Friday, December 30, 2016

Drowned In Moonlight, Strangled By Her Own Bra

I realize this is late - between me being away, me arranging my thoughts on the matter, and the ARE/OmniLit fiasco...

...but this one hit me hard. I am not entirely sure why. (Maybe it's the dog).

But what I wanted to say about Carrie Fisher, other than the above "joke" cause of death, which is posted at her own request, is this:

She was not just a princess.

To most of us, she was Princess Leia, but here's the thing. She first took the role of Leia when she was 19 years old. She did five movies as Leia - A New Hope (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return Of The Jedi (1983), The Force Awakens (2015) and Episode VII - which has no announced title (2017).

So, that's...let's do the math. 32 years in which she was not Princess Leia. That's longer than some of the people reading this have lived.

So, what I really wanted to do was point out all the other things she was:

Carrie Fisher's IMDB page lists 90 total acting credits, although one of them is marked as "Announced" and presumably will not happen now.

Of those credits, she was Princess Leia in 8 of them - the five movies, the Star Wars Holiday Special in 1988, the Robot Chicken Star Wars episode (in which she was also Mon Mothma), and the Lego Star Wars video game.

So, that's 81 credits in which she was, you know, not Princess Leia.

And that's just as an actor.

Carrie also has 11 writer credits, two of which are documentaries she did on her own experiences in Hollywood.

She has 11 soundtrack credits as a performer. Yes, she could sing - not surprising giving her mother, Debbie Reynolds (Also RIP - very sad) was a musical performer.

She has one producer credit, for a TV movie called "These Old Broads."

And...that's just what's publicly credited. See, Fisher was also something called a "script doctor" - which is movie-speak for a script editor. Somebody who takes a script and improves it. Script doctors are generally uncredited, but they salvage broken movies all the time. She actually rewrote some of her own dialogue in ESB, which got her a gig writing an episode of Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.

In fact, Carrie Fisher was one of the top script doctors in Hollywood in the 1990s. She may actually have been a better script doctor than actor.

Some movies she worked on included the prequel trilogy (would they have been even, uh, worse without her), Hook, Sister Act, Lethal Weapon 3, The River Wild, Made IN America, Outbreak, The Wedding Singer, So I Married An Axe Murderer, Intolerable Cruelty, Scream 3, Coyote Ugly, Kate & Leopold, Mr. And Mrs. Smith. She stopped doing it in the 2000s because she didn't like how the process had changed. But look at that list of movies.

And she also wrote books - five novels - Wishful Drinking, Surrender The Pink, Delusions of Grandma, The Best Awful and Postcards from the Edge.

And then there were the non-fiction books based on her own life, her struggles with bipolar disorder and addiction.

But far too many people remember her in that dang metal bikini.

So, I wanted to give a shout out to Carrie Fisher

Script doctor
Non-fiction writer

...and yes, princess. In so many ways.

(By the way, if anyone's worried about the dog, Billie Lourdes took him in).

Thursday, December 29, 2016

All Romance Ebooks

(Putting off the Carrie Fisher obit another day because this is important).

I found out yesterday that on December 27 major e-book vendor All Romance Ebooks (which also owned OmniLit) abruptly announced they were shuttering as of December 31.

The basic facts:

1. The site will go dark on December 31. If you own books that you purchased from either site and left in the online library, you need to download them by then. If you can't, likely because the site crashed from everyone trying to do the same thing, then some authors/publishers are honoring ARE/OmniLit purchases - check their site or contact them. (I believe the Musa Publishing version of Transpecial was on OmniLit at one point, but I am not sure that I sold any copies. None of my other books are on the site).

2. Some readers have reported that ARE site credits are no longer usable.

3. ARE is not offering refunds for pre-orders. Some authors/publishers may honor pre-orders especially if you can find a screenshot.

4. ARE has offered authors and publishers a "negotiated settlement" of 10 percent of the money they owe them. Note that this is a distributor not a publisher. This is akin to a store telling a company they won't pay for the stock they already sold. Because of how ebooks work, authors and publishers are not paid for "stock" ahead of time but a percentage of sales. ARE apparently spent the money on something else and are claiming they cannot pay authors.

5. Authors and publishers are not receiving anything for books sold on ARE or OmniLit until the site goes dark. Do not buy any more books from this site.

6. Authors published through ARE's publishing arm are reportedly having their rights held hostage until they sign an agreement promising not to ask ARE for any money. I am not able to confirm this but it's been reported from multiple sources.

If you are an author affected by this, contact Writer Beware at Victoria Strauss wants to hear from as many affected authors as possible. Probably from publishers as well.

Incidentally, the best place to buy/order small press and self published books is always from the publisher or author's own website if they have one. Also, back up your ebooks.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Rogue One - Falling Short Of Feminism

What? Did I just say a film with a female lead fell short? Yes, I did.

I enjoyed Rogue One a lot. It was the darkest of the Star Wars movies - but that was a good creative choice for a movie that segued straight into one called, after all, "A New Hope." For the kind of movie it was - an action-packed heist, it was good. Great visuals, as one expects from Star Wars and ILM.

There were a couple of pacing issues - the prologue was a little bit long. And it was very much battle after battle - but it was still enjoyable. The ending was inevitable, necessary, and yes, dark. But necessary.

So, what's the problem?

The problem was two fold.

1. Jyn Erso was not that interesting a character. She was actually less interesting than Leia.

2. The biggie:

Jyn Erso was the only member of the core team who was female.

Yes, we did see plenty of other women. Genevieve O'Reilly was great as Mon Mothma, and I liked Sharon Duncan-Brewster's Senator Palmo. We saw female pilots, and heard female voices during the battle scenes. (And Palmo was also black, which was nice to see). And, of course, we got nice racial diversity with Diego Luna (Mexican) as Cassian Andor, Donnie Yeng (Hong Kong Chinese) as Chirrut Imwe, Wen Jiang (Chinese) as Baze Malbus and Riz Ahmed (British Pakistani) as Bodhi Rook. In fact, Felicity Jones is the only white member of the "core team." For Jedha, where Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus was from, the casting director hired only Asian extras for the street teams, implying that Jedhan people look Chinese. Which I liked.

Which was awesome.

But she was still the only female member, and as my husband pointed out "They've just turned the token woman into the lead."

Now - I am not sure what I would have done. Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus were too awesome, and you will not tell me, even if you work for Disney, that those two were "just friends". I am fairly sure they are the first on screen same sex couple in Star Wars. I wouldn't want to mess with that.

And Cassian Andor's character would not have felt right to me as a woman as a woman.

So, where could they go? Bodhi Rook. The Imperial pilot. This would have shown women more in the Imperial hierarchy (which we do see in TFA). And having another woman on the team would have moved away from "Well, we have the woman, look, there she is. Happy, right?"

The same thing happened in TFA, so I'm wondering if this is going to be the new trend. By making the one woman the lead, they deflect criticism - but how about moving more towards gender parity in general?

Don't get me wrong, I am very happy to see a more diverse Star Wars. Very happy indeed. But they could still improve a bit.

And on a sad note: R.I.P. Carrie Fisher. (I'm actually still a tiny bit too upset to write a good obit. Not even sure why this one is hitting me so hard...)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Happy Holidays

Out of here as of tomorrow until the following Tuesday. Please take some time to spend with friends and family this season.

And buy each other books!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Klingon Newts?

I'm not sure how much this guy really looks like a Klingon:

But it's still adorable. As are a bunch of other brightly colored reptiles and amphibians found by scientists in the Mekong delta of Thailand.

Friday, December 16, 2016

So, Why Do Male Seahorses Get Pregnant?

One could argue that they don't - that we should be defining sex differently (Biologists define the "female" of a species as the one which produces the larger sex cells, the eggs).

But seahorses have the unusual quality of the males being "pregnant." In reality, they carry their eggs around in a pouch.

Male egg nurturing is not uncommon in oviparous species, but only seahorses, pipefish and seadragons (and not all of them) incubate eggs in a specially designed pouch. Some species have started to provide food for the developing offspring through "attachment sites." And some species can actually absorb the eggs/embryos.

So, it's pretty dang close to pregnancy. But even a full sequence of the genome of the Tiger Tail Seahorse has not revealed how the switch from the females incubating to the males doing so took place.

I suspect that there was probably an intermediate stage. In many species of fish the male does the tending or builds the nest. It also could be that at some point they were paternal mouthbrooders - the male cared for the egg in the mouth - and then evolved a special pouch. Or...maybe it started by sticking the eggs to daddy.

What we can't do is trace the genes that cause it. So, seahorses keep their secrets, for now.

(Paternal mouthbrooders include the arowana, mouthbrooding betta, black-chin tilapia and sea catfish).

Thursday, December 15, 2016


It could be...well, just around the corner. Researchers have been able to use techniques to "rejuvenate" cells to reduce age-related changes in middle-aged mice and extend the lifespan of a mouse suffering from progeria.

The technique is a bit too difficult to handle to try on humans right now, could be the first actual lifespan extension technique we invent.

Now, to prevent it from increasing the growing divide between rich and struggling...

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Looking For... excuse to get outside in the middle of winter. The Audobon Society is looking for volunteers to count birds.

Find out how to join in in your area here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Great Smog

London smog/fog was legendary until the 1950s. In 1952 a cloud of yellow fog settled on London for five days. By the time it was clear, more than 12,000 people were dead and 150,000 hospitalized.

It triggered a lot of changes - but scientists were never sure quite why it was so bad. Until now. It turns out that London's fog was key to the situation.

The Thames valley makes fog, and morning mist is common in London (although even more common in the Trent valley where I grew up, where not being able to see one's own feet happened several times a year). The fog combined with the pollutants from everyone burning coal to make...sulphuric acid. Ow.

Which is why burning coal is, you know, a bad idea. Hello, China...

Monday, December 12, 2016

Ever Hear A Gibbon Sing?

Gibbons are a kind of ape - and they sing. If you ever have the opportunity to go to Twycross Zoo, in the English midlands, and stay until closing you will get serenaded by quite the chorus - once one species starts up the rest have to try and drown them out!

Now scientists have discovered that macaques, a kind of money, have a complex enough vocal mechanism to be able to pronounce language in much the same way we can (not the same sounds, but...). Something in their brain gets in the way.

I'd like to point them to gibbons for their next help work out where spoken language actually came from and how we do it.

Friday, December 9, 2016

So, what about beefalo?

Beefalo are a hybrid of bisons and domestic cattle - and unlike mules, they are fertile. In fact, they've caused problems in parts of the American west because they drink a lot, eat a lot, and go right through fences.

New thing, right?

Apparently not - because European bison and aurochs hybridized a long time ago, creating a new species which we know about from cave art.

This "isn't supposed to happen in mammals" according to some...but we have those beefalo. And the eastern coyote, which is as much wolf and dog as coyote.

(We really need to remember that "species" is pretty arbitrary).

Thursday, December 8, 2016

End of an Era - R.I.P. John Glenn

The last of our first astronauts is gone - John Glenn, last survivor of NASA's first astronaut class in 1959 died on Thursday (Perhaps surprisingly, he was also the oldest in the class)

He flew as a marine during World War II. In 1957 he became the first pilot to fly a supersonic plane across the United States. He was also a U.S. Senator for many years.

In 1998 he returned to space - at the age of 77. So far he is the oldest human being in space - and a true pioneer.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Fusion Hope?

We need clean energy. Fusion energy has remained a pipe dream for years - but a German team may have got us a step closer. The W7-X reactor is a test of concept of something called a "stellerator" - which takes the tokamak design being worked on to contain a fusion reactor and twists it. This improves stability.

Of course, it still uses more energy to run than it produces, which has been the case with every fusion reactor designed so far, but it might well be a step closer to a feasible design.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Sisterhood of the Blade

Like swashes being buckled and buckles being swashed?

Like it even more when it's ladies doing these things?

How about a re-imagining of the Three Musketeers - a new anthology from Battlefield Press edited by Hal Greenburg and featuring stories by Ed Greenwood, Rachel Venture and, of course, myself. (I can't reveal details. Yet).

If you want this to happen we have a kickstarter active right now.

For $25 you will get the anthology in both paperback and electronic formats. And you can also order some add-ons - for even more cool fiction from Battlefield Press.

And if you really want to splash out we're offering a limited number of Tuckerizations for $150 each (names may be tweaked to sound like they belong in the 17th century ;)).

(Note this is not a fantasy anthology - it's pure alternate history and pulp fun).

Monday, December 5, 2016

New Coolness From Google.

It's called Timelapse - and it's a new time waster. It lets you see how a part of the Earth has changed in the last 30 years.

Because if I have to get distracted, so do you.

Friday, December 2, 2016

In space, no one can hear...

...well, maybe. Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei heard a "knocking" sound while alone in orbit - and a similar sound has also been reported by subsequent missions.

He's not alone. NASA astronauts heard this sound when on the far side of the moon, explained as some kind of radio interference. And this video is the song of Jupiter, which produces a lot of radio interference. The bit at the end sounds rather like the TARDIS.

The knocking, however, has not been explained, with the most likely theory being micro meteorite strikes - and something about the Chinese ship causing it to "ring" like a bell when struck.

Space, not quite as silent as we thought. (Although still no whoosh from passing ships ;)).

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Lunar Hoax - Really?

The Lunar X-Prize goes to the first commercial endeavor to put a rover on the moon. But one German group's goal has made me raise my eyebrow.

They plan on dropping one near the Apollo 11 site to "Prove the moon landings are not a hoax."

The thing is?

We already have that proof, unless you want to go seriously conspiracy theory.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter - who's data the German team will almost certainly be using, has taken clear pictures of all of the moon landing sites. They even determined that the flags are still standing.

Here you are - from That's the Apollo 11 site. There are even better pictures of the other sites. The line you see going from the marked site to the crater is Neil Armstrong's footprints.

So, uh, find another target, guys, because people who don't believe this aren't going to believe you either.