Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Wedding

Have I watched it? Uh... getting up at 4:30am for anything short of a nuclear disaster or a vacation flight is not going to happen. It's on the DVR, though. My wish for them is simple.

A better marriage than that of William's parents.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Timey wimey stuff

Read it. Get a headache.

I would like to know how they think they can extrapolate their 'toy' big bang to the real thing. But the idea of local entropy being reversed is intriguing. Although I'd note one thing. Is our perception of time a product of our own aging? If entropy was reversed, would we really notice? They talk about the old science fiction cliche of time turning around and people aging younger. I don't see how that could be possible.

It's like matter and anti-matter. Anti-matter is whichever one you aren't.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

So, how about psychohistory?

Asimov himself stated, if I recall correctly, that psychohistory was a dramatic device. But can we really predict human behavior?

The answer may be...better than Asimov predicted. Anyone not living under a rock is likely aware of the iPhone and Android privacy flack. Yes, your smartphone can accurately track your movements and, with the right software, your social interactions. Measurements of movement taken by the smartphone's internal motion sensor (the same mechanism that allows the screen to switch from portrait to landscape mode and is used in some smartphone games) have even diagnosed the flu...before any symptoms become obvious (likely, there will be an app for that soon...)

Belgium has a political crisis and can't choose a government. Smartphone data gathered by researchers using volunteers clearly show that this could have been predicted. Cell phone companies can use calling data to predict who is most likely to bail for another carrier and target them with ads and promotions. And you may recall another flack, a couple of years ago, when somebody wrote an app that allowed a smartphone to determine whether its holder was actively working at a manual job or...slacking off.

In Asimov's version of psychohistory, predicting the behavior of individuals was impossible. In a way which is disconcerting even to an unashamed advocate of technological progress such as myself, the real version may be able least for those of us who have our treasured habits and routines.

Here's one frightening cyberpunk possibility. Why have people vote...when their phone data predicts who they will vote for?

Original story here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chernobyl and Fukushima

25 years later...and looking at it might teach us lessons, even now, about nuclear safety.

The entombed reactor is still dangerously 'hot', and the concrete sarcophagus is crumbling. It will cost over a billion dollars to replace it and maintaining the site still requires active attention...and will for decades. 350,000 people were permanently relocated. A no-go zone of 1,500 square miles is returning to nature.

What about long term health? People who were children or adolescents at the time and lived close to the plant have a greatly increased risk of thyroid cancer. (The thyroid gland tends to concentrate radiation, hence why iodine tablets are useful in cases of radiation exposure). Workers who actively assisted in controlling the fire have double the risk of leukemia.

What has not happened, though, is the true radiation bugbear. There is absolutely no indication that there has been an increase in mutations and congenital deformities amongst humans exposed to Chernobyl. As bad as it may have proved that long term, germ line effects are unlikely in the extreme.

Now we have Fukushima. And this will be used as evidence to retrench further from building nuclear plants. True. Fission is dangerous. But the health risks of being close to a nuclear plant, most of the time, are less than associated with coal burning (itself reduced by modern safety measures).

And what everyone seems to be forgetting is that Japan has fourteen other actively operating nuclear plants...none of which had any problems after the magnitude 9.0 quake. In some ways, this reminds me of all the fuss about airline disasters. Flying is the safest means of transport, but because one accident can take so many lives, it is perceived as dangerous.

(Just to compare, 48 coal miners died in 2010 in the United States. China, where mine safety standards are far laxer had over two and a half thousand fatalities in 2009...whilst only sixty deaths are so far recorded from radiation exposure associated with Chernobyl).

Monday, April 25, 2011


...why are people's emails bouncing left, right, and center today? Ah well. Nothing I can do but resend it later.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Zombiality ebook!

Now available!

Kindle and Kindle app only, I'm afraid. But a reasonable price...if you don't have your copy already, go get it.

(End of shameless pimp)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Another one.

Two in one week! Library of Horror Press purchased Splinter for their 'Made You Flinch - Again!' anthology. I'm on a roll here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ends of the World

I've come to an interesting realization lately. It seems that the world has already ended.

No, no, not literally. But much older science fiction, especially visual science fiction, likes to place the end of the world (or the hideously dystopian future that makes you wish the world had ended) in the early twenty-first century. In fact, technically, Judgment Day was yesterday...didn't see any nukes, did you?

Recently, writers have gotten smarter. Dating the end of the world has gone somewhat out of style. Ending the world, however, has not. I've written my own share of pieces in which the world ends. I rather prefer viral plagues. Or escaped bio weapons. In 'That Last Margarita' we never even find out how the world actually ends...but somehow, there's one survivor. Yeah, that's another favorite motif. The single survivor.

