Wednesday, April 30, 2014

R.I.P. Bob Hoskins

71-year-old Bob Hoskins was best known for his roles in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Hook, and the classic dystopia Brazil.

He had a long career with numerous credits to his name - including playing one of the dwarves in "Snow White and the Huntsman" in 2012. (He also played Odin, the Pope, J. Edgar Hoover, and Winston Churchill - quite the resume).

My thoughts go to his family.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I'm Back!

Well, I got back yesterday, but didn't manage to get to posting (oops).

RavenCon was awesome...even if I did manage to volunteer myself to teach three hours of high school (The kids were fantastic - but they were humanities magnet program kids on the college track, so...they were quite enthusiastic about talking to me).

And hey, I managed to avoid ending up in the Klingon brig.

I'd like to shout out Jennifer Hancock for putting together a wonderful program, the Baen Barflies for letting me sample their very expensive whiskey, a slew of absolutely wonderful panelists - and all the people who dragged themselves out of bed at 9am to attend the Dr Who panel.

It's a great little con. Even if I did drink a bit too much whiskey. (What is it about RavenCon and whiskey? Anyone know the answer?)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Off to RavenCon

I'm leaving in a few hours - so posting my updates now.

The Strange Voyages kickstarter has officially reached the first stretch goal! We'll be spending the extra money on art. If you haven't backed yet, you have two and a half hours as of the time of this post to get your pledge in and secure early access to the book.

That's all I have that I can talk about for right now. Those of you who will be at the con - see you there!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Profiting From Tragedy

Discovery Channel is making a documentary about the sherpas killed in the Everest disaster. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

If it reveals any mistakes that were made - then maybe it's a good thing. But as humans we tend to profit from disasters. We like bad news. As a writer, I admit, bad news gives me more story ideas than good news much of the time. At the same time, it's more than a little bit tacky to use real disasters.

And as a science fiction writer, "what happens when" is important. What happens when a decent-sized meteor hits a decent-sized city? It's bad that people got hurt in that incident, but it did tell us a fair bit about what might happen. (And what to do if you see a fireball: Hint, get away from windows!).

So, there's profiting from tragedy. And then there's learning from it. Let's try and do more of the latter than the former.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

In A Moment...

...of utter insanity I somehow volunteered myself for RavenCon's school outreach program.

When I was in high school, I got an English teacher who told my parents to throw out my speculative fiction books because I was way too smart to be reading that crap.

These kids


It's going to be a Q&A, so who knows what those kids are going to ask. As long as they don't ask me my favorite anything. (Which, by the way, is something you don't ask Billie Piper - we have in common freezing up if somebody asks us to pick a favorite!).

I do have to say that I'm heartened that a school is teaching science fiction, though. It's important.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Cosplay And Consent

So, I was at a con this weekend...

Aha, you're thinking. This is going to be that story. You know, some girl in a rather scanty costume got groped by a guy - and you already know, or should, how I feel about revealing clothing and consent.


Not that story.

Although it did, indeed, involve a woman in an extremely scanty costume - specifically, a slave girl outfit. She was wearing a slave bikini that covered no more than it absolutely needed to, and a collar and chain around her neck.

I was looking through the Hercules DVDs in Kevin Sorbo's booth when this woman walked in and asked to have her photo taken with him. Fair. He'd been doing that with different people for the last ten minutes. He agreed.

At which point, she pushed, quite forcibly, the chain into his hand.

So, what's wrong with that?

In BDSM circles, offering somebody your leash has sexual implications. Not all master/slave play is sexual in nature, but it has implications.

Forcing it into somebody's hand? That's harassment. And there's a surprising overlap between BDSM and geek society. Enough that I am not about to give somebody a pass on "Not knowing the implications." From the look on Sorbo's face...he clearly did and he was clearly not comfortable with this situation.

(I later found out this same woman had been doing this to a variety of people in the hall, of both sexes, including minors. Although, fortunately, I also missed the guy in the "ill-fitting" loin cloth who was actively creeping on kids and got thrown out).

Maybe her actions were innocent - but this exhibits that consent issues can go in all sorts of directions. And even if she was not like that and not intending it that way, she should have been aware that it could have been taken that way...

And it about sums up my life that I'd end up telling the story where the scantily dressed woman was the harasser.

