Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Mapping the universe

Google Maps has left Earth - using NASA images they've added half the solar system, or so it seems. Including Pluto.

Might be a useful tool if you're writing in-system science fiction. (I know I've written with Google Earth on the other half of my screen before...it's insanely useful).

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

We live in a golden age...

...of astronomy that is.

Things might not be great here on Earth, but we're doing everything from getting close-ups of Pluto to reading gravitational waves to discovering that exoplanets are more common than, well, not.

We've actually observed dark matter.

We've discovered gold is made when stars collide.

And we still have yet to work out what the is going on with Tabby's Star.

What next? I don't know, but when I get depressed all I have to do is pull up some of these discoveries and remember that no matter how much we might mess up...we all look at the same stars.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Blade Runner 2049 (Spoilers)

I have to admit - I was offended by the existence of this movie - and the cast list. The last thing we needed was a Blade Runner sequel. Especially one that appeared to answer "Are you a replicant?"

Well, they dealt with that with a very small retcon...

...and created a movie that, well, I've already said. If you liked the original, watch it. If you didn't, don't. Villeneuve (Arrival) was an excellent choice to direct. It had pacing issues - the same pacing issues as the original, so I was okay with it. Ana de Armas was particularly brilliant as Joi.

The thing I liked the most was they didn't try to "fix" it. Instead of trying to say the Blade Runner future is our future, they just went for being consistent with the original and had fun with it - ads for Atari and Pan Am, for example. They went for full retro futurism - and I loved it.

Did it have issues?

Absolutely.

There is no excuse in 2017 for the line "No two humans have identical DNA" - twins, anyone? (An easy fix - the two identical DNA signatures were showing up for a boy and a girl, so they obviously weren't identical twins unless one of them was trans, which...wouldn't be in their birth records).

I personally could have done without the creepy hooker-AI threesome which was apparently supposed to be sexy and just came over as kinda...yeah. Just creepy.

Another thought I had wouldn't have worked with the storyline they were going for, with questions about parenthood and identity (which led, sadly, to my brain screaming "I am your father, Luke" right as two characters had a moment. If it hadn't been Harrison Ford, I would have been fine), the strong undertones of race in the story would have been far more powerful if "K" had been black. John Boyega might have been a good choice, or Michael B. Jordan. They had to match him to Ford and Sean Young, though, so it wasn't workable. But it would have made this not just another "Conventionally attractive white guy deals with pseudo-racism" movie, which I know black fans are somewhat tired of. That said, they did weave in issues of race and issues we might have to deal with.

Which brings us to the question.

Blade Runner asks "Are you a replicant?"

Blade Runner 2049 answers "You are human."

The answer to the question in the end is "It shouldn't matter."

Because we're all human.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Yellowstone

Decided to do a full post because the hysteria is back.

1. We are not "overdue" for an eruption of the Yellowstone super volcano.

2. The discovery that magma changes preceding an eruption may be in "less than a human lifespan" is actually a good thing! It doesn't mean it will erupt within our lifespans. It means that when it does we'll get a few decades warning, and we can come up with an action plan now so if it does blow in the next few centuries...

3. Oh, and it's not likely to blow in the next few centuries either. More likely the next few millennia, if we're unlucky.

4. Even if it does erupt, it won't destroy all life on Earth. It would be bad, particularly for parts of the midwest, but it is not a world-ending event, it won't cause a mass extinction (we're doing good on that on our own) and it probably won't even end human civilization. Certainly it won't destroy our species.

So, please, stop.

Even if you secretly want it to, Yellowstone is not destroying the world in the next decade.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Scam Alert

I'm not famous enough to have gotten one of these - yet - but apparently some crooks have taken to impersonating editors from The Atlantic and soliciting articles. They're then sending out fake advances or taking other measures to get bank account details. (And yes, they're using the names of the editors).

This kind of thing isn't uncommon, but they're usually more subtle than this.

If you get an out of the blue offer to write something, verify it. Just in case.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Taking Offshore Wind Further

Turns out our entire civilization could be powered by the winds over the open oceans.

Of course, there's a number of problems with this:

1. We'd need to cover an area the size of Greenland with wind turbines.

2. We don't have the technology to build wind turbines right out in the open ocean.

3. It would cause, yup, more and different climate change.  Harvesting that much power would affect wind speed, temperature, etc.

So we can't actually do it.

Yet.

(Oh, as a side note, if you saw the stuff about how Yellowstone is going to erupt again and we might not get much warning - no, the tabloids are wrong, Yellowstone blowing its top would NOT destroy all life on Earth. It has never triggered a mass extinction before. It would cause economic problems, particularly for the US, and probably a few years of not much in the way of summer, but it wouldn't destroy all life, our species or even our civilization).

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Welp, We Found It...

...dark matter!

Hideki Tanimura (Institute of Space Astrophysics) and Anna de Graaff (University of Edinburgh) have found hot filaments of gas linking galaxies. And those filaments amount to...all the missing mass. At least until we discover they were wrong. But they weren't working together - they were working separately - which makes it more likely that they got it right.

Are these filaments the glue which holds the universe together?

Monday, October 9, 2017

Capclave Roundup

Awesome convention. (This post is so late because my hotel room was less than awesome - too hot to turn the a/c off so the noise kept me awake).

Great to finally meet Julianna Rew of Third Flatiron Publishing. (She's purchased a couple of my stories and edits great anthologies).

Always good to hang out with the usual suspects - great conversation with Bud Sparhawk in particular. Tom Doyle, you rock and so do your books! (I already started American Craftsmen).

Broad Universe reading went well. (Next year, if I make it to the con, I will try and bring some books).

Panel highlights were Inge Heyer's presentation on Pluto and the Alternate History panel, which was pretty much star studded.

Great con!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Off to Capclave!

Heading off to Capclave in a couple of hours.

I'm not on programming (and thus will not have books for sale, although if you have something I will gladly sign it). However, I will be participating in the Broad Universe Rapid Fire (reading from Falling Dusk) on Saturday at 11am. (Opposite Ken Liu, which is unfortunate, but somebody had to be).

And I'll be around at various parties if anyone wants to track me down. Even bringing a new costume *evil grin*.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Is The Universe a Simulation?

Right now, scientists say...no.

Basically, they can't come up with a system that could simulate the universe. Of course, who knows what's hiding behind the scenes. They haven't disproved it...

...just said it's very, very unlikely. Which is probably a good thing. I mean, we don't want somebody accidentally pulling the plug, right?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Did life on Earth...

...come from out there? The "Starseed" theory is something which has been debated - and no, it doesn't involve intelligent aliens. At least not the version seriously considered by scientists.

The version seriously considered doesn't even involve microbes. It involves the precursor molecules for life being dropped on Earth by meteorites. In just the right conditions, they rapidly create RNA - which then becomes DNA and thus our kind of life.

If this is true, then it makes it more likely that extraterrestrial life will be based on DNA or something similar - good news if we ever want to expand beyond this planet (although bad news if worried about biocontamination).

The alternative is that life started spontaneously near hydrothermal vents.

Here's one thought, though:

Does one of these actually prevent the other?

I would argue that RNA forming in ponds hit by meteors and RNA forming by hydrothermal vents don't cancel each other out and an even more intriguing possibility is life starting by both methods and then combining. If both methods happened to produce the same chemicals, then we would never know.

Or did life, even at the start, compete with each other and are we descended from the winner?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Willing to Take a Bet?

Some guy at SETI apparently thinks we'll find intelligent aliens within 20 years - and is willing to bet coffee on it.

He wasn't specifying WHO he'll buy coffee for if we find them, though. Of course, if we find intelligent aliens, who knows...

...he might be able to buy us all cups of raktajino.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Orphan Black Finale (Spoilers)

Okay, so, I finally finished watching - bittersweet, although I'm hoping to see Maslany again. In something. In almost anything.

And...welp....I couldn't even call this blog post what I originally intended because it would have been a spoiler. If you haven't seen the finale yet, go away, watch it, and then come back when you have.

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......still with me?

My first reaction: The bastards.

Because they pulled one of the best examples of the unreliable narrator trope.

The structure of the show leads you to believe it's Sarah's story and if I had an idea for who the narrator was other than Sarah, I'd have to go with Felix. Alternatively, as there's no actual narration, you could just go with Third Person Omniscient.

All of these options purport that what we see on screen in Orphan Black is the actual story of the Leda Sisters and how they broke free. Reality. The truth.

...and then on come the brakes.

...because it might not be.

See, it turns out that the entire show is in fact a journal. Written by...Helena.

Helena.

The least sane of the sisters. The one who was raised to be an avenging angel and assassin. The one who represents the fragility of womanhood. The abuse victim. (Rachel is also an abuse victim, but in a different way).

Helena is not a reliable narrator.

Unlike the normal use of the unreliable narrator trope, though, we are never specifically shown that anything in the show is unreal or untrue.

Instead, we are simply given the reveal: "Helena told the story" and left with that. Literally left with that - it's all but the last scene of the show, the lasting image being of her with her sisters and the book titled "Orphan Black."

So, instead of being told "The narrator lied" we're just told "Hey, this was all written down by the madwoman. You decide how much to believe."

And the genius of it is that it made the show make more sense. Was there really a skeleton in the Hendrix garage, or did it represent something else? Do Helena's twins have a healing factor? Who do we believe?

And the truth is...you can also choose to believe Helena, to trust her. Which means believing the victim.

And all of the Leda Sisters are the victim.

So perhaps ending the show with the question of "Do you believe her?" brings in a theme of agency that was hinted at but never shown.

