Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Thoroughly so. By the Olympics, of course. I can't help it...I always have this urge to watch tons of Olympic coverage and then my productivity suffers.

Ah well.

It only happens every four years.

Monday, July 30, 2012

A fascination with Tesla

Over the last couple of weeks I've been getting junk email trying to sell me a Tesla generator. Usually, junk mail of any kind is just plain annoying, but I got some amusement from this.

But it made me think that Nikola Tesla is a figure who shows up so much in pulp fiction. In Sanctuary, he's a vampire. In the Leviathan trilogy he's pretty much his historical, mad scientist self, trying to build super weapons to end war forever.

He also shows up in H.G. Wells' First Men in the Moon and in Spider Robinson's Callahan series. Like quite a few intriguing characters, he's a comic book character, showing up in DC Elseworlds and, of course, in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. More recently, he's shown up in Marvel, associated with SHIELD.

Tesla is all over the place and even when he doesn't show up, things built by him do (he designed Warehouse 13 with Thomas Edison and M.C. Escher), gave his name to the high school in Eureka, and inspired a slew of antagonists).

Which brings me to another thing. Most of the time, when Tesla shows up in fiction, he's the bad guy. He was a brilliant inventor who was born in Serbia and moved to America. He pioneered modern electrical engineering, demonstrated wireless electricity transfer in 1891, demonstrated radio in 1894, and tried to change the world for the better. So, why is he the bad guy?

Tesla went from promising young scientist to serious eccentric. He may have had obsessive compulsive disorder and he both said weird things and tried to build stuff that was so far ahead of its time it had no chance of working. His dream was global wireless transmission of electricity (did not happen) and radio (well, cell phone coverage isn't that good yet). He built bladeless turbines (now being seriously worked on and, of course, bladeless fans are available). In August 1917 he did the first work on radar.

Tesla was brilliant and eccentric, but he is remembered not as a guy who did much for our modern world, but as the eccentric mad scientist who built death rays and heard aliens. It's now believed that Tesla's 'signals from outer space' were probably real - radio noise from Jupiter. But that, sadly, is how he's remembered - as the bad guy. Which he wasn't, but the appeal of a completely eccentric, completely brilliant guy who tried to build the impossible remains.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Review: Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear

In general, I like Bear's work. Not as much as I like, say, Cherryh or Vinge, but I do like it.

This book disappointed me. Bear went with an unreliable narrator and a narrative style that was high on revealing the character of the narrator...and low on readability. Sorry, Greg. I simply found this book hard to get into, hard to understand and hard to read. The plot is interesting enough...a generation ship on which a string of very bad things happen. But I could really not get past the narrator.

I can't give it more than three of five, I'm afraid.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Review: Leviathan Series by Scott Westerfeld

Although not as deftly written as the Uglies series, it's definitely better than his 'Risen Empire' attempt at adult fiction.

Leviathan is shamelessly steampunk...with a twist. The Clanker powers use zeppelins and mecha (which they call walkers).

The Darwinist powers, which include Britain, use genetic engineering. To fight World War I. That's how far alternate this history is. Despite this, he manages to do a better job of realistic alternate history than recent Turtledove.

Leviathan also jumps on the popular YA romance bandwagon. Deryn Sharp is a young woman who only wants to fly - so she dresses up as a boy and enlists as a midshipman in Britain's air force. Aleksandr is...the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It all seems rather unlikely...and obviously I'm going to stop there as I'd be introducing spoilers.

The hardcover edition at least also has something wonderful...it's illustrated. It's so rare these days to find an illustrated volume that's not intended for young children. Not only that, but it's illustrated in the way a book published in 1914 would have been illustrated - the illustrations aren't actually woodcuts, but they do a good job of faking it, and they are just absolutely amazing. So, I'm going to give a shout out to Keith Thompson.

Oh, and watch out for the flechette bats and their rather, uh, unique way of attacking enemies.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Belated - Sally Ride

I had to think quite a bit before making this post, because really, Ms Ride had not entered into my consciousness firmly until now.

The first American woman (although not the first woman) to go into space was one of six women chosen for the 1978 class, the first astronauts to be trained after Apollo. (The class also contained NASA's first three black astronauts).

