Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Balticon Recap

Okay, I know I should have sent this yesterday, but I plead exhaustion.

Balticon was awesome. There was an expected level of disorganization (higher attendance, new hotel with different meeting space, etc), but everyone rose to the occasion and put together a gorgeous convention.

Here were some highlights:

- Drawing the "In the Game of _____, you Win or You Lose" black card in CAH in the bar with Martin at the next table... (And he signed one of August Grappin's cards for the deck of writers ;)). Killed the game for several minutes.
- Discussing the Future of Government in a packed panel room at 9am. I was expecting to outnumber the audience, but apparently the Balticon crowd was quite interested ;).
- An "informal" discussion on Lovable Rogues with the always-awesome Gail Z. Martin.
- Next 50 years of Science Fiction went very well.
- It was a great honor to read with Kim Stanley Robinson - the man is a gentleman as well as a brilliant writer, and breaks the rules with flair. It took me until now to realize the entire chapter he read was the dreaded infodump...but when you're Kim Stanley Robinson you can get away with it. Us mere mortals...
- The Best Of Luck on the ground floor of the Power Plant sells malts that almost reach Midwestern standards.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tentative Balticon Schedule

Still trying to straighten out a couple of double books, but here is my schedule:

Saturday 9am - The Future Of Government (Ugh, a 9am, but a great topic).
Saturday 2am - Signing

Sunday 1pm - Breaking Into Writing For RPG Gaming
Sunday 6pm - Reading
Sunday 8pm - Science Fiction: The Next 50 Years
Sunday 9pm - Loveable Rogues in Media Fiction
Sunday 10pm - Authorian Jargon: A Readers' Handbook

So, yes, I'm practically doing everything on Sunday, but I don't really care ;). This may be subject to some change/tweaking.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

All These Worlds Are Yours...

...except Europa. Attempt no landing there.

Arthur C. Clarke predicted that life could evolve on Europa's moon if Jupiter was suddenly turned into a small sun. While that part is a little ridiculous (IMO), Europa remains one of the most likely candidates for a life harboring world in this system other than the one we're standing on. The latest study indicates that Europa may have the same ratio of hydrogen and oxygen as Earth.

And here's the thing?

Earth didn't have an oxygen atmosphere until after certain forms of life evolved. So...free oxygen may be a major signifier of our kind of life.

Which makes me wary of the idea of landing there.

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Florida brewery...

...has invented edible six pack rings. The point is that they'll feed wildlife instead of being a pollutant, but...how many frat boys are going to sample them?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Meet Victor Prince...

The male lead of Falling Dusk is ready to answer all of your questions if you go to thedeskofvictorprince.tumblr.com (I'll be keeping it up as long as it seems people are amused by it ;)).

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Not Quite There For Dragon

Although the latest Dragon landing was successful, the booster is apparently not in a usable state to be re-flown. The damage was apparently done during re-entry.

Instead, it will be used in testing to help make the next booster more able to take high speed and heat. We're still making progress.

And don't forget - Falling Dusk hits the electronic shelves this Friday! (The print version is still in the works, but I had an issue with a lost proof that's set me back slightly).

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

RIP Andre Brahic

French astronomer Andre Brahic died on Sunday. He was William Hubbard's partner - the two discovered Neptune's rings. He worked on NASA Voyager and the US-Europe Cassini missions.

Brahic was also a teacher and writer, a professor at the University of Paris. His last book - Worlds Elsewhere; Are We Alone - was published only last year. He came from a coal-mining village, Petit-Brahic, in southern France. (The similarity between the last name and the place name, for the curious, probably indicates that his family had been there a very long time).

He did good work.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Analysis: Captain America: Civil War (spoilerrific)

So, I finally (I only say that because I've been dodging often untagged spoilers all week) saw Civil War.

The movie was touted as being about accountability - but others said it was all about Bucky Barnes.

Well, it was in no small part about Bucky Barnes, but...

The MCU has touched on issues that we face in reality before. Mass surveillance and machines in law enforcement, for example, in Age of Ultron. The bogeymen match what we're afraid of today.

So I'm going to stick my neck out here.

Civil War was not about accountability at all.

Yes, on the surface, that's what the Sokovia Accords were supposed to be - making the heroes accountable to somebody.

But the conflict between Steve and Tony ran deeper.

The theme of the movie is "Are they people or weapons?"

We don't have people who can throw cars with their mind in reality. But we do have a world in which it often seems that, more and more, employees are interchangeable numbers. We have a world in which slavery still exists.

The relatable theme is "Are we people or property?"

And Tony is a one percenter. How does he feel about the thousands of people who work for Stark Industries? He probably doesn't. He can't afford to - he's running a business. And thus, the attitude that people are there for what value they can give?

