Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday Updates

It really has taken me half of the week to recover from the con...and I've also had some work to do for clients, so I don't have any updates to report.

Hopefully that won't last.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tech Stuff

First of all, supercomputers rock. They really do:

I found a great article about a rat-shaped rock on Mars, but wasn't able to read it all due to truly obnoxious advertising. Hence why I'm sending you to Fox. I'm pretty sure the enlarged image is faked's a rock, people. it:

And will nuclear weapons eventually save our species:

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Diversity and Disability.

More thoughts from Balticon, mostly because it hasn't percolated yet.

One of the panels I was on was one on diversity in genre fiction...gender, GLBT status, race, disability, etc.

The driving force behind this panel was the wonderful Day Al-Mohamed. My only prior contact with her was submitting to an anthology she was doing - a diversity-based one. Despite going out of her way to seek out female writers, only 12% of the 400 subs she received came from women.

I tried my best not to be surprised when she walked in, but I was. I didn't expect to be sharing the table with a very cute bit of "durable medical equipment." Al-Mohamed is the only speculative fiction writer I know of who is legally blind.

Disability is not something we tend to include in science fiction. Fantasy, it's more common. (George R.R. Martin does a great job with a character who becomes disabled during the books). Science fiction? We tend to assume that in "the future" nobody becomes disabled. Everything can be cured.

Or, most often of all, we ignore the issue. In fact, most people don't want to think about disability. Heck, these days, we euphemise the word into "differently abled" or similar. When disabled characters are included, they tend to have something "special" or "magical" going on - I admit to being guilty of that in Transpecial. The most classic example of this in science fiction is, of course, Geordi LaForge. Another, older, example would be Anne McCaffrey's "The Ship Who Sang" (Which I personally think is her best work).

True, a science fiction future likely will find a way to cure everything. We're getting closer all the time. Prosthetic limbs become better and cheaper all the time. Visual prosthetics are likely to be one of the next great things. Stem cell therapy shows promise of being able to cure spinal injuries. It might well be that the future won't have disabled people in it...or, at least, being disabled will be a temporary thing that can be fixed. (There's lots of stories in the idea that everything can be cured...for a price). But science fiction is, as somebody at the con said, set in three times - the time it's set in, the time it's written, and the time it's read.

Science fiction reflects our own society, and disability is an issue of our society. Fantasy might have the same note - you could argue that you don't see disabled people because of healing magic. Which again, has the same counter.

I'm not saying everyone should go out right now and write a story with a disabled MC (I'm considering trying a blind one as an exercise in learning how to write other senses). But maybe, just maybe, it's something we should think about.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Okay. Now I've somewhat recovered, Balticon was concentrated awesome. Highlights:

"We need to perform the ritual of sniffing each other's business cards" - Don Sakers.

Allen Steele talking about a scale vacuum chamber test of a microwave beam drive. It worked!

Both the diversity panel on Friday night and the good writing panel (Monday morning, but surprisingly well attended) were excellent and a lot of fun.

Joe Haldeman pretending to be an archaeologist from the future who dug up items from now. By the way, and I say this in the nicest possible way: Haldeman, you are a dirty old man ;).

A hilarious game of Literary Never Have I Ever. Which has been recorded... internet, watch out.

Here's to hoping I can go back for even more awesome next year.

Monday, May 27, 2013

I'm back!

Far too tired and "con'd out" to make an actual post, but it was concentrated awesome. Those who weren't there missed out!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Like most of the serious people, I'm leaving tomorrow. That means this will be the last post on this blog until I get back.

However, I'll try to check in on Twitter. (Yeah, right, as anyone who follows me will know, I'm very iffy on Twitter. The stream moves too fast for me).

I've also set up (as of yesterday, so nothing's really there yet) an official tumblr - which is much, much easier to post to from my phone. It's Assuming I don't get overwhelmed or turn into a scatty artist, that's a better place to check for updates.

See you all on the flip side.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

More Cool Tech Stuff

I'm not entirely happy with trained dolphins retrieving mines, but what this pair found was not exactly what their handlers expected.

I clearly remember when my dad's potato plants got blight and the Ministry of Agriculture told us not to grow potato plants in our yard for...20 years. Made me think I understood the Irish famine. Well, not quite.

