Friday, November 29, 2013

Friday Updates!

Got a few for you.

First of all, Musa Publishing is doing a one day only sale on December 2 (Cyber Monday). ALL books published through their website ( will be half price. Go check it out - and while you're there look for bunnies.

Second, Ruined Cities is now live. It's available as an ebook (only) through most major publishers - and it already has a good review on Amazon. it contains my story "The City Over Hell." It's post apocalyptic science fiction that focuses on dying cities. Mine is a little, shall we say, different.

And look out for bunnies.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Day of the Doctor

Dang it, Moffatt.

The 50th anniversary special managed to be both lighter and darker than the average Who episode. The incredible bouncing Fez, an appearance by Tom Baker's scarf...

High notes were the beautiful chemistry between David Tennant and Matt Smith. Not only did they utterly convince the audience of being the same person, to the point where on occasion I almost lost track of which was which (especially given their similar build). Billie Piper's performance was incredible - and no, she wasn't playing Rose Tyler. Oh, and you won't believe Who shows up at the end. Maybe.

On the dark side, the story addresses the Time War, the Doctor's crimes and, shall we say, the fluid nature of time. The book the Doctor is reading at the start is a perfect Chekhov's gun.

On the vague off chance there was somebody under a rock all weekend who still has it sitting on their DVR unwatched, I'm not going to say any more. I will mention that it will be going into the Guinness Book of Records - as the non-sporting television event shown simultaneously in the most countries. 94.

94. We may get fifty more years of this show. I certainly hope so.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thankful For...

Thanksgiving is in two days. I'm thankful for:

My husband, Greg, a great source of support.
My friends.
My publisher, Musa Publishing.
Having (mostly) good health.
Not being broke. Having the heat on and not having to worry about paying for it - which in the cold this week... Not having to wonder where next month's rent is coming from.
Being able to go riding.

Yeah. Time to be thankful for what you have and not envious of what you don't.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Tech From Life

Biomimicry is an important component of today's technology. A lot of our designs are taken from nature.

For example, engineers are studying whether they can apply the silent flight capability of barn owls (highly disconcerting if you've ever encountered one) to helicopter blades and airplane wings. Oh, and submarine propellers. The point? Reducing noise pollution and, in the case of underwater vehicles, not giving dolphins and whales as many headaches.

As somebody who lives right under the flight path of National Airport and one of the common routes for helicopters heading to and from the Pentagon, I say bring it. I doubt I'm alone on that front.

Of course, nothing based off of an owl is going to be nearly as cute as the real thing...

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday Updates!

Been buried in short stories all week, but I do have an announcement.

On Cyber Monday (which is December 2 this year) ALL Musa books will be 50% off through their site. You will have to go to (not a third party retailer). So if you're looking to pick up a few Christmas reads, now's your chance.

On top of that, Musa will also be starting a Thirteen Days of Christmas promotion - this will consist of free short stories from Musa authors. It will include "War Crimes," a prequel story to Transpecial set during the Martian War of Independence - which will be released on December 8. So if you aren't sure about whether you'd like the book - check out the free teaser. And, of course, the various other free shorts that will be on offer.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

New Land

Japan has one more island than they did yesterday. Maybe.

An undersea volcano has pushed up a circle island with a diameter of 660 feet. It's the first new island since the 1970s.

It's fairly likely that the small island will sink back under the waves - and because of that, Japanese authorities haven't named it. If it does stick around it will add a little bit to the land area of Japan, a country shaped and threatened by high levels of volcanic activity.

For once, geological activity might have done a good thing. Or at least a very, very cool one.

Video of the eruption can be found here.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Viruses and DNA transfer

Here's an intriguing thought. About 8% of our DNA is made up of ERVs. What's that?

ERV stands for "endogenous retroviruses." ERVs pass on with the rest of our DNA, but they initially came from...viruses. Some of them were even shared with other human species. Even more intriguingly, the HML2 family of viruses, which appear to be shared with Neanderthals and Denisovans, may be linked to cancer and the severity of AIDS.

So, do old viruses play a role in modern disease? More interesting still is the prospect that that viral DNA may actually do something- and that it may be possible to "catch" inherited traits the same way as one catches a cold. Could we find something in these viruses that could be used in gene therapy...and do we want to, given germ line gene therapy (passed on to offspring) is an ethical and even spiritual can of worms?

At the very least we may be able to come up with some more accurate predictors of cancer risk.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

MAVEN is on its way

The MAVEN orbiter was successfully launched yesterday afternoon. If all goes well, it will reach Mars in ten months.

The purpose? To work out what happened to Mars' atmosphere. This is important data - it will help us understand climate and planet formation better. The lead theory is that Mars, lacking a magnetic field, was exposed to the solar wind, which slowly blew the atmosphere away. If true, it might mean that a significant magnetic field is an essential element of a habitable planet. Maven might tell us the answer.