Are we people or things is a question women have often been forced to ask in this society.

"Do you believe her?" is a question society asks too often.

Especially of those who have been ill-treated and abused, of those who have been raped, of those who have been beaten, of those who's wombs have been used as a commodity.

So, it was brilliant, and the more I think about it, the more brilliant it becomes.

And the only answer for myself is:

I believe you, Helena.

It was all true.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Help Do Science

NASA is looking for some help again. If you have a bit of time and don't mind spending it on a slightly tedious task - NASA needs help labeling and tagging thousands of images from the ISS so they can be made searchable. And no, they can't just have an AI do it.

If you'd like to help head over to CosmoQuest and launch the Image Detective. And you get to look at pretty pictures...

Thursday, September 28, 2017

RIP Hugh Hefner

You've probably already heard that Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy, died today at the age of 91.

You're probably also wondering why the heck I, a science fiction writer, care.

Well, I care because...

...Playboy published science fiction. Yup, in amongst the girlie pics, and also in a number of tie-in anthologies.

And it was a surprisingly good fit - because neither science fiction nor pornography were considered real literature.

Except, of course, a lot of men (and probably quite a few women too) read Playboy - 7 million subscribers by the 1970s - and that meant a larger audience for science fiction than...well, almost any other outlet, at the time, before, or since.

Hefner hired a series of fiction editors - Ray Russell, A.C. Spectorsky, Robie MacAuley, Arthur Ketchmer and Alice K. Turner all played a role. (Why yes, yes, a woman). And Playboy ran stories by Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Arthur C. Clarke...and by some authors you definitely wouldn't expect. Ursula K. LeGuin? Margaret Atwood of Handmaid's Tale fame? Doris Lessing? (Feminists writing for a girlie mag?) Playboy stopped producing a lot of science fiction after Turner retired in 2000, but who knows - maybe they'll get back to it.

And then there was a little story called "The Crooked Man" published in 1955. Hefner got hate mail for this story. It was a science fiction story where most people were gay and heterosexuality was punished - I believe the original of the classic reversal trope to heighten awareness of persecution.

See, Hugh Hefner was an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights and same sex marriage. Oh, and racial equality. Oh yes, and he called himself a feminist, although some people question that. In fact, on that front his legacy is distinctly controversial. He challenged prudish norms and fought for sexual liberation, but he's still seen as a pornographer. And he did have a harem.

I'm not going to hold him up as a feminist, because I don't know that he was one.

But he was in favor of gay rights.

And he published some dang good science fiction.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

LIGO is doing science..with a bit of help.

The first detection of gravity waves made by LIGO and Virgo combined has been recorded. The addition of the third (Virgo) detector means that scientists can now determine where in the sky the gravity waves are coming from.

The event observed was a collision between two huge black holes (31 times the mass of the sun and 25 times respectively). Being able to identify the source of the waves puts us a step closer to actually understanding gravity.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Get your shots!

Just a reminder - now is the perfect time to get your annual flu vaccination - if you can be vaccinated, get vaccinated. Especially if you plan on going to some of those wonderful fall conventions...

(We'll see how good a job they do at guessing strains this year...)

Monday, September 25, 2017

Orphan Black and Exercises In Genre

Orphan Black was the best show nobody watched - although it sustained enough of an audience to last four seasons, its appeal has always been niche. One of the reasons is the uncertainty about the show's genre. It's undeniably science fiction - the storyline is dependent on human cloning, and as far as we know there aren't any clones wandering around. Of course, you don't talk about Clone Club. But what kind of science fiction?

Wikipedia calls it a "Science fiction thriller" - which might work. Techno-thriller might be closer - except that they don't excessively explore the technical details. So, it's not a techno-thriller, even if it does focus on near-future technology.

But that opens the question of whether Orphan Black is a thriller. There's certainly plenty of suspense, there's a lot of crime (a fair amount of it inexpertly executed by Alison Hendrix. But is it a thriller? In a thriller, the entire point is the hero fighting for their life against insurmountable odds. The question of a thriller is "Do they live?" (The answer is almost always yes, but the thriller viewer does not care).

Is the central question of Orphan Black "Do they live?" It's certainly a question, but it's not the question. The question is "Who controls the future of humanity?" but with the distinctly feminist twist, in part, of "Who controls our children? Who controls our wombs?" That's a deeply science fictional question and it's too deep for a typical thriller.

Unpopular opinion: It's not a thriller.

It's also not a superhero story - although there are some superpowers in the story, they're minor. It could be the prologue to one, though.

And it's set in a completely unaltered real world in which the changes are secret. That would make it urban fantasy except, of course, it's about science. Maybe it's science realism? (A real world story with subtle changes to science that flavor the story).

Hrm, how about another approach? What science fiction show is Orphan Black most like? And the answer is "The X-Files." (Disclaimer: Although I loved the original, I've been too scared to watch the revival - it's one of those things I'm afraid re-visting would ruin). But what? Isn't that about...aliens?

Yes, but it's also about the real world going on with its life while the protagonists face their struggle essentially alone. Orphan Black is better as science fiction.

Wiki, though, doesn't help us with this, calling The X-Files a "science fiction drama" which...isn't a sub genre. It does bring in a possibility: Is Orphan Black "science fiction horror"? I'd say no, it's a bit lighter than that. And Wiki also takes us back to the thriller question.

So, what is Orphan Black? I think it makes its own sub-genre. Or, perhaps, it inhabits a sub-genre "The X-Files" created and which is also occupied by Sense8, Torchwood and even, to a degree Warehouse 13. That sub-genre is supernatural fantasy with the magic taken out and replaced by science. It has the same secrecy, the same idea that things "man was not meant to know" are right there, just hidden by the wits of the few privileged ones who know the truth.

But what do we call it? Contemporary science fiction just means anything set in the real world that focuses on scientific development.

I'm stumped - anyone got any thoughts?

Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday Updates

Posting early because I'm off to a National Gallery of Art writing salon.

I just discovered - because I'm busy and not as anal about checking as I might be - that my vs. Ghosts Adventure "The Lights of Sand Island" got a five star review. The one criticism was that no maps were provided (given it's a real life location, I don't personally feel they're needed).

Rising Dawn is still in edits. I've made the decision that if I do a trilogy or short series again I'm getting them all ready so I can release on some kind of schedule ;). I haven't started book four yet because I'm working on some gaming stuff.

Hoping for more actual news next week - I have a lot in the pipeline.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Herbivorous Dinosaurs Liked Their Seafood

In one of those discoveries that's surprising until you think more about it, the fossilized dung of herbivorous dinosaurs was found to contain quite a lot of...shellfish.

Why would plant eaters eat shellfish? While it's possible that they ingested the molluscs by accident, it's actually pretty likely they did it on purpose...

...to help make egg shells. Herbivorous birds do the same thing today to supplement calcium before laying.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

I Have A Confession...

...I'm rather fond of calamari. Also octopus. Yes, including the tentacles.

Unfortunately, well. I've had to give it up.

The squid-based aliens in Arrival (likely from a gas giant, although it's never stated) and their completely alien intelligence and language...

...may not be so different from cephalopods on Earth.

Captive octopi have been known to turn off lights from a distance with a well-aimed water jet, raid nearby tanks for food and deliberately cause their tanks to overflow. One individual (I honestly can't remember species), after feeding time, escaped from its tank, slithered to the researcher's office and threw a bad shrimp at him. Like dogs and horses, they've been demonstrated as capable of telling humans apart.

The guess researchers make is that they're about as smart as dogs, but there's more to it than that. They are literally alien. They have multiple brains, in their arms. They can rewrite their own genetics in real time.

Maybe they are only about as intelligent as a pig, and I am not giving up bacon, but there's something about the fact that we don't understand their intelligence that is giving me pause. And their behavior seems more like that of ravens...or of chimpanzees. And I'm not eating a chimpanzee either. (I suppose we all have to draw our own lines, right?).

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Nerf Gun Safety

If you use airsoft, you know to use eye protection - but apparently people are getting eye injuries from nerf guns too.

If you use a nerf gun as a cosplay prop, then PLEASE don't point it at somebody's face or eyes. If you use them for simulated fire, then I really think you should wear goggles. Just in case.

The problems are worse with guns modified to fire harder or with off-label bullets or darts.

Stay safe, esp. with Halloween and the fall con season.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Emmys

...and as usual, nothing I watch won anything. I feel quite sorry for the connections of both West World and Stranger Things with 22 and 18 nominations respectively and not a single win.

Most of the awards went to mainstream shows, but The Handmaid's Tale took three - I want to watch that but not enough to pay for a Hulu subscription...

Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday Updates

Appearances:

I'm confirmed for RavenCon in 2018 - looking forward to going back to Williamsburg.

What I'm working on:

Unannounced projects for Avalon Game Company and Grey Matter Games.

Also hired for a project (also unannounced, I'm afraid) with Rite Publishing.

And some short fiction work you'll hopefully see eventually.

I'll be attending SPX this weekend if anyone wants to track me down ;).

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Elon Musk Blooper Reel...

...is here, as a reminder that you can't make real progress, especially in rocket science, without sometimes having to blow some things up.


...with circus music as a bonus *laugh*.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Oh great...

There are now headlines saying getting the flu vaccine can cause a miscarriage.

No, there's a study that indicates women who get vaccinated for the flu regularly are more likely to have miscarriages. It's more likely showing that women with high risk pregnancies are more likely to get vaccinated.