And the amazing Sally Ride has received one of the highest awards possible. Shame it's posthumous...

Monday, May 20, 2013


I need a new voice. Spent all morning timing and checking segments for my reading at Balticon. I wonder how exhausted I'm going to be when I get back - four days of being awesome plus the fact that sleep is pretty much optional at conventions.

(I wonder if I'll last out on my caffeine avoidance, even...)

Still, everything's getting close to set up and ready.

Friday, May 17, 2013


Great review of Transpecial on Smashwords:

Other than that, I finished two short stories earlier this week. One has been submitted but I unfortunately found out the call on the other was actually geographically restricted *after* writing the story. I'm not quite happy with it, so it's gone on the rewrite stack.

I have some of my Balticon schedule, so if you want to catch me on panels:

Friday, 9:00pm - I MAY be on Never Have I Ever. The program says no, but my correspondence says yes.
Friday, 10:00pm, Salon B - Diversity in Genre Fiction.
Sunday, 12 noon, Salon B - Cthulhu Out of the Hat - Writing Prompts for the Deranged (although I'm not officially on the panel for the 11pm return to read YOUR stories, I'll be there whether it's official or not ;).
Monday, 10:00am, Parlor 1041 - Plotters vs. Pantsers. (By the way, I'm a pantser ;))

I'm hoping to get some stuff added to this and will have what should be a full list by Wednesday. Otherwise...well, I'll be around.


That schedule wasn't entirely accurate. Or rather, it's not complete. I don't have exact times, but you can also look for me in the Broad Universe Reading on Saturday, at Why Good Writing Still Matters, and doing a reading with J Sherlock Brown III.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Looks like Kepler is dead. Which is unfortunate...there are other ways to find exoplanets but the telescope was doing a great job.

It seems that it was built with four "aiming" wheels and needed three...but is now down to two. It's not in a place where a mechanic can go up and fix it, either, according to the guys who worked on the Hubble.

It's a shame, although it did last about as long as its initial predicted operating life. Next? Maybe a replacement will be a future mission for Dragon X or one of the other big cargo rockets they're using to get stuff to the ISS.

One can hope.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Technology Titbits

Because I haven't done this in a while:

1. The earliest advanced civilization in Europe was the Minoans. Who were destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami, possibly starting the legends of Atlantis.

2. We've learned to use special relativity in a new way - to find planets. Okay, it's one that could have been found using other methods, but... Does this mean, though, that faster than light travel is impossible, given we're proving special relativity? ...maybe.

3. And road constructors in San Diego County had a bit of a surprise...when they dug up a 200,000 year old fossil bison. The San Diego Natural History Museum are working on moving the specimen right now - the first specimen of Bison latifrons to be found in southern California.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Whovian Speculations

Going to take some time to post as a fan.

Moffat has pretty much done it again with "Oswin." I've been trying to work out what she is all season and am completely stumped.

Here are a few theories that have either hit the net or my own head:

1. She's the Doctor's future self. Umm. Nope. Not a chance. Jenna-Louise Coleman is awesome, but the Doctor she is not. And he would recognize himself.

2. River got her regenerations back. She's River. Highly unlikely. I can think of a few ways River could get her regenerations back, but she dies on camera. (Of course, her mind is still in the library. So, maybe?) However, who is the woman who gave Oswin a TARDIS capable phone? Amy's in a time trap, Rose is in another reality, Martha's with Torchwood, Donna doesn't remember the TARDIS. It almost has to be...River. Who knows the rules about meeting yourself coming and going.

3. She's Jenny - the Doctor's cross-sex clone. This one almost makes sense as Jenny demonstrates a partial regeneration in the show. And hasn't been seen since. Except if Jenny can regenerate into herself, I'm pretty sure she'd still look like Jenny. Why change if she doesn't have to.

4. She's actually one of the advanced sentient TARDISes that can appear human. Also unlikely. I doubt very much one TARDIS could fit inside another without something blowing up.

5. She's a regeneration of the Master. To which I would point out...the Doctor would recognize the Master too, after all of their run-ins. Time Lords can spot each other through regenerations.

And every single one of these theories is blown out of the water by the doctor checking on the 21st century Oswin's childhood. He CHECKS. She's not a Time Lord. There's only one instance seen of somebody regenerating into a child and that was River's first regeneration - when she was already a child.