I didn't step in, mind. Because Hercules? He can look after himself. And, trust me, did.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Updates and RavenCon Schedule

The Strange Voyages kickstarter is funded! We could use even more money - to spend on art - but the basic funding is there.

RavenCon Schedule:

Friday, 6pm: Online Reviews: The Good and the Bad.
Friday, 8pm: 3-D Printing: The Promise and the Perils.
Saturday, 9am: Doctor Who Through The Ages
Saturday, 12pm: Modern Forms of Writing: Books, Comics, Film
Saturday, 3pm: Writing The Other
Saturday, 8pm: Reading
Sunday, 9am: B Movies, Our guilty but not so secret pleasure.
Sunday, 11am: Powered Armor: Is Disabled or Small still a problem?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cool Tech Stuff

SpaceX has been jinxed lately. They're going to make another attempt to launch the Dragon tomorrow. Let's hope this one goes better than the previous ones. (To be fair, it's an experimental vehicle and bound to have a few glitches).

Research published puts us one step closer to substituting plastic for silicon in computers. Silicon is a non-renewable resource that has to be mined - making it fairly expensive. Plastic chips could be used to drop the prices of processing power in cell phones and the like - ultimately making cell phones even more powerful. The researchers, at the University of Iowa, have found an energy-efficient way to get stored information off of plastic chips.

Oh, and a new moon may be coalescing from the rings of Saturn. We aren't sure yet - and given the timescale in planet formation... But it's kind of cool.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Science Fiction And Brown People

I came across a post somewhere earlier in which the user complained that he found science fiction books and films that don't have colored people in them "scary." That it implied that something had happened to them all.

Reminds me of how many people freaked out that Rue was black in the Hunger Games movie (hello, people, she was black in the books, too).

So, I'm countering it by trying to collect a list of good science fiction books that, well, do not have an all white cast. I'm taking additions!

So far, I have

"Dance of the Ivory Madonna" - Don Sakers. Lots of black people, some intriguing ideas about the future of Africa. (And also some great stuff about corporate feudalism and non-geographic constituencies).

"River Of Gods" - Ian McDonald. Set in India. Very well written.

"Thirteen" - Richard K. Morgan. Is better understood under the British title of "Black Man." It's a flawed book, but it does go deep into prejudicing, stereotyping, and most especially the idea that young black men are somehow more dangerous and aggressive than their white counterparts.

"Red Rising" - Pierce Brown. I reviewed this book a while ago - it's the one I wanted to hate for being a Hunger Games ripoff. It's not as good as the others, with the veil getting a little thin in places. What's behind the veil? An exploration of Hispanic America under the guise of prejudice against engineered laborers on Mars.

Oh, and in Vernor Vinge's "A Fire Upon The Deep" it's interesting that the humans in the Beyond are all descended from the inhabitants of a colony named in an African language. I'd have to reread to be sure...but if that was ever made into a movie, it would really be fitting to have them all be black...

Anyone got some more?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dress Codes And Hair Police

There have been a rash of stories lately about kids being sent home from school for violating hair rules - and in at least two cases the hairstyles were being worn in support of a friend or relative with cancer.

Most schools now have dress codes, even at the elementary school level. In most cases, they're fairly sensible, although fear of "gang colors" can lead to some ridiculous rules. Some rules are just plain silly.

It's common, for example, to ban shirts with emblems from other schools, particularly ones that aren't in the state. Why? The "gang" excuse is normally listed, but a 5-year-old was asked to turn a T-shirt inside-out because of it. Five-year-olds aren't in gangs, people.

Hair is a common controversy. Many codes ban long hair for boys, but not girls (sexist, anyone?)

Another school was forced to ban ugg boots - because students were using them as smuggling compartments.

More practically - bans on slippers and pajamas.

Now a Florida school wants to take things one step further - and enforce certain of the rules on parents coming to pick their kids up.

That is starting to get ridiculous...

Monday, April 14, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I'm a nitpicker. I usually find dozens of things wrong with every movie I watch.

This time, I was struggling. Okay, there were a few times when they did scenes setless and I could tell - that technology still isn't quite there yet even on a movie budget.

But that's it. I'm not sure I liked what they did with SHIELD, but I'm willing to give it a chance and see how things develop from here (most especially in the TV show).

