Friday, January 29, 2016

Farpoint Schedule!

I have my schedule for Farpoint. Like all convention schedules it's subject to potential last minute alteration, but here it is as of right now.

Friday, 4pm: Writing The Other (Writing characters outside your experience, writing different gender, race, sexuality, culture, etc).
Friday, 6pm: Autograph session in the FARP-Books Lounge.

Saturday, 10am: Did The Force Awaken, or Just Hit The Snooze? (We'll be discussing the new movie and how it did).
Saturday, 11am: Reading with Peter David and Joseph Berenato
Saturday, 1pm: The isms in Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Saturday, 8pm: Writing Inclusively vs. Token Characters

Sunday, 10am: 50 Years Past & Future - talking about the last fifty years of science fiction and how it might change in the future.
Sunday, noon: Autograph session in the FARP-Books Lounge.

I will have a limited number of books available for sale at the convention. If you prefer ebooks, I will also be signing cover flats for both Transpecial and The Silent Years. There is no charge for autographs (unless you're buying a book, of course).

You should also be able to track me down at the opening night cocktail party, randomly around the hotel or at the Ten Forward Dance Party (although I plan on looking a little bit...different ;)).

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Ever Think...

...that Siamese cats just aren't like other cats?

It's probably because they aren't. For a long time we believed that Felis domesticus is the domesticated form of Felis sylvestris, the European wild cat, and was first domesticated on Cyprus...and that the cat then spread through the world.

Half true.

Because, completely independently, in China, Prioinalurus Bengalensis was domesticated. That's the Asian leopard cat, still used to create the Bengal Cat breed.

So, Asian cats seem different...because they are different.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

It's not Jimmy Hoffa...

...but the bones found under the end zone of the Oregon State football stadium are a little bit older - they found a mammoth. And a few other 10,000 year old critters.

Renovations have, needless to say, been slightly disrupted.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

More "Sonic Screwdriver" developments.

Acoustic 'tractor fields' such as would allow a sonic screwdriver or lock pick are now being worked on for manipulating cells for bioprinting. They're calling the concept "acoustic tweezers."

Really, of all of the sci-fi devices I never thought would start entering reality, the Doctor's screwdriver, especially in its more recent omni-tool version, was not one of them.

We rock, really.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Reusable rockets are here...

Or at least one of them. Blue Origin is a lesser known outfit than Space X, but they're also working on reusing "lower" stages of rockets. But in some ways they're making more progress.

And this weekend they launched a rocket that had been used before for the first time.

Blue Origin is using smaller and less technically complex rockets than Space X, which probably contributes to them being ahead. But they have proved it's absolutely possible to reuse the first stage of a rocket without it blowing up in the second launch.

Their tests should also establish how many times we can reasonably reuse a craft - important data for when we start using these techniques to launch people into space.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Here Comes...

...the snow. While it might still fizzle out (they very often over-estimate severe weather here), it's entirely probable I'm going to be snowed in this weekend.

This also means I might lose internet, so if you email me and don't get an immediate response, assume I've been knocked offline (my internet is normally very stable, but the only significant outage I've had in the past was during a big winter storm, so...)

Good luck to everyone in the path of the storm.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Planet X

The idea that there's another planet out in the Kuiper belt has shown evidence and then been dismissed multiple times.

Now the theory is back in fashion - and what they're predicting is out there is big. Or to be more precise, what Dr. Brown, who was responsible for demoting Pluto, is predicting is out there. I suppose he owes us a planet.

Ten times the size of Earth big. Very small gas giant big.

And it gets even more interesting. If the math is right, then Planet Nine (We can't call it Planet X any more and we can't name it until we find it) takes between 10 and 20 thousand Earth years to orbit the sun, has a highly elliptical orbit. It's closest approach is about 7 times as far as Neptune and its furthest is outside the Kuiper Belt.

And until somebody finds it, that's all we know. The assumption is it was thrown way out there in early planet formation. It's also possible, given the distance and bizarre orbit, that it's a captured rogue.

Or, given the distance and time scales involved it might not actually be captured at all, but just wandering by? (I don't know the math, but...)

If there is a ninth planet, then I might suggest that Momus, the Greek god of satire, might be a suitable name, given he was exiled from Olympus for stirring up too much trouble.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Flowers In Space

Astronauts on the ISS have successfully grown zinnias - after a bit of a mold problem which they're still trying to find the cause of.

Still, space flowers are good - for the psychological health of crews on long duration missions.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A space shattering kaboom!

How about a supernova that's 570 billion times as bright as the sun? Thankfully, it's 3.8 billion light years away (Which also means it happened 3.8 billion years ago).