Please, please get your shots *grumbles about how the anti-vaxx crowd don't need any more ammunition*

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

It makes a better mirror than a...

...window. Researchers at Imperial College London have created something which can change between a window and a mirror at the touch of a button - simply by applying voltage. And it's reusable as many times as required.

Makes one a little more wary of bathroom mirrors - but could also be very handy for the home of the future. They're working on dimmable windows, too.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Cassini's End

On Friday, after almost 20 years of amazing pictures and great science, the Cassini spacecraft will be intentionally crashed into Saturn. The probe, which is almost out of fuel, is being intentionally destroyed to ensure that it does not cause biological contamination of Titan or Enceladus.

Thanks to Cassini, we know a lot more about the Saturn "sub system" than we did when it was launched back in 1997....which makes me feel old. But all good things must come to an end and spaceships can only carry so much fuel. (Of course, some future probes may fly out using a solar sail...much more efficient!).

Friday, September 8, 2017

To Those...

...at risk from Hurricane Irma. Stay safe, stock up, know whether to leave or stay. It's going to be a nasty one.

It already is - the storm has flattened most of the buildings on the island of Barbuda and done a lot of damage to St. Martin island. And some parts of Puerto Rico may be without power for six months.

I suppose we were due after the last two very light seasons :/. But please, everyone, stay safe.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

"Class" canceled

In a move that surprised nobody, the Doctor Who spin off "Class" has been officially canceled. It had some very good moments (and some great characters), but was apparently plagued by poor show times and arguments between the show runner (who quit some time ago) and the network.

I'm mostly disappointed because the ending of the last episode was worse than the ending of Angel. Worse, because in addition to being a cliffhanger it actually...kind of annoyed me. There were some utterly unnecessary deaths.

It's a shame - it had a lot of potential. Now I'm hoping extra for a Desi companion on Dr Who. Chibnall, you listening?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Ill Winds...

When I came back into the US there were a bunch of signs about zika - the mosquito-borne virus that has been much in the news of late.

Zika is in the news because it can cause severe birth defects. Congenital Zika Syndrome includes microcephaly (in some cases including partial skull collapse), decreased brain tissue, eye damage, limited joint motion and excessive muscle development prior to birth. Pretty nasty - microcephaly can lead to seizures, vision and hearing problems (vision problems are particularly common here because there may also be damage to the eyes) and developmental disabilities. And the rate is high, at least 10 percent.

So, evil horrible virus, let's wipe it out like we did smallpox.

Brakes on.

Apparently, zika is more like one of those toxic plants - it can poison you or, in the right dose, used the right way, save your life.

The reason zika causes all of those defects is because it attacks stem cells in the brain. Pretty bad if you're an infant.

If you're an adult, though, then you shouldn't have many stem cells in your brain. If you do, then that's bad - because it means you have aggressive brain cancer.

So, apparently, we may be able to infect somebody's brain with zika to kill the stem cells that create tumors, probably when we do surgery to remove the big ones.

(It's worth noting that one of the most potentially useful viruses to insert genes into human cells for gene therapy is...HIV).

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Spirit of Shakespeare

The original globe was built in 1599 and burned down in 1613 after a cannon malfunctioned.

In 1997 - the year I graduated from college - Sam Wanamaker built a replica. I've been wanting to see a play there ever since.

And I finally did it. The performance was King Lear (not my favorite of Shakespeare's plays) - with Lear played by Kevin McNally (Gibbs from Pirates of the Caribbean) and an excellent cast.

It was...in some ways it was the second best Shakespeare I've ever seen. In others? It was the best.

See, what I was expecting was that the performance would match the theater - that it would be Elizabethan-styled.

That isn't what I got.

The actors wore costumes that looked like they went thrifting. The stage swords were sticks with painted-on hilts. On a number of occasions, actors were pushed onto and off the stage in a cage cart. Special effects combined the theater's electric lights...with drums being played by the cast.

And the casting - the casting was what happens when the director stops caring about anything but who is right for the part. Gloucester, Cornwall and Cordelia were black. France was south Asian. Everyone else was white, regardless of how much sense it made. Kent was a woman - because. Just, as far as I can tell, because the director wanted Saskia Reeves. In the grand tradition of principal boys, the Fool was played by a woman but still called a boy. (And I'd give something to see Anjana Vasan, their Cordelia, do Juliet while she's still young enough to pull it off).

My verdict was not "This is the best Shakespeare I've ever seen" so much as "This is the most authentic Shakespeare I've ever seen."

Because, see, people take two approaches to Shakespeare. Either they try to do it the way they envision the Elizabethan theatre - 'the way Shakespeare did it' - and put everyone in fancy Elizabethan outfits, use the best props that look Elizabethan, etc. Or they put it in a different era.

This is the only time I have ever seen a Shakespeare company do it the way Shakespeare would do it now. The hotch potch casting was not only interestingly diverse and genuinely using talent, but also recalled a small traveling company who had to cast the people they have (and don't you dare tell me there was never a black man or boy on Shakespeare's stage - maybe there wasn't, but there were certainly black people around in Elizabethan London, and some of them could have been actors). The only reason Shakespeare didn't use women on his stage was because it was not done - but the gender flipping, including the female Kent disguising herself as a man is exactly the kind of thing he would have done.

And it wasn't done as high art. That's the thing.

It was done as popular entertainment. It was people standing around the stage and actors running off stage right through the crowd, actors calling out into the audience (sadly, too many people were wearing their best theater manners). The audience was a little bit too sober, but this is what the Elizabethan theater was. It was popular entertainment, performed by players who often struggled, who cast the talent they had and developed that talent until it shone. Nancy Meckler, with the ability to pull talent (many top actors want to do Lear) for this performance chose to cast in a way that honored that.

And it was brilliant.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Back - and Updates!

Okay, so I'm back - and have news.

My short story "Salvage" was accepted for the Pirates & Ghosts anthology, to be produced by well-regarded British publisher Flame Tree Press.

I am absolutely thrilled to be part of this project - here's the official announcement.

(This puts me at three pro sales but, due to my short story sweet spot being a little, well, short, I still have to sell 2,800 words worth to be eligible for active SFWA membership, but that particular little career goal is getting closer).

If you're waiting for Sisterhood of the Blade - release has been slightly delayed because two authors were forced to drop out for personal reasons. This means we had to find two more writers who are now, well, writing away ;). I'm impatient too.


Friday, August 18, 2017

Out Of Here

Yes, because I'm an idiot and missed the memo on the eclipse - I'm going to be in Europe visiting family and vacat...ahem, doing research for the next two weeks. I won't be posting on this blog (the other blog has posts queued).

When I get back I'll be going right into edits on Rising Dawn (Lost Guardians #3).

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Next Frontier

NASA has selected six missions for further study as part of the Explorers Program.

The three full Explorers missions are:

1. Arcus - an X-ray spectroscopy mission to study the gas around stars, galaxies and galaxy clusters.

2. FINESSE - an infrared spectroscopy mission to study planet formation.

3. SPHEREx - a near-infrared imaging program that should tell us more about the beginning of the universe and evolution of galaxies.

Three more missions, called "missions of opportunity" are also being studied.

1. COSI-X - a gamma-ray telescope mounted in a balloon to study antimatter and radioactive elements.

2. ISS-TAO - an X-ray detector that will be put on the ISS to look for supernova shocks, neutron star bursts and neutron star mergers.

3. CASE - fine guidance detectors for the ESA"s exoplanet survey.

I think I'm most interested in SPHEREx and of course the exoplanet survey is important. Most likely - they're out there...

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

One step closer...

...to being able to 3D print replacement organs (I think we can all agree that not having to rely on donors is a good thing).

Researchers at Oxford and Bristol universities have come up with a high resolution scaffold that puts individual cells right where they need to be. The organs could be made using the recipient's own stem cells (or a donor's if there's some genetic reason not to use the patient's - but the patient's are better because it eliminates rejection).

Wouldn't it be great if everyone who needed a new liver or kidney could get one?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Acknowledge Them

The death of stuntwoman SJ Harris while filming Deadpool 2 is a highly tragic accident.

Harris was a professional stunt rider and road racer - something went wrong and it is likely her death was simply that. An accident.

This one was high profile, but in early July John Bernecker fell from a balcony while doing a stunt for the TV show "Walking Dead" - he also died.

Stuntmen (and women) have been risking their lives for our entertainment since the start of visual entertainment. Olivia Jackson lost her arm while doubling for Milla Jovovich in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (this was also a motorcycling accident). Harry O'Connor was killed in a parasailing accident while doubling for Vin Diesel in XXX. And, surprise surprise, a stuntman, Art Scholl, was killed filming the flight sequences for Top Gun.

Actors have also been injured doing their own stunts, but when a stuntman is injured or killed, much of the time no mention is ever made of it. We don't even know their names. (Whilst a lot of us remember Brandon Lee's death - he was shot with a blank, which is why they're very careful how they use blanks now).

So, I'd like to dedicate to SJ Harris a mention to all stuntmen and the dangerous work they do so we can escape reality for 90 minutes or 2 hours.

Monday, August 14, 2017

I...

...really hope that the celebrity deaths in threes isn't going to become awfully specific.

Victor Pemberton both acted in Doctor Who (in the 1967 episode Moonbase) and wrote precisely one Doctor Who arc.

So, why is he important?

Because in that sadly mostly-lost story, Fury From The Deep, he introduced something that is now one of the symbols of the show: The Sonic Screwdriver. (He also wrote one audio adventure and wrote the novelization of Fury from the Deep himself). He had a lot of experience in radio as well as TV. Oh, and he created the Lighthouse Keeper in Fraggle Rock, which Americans probably won't understand the importance of.

