Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Monday, January 30, 2006
Metric Engineering and the Good Ship Further
And then, this last weekend, I ran headlong into a paradigm shift. I was researching the Zero-Point Field, which I'd already decided would be the basis for power generation on the Further. I'd recently decided, too, that instead of some sort of magic "underspace impellers" the starship would be propelled by something like a bias drive or pitch drive, both proposed by Marc Millis of the late, lamented Breakthrough Physics Propulsion Program. I'd read up a bit on Alcubierre's "warp drive," but couldn't work out how to integrate it.
Then I found the website of the Institute for Advance Studies in Austin. And, more specifically, their report Engineering the Zero-Point Field and Polarizable Vacuum for Interstellar Flight, originally presented in 2001 at the University of Sussex. This one document, probably the best single primer on the relationship between ZPF and gravity that I've found, really opened my eyes, and helped to cast a lot of the material I'd already gathered in a new light. I don't think I've come across this "polarizable vacuum" representation of general relativity before, but it's fascinating. The part which really rings my bell was first proposed by a Russian physicist, Andrei Sakharov, in the late sixties. He proposed that "gravitation is not a fundamental interaction at all, but rather an induced effect brought about by changes in the quantum-fluctuation energy of the vacuum when matter is present."
Cool, huh? Well, I had to read that through a few times before it made it past my forehead. This idea is dependent on a completely different conception of space than that I've been taught. Put as simply as possible (and lensed through my own meager layman's understanding) it states that spacetime isn't curved, as has been the consensus since Einstein, but flat. And that the characteristics of flat space are modulated and modified by the presence of matter.
"In brief, Maxwell's equations in curved space are treated in the isomorphism of a polarizable medium of variable refractive index in flat space; the bending of a light ray near a massive body is modeled as due to an induced spatial variation in the refractive index of the vacuum near the body; the reduction in the velocity of light in a gravitational potential is represented by an effective increase in the refractive index of the vacuum, and so forth. "So this isn't just a question of gravity, but everything. The speed of light, "effective" mass, clock speeds, energy states, and "rulers"--all are no longer fundamental qualities, but secondary characteristics of the quantum vacuum. And if you were able to jigger the "variable vacuum dielectric constant" (how's that for a mouthful?), you could actually change those metrics. Reduce that constant, and you increase the local speed of light, decrease effective mass, speed clocks and expand rulers. How is that useful? Well, if you increase the speed of light, you get accelerate to arbitrarily fast speeds without violating the restrictions against acclerating past the speed of light. (Which, in retrospect, is the solution devised by the creators of Futurama!)
If you factor in something like Alcubierre's warp drive, which avoids relativistic effects by keeping the real acceleration of the contents of the warp "bubble" zero, then this gets really interesting. The creation of an Alcubierre warp bubble requires massive amounts of negative energy, but given that one of the characteristics of the Zero Point Field is negative energy, it seems like some sort of love connnection should be possible here.
While the paper proposes metric engineering to decouple gravity and inertia, it doesn't talk about generating gravity, but it seems to me if you can do the one, the other shouldn't be out of bounds. Which means that this gives me both FTL drive as well as artificial gravity, all from the same source, with a minimum of handwaving.
Now, I'm considering all of the wacky thing you could do with the ability to generate gravity. A rational basis for a "tractor beam"?
Sunday, January 29, 2006
Science Fiction Writers Target Global Warming
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Grandfather Campbell, Revisited
And then I found the new, albeit unofficial John W. Campbell Award Eligible Authors site, which lists all of us as eligible. I thought this was a mistake or oversight, until I followed the link to the eligibility FAQ.
"The 2006 Hugo Award administrator, John Lorentz, will err on the side of preserving eligibility. You are eligible as long as you qualify under either the old or new rules."Well, how do you like that? There is a grandfather clause, after all.
So to everone in a position to nominate Hugo Awards this year (which group includes all attendees of last year's WorldCon, and everyone who's already registered for this year's), David Moles, KJ Bishop, and I are all eligible to be nominated again. The nomination forms are here, and are due by March 10th.
Personally, I think that the odds-on favorite for this year's Campbell Award is John Scalzi, who's written a corker of a first novel, has a sequel already about to hit the shelves, and who has a substantial online following. But it's an honor just to be nominated, and I'm not about to refuse the nomination if my name ends up on the list!