Thankfully because you wouldn't want to be close to it - the gamma ray burst may have sterilized planets in systems closer to the explosion.

And no, we don't know how such a big supernova happens yet.

As a side note, remember the star that's so weird that people have been citing "aliens" and "dyson sphere" in serious competition? They appear to have eliminated the most likely explanation of a comet swarm as they've now discovered that in addition to the flickering the star is steadily losing luminosity...

So, more things we don't know.

Monday, January 18, 2016


SpaceX's latest attempt to land a rocket on a floating barge ended in failure for a pretty, well, silly reason.

Truth is? They actually landed the rocket. They got it in the right place at the right touchdown speed. The controllers did their job perfectly.

And then one of the four legs that extend to hold the rocket in its upright position failed to latch properly. It's kind of like an airplane undercarriage collapsing. They're suspecting the cause was ice from condensation at launch.

Still, progress. They almost got it this time.

Friday, January 15, 2016


...I'm too lazy for a real post today, have some brand new mountain lions.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

R.I.P. Alan Rickman

British actor Alan Rickman passed away at the age of 69, after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was, of course, Severus Snape.

Rickman was a brilliant player of villains, although he also played the romantic lead in Truly, Madly, Deepy and Love, Actually.

He was also a stage actor and did a stint with the Royal Shakespeare Company - which definitely shows in his style.

In a long career, he was, amongst other less genre credentials, Severus Snape. He voiced Marvin in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. He was, of course, Alexander Dane in the Star Trek spoof Galaxy Quest. He was Metatron in Dogma, the Sheriff in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Hans Gruber in Die Hard.

His last work was voicing the Blue Caterpillar in Alice Through The Looking Glass, with a release date this year.

He will be missed.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Like Rockets...

...then check this out from our friends at SpaceX.

That, my friends, is how you land a rocket.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

World's First VR Coaster

...and it's not at Disney. Nope. The innovative ride will be launching at Alton Towers, the UK amusement park that was once headlined by the world's first double loop.

There's no details about the ride, but the name, "Galactica," indicates it's probably space themed. They're already selling passes...for a ride that doesn't open until April.

Is this the future of theme parks? Disney is probably annoyed not to have scooped this one.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Watch out, aliens...

...Earth now has a Planetary Defense Officer.

Okay, I'm being dramatic, but NASA has now folded the Near Earth Object Program into a new Planetary Defense Coordination Office under Lindley Johnson.

Of course, the PDCO isn't about fighting aliens - it's about coordinating defense against a much more mundane threat - asteroid strikes.

But it might be interesting to explore it becoming about stopping aliens, mightn't it.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Pet The Dog

I was in a conversation with a friend earlier in which she brought up that some people say Hitler wasn't too bad because he gave money to German Shepherd breed rescues.

Hitler loved his dogs. Specifically, he loved his German Shepherds. Which has given us the writerly term "pet the dog."

A "Pet the dog" is a scene where a villain shows his or her human side, often by showing them being affectionate to an animal, a child, or their romantic partner. The scenes between Snow and his granddaughter in The Hunger Games movies are one example.

The point is to make your villain more complicated and more human. To give them some kind of a redeeming quality. Of course, not all villains have this or need it, but if you want to make your audience sympathize a little more with the antagonist (or make them uncomfortable), a "pet the dog" is a good way to do it.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Sands of Mars...

...check it out. NASA does it again with the cool images. (The screwed up "city" in the panorama is the rover itself).

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

And Another One: Avalon Game Company

I was recently tapped by Avalon Game Company to write 24 issues of their Heroes' Weekly. This is little additions to their Heroes Wear Masks Pathfinder variant.

Supers in Pathfinder? They make it work.

The first of my issues is now available here.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Release: CLASSified: The Hussar

Yes, I actually have something out. This is part of Fat Goblin Games' CLASSified series.

The Hussar is a rework of the Pathfinder Cavalier class for "light cavalry." The cavalier tends to be a heavy cavalry or knight archetype.

In contrast, the hussar reflects light mounted archers or saber wielders.

You can get the booklet, put together by myself and Lucus Palosaari, from RPGNow right now.

A limited version will also be in the forthcoming Call To Arms: Horses & Mules.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Balticon 2016

I just got my official invite to participate in Balticon 2016. Which is the 50th anniversary. With George R.R. Martin. In downtown Baltimore.

It's going to be all kinds of awesome and I greatly appreciate being asked back.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year

May it be better than the last year. Unless some aspect of your life was perfect ;).

I don't do resolutions because they never last last Jan 2, but I am hoping to have some fun and make some cool stuff this year. Can't talk about it all yet, but watch this space.