Pemberton died today at the age of 85.

Friday, August 11, 2017

British Fruitcake

....has to be one of the most inedible creations ever made by man. It's even worse than American fruitcake.

So when somebody said they found 100-year-old fruitcake in Antarctica that was "almost edible" I knew it had to be British fruitcake. (It was, it was dropped by Scott's expedition). Because fruitcake is only almost edible anyway.

(Why yes, I am ribbing on my own country. You're allowed to join in. Ugh, fruitcake).

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Shooting Stars

If you're planning on observing the Perseids this year, the fireworks show will peak on August 12 at...1pm. In other words, you want to be out the night before or the night after. The recommended time is before dawn on August 12.

Unfortunately, the moon will be full, which won't help for meteor viewing - you need to get out of the city to get a good view.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Largest Land Animal...

...is some kind of brontosaurus, right?

Actually, it's now Patagotitan mayorum - weighing in at 152,000 pounds. That's ten times the weight of the largest elephants.

Scientists believe this is close to the maximum size for an animal in our gravity. (And likely land animals could not get this big right now due to the lower oxygen compared to the Cretaceous).

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Godzilla!

The signature Japanese monster was introduced in 1954 as a cautionary tale about nuclear weapons.

And he rapidly became an international phenomenon. In fact, Godzilla movies are still being made today - there's one scheduled for release in 2019. Kaiju - the Japanese word for monster - has developed a specific meaning in English and we talk about kaiju movies.

In 1954 there was no CGI and not really any animatronics. So, how did they do the monster?

The answer: A stuntman in a suit. And the man they hired was Haruo Nakajima - who had four credits as a stuntman in Samurai movies at the time. He was given no briefing on how to play the monster - so he spent hours at the zoo, looking at elephants, bears and other creatures to create the distinctive gait (and, of course, the distinctive victory dance).

Most people who aren't serious monster movie fans don't even know Nakajima's name (a common fate for stuntmen) - even though he played Godzilla 12 times and also took a turn as King Kong, Baragon, Matango, Rodan...basically, he played monsters (and on occasion swordsmen). He retired from acting in 1973, no doubt exhausted from all of those rubber suits. His last outing as Godzilla was in Godzilla vs. Gigan.

Nakajima died this week at the age of 88 after a struggle with pneumonia. I'm going to go attempt that dance now. Doesn't work as well without the rubber suit.

Monday, August 7, 2017

And a followup...

...on the eclipse glasses thing. Here's another great way to safely get an interesting look at our sun during the eclipse.

It's called a pinhole viewer and you can make it out of an old cereal box.

Please don't ever stare directly at the sun with your unprotected eyes. Please.

Friday, August 4, 2017

If...

...you are not, like me, the idiot who planned a trip ages ago and didn't hear about the eclipse until you'd already planned on being in the other hemisphere...

Then be very careful about viewing the eclipsed sun. Apparently, some companies are selling eclipse glasses that don't meet proper safety standards.

The correct standard is ISO 12312-2 - it'll be printed on the glasses. This is for US - other countries will have their own standards. Also, don't look at the sun for too long anyway.

Let's not have anyone go blind, okay?

Thursday, August 3, 2017

All Creatures...

...Great And Small.

Those who know me know I keep my funny bone in an odd place. The majority of comedies do nothing for me...or, worse, are just plain annoying. The rare exceptions tend to be British.

British sit coms just aren't like anything made anywhere else. And British sitcoms that come with cute animals, well...

All Creatures Great And Small ran from 1978 to 1990 and starred Christopher Timothy, Peter Davison (Yes that Peter Davison) and Robert Hardy.

The last is probably better known to readers of this blog as Cornelius Fudge. Hardy was also well known for playing Winston Churchill (in Churchill: 100 Days That Saved Britain, Agatha Christie's Marple (The Sittaford Mystery), the mini-series War and Remembrance and another mini-series Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years. Talk about being typecast. For sci-fi fans, he also showed up in The Lost World TV movie, a Gulliver's Travels mini-series, a Frankenstein movie (Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in 1994) and an episode of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

He was active for over 70 years.

Robert Hardy died today at the age of 91.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

One step closer...

...to the first genetically modified humans. Scientists at Oregon Health & Science University were able to edit out a disease causing gene from viable human embryos.

The technique is not yet ready to try on embryos intended for implantation (the success rate was only about fifty percent, although none of the successfully edited embryos showed other changes) - but the ethical issues are already being raised. Is it okay, for example, to change somebody's genome without their consent? (I would argue that yes, if it's done to save their life or prevent them from developing an unpleasant disease. Maybe my friend with cystic fibrosis can weigh in on this).

Of course, some people think it should be made illegal because, well, it's apparently worth having dead kids to prevent designer babies. (I think you can tell where I stand).

I firmly believe that yes, we should pursue this, but with appropriate care and consideration for, above all else, the health and welfare of any children that result.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Houston, We Have A...

...kickstarter?

The historic Mission Control room from which the Apollo missions were monitored is in an abysmal state. It's been left to decay (and looted by souvenir seekers).

So, NASA has responded with, no joke, a kickstarter.

They've already met their goal of $250,000 - but I'm sure they could use a little bit more cash.

(And you can get the t-shirt).

Everyone's crowdfunding these days...

Monday, July 31, 2017

Feminism in Unexpected Places

I don't talk about being a feminist much - mostly because, unfortunately, some people have taken it away from my own definition of feminism (for example, I honestly despise some aspects of "radical feminism"). But the truth is, I am one. And I've been thinking this weekend about finding feminist messages in strange and unexpected places in media.

The Deadpool movie is a recent example - complete with non-sexualized teenagers (and female villains) and a guy in the exploitative "bearskin rug" pose.

But right now I'm thinking of a much older work that has a feminist message most people miss:

Cats.

Yes, I do mean the musical based off of a silly poetry book about a bunch of cats. Which I finally got to see on Broadway (the current revival closes December 30, so if you happen to be in New York...it's an excellent performance). I already knew the plot, I knew and had sung most of the songs, but nothing compares to seeing it on the stage.

Yes, that musical. That's basically a series of song and dance numbers with a thin plot as a framing mechanism.

Most, but not all, of the songs are taken from T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. The musical's signature song, Memory (covered over 150 times) is not, however. And the character who sings it, Grizabella, was cut from the original book for being too sad, with only a fragment of her poem surviving. The message behind her, thus, is entirely the work of Andrew Lloyd Webber and the director, Trevor Nunn, who wrote the extra lyrics.

The framing device used for the songs is that the leader of the Jellicle Cats, Old Deuteronomy, is selecting one cat to go to the Heaviside Layer (i.e. Heaven) and be reborn. At the Jellicle Ball, the case is made for various felines.

One of them is Gus the Theater Cat. Gus is the old, washed up actor, who mostly has only stories of his glory days but is, nonetheless, respected and adored as he talks at the stage door.

And the other, of course, is Grizabella the Glamor Cat. Who is shunned and despised by all of the cats. Why?

Because she's not beautiful any more.

Even as a child I sensed the unfairness, but I had to get into my twenties to understand what the unfairness was.

Gus is the old actor, respected even though he can't really do it any more.

Grizabella is...the former leading lady. Cats was first staged in 1981 - 36 years ago. And yet, we still see it going on. Harrison Ford looks fantastic, Carrie Fisher looked old and tired and sad. Women in Hollywood simply aren't allowed to age...once they do, they're put on the shelf and forgotten.

And yes, sometimes despised and hissed at.

Webber was, of course, a theater person. He had been writing musicals since 1965, although his first effort wasn't published until 2005. But he saw success in 1968 with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He must have known theater.

And he must have seen women pushed aside because they were too old. He must have seen the focus on looks.

So in Cats he takes Grizabella from a fragment of a poem, puts her center stage, shows us how she is treated and then literally sends her to heaven to be reborn.

But people still think it's a silly musical about cats.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Heading Out

Heading out of town for a small trip to New York to celebrate my 20th anniversary (and probably, because it's me, get in some research).

A couple of updates before I leave:

1. I've been confirmed as a guest for Farpoint Convention next February. The writer Guest of Honor will be, once more, Timothy Zahn - who's well worth seeing and hearing from.

2. The Equal Opportunity Madness anthology conceived a couple of years ago at Balticon is finally available as an ebook. Print books should be available soon. It contains my story "Golem." If you are coming to Farpoint and let me know well ahead of time I will take pre-orders. (I'm trying to save most of my luggage space for Lost Guardians books).

3. Lost Guardians #3 is progressing well. I don't have a launch date yet but am trying to get it done and available for, you guessed it, Farpoint.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Alternate History and This Thing With The Bad Guys Winning

Alternate timelines in which the bad guys win are starting to turn into the new vampires - the trend we've all seen enough of but which people are jumping on the coattails of nonetheless.

Unless you hide under a rock and avoid social media you'll have heard about the controversy of the new TV show Confederate, set in a world in which, ding, the South won the Civil War. And the explosion about it indicates just how done people are with it. (It doesn't help that the show is going to be run by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who's handling of GoT has not exactly been the best in terms of gender or race).

But it's not just that "Two white guys are making a show about slavery" - it's a symptom of the fact that people, right now, simply don't want stories in which the bad guys won. Even if it's alternate history. Agents of SHIELD experienced a 15% drop in audience three episodes in to their Agents of HYDRA arc, where the bad guys won...in virtual reality.

