Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday Updates!

First, I have an invite to Farpoint Con in February 2015 - more details on that to follow.

Second, Emerald Star Comics - a company I'm doing some work with on another property - has announced that they will be launching a NEW HIGHLANDER COMIC in 2015.

Yes. Highlander is returning to the shelves! I can't say anything more than that right now, but I'm really excited about this. I like what this company is doing and this should be awesome.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

So, who's out there?

Astronomers are now estimating anywhere from 10 to 80 billion Earth-like planets in the Milky Way. That's just one galaxy.

SETI is now targeting listening efforts at good target worlds (although I do sometimes wonder if everyone's listening and nobody's talking). Given the sheer number of planets out there, the math says we probably aren't alone.

But what will it do to humanity if we do pick up a signal? We're not talking "first contact" here, but we're talking a profound philosophical shift. Science fiction readers and writers are more than ready for it, but what about those who still believe that humanity is the pinnacle of creation?

I don't worry as much as I did ten or even five years ago, but I still worry that we'll have...issues. You know, kool aid type issues and the like.

Even knowing for sure that they exist (and will we ever be able to prove they don't?) will change humanity. I hope for the better, but...yes, slightly cynical today. Hopeful and cynical at the same time.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Background Diversity

Hanging out with Day al-Mohamed always reminds me to think about these things.

Any novel or longer story (not so much shorts, which have to be tighter) is going to have "extras." Crowd scenes. Characters that show up once never to be seen again. The barrister getting your heroine her coffee. The person behind the desk at the cheap motel.

It's a sad but true fact that the vast majority of our readers, left to their own devices, will populate our world with...straight white people. Because in the English speaking west, that's the default.

So I came up with the term "background diversity." This means adding diverse traits to your extras. Maybe the barrister is black. Or maybe she's wearing a rainbow shirt. Maybe your heroine almost trips over a blind person's white cane while rushing through the subway (I've done that. More than once).

Why is this important?

If your story is set in the real world, you should reflect the demographics of the place where it's set. You're going to find a lot of blacks in New York or Chicago. A lot of south Asians in the English midlands - Leeds and Bradford are both majority colored cities at this point. Or maybe your characters are wandering through a city's gay district, such as DC's Dupont Circle. (Another thing to consider is that if you're in a very white place such as Iceland or parts of Russia, show that too, but show it correctly. There aren't many black people in Iceland. Trust me, I've been there. So any that there are stand out like sore thumbs).

If your story is set in the future, then please, please, please be extra careful to include people of color! I've had fans say that they get actively afraid when they read science fiction that only seems to have white people in it...

In history, again, reflect the real demographics - and do your research. For example, there was a strong influx of African DNA into the European population that we've traced back in time to some time during the Roman period. The Roman trade network resulted in a surge of Africans making their way to Europe, whether as slaves, as traders, or through voluntary migration (almost certainly all three would have happened). So if you're writing in ancient Rome, include black people. We know they were there.

In secondary world fantasy, you can do whatever you like - so why does that almost always mean making everyone white?

Think about it. Even if your main character is white and heterosexual, adding in little touches in the background will show your readers you've done exactly that.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

And I Return

Balticon was all kinds of awesome.

The public speaking panel was greatly appreciated (and, as it turns out, suggested by no less than three people). I may try and do it again next year and possibly also at another con or two, assuming the right expertise can be found.

Perspectives on Disability was more popular than we thought it would be - I was joking afterwards about hanging wheelchairs from the ceiling! If we do that again, we'll have to try and find a bigger room.

+Nobilis Reed  is a Cards Against Humanity shark. Not so much in the actual panel, where he seemed to have a bad hand, but we played another game... Yeah, I'm blowing his cover.

I've also been interviewed for the +Mythwits video cast - he said that should be up in two or three weeks.

So, yes, it was an absolutely awesome con. And I have more panel ideas for next year.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Pre-Balticon Updates

Okay. Balticon schedule as it stands right now. I've asked for one more panel, but I don't know if I'm going to get it. Also, it being Balticon, panel crashing and panel nappings do happen.

I'm going to try and tweet locations and stuff from my phone (@ninjafingers if you don't have me followed). I can tell you I leave tomorrow morning so will be around the hotel Thursday evening and Friday before the con.

