Friday, December 31, 2010


It's the last day of 2010. Here are a few things that ended this year:

1. The last roll of Kodachrome film was developed yesterday.
2. Geraldine Hoff Doyle, the woman who inspired 'Rosie the Riveter' died this week.
3. The recession ended. Supposedly.

I am sure there are tons more that I can't think of or find right now. So, people, chime in. What came to an end this year...what needs to be let go of.

And I promise, in the New Year, I'll post some things we can look forward to.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

One of the problems of the modern world.

We use oil for a lot more than fuel. Its less visible, but almost all plastic is made of oil. So are most synthetic fabrics.

Earlier this year, somebody came up with a method for turning plastic back into oil...a much more efficient means of recycling than most that exist. But recycling isn't good enough. Imagine life without plastic. Computers are 90% plastic. Modern cars are mostly plastic. Medicine bottles. Cell phones. Plastic mugs...I can't list everything.

And, of course, nylon. Nylon is made from oil, and its used to make, amongst other things, pantyhose (in Britain they're sometimes called 'nylons'). Any woman alive knows how long a pair of pantyhose doesn't last.


How about.

Fish slime?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

This article...

Explains in nice laymen's terms why this is likely not the first universe. Or the last.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Oh, the tedium...

Setting up a local wiki. This is not fun, and I plan on switching to a different system with my next computer, but should be able to export it or something. But it should save a lot of time when done, so..

Monday, December 27, 2010


Christmas is over. Whoever ordered the white Christmas misjudged shipping. We escaped the storm, but got a light dusting on Boxing Day.

(I'm still British enough to call it Boxing Day).

Presents for me...mostly books and comics. Of course. And gift cards...for bookstores.


Everyone knows ME way too well at this point.

Friday, December 24, 2010


whichever winter holiday you celebrate. It's that time of the year, and I think I've written enough long posts this week.

I'll be, oh, back on Monday, likely.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Editorial voice

Now, this is probably going to open a minor can of worms. The concept of an editor having a 'voice' would likely upset most writers.

It's supposed to be *my* voice!

Well, yes, it is. But truthfully, an editor cannot help but place a subtle fingerprint, unless they are a bad editor of the kind who simply doesn't do his or her job. Of course, the other kind of bad editor is the one who does subsume the author's voice with his own.

But editors are still human. Where there is a grammatical controversy, and the English language has many, an editor will jump the same way every time, even if it differs from the writer's. And while a good editor is focused entirely on making a story more what the writer intended, the editor will still leave marks.

Is this a bad thing? No.

I have in front of me two anthologies, both of which I very much enjoyed. However, the second one reads as much more of a coherent whole than the first. The stories belong together. And that is what got me thinking about this editorial voice thing.

The voice of the editor comes through, of course, most strongly in the choice of stories (or at least writers, in the case of solicited works). But it also comes through in the way grammar is corrected. The order in which the stories are placed between the covers, yes, but also the way they are presented.

A good editor takes a disparate collection of stories linked by a general overall theme and makes them work together, complementing one another.

The interesting thing is that these two anthologies were edited by the same person. The difference even a few months of experience makes...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Quick characterization.

Okay, what do I mean by that?

Sometimes writers give a character a specific, recognizable quirk. A little 'tag' as it were, that makes that character always recognizable.

Most commonly, you see this in situations such as comic books or multi-writer television shows. Where more than one writer is working with a set of characters.

So, an eyebrow raised and the word 'Fascinating' immediately becomes Mr. Spock. All old-time comics fans know exactly who says 'Oh my stars and garters!' and pretty much all fans could probably give a good guess as to the source of 'It's Clobbering Time'.

Giving a character a 'tag' makes them stand out. It's a quick and dirty way of making it very clear who it is. For example, in Harry Potter, the house elf Dobby has an obsession with socks. Garish, mis-matched socks. House elf + socks = Dobby. (Which, of course, they forgot in the movie. Mutter).

One easy 'tag' is a substitute swear word. What does your character say when they would really like to let loose an F or S bomb, but their grandmother is listening? I used to know somebody who would loudly declare 'Sherbet' and I have a personal fondness for 'Freaking' or 'Freak you'.

Is it a lazy thing to do? Not really. It's very useful in short stories when you have limited space and need to sketch a character quickly, and adding a dialog 'tag' helps make it clear who is speaking. (No doubt the reason dialog 'tags' are so popular in comics and screenplays is because that is all the writer has: Dialog and cues).

And, of course, if you are working collaboratively, it can help keep a character straight.

Now...I'm going to go mutter some more about Dobby's socks.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Presentation is everything.

So, this weekend I went to the National Museum of Natural History.

Frankly...this has never been a museum I've appreciated. I'm exactly the kind of person who should appreciate it, mind. I'm a life member of National Geographic, I have a strong interest in biology, genetics and both botany and zoology. But I've always liked the Air & Space Museum or the American Indian one better.


Because, to be frank, the Natural History museum was...unpleasant. It was dark, the color scheme seemed designed to make it seem small (and dusty). Everything was glass cases that seemed not to have been cleaned often enough. In the end? I gave up on going there.


Night and day. Lighter, more vibrant colors give a better sense of space. The museum has been expanded, but not as much as it seems to have been. Clever visual tricks like video walls increase the sense of space. More tactile displays seek to engage the visitor. (My only quibble is that it's still hard to find your way around...and now they charge two bucks for maps).

The content has changed, but only a little. The presentation, though...

Presentation sells books. The right cover art, the right font...these sell books.

And in the quest for publication, make sure your own presentation is clear and seeks to engage the reader.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gender selection.

In primates, that is.

What this correlates to is studies done that indicate that primate females will reject male fetuses if their bodies are given signals indicating that there is a time of scarcity.

The primate female *that* study was done with...was homo sapiens.

(The study, in fact, revealed that dieting and skipping breakfast, rather than environmental estrogens, is the cause of the slight skew towards more girls being born in post-industrial societies).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

As if...

Africa didn't have enough problems.

There's a story in this one, but I already wrote one very similar. So, anyone who wants it...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Space weather.

Very interesting article.

Monday, December 13, 2010


You know, I think the real reason cyberpunk doesn't work so well any more is because too much of it has already happened.

No, not in the way writers predicted, but many people in the west carry pocket computers. Augmented reality is seriously in the works.

In fact, the most recent cyberpunk television series, Caprica, was set on another planet. And it still did not sell well, despite being critically acclaimed. I would also class Whedon's excellent Dollhouse as cyberpunk...and yeah, same thing happened. Good, but not popular.

Stephenson has stopped trying...his latest book, Anathem, is alternate reality science fiction (and very good). Not sure what Gibson is doing.

But let's see.

Decks? We have them. They're called smartphones.

Cyberspace? It's not full immersion yet, but Blizzard sold 3.3 *million* copies of the Cataclysm expansion to World of Warcraft within 24 hours of release. And it's often easier to answer the question of who is *not* on Facebook than who is. Some European countries are seriously considering the prospect that net access should be considered a civil right.

Megacorps? Hrm. Google, anyone? Virgin?