And again, you'd have to be living under a rock not to hear just how done a large proportion of the Marvel fanbase are with Secret Empire...and were before it even started.

It doesn't help that the bad guys that keep winning are white supremacists, when a lot of people are starting to fear that they may be winning in real life too.

And maybe, just maybe, people are a little tired of dystopias in general? I don't know. But I do think that if you're considering writing a story in which the bad guys won (most especially an alternate history in which the South won the Civil War or Hitler won World War II) you might want to put it on the shelf right next to the novel I started about the Second Great Depression...right as the Great Recession started. Oops.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Is European Fantasy "Done"?

...well, in some ways it's more popular than ever, given the Game of Thrones TV show. But a lot of readers complain that all fantasy is set in Europe.

Truth is, what they actually mean is it's all influenced by Tolkein. And there's nothing wrong with that - the work of Elizabeth Moon, for example, shows that northern European fantasy can still be good. It can, however, be a little bit boring.

Lately, the push has been to go outside Europe for inspiration, but that then runs up against (in my mind stupid) arguments about cultural appropriation and stereotyping.

Well, back in 1992, Lois McMaster Bujold (better known for the Vorkosigan Saga) wrote a book which shows there's still plenty of space in Europe.

The Spirit Ring is a true historical fantasy - it's history written as if magic was real. And it's set in...Renaissance Italy.

This is a brilliant choice. Southern Europe seldom shows up in either historical or secondary world fantasy. Take note, kids - and consider Spain, Italy or even Greece as setting or inspiration.

On top of that, Bujold's female lead, Fiametta, is...

...black.

She's black Italian. Her mother came from Africa - but was never a slave, and Fiametta is treated no differently from other women of her class. She's also a nice, strong female character who never, at any point, comes off as a "guy with breasts."

I got my copy second hand at a convention, but I've checked, the book IS available, although the hardcovers available are mostly in only decent condition, so I was glad to get mine.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Deborah Watling

I'm not happy to be talking about Doctor Who again - not happy at all.

One of the things I've missed about the new series is the avoidance of multiple Companions. When we did get them, we had lovers (Amy and Rory) or characters who barely seemed to know each other (Bill and Nardole).

The first Doctor had no less than three Companions (the word assistant was also used, but fandom dropped it a lot more quickly than many people think).

The second also had more than one, and, for 40 episodes in 1967 and 68 (remember, 25 minute episodes), he had two - Jamie and Victoria.

Deborah Watling played Victoria Waterford, the girl of the pairing (she was only 19 at the time, and the character was 14-15 years old). She was "rescued" by the Doctor after her father was killed by Daleks. The dynamic between the three was very close to a family. She returned to 1960s Earth to live a normal life - leaving Jamie bereft of his "kid sister."

Oh, and she was from the 19th century (another artificial limitation of NuWho is the lack of companions from the past, unless you count Me). Like a lot of early Companions she had a bad habit of screaming a lot (a tradition I'm glad NuWho has dropped).

She was the Companion hardest hit by the BBCs policy of not keeping episodes - only just over half of her episodes have been found so far.

In addition to Doctor Who Watling (who was the British equivalent of a high school dropout) also played Alice - as a nod to that Who established that Vicki was, at one point, photographed by Charles Dodson) and was prominent in The Newcomers in 1969. She was originally a child actor, making her first TV appearance at the age of 9...and her last in the Five(ish) Doctors in 2013.

She was only 69 years old.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

If you...

...have more time than I do, NASA just did one of their infamous mass uploads. This time, it's hundreds of historical aerospace videos. 500 videos of experimental flight including early space shuttle type. I think I'm going to have to walk away now.

The videos are coming from the Armstrong Flight Research Center. And they include blowing up a Boeing 720.

Kaboom!


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wow...

A Republican Congressman asked NASA if it was true there was a civilization on Mars thousands of years ago.

I realize he's a Republican but really, Dana Rohrabacher, do your basic research before asking scientists stupid questions in public. ;) (Okay, at some levels, there's no such thing as a truly stupid question, but...)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Because I did promise.

So, I saw it this weekend. And it wasn't the best superhero movie I've ever seen.

What it was, was the best young adult superhero movie I've ever seen.

And that matters, because the superhero universe, on the whole, caters poorly to the middle grade and young adult audience. Kids grow out of all ages comics and seldom have anything to grow into. Ms Marvel is without a doubt the best YA comic right now, but it has very little competition.

Homecoming was a true YA movie. I've complained in the past about "YA creep" - the tendency to classify anything with a protagonist so much as a day under 18 as YA whether it is or not. Hunger Games being a classic example.

Peter is fifteen - and looks and acts fifteen. He has to deal with teenaged problems - being teased and bullied, sneaking out of the house, finding a date to Homecoming. Being neither a child nor an adult. Not being taken seriously.

He's also fighting bad guys. But the superheroics is spliced in neatly with what closely resembles a classic 80s high school comedy. (Watch for the mascot). It's a fun movie. You get to see Spidey learning to be a hero and learning to improve his classic banter. And getting things dropped on him, of course.

I have to give this movie kudos for knowing what it needed to be.

I also have to give them some major diversity points - and not just for casting Zendaya to play MJ (she actually looked great except for not being ginger).

No, this movie did background diversity right in a world where so many movies are doing it wrong. The kids in the school looked like I would expect kids at a magnet school in New York to look - a great mix of white, black, Asian, etc. It felt right and looked realistic rather than the checklisting that's becoming sadly prominent (claims of "forced diversity" are 99% BS, but some people really do make their diversity look forced). And, of course, we didn't have the "There's one black kid in Smallville and it's Pete Ross" phenomenon.

Oh, and it's full of easter eggs - the black guy on the bad guys' team is Miles Morales' uncle (which I missed because I've never tracked Morales that much). Two Deadpool jokes - one in dialog and one in the end credits. And if that white haired girl seen a couple of the times in the background isn't Felicia Hardy they're wasting the actor.

So, yes. A lot of fun.

Watch for the mascot.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Lady Versions - Gender, Doctor Who, Thirteen and Role Models

So - I was going to write a review of Spider-Man: Homecoming today. You'll get that tomorrow because the BBC decided to rather abruptly distract me.

This is the face of Thirteen:


This is Jodie Whittaker - from Huddersfield, Yorkshire, and previously known for Attack The Block and Broadchurch. I've never actually seen either of those. So, I can't judge her as an actor, not fairly. I've been looking at Youtube clips of some of her past roles - the BBC has a little compilation here.

The thing that strikes me about the clips I've seen is her control over her body language, probably because she's done a lot of theater work. For a physically demanding role, that's important. She moves differently when she's acting than when she's herself in a very obvious way.

But, of course, the reactions have been many, varied, and not all of them positive. I don't think there's been more hate over the casting than there was over Matt Smith (Too young!) or Peter Capaldi (Too old!) - but it has been more intense hate. The Doctor Who groups on Facebook have been full of some pretty nasty comments. Memes with Capaldi's face and "The Last Doctor." "The only reason for a female doctor is feminism". Comments about the Doctor was designed as a role model for boys. Jokes about not being able to park the TARDIS (Which are hilarious because the Doctor has NEVER been able to park the TARDIS correctly). Nurse Who jokes. "It makes it less science fiction" was probably the one which offended me the most.

The winner, of course, is "Nobody wants a TARDIS full of bras." Which Don Sakers pointed out rhythms perfectly with "Yellow submarine." As in "We all live in a TARDIS full of bras." Because I've been suffering with that since yesterday, so you have to too.

But.

Is there a legitimate complaint about a female Doctor?

There's one - it takes away a male role model who is not traditionally or toxically masculine. The Doctor has always subverted masculinity. Always. His weapon is a screwdriver - what are screwdrivers used to do? Make things. Build things. He defeats his enemies with words combined with sheer grit and determination. He eschews guns and swords. And...they have a point. They have a very good point. We do need those kinds of role models - but it highlights something else.

I was a little girl. And as a little girl I sought role models on screen. You know what?

Most of them were male.

The first female character I actually wanted to be was Emma Peel. I don't remember many others. The women in the shows I watched were often sidekicks. They were Companions, they were the Amazing Friends not the Spider-Man. So, who did I look up to? I looked up to Spider-Man, my first superhero "love." The boys of International Rescue, because who actually wanted to be Lady Penelope. Superman. Luke Skywalker - oh, I loved Leia, but I could tell she wasn't the lead. Spock - more than Kirk - because as cool as Uhura was, as a little girl I didn't understand how important her role as xenolinguist was.

And, of course, the Doctor.

Little girls have historically had to look up to male role models (even worse for little girls who aren't white).

Little boys have the luxury of not having to do that.

And little boys who never look up to women, respect them, and learn from them turn into men who don't respect women either.

So, yes, it's a good point, but: Little boys need to learn to look up to Thirteen.

And how do they learn?

The key to doing this right is going to be...the Companion. We don't know who will be chosen yet. But...and I know some feminists will howl at me for this because some already are howling about how the departure of Pearl Mackie is because "we can't have two female leads"...it needs to be a boy.

It needs to be a boy who learns to look up to the Doctor, to respect her, and shows little boys that looking up to a woman does not emasculate you.

(And for ratings' sake should be reasonably attractive so the young heterosexual women have somebody to drool over, which was one of the issues with Capaldi).

But I hope Chibnall is thinking about this - and I hope that whoever the Companion is they keep the balance.

