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.