc of human advancement as one long series of bootstrap-hoists — we need to utilize dirty tech to access environmentally sustainable tech (i.e. you can’t develop the ability to produce solar panels without first harnessing the energy locked in fossil fuels). But technology alone is useless without also changing human behavior. This creates a major problem, as technological innovation is often used as a tool to bypass human behavior entirely, the assumption being that it doesn’t matter what the individual does, so long as the tech is in place to mitigate it.

The horse piles of New York

Around the turn of the last century, New York City was in crisis. Horses, the primary means of transportation for people and products within the city have an unfortunate byproduct — feces, lots and lots of feces. At its peak, more than 60,000 horses were depositing upwards of 500 tones of manure every day. The horse crisis itself was the result of a major technological innovation — more efficient fertilizer based on mass produced phosphate. Where once there was a major economic incentive to collect the manure and resell it as fertilizer, now there was also no incentive. And so, the mountains of feces piled up. It got so bad that one editorial expounded that, by the 1930’s piles of horse manure would stand three stories tall and the city would be awash in an unending tide of feces.

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Fleet: Wide Open now available in the Amazon Kindle Store!

“The sea is big. The sea is cruel. She takes more than she gives. That’s how it’s always been.”

Fuel is the lifeblood of the fleet and it is running out. It has been months since the crew of Miss Amy brought home a catch big enough to feed the fleet. With fuel rationed, there is little hope for fresh fish. Gill works frantically to develop a renewable source of bio-diesel. Croaker is the only mariner able to keep Gallant’s engines running. Snapper is the last hope of an aging navigator. While the ships rust around him, Grouper begins the final phase of his destructive plan.

Everything is about to change.


Fleet is a decidedly salty vision of the near future, where an unknown plague has left land uninhabitable and sea level rise has created vast new oceans to explore. The last survivors of the human race are scattered across new and dangerous seas. The only traces of a previous world are lost among the flotsam.

Check out part 2 of the Fleet adventure — Wide Open — now available in the Amazon Kindle Marketplace.

Shift: an adventure in marine science from the not-too-distant future

FleetCover1-REACHAs I never stop telling you, I’m writing a book. Fleet is a dystopian maritime adventure in which sea level rise and disease has driven the last survivors of the human race to sea. I’m releasing the story in serials — 3 chapters per month — on Amazon. Loyal readers who can’t wait for the next installment can slate their thirst with a series of short stories set in the world of Fleet that will be published on Southern Fried Science every few weeks. Please enjoy the second of these distractions, Shift, a story that takes place before the main events of Fleet and fills in some of the backstory surrounding the fleet.

A version of Shift appeared last year in Eno Magazine, but this iteration has been revised to fit into the world of Fleet.

150 years before the Great Hurricane.

The old winch groaned under the strain of a full net. Captain Willis sighed. A heavy haul was a bad sign.

“Well, that’s the last cast this season, probably the last I’ll ever do.” He said the same thing last year.

The net cleared the ship’s deck. It bulged with the unmistakable quiver of a thousand tire-sized jellies, each one a tiny ecosystem. We dumped them into the shaker tray that violently separated the worthless goo from the precious catch.

I grabbed a few jellies to measure before tossing them over the side. They were smaller this year, a good sign. Something was eating them.

I turned back to the shaker. The captain was smiling. At the bottom of the catch bin were eight hollow-eyed shrimp, the largest haul we’d had all week. Hollow-eyes were a luxury, favored by the new international elite, who, despite living in massive floating cities that circled the world, imported more seafood than any other demographic. Hollow-eyes were particularly desirable, as they had the dual caché of being both new to the world market and already extremely rare. At current market price, they would cover the repairs to the winch, with a little left over for fuel. We counted sixty-seven hollow-eyes in the Miss Amy’s hold. It had been a very good week.

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News from the Fleet, plus the cover unveiling for episode 2: Wide Open

Last month I debuted Fleet: The Reach, the first part of my dystopian maritime science fiction adventure.  Part Two: Wide Open will be hitting the Amazon Kindle store in a few week. If you’ve read Fleet: The Reach and are are looking for a way to get your Fleet fix, you can check out the short story Genesis, featuring a few secondary characters discussing the history of the fleet.

You can also listen to me discuss Fleet on the Variation, Selection, Inheritance podcast with Randall Hayes – Episode 65, Andrew Thaler, Unemployed Oceanaut.

And with that, I’d like to unveil the cover for Fleet: Wide Open. Enjoy!


And don’t forget to go check out Fleet: The Reach.


Momentary Distractions: Bonus Fleet short story for Southern Fried Science readers

FleetCover1-REACHFleet, my fist foray into book-length, serialized science fiction, is a decidedly salty vision of the near future, where an unknown plague has left land uninhabitable and sea level rise has created vast new oceans to explore. The last survivors of the human race are scattered across new and dangerous seas. The only traces of a previous world are lost among the flotsam.

Fleet is an experiment in serial self-publishing. New parts will be released the first Monday of every month through the end of 2013, but Southern Fried Science don’t have to wait a whole month to revisit the fleet. Near the middle of each month, I will post a short mini-chapter for anyone to read and enjoy. While not part of the central story line, these mini-chapters will add details to the world of Fleet and provide glimpses into the lives of minor, yet still important, characters.

The first Momentary Distraction, Genesis, tells the story of the fleet’s ancient origin, as remembered by the last survivors of global disaster.

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Sick of fictional mermaid documentaries? Try some dystopian maritime science fiction, instead!


Welcome to the Fleet!

It’s the near future, the rising tides have swallowed much of the world’s coastlines, and the last survivors of a deadly plague are scattered across a new and vastly different ocean. But all is not well in the Reach. The fish are dwindling, the currents are shifting, and secrets long thought lost are rising to the surface.

Fleet is my experiment in semi-serial science fiction self-publishing. Every month I’ll reveal three more chapters in this epic saga, starting today. Check it out in the Amazon Kindle store — Fleet: The Reach.

This is an experiment, so I want to here your thoughts and comments, what you loved, what you hated. Part 1: The Reach is only $0.99 (please note, subsequent parts will be $1.99) and all parts will eventually be compiled into an omnibus edition, with a few extras. Please leave your impressions in the comment field below.

And, of course, if you like it, please take the time to leave a review on Amazon!

And now for something completely different: An experiment in Science Fiction and Kindle Direct Publishing

Longtime readers have occasionally humored my attempts at short science fiction stories, the like of which can be found in Eno Magazine and Nature. Writing these short pieces is fun, but there’s a longer story that’s been festering in my head for the better part of a year and it’s finally time to come out.

Welcome to the Fleet.

Fleet is set in the near future, in a world of maximum sea level rise where the human population has been reduced to a few small enclaves and disease outbreaks are rampant and devastating. Amid the hardships, a trio of fishers slowly begin to unlock a long buried mystery that will challenge their loyalty to the fleet and each other.

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