Monday, January 31, 2011


What would you predict to be the first use of a cloaking device? Military camouflage? (Actually, they sort of already have one, although its not very good).

How about...traffic control?

This is very interesting and potentially quite exciting. Might even save a few lives.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Not long ago...

Not long ago I saw hope in Egypt, with Muslims protecting Copts.

Now? Suddenly the country is embroiled in violence. Tunisia is also in the throes of revolution. not what I meant.

Yet, this might also be one of those omelet making moments. It may well be that eggs are being broken right now. We don't know.

We don't know because the Egyptian government has managed to mostly shut down the internet. And much of the cell phone network. I rather hope there are some ham operators in the country who can get word out by lower tech means.

I sit here and I pray that this resolves itself in a manner that brings hope. That IS hope. That the decades of authoritarian rule and corruption end.

And I remember not that long and a lifetime ago seeing a wall come down. I do remember, yes, that a people bent on freedom cannot, in the end, be stopped.

So, this one goes out to everyone in Egypt. To everyone who has been trapped there by these troubles.

And finally, I would remind everyone in America that 'Revolution' is not always a dirty word.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Worse than that. Ice. I think I'm going to hibernate and write now.

I will get out a better blog post soon, but I've not had that much inspiration for them over the last few days.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Right now......

I'm begging the weather gods NOT to drop a foot of snow on me. This city can't handle it and I have stuff I want to do.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Great Secrets

Yesterday, I got an...interesting letter in the mail. With no return address (always suspicious). On opening, it proved to be an offer noone could refuse. All I had to do was send back the form, and these unnamed people would provide me with their book. Free.

Their book would, let's see here, help me: Lose weight, look younger, be more appealing to my husband, be loved by everyone, launch a multi-million dollar company, win at gambling, predict the future, heal the sick, play the piano and paint.

(I know I probably COULD make this stuff up...I'm a writer...but!)

In fact, these people claimed to be a secret society and included a demand to keep the communication confidential (see how well I'm obeying it). I got hours of laughter out of it. (There are real 'secret societies', this is not, people, how they operate). They even tossed in a couple of kabalistic references. My husbands reaction: Wow, they invited you to join the Illuminati.

I eventually defined it as the bastard offspring of Scientology and a vanity publishing scam.

But since then I've been thinking about it. There really is a great secret. The problem is, knowing the secret won't help you. In fact, I'll share the 'great secret' right now.

Believe in yourself.

See. Knowing it won't help you. Doing it will, and that's a day to day struggle that's hard. Like everything in this life that's worthwhile. No fake secret society can teach you how to do it. It has to come from within.

Like everything worthwhile.

Monday, January 24, 2011

It's rather entertaining...

Reading *fact* articles from Analog from the early 1990s. Amusing to see which guesses are right and which wrong.

Predicting technology is a gamble...I'm amazed British bookies, who'll take bets on anything, aren't cashing in. Too long a period, I suppose.

Friday, January 21, 2011

If I could just...

remember the really good idea I had for a blog post right as I was falling asleep last night. Yeah, I was too dozy to get up and write it down.

Gotta love when that happens...and it does seem to be a hazard of being a writer. Inspiration will strike when you don't even have a pen and paper even if you carry said items religiously. Not sure what the answer is until we all get brain implants with direct connection to the internet ;).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

New Zodiac, Tiger Mothers and 'Memes'.

I came to a realization lately that the word 'meme' doesn't mean, any more, what I thought it did.

A meme is a contagious idea. But these days, 'meme' is used to mean anything trending on Twitter. People talk about Facebook memes (anyone remember 'Not Being On Fire'). These things trend for a while, then they vanish.

And sure, they seem to be contagious, but like the common cold, they disappear and are forgotten. Essentially, the idea of a meme is being watered down.

Truthfully, a 'meme' is supposed to be the transmission of culture in the way a 'gene' is of biological makeup. 'Not Being On Fire' was amusing, but it was not a meme. Most people have forgotten it.