Smarthomes? If you have the money, they exist.

Memory editing?

Memory editing?

Well. We can now read memories, we may well be able to enhance memories, and editing...can't be that far behind.

A scary thought, even if it does bring hope to victims of things as diverse as post traumatic stress disorder and Alzheimer's.

So, yeah.

Cyberpunk fiction, these days, would probably have to be sold as 'mainstream'.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I think...

I might be able to use this in a casual mention somewhere.

Full genetic scan of an unborn baby from a sample of the mother's blood. We need this kind of testing...and unlike amniocentesis, this doesn't carry a risk of miscarriage.

(Of course, then it opens the entire abortion can of worms, but...)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Stars of all colors...

including zirconium? (Or does that count as a color?)


It is slightly warmer. Slightly. Still kinda cold *whimper*.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A significant launch

This one is important for the future of space exploration. I've long held...and continue to hold...that NASA should consider partnering with those private companies working on commercial spacecraft.

Heck, the way things are going, NASA may just be buying their next manned orbiter from Burt Rutan...he seems to be more on track than they are.

Besides. Space will only be properly explored and exploited by people who have something to gain other than 'pure science'. Pure science is all very well for sending robots to peek at Jupiter...but its not going to get us colonies on the Moon and Mars.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


got any warmth?

I could use some right about now. Mutter. Yeah, winter is officially here. I think somebody in Maryland even saw snow...

Please. Not another winter like last year. Please...

Monday, December 6, 2010


The different will always be singled out. I know.

I was bullied throughout my school years because people knew I was 'different'.

GLBT teens face bullying at a far higher rate than heterosexual youngsters. Now studies are revealing its not just peer bullying.

Non-heterosexual children are far more likely to be disciplined at school, to be expelled, to be arrested. And this doesn't reflect any difference in behavior.

It reflects fear. Plain and simple.

And one of the thoughts that drifts through my mind is that it may be that some of these 'different' kids are not only not out to others...but not out to themselves. Denial can be a powerful force, and many young people do not accept their sexuality until at least twenty. (This can be particularly true for bisexuals, who have to deal with the confusion of 'swinging both ways' and often get less support, especially bisexual women, from the homosexual community).

And to make it even sadder, I doubt that many of the people...especially the other children...consciously know why they are pushing away and shunning the 'different ones'.

Friday, December 3, 2010

NASA discovers life on Earth...

Whaat? That's not a headline. is.

NASA researchers have found a bacteria (specifically in the hideously salty Mono Lake in California) that doesn't require phosphorus, which every gardener knows is an essential element for healthy soil.

Every other life form does. Not this one. In fact, it quite happily chows down on arsenic instead.

Yes, that arsenic. The deadly poison.

Science fiction writers have, in the past, postulated environments in which the ecosphere was poisonous to humans. I don't remember if arsenic was ever mentioned (usually it's cyanide, I believe). But...if this is possible, then so is that.

Either expands our understanding of life. (Assuming, of course, it doesn't turn out to be the latest cold fusion).

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Arkham Tales #8

Finally out, includes my Halloween themed ghost story 'The Men Who Go Under The Ground'.

Can be downloaded here (It's not free, but quite a reasonable price):

Website should be back up on/by Saturday.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Queer Zombies!

Not intentionally coinciding with the release of the Don't Ask Don't Tell report...

At least, I don't think so.

The Library of the Living Dead has now released:


It has zombies. Some of them might even be gay zombies. And, of course, it has one of my stories in it.

Along similar lines, the Rockets, Swords and Rainbows anthologies (one fantasy, one science fiction) will come out from the Library of Science Fiction and Fantasy imprint...I don't have a release date yet, but likely some time in the first half of 2011.

Bill Tucker. You rock.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Nemesis theory revived? Sort of.

I can't say it any better than Lee has. Very interesting. And story fodder, yesyes.

Monday, November 29, 2010


Kinda waiting for celebrity death number #3.

Irvin Kirshner, 87, was the director of The Empire Strikes Back, Never Say Never Again and Robocop 2.

And we also lost the fantastic comic actor, Leslie Nielsen, star of such flicks as Airplane! and Naked Gun.


Not the happiest Thanksgiving weekend ever.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A day late, but hey...

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the United States.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Echoes of the last universe? Or maybe a message from a highly advanced civilization from beyond (Yeah, I watch Stargate, so sue me).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I can't think of a good post. I blame my charming neighbors.

After 1am on a weeknight is not a good time to be watching Loony Tunes with the volume turned up all the way. At least I think that was what it was.

I blame them for the nightmare too.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Headache material

Because I just enjoy sharing articles that make my brain hurt:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Life lessons.

He was one of my father's closest friends.

He was a true gentleman who treated everyone he met as if they were of royal birth.

He was perhaps one of the most truly good men I have ever met.

He had wisdom, intelligence and grace.

He had a black skin.

Thank you, Ray, for being the one who showed me that was possible. And for everything else.

You will be so missed.

Friday, November 19, 2010

That Last Margarita at Big Pulp!

(And yes, its free).

I love this story. I think it's one of the best horror pieces I've written yet. I wouldn't take risks on its work-safe-ness, though.

Well, now we know...

There are, indeed, planets in other galaxies. A logical assumption to make, but as much progress as we're making on exoplanets...seeing something in Andromeda? Not likely to happen any time soon.

So, how do we know?

Simple. We look at stars that used to be in another galaxy and are now in ours. They're called the Helmi stream. And at least one of them has a planet.

Now, I suppose it could have captured said planet after drifting into the Milky Way, but Occam's Razor implies otherwise. It's not much use, though...a superJovian of about 2.4 Jupiters.

Still, where there's one...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The start of something...

Set aside the study for now, the fact remains.

CERN researchers have used magnetic fields to hold anti-matter. A few dozen atoms for about a tenth of a second, but it proves that magnetic containment of anti-matter is, indeed, possible. Many breakthroughs start from such a small beginning.

The creation and storage of anti-matter is a science fiction staple. And many current researchers believe anti-matter would be...if we could just hang on to it long enough...the best power source for interplanetary flight.

A tenth of a second is nothing. But it is above zero, and that's half the battle.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

From Writer's Beware

Through Victoria's wonderful blog, I found this:

This is the contract from hell. $250 advance. Royalties on nets. Nothing from subsidiary rights. The editor might put a pen name on it and give you no credit. Oh, and a clause that could be used to steal your other work.

Bad contracts aren't always this obvious, though. If you don't have an agent, then its worth the money for an IP lawyer's time to avoid getting caught in this kind of crap.

I figure this needs to be forwarded around. It's a nasty one.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It's a...

black hole!

That's younger than I am. We think. I really think that makes it a cosmic infant. Or it makes me old. One or the other.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I'm back...

Been pretty busy over Veterans Day weekend. Had the in-laws in town...some of them, that is, not all (Now that would be scary. I have a LOT of inlaws).

So, kinda behind on the writing, but I'll catch up.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Amazon and Censorship

That's the latest scandal...and this time its a self-published book about...pedophilia.