And, of course, various cults have, over the years, predicted the end of the world on a certain date. There's a preacher driving around the country right now saying the rapture will occur on May 21 this year and the world will end on October 21. The popularity of the 2012 conspiracy theory may also say something. People like to envision the end of the world. Why?

Perhaps it's symptomatic of not being happy with their own lives. I have known people who start reading Revelations when they're suffering from a bout of depression. And heck, I have had the 'stop the world I want to get off' feeling myself...although most of the time I tend to direct it more positively and start asking people if they have a starship in their pocket. But the end of the world is popular. Fiction describing it sells well. Of course, there are always survivors. Because people have to hope there will be survivors. Well, except in extreme horror.

Truth is, the world isn't likely to actually end any time soon, even if the weather and earthquakes lately might make one wonder. But we have to take precautions to make sure our world doesn't end. Not enough of them are being taken. I really hope we can keep the end of the world fictional for a very long time to come.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Another sale!

Better Men to the new ezine Digital Science Fiction. I'm impressed so far with them and hope they get plenty of support and are a success.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Slant and Anathem

I just finished reading Greg Bear's cyberpunk novel Slant. A while ago, I read Neal Stephenson's recent work Anathem.

Now, both of these are very good books. I would never, ever say that Bear and Stephenson are not writers of excellence. They are also very different books. Slant is classic cyberpunk with the twist of biotech. Anathem is an alternate reality novel. So why did Slant remind me of Anathem?

Firstly, because they are both hard books to read. Now, I have no objection to hard books to read. I think C.J. Cherryh's Cyteen is absolutely great...and that is one hard book to read. They are dense and Slant tends to jump POVs almost too much.

Secondly, they both use a lot of 'conlang' - constructed language. I have nothing against this...used judiciously it can help the reader gain a sense of being in another place, another time. However, I felt that both of these novels were marred by the excessive use of unfamiliar words. For example, Anathem uses 'Fraa' instead of 'Brother'...obviously from friar (and referring to the book's strange atheist monks. But I found that jarring, when Brother or Friar would have served just as well.

Slant is guilty of some of the same things...the most annoying being 'touch' instead of 'call'. I can't envision that word ever being common parlance or understand its etymology. (And I would love to know where he got 'YOX' for immersive virtual reality, unless it's supposed to be a fictional brand name).

In both cases, instead of the differences from standard English pulling me into the story, I found they pushed me out of it, damaging suspension of disbelief and weakening two otherwise excellent books.

(Note: I purchased both books the government likes bloggers to declare if they're given books).

Friday, April 15, 2011

Banned in China

I wasn't going to post again today, but I was reminded of this.

It appears that about 70% of everything I have ever written would be banned in China if it was a movie or television show.

And before anyone says 'Well, it's only China' of my favorite movies of all time was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. A Chinese movie. That would be banned under the new restrictions. Technically, it's not a ban, it's a warning not to misrepresent history, but...

Let's look at the scope of this:
Time travel - there goes Doctor Who (which, ironically, was first envisioned as an educational show to teach kids about history).
Fantasy - no more Lord of the Rings, because people might think it was real?
Random compilations of mythical stories - The Chinese people have a rich body of mythology. For it not to be used would be a tragedy. And sure...people will get things wrong. Hey. It's fiction.
Bizarre plots - so, from now on, everything has to make sense?
Absurd techniques - there goes the entire Hong Kong action film industry. Sleeve fu, anyone?
Propagating feudal superstitions - so, any historical drama set before the revolution has to show everything in a bad light. I suppose that one makes sense for Communists.
Fatalism - no more 'destined heroes', another stock of Hong Kong action films.
Reincarnation - I'm betting plenty of Chinese still believe in this.
Ambiguous moral lessons - uh...what? What do they mean by that?
A lack of positive thinking - so, no tragedies. No horror, certainly. Nothing but happy endings. Yawn.

Actually, it almost seems like an attack on the entire action film industry in Hong Kong. Of course, this kind of censorship stops nothing. Sends it underground, sure. But at the same time, what is the Chinese government really afraid of here?

Maybe they are afraid of people realizing fiction is fiction...and thus recognizing the lies told to them by their own government.

Of course, here we just have people who want to ban everything not suitable for their three year old...

Knowing when to...

...give up.

Not that anyone should give up on writing if they enjoy it. But sometimes you have to give up on a story. I have a couple of older pieces I'm at that point with right I keep submitting them or do I accept that they are simply no good?

Eh. You keep plodding on.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I haven't...

...given everyone a headache in forever, have I. Well, here you go:

Yeah. My brain hurts. Of course, maybe we're the antimatter...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


One of the things I most 'love' about being a writer is when I finish a first draft, hit The End...

...and then ten minutes later go 'No, no, no. That will never work. I have to do this instead'.

Almost total rewrite here we come...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

This... says it all so much better than I could myself. Who has the strong alcohol?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Knowing the business...

