UI grad publishes second book

By Nick Escobar

Edward M. Lerner, University alumnus, is scheduled to publish his second novel, Moonstruck, on Feb. 1.

Lerner received his bachelor’s degree in physics from the University in 1971. He then went on to earn a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Chicago in 1973.

His latest science-fiction novel is a “first-contact” novel, where humans meet aliens for the first time.

Without any warning, the Moon acquires a satellite of its own. Aliens appear and claim to evaluate Earth for membership into a galactic counsel; however, nothing they do seems to check out, Lerner said.

The story follows a scientist, who is the presidential science advisor, and a group of humans who are trying to figure out if they can trust the aliens. Lerner said the plot also centers around an alien female outcast and a pocket of aliens who are also trying to find out what their leaders plan to do with earth.

Lerner started developing the idea and began gathering background for the story when he was a NASA contractor working on their third-largest project, a program called the Earth Observing System. The program focused on how oceans, ice caps and other parts of nature react with one another.

“It made me think about a doomsday device that is based on earth science,” Lerner said. “It makes global warming seem very benign.”

Moonstruck was almost shelved a few days after publishers bought it in early 2003, said Lerner. In the preface, a space shuttle explodes upon launch. But in reality, a few days after submission, reality imitated art when the space shuttle Columbia broke apart during its return to earth.

Lerner’s first novel, Probe, resides in the techno-thriller market. The difference in techno-thrillers and traditional science-fiction books is the amount of prior technical knowledge the author assumes the reader possesses.

“A lot of physicists are science-fiction writers,” Lerner said. “A lot have technical degrees; it’s a close community.”

He had always written as a hobby, but it was not until he had time after completing his MBA that he had the time to read more.

“I was complaining about the books I was reading, and my wife said, ‘If you can do better, then why don’t you?'” Lerner said. “It was something of a dare.”

Lerner’s new book deals more with the physics side of his education than his computer science degree. During his junior year at the University, he took his first computer science class and decided to switch majors.

However, at the time, there was no bachelor of science in computer science, so he finished his physics degree. Lerner described his time at the University as a “terrific six years of my life.” Then he pursued his computer science degree at the University of Chicago.

Lerner’s other works of fiction include stories about the evolution of artificial life. His general exposure to the Internet, his computer science degree and his time spent working at Hughes Aircraft influenced the stories he has written about evolving computer programs.

Lerner currently lives with his wife in Virginia and is a full-time writer.