Disgusting to any sane, rational adult..and also very poorly written and clearly not edited. It would simply have been lost in the crowd if it wasn't for the subject matter. Some have said it might have been an FBI sting...but I would think the FBI can type, spell and punctuate. It appears, in fact, to have been written by a manic depressive off his meds.

After a massive boycott threat, Amazon took the book down.

Now, here is the question. Did they do the right thing?

From the business point of view...absolutely. They were being threatened with a large scale boycott right before Black Friday. They realistically had no choice.

From the legal point of view...very much so. I'm fairly sure the FBI were on their doorstep. Given people have been arrested for not reporting unsolicited child pornography sent to their email, Amazon was on VERY shaky ground when they initially refused to take down the book.

From the moral point of view...hrm. Truthfully, Amazon sells a lot of things various people would call obscene. GLBT erotica? Check. Mein Kampf? Check. And the book was not, in fact, child pornography. Likely the book was nothing but a stunt to draw attention to the man's other books...a stunt that was ill thought out as he's likely in a small room with FBI agents right now. Not like he's hard to track down... However, it was a book that crossed the obscenity line with not a certain proportion of the population but a vast majority.

I suppose I have very mixed feelings. The book did need to come down; it promoted illegal acts. But as writers we need the freedom to touch on aspects of human nature that others might consider obscene.

We need the freedom to write about relationships between two men or two women. The freedom to write about illegal acts...heck, there are entire genres based around writing about murders and murderers. In fact, one of the most powerful stories I've read recently was about a who genuinely did love children and stalked child molesters to dish out vigilante justice. Frankly, that story crossed the obscenity line...but then so, for many people, would some of MY stories.

Which makes me realize where the line really is.

Writers have a responsibility not to promote as a good thing acts that cause harm.

Homosexuality? Does not cause harm. So its fine to 'promote' it...especially by the definition of showing healthy homosexual relationships between adults. Heck, its fine to promote BDSM...between consenting adults. One of the nicest people I know is into 'that kind of thing'.

But writers should always take care that they do not show things like rape (including child rape), murder and terrorism as good and moral things. They need to be in our work, because these things can give a piece great power. (Note I say murder, not killing...a writer can, of course, show the acts of a soldier in a good light and thrillers are dependent on a good gunfight. Its cold blooded, premeditated murder that should be shown as 'wrong'). Because we need to show the darkest part of human experience to display the light.

Yes, there are books that are entirely sweetness and light, but...

However, yes, there is a line. This book crossed it, because it implied that a form of rape could be a good thing. And yes, the author had the right to write it.

Everyone else had the right to call him a disgusting man for doing so.

Actually, I hope he did get arrested...or I wouldn't be surprised if the postscript to this story is him showing up in a ditch somewhere. People do NOT like child molesters...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Old stories, new discoveries

I'm embarrassed to say that I can't remember author and title but I recently read an old (1980s) short story about an alternate reality where humans were all female and reproduced parthenogenically, forming 'families' of nearly genetically identical sisters.

(The plot was the creation of males).

On the face of it, this plot is ridiculous *unless* you give humans reptile sex chromosomes. In mammals, females are XX and males are XY. Therefore, an all female race would possess no Y chromosomes. In reptiles, however, females are ZW and males are ZZ...and then you realize that is ridiculous too. Reptiles *can* and *do* parthenogenically produce males. In fact, its a better system. If something killed all human males we'd be screwed.

If something killed all boa constrictor males, the females could switch back to asexual reproduction for a generation.

However, recently a snake was found to have produced, more than once, parthenogenically created WW babies (previously thought not to be viable). And now we've discovered an all female species in Vietnam...on the dinner table. Maybe these are WWs too? Who knows...

All of this, of course, has implications for alternate reproductive strategies. How about an alien sentient race that alternates between sexual and asexual generations like ferns do? Even on this planet, the way we do things isn't the only way.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

This is interesting...

Cities and disease resistance. Might be of interest for worldbuilding.

It makes a lot of sense, but now we have proof.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Very technical.

And not quite as dramatic as the headline implies, but interesting nonetheless.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Thoughts on selection...

In this day and age in the western world, we've removed most of the evolutionary pressures on the human species. Infants that would have died at birth in earlier eras...and still do in poorer countries...are nurtured, survive and breed. More and more, it might seem that natural selection no longer effects us.

Which is why it's quite important to study the one potent force that remains: Mate selection.

 Male mate preference tends to be a static thing. Nice breasts indicate good fat reserves, essential to conception. Broad hips indicate a wide birth canal. Those feminine curves are all about reproductive health. In some cultures, its a nice ass sought not nice hips...many African women tend to put more fat on the buttocks than the breasts.

Female mate selection can be, as this article indicates, far more interesting.

We like to talk about falling in love as some kind of sacred thing, but it's really all about instincts. Like any other female, the human woman is looking for a male who is strong and healthy...and thus has the best chance of getting her pregnant and having a healthy kid.

Of course, we're a bit more complicated than that, because we demand a lot more of our mates than ten seconds of half babies, but...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cosmic snowball?

Not quite.

Sure looks like a drumstick to me.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

For once?

I'm going to post an article mostly so I can disagree with it.

Sorry, but I've never really bought the finger thing. For one thing, if you're a woman, it's supposed to mean you're promiscuous and a lesbian. Well, I'm looking at my own hands right now. Which would say I'm a randy dyke.

I like guys as much as girls and am in a perfectly stable marriage, thank you.

And I think we can't generalize across to other hominins from observations in humans anyway. Although likely Neanderthals were much like chimps (forget Jean Auel...she's already been proved wrong about Neanderthal gender roles).

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


The only thing anyone here wants to talk about is politics. I don't want to talk about politics. Signing off until tomorrow.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Will the jet plane be a historical aberration?

Oh, yes, I'm going to open a can of worms.

This comes from the (rather buried) news that NASA has designed a heavy airship with a top speed of 100 knots. That's fast enough to get from the west coast to Hawaii overnight.


Airships use considerably less fuel than heavier than air craft. They can, in theory at least, be electric powered. They do not need runways, but only sufficient open space in which to touch down and be moored.

For the purposes of carrying all but the most urgent of cargo, airships are fine. Training crew to fly them would not be hard. It might be possible to use a design that allowed the airship to simply drop its cargo pod and carry on...on short trips where refueling is not needed. A helium filled airship is no more of a fire risk than a jet, possibly less.

But...airships are 'too slow' for the demands of modern air travel, surely?

I'd make a counter proposal. For example, overnight to Hawaii. On a plane, with narrow seats and screaming babies (unless you pay a huge premium for first class), that would indeed be a nightmare. But what if that overnight to Hawaii was in a well appointed sleeper car, similar to a railway Pullman. What if the engines are only a quiet hum.

Hrm. First night of a honeymoon, maybe? For tourists, sacrificing speed for comfort is not out of the question. And if there's internet on board, the businessman can keep working in a lounge, then retire to his bunk and wake up refreshed close to the destination.

But what if you're in that much of a hurry that it's simply out of the question?


I doubt we're that far from feasible suborbital/ballistic passenger transportation.

