Friday, March 29, 2013

Robots, Robots, Everywhere...

The Navy is making jellyfish robots -

The French are coding up ants -

Animal robots everywhere, it seems...and the ant bots have definite science fictional precedents. I don't think anyone has ever written a story with a robot jellyfish in it, though. Can anyone think of one?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Things that bug me...

"Writing is easy" - no, it isn't.

Stupid arguments about grammar and punctuation. I've often found people are most clingy about their way if it's not the only right way to do it. English is a very versatile language. Use all of it.

Oh, and when you get a bad review - don't. Don't respond to it. Don't discuss it. Don't vent about it on the internet under your own name. It's not classy, people.

Oh, and editors who take so long to respond to a query that I've given up on them. You mess up my paperwork ;).

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


...but not too busy to appreciate certain things. Like bags of puppy (in the gym, of all places. It almost jumped into my lap still in the bag!).

Or spring...wait, that still hasn't really happened yet.

Or, well, life in general. Even if it's been a little rough over the last week or so. I've got to get back to work now, but I'm reminding myself that it's so important for a writer to appreciate life - because if we don't, how can we imitate it?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Ooh, I got loot...

I got a big box of...Transpecial bookmarks. Want one? I'll be giving them out at Balticon, Memorial Day Weekend...and probably sneaking a few onto tables at other cons where I have a less official presence.

The quality is great - thank you, Musa. It's quite exciting. Watch this space for a lot of Transpecial stuff as the release date gets ever closer.

Monday, March 25, 2013


There's something not *quite* right about easter egg hunts being canceled because of snow. Apparently a prosecutor in Ohio agrees - he's indicting Punxsatauney Phil for fraud. I agree! That groundhog is a liar! (Although I'm not sure it's fraud - malpractice, maybe?)

Yeah. We have snow. And miserable freezing rain-almost snow falling, which is worse. I'd rather have actual snow. Hopefully I won't have to go out again in it. It's miserable. What happened to spring?

Friday, March 22, 2013


Well, you saw the cover. Now we're just waiting on galleys. I've also ordered some wonderful bookmarks - which will be available at Balticon Memorial Day weekend - along with my wonderful self. (Oh man, I sound like the annoying DDA teacher, don't I).

This week I also finished editing the Invulnerable RPG for +Joshua Kubli - there's going to be a kickstarter up shortly for the rest of the publication costs on that. It's a pretty neat system - not quite as barebones as what I prefer to play these days, but I know some of you out there will have a lot of fun with it.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Geeks, Freaks, Nerds...

I've had a thought lately.

Geeks and nerds tend to be immature. We...and I say that with pride...tend to value spending time at play. We enjoy our RPGs and our video games.

Here's the thing. I won't say that all geeks/nerds are more intelligent, but that many of the most intelligent people count as geeks. Not always practical intelligence, but the kind of intelligence that develops technology and pushes the frontiers of science.

Scientists have long known that neoteny - staying young longer - is a reflection of intelligence. The theory goes that our greatly extended childhood, longer even than that of apes, is part of what gives us our intelligence and adaptability.

Nerds and geeks are the people who invent things. Is it that this is the subset of humanity that stays "young" the longest? Is immaturity the other side of abstract intelligence? Society needs the immature that invent things - and those who do mature and handle the practical side of matters. The geeks and the jocks - is this "divide" actually key to human adaptability and to our civilization as a whole?


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Writers and Morals

No, I'm not talking about ethics.

I'm talking about our personal moral views and how they inform our writing. We all have them. It's often possible to tell from an author's work what religion they follow. Or where they stand on hot button issues such as abortion and gay rights.

We all have them. If you try to keep them out of your work, then you're keeping yourself out, and your work will be bland and without soul. I know, for example, that some of my views on disability and usefulness flow into Transpecial. I can't help it and I don't want to help it.

Where a writer has to be really careful is keeping those views from becoming the work, or from being so obvious they take the reader out of the story. This is "preachiness" and it only hurts your book. Marion Zimmer Bradley's otherwise excellent work is marred by promotion of earth-centered religion in the Mists of Avalon and some extreme feminist viewpoints expressed rather too vividly in the Darkover novels.

Lois McMaster Bujold, also an excellent writer, gets into being pro-life a little too much in her early work and while she seems to have got over it, relapses into politics (albeit on a slightly different matter) in Cryoburn.