The same thing is almost certainly going to happen with the 'New Zodiac'. No serious astrologer is adopting it. It's going to flash, burn out, and be forgotten. I would argue that for something to be a meme it has to cause real and true change in the life of the person receiving the idea.

Universal education is a meme. So is the idea that it is inappropriate to beat your children...something which most modern westerners forget was perfectly acceptable not all that long ago. On the darker side, so is fascism.

Those are memes. Memes are dangerous, because once you catch one, you can't get rid of it. For good or bad, a meme spreads...and it's like AIDS. In your system for good unless you happen to be somehow 'immune'.

The New Zodiac is too weak a meme to take control of anything and even if it did, who cares what star sign you say you are? On the other hand, the 'Tiger Mother' kerfuffle may well turn into an actual meme as some parents try the methods discussed in the book. Is it dangerous?

Any idea is. Any idea is dangerous to somebody. But we need to stop watering down the concept of a 'meme' before we get blindsided by a truly dangerous one. Or maybe we already are. Extreme secularism is a meme, and its a meme gaining in strength in parts of Europe. In America, we have freedom of religion. Some parts of the world are trying to give their people freedom FROM religion. On the other side, Islamic extremism is also a meme.

Maybe we need to start planting a few good ones...and they have to be more serious than new Zodiac signs or not being on fire.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

It's not exactly pretty, but...

Check it out. Solar car.

Obviously not practical for your morning commute, but regenerative braking might be very important for electric cars in the future.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


It's spreading around the net right now that Harper Collins has instituted a 'morals clause' in publishing contracts.

A rather vague one.

Do I think a publisher should have the right to ditch an author who has become such an embarrassment that they can't sell books? Well, yes.

But a 'morals clause' is offputting to anyone who is not 'mainstream'. And face it. Artists are not mainstream. Quite a few writers are gay or bisexual. I'd warrant that some are polyamorous. Not all of us are Christian. Is the fact that a writer is gay going to reduce book sales? Most of the time, absolutely not. In some areas, it may increase them. And in speculative fiction, there is a long tradition of protagonists that don't fall within sexual norms. Mercedes Lackey sells plenty of books despite the fact that she seems to find it hard to write one without somebody fairly major being gay. And I've certainly written about gay and lesbian protagonists (and even antagonists) before myself and will again.

Given a section of the popular considers homosexuality 'immoral', could a 'morals clause' not be used to not just fire an author who comes out as gay but force him to repay his advance? Or could it be used against a writer who admits to being Wiccan or a druid? Or to having an open marriage? It's a slippery slope and really not a necessary one. It's not hard for a publisher to drop a writer. They do it all the time.

Now. I am absolutely sure and certain HC doesn't intend to go down that road. After all, they do sell plenty of GLBT fiction. But it's the precedent I worry about. Our 'morals' are and need to remain our own.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Pretty busy day...

And heading out for the evening. So, no long post today.

I am, however, still a Virgo. Would people please shut up about the new zodiac already?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Science fiction staples.

They are quietly becoming reality all around us...but here's one one would not have expected.

There have been quite a few books, stories and movies based around the concept of hunting the 'most challenging prey of all', namely homo sapiens.

Well, it turns out the Coakham Hunt in East Sussex has been doing it for years. Before hunting animals with hounds was banned (a ban that is easy to get around), the Master of the Hunt realized that he was tired of certain dangers associated with hunting foxes. Foxes tend to run into dangerous situations to escape the hounds like, oh, onto freeways/motorways, across rail tracks and even head into cities. So, quietly, he dispersed the pack of foxhounds and put together a pack of bloodhounds and took to hunting...people.

This isn't, of course, some science fiction style blood sport. The hounds are trained not to hurt their quarry...although they might bowl them over and slobber all over them while searching their pockets for dog biscuits. And the hunt has no shortage of volunteers to be hunted...the combination of the adrenalin rush of fake danger and the mental exertion of trying to outwit the pack over distances that average a half marathon is apparently a lot of fun.

Now that it's being reported in the US media, I have to wonder if manhunting won't become a sport in the United States.