This, of course, leaves very little space for the traditional jet...and that's probably a good thing.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Highly technical...

but worth reading if you feel up to getting your mind around some particle physics.

Me? I'm still recovering from how unbearably hot it got in here yesterday and editing a story ;).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I somehow missed this.

Until now.

R2 with no D2. Humanoid, will work alongside astronauts. Limited, but considerably better than previous humanoid robots.

And think about this. One of the most difficult things to get a robot to do is walk. This one isn't going to have to. Future models may be programmed to handle the most dangerous EVAs.

Question: I wonder how long before R2 becomes R. Something. Humans will not be able to resist naming this guy.

I suggest Sammy. Or maybe Isaac...

Monday, October 25, 2010

We writers are insane...

Only amongst writers could I log into a chat, ask for a lasso to corral my plotbunnies then walk out towing a giant spider mech by a lasso...and not have people wondering where to send the nice men in the white coats.


We're all nuts. Deal with it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fear of flying

No, I don't mean the literal fear of getting on an airplane, although I suppose it might be relevant (Oddly enough, Asimov, one of, if not the, greatest science fiction writers of all time could not bear to get on an airplane. He never traveled far from New York).

I mean that a lot of people who might be very good writers are paralyzed by fear. What if I get rejected? What if I'm not good enough? What if I become too successful and the paparazzi come after me? Fear of success can be as hard to deal with as fear of failure, and some people experience both.

I'm going to use that ancient literary device of the parable.

The barn I ride at has a horse named Toby. Toby is of uncertain breeding, most likely a Thoroughbred crossed with some kind of Draft horse. If he is, he's the poster child for exactly why that particular cross needs to be approached with care...he has all the grace and agility of a Mack truck.

Toby is an animal dominated by fear. As sometimes happens with horses, his flight instinct is tuned way too high. This is a horse who has been known to spook the entire length of the arena because somebody standing at one end turned the page in a newspaper. Fly spraying him requires at least two people, sometimes three.

On top of that, he has to weigh 1400 pounds. To put this in perspective; the average modern riding horse weighs between 1100 and 1200 pounds. So, he's about a person heavier. He is HUGE.

Confession: The first time I saw that horse ridden, he terrified me. There was this ginormous thing closer in size to an elephant than to the cobs I was used to riding...and he wasn't calm. I was terrified that if I went near him I would become scared of him, he would become scared of me, and the anxiety would feed back into a wreck. And you can't take chances with an animal that size.

This week, I rode Toby. I finally found the courage to do so. And discovered...that he is *really easy to ride*. Sure, he spooks at things, but if you have the confidence and talk to him a little, he will settle right back down. He's insanely only have to think 'turn' and he turns. Everything is easy to do with him. I won't say he's an awesome horse...not with that conformation. But he's sure as heck a FUN horse.

So, lesson. If you're afraid of something because its big and scary and it might reject you...don't be. Because in the end, it is NEVER as bad as you fear it might be. And it might even be fun.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Could this really be true?

Remember when NASA crashed a spaceship into the moon...deliberately?

They now think the landing site may have more water than the Sahara desert. Hard to believe? Likely. And, if true, it may slightly rewrite some of our theories on planet formation.

Of course, if true, it will also make a moonbase rather more feasible.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What's interesting here...

You have to read fairly carefully to see it.

But it says that a glaciation period we thought was triggered by an asteroid strike...wasn't. Makes one wonder, doesn't it...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bored now.

I seem to have run out of things to write about. Oops.

(I will note people are now making a huge amount of fuss about the fact that Gliese g is not *proven to exist*. Ahem. That's why I always try to say 'think they might have' or 'may have' on science reports. There's so much conjecture. And no, I don't buy yesterday's story either...)

Monday, October 18, 2010

My brain hurts...

I love and adore cosmology. And I also have a vague enjoyment be honest? I love when we have to rewrite the laws of physics. Again.

But this one makes my head ache. Read the article. Or don't. If you do, you may want alcohol handy.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Today's random ramble.

Common wisdom has it that civilization begins when a culture begins to have a consistent surplus of food.

A fine point, maybe even a good one. But I would put it a little differently.

Civilization begins when a culture develops a consistent and significant surplus of labor.

To explain my point. If you look at the few surviving hunter/gatherers, every or almost every member of the band has one purpose in life: Gathering food.

A slightly more sophisticated culture is likely to have two individuals exempt from such duties: The chief and the shaman or priest. These individuals are, in most cultures, selected from those less useful for gathering food. The chief is generally an old man or an old woman. The shaman, in many such cultures, is actually's not uncommon for a deformed child or a young person crippled in an accident to be trained as a shaman...thus making them more useful (other cultures tended to select as the shaman an individual who was unlikely to reproduce by virtue of not conforming to norms of gender and sexuality...those of the 'third gender'...yet another way of making the shaman somebody less 'useful' in normal terms).

But then something happens. A woman realizes that if she puts the seeds of a favored plant closer to camp, she won't have to search for them. A man comes up with the concept of, instead of following the herds, getting the herds to stay put. People invent fences. The fence is a very important invention, up there with fire. Think about it. Where would we be without fences.

Somebody invents ploughing. Somebody else realizes that rather than pull this plough around himself, he'll train a horse or a cow to do it for him...much more efficient.

Every technological development in human history has held one purpose: Reducing the amount of direct labor a human must put to a task. Although we tend to hold a certain ideal of the 'great leisure time' of prehistoric man...just like any other animal, every 'wild' human has to worry about getting food.

Now. Answer this question.

How many farmers do you know?

I know precisely one (not counting, here, the stallholders at the farmer's market). And she's part time.

How many readers of this blog grow even a small portion of their own food? Sure, it's trendy of late to have a garden. But even if you do, if your crop fails, you...go to the supermarket and buy food.

You can't build pyramids if everyone is working the fields. You certainly can't have a government in the modern sense.

This trend has accelerated. In the 1890s, the percentage of the population of the United States involved in farming has been estimated as between 70 and 80 percent. In 2008? 2 to 3 percent. In fact, if you know somebody with Farmer as a surname? It doesn't mean what you think it means. When English surnames were 'settling' a farmer was a tax collector. You don't need a special word for somebody who works the land when ninety percent of your population is doing only need special words for those who don't.

In short, as technological development increases, the amount of labor required to feed the population decreases.

As early agriculture became more efficient, farmers no longer needed all of their children to work the land. A surplus of labor was created. The chief slowly became the king, with sub kings under him. The shaman became the priest, then the high priest. Casual barter between individuals became organized trade.

No doubt, in that process, some people ended up in that limbo that we today call 'unemployment'...their labor was of no value. And with technology, the value of labor reduces.

So, today, we have jobs that no American citizen will take because the value of the labor is too low.

Historically, humanity has dealt with the value of labor dropping too low in two ways. One is to throw a war (which rapidly increases the value of labor). The other is to invent new uses for labor.

None of us want a war.

And there is, of course, a third increase the value of labor by slowly reducing the number of human beings. We could simply try breeding less.