Samuel L. Jackson kicked even more butt than usual - some of it literally. It was nice to see Fury shown as something other than a desk jockey.

The appearance of Falcon (who was, by the way, the first African-American superhero created) gave Marvel an opportunity - and they took it! They gave him a new origin closer to his Ultimates origin than the comics, and one which made him a solid, positive role model for black men. We need more of those. I want to see more of the character.

The fight choreography was absolutely superb. This is something I'm very picky about (I also love the fight choreography in Arrow). It's really important in a movie that focuses on lower power levels to have choreography that looks like it actually works - and they managed to make it spectacular as well.

Oh, and thanks, Marvel, for ditching the awful Avengers uniform. The ones he wore in this movie were much better.

And they had a great Bucky.

So. Yeah. Uh...I actually may give this one a very rare five stars. There has to be stuff wrong with it, but I just can't find it right now.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Updates!

The Strange Voyages kickstarter is at 3k of 3.5k with 13 days to go - we really need this to fund. Making the first stretch goal would be awesome - we plan on spending that money on great art.

I also have...can't say yet! But it's very cool and hopefully you'll see it eventually.

As a reminder, Making Fate continues. I'm working on the May "episode" now.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Red Moon?

People used to think it was a bad omen. It's actually just a factor of how sunlight refracts through the Earth's atmosphere to hit the moon. We only see the red coloring during a total lunar eclipse. The moon doesn't vanish, but it's only lit by the light that is bent around the Earth.

The more dust and pollution in the atmosphere, the redder the moon turns - so in some ways a blood colored moon may be a bad omen.

Totality will be visible from:
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Washington, D.C.
Los Angeles
Rio de Janeiro
Buenos Aires
San Francisco
New York
Mexico City

Check to find out when, exactly, it happens. It's going to be visible here from 1am until moonset. I'm tossing up whether staying up or getting up to peek is worth it.

Except maybe it's a bad omen after all - I just checked my calendar and it corresponds with...Passover.

Hrm. Conspiracy theorists should be having way more fun with this than they are.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Appreciating Editors

I love editors.

No, really, I do. Okay, there are exceptions - there's one editor I hope to never cross paths with again - but you can't get on with everyone.

Working with editors isn't a loss of creative control - it's a beautiful collaboration. A good editor isn't going to ruin your story, but rather make it more what you need and want it to be.

Yes, there are bad editors out there, like there are bad everything else. But if you dismiss the value of editors - as too many self-publishers do - you dismiss a major avenue for improving your craft.

On top of that, I have anthologies edited by inexperienced anthologists and ones edited by experienced ones. There's a coherency to a good anthology that takes a few attempts to get. I actually have two books edited by the same person. The first is a random collection of stories. The second is an anthology - something clicked between the two and he worked out how to do it.

So I'm just going to shout out to editors today - because I don't know where we'd be without them. Nowhere good.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


I don't often talk politics on this blog.

Occasionally I break that rule. But I'm not going to talk about political parties. I'm just going to talk about elections.

I don't think we appreciate them enough in most of the west. (If you really want to see politics taken seriously, check out a Greek general election. Or don''s not something you want to land in the middle of, trust me).

Voter turnout of fifty percent is considered exceptional. Why don't people get out and vote?

Some of it's apathy. Some of it may be hating all the candidates offered (I have sympathy. My congressman is Jim Moran...) In some cases, people can't get or afford time off work to vote. Housebound and disabled people may find it hard to get to the polls - and volunteer assistance is often available ONLY for general elections, not specials or primaries.

Such measures as making election day a national holiday would again only apply to general elections.

Maybe employers should be required to give employees paid time off for the purposes of voting? (It's not that hard to check that an election is actually happening, after all).

Better absentee voting systems do help. Absentee-in-person, for example, is much easier than mailed ballots if you're able bodied and just had, say, to go to a funeral in another country on election day. Or a wedding in another country. (Believe it or not, I've had both happen).

Early voting allows people to work around their schedule or arrange for somebody to cover their shift.

But none of that helps when people can't be bothered to vote. You hear a lot of "both parties are the same," "they're all corrupt anyway," and other such excuses.

Engaging people in the political process is vital if we're going to keep...and rejuvenate...our democracy.

Monday, April 7, 2014


It's hard to believe how mainstream speculative fiction has become.