Jennifer R. Povey (Accepted) Current as of 5/19 5:55 PM 

  • Expressions of Disability in SF (Panel) (Participant), Sat 12:00 - 12:50, Parlor 1041 (Hunt Valley Inn)
  • Titles Looking for Stories (Panel) (Participant), Sat 16:00 - 16:50, Salon B (Hunt Valley Inn)
  • Podcasters Against Humanity (Panel) (Participant), Sat 23:00 - 23:50, Chesapeake (Hunt Valley Inn)
  • Speaking in Public for Writers (Panel) (Moderator), Sun 15:00 - 15:50, Parlor 1041 (Hunt Valley Inn)
  • Reading: Collin Earl, Mike Luoma, Jennifer R Povey (Other) (Participant), Sun 18:00 - 19:00, Pimlico (Hunt Valley Inn)
For the curious, Collin Earl writes Young Adult stuff - his most recent book is a young adult dystopia called "Harmonics: Rise of the Magician."

Mike Luoma is a science fiction and comics writer who produces the Glow-In-The-Dark Radio Podcast.

I haven't decided what to read yet - I'm thinking of excerpts from Transpecial and the short stories The City Over Hell and For The Children, but I could do Water Golems (Steampunk Golem Fish) instead of one of those.

Other updates before I leave?

Just going to share this. Both of the Tangent reviewers loved A Star To Steer By!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

New And Interesting Ways To Be Shady

The latest?

Somebody is offering "massive exposure." All you have to do to get a promotional tweet to his thousands of followers?

Review his book.

That's a paid review by an interesting back door. Made even more interesting by the fact that he's not offering free copies. Nope. You have to buy the book.

Or, you know, review it without reading it - because hey, he doesn't say it has to be a Verified Purchase review. You could just say you loved it, give it five stars, and get your "free promotional tweet."

Needless to say, this individual is not being followed back on Twitter. (I was tempted to follow him just to avoid the people he tweets, but I don't want to give him that "support").

People just love to game the system, don't they.

So, writers:

1. Don't pay people to review your book. Offering a free copy in exchange for a review is standard practice - but do remind people that federal law requires that they declare in the review if they received a free copy.

2. Don't get involved in review chains or review circles. Don't do quid pro quo reviews. It's a violation of Amazon's terms of service (seldom enforced) to review competing authors on Amazon - but you'll only get "caught" if you give glowing (or malicious) reviews.

3. Don't ask anyone - ever - for a good review. Ask for a review. Say "If you liked it, please tell your friends." But don't beg for five star reviews. It makes you look desperate.

And don't try schemes like this.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Libraries Are Obsolete And Irrelevant!

Now that I've got your attention...

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a big supporter of libraries. But the strident cry of "they're no longer relevant" has echoed in my ears more than once.

I hear that we could make better use of the money. That virtual libraries are sufficient for the 21st century. Now, there's nothing wrong with virtual libraries and I certainly make use of them, but...

Real, physical libraries? We don't need those any more. They just take up space. And librarians, too, are being told this. Told they aren't really needed.

Which means that libraries are now answering these criticisms. Some of the answers are already there. Physical books are a valuable archive that needs to be preserved, for example. Great argument, but often countered with "Doesn't the Library of Congress handle that?" (I'd argue that the more places you have a book the better, but...)

So, how do librarians answer these criticisms? The St. Louis Central Library has come up with a great and - so far - unique one. The library has everything you imagine a public library having - stacks of physical books, comfortable places to read them, and computers to check the internet (Note that this is a vital purpose of libraries - you can't apply to any jobs in this area without having to do it online).

But in the basement is another room that contains four huge screens with eight seats around a table. This is the Creative Experience - they're calling it a digital maker space. Each of the pods has an Apple computer which is fully equipped with publishing software - Adobe Creative Suite, Audacity, Photoshop, InDesign, you name it. Many of these packages cost hundreds of dollars or a high monthly subscription. They have all of the hardware you need to record audio as well. Oh, and you can view valuable video tutorials, surf the web and they even have a few games installed. They're in the process of installing a proper sound studio with all of the acoustics, too - likely to be the birthplace of more than one podcast.

New Media people - are you drooling yet? And all you need is a library card to book two hour sessions. Other librarians are looking at what St. Louis has done here.

Irrelevant and obsolete? I think not. And what might libraries have in the future? Are our libraries going to move from being merely places to consume to being places to create?

