Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Doctor Strange and Asian Representation

Got distracted from posting this due to the holidays.

There was a lot of controversy over Marvel's choice to cast Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. (In meta they said she's supposed to be "Celtic" but nothing is said in the movie to explain why a character that has always been Asian is suddenly white).

The director said he wanted to "avoid stereotypes" - but making the character female, alone, would have fixed that. (And then there are the people who think Disney/Marvel should have thrown away the entire lucrative Chinese market by sticking to comics accuracy and setting it in Tibet. Which is another issue).

But then there's the thing they did right.


Wong was ably played by uh, Benedict Wong (Sorry, I can't help but be amused at casting a Wong to play a Wong even if it's close to casting a Smith to play a Smith). The actor is a Brit of Chinese descent who also showed up in The Martian and played Kublai Khan in a Marco Polo TV series. He's not hugely famous - and I'd argue that's because of the lack of opportunities for Asian actors not any lack of talent.

In the comics, Wong is Stephen's manservant. He's mostly seen opening the door, making tea and occasionally fetching some requested book or item. He's two-dimensional and frankly a stereotypical Chinaman (he's supposed to be Tibetan, but...) And, of course he knows martial arts, because everyone in China knows martial arts.

Movie Wong? Movie Wong was something quite different.

We first see him taking over as the Ancient One's librarian after the previous librarian is murdered by the bad guys.

He is a master sorcerer in his own right, but not shown as being particularly powerful compared to some of the others. Instead, he is portrayed as a brilliant magical theoretician. If he doesn't know it, he knows which book you can find it in. Although reserved and, yes, a little bit inscrutable, he has a definite personality. And while he is not a martial artist, when the push comes to shove he's pretty handy to have in a fight. (He uses the Wand of Watomb, by the way, in the final fight).

In other words, the movie whitewashed one character - but also fixed another, which goes a long way towards making up for it.

(It was also quite fun but had some pacing issues. They overdid the training sequences. Ah well).

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Lost MST3K Episodes Found

Three episodes of the cult classic were literally lost. Two - Invaders From The Deep and Revenge of the Mysterons from Mars have now been found.

The master tapes have been located, and the episodes are available to backers of the kickstarter they launched to, well, find them. No word on when they'll be released widely, but with the rise in interest I'm sure they will be.

Monday, November 28, 2016


First of all, sold a flash piece, "Letting Go," to the new Canadian audio magazine Centropic Oracle.

I also have my contributor's copy of Cirsova #4, which has some absolutely gorgeous cover art. I haven't read the other stories yet, though. (I have read the article which has some interesting thoughts I'm not sure I agree with about the history of "strong" female characters in science fiction).

Friday, November 25, 2016


We still haven't found everything in Egypt - archaeologists just discovered an entire city! Furthermore, it's only 400 meters from the temple of Seti I, near Luxur.

Which just goes to show that we don't know everything about the past and that our ability to explore keeps improving.


Don't forget to get your copy of Falling Dusk for just 99 cents here, with coupon code BK72B.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

To my American readers. To everyone else - enjoy Fall (or Spring) and appreciate the change in seasons.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Black Friday Sale!

From now until Tuesday, get Falling Dusk for just 99 cents!

Simply go to this link and use coupon code BK72B.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Impossible Drive Passes First Peer Review

The laws-of-physics breaking EmDrive has passed peer review. (This does not mean it works - just that nobody who looked at the experiments can find anything wrong with them).

It performed as well in a vacuum chamber as in air, which indicates it's not heat producing the thrust effect. So, what is it? Probably a false positive, but who knows.

Either way, it's worth continuing the work.

Monday, November 21, 2016


It was awesome to briefly meet C.J. Cherryh - and also attend her panel on worldbuilding and economics. She seems to be as cool in person as her work.

And it was good to meet the cool people I already knew and a few New York types I didn't.

Even if the elevators were possessed...

Thursday, November 17, 2016


Uh...apparently I'm going to PhilCon (to help a vendor - this is all very last minute but if you're there I'll probably be around somewhere, and if in doubt look for Joab Steiglitz in the dealer room. And buy his book).

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Return of supersonic passenger travel?


Concorde was something of a boondoggle - an expensive luxury that used a lot of fuel and ultimately ran at a loss.