Running Man, just step aside now.

Read more from the Washington Post

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Creating antimatter.

When we try to do it, it costs billions of dollars.

Yet, as with so many 'hard' things, nature does it every day.

These beams are pretty small and they don't last very long. Another form of lightning, one might argue. Another cause for the sense of energy, perhaps, one gets from a big storm...although that is more likely that even humans have a slight sense for electrical fields.

Studying this phenomenon might give us new angles on the commercial creation of antimatter to, say, power interplanetary ships. It also ties together with the capability of magnetic fields to potentially contain this dangerous and volatile substance. What it does not help answer is why there was an imbalance between matter and antimatter during the Big Bang...the very imbalance that allows us to exist.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


I've heard multiple reports lately that say that eating insects might help the environment. Seriously. But...who wants fried grasshopper?

I'd try it, but there are definitely things higher on my list...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Tales woven together

This weekend I finally got around to seeing Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

It was a good movie. Reepicheep was absolute perfection. The ship looked like a fantasy ship, not a real one (I was very much afraid they would base it off of a modern tall ship). The dragoning of Eustace was fantastic.

What kept it from being a great movie, though, is what I've been pondering on since.

C.S. Lewis was a Cambridge literature professor and possibly the most influential Christian writer of the 20th century. Furthermore, his works speak beyond Christianity. Most of the neo-pagans I know still love Narnia. Hands up who has *not* tried to find Narnia in the back of a wardrobe or searched for it in a painting of the sea.

Narnia has developed a reality to it that may even be stronger and more powerful than the call of Middle Earth.

The Dawn Treader is one of the best. The movie...did not live up to it. Yes. I understand and accept that some cutting was necessary, but they did it, in my mind, wrong.

The point and message of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is that Caspian and the others leave Narnia in search of God. What they find, however, is themselves. Only Reepicheep, in the end, goes into the Utter East...because he is the only one who already knows who he is and isn't still working it out.

The movie...was about the search for the seven Lords and the battle of good versus evil. It was a good movie and it didn't entirely miss the point, but it missed most of it.

And the truth is, I have a suspicion as to why.

How many people, reading this blog, have read the Odyssey? Because Dawn Treader is a riff of that great classic. Odysseus searches for home and the arms of his wife. Caspian searches for God, but there's a side note that, yes, he too needs a wife and a mother for his future heirs. Although, in truth, it's really the story of Eustace Scrubb.

My sad suspicion is that the director and producers of the movie also have not read the Odyssey. That they failed to understand that the point is the journey, not the destination. Which is a cliche, but true.

And it led me to think that we don't teach the classics. We teach Shakespeare. Maybe Chaucer, but often as an optional extra. But we don't teach Homer. We don't teach Mallory. We rarely teach Dumas and I have to admit that I myself have not read Dante. (I should fix that).

So, here's my call out to the writers out there. Get thee to the library and read some of the literature that lies at the root of western consciousness. Homer. Mallory. Chaucer. Dante. It's all out there, it's all ready available. And these tales weave into the tales we tell, or should. They are a touchstone that we have drifted away from.

Now...what happened to my copy of the Odyssey...

Friday, January 7, 2011


Writing is going well, but maybe not today. I won't go into details, but annoying dental trip this morning.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thoughts on a drug conversation.

I recently got involved in an online debate about drugs. Recreational drugs, that is, not what you get from the pharmacy.

I've always been a firm believer that many of the problems revolving around drugs in our society would be solved by decriminalization. Who is going to come for help when they might get sent to prison?

The illegal nature of hard drugs pushes up their price. This means there is a lot of money in it. Anything that has a lot of money in it attracts corruption of some kind. Drug cartels practically rule parts of Mexico. They use children as mules and there has been some recent talk about horses being worked to death running drugs. Addicts, unable to hold down real jobs, turn to crime to pay for their drugs. Illegal meth labs blow up...I even read one story about somebody who managed, somehow, to blow up a marijuana grow-op. Not entirely sure how.

Portugal has made great progress with a system that decriminalizes drugs and refers users to counseling.