Most likely, though, we will need to create jobs in the most literal sense of the inventing new ones.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

It must happen all the time.

But it has never before been caught on film. Check this out. Thank you again, Hubble.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Black holes, well, aren't.

It used to be there was a firm popular image of a black hole.

Okay, so we have an object with an escape velocity so high nothing, not even light, can escape. All it can do is become denser and denser...oh wait, its already infinitely dense. So it's what? Just pulling matter out of the universe?

I think logic says that the old concept of a black hole doesn't work. Then Stephen Hawking rolled up in his wheelchair and went 'Ahem. Thing is? They're not black.'

And got the radiation released by the space immediately around a black hole named after him. Now, we've come to realize that black holes form anchors for galaxies.

The more we learn about these mysterious phenomena, the clearer it becomes that far from being sinks of matter and energy, black holes are a key part of the dynamism of the universe and perhaps, ultimately, part of the key to life itself.

Many, many questions remain to be answered, but this article from National Geographic talks about how supermassive black holes affect the formation of not just the galaxy they are in, but its neighbors.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How long human?

Often an open question: When did our evolutionary ancestors become human? Some scientists actually think that Pan troglodytus (the chimpanzee) should be re-classified into genus homo.

Then again, what's our definition of human? Genetics, usually, but then...

Paloeanthropologists recently found the skeleton of an old...apeman. Probably forty-five years old. Probably needed a cane to walk. Probably lived that way for years. His people were ancestors of European Neanderthals. By speciesist genetic definitions, not human. Heck, they were cannibals. Yet, there is grandfather, clearly being cared for in his old age, perhaps valued for his wisdom. Chimpanzees value the wisdom of elder females who, past childbearing, travel from band to band to trade knowledge. And, of course, modern human females experience the interesting phenomenon of menopause (shared with only one other mammal: The rat). Contrary to popular belief, human females do not experience menopause when they 'run out of eggs' (A human female is born with more egg cells than she could ever possibly produce in a lifetime, presumably redundancy against some of them being damaged or non-viable). Menopause is a programmed cessation of reproduction occurring well before senescence. Why? Likely to prevent those older females, needed for other capacities, from dying in childbirth.

Of course, Grandfather could still reproduce, possibly...male fertility declines with age but not always to zero. Yet, it is a human thing to go out of our way to extend the lifespan of the elderly, even if they are no longer useful. Look at how much money is spent in the west on elder care...sometimes keeping Grandfather alive almost too long.

As for the cannibalism...not so far beneath our civilized veneer. I'd say these people were human.

Now, what definition of human can we apply to beings from another world?

Monday, October 11, 2010


For those who like to play with dinosaurs, this article from National Geographic mostly speaks for itself.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Literacy and thoughts thereon.

One of the social concerns that seems to be rising is the idea of the 'death of literacy'. Its not long ago did Bradbury write Fahrenheit 451? (The title, incidentally, is the temperature at which standard pulp paper, of which most books are made, burns).

On the one hand, we are consuming more of our media by computer. More by video and audio files. Podiobooks are a big thing. On the other, we are communicating by means of the written word more than ever. Those who worry about the death of literacy forget a basic fact: If you want to communicate without those in the room knowing what you're send a text or an email. For a while, it seemed literacy might die under the weight of textspeak, but I think we're safe from that.

The written word is not in danger until and unless we develop telepathy (By which I do not mean mental powers, but communication by thought through technological means...which is not unfeasible). At that point, I rather suspect there will be a campaign to protect books, and the value of archives if nothing else.

But there are other aspects to literacy. We have people who can't do simple arithmetic without reaching for a computer.

The one that came home to me, though, was when I was in Nowhere, Illinois and an intelligent, articulate woman in her twenties asked me if I had mapquested (it's a verb now) my route back to Chicago.

To which I told her... "I have a map."

She looked at me like I had descended from Mars and had tentacles! A well educated young American woman who not only could not read a map, but could not comprehend that somebody would rely on one for navigation.

I love maps. I was raised to *adore* maps. I literally do not remember learning how to read maps...a skill I was taught by my father using the British Ordnance Survey those are maps! I do remember learning to navigate with a map spread out on the living room floor, a map wheel (how many people even know what a map wheel is...they're like slide rules, I suppose) and the dog getting in the way.

(For those who don't know, a map wheel is a small device with a wheel on the bottom and a dial that shows miles and kilometers in various scales. Before Mapquest, you used one to work out how far you had to travel on a certain route).

Maps are FUN for me. My expensive atlas is a prized possession and when National Geographic happens to send us a map insert, me and my husband will pore over it, spread out on the floor...sadly no dog to get in the way.

It appears that entire generations of humanity may be denied maps...not taught to read them, not taught to use them, not even comprehending their use.

For a scenario, imagine you're on a road trip through, say, North Dakota...and your smartphone dies. You were using it as a GPS. There you are, middle of nowhere, in one of the most human-forsaken places on Earth...with no phone and no GPS. I would get out my map. What would most younger people do?

Besides. Maps are a dimension of human understanding. If you can read them you can understand the Sahara, or the bottom of the Atlantic, or the surface of Mars in a way no photograph can transmit.

The child who cannot read a map is a limited child, and it does not matter what technology we use to replace them. It is not as limiting as true illiteracy, but it is a limit parents and teachers should not allow to fall on any young mind.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Watching this one with interest.

We'll see what results they get, but the MAVEN probe is intended to shed light as to why Mars no longer has an atmosphere.

(Somebody at NASA spends far too much of our tax money coming up with these acronyms).

Could be interesting...especially as it might also shed light on the red planet's history of life.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hidden languages.

This is not the first time a hidden language, different from its neighbors, has come to light in a remote area.

But this one shows a unique situation. Two languages, spoken by distinct subgroups...yet both groups claim to be of the same ethnicity. The only known parallel would be speakers of ASL...a language forced on deaf people by circumstances.

In almost all cases, language becomes identity (In fact, some deaf parents refuse to allow their children to be fitted with cochlear implants because deafness, having its own language, has become an identity). Yet these people insist there is no difference between them.

There's an alien feel to this. I may have to do something with it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Here's one...

for the cyberpunk types.

Or for sci-horror...this *screams* unintended consequences.

Actually, the unintended consequence it screams the loudest to me is: If we only need four hours sleep, then instead of employers expecting 16-18 hour days out of people, they'll start expecting 20-22. We live in a sleep deprived society and while this at first glance looks like a possible 'cure', I think it might only make the problems worse.

And what if there are people it does not work for? Will they be left on the scrap heap of the rat race? Maybe it's time to look towards social and technological developments that, instead, redefine success itself.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Perceptions of time.

Now, here is an interesting thought.

Postulate this. A sentient race evolves on a tidelocked planet. The life zone extends inwards from the terminator. Traveling to the dark side would require a reasonable level of technology. Thus, the sun is always visible. There are no stars in the sky. Very rarely, said sentients might glimpse another planet, if its between them and the sun.

The only variation in light level would occur by latitude. Because the life zone runs around the planet's equator, there is little or no seasonal variation. Day and night would be meaningless terms to such people.