Once its mission is over, MAVEN will be parked in orbit to act as a communications relay for present and future surface rovers.

A few days after arrival, it will be joined by India's Mangalyaan mission, which launched sooner but is on a different flight path.

So. To Mars!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Where's My Winter?

It's in the mid sixties.


Chicago's apparently too warm too. Not sure whether to blame global warming or the solar maximum, but I sort of want some winter, you know. It never feels right when the weather is doing weird things like this.

(Oh, and there were no updates last week. Yet. Sorry, guys).

Friday, November 15, 2013

Assumptions and Stereotypes

The latest restaurant kerfuffle - and it seems there's one of these a month - broke last night. For once, the person writing nasty stuff on the receipt is the customer, not the waiter.

Apparently, these customers refused to tip because they didn't want to support the waiter's "lifestyle." The waiter was a female marine with short hair.

As it happened, she was gay, but really? All of the ex mil people I know keep their hair short. It becomes, I suppose, a habit. A straight female marine might just as easily have had that hair style. So, are these people really assuming every woman they see with short hair is gay? The world doesn't need that kind of stereotyping, people.

(And, for that matter, you don't want to assume every woman with long hair is straight...)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sadie Hawkins and gender

The Sadie Hawkins dance is a particularly American tradition. A dance where the women ask the men might seem to be...a good idea.

It's sad, though, that we feel we need such a thing. In a better world, men would ask women if they wanted to and women would ask men, and both genders would feel very free to say no. And in an ideal world we wouldn't have an event inspired by a comic strip that was actually about a woman being desperate for a man - and worthless without one. Or maybe it's all just good fun. As somebody who didn't grow up with the tradition (or even proms - we don't have those in Britain) it's somewhat hard to understand how people really feel about it.

Thoughts, my American friends?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"Adult" Warnings

In some cases it's obvious that an anthology or magazine isn't particularly suitable for children. From my own shelves I would mention Extreme Zombies, Future Lovecraft and Zombiality. And, of course, many readers out there have "adult" anthologies on their shelves (or, more likely these days, their e-readers).

In other cases it may not be as obvious. Or it might be that some stories in a volume are suitable and others are not. Editors might, in this case, choose to attach a warning to a particular story.

Here's the problem. These warnings can be subjective. The problem is in the definition of adult material itself. Some things, like those anthologies, are obvious. Somebody being tortured to death in splatterpunk? "Adult." Lovingly described sexual intercourse? "Adult." But what about promotion of drug use? I'm reading a book right now with a heck of a lot of drug use in it (Will be reviewed next week). It doesn't carry a warning specifically, but the blurbs definitely hint at the content.

And here's the real rub. Adult warnings are often put on stories that contain "sweet" same sex material. Of course, it can be hard to tell - the specific story I'm thinking about also had drug use, so was that what they meant? However, it's often the case that "adult material" for male/female starts at "full description of intercourse" but for male/male it starts at "their lips touch." (Female/female tends to fall somewhere between the two). It's an area where we still aren't "there" yet. A long way from "there," in fact.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

One Step Closer: Nanobots

So far, nanotechnology has been limited to material science. The dream of self assembling, communicating, tiny robots that can do all sorts of things (and might turn the world into grey goo) has remained strictly science fiction.

Until now. Scientists at Oxford and Warwick have developed the world's smallest...trains. These tiny robots can build their own tracks, move cargo, and dismantle track that's no longer needed.

The secret? DNA. Nature's programming language is, it turns out, perfectly suited to controlling nanobots. (Which, of course, brings a different apocalypse to mind - the "maker plague" which Alastair Reynolds uses to such effect in Chasm City).

At the same time, these nanobots bring with them great promise. Right now, they don't have as much practical use as one might hope - although some fish use a similar system to change color. But who knows? We might be one step closer to the true replicator. Assembler bots might also be key to constructing a space elevator, which would reduce the cost of getting payload to orbit by orders of magnitude. Or they might be programmed to dismantle tumors better than any surgeon.

Who knows?

Monday, November 11, 2013

I'm back...

Everything's taken care of, as much as it can be. I'm back and hoping to get back to normal this week (just sent off three submissions with four more to hopefully get done).

England in November is dreary. Trust me, it is.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Heading Out...

Got a flight to catch - so no posts for the rest of this week. Hoping for news when I get back - if anything important does happen I'll post it on Monday.

If not...well, I'll probably still post it next Monday. See you all then.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Friday Updates

I will be out of the country and not posting all next week. Updates:

Officially signed the contract with ANALOG for "A Star To Steer By." The exact issue hasn't been determined.

In negotiations with Emerald Star Comics for some possible work - details to come later.