Now, one of the big arguments about legalizing drugs is that people will then go out, try them, and we'll just have more addicts.

I spent some time thinking about this. There is a fallacious belief that if you make something somebody is addicted to unavailable it will cure them.

First of all, the addict does not care to what lengths he or she has to go to obtain their fix. It being illegal is certainly not going to stop them.

Second of all, the lowest recidivism rates of rehab are not gained by saying, for example, that the alcoholic must never have alcohol in the house. They are gained by counseling that teaches the addict how to control the urge of addiction itself.

Which led me to a realization. Being addicted TO is a symptom. Addiction itself is a mental flaw. Tobacco is a highly physically addictive drug...but I have a friend who can smoke when he feels like it and stop whenever he likes. He's not addicted to nicotine.

An addict is not somebody who drinks too much, or smokes too much, or takes crack, or spends food money on gambling. An addict is somebody who does not know how to say no or enough. Treating an addict, therefore, has to ultimately focus on teaching them how. Perhaps one day we'll have some kind of drug or supplement somebody prone to addiction can take, or even therapy to correct a flawed gene that turns somebody into 'an addict'.

Removing the substance to which the person is addicted will only take care of the physical part of the addiction.

A recent study determined that there was a link between a family history of alcoholism and obesity. Many obese people have a flaw in the mechanism that tells you 'You're full now, stop eating'. In other words, many obese people are, in fact, addicted to food. They don't know when or how to say 'no' to that cookie.

I have personally known people who quit smoking and became fat, because the addiction moved from nicotine to food. Which honestly isn't that much better.

Thus. Legalizing drugs would not create more addicts. Because if somebody has the propensity to become an addict...they will become one. To something. It's even possible to become addicted to drinking water.

The war on drugs is treating a specific symptom of addiction...and causing untold cost to our society. It's time to stop. The average person is not going to go out and 'just try' crack. And the only new addicts will be people who would be addicts anyway. Stop the war on drugs, and spend the money on education and working out a way to stop addiction itself.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


I'm not the biggest afficionado of gaming systems, so I missed the Kinect.

The previous excitement was over the Wii, which allows the gamer to direct their avatar's motions with their own by using a remote that contains motion sensors. Similar technology is used in smartphones and almost all smartphone games are based on it.

The Kinect allows the gamer to direct their avatar's motions with their own...

without a remote.

This is, of course, one of the key developments needed for the Star Trek style 'holodeck'. In fact, we could *almost* build one right now.

Envision a decent sized room, located in the back of a video gaming arcade or in an independent location. The walls, ceiling and floor are back projection screens, the floor, of course, under a layer of heavy duty glass (it exists, it's expensive, but could be done). The gaming environment is projected onto these screens. Players, with suitable props such as ray guns that fire infra red beams (harmless to the eye, but able to be detected by sensors behind the screens) or boffer weapons, enter the room and are immediately surrounded by the game. Technology similar to that used in Kinect would detect their motions and interactions. Hidden microphones would pick up the words spoken, with the NPCs reacting accordingly.

Essentially, this would be video-supported LARPing and the next step from laser tag and from games such as the TerrorWerks games (if they're at a con near you, check them out, it's pricy, but really, really good). Victory would be determined by real shooting skills. Or, of course, your group could schedule a non-violent game. Perhaps you could hold your party in the holodeck against a backdrop of your favorite celebrities. Or get married with the screens programmed to reflect Notre Dame cathedral. Needless to say, the administrators of the facility would be raking in the dough.

So. Who's going to try it? You'd need a warehouse type building or maybe a larger store front. And a lot of capital.

And in a few years, perhaps, the technology will exist to project the NPCs amongst the PCs... We WILL have the holodeck. It's only a matter of time.

Monday, January 3, 2011

And for 2011

Things I'm looking forward to:

1. A much better (from my obvious biased viewpoint) summer movie season. Liking the look of the Green Lantern movie a lot.

2. Going to Europe to see my family.

And I'm hoping for...well. A book contract, but aren't we all?