Ron Miller is an illustrator and author living in South Boston, Virginia. He has created 71 books on astronomical, astronautical and science fiction subjects for adults and young adults. His books have received more than twenty commendations and awards, including the American Institute of Physics Award of Excellence and a Hugo.
As an illustrator he has designed commemorative stamps for the U.S. Postal Service (one which, attached to the New Horizons spacecraft is now in the Guinness Book of World Records as the furthest-traveling stamp in history) and has been a production illustrator for motion pictures, mostly notably “Dune.” I have also done preproduction concepts, consultation and special effects matte art for David Lynch, George Miller, John Ellis, UFO Films and James Cameron. His original paintings are in numerous private and public collections, including the Smithsonian Institution and the Pushkin Museum (Moscow).
He has also written several novels, including an heroic fantasy and a steampunk series, both available from Baen Books In addition to these is “Velda,” a hard-boiled detective novel and a series of “Velda” comic books he wrote and illustrated, collected in three volumes by Caliber Comics. He is a contributing editor for Air & Space/Smithsonian magazine, a member of the International Academy of Astronautics, a Life Member, Fellow and past Trustee of the International Association for the Astronomical Arts.
Journey from the Center of the Earth
Part One: The Rebel
Persephone realized with a start that she had completely lost track of time. She had been engrossed with her book—even though she’d already read it through a dozen times—and the drip drip drip of the clepsydra hanging from the nearby branch had become mere background noise.
She had been nestled in the comfortable hollow of two massive roots of a tree and now she stood up quickly, brushing moss and leaves from the seat of her long, homespun skirt. Glancing again at the water clock, she decided there was just enough time to get the flock together and herded back to the barn before her father would begin to wonder about her…and when her father wondered about her it was usually only a step toward finding something to get angry about.
Tucking her book beneath her arm, she stuck two fingers between pursed lips and let loose a piercing whistle. From some distant part of the meadow she heard an answering howl. She smiled, gratified. Once she let her faithful shepherd know it was time to gather the flock, half her job would be done. Rover was probably already at work, rounding up the animals, herding them into compact unit, ready to trek the two or three miles back to the homestead.
The presence of Rover was ostensibly to protect the herd from predators—in particular the smilodon, the big sabre-toothed cats. But these were rarely if ever seen within miles of the settlement, preferring the smaller and easier prey in the forests and distant, uninhabited prairies that surrounded Monrovia.
Soon enough, she heard the honking of the herd. Smiling, she bundled up her clepsydra, the basket her lunch had been in and her precious book. She put her broad-rimmed sunbonnet on and tied the ribbon under her chin. She had taken half a dozen steps from the tree before remembering her crook. It was the tool she had been supposed to have been using to keep the flock in line, but she knew she had nothing to worry about so long as her faithful Rover was on the job. She bit her lip at having nearly made a foolish mistake. The only time she ever had to herself to read was when she was able to get away from home like this. That is to say, read something other than the Good Book, which was the only book permitted in the Symmes household. She had already more than once jeopardized these precious moments by forgetting the time and arriving home too late for the Reading. It was easy to lose track when the sun never moved from its place directly overhead…even to someone born and raised in such a world. Another infraction and she might be banned from the privilege of overseeing the flock. And then where would she be? It was the only time she ever had to herself.
By the time she had trotted and skipped to the base of the low hill on which the giant tree perched, Rover had the flock in a neat group, which he maintained by chasing around its perimeter, nipping at the heels and hindquarters of the bleating animals. When he saw Persephone approaching, the big shepherd rushed to her, nearly bowling her over as he butted his head into her side affectionately. The animal, when standing erect, was as tall as Perry and outweighed her by a sizable margin.
“You’re a good boy, Rover,” she said, patting his scaly head. “You’ve saved my life again.”
Rover dropped back to all fours and hissed with pleasure and satisfaction.
“We’d better get moving. I’m barely going to get home on time as it is.”
Between her voice and the crook (in the use of which, in spite of her disdain for looking after the flock, she was not entirely unskilled) and the expert aid of Rover, she quickly got the animals moving toward the farm. Her father owned one of the largest flocks in the colony and she should have taken some pride in watching the fat animals, the sunlight glinting from their greenish-gray scales, their bony neck frills clattering against one another almost musically. None of these things, however, held much charm for her.
Journey from the Center of the Earth is by Ron Miller and more information about its upcoming publication will soon be announced!