I have to admit I have a scene I need to think some more on in an unpublished work. I think I got it de-preachified, but I'm not sure I quite succeeded. It's particularly tough, I suspect, when writing for children - the temptation to do the old Saturday Morning Cartoon thing where after the story the characters step back out in front of the curtain to go over the moral of the day has to be strong. By the way, that annoyed me when I was six.

The best way to be sure you aren't preaching is to ask somebody. By all means let your morals into your work. By all means, even, promote your causes, but you have to do so without breaking the fourth wall or wrecking your reader's suspension of disbelief.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Birds are smart...

I somehow missed this, but apparently some birds have taken to making an addition to their nests.

Cigarette butts.

The nicotine, apparently, isn't very good for the various external parasites that like to lay their eggs in bird nests.

And people think birds are stupid...well. Okay. Pigeons are stupid. Many birds, though, are very smart indeed.

Friday, March 15, 2013

I lied!


Yup. I lied when I said the cover art wasn't available. (Well, no, I got permission to post it later in the day. Should have waited.

Check that out. Kelly Shorten rocks.


"Contact" is now up on the Monster Corral website. I love the picture they chose to go with it, even if it does give Rottweilers a bad name...or is it meant to be a pit bull? Something scary and canine anyway.

Transpecial - the line edits have been approved and the cover is currently under construction. I know what it's going to look like, I'm just not allowed to share it until it's completely finished. (I don't post my first drafts either ;)).

Stripped - unfortunately, Jean has left the project and it's indefinitely delayed. I do hope for some good news on that front, at some point, but it might be a little while.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

I'm not Catholic, but...

...boy did the conclave make an interesting choice.

First Latin American pope - although his father was apparently Italian.

First Jesuit pope - this is a particularly intriguing factor. Jesuits have historically not been well-trusted by the rest of the church, given they were in part created by the papacy to spy on the rest of the church. (These days, Jesuits are primarily a teaching order, but they still answer solely and entirely to the Pope and nobody else).

First pope to choose the papal name Francis - although there was a Francis amongst the founders of the Jesuits, it's rather more likely he was thinking of the well known saint Francis of Assissi. St. Francis was a monastic founder but, unlike the others, did not live in a cloister - he was an itinerant preacher and one of the three orders he founded was an order of itinerant preachers. It's an interesting choice. By not using a name previously used he might well be saying he wants to do things differently. His first act as Pope was to ask everyone to pray for him and the world, even before offering the traditional blessing.

Who knows...but I think they made a very intriguing decision. Was it the right one? Time will tell.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


You all know I believe in space aliens. I always have...and as an adult, I've applied logic to the matter.

Honestly, it makes no sense to me that only one planet in one solar system in one galaxy would have produced life...and while there's no absolute that life leads to intelligence, it's likely it does in many cases.

The news that broke this morning could be amazing. Or it could be cold fusion - yet another case of scientists jumping the gun.

If it's genuine, though, then they have found fossils. In a comet fragment. There's a chance these fossils, which resemble a very old form of marine algae, are simply from Earth. A huge impact can send material off into space...which could then come back later. (This, by the way, is how we have meteorites that appear to have come from Mars).

But what if they're right. What if these comet fragments have brought us the echo of life from somewhere else? Life so similar to our own that we instantly recognize it as kin?

The weird thing is that for all that I'm a science fiction writer, a futurist, and a lover of first contact stories? The idea of actual, scientific proof of extraterrestrial life still elevates my heart rate a little. It still scares me as well as exciting me. It's not confirmed yet - and truthfully the only way to confirm it is to send a few robots out on sample return missions to other comets and look for the same structures.

Why does it scare me? I'm afraid of how people will react. There are still those on this planet who see humanity as the absolute pinnacle of life, put their by God. Even algae from another world nudges at that worldview. It's not a flying saucer landing on the National Mall, but it's something. Something that makes it all the more likely that somewhere out there are other eyes and minds, possibly pointing telescopes at our little sun and wondering what might be here.

And that's scary, because speculation is just that. Proof changes everything.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cool Stuff...

I has it. But I can't unveil it just yet, so you will all just have to wait.

Also, it is pouring it down here. Big time.

