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 pedophile...one 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.