I have a fifth one which isn't quite destroyed by that...that she's River and the Doctor's daughter...this conveniently forgets the plague that rendered everyone on Gallifrey sterile. Or does it? Plenty of ways to combine two people's DNA.

The problem is Oswin doesn't regenerate. She reincarnates. What does that? I can't remember anything that does. (I'm suspecting we'll find out it's something from the classic series. It IS the fiftieth anniversary). She doesn't keep her memories or continuity through incarnations, but she does (like a regenerating Time Lord) keep her "core self". Which is...a mother. Dalek-Oswin makes souffles. Both 19th century and 21st century Oswins care for children. Hrm...maybe that's a clue.

The other clue I can't place is that the TARDIS doesn't like her. Why? The TARDIS has never taken a dislike to a companion before. Could the TARDIS be...jealous?

Anyone got any actual thoughts? This one has me completely stumped...

Monday, May 13, 2013

So... many people would be willing to take a one-way trip to Mars? At least 78,000, that being how many applications Mars One has received.

We do still have some pioneers, it seems. I was starting to worry - we're becoming entirely too obsessed with "safety" and "security" as a society. (In fact, I have seen people actually say not just that they wouldn't go to Mars but that nobody else should either. It's "stupid" and "too dangerous.") A species that becomes obsessed with safety is one that stops evolving, and a species that stops evolving...

Friday, May 10, 2013

Friday Update

Actual news this week!

My Weird West short "That Blasted Horse" was picked up by the "Untied Shoelaces of the Mind" ezine, which will be publishing it online and also in audio (This is the first of my stories that's going to be converted, so I'm quite excited about that).

I finished two more short stories this week. Hopefully news on those later.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Strong Female Characters

I grew up in England in the 1970s...but most of those wonderful 70s era shows were exported to my little island. My father loved all of them, and I grew up learning to appreciate them. The A-Team was his personal favorite, but we watched them all. The Six Billion Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman...

We also watched older shows. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. The Avengers. The Saint.

What did most of these shows have in common? They starred men. I'm currently re-watching "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." and the women in the show, while often strong (and sometimes villainous) take a second seat to the men. (Also, why are all the blondes good and the brunettes evil? That's discrimination!)

The A-Team did eventually acquire Amy Allen, for one season, and she was there to look pretty. Of course, the concept of the show doesn't really allow for females in prominent roles.

The Saint, of course, was Roger Moore at his best. And The Incredible Hulk focused entirely on Mr. Banner. (Changing his first name from the comics for no reason that I've ever found out).

Ah, but there's Wonder Woman and The Bionic Woman. Right?

Well, let's see.

Wonder Woman changes the trope around. Diana's the most powerful individual in the show and the MEN take the supporting role, existing only to hand her things and be love interests. No better, really.

The Bionic Woman? An inferior spin-off of The Six Billion Dollar Man clearly written to try and satisfy those demanding a girl as the lead. Or maybe to trademark the name. I watched it for the dog.

But then there's The Avengers. The original, not the crappy spin-off. The first season starred two men - David Keel and John Steed. Then Keel's actor quit. From then on, the formula changed. John Steed and a female "assistant" - first Cathy Gale, then Emma Peel, and last Tara King.

Oddly, I don't remember Cathy Gale or Tara King at all. Nor do I have any memory of Venus Smith, who was there for only six episodes, and was there to look good and, no kidding, sing.

I remember Emma Peel. She might have technically been Steed's assistant, but dammit, that woman kicked butt in the leather catsuit. They also may or may not have been lovers - it was still the 1960s and people had to be careful what they showed. Emma Peel was not just an assistant. She kicked butt as an *equal* to the men...not their superior, but somebody who stood with her man as partner...without any loss of femininity.

Cathy Gale, played by Honor Blackman, was probably the first true female action hero, but Emma is the one I remember. She's the one who showed me that a woman could be like that...strong, witty *and* sexy...and with there being nothing wrong with being sexy. Femininity as strength, not weakness.

She could only have come out of the sixties. And since there have been some amazing "strong female" characters on the small screen - Buffy Summers, Max Guevara, Echo, many of the recent Companions, I adore the Warehouse 13 girls. But there's a difference, somehow. There's more of a consciousness that we "need" to write a strong female, instead of it just happening.