How would such a people measure time? The only possible way would be 'the length of time it takes to'.

It is easy to postulate a sentience that has no concept of time that is not related to personal, directly caused change. 'In the time it takes me to walk to the next village'. Or 'The time it takes me to chop a log'. As it would take different individuals different amounts of time to perform any given action...

One might thus postulate a culture that never develops the concept of a separation between time and distance. Just as early humans likely measured distance by time (and how often do people today say 'Its four hours away' instead of giving a distance in miles), there would be no separation between time and distance or time and change.

The illusion of time as separate from space would therefore not develop in their minds.

As strange as all this seems, it might well be the perception of time experienced by beings on Gliese g...and thus the best ambassadors from Earth might be Inuit or, say, Aborigines. People who have never fallen into the 'time is separate from motion' trap.

Friday, October 1, 2010

I love it when a plan comes together...

Who said that?

Most people know. Even people who never watched the show OR the movie could probably guess that that is the catchphrase of John 'Hannibal' Smith, leader of the A Team.

For my generation, the A Team was something we grew up with. It was many things. One thing it was not...was good. The characters were two dimensional, the episodes were formulaic and the show has been accused of sexism...not without cause.

The plot? Find hot young woman who's in trouble. Break Murdoch out of secure mental. Turn BA's van into a tank. Get into massive shoot out in which they expend the entire remaining episode budget on ammunition...without hitting anyone. Get BA on a plane (most often by drugging him, sometimes by locking him in a cargo container). Get into second massive shootout. Defeat bad guy. Drive off into sunset...with BA's tank mysteriously having somehow turned back into a van.

Even the movie held many of the same formulaic episodes. (And somehow managed without Mr. T. Somehow.) know. It wasn't good. It wasn't deep. It certainly wasn't literature. What the A Team was was non stop, simple fun. Good, old fashioned (if somewhat violent) entertainment. Entertainment good enough that it has been continuously aired in the UK since the mid eighties. By somebody. Even the theme song...yeah, that theme song. The one that sticks in your head for days...

In short, a classic example of how it need not be quality literature to be fun. Possibly the best pure action show of all time.

So. Why did I just blather on about the A Team for paragraphs.

I wish it was for a good reason.

Last night, at the age of 69, the quirky producer of the A Team and the Rockford Files and prolific writer Stephen J. Cannell departed this life due to complications from melanoma.

I think that we have lost something...somewhere...between the 80s and now. Don't get me wrong, I love cerebral shows. But there is something that era gave us...that it would not be bad to recapture. And one of its giants has been lost.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

No rational explanation...

This might be a useful story if you're doing something with and need to understand magic realism.

I'm not sure I'd attempt the genre myself, steeped as it is in Hispanic culture, but isn't that a great story?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Artifical brains?

It's not doing any thinking of its own, but this artificial brain might help with the treatment of Alzheimer's. Or, for that matter, it might start thinking on its own...

(I think there's a horror story hiding in there somewhere).

I sometimes think that the more we study, the more we realize life is both simpler and more complex than we imagined.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I'm going to share...

The most useful writing tip ever. Bar none. Something that will help more than any rules about punctuation or adverb use or dialog.

Read it out loud.

Everything you write, every time, before you send it anywhere. It makes a huge difference. Trust me.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sales updates

Just one update this week.

My ghost story 'The Men Who Go Under The Ground' has been accepted by Arkham Tales for their October 2010 issue.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Silence on COSMOS

The Silence is now posted on the Cosmos web site.

It's right here.

Once more, I love their art...whoever selects the pictures that go with their stories has quite the knack. The site is also worth checking out for its popular science.

So, there's today's offering. Enjoy!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mea culpa

I am a bad blogger.

I am a very bad blogger.

I do have some excuses...busy, dealing with noisy construction work. Sold my second story to Cosmos Online this week, too. Submitting like crazy. Wrote a short story last week, aiming for two this week (got the first one drafted, second one is slated for likely Thursday). WILL finish another novel soon, if I can get a breather between the short story CFSs. Is that the correct plural.

I know I promised something special, but I don't have it ready yet. It will come. And I'm going to try and make myself post at least once a week.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


My writer's ego likes this:

Third paragraph from the bottom, with a superb review of Warrior Wisewoman 3...

in which I'm referred to as a 'contemporary short story author. That just feels good.

I'm tempted to celebrate by posting something interesting this space.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Zombist on Amazon!

The print version is now up and can be ordered.

They also fixed the ebook version to the correct tagline.

Again, this is a four hundred page book with 29 stories, hence the high price for a trade paperback. Its well under a dollar a tale. I'm hoping to get my copy next week...and can't wait to have it in my hands.

The Zombist: Undead Western Tales

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Zombist for Kindle!

If you have a Kindle...or the iPhone app, or a Kindle app for your can now infect it with zombies.

The Zombist - Undead Western Stories is now available in the Kindle store. (Not entirely sure why its 'Stories' not 'Tales' but it really is the same book. Amazon can be weird).

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Went to see it last night. I would put this in the category of 'good, but not great'.

I also would not compare it to the Matrix so much as to Dark City...a lot of similarities in the feel and the visual tone. The ending is rather predictable, but the overall production values are good.

Unbelievably, they used almost no CGI. I can't say any more without spoilers...but its worth the theater price of admission.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Warrior Wisewoman 3 now on Amazon

It's at least on US Amazon by now. I can't be sure about international links.

Warrior Wisewoman 3

Friday, July 30, 2010

Undead and Six Shooters!

The Library of the Living Dead have now released Zombist: Undead Western Tales.

Which is HUGE. By which I mean the page count, not necessarily the snty-ales figures. (For the benefit of those who look and wonder why its so expensive).

Twenty-nine stories that will take you all the way back to the Wild West. With zombies.

Right now only the CreateSpace link is up. I'm hoping it will be on Amazon itself before too long, but in the mean time, if you want a copy, saddle up and head on over.

Zombist: Undead Western Tales

(Yes, this is the book that was originally on my site as Tales of the Undead West...titles often change in publishing between the initial call and the actual release).

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Warrior Wisewoman 3 Release!

August 1!

And available for pre-order right now from Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Please order your copy through the publisher's official website. It's awesome. Last year's anthology was absolutely fantastic and this year's should be no different.

Roby James is an awesome editor and great to work with.

Oh, and just to show you a taste of what you're getting.

I think it's better than last year's cover art by a lot...and that's not because last year's was bad. Yeah. I'm jazzed.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Well, huh...honorable mention?

I'd have mentioned this before...but they never actually notified me. Or, more likely, any notification got lost in the ether somewhere.

Seems my story 'Animals' got an honorable mention in the Verb contest. They didn't publish it, so I have to do a minor rewrite and see if I can shop it. But still...not complaining. Except for not noticing it until July, that is.

Friday, July 16, 2010

I know...

Writers should seek out new experiences, right?

I got one I hadn't bargained for while on vacation (And no, I'm not talking about the second flat tire in two trips).

I went sailing on Lake Superior.

And got becalmed.

Oh yes, and fogbound.