HBO GO crashed on Sunday within minutes of Game of Thrones season 4 going up. It's epic fantasy, and people crashed the server trying to get it.

Two science fiction movies (Gravity and Her) received nominations for Best Picture in this year's Oscars.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was the top grossing movie in 2013. Science fiction.
Second? Iron Man 3.
Man of Steel was fifth, Gravity was sixth, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug eighth and Oz The Great And Powerful 10th.

Six genre movies in the top ten. No, wait. Frozen was third and Monsters University was seventh. Children's movies have always welcomed fantasy.

The only movies not speculative fiction by some definition in the top ten for 2013 were Despicable Me 3 and Fast & Furious 6 - both from popular, ongoing franchises.

And 2014 is starting the same way - The LEGO Movie wins (It has to count, I mean, it's a big budget movie that takes off all of those lego stop motion animations). Divergent (YA sci-fi) third. 300: Rise of An Empire (Sword and sandals) fourth. Captain America, which has only had one weekend open, sixth.

I'm trying to decide if this is good or bad. It's good, perhaps, that the rest of the world is finally seeing what us geeks enjoy - but is it a good thing for either our subculture or mainstream society? I think the jury's out.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Friday Updates

Don't forget the "Making Fate" web serial at Check it out, tell your friends.

Kickstarter is now at 81% funded with 99 backers. (That 99 is driving me crazy - where's number 100?). We have some great stretch goals, so...

No actual news other than that - sorry, guys.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Asteroid Defense - And A Fascinating Possibility

Just over a year ago we found out how much damage a small asteroid could do to a modern city. About 1,500 people were injured seriously enough to go to the hospital, mostly from broken windows, and significant damage was done to the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.

This was a relatively small strike. The asteroid weighed somewhere between 12 and 13 thousand metric tonnes and was about 20 meters in diameter. Much larger objects cross the earth's orbit all the time. (The object that caused the Tunguska event was probably about three times as big but, fortunately, hit an unpopulated area).

And, we now know, an asteroid contributed to the extinction of the dinosaurs. So, one of the things in discussion lately has been asteroid defense. Various methods have been proposed - including steering asteroids into stable orbits so they can be mined, blowing them up with nuclear weapons, deflecting them with lasers...

But a recent study has brought to light another fascinating possibility. We've known for a while that asteroids are covered in dust, and this has always been thought to have been caused by collisions between asteroids breaking off little pieces. (This dust is called regolith).

Wrong. In fact, the dust on an asteroid's surface is caused by thermal fatigue. Asteroids tend to spin and many have irregular orbits. This subjects them to heating and cooling stresses which - and this has been demonstrated by testing on samples - pulverizes the outer surface. Which is why we don't have as many asteroids orbiting really close to the sun - they're baked into pieces.

So, I wonder. Would a pulsed thermal laser be the weapon of choice for asteroid defense? Could we eventually design something that would subject an asteroid to a rapid, intense heat and cold cycling that would break it up into tiny, harmless pieces? I'm not an engineer - maybe it isn't possible - but if it is it would reduce or even eliminate the risk of replacing one huge impactor with three or four smaller - but still highly dangerous - ones.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

What I'm Working On

I've been pretty busy marketing the kickstarter lately, but I do still have some stuff I'm working on.

I'm working on a short story - which I'm hoping to finish drafting up today. Then I get to start the next episode of Making Fate, which I absolutely have to get done by May 1 because I'm going to be so busy for most of May I need to get it queued (Yes, here's a secret, I'm not logging on at 8am every day to post it. I'm not a morning person!)

Then I'm going to do some fiddling with my script portfolio, which I'll link here when I'm happy with it (right now, I'm kind of not).

Oh, and con prep. Less than 30 days to RavenCon and Balticon is about 30 days after that...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Things I'm Hyping!

As of right now, the Strange Voyages kickstarter is at $2,420 of our $3,500 goal - we're getting there. I'm hoping to see $2,500 by lunch time.

Also, today I launched a web serial, Making Fate. You can find it at If you like it, please spread the word. If you need a few more scenes to decide, that's fair!

J Gray just launched The Golden Dames Project - highlighting some of the amazing female characters that were created in the Golden Age of comics and have long since been forgotten. She's started with Betty Bates, Lady-At-Law. (Maybe an inspiration for Jennifer Walters?)