Virgin Galactic unveiled the XB-1, prototype of the Boom airliner which will seat 55 and cross the Atlantic in three hours and fifteen minutes (about half the time taken by a typical jetliner). If they can knock out the details, then the ticket price is likely to be about $5,000 - so this still won't be available to "the rest of us."

Unless they can bring down the cost a lot more. On the other hand? Supersonic jets are cool.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Hope For "Locked-In" Patients

"Locked-in" - the body is completely paralyzed and the mind intact. It's a nightmare - but the first success using a brain implant to allow such a patient to communicate has been announced.

The "brain chip" lets Hanneke de Bruijne type at about two words per minute on a special computer - which sounds awful, but it's better than nothing. They are now hoping to provide the device to others.

Maybe one day we'll have "lock ins" able to chat on the internet with the rest of us.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Really Interesting Article

...about investigating crimes in space.

Specifically about how micro-gravity makes crime scene investigation different.

Friday, November 11, 2016

R.I.P. Robert Vaughn

If you're asking who? then you have never watched reruns of certain of the classic spy shows from the 1960s.

Robert Vaughn was Napoleon Solo, the original (Cavill did a bang up job in the movie, but he's still not the original).

He was also General Hunt Stockwell in the A-Team (another of my guilty pleasures, despite my ardent dislike of Dirk Benedict), played a small role in Superman III, was in a single episode of any number of shows and apparently once played Hitler (Which I can't imagine).

But I'll remember him the most as the suave spy intended to be "TV's answer to James Bond."

He was 83 years old.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Hope for the paralyzed

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology have designed a brain implant that transmits information past a spinal injury...wirelessly. This is better than previous attempts and is working in Rhesus monkeys. Humans may be more challenging, given our complicated bipedal stance, but I'm betting there are plenty of paraplegics willing to give it a try.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Pretty Pictures...

...because that's what I'm in the mood for.

Thank you Hubble for this wonderful view of NGC 362

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Out of the way, Hubble...

...NASA has completed the James Webb Space Telescope, which is the Hubble's replacement.

The instrument is now going to be tested - as the JWST will be over a million miles from Earth we can't just fly up and fix it the way we did Hubble - thoroughly ahead of the scheduled launch in October, 2018.

The planned "parking space" for the JWST is L2 - the second Lagrange Point. From which, we're told, it would "be able to detect a bumblebee on the moon."

IOW, this is a much more powerful telescope with greater range...although Hubble and the beautiful images it has sent over the years will definitely be missed.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Don't Forget... vote tomorrow. I normally leave politics off of this blog, but please, get out and vote. It's your responsibility and privilege as a citizen.

(Apologies to non-US people).

Friday, November 4, 2016

Look What Curiosity Found

(From USA Today).

Does that look like it belongs on Mars? Nope. It's actually a hunk of nickel-iron meteorite. Not all that surprising a find, but it might tell us how the Martian environment affects meteorites.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Check out...

...this new world map - the most accurate yet.

It looks pretty deformed, doesn't it. That's because we're mostly used to the Mercator projection (which is horribly inaccurate).

This one still isn't quite there and really, the only accurate world map is a globe, but...

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

SpaceX Fueling Issues

The cause of the SpaceX explosion appears to have been loading liquid helium (used as a buffer in liquid fuel rockets) at the wrong pressure. Whether this was a technical error or a human one is still not clear.

NASA is now questioning SpaceX's plan to fuel rockets with the astronauts on board and may insist that they stick to the older pattern of boarding after fueling, even though SpaceX claims the crew abort system would have worked.

I'm a bit inclined towards NASA's point of view at this point. We should not try and eliminate risk from spaceflight, but how about doing it that way until we haven't had this happen again for a couple of years?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Farpoint Convention!

I can now officially confirm that I will be participating in Farpoint 24, which takes place in the Baltimore suburbs from February 17 to 19, 2017.

Special guests include Sam Witwer (Mr. Hyde from "Once Upon A Time"), Enver Gjokaj (Agent Daniel Sousa from "Agent Carter").

I will have copies of all of my solo books available for sale. If anyone is interested in "Fitting In" please let me know in advance so I can acquire copies of the anthology. I will be selling and signing books on Friday evening during the Farpoint Book Fair - if you are only there on Saturday and/or Sunday let me know and I will make sure you can get a copy.