Friday, May 9, 2014

Friday Updates

I have my preliminary Balticon schedule - it's fairly light and they'd better watch out or I'll be crashing Dr. Who panels!

Actually adding the schedule in because I realized I won't be here on Friday to post it - I'm going on vacation.

* Expressions of Disability in SF - Sat 12:00-12:50, Parlor 1041
* Titles Looking For Stories - Sat 16:00 - 16:50, Salon B
* Podcasters Against Humanity - 23:00-23:50, Chesapeake. (Yes. Cards Against Humanity. As a spectator sport).
* Speaking in Public for Writers - Sun 15:00-15:50

Other than that, no real news, except that Marvel and ABC have big brass ovaries -


And forgot to mention, yup, on vacation all next week.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Medical Ignorance

I like to be in control of my health. I expect my doctor to give me the actual numbers from my lab tests - and have battled them over this before.

The problem, of course, is that doctors don't want to give too much up to patients - and they might have good reason.

A lot of us simply aren't very savvy about certain things. For example, many people don't know the difference between a virus and a bacteria - and thus think antibiotics work on viruses. Their demands for treatment contribute to the overuse of antibiotics that reduces their effectiveness.

Others, of course, think vaccines cause autism - no matter how many times they're told any link has been thoroughly disproven.

A lot of people have jumped on the gluten free diet trend, even though there's no indication that cutting out gluten is a benefit unless you're actually sensitive to the protein. But many of them, apparently, don't know what gluten is. And 27% of people think cutting it out will help you lose weight, which is simply not true.

So...yeah. You can't really blame doctors for being controlling when so many people are ignorant of how their own bodies function and what's good for them and what isn't. Sigh.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Remember "Flowers For Algernon?"

In 2002 a man named Jason Padgett was assaulted outside a karaoke bar. He woke up with PTSD, social anxiety, vision problems - and genius mathematical ability he didn't possess before.

It's called "acquired savant syndrome" - the sudden and inexplicable development of a skill after a head injury. Math is rare - it's usually music, art, or similar.

And the syndrome itself is so rare only 25 cases have been properly studied.

But there's some indication that in some cases the ability may fade - although so far, Mr. Padgett has kept his.

And it indicates something - that this sort of ability may be inherent in all of us, but blocked. (This would explain why artistic abilities are more common - I think a lot of us are more artistic than we realize we are).

Which then leads to the possibility of unlocking those abilities - but it's something we should be careful with. Maybe they're blocked for a reason. Geniuses tend not to do well in the "real world" after all.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

What Does A Habitable Planet Look Like?

Answer: All kinds of things.

Right now, we have a sample of one (and this, of course, is restricting "habitable" to "humans can live on it").

We know what Earth looks like - a beautifully chaotic system, burgeoning with life in all of its corners, with firm, distinct seasons and a short day-night cycle.

But what else could habitable worlds look like?

1. Worlds orbiting an M-Dwarf sun could be habitable. However, due to the narrow habitable zone of those stars, most would be tidally locked. That doesn't mean the classic trope of one side of the planet burns while the other freezes - as long as you have liquid water and an atmosphere there would be enough circulation to even things out. Such a world would also have an almost circular orbit (if they're knocked into a more elliptical orbit they'll end up like Venus - not tidally locked but with a very long day) - and a circular orbit means no seasons. So, how do you measure time on such a world? Maybe by distance or by the amount of stuff you get done.

2. Super-terrestrial worlds could easily be habitable. Worlds 3-5 times the size of Earth - but you might end up needing to use mechanical augmentation to handle higher gravity. What difference to society and technology would a larger world make?

3. Worlds in binary or trinary systems. It used to be believed that such systems rarely hosted planets - and if they did they wouldn't be in a stable enough orbit to be habitable. Math and observation have, though, proved that planets can indeed rest in stable orbits in systems with multiple stars. Many stories show how having more than one sun might affect the mythology and cosmology of people on the planet. And if you have never read Isaac Asimov's classic Nightfall - widely considered one of the best science fiction stories ever written - (I mean the original, although the novel with Silverberg isn't bad either).

4. Worlds with very short orbital periods. Helliconia speaks of a world with an extremely long orbital period, but such are unlikely to be habitable. But one of our lead candidates for a habitable exoplanet is Gliese 581g - and its year is 37 days. Such a short year would probably not have intense seasons, but even a small amount of variation on such a small timeframe could make such a world interesting indeed.