Got to get back to work here so there can be even more cool stuff.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Knowing Your Limits

So, I was at the riding barn yesterday, waiting for the pony rides to finish so I could school a horse without them being in my way (It's just that bit too wet to use the grass-based outdoor right now).

My riding buddy, however, figured she could work around them. She leads a horse into the arena - a black Thoroughbred who's closer to 17 hands than 16. Promptly, one of the kids pointed at him and said "I want to ride that one."

She was quite insistent, too. When asked which of the two ponies she wanted to ride, she was still insistent that she wanted the giant Thoroughbred. (Maybe he reminded her of Black Beauty). Needless to say, she had to be content with a pony.

Children don't know their limits. They don't know when something's too big for them. In contrast, as adults, we not only know our limits - we set them. Often, we set limits that are far too tight, staying within our comfort zone.

Sometimes it's good to remember that you don't have to stay within your perceived limits. That doesn't mean you should make crazy leaps, but stepping outside your comfort zone and pushing yourself just past your limits is how you make progress in life.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Updates and Progress

Sent in quite a few submissions this week - I'm terrible for neglecting submissions management and not querying on overdue stuff, and then blitzing it. Need to work on that.

Completed one short-short and a microfic for a contest.

No major updates, I'm afraid.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


I'm just expressing a view on whether grammar has to be absolutely correct in fiction. There are people out there who even try to apply AP Style (which is for news writing).

The answer? The words need to tell the story. Now, this does not mean that a fiction writer gets to ignore all the rules of grammar and punctuation. (Some literary writers do pull things like leaving out punctuation marks or not capitalizing anything, but that's doing it for effect not to be sloppy, and is only acceptable in certain kinds of work).

Work needs to be readable. But if an editor starts spazzing about the use or the non-use of the Oxford comma...then you might have a problem. (Some publishers do have a house rule about it for consistency, which is fine, but neither version is actually considered "wrong").

You can be more flexible with grammar in dialog, although again, you need to keep things readable. And consistent - if you're making an error to indicate a character's voice, then make that error every time it comes up...these can be great quirks, but can fall down at the editing stage.

The key, really, is to relax about it. If it reads well, your readers won't care unless they're professional copy editors - and sometimes not even then.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Snow, Snow, Snow...

You know, I like snow.

I hate being snowed in. I particularly hate being snowed in when there's no good reason, but everything I planned on doing has been canceled by people who can't handle a little bit of snow. As of right now, the city is shut down...and do we actually have any accumulated snow yet?

Of course not.

Gotta love D.C.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Too many ideas.

Too little time to work on my own projects.

Anyone else out there feel that way? (At least I'm not like some writers, who can't get anything finished because...ooh! Shiny! I'm only that ADD when shopping at RenFaires).

Ah well. I have optimism everything will work out in the end.

Monday, March 4, 2013

In the future...

There, got your attention. Speculative fiction writers like to make predictions about the future.

One that keeps not coming true is that science fiction will become obsolete. (Of course, the way our technological development is not progressing right now...)

If we ever live in a Star Trek universe, will science fiction cease to exist? Much older science fiction has lost its speculative edge as the technology predicted becomes real. We really do carry our computers around in our pockets, with ones that clip to our sunglasses being out there. Space travel might be somewhat stalled, but we're learning that planets in other solar systems really do exist, and some of them might be hospitable to our kind of life.

Artificial organs? Real. Brain-computer interface? Almost there. Self-driving cars? Yup. Flying cars? Uh...yeah. Not everything is here yet.

But the real question is: Can we develop to the point where we don't need and can't write science fiction?


Science fiction is writing the possible either to draw people towards it (utopian) or push people away (dystopian). The possible. I don't know what kind of science fiction a star-faring culture would write, but I know it would still exist, because there will still be roads not traveled. There will still be dreams. There will still be people who want to go peek behind that star over there just to see what's there. There will still be things we can't do...yet.

I think that at this point, science fiction will last as long as humanity. Possibly longer, depending on what form the next stage in our evolution takes.

Friday, March 1, 2013


Third Flatiron's "Universe Horribilis" anthology is out and can be purchased through Smashwords here or Amazon here - Universe Horribilis (Third Flatiron Anthologies)

I'm officially on the Balticon guest list, which can be seen here.