Oh, and if the negative comments above depress you, here are some points to cheer you up.
1. Alex Kingston wants to come back to hit on her as River Song *ducks*
2. Colin Baker is over the moon because he thinks his daughters will love this.
3. Little girls squeeing in happiness.
4. LOTS of little girls squeeing in happiness.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Okay, People

Quantum teleportation is not:

1. The physical movement of any matter.
2. A precursor to matter transmitters.
3. Anything that can remotely lead, dear BBC-who-knows-better to teleporting people.

Quantum teleportation is:

1. A remarkably secure way to move information.

Also. Sunday Sunday Sunday...

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Guess Who...

So, I went over my picks for the next Doctor back in February. We still don't know who it is.

Neither, mysteriously, does Rachel Talalay, who directed the Christmas Special - which should, per tradition, end with a regeneration scene. So, where is Thirteen?

And who is Thirteen?

A lot of people want it to be Phoebe Waller-Bridges, but unless she's secretly a superfan I can't see her giving her up her own show that she writes to be the Doctor.

But by using that little titbit of Thirteen not being present on set, I applied a bit of logic and came up with a reasonable guess as to who it is.

My educated guess, which is logical and thus probably wrong is:

Richard Ayoade.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Tips To Avoid Scammy Publishers

A follow-up to yesterday - here are a few things to watch for when submitting to small presses:

1. Publishers do not exist to help aspiring writers. They may have that as part of their goal, but publishers exist to help readers. If the website focuses on "helping writers" then that means writers, not readers, are their customers. This is a classic sign of the stealth vanity press - the publisher that only attaches a dollar amount to the contract when they send it to you.

2. As I said yesterday, look at the publishers' product. I recommend buying two books - one in your electronic format of choice and one in print (if they do print). Is the quality acceptable? How many typos - a couple are acceptable, a lot are not? What does the layout look like?

3. Look at their existing authors. How many do they have? If it's only two and three and more than one have the same last name - I suggest waiting rather than risking on what's obviously a self publisher moving into publishing other people. Some people have made that leap successfully. Most fail.

4. Do not sign over rights the publisher will not be exercising. I.e., do not sign over the audiobook rights unless the publisher does audiobooks and has a strong history of doing them right. Try to keep as many of your rights as you can. Never sign over the copyright.

5. Make sure the contract has some kind of sunset/reversion clause. A good publisher will have periodic opportunities to renegotiate the contract. Look also for a way to get your rights back if the book isn't selling. What if the company goes out of business.

6. Do not sign a non-compete unless it is very limited. It is good manners not to release your self-published book the same month as the one your publisher is doing, but saying you won't release anything for a couple of years? That's too much. If the publisher wants first refusal on your next book, make sure that is time limited - give them X days (90 is standard, but 60 is better) to consider it rather than letting them sit on it.

(Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and cannot give actual legal advice. This is based on the experiences of myself and others).

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Recent Reads

So, I won a book raffle at Balticon and have finally got through my, uh, winnings.

First up, Bud Sparhawk's collection "Non-Parallel Universes." I admit to bias here. Bud is not just a fantastic writer of short stories but fun to hang out with in convention bars. I already owned some of the stories in this collection, due to his regular contributions to Analog, but some were new to me. All excellent, as always.

Second - The Biggest Bounty by Brian Koscienski and Chris Pisano. I was quite skeptical about this book - it's not exactly serious and I keep my funny bone in a very odd place. So I was delighted and surprised to find I loved it. It's basically the same tone and feel as Guardians of the Galaxy - so I highly recommend it to GotG fans.  It's about two less than competent bounty hunters bumbling their way towards...well, yeah. The biggest bounty ever.

Third - Three short novels by Diana Bastine. I did these, I swear, in the order I read them. I liked the look of these - Source, Shapeshifter, and Selkie. They focus on fairies, which I am inordinately fond of.

I was...profoundly disappointed.

First of all, the print layout of these books was literally the worst I'd ever seen. I know mine's not great (Uh, yeah, I do know there should be headers) but I don't double space. Or leave Word artifacts in the book. To be fair, it was remarkably clean and typo-free, but the layout was terrible. Brief research indicated that it was even worse than I thought. Bastine's publisher, Helm Publishing, appears to be a vanity press. Assuming I have the right Helm Publishing, and I think I do, the publisher has two thumbs down from Writer Beware. Now, Bastine has got her rights back and the books will be re-released. I don't know what happened, of course. I do know that the layout is too shoddy for any publisher to put their name to. But I'm inclined to see Bastine as a victim of the desire to be published.

Second, unfortunately, I found Bastine's knowledge of fairies to be insufficient (Most especially, she doesn't seem to know the difference between Tuatha de Danaan and Cait Sidhe). If you aren't bothered by that the way I am, the books are fun, and hopefully the new versions (apparently e-only) won't have the layout issues these do. And she does get diversity points for having same sex couples and treating them as pretty much normal (except for the homophobic bad guy, of course :P). But I found it very hard to get past the layout issues.

Tip #1: Never pay to be published.
Tip #2: If you are signing with a publisher, get your hands on their finished print books so you know they make a quality product.

At the same time, I acquired "If We Had Known" - a science fiction anthology of "cautionary tales" by e-Spec books. To end on a good note, this book was also excellent and enjoyable and I highly recommend it. (I figured it would be from the names in the TOC, but...)

Monday, July 10, 2017

Fingers Crossed

Virgin Galactic is about to resume powered testing after the 2014 crash that killed one test pilot and injured another. They say they will be on track to test the VSS Unity this fall.

Fingers crossed for no more problems and a safe return to flight!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Toxic Planet

Turns out the surface of Mars is even more hazardous than we thought.

We knew perchlorates in Martian soil were deadly. It turns out they're even more deadly when combined with straight up UV light...likely rendering the Martian surface completely uninhabitable. This doesn't mean there's no life, though.

It's just likely to be life IN Mars, not life ON Mars.


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Check out...

NASA's amazing images of Jupiter's Great Red Spot. Which we're studying before it, well, ends. The storm is shrinking rapidly - and while it has been around since at least 1830, it's still a hurricane. No storm lasts forever.

Juno will pass over the storm at 7:06pm PDT on July 10 - giving us the closest look at the storm yet.

Find some of the images here: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/earth-based-views-of-jupiter-to-enhance-juno-flyby/

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Snorting...

...chocolate? Seriously? What's the point of that?

Oh man, it's even worse. It has all those "energy" herbs. Don't do it, people. Here, have a Hershey's bar.

In more serious news - the FLASH! anthology is currently on schedule for a late July or early August launch - thank you to everyone who backed the kickstarter.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Secrets of Rome

I have to admit - I have something of a fascination with ancient Rome. At this point we've regained most of their technology and, of course, gone past it in many areas.

But there's one thing Rome was still better at: Sea walls.

And with climate change, we need good sea walls. The secret? The Romans worked out to make concrete that chemically reacts with seawater - in a way which makes the concrete stronger.

Of course, it'll probably take years to work out the full formula, but if we can - well, Roman concrete didn't need to be reinforced (and it's the metal reinforcements that fail, in most cases), didn't erode over time...

How?

It just so happened that the minerals they need were plentiful in volcanic soil...

Monday, July 3, 2017

Heroes Wear Masks

I've been doing a fair bit of work for this line, including this:

Heroes Wear Masks 5th Edition

And, as a companion:

HWM Powers 5E Version

These books are intended for diehard D&D fans that want to do a superhero game using a familiar system. I do recommend getting the Powers book as well as it allows much more flexibility.

Friday, June 30, 2017

No child sex ring on Mars?

Not a plot for a pulp story and probably not usable now - but the bizarre claim was made by Robert David Steele on the Alex Jones show. Apparently there's a colony on Mars, and NASA shipped off a bunch of kids there 20 years ago who are now child slaves on Mars (Unless NASA has invented cryogenic suspension or a stasis field and not told us...) Oh, and slaves to whom? That part isn't clear either.

The worst part is that NASA actually had to spend time refuting this nonsense.

Mr. Steele, just write the book, don't try to get us to believe it's real...

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Fallen Dark!

It's here!


The sequel to Falling Dusk pits Anna and Victor against a dangerously insane young woman and a slew of demons.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073FTFMVX
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/733025
CreateSpace paperback: https://www.createspace.com/7241788

I will post again when the paperback is on Amazon and again as things percolate to other retailers (iBooks can take a couple of weeks, unfortunately).

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

If You're Not British...

...then you might not understand Paddington Bear. (Maybe. He's a popular souvenir).

Paddington Bear was a fictional character - a bear in a hat, duffle coat and welly boots who appeared in more than 20 books, several television series and a movie (with another being made). And pretty much every kid had one - starting way back in 1958.

It all started when a BBC cameraman was doing his Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve - and spotted a lonely stuffed bear on a shelf near Paddington station.

"Paddington" was well received, but inspired the man to create the fictional character of a homeless stowaway bear from "Darkest Peru" - a character who often appeared with a luggage tag around his neck in memory of the wartime evacuee children.

That cameraman was named Michael Bond, and he also wrote the Detective Pamplemousse novels for adults.

Michael Bond died Tuesday,a at the age of 91 - but Paddington Bear lives on.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The fate of stars

How about this one? WD1202-04 is a white dwarf, what's left of a dead star. It has a brown dwarf orbiting so close together that eventually they will hit each other and explode.

To make things even more interesting, when the white dwarf was a red giant, the brown dwarf was inside it. Which should have torn it apart, but nope. It survived, likely barely (unlike any planets in the system).

Weird, eh? We keep finding all kinds of different stars and planets out there, and few of them seem to follow what we thought were the rules...