Locus Magazine's Recommended Reading: 2005
Friday, January 27, 2006
Year's Best Science Fiction
The life expectancies of books
Good News, Everybody!
Thursday, January 26, 2006
A Postive Sign for Disney's Future?
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
In the decade since then, astronomers just keep discovering new planets all the time, and the majority of the populace cares even less than they did about the first. And even if they've all been massive monsters in tight, if sometimes eccentric, orbits around their suns, with no hope for life as we know it, it's still continuing evidence that planets are as common as dirt. But most Americans, raised on science fiction and stories of alien abduction, have never realized there was any question about that, one way or the other. So I doubt that there will be celebratiosn in the streets in response to the news that scientists have been successful in identifying a nearly Earth-like planet using gravitational microlensing, but I think it's pretty damned keen.
Fantastic Victoriana review
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny
(Thanks, Grayson! I think...)
angels sang out in immaculate chorus
down from the heavens descended Chuck Norris
who deliver a kick which could shatter bones
into the crotch of Indiana Jones
who fell over on the ground, writhing in pain
as Batman changed back into Bruce Wayne
but Chuck saw through his clever disguise
and he crushed Batman's head in between his thighs
Straw Men, and the pummelling of
Monday, January 23, 2006
Best Fantasy & Science Fiction of 2005
It's all in the delivery
Self-healing Space Vehicles
The researchers have taken inspiration from human skin, which heals a cut by exposing blood to air, which congeals to forms a protective scab. "The analogy is the vascular system of the human body," Bond told New Scientist. "The system needs to be completely autonomous."
The researchers came up with a similar idea for protecting spacecraft. They fabricated a composite laminate material containing hundreds of hollow glass filaments 60 microns (thousandths of a millimetre) wide, each with an inner chamber of 30 microns in diameter. Half of the filaments are filled with an epoxy polymer or resin and the other half filled with a chemical agent that reacts with the polymer to form a very strong and hard substance.
Sunday, January 22, 2006
What's struck me the last few days, watching episode after episode from Season Three, is how much better the show got after the already splendid first season. We're endlessly grateful that Georgia has picked something so entertaining and well-done as her driving obsession.
Speaking of driving obsession, I was googling Judy Collins today, after watching her second season appearance (did you know that she was a regular on Sesame Street for several years in the late seventies? I must have seen her every appearance as a kid, but I'd never made the connection) and stumbled across the Muppet Wiki. It just launched in December, and I'm already in love. A great site, getting better by the day.
Disney Buys Pixar
The analysis on Cartoon Brew is probably the most promising I've seen so far, since it at least allows the possibility that Pixar could infect Disney, and not the other way around. I'm not holding out hope. I think that, thirty years from now, we'll look back at the brief golden age that was the initial run of Pixar films, all commercial and critical darlings, before things went really, really bad.
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Worth checking out.
"Many readers and writers and nearly all media fans who entered sf after 1975 have never understood the origin of space opera as a pejorative and some may be surprised to learn of it. Thus the term space opera reentered the serious discourse on contemporary SF in the 1980s with a completely altered meaning: henceforth, space opera meant, and still generally means, colorful, dramatic, large scale science fiction adventure, competently and sometimes beautifully written, usually focussed on a sympathetic, heroic central character, and plot action [this bit is what separates it from other literary postmodernisms] and usually set in the relatively distant future and in space or on other worlds, characteristically optimistic in tone. What is centrally important is that this permits a writer to embark on a science fiction project that is ambitious in both commercial and literary terms."
Friday, January 20, 2006
Truth, Justin and the American Way
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Paragaea Site launches
Go ahead, kick the tires, and let me know if anything needs fixing.
Like the translations in Esli and Robot, this one is accompanied by illustrations. It's interesting to see how the same story is interpreted through so many different cultural lenses. Lots of similarities, but lots of noticeable differences, too.
The translator appears to have missed a pun, though, reading the title as "0 [Zero] One," and not just the letter "O." But I suppose the play on "O" as a greeting of respect as well as a stand-in for zero might only work in English (though the Russian translation seems to have approximated it well enough).
In addition to the fiction and a short comic in the middle, there's an article on television SF (or "seriali sf"), and I can't help but think that some of these shows sound quite a bit more exotic in Polish than they do in English. "Z Archiwum X" instead of "X Files"? "Planeta Malp" for "Planet of the Apