Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Out of here.

Leaving tomorrow for the Schroedinger II workshop at JQI. I won't be posting until Monday - I might sneak something in before I leave, but I don't want to have to worry about it, so putting this up now.

My website is up, but please do not leave comments right now as they might not save.

Monday, July 25, 2016

For DC People

Did some museum time over the weekend.

The Air & Space Museum has "A New Moon Rises" - it's temporary, but there's no formal closing date. It has some amazing pictures of the Moon taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. (Yes, you can see them online, but...) Capitol end of the museum, upper floor on the right.

The American History has "Fantastic Worlds" through February 26, 2017. It's an exhibit of the intersection of science and science fiction in the Victorian era that features very little from America - but it's worth checking out, especially if you're interested in steampunk.

Friday, July 22, 2016


Sometimes we're wrong in science.

Sometimes we're very wrong.

Scientists trying to sequence two species of lichen discovered they were genetically identical. Both the photosynthetic algae and its fungal symbiote were identical.


One of them was toxic. The other wasn't. So, something else had to be going on - and the something turned out to be a second fungal symbiote specialized for defense.

Scientists are now trying to find out whether all lichens are, in fact, threesomes...or only some.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Changes Episode 50

If you weren't able to see this live, you can watch it here:

Also, my website and Making Fate will go down on Sunday for server upgrades (I'm with a small provider). It will be down for a few days - please be patient. I should be able to upgrade WordPress and my themes afterwards - and hopefully this will allow me to make the site properly mobile friendly. This will also fix the random unavailability issues that have been going on for the last couple of weeks.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

X Marks The...

...center of the galaxy?

Apparently, yes. There really is a giant X made out of stars at the center of the Milky Way. It probably has to do with how gravity propagates, but...we humans like our patterns.

(The treasure at the middle is, of course, unreachable - a supermassive black hole that acts as the anchor that holds the galaxy together).


Monday, July 18, 2016


NASA's latest cool virtual reality video - a simulated landing on Pluto.

Friday, July 15, 2016

An Open Letter To Hugo Nominees And Their Publishers

I'm not quite done with this year's Hugo packet yet, but I'm already seeing some of the stuff I saw last year.

The Hugo voting packet does matter. Even if your name is Neal Stephenson, it's not reasonable to assume every WorldCon member has read your work, or has read the specific work up for nomination. So, please:

1. Actually provide something. If I haven't read the work for nomination and you don't provide a sample, then voters have to go hunt you down. A lot of us are more likely to just give you a null vote.

2. Test your files. For the love of the Aesir, test your files. In this year's package I've found: One .pdf that would not register as existing on my Nook. One .pdf that crashed my Nook when I tried to open it. One .epub file that I could not open on any device using any software. One file, from a major publisher, that had repeated lines everywhere and a watermark that took up three pages on my Nook every time I hit it (every five pages) - it was almost unreadable. And one fancast where all the provided links on the pdf were broken. Please, test your files. There's no excuse for major publishers not to provide .epub and .mobi versions and not to test them on actual ereaders. In fact, anyone can make a usable .epub and .mobi using Calibre, which is free. You can at least test it on the Kindle and Nook apps on a computer, also free. And it doesn't take five minutes to test your links. Well unless there's a lot of them, which brings me to:

3. If you are being judged on your entire body of work for the year (editor, fancast, magazine, fan writer, etc) then provide what you think is the best. I am not...and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone here...going to listen to 50 2 hour podcasts. I'm going to pick one at random. And I may pick your weakest episode. So, make sure people see your best work by narrowing it down to your favorites. Or the ones that got the best feedback from readers.

4. ...which brings me to: Don't provide a political rant as your sample. Or a religious one. Regardless of your beliefs. You will lose votes if your sample insults Democrats, Republicans, Christians, whoever - and some of those votes will be from people who agree with you but just don't think political rants are appropriate material to win major awards.

Mostly it's #2 that annoys me, though. Especially when publishers do it - it's not the writer's fault and really, Penguin can't test a sample on a Nook before sending it out completely broken. (Yes, I am going to name and shame - Penguin sending out a file that had every fl missing, repeated lines including lines interlaced with each other, and obnoxious watermarking is just...really...)

If you're nominated for a Hugo, do what it takes to win it - and that means providing clean, tested files, working links, and appropriate samples.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


No, I'm not changing the format of my blog or what I write.

I'm appearing on the next episode of CHANGES Conversations Between Writers, hosted by Sally Sue Ember.

The show will be broadcast as a HOA on Wednesday, July 20 at 10am EST, and will then be archived on both Google plus and Youtube. It isn't an interview - it's a talk show, which is a little different from anything I've done before. I'm quite excited about it.

Check the event out here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/events/cidqcpvi7r2r3h4b1paqru6q8ug

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Drones Shoot M&Ms To Save Ferrets

...yes, for real. It's not April 1, after all.

The endangered black footed ferret's favorite meal is ground hog.

Ground hogs often carry sylvatic plague - brought here, of course, by Europeans.

Part of the answer: An oral vaccine concealed in peanut butter smeared around M&Ms - a combination ground hogs can't resist.

Fired from drones.

Because drones. (Or rather because drones cover more ground).

I don't think any science fiction writer predicted this one.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Let's go...

...alien hunting.

On Titan.

Recent experiments have shown that in Titan-like conditions, hydrogen cyanide (which we know is present on Titan) can form long polymer chains that happen to absorb sunlight very, very well.

If life is an emergent property of chemistry, then there is a good chance that Titan has life. Life not as we know it, which helps us find life not as we know it somewhere else.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

R.I.P. Steve D. Russell

For the first time I have to write about an industry professional who was also a personal friend. I doubt it will be the last.

Steve D. Russell was the CEO of Rite Publishing. He was an ENnie award winning designer and developer. His most recent project was Lords of Gossamer and Shadow - the Amber system with the Zelazny serial numbers beautifully filed off (and the things I hated about Amber removed).

I was one of his playtesters for LoGaS, and spent many hours at the table with him and other friends.

Steve died after a car accident shortly after moving to Dayton, Ohio. His wife, Miranda, is pregnant with their first child.

I mourn a good storyteller, a great GM and a good friend.

A Gofundme has been set up for Steve's family to help defray the financial expenses and make this difficult time easier for them: https://www.gofundme.com/2d5qnes

Rite Publishing's schedule has been suspended - it was a micropress and I do not know if anyone else will be taking over or getting the rights to their products. I hope that it will live on in some form. I believe Steve would want that.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Juno Insertion Successful

The Juno probe has been confirmed to be in orbit of Jupiter. Instruments have yet to be reactivated after the maneuver. The spaceship will stay in orbit for 20 months if all goes well, and will then be crashed into the planet.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Bards And Sages Quarterly July!

This is now out and contains my story "Voyage." It's a pretty dark one, so you know.

Get your own copy now:

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/647547
Amazon Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/Bards-Sages-Quarterly-July-2016-ebook/dp/B01HSI6Z2S/
Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Bards-Sages-Quarterly-July-2016/dp/1535028785/