Monday, June 26, 2017

How many planets?

Eight? Nine? Ten? Eleven?

Arguments about the status of Pluto aside (and some people are obviously arguing that if Pluto counts so does Eris, even Ceres), new research indicates there may not only be one planet-sized object in the outer system.

The "presence" of the new planet may be revealed by alterations in the orbital plane of Kuiper Belt objects. If it exists, it's about the same size as Mars.


Friday, June 23, 2017

The Lights of Sand Island

Yes, two in one week.

I'm taking players to Duluth, Minnesota, for The Lights of Sand Island, a one-off adventure for the vs. Ghosts line (vs. M engine). It's designed to be easy for convention play and similar.

It's also based off of a real life shipwreck - highlighting how dangerous Lake Superior can be even today, and much more so before ships routinely carried radar...

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Space Junk

It's a huge problem - in 2013, NASA was tracking 500,000 pieces of debris. The big fear is what's known as "Kessler syndrome" - a chain reaction of satellite destruction that could interdict us from large parts of Earth's orbit.

A smaller issue is that people have, yes, been hit by space debris. Lottie Williams, for example, was hit by part of a propellant tank in 1997 (she was uninjured).

Part of the solution is that we now care a lot more about what happens to obsolete and defunct satellites. GEO satellites, for example, are obliged to carry enough fuel to move them to an out of the way "graveyard" orbit. Other satellites are designed to de-orbit - to burn up intentionally in the atmosphere.

But in the long term, we need to do something about the hazards to navigation. The most common concept is a "space janitor" - a robot satellite that is designed to collect pieces of space junk.

Emilien Fabicher has an interesting - and exciting - proposal. His robot would use a strong magnetic beam to chase down defunct satellites and alter their orbit, either sending them into the atmosphere or into a better parking orbit.

The magnetic beam would grab satellites at a range of 10 to 15 meters and then shift their orbit.

We science fiction fans have a word for this.

It's called a tractor beam.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Fallen Dark Cover Reveal!

And...here it is!


Woot!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

New Release!

Well, technically it was posted on Saturday, but I didn't want to do this over crappy hotel wi-fi (I managed to draw a room that appeared to have no decent LOS with the receiver).

The release is the first of the Dark Hold Goblin Adventures, designed to be used with the main setting book (You might be able to use it without, but I'd recommend getting both). It's a classic dungeon crawl that should take most groups 1-2 sessions to complete.

The PDF is available through RPGNow.

The print book can be purchased from Rebel Minis own site here.

And for a little optional extra, the titular Cerebeast can be found in miniature form. (Yes, the mini came first).

Monday, June 19, 2017

Back!

Safely back to Virginia. Very, very tired, so no real post tonight - just letting everyone know I'm home.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

...and Batman

Batman is often seen as the darkest of DCs heroes (By people who don't know about the Punisher).

But there was an antidote. From 1966-1968, Adam West starred as Batman in a TV show that was lighthearted, fun, and embraced its comics-driven goofiness. With Burt Ward as Robin, the show went as far as to add visual sound effects. It also gave us Eartha Kitt as Catwoman (Julie Newmar did more episodes, but Kitt is the one people tend to remember).

The show was flamboyant and very much part of the sixties - although I'd argue that the current Flash TV show catches much of its spirit. Oh, and of all the actors that have played Batman, only West is the correct height per the "vital statistics" DC provides for the character - 6'2.

West and Ward returned in The New Adventures of Batman for a single season in 1977, but the magic was apparently gone - times had changed. But he didn't entirely give up on being Batman - he reprised the role in Legends of the Superheroes (1979) and as a voice actor in Superfriends: The Legendary Super Powers Show (1984), The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians (1985), Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016) and the Robot Chicken DC Comics Special 3: Magical Friendship. And he played the Mayor in The Batman, voiced the Grey Ghost in Batman: The Animated Series and voiced both Thomas Wayne and Proto-Bot in Batman: The Brave and the Bold. His last "appearance" as Batman? It will be released later this year, an animated direct to video Batman vs. Two-Face movie, perhaps closing the circle. (Burt Ward also returns as Robin, Julie Newmar as Catwoman, and William Shatner will be voicing Harvey Dent).

And he also appeared in some other superhero shows - Powerless, Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero, The Super Hero Squad Show, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, the 1990s Flash series, and the short lived vigilante show Black Scorpion, in which he played a villain. One starts to get the feeling he liked being in superhero shows - but his extensive filmography also includes Family Guy, FanAddicts!, The Fairly OddParents, The Secret Files of the SpyDogs, Danger Theatre, The Last Precinct, The Detectives and a wide variety of random appearances in all kinds of things.

In other words, he was a versatile actor, but he was always Batman - to the point where he became a character himself - he played himself in Space Ghost Coast To Coast, Hope & Gloria, Murphy Brown, The King of Queens, etc. People tend not to think of Adam West as a real person.

Which might explain why even some non-fan blogs I follow have stopped to mourn.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Wonder Woman

I've been boycotting DC movies since the utter fiasco that was Man of Steel, which led me to the conclusion that Zack Snyder should not be allowed anywhere near Superman.

Watching Wonder Woman allowed me to come to an analysis as to why: Snyder thinks Superman is a warrior. Superman is not. That reluctance to fight, that struggle with responsibility and power is not there in Snyder's Superman.

Snyder did not direct Wonder Woman - but was involved in the script. And Wonder Woman shows a different side of the hero's conflict - the knowledge that in order for there to be peace some have to fight.

The movie was a period piece and an origin story - and a war movie. And to helm it the studio made a risky choice.

Patty Jenkins. She hadn't directed a movie since Monster in 2003, only a handful of TV episodes and TV movies. She's won awards, and Charlize Theron won an Oscar for her performance in Monster, but looking at her filmography makes one go "Why her?" A serial killer movie, an episode of Arrested Development, two episodes of Entourage (a series about Hollywood), two episodes of The Killing (crime/cop show), one episode of Betrayal (drama), a TV movie about a journalist.

There's been a criticism circling that has merit: Jenkins is not an action director.

And it made a huge difference. Because Jenkins is not an "action director" she was not caught up in the ways people film action. Her fight sequences were refreshingly clean, making it easy to keep track of what was going on (although there was some bullet time we could have done without). Her choices of camera angle were different and in this case different is good. Maybe we need a few less "action directors."

Moving on to the movie itself. The choice to cast primarily athletes as the non-speaking Amazon warriors was brilliant. They looked like fighting women, not supermodels. I also had no idea Chris Pine looked like Steve Trevor. Must have been the hair.

The language off between Diana and Sammy/Sameer was...well, I have never seen a language off before, and it was brilliant. Sameer, ably played by Moroccan Said Taghmaoui, was a well-designed character and used as an opportunity "I'm the wrong color" to subtly point out the racism of the time without hitting us over the head with it. Plus, more brown people in my superhero movies, please.

The Chief - omg, the Chief. The decision to include a version of Apache Chief in the movie could have been terrible. Given Hollywood's record, I would have expected it to be terrible, with some white guy cast and lots of hand signals.

Instead, they dropped the Apache and cast a Canadian Blackfoot, Eugene Brave Rock in the part. They let him use his own language, and although the smoke signals part was a little bit eye-rolly, they turned the character into a comment on colonialism, not the disgusting stereotype I was afraid we would be getting. (And spoiler: Ares is a suave Englishman. Because of course he is).

Lucy Davis was an awesome Etta Candy.

The bait and switch with the sword was also awesome. Loved 8 year old Diana - so cute.

And spoiler: Thanks for actually having Trevor die not be miraculously rescued, because this is a WAR MOVIE.

So, on to the bad parts...because although I thoroughly enjoyed this movie there were a couple of things that got in the way.

1. It would have made a much stronger comment on gender roles, patriarchy and, you know, all the things Wonder Woman is supposed to mean if they had stuck with the original and had the Amazons created by Hera. Instead, they were made by Zeus. Seriously? Why? What was the point of this change?

2. The opening. Sorry, writers, but ex-PO-sition. Stop it! The movie would have gone from good to great if it had started with Diana leaping off the cliff to rescue Steve Trevor (yes, we'd have lost baby Diana, but as awesome as she was, we did not need Hippolyte's dark idea of a bedtime story), and if the key information had been given to Steve, who would not be expected to know it, in dialogue. The weakness of the scriptwriters was soliloquys and speeches, so we needed fewer of them. They committed the Sin of Prologue (Prologues are not always bad, mind).

Friday, June 9, 2017

Friday Update

Okay!

So - most of this week has been working on the next adventure for my campaign and whipping Fallen Dark into shape for publication.

And...it's "finished." (Air quotes because I know well that when I get the print proof I will spot more typos. Just the way the world works). Cover art has been ordered. I'm now aiming to release on July 7, assuming my cover artist doesn't get sick and Createspace doesn't lose my proof again. (Which shouldn't happen - we do seem to have finally expunged all instances of my old address from their database, but...)

I'll keep everyone updated. Now's a good time to snag Fallen Dusk if you don't already have it.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

NASA's Lastest Invention...

...is crumb-free bread. Yup.

It might sound weird, but breadcrumbs are dangerous in microgravity. Bread has, in fact, been banned in space since some Gemini astronauts contaminated the circuitry with a corned beef sandwich. Instead, astronauts eat wraps made with tortilla, which doesn't make crumbs.

Various dough mixes and oven types will be tested soon. (Although personally, I'd be just as happy with the tortillas).

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

How many human species again?