...and a few things some people seem to not manage to learn.

1. You do not pay your publisher. Unless you are self publishing (in which case you pay your editor, your cover artist and your printer or ebook converter), you do not pay your publisher. Using a publishing service such as Lulu or CreateSpace makes sense for some...most especially niche non-fiction intended for back of the room sales. If you have a wider platform, it does not. A publisher you pay has absolutely no incentive to make your book a success; they already have their money.

2. No, Virginia, you do not get to design your own cover art. No, you cannot hire your second cousin or best friend to do your cover art. Your publisher will hire somebody who they know is good at it. You might get some say or even a veto, but ultimately, this is not something you can control.

3. Yes. Your publisher might change the title of your book. There are all kinds of reasons why they might (and often do) make that decision. Maybe there's a similar book coming out with a similar title. Maybe your title just sucks (I know some of mine do). Short stories are rarely re-titled, but it has happened to me. This does not mean you can get lazy and submit under a bad title, but you have to be aware that it might change...sometimes more than once.

4. Uh oh. You did not know Minor Character X had the same name as Minor Celebrity Y. Sometimes legal will come back and ask that the name of a character be changed. If you are really fond of a name, google it before submitting...then you'll have longer to get used to the idea that that name is not going to work.

5. No, you can't just sit back and let the royalties roll in. You do need to actively promote your book. That might involve a signing every weekend for the first few months. It might involve going to conventions for your genre. And you will, yes, need Facebook and Twitter accounts. You may find you need a professional Facebook account, not just a personal one. Oh, and you will need professional grade photos of you. Smiling into your webcam won't cut it. Get used to it. If you get stage fright, do something about it...join Toastmaster's, something, until you at least have it not affecting your performance. (Poetry jams can be great for practicing reading in public with a straight face and zero freak outs).

6. It is highly unlikely that you will ever be rich. Giving up the day job is relatively unusual. Many professional writers write non fiction to pay the bills. If you are dreaming about that million dollar movie deal...stop. What should matter is having readers not making money.

7. You will get rejected. You will get rejected a lot. You will be able to paper a room with rejections...and not necessarily the 'smallest room' either (although that might be the most appropriate). You may be told by an editor that your writing sucks and they don't think you can improve enough to ever be published. (Unprofessional, but I've seen it from people who should BE professional). An editor might send a rejection while drunk (also unprofessional, but wouldn't surprise me). You might get rejections that make you wonder which manuscript they read.

8. You will get bad reviews. You will get reviews that make you wonder what manuscript they read...or whether they were drunk. The temptation to tell the reviewer where to shove it can be very high. But remember...there is something worse than a bad review. No review.

Harsh reality checks, yes. But if you intend to be a writer, not just a hobbyist or wannabe, they need to be accepted...and even embraced.

Friday, April 8, 2011

This is...

...awesome. Recognition of a male to female transgender (or possibly an effeminate gay man, but I'm leaning towards the former) five thousand years ago.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I realized...

...that I haven't really encountered any hugely interesting news lately. Maybe it's because everything's dominated by Japan and the Middle East. Oh, and the Ivory Coast.

I need some good news, to be honest. Anyone got any lying around?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Email is not secure...

...and the next person that emails me my password in the clear or demands financial information over email... Grrr...

Don't email people your porno pictures either.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I want...

...everyone to read this. Prejudice of any kind is something I strongly oppose. Believing myths about any group is the very definition of prejudice.

Monday, April 4, 2011


I've been doing a lot of thinking. My brain's tired.

I worry that the reason I haven't had a novel published yet is because I can't write pitches. Or because I just plain suck. The temptation to go the self-published route keeps rearing its head.

But I also don't know that I am in the position, mentally and financially, to do self-publishing *right*. I think I would rather have a publisher, even if it's a small one, with no advances. Even if it's ebook I'm keeping my eyes open for all opportunities. One thing I've realized is that you have to be flexible to opportunities. Especially in marketing.

On the other hand, I worry about heavily marketing books that might never be published. Isn't that a bait and switch? I feel as if it is. But I also want to say 'Well, people *will* read my books'.

Maybe that's what the turmoil in publishing is all about. Somebody asked me which was more important: Professional validation or money.

I realized that what is really important, what matters more than anything else, is readers. Without readers, you have absolutely nothing.

So, here it is. The most important people on the planet are readers. That is, or should be, everyone. Should be. Let's work on keeping it that way. I read a rather scary short story recently just called 'Literacy'. In the distant past, literacy was low. In the distant future, will literacy be low?

Let's stave that off. Keep reading.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fools...

...not from me. Besides, I'm English, and it's already after noon (In England, you are only supposed to play April Fools Day pranks in the morning). But so far I haven't seen any good pranks anyway, since the lap giraffes...they so should have delayed those until today.

Besides. I want to go back to bed. Sigh.