Besides. As a recent Dr Who episode proved, the actress who played and to many people was Emma (It was her first significant role), the wonderful and gorgeous Diana Rigg, still kicks every bit as much butt as ever and still has the same utter self-confidence as a woman. There's a scene in there that not many actresses could do without blushing, and she carries it off. As does her equally gorgeous daughter.

Thank you, Ms. Rigg. You were, and are, amazing.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

No Full Post...

...why? Because I'm busy hanging out over at Red Dust, where I'm talking science in fiction. Why, yes, I am talking about science on a zombie blog.

Why not?

So, please head on over there and read my post...and maybe a few more while you're at it.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

So... the writers who read this blog.

If you could write a media tie-in novel to anything in western popular culture, what would be your top pick?

I suspect everyone already knows my answer. Yeah, it would have to be Doctor Who. Definitely. There's a sandbox I'd love to play in.

Anyone else?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Uh oh...

The Brood are coming...

Brood II that is. Yeah, it's a cicada year here...and there might be as many as a trillion of the things! (I hear they're good eating but have yet to find the courage to try it).

So if I disappear, it's because I'm buried under tons of least they don't bite. I did rather feel like I was in Egypt last time, though.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Friday Updates

I don't have much...I've had this vague allergy-related crud all week that's slowed down production. (Working on two longer short stories and the RPG book).

Also working on the schedule for Balticon. I'll announce what I'm doing as soon as I know, although I've been told it sometimes doesn't get finalized until the week of the con. (There's a lot of organization work to do behind the scenes that con-goers often don't see).

And as a reminder, if you haven't got your copy of Transpecial yet, do! If you need a reason, check out my interview with The Geek Side of Life.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Inner Fan

So, I was returning from the barn at 10pm last night on the Metro (subway/Underground/tube in various other cities). One of Greg's friends gave us a box full of old paperbacks and magazines.

There I was sitting on the metro reading the October 1957 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction (before anyone gets too excited, it's definitely in condition "well read") when I hear a voice, "How old is that magazine?"

I looked up and sitting across from me was an elderly gentleman. When I told him, he promptly started enthusing about the old magazines, admitting that he was reading them at the age of 17. That made him, quick math, 73. Going on...17. The conversation ended with me telling him I was a writer, cursing the fact that I was out of bookmarks (I'm not out, just didn't have any more on me), and giving him my name and book title.

I don't know if he'll buy the book...but at some levels it doesn't matter. We connected as fans. I honestly think he was amazed to see somebody who's not even quite forty reading Golden Age science fiction. (Truth: I love golden age sci-fi. Adore it. Guilty secret out).

This got me thinking about something that's been a bit on my mind lately. Writers choose genres they like to read.

That is to say, in the heart of every writer, there's a fan. It's easy to let the writing become a job and the books become a chore. It's easy to forget to make time to read, whether it's regency romances, golden age science fiction, or the latest big name thriller.

But if we don't nurture our inner fan, we'll lose touch with why we started writing in the first place. So, call to writers. Give your inner fan some time. Watch a good television show, read a good book. When you're at a con, find a few hours to dress up in a silly costume or chase your favorite writer with a book and a pen. Keep in touch with your inner fan. I'm not saying don't be professional, far from it.

Just don't forget you were and still are a fan. Don't lose the magic.


If you want to hear the British accent (which I come by, along with my love for all things Who, quite honestly), +Tim Dodge interviewed me for "The Geek Side of Life" this week and the podcast is now live. You can download it here.

Fellow author James DiBenedetto has written a review of Transpecial on his Writing Dreams blog (full disclosure, we know each other pretty well). You can read the review here.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Some Tech News

SpaceShip Two successfully completed its first engine test - a 16 second burn that took the commercial craft to Mach 1.2. They're talking about maybe having the first flights as soon as next year.

Cern researchers are trying to work out whether antimatter falls down...or up. Unfortunately we still haven't made quite enough antimatter or kept it for long enough to be sure.

Oh, and forests, in addition to sequestering carbon, affect the weather in ways that cool the planet. Northern forests, that is, tropical rain forests don't seem to do it. So, yet another reason to plant more trees.