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.

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


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...


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


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.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

SpaceX plans two Red Dragons for 2020

SpaceX has admitted that the first Red Dragon - an unmanned mission to Mars - will not be ready in time for the 2018 launch window. Instead, they plan on sending two of the craft in the 2020 window (already rather crowded). It's most efficient to send missions to Mars during the regular "window," which happens every 26 months, when the two planets are closest together.

This isn't officially announced yet, but it's looking very likely. In the same window, NASA will be launching a new lander.

I'm honestly looking more at the SpaceX missions, though, because Red Dragon is designed to easily scale up to a manned mission and to test human-rated descent and landing technology (which is why it's being delayed - they want to get it right. When you can only test something every 26 months...)

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Think about those romance plots

In the panel on asexual representation at RavenCon I reiterated the issue that I honestly think writers are trained to make sure they include a romance. (I was outright told every book "has" to have a consummated romance involving the protagonist - which is BS if you look at science fiction classics such as 2001, A Canticle for Leibowitz, I could go on all day).

I just borrowed a couple of police procedurals from a friend. They're independently published and not bad at all - the books are Cliff Diver and Hat Dance by Carmen Amato. I actually recommend them if you like police procedurals in a slightly different setting (contemporary Mexico).

The problem is, that at some point I think Amato internalized that advice. There is, indeed, a consummated romance involving the protagonist - and it's useful to the plot precisely once. It's a completely separate and unnecessary sub plot and it feels as if it was tagged on because A Book Without Romance Won't Sell.

There's nothing wrong with a good romance plot - I mean, I've written my share.

But when the romance is put in just to "sell the book" - think twice. Readers will notice if any facet of the book is tagged on, and you run the risk of a Flying Bus Story - a story with genre elements added just to sell it or to suit it to a particular market.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Check out...

...this fascinating article on novel ecosystems, terraforming and saving indigenous plants.

There's so much in there I really can't add to it - except that we need to think forward, not backwards, when it comes to conservation. There's a tendency to think we should be trying to restore environments to their "pristine" state...except there's no such thing. This applies to all kinds of arguments - about heather moorland in Scotland, about suburban environments, about "rewilding" as a concept. I love it.

Friday, May 5, 2017


...I'm betting that every single one of us, when we can't shift or move something, swear.

Turns out - swearing literally makes you stronger. To make it even more fun, the researchers were unable to determine why it works.

Just that it does. So, assuming there aren't little children or parrots around, go ahead and swear at that jar of pickles. You might just get it open faster.

Thursday, May 4, 2017


...exists on a scale it's hard to comprehend. For example, in the Perseus galaxy cluster there's a wave the size larger than...our galaxy.

It's made of gas so hot it burns in X-rays.

And yes, it's a wave. I don't fancy getting in the way of you?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Preliminary Balticon Schedule

There's one item that will probably be added, but this is my official schedule as of right now:

Friday 4pm - How To Be A Good Moderator
Friday 5pm - Reading
Friday 7pm - Cutthroat Flashfic (I was hoping they'd let me moderate, but apparently suggesting the idea makes you Victim Prime).

Saturday 10am - Family In Science Fiction
Saturday Noon - Queering The Hero's Journey
Saturday 1pm - Astronomy & Hard SF (We're going to be talking exoplanets).
Saturday 6pm - Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading

Sunday 11am - What Diversity Is Good For
Sunday 1:30pm - Signing
Sunday 5pm - Do Heinlein's Juveniles Stand Up?

I'll probably spend the rest of the time either in science panels (because I didn't get to any at RavenCon and won't be able to park myself in the science track at AwesomeCon this year) or, you know, the bar.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

RavenCon Roundup

An amazing convention!

Special shoutouts go to:

Michael Winslow for the school program, the geek debates, and helping straighten out some schedule issues.

Everyone else on the committee for, you know, just being amazing.

Red Fish Rue Fish for the commission - if you're at a con she's at, check out her amazing work.

Chris Shrewsbury for losing with style.

Best panel - I can't decide. I was on a lot of programming and it was all great, but if absolutely pushed - probably the Harry Potter panel, with Asexuality a close second.

Best costume - for sheer artistry, Beauty and the Beast. For terrible puns, the Raven Cons (two adorable little girls in convict outfits with raven headdresses).

Everything went amazingly smoothly.

Monday, May 1, 2017

I'm Back!

Proper report tomorrow - but thanks to everyone involved in an amazing convention!