She was a mission specialist, meaning she was a scientist, not a pilot, and obviously a very bright woman - her official bio lists a double undergraduate major in physics and English and a PhD in physics. However, she was also brilliant at operating the orbiter's remote controlled arm.

She flew only two missions (not uncommon in the shuttle arena). And her goal was to motivate girls and young women to pursue science careers. She had the right stuff.

There is something else Sally Ride was, something she kept quiet her entire life. Something that was not revealed until after her death. Something she kept quiet, perhaps, because she wanted to be a role model for all young women. Her friends knew, but the rest of us had to wait for her obituary to find out.

Sally Ride was also gay. She lived in a long-term, stable relationship with another woman. And she felt no need to shout this to the world and from the rooftops. Was she afraid? Some activists think so.

But at the same time, perhaps, it is very important for some of us not to be 'activists', not to be out there turning the room pink, but merely to allow sexuality to be an aspect of our lives. By allowing it to be a postscript to her achievements, Ms Ride might well have done more than coming out years ago would have done.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Real Women in Comic Book Art

I had a great discussion on this topic last night.

Modern comics depict a certain female body style. Many women want to buy superhero comics, but not ones featuring huge racks on the front.

DC's recent characterization decisions with Starfire (combined with the distinct lack of female creators in Nu52) combines with Marvel's tendency towards large, shall we say, hooters, to push women (not all women, mind) away from mainstream comics and towards independent creators. Despite encouraging figures, should mainstream publishers be pushing an audience segment away?

One response indicated that it did not matter because women are not the 'target audience'. To this, I have two things to say:

1. If you can sell your comics to women as well as men, you will sell more comics.
2. I have far more respect for men than to think large breasts are an essential element of selling comics (or anything else) to them. Really? Are men that shallow? (Nobilis, feel free to weigh in here, you know far more about selling sex than I do).

Am I saying comic book women should not be sexy? Heck no. I am saying that surely there is a way to attract women (or at least not push them away) without turning off men. I don't have any problem with sexy and desirable superheroes, of both sexes. Wonder Woman should be hot. So should Superman. I don't even have a problem with female characters fighting crime in bikinis (Scarlet Witch) or with Power Girl's rack (because it's become important to the character).

What's even more important, though, is that 'sexy' in a woman does not have to equate to out-of-control slutty (new Starfire) or require large breasts and borderline pornographic poses. These women are powerful and independent. Draw them that way, with the right level of sexy, and you will have both men *and* women wanting to read your books. Surely that's better?

Monday, July 23, 2012

I am...

...going to whine and bitch. This summer is insane. We usually get more below 95 days than this. A lot more.

I'm tired of having to go to the store at like 8:30am so I only get mild heat exhaustion. And rather tired of trying to write in it. The a/c only does so much (and I don't want to think about our bill).


I want to move somewhere cooler. Like, I don't know, Antarctica.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Review: Scott Westerfeld's Risen Empire

I'm a huge fan of Uglies, and decided to pick up some of Scott Westerfeld's other work.

Unfortunately, I was quite disappointed. The world building was great, but something about the actions of the characters did not quite ring true. I came to the conclusion that Westerfeld is simply better at YA fiction than when writing for adults. Mostly, the romance simply...did not work.

On the other hand, the way he draws you into the society itself did. It's still worth a read and would probably have seemed to be a better duology if I did not know Westerfeld could write a lot better. Also...it doesn't end. It stops. Is there going to be a third volume, maybe? I sort of hope so.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thoughts on Comic Sales

Recent statistics indicate that comics are doing well...and those statistics are quite interesting.

Digital sales are up 80%. (No indication of whether this counts people downloading Marvel's free electronic copies).

Print sales are up 18%.

In books, digital product is eating into the sale of physical product. Why is this not happening with comics?

I think there's a simple answer. People hang comics on their walls. Comics are not just about the story, but about the art - and people collect art. Sure, the art is just as good viewed on a tablet or a PC, but it is not as good displayed that way.

I'm going to stick my neck out and say that even if print books fully make the transition to digital media, comics will always be printed...and the statistics indicate not even in smaller numbers.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lightweight Stuff

Remember the world's lightest material, made of metal tubes?