When I write the sequence I'm planning for a WIP with the characters on a merchant vessel, this experience might be useful.

For right now, it's not one I'm exactly thrilled to repeat. At least *we* had an engine...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Strains of 'Moon Is A Harsh Mistress'

(Which is, of course, a classic everyone should read).

Why am I reminded of it? I just got done reading Allen Steele's 'Coyote'. The plot is similar and dissimilar. Instead of an existing colony fighting for independence, the book starts with a group of 'Dissident Intellectuals' (political prisoners) hijacking a colony ship. (Not a spoiler, as it's practically mentioned in the first sentence).

It's clear that Steele has quite a few things in common with Heinlein. Like, politics. Stylistically, though, the book is quite different...and in many ways inferior, but then, Heinlein *is* a master. (Except for his ability to write female characters that aren't his wife or his mother, but Steele hasn't demonstrated that capability either...there's only one girl in the book, so I can't be sure). The trying thing about this book is that it changes not just POV but tense...with some sections in present tense and the rest in past, some first person and others third. POV I can deal with. Sudden switches of tense tend to throw me out of a book. If you can read past that, however, it's good fun...although it's the first book of a series and the ending shows it.

Coyote is a fascinating world, at the very least, and if, like me, you've read everything Heinlein ever wrote and are looking for stuff in the same vein, it's well worth picking up.

Coyote - Allen Steele

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Clockwork Earth

Yes, I was on vacation. Yes, I did some summer reading.

Not coincidentally, the second book I want to talk about also falls into the not exactly crowded genre of steampunk fantasy.

Both books have that in common and also the fact that they explore worlds that are as close to unique as anything I have read recently. There, however, the similarity ends.

Swanwick explores steampunk Faerie and, indeed, 'Dragons of Babel' is a fairy story.

Jay Lake's Mainspring is a religious allegory. Or is it? Even after reading it, I'm not sure. His world postulates a literal clockwork Earth. Literal. The sun is a lamp and the solar system resembles a Medieval orrery. This premise is delivered in a matter of fact way that makes it believable (unless you stop and think about it...there are a couple of holes in the 'science'). But then, who cares about science. Mainspring is emphatically fantasy.

Fantasy that explores the idea of god in a world that was clearly *made*. Unfortunately, while Swanwick is a mature writer at the top of his game, Mainspring is Lake's first novel. It shows. He's guilty of falling for the far too natural temptation of stopping the story to show off his worldbuilding and some of his characterization is, frankly, flat. However, he does not lack talent, and the reader will be relieved to hear that while it is the first book in a series, the book stands nicely on its own. It also has a distinct Oz-like quality. (This book is, incidentally, a couple of years old now, with a sequel out and also a third book...I'm going to have to track them down).

Although not of the quality of 'Dragons of Babel', this one is a fun read...albeit one that might potentially offend some readers. I still haven't worked out which ones.


Monday, July 12, 2010

There's a book I've been looking for for years.

It's called the 'Iron Dragon's Daughter' by Michael Swanwick. An excerpt from it was published in Asimov's...and I've wanted to know what happens next for years. Literally years. I don't like buying books used unless they're irrevocably out of print. The library doesn't have it.

But last Christmas I found another book in the same world, 'The Dragons of Babel'. Imagine what fairyland would be like if technology there advanced as it does here. Swanwick has...and as far as I know he's the only writer to ever create Steampunk Faerie. (Please correct me if I'm wrong).

I devoured this book in a sitting. No, it's not perfect...there's one entire central section that could have been seamlessly removed without honestly affecting the rest of the story...making me wonder if Swanwick was having difficulty reaching his minimum length. His style is not for everyone, but if you like steampunk...shameless fantasy steampunk which doesn't always need to make want this book.

And while I was there, I searched 'The Iron Dragon's Daughter' on Amazon. It's being re-released! So, I'm hoping to pretty soon find out what happened next. Please. Please.

 The Dragons of Babel
The Iron Dragon's Daughter (pre-order)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Heading out again.

Going to be in Minnesota for the next week...leaving tonight, coming back a week on Sunday.

Probably no posts during this time. See you on the flip side.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Zombiality TOC.

Right here:

Bill. You rock. This only closed a couple of days ago. Can't wait to see the actual book.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Warrior Wisewoman 3 got its Publishers' Weekly Review. I didn't get mentioned as a 'standout' this year, but that doesn't surprise me as I rather think 'Working The High Steel' is better than 'The Race'.

No. I don't have a formal release date yet, but here's the review...and assuming Roby doesn't tell me next week when I'm out of town again, you'll know as soon as I do.

Thank you, Roby, for your wonderful job.

Also, 'Walking Through Fire' has been accepted for the Library of the Living Dead's 'Zombiality' anthology. Not sure when that will be published (I'm hoping Zombist will show up here soon), but it's likely to be an awesome collection...because Bill Tucker rocks.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Random and coincidental awesomeness

It was incredibly of the awesome to randomly bump into Beth Waters of the Library of the Living Dead Press at Origins...where I thought there wasn't going to be a writing track this year.

They're giving incredible support to their authors for what's basically a micropress that prints digitally...far more than most small presses. Far more, in fact, than most large houses give to people they aren't convinced are going to sell tons of copies.

Now I really can't wait to get 'Zombist' into my grubby little fingers.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Heading out...

Going to be at the Origins gaming convention from tomorrow until Sunday. Hoping for better writing stuff than last year, but not really expecting it. So, calling it a vacation. Not like I don't need one.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Nostalgia trips

So. I am about to make a rather large confession here.

I love 70s and early 80s American TV shows. You know the kind of thing...formulaic episodes, ridiculous tropes, overacting and overkill. Things happening that no reasonable suspension of disbelief would allow, yet somehow, in their own context working. Stuff like Knight Rider. The Six Billion Dollar Man. The old Wonder Woman live action series.

I adore that stuff. It's crazy, and it has, arguably, no literary value whatsoever...pure, raw, check your brain at the door entertainment.

However, I have rather mixed feelings about the current trend towards remaking these old 'gems'. Take the new Battlestar Galactica. Is it good television? Yes. Is it Battlestar Galactica? Umm. Not really.

So, I approached the idea of an A Team movie with trepidation. Would they take it too seriously? Would they rack up the body count? Would they, like many of the original fans, miss the point that it is not supposed to be realistic? More than anything else...

could ANYONE other than Mr. T be BA?

But when I saw the trailer, I was halfway convinced. Today I saw the movie.

Yes. Somebody other than Mr. T can be BA. It's not quite the same BA. For once, casting a wrestler worked...the guy can actually act and he looked right.

Yes, somebody other than Dirk Benedict can most definitely be Face. Bradley Cooper rocked. Sharlto Copley was delightfully unrecognizable as Murdoch (He looked quite, quite different in District 9).

Oddly, Liam Neeson was the weak link.

I only have one complaint.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

So, opinions...

I'm fiddling with my layout. Does anyone have any thoughts on this current one? Would a blue background be better?