So far, most of our candidate worlds are super-terrestrials - but that's an accident of sampling. Smaller worlds will almost certainly be found - Kepler-186f is the first planet close to Earth's size to be found in the habitable zone.

So, by all means, vary your habitable worlds. This list is probably too short - who knows what might be out there.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Comics Industry Has A Problem

No - this isn't another feminist rant.

I'm talking about a quite different problem. On Saturday I went to hang out at the store and promote Emerald Star Comics stuff for Free Comic Book Day.

Needless to say, I looked over the offerings. The store had a kids' table and then the 16+ comics. The kids' table had things like Archie, Teen Titans Go, Hello Kitty - a really nice selection.

All of it aimed at children under 10. Only the GoTG books were really something an 11 or 12 year old would pick up. The art style, the writing style, everything about those books screamed "Give this to your little kid."

Then the adult comics are marketed as 16+.

I later talked to a librarian who showed up to advertise a comics-related event at her library. She said she never has anything to recommend to the 10-16 year old age range...and that the kids' comics she reads are all poor quality.

Like I said.

The comics industry has a problem.

There were tons of kids getting comics, but when these kids grow out of Sonic and Spongebob Squarepants, there's very little for them to grow into. Some of the adult comics are suitable. Some are not. It's hard for parents - especially parents who aren't comic fans themselves - to know what to pick up. And yes, there are some excellent all ages books out there. Bone comes to mind. Runaways was good, but is on hiatus. Avengers Academy was awesome for 14-15 year olds, but has since been canceled.

John Campbell said the golden age of science fiction is 12. That's probably pretty close to the golden age of comic books - but not many people are writing comic books for 12 year olds.

So, how about it? Percy Jackson has already been converted, but there has to be plenty of middle grade literature out there that would work well as comics. Or maybe some of the fine indie creators out there can come up with something?

THIS is why we aren't getting new comics fans. We aren't catering to middle grade and early young adult readers the way we need to if we want to bring them into the industry.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Friday Updates

First of all, I'm pleased to say that we are moving forward on Strange Voyages. Right now, we are hiring writers and a cover artist for the promised anthology (which will be provided to all backers as an ebook). We should have playtest packages out to people shortly and are hoping to commence playtesting ASAP (Some alpha testing has already been done). Our planned final release date is October, unless we get some kind of massive delay on the extra art we're buying. Thanks to all of our backers!

Free Comic Book Day is tomorrow. Emerald Star Comics will be offering some freebies - check out their event here: There will be some sneak peeks, although I don't know of exactly which titles at this point. Either way, it's free comics!

RavenCon went very well except for the particularly bad case of con crud I brought home. (Next time I'm packing the vitamin C tablets, dang it).

I'm already halfway through the June episode of Making Fate. And I have a Secret Project after that and there's more work in negotiation - all stuff I can't talk about yet! (Yes, I'm teasing you people).

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Breaking Up... hard to do.

But really, if all you can offer me is what you're doing right now? I've given you chance after chance - two and a half years of chances, in fact.

Nothing you do satisfies. Nothing you do works. So, I don't have any choice but to end our relationship. Maybe I'll take you back - but if you want that to happen, you're going to have to change a few things.

Give me some happiness. Give me some human relationships that aren't dysfunctional and struggling.

Give me more female characters who aren't there to motivate the men or just be in the background. Let Kate and Maggie get married. Stop telling us we're not ready for Diana to have her own movie.

And, in 2014, don't change a character's race only to promptly turn him into a walking stereotype.

Yes, DC Comics, for now at least, I'm done with you. After twenty years of fandom and something like 12 of regularly subscribing - I canceled all of my subs today.

To come back, I want quality work, a change in the editorial policy that bans heroes from having happy home lives. I want to feel that as a female fan I'm not being ignored and dismissed. I want to see some real representation without box checking or stereotyping. (To give fair due, I like Simon Baz. It's the new Wally I have problems with and, of course, Kate Kane is a pretty decent example of a lesbian character.) Bringing back StormWatch with the creative team that did that fantastic issue 30 would help too.

I'll keep watching Arrow - it's clear the live action TV people are marching to a different drummer. But I'm not giving any more of my money to DC Comics until they get their act together. If I keep buying it, they'll keep thinking I want it.

And for the sake of my comic store - recommendations? Preferably not DC or Marvel (I have Marvel covered).