It's been beaten out by 'aerographite', which is made of carbon, and is highly conductive - it might be really useful for making lighter batteries. And, like its predecessor, it can be compressed down to 90% and spring back.

I really like hearing about these developments. As a rider, I'm interested in the impact-absorbing properties these materials might have, resulting in safety helmets that don't have to be replaced if you have a wreck. (And I also keep hoping somebody will come up with a safety hat that perfectly mimics a western hat, because that's the only way we'll get the cowboys to protect their most valuable assets.)

Materials science is getting very, very exciting. Nanotechnology is no longer the future...it's with us.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Writers, attitudes

Somebody just said to me that he couldn't understand how somebody could like a writer's work, then meet the writer and dislike them.

This seems very strange to me. For example, I like some of Orson Scott Card's work, but can't stand his politics. I've also met writers I've admired and found them to be hard to get on with in person.

The flip side of this is that writers should not be judged by their work. If I write a horror story from the point of view of a serial killer, then there are some people who think that makes me a violent person. I once workshopped a story in which the point of view character was suicidal and had people ask me if I was okay - clearly writing about a suicidal character was some kind of plea for help and I was depressed, in their mind. A good mystery writer knows thousands of ways to kill somebody...does that mean they're more likely to commit a murder?

The writer creates and informs the work, but we are not our work...or shouldn't be.

Monday, July 16, 2012

And Some Classics...

The first work of true science fiction I read was a standard English translation of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. I was still in single digits (yes, I was a very precocious reader).

I picked it up again this week, and this amazing book really does stand up. It stands up to the years that have passed in my own life, and it stands up to the decades (many of them) since it was written.

Verne basically invented 'hard science fiction' - fiction based off of realistic extrapolations of current scientific knowledge, not stepping beyond them. In his books the scientist is the hero...but sometimes also the villain. He was the first writer to be in the business of both writing science fiction and predicting the future.

But its intriguing that his books can still be read and enjoyed many years after his predictions have either been proved true (there are very few differences between Verne's Nautilus and a modern submarine) or false (he grossly overestimated the amount of energy electricity produces). By a certain kind of reader, that is. Some modern readers would find his endless catalogues of sea life in 20,000 Leagues, for example, boring...but it has to be remembered he was writing in a different time and he was also French, coming from a slightly different culture. The translator also took some liberties with the text.

Even so, though? I'm going to raise one to Jules Verne because there's something else he really was.

He was the first Grand Master.

(Before anyone mentions Wells...I would call Wells a Grand Master too, but Verne's career was well underway when Wells was beginning his).

Friday, July 13, 2012

Cool science stuff...

Museums have stuff sitting in their attics. This time it's a rock...with a complete fossil hominid skeleton inside it - http://www.tgdaily.com/general-sciences-features/64658-near-complete-human-ancestor-discovered-in-neglected-chunk-of-rock

For a long time, various cranks have been claiming they could hear the northern lights and science has scoffed.

Science is wrong. The aurora does indeed make various clapping and crackling noises...albeit very quiet ones. The 'cranks' are just people with particularly good hearing.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

I Don't Often Do This

I'm currently in need of a little bit more work. I wouldn't normally post to this blog, but I figured that as it's a 'me' blog anyway...

Here's what I can do:

1. Scripts. I'm working on a graphic novel script right now, I can also do video scripts from an idea or treatment.

2. Articles. As long as the topic isn't too exotic, I can do it. I do have SEO experience, but I prefer not to have to write keyword-stuffed pieces that aren't too human-readable.

3. Proofreading. I'm not an experienced fiction editor (might have to start working on fixing that), but I can help make your manuscript look 'clean' and find grammatical errors and the like...and I'll proofread anything.

I'm also always looking for other writers, preferably speculative fiction, willing to do beta trades with me...I have a couple of novels I'm struggling to get read, so if anyone wants to trade, let me know!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


You know it's bad when the 80s feel cool to you. Sigh. Ah well. It's finally bearable.