I'm not the best person at graphic design...tend to leave it to people who are actually good at it, so am honestly seeking some opinions and criticism here. I do much prefer the sidebar on the right, though.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Why I don't talk about WIPs much...

I'm going to be honest here and admit that I have an aversion to blogging about the novels I'm working on.

Why? Because they might never be published. I have a feeling that it is unfair to get people excited about something that could easily never see the light of day.

In all honesty? Am I right to feel this way? I realize people might be interested in the writing process, but I want to enthuse. I want to gush. I want to get people all excited...and then I'd be letting them down.

I dunno. It's something I feel quite strongly about...that only something that's going to be released for sure should be enthused about in public. I do have some stuff coming out, but I'll talk more when I have release dates.

Or maybe I'm just afraid I'm going to jinx myself.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A couple of news bytes...

Sci fi people might be interested in these two.

First of all, we have the god particle. No  we don't. We have the gods particles? Apparently cosmology may be more polytheistic than we thought.

Don't try to understand this unless you're the kind of geek who can get your mind around the full intricacies of modern physics. But it might be time to rewrite all the laws. Again.

The second one makes moon colonization more feasible. There's a little bit of water on the moon, right?

No, actually, there could be...quite a lot.

Not sure how much direct use either of these are, but they're definitely interesting. Now, excuse me while I go get some chocolate to deal with my cosmology headache.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Emotional writing: Horror and erotica

I'm the first to say I'm no expert on erotica...take this with a grain of salt.

But it has come into my mind that there are certain strong similarities between horror and erotica.

Specifically, horror and erotica are genres of emotion. A writer of erotica has as her ultimate goal instilling the emotion of arousal.

Erotica is written to titillate, and sometimes to fulfil. Everything that happens in an erotic piece is focused towards that one goal...although if there isn't at least some plot, you're writing pornography. Erotica is about desire.

Horror is written with the specific emotion of fear in mind. The goal of the horror writer is to...well...horrify. To induce a controlled, cathartic state of fear. It's not dissimilar to the goal of designing a roller coaster, really. The reader wants to be frightened, whilst knowing he is safe.

In both cases, the primary goal of the writer is a pure, raw emotion.

Meanwhile, if one is writing a western, one's goal is quite different. Westerns, science fiction, fantasy, historical. All of these are genres of setting. The place defines the genre. The reader becomes, in this case, an explorer.

Crossing between the two...between western and romance and fantasy and horror brings these things together. I think it might be a worthy exercise for writers of 'setting' genres to dip into the emotional genres in order to hone the ability to write for emotional effect.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

A quick recommendation...

With the disclaimer that Lynn Price is an absolutely wonderful person...I wish I could clone her then alter the clone's brain to like speculative fiction...I have to recommend her book 'The Writer's Essential Tackle Box'.

It's not a how to write book...there are tons of those, and frankly I tend to take the advice contained within with a pinch of's a quick insider's guide to how publishing works for unpublished writers.

And her beagle is cute.

The Writer's Essential Tackle Box: Getting a Hook on the Publishing Industry

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Writing for Effect

I was reading a writer board the other day, and somebody said that writing for effect was 'bad'.

What they meant was that they dislike the type of 'literary' writing that seems to require a thesaurus within reach...of the reader.

But what about 'writing for effect'? Is it bad?

My answer to the question is fairly simple. We are always writing for effect. That is to say, everything we write is intended to serve a purpose.

The 'effect' of this blog post is quite different from the 'effect' I might be seeking in writing a battle scene or a death scene...or a sex scene, for that matter. Fiction requires a different set of 'tools' from non-fiction.

A thriller writer is writing for a particular effect...pace. No matter how much some people might criticize Dan Brown, the man is a genius for pace. His stories balance perfectly and even though I actively dislike his writing, I have to flows.

A writer of erotica is writing for a different effect...arousal. When you write horror, you are writing to invoke fear. All of these 'effects' are something one has to write for.

I think the original person confused 'effective writing'...writing that evokes the correct mood or conveys the required information...with 'affected writing'.

The latter might well be considered 'bad'. Of course, there are readers who want to see the craft of writing overcome the story...and at its best, this kind of writing has a certain brilliance to it. It's not the effect, though, I'm ever likely to seek myself.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A thought on bad reviews...

Here is my terrible confession.

Nothing gets my blood pressure up faster than a bad review. I have enough restraint and professionalism not to respond to them, but...I hate bad reviews. Hate them. They always make me wonder if I should have bothered ever writing the story. (Good reviews, of course, have me dancing on air).

I'm sure I am far from the only one.

So, I'm going to share what I think of every time I get a review that makes me want to tear out my hair.

Post movie reviews. As in, the Washington Post. I find them incredibly useful every time I am borderline about bothering to see a film.

If they love it...I can be absolutely certain it's two hours of my life I won't get back.
If they slam it into little pieces...time to look up show times.

Enough said.

There is something far, far worse than a bad review: No review.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


It often comes from news stories. I trawl the news for story ideas every day.

Every so often, however, you come across a story you can't use for inspiration...because, as they say in our household, 'Even the cat wouldn't buy it'. (No, we don't own a cat. Long story).

Let's take this.

I thought the headlined, 'US porn star in cliff-fall death' had promise. Click.

So. This guy got fired from a porn studio. He promptly went to the props department and stole a katana. He used it to attack several of his former coworkers, killing one. Chased by police, he goes up a mountain in California, stands on the top threatening to kill himself. Police shoot him with rubber bullets, but he's so close to the cliff behind him that he falls to his death.

How can I use that? Nobody would ever believe it! It's like the plot of a bad movie. Of course, its likely to sit around in my brain and escape at a later date.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Commercial Space news?

On the one hand, this is good news. Another company has produced a rocket large enough to possibly carry astronauts into space.

The bad news? Its a rocket. Falcon 9 is honestly little different from the Apollo rockets. Will it do as an interim thing? Yes.

Is it progress? Not remotely. If we are going to move outward into space and stay, we need a good alternative for getting out of the gravity well. Rockets are, frankly, a semi-obsolete dead end except perhaps for some unmanned applications. They are expensive. They are not reusable. They use more energy to get to the same height than an airplane.

Of course, the much-vaunted shuttle was a rocket. And it was barely reusable, and it was VERY expensive. The failure was in not moving towards a replacement the second the thing was in flight. But I've said that before, in all kinds of forums.

I do give kudos to SpaceX and Elon Musk for a successful maiden launch on only the second attempt. I am just hoping to see something truly new streaking through the skies soon.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Realms of Fantasy asking for help

Having just spent too much money on web domains (note to others: Registering a web domain is a privacy nightmare and avoiding said nightmare will cost you a premium on top of the domain registration fee)...I can't afford to subscribe right now.

But I don't want to see this magazine close again.


Everyone else has one, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon.

I'm going to talk about books. I'm going to talk about writing and publishing. (Books might have to wait, I'm currently working through SHELVES of old Asimov's and Analog before I start on the new stuff).

I might even talk about the occasional movie, too.

I'm also going to opine about stuff of interest to science fiction and fantasy writers.

Please feel free to toss up a comment if you want to trade links...I love to trade links.