Spills over.

He's the one who says "They don't give passports to weapons of mass destruction" when talking about a teenaged girl. (Yes, Ross is far worse, but Tony's following his line).

Tony doesn't see the team as his equals. He sees them as his employees.

Except Steve.

Steve is the one person Tony Stark sees as an equal. Because, well, you can't face down Captain America and not see something better than you.

And Steve sees the team as his squadmates. He sees them as the people he trusts the most to watch his back. He sees signing over control over them to the UN as a risk - a risk that they will become "showgirls" as he was forced to be during the war.

And above all, he sees them as people. His anger about Bucky being framed is almost equally matched by his anger at the way Tony treats and talks about Wanda.

She's a kid.

And, tellingly, when Rhodes augurs in, Tony doesn't shout "Rhodey!" he shouts "My Rhodey!"

That speaks of a certain possessiveness. (Or perhaps it's just that RDJ can convincingly be many things, "Straight" is not one of them. Ahem). Possibly even a trace of unconscious racism. Rhodes is his friend, but not his equal.

Which is how Steve and Tony could hurt each other so badly. But it also shows that you can't treat people like weapons. It shows that attitude is wrong.

I can think of a few real life CEOs who need to learn that lesson.

Friday, May 13, 2016


An ingestible, folding robot made partly out of sausage liner has been designed by researches at MIT, the University of Sheffield, and the Tokyo Institute of Technology. (I'm not doing an acronym for that one in English...)

The plan for the design is that somebody would swallow it, it would break out of an ice capsule, and deal with small foreign objects that are often swallowed accidentally, especially by children. Without the need for invasive surgery. Pretty neat.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Possibly Useful...

...NASA's database of expired patents. You can find it here: http://technology.nasa.gov/patents

There might well be something in there to spark a story or three. As well as stuff to improve our lives. (Tiny folding exercise machines designed for astronauts, for example, might also be useful for people recovering after being bedbound for a period of time).

This is why we need to keep funding NASA.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


...an AI named UNO correctly predicted the winner of the last Superbowl and the four top finishers in the Kentucky Derby.

I'm waiting for bookmakers to ban AI assist in gambling.

I'm waiting for them to try and work out how to ban AI assist in gambling...

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Hiding Wrinkles?

It's an age-old, pun intended, goal.

The latest "weapon" is a polymer that's sprayed onto your skin and dries to look and act like, well, better skin. It might also be used to deliver medicines or provide longer-lasting sun protection - imagine sun screen lasting 24 hours not 2-4 hours.

And I wonder if the makers have realized there might be a market for this stuff in different colors...

Monday, May 9, 2016

Falling Dusk Preorders

Anna McKenzie just wants her life back. She wants the brutal murder of her brother never to have happened. She certainly doesn't want magic, power, and to deal with a certain vigilante named Victor Prince... 

...but once the world of magic has claimed her, there is no escape. 

Ebook available for pre-order from Amazon and Smashwords.

Full release date is May 20.

Print TBD.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Some news...

Things are progressing with "Old Country Wolf" (Fitting In Anthology) and "Sika Unmasked" (Timeless Tales).

And I've seen the preliminaries for the Falling Dusk cover art. I hope other people love it as much as I do!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Bottle Babies

It seems that it may be possible to grow a baby in an artificial womb. At least, scientists managed to keep human embryos alive and growing healthy until the now traditional 14 day limit. We don't know what would happen if they continued.

Artificial wombs are a science fiction trope - one which has been explored in numerous works since Brave New World. For some interesting implications, I recommend C.J. Cherryh's Cyteen, Regenesis and Serpent's Reach. Also Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga and, most especially, the related novella Ethan of Athos (which can be found in Miles, Mystery and Mayhe).

Embryos can self-organize without input from the mother, is the big discovery. Actually carrying a child to term in the lab is not something the scientists say will happen any time soon.

But what if we could?

It would disrupt human society more than almost any other technological development. The ethics of surrogate motherhood, for example, can get challenging...

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Small things...

...mess up huge science. A pine marten broke into the Large Hadron Collider and chewed through some wires. That was a week ago and they still haven't got it back up and running.

(Earlier reports said it was a weasel, but it was a marten. Same group of critters, slightly larger).

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Is it an alien spaceship?

No, it's a very pretty jellyfish.


Check out the video. It's gorgeous.

Monday, May 2, 2016

When your sun...

...is barely bigger than Jupiter.

One of the three earth-sized planets orbiting "ultra-cool" dwarf star Trappist-1 may harbor life, Jim, but not as we know it. After all, almost all of the "light" would be in the infrared. The plants would probably be black to us. And it's "only" 40 light years away...