Getting a good amount of work done, too - a few articles, still plodding along with the script. Some short stories too. No real news on anything being released lately, unfortunately, but I'm hoping for some soon.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


First of all, B movie 'giant' Ernest Borgnine died.

Now Peter O'Toole is...giving up acting. I'm glad this isn't such a final farewell, and really, 80 isn't a bad age to retire.

But we do seem to be losing people again. Is it just a sign that I'm getting older myself?

Monday, July 9, 2012


I'm linking to a rather long post here. The relevant bit? About halfway down next to the hot black chick.

This is an absolutely awesome project that I'm loving every minute of. I can't go into more details right now (spoilers!) but working with Quenton Shaw and Jean Deveaux is an absolute blast.

So, check it out here!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Last Warning

Every so often, I like to do these public service announcements.

This weekend is your last chance to make sure your computer is not infected with the Daybreak malware.

If you haven't already, hop over to http://www.dcwg.org/ and make sure that you are clean. (Their tools will also detect other malicious DNS issues).

Thursday, July 5, 2012

It's okay...

...not to like 'classics'. Despite what your English teacher might have told you.

Mine was always trying to get me hooked on Jane Austen. This was, incidentally, a complete waste of time. It did not help that she thought I should read nothing but classics because I was 'too smart' for science fiction. (Hrm. I'd like to have introduced her to *Doctor* Stanley Schmidt, *Doctor* Isaac Asimov...I don't *think* Heinlein had a PhD, right?)

But most people who read genre fiction already know it's 'okay' not to like Jane Austen, or Charles Dickens, or Shakespeare (incidentally, I love Shakespeare).

What I do see is people thinking it's not okay not to like Tolkein - I do, but some people find him terminally boring. Or Dune. I never could get into Dune. The latest is that I finally got around to reading The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I love Watchmen. I think it is one of the best graphic novels ever written. It's not Moore's fault I found League almost unreadable. Sorry, Kevin, it's all on you.

I was thinking 'This is a great classic...this art sucks!'

And you know what? That's okay. It's important to remember that everyone has tastes and one man's 'classic' really can be another man's drek. I guess the point is not to criticize people for not liking something just because it's famous, highly popular or has won a ton of awards.

Classics, like any other beauty, lie in the eye of the beholder. And it's important not to just sheepishly follow the majority.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th.

Don't blow yourself up with fireworks and don't drink *too* much, okay?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Technology updates.

A couple of things I'm excited about.

A Manx company has refurbished soviet era craft and is planning on offering space tourists a trip to (well around) the moon: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2406638,00.asp

NASA, meanwhile, will be testing the Orion rocket...in 2014: http://www.thebunsenburner.com/news/nasa-unveils-orion-rocket-capable-of-delivering-humans-to-mars-asteroids/. There's the problem with NASA. They're slow. Still, at least it's at Kennedy?

Oh, and mermaids do not exist: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/118249-U-S-Government-Denies-Existence-of-Mermaids

Monday, July 2, 2012


I want to move somewhere cooler. Somewhere where summer is something I can appreciate rather than endure. Kinda tired of having to go to the store as soon as I get up in the vain hope of getting back before it's too hot to move out.

Ah well. At least I have power...the mother of all storms came through over the weekend. Our power survived, but it took out our a/c. Also, we apparently didn't have 911 service (fortunately we didn't need it) for several hours. Some people still don't have it.

Pepco, one of the major reasons I don't live in Maryland, is saying they MIGHT have everyone's power back by Friday. With highs not dipping below 95 all week, that's really not acceptable. There are still traffic signals out all over DC. Half a million people still don't have powers. Dominion are also saying some people might have to wait until the weekend.

All of this makes me think of some of the predictions of what might happen if we got a major solar storm. Some predictions say people may be without power for literally months because power companies don't keep enough transformers on hand to replace the number that might blow. (Maker people, what would it take to set up a facility to fab them?).

I'm lucky...if I didn't have a/c right now I wouldn't be able to work. I'd probably be in the pool as the only tolerable location. Well, actually, it's not too bad. 'Only' 88 with 42 percent humidity. Neither of those numbers are heading in the right direction.

Again. I want to move somewhere cooler, but I'm really feeling quite lucky right now.