Neanderthals. Denisovans. And, of course "modern" humans.

The assumption that modern humans appeared in east Africa as a new species has been challenged - by remains found in Morocco and all over the continent that push our existence back 100,000 years, but also imply that...well, what?

What if we didn't appear in one place and spread? What if modern humans, even before spreading out and mingling with Neanderthals and Denisovans, were already a blend, descended from a variety of species.

Which all reminds us that "human" means "genus homo." And challenges, as is happening so often these days, the very definition of a species.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Huh...inspiration?

Apparently, Elon Musk was inspired to start his career in space by...

Hitchhikers' Guide To The Galaxy.

I'd have thought it would be some nice Heinlein, myself ;).

Monday, June 5, 2017

Is it a planet...

...or a star?

Well, obviously KELT-9B is a planet - it orbits a star, it's only twice the size of Jupiter, it's 7,800 degrees Fahrenheit...

...wait, what? That might seem like nothing, but the sun is only 2,000 degrees hotter, and the sun isn't the coldest star out there, nope.

Oh, and just to add to the fun, it's in a polar orbit around its star. And tight in. It's probably boiling off into space, but planets aren't supposed to be hotter than stars.

The universe continues to surprise us with its strangeness.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Friday Updates

I'm going to start trying to do this again, particularly now I've got most of the Projects I Can't Talk About (hopefully there will be more) out of the way.

First, if you haven't backed the Equal Opportunity Madness kickstarter and are at all interested in stories written to make H.P. Lovecraft spin in his grave whilst simultaneously honoring his legacy - do. Yes, we're fully funded BUT if we can make it to our $3,000 stretch goal we'll be able to do the anthology as an audiobook. As this anthology was conceived at Balticon, it really needs to be available in audio, right? 16 days left to back.

What I'm working on:

Three short stories, two of which are finished, but I don't have anywhere to send them right now. The third is for a call.

Final edits of Fallen Dark, Lost Guardians #2. As I'm juggling this with reading the Hugo packet it may take me a bit - I'll keep everyone posted. Also, I learned a lesson last time - that I want to read the print proof BEFORE making the ebook available for pre-order. Last time I found a bunch of typos after the point where Amazon lets you change the file without banning you from doing pre-orders for like a year. So, that's a pro tip. Because trust me, when you have your book as a physical paperback in your hands - it's almost as good as reading it out loud.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Fun On The Sun

Well, not quite, but the Parker Solar Probe will approach within 6km of the sun's atmosphere - closer than any spaceship yet. Assuming we don't mess up and drop it right into the star, the probe will sample and measure the sun's magnetic fields and take other readings designed to improve our ability to forecast space weather and reduce the damage it can cause.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Tabby's Star and PDS 110

First of all, Tabby's Star is dimming again.

And we've found another dimming star, although this one likely has a far more prosaic explanation - a 30% drop in the light from PDS 110 for 2 to 3 weeks every 808 days.

The explanation: A large planet with rings. They think it might have very big rings. As PDS 110 is a young star, there likely aren't any habitable planets around it yet. The next "eclipse" will take place in September 2017 and they're hoping to confirm what's going on. Large rings? Moons in formation? We'll see!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Balticon Roundup

What an amazing con!

Things went far smoother than last year (those of you who didn't come because of last year's issues with the hotel and programming - both were mostly resolved).

The split dealer room was a little strange, but it did allow the con suite to be on the main floor, which was nice. I am absolutely sure most of the vendors will ask to be in the other room next year ;).

Highlights? Probably the Heinlein Juveniles panel (later that night me and Don Sakers "diagnosed" Heinlein with frustrated polyamory). Queering the Hero's Journey was awesome - if you didn't make it to the con, the link goes to a recording of the entire panel made by the wonderful Scott Roche. Support his Patreon. (And mine, too, you get stories. Ahem).

Discovered a great crab house in Fell's Point (it's a bit of a trek, but worth it if you have the time). Oh, and the Irish pub across the road does a good Shepherd's Pie.

Pro tip: Bursting mylar balloons in hotel stairwells will get the hotel put on lockdown and armed cops swarming around. You know who you are.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Off to Balticon

Leaving tomorrow morning. I'll be there for bastard night and through to some time on Monday - check my schedule or track me down in the bar or wherever ;).

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Live and Let...

The classic Bond actor Roger Moore has died at the age of 89.

Moore starred in seven Bond movies (more than any other actor). In his home country, he was almost as well known for his role as Simon Templar in The Saint - it was undoubtedly this role that brought him to the attention of the Bond franchise in the first place.

Moore had semi-retired from acting, with only a few, mostly voice, appearances in the last decade. He spent the latter part of his career hosting documentaries and doing work for UNICEF.

Connery made the best Bond movies, but I have to admit that if you say "James Bond" to me it's probably always going to be Roger Moore's face that pops into view.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Nebula Winners

Here are the Nebula winners.

https://www.theverge.com/2017/5/20/15653006/nebula-awards-2016-winners-science-fiction-fantasy-charlie-jane-anders

Going to say - I wouldn't have picked All The Birds In The Sky, but I just, plain, don't like that book.

Haven't read any of the shorter works, although some are on the pile.

Getting more and more annoyed about not having had time to catch Arrival in theaters.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Updates...

I don't have a huge amount in the way of updates, but I'm trying to get in the habit of giving them.

Right now, I'm doing the preliminary work for a short story to be included in a new anthology from Battlefield Press. There will be a Kickstarter later in the year - I'll keep people posted. It's military science fiction and should be a lot of fun.

I've also started some research for Lost Guardians #3.

Got a couple of other projects that I can't talk about just yet. Oh, and the Hugo package dropped a ton of reading on my desk.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Changing Our Environment

We hear a lot about how humans keep changing the environment in bad ways - but it turns out we may have accidentally done something quite useful.

VLF radio communications are used to keep touch with submarines underwater. Not something most of us think about in our day to day lives.

The reason this form of radio is used to talk to subs is that it's very powerful - and thus can punch through layers of insulating seawater. The side effect is that it also goes a good way out into the atmosphere.

And NASA has now discovered that this is creating a VLF "bubble" around the planet, pushing the Van Allen belts higher. If you don't know, the Van Allen radiation belt protects Earth's atmosphere from cosmic ways and such. The bubble is preventing the charged particles of the Van Allen belt from dipping lower.

So, how is this useful?

It could also keep other charged particles from reaching the planet's surface. Like those from solar flares. In other words, we could have, completely by accident, stumbled on a way to make sure a major solar flare does not take out power for millions for possibly months.

And here's another intriguing thought.

One of the big issues with a space elevator is the damage to passengers that might be caused by an extended traverse through the Van Allen belts.

But if VLF keeps out those kinds of charged particles, a sheath around the tether or a bubble around the climber could be used to protect passengers and fragile cargo...solving one of the major engineering problems of the endeavor.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

3-D printed...

...ovaries?

The idea is an artificial scaffold that supports the development of ovarian follicles, and it's worked in mice.

In human women, the idea would be to remove ovarian cells before, for example, cancer treatment, and then implant the "bioprosthetic" ovaries afterwards. The advantage over freezing eggs - it's possible for normal conception to occur.

In the long term, the ovarian cells could be developed from the person's own stem cells - allowing for normal pregnancy and childbirth in women born without ovaries, possibly including some intersex individuals (AIS comes to mind)...and trans women. (Combine this with a uterine transplant, if we could work out how to create ovarian cells from somatic stem cells, then...)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Is Proxima B habitable?

It's in the habitable zone - and simulations indicate it could have liquid water on the surface. However, it's a guess - we don't know for sure. We need to improve imaging greatly.

Or, you know, send an interstellar probe, but that won't call back for years if not decades.

Even if we could walk the surface of Proxima B, it would be a highly alien landscape. Because it receives less light in our visual range and more in the near-infrared - and almost none in the UV - plants would have to be very different. They would have to draw energy from the red light more and the UV less. And with less light energy in general, it is entirely possible that the plants on Proxima B would have to be black or perhaps dark gray - can anyone give me a better guess?

Oh, and it's tidally locked...

Monday, May 15, 2017

Thoughts on GotG Vol. 2

Avoided the opening weekend rush only to go see it on Mother's Day. (Because I'm that busy ;)).

Both the people who said it was worse than the original and the people who said it was better? Wrong.

I'd put it at about the same level. No danceoffs, but Pac-Man made up for it. (I will say no more). Mantis was adorable, although not nearly as adorable as Baby Groot.

(I am Groot).

And I actually think the animation on Rocket was even better than in the first movie. Probably practice.

As usual with this kind of movie, don't expect any real science. But quite a few laughs and plenty of explosions. Mostly of things the team were standing on at the time.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Good News, Bad News...oh George

The good news: George R.R. Martin is working on an adaptation of one of his older books, a horror named Nightflayers, for SyFy.

The bad news: George R.R. Martin...

Love you, George, but I swear you have worse project ADD than I do.

(Btw, I am working on cool stuff. I am working on quite a bit of cool stuff. I can't talk about any of it except Lost Guardians 2 - scheduled to talk to my editor next week about that one, so it should be soon. Everything else has to stay under wraps).

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Bat-Rover

And, no, I don't mean Ace. (If anyone here is geeky enough to even get that reference).

I mean this beast.

It's a concept Mars Rover, and boy does it really look like something Batman will drive. And although this rover will never be sent to Mars, it will be going on tour. It's been built for educational purposes by the Kennedy Space Center. It will be traveling as part of NASA's "Summer of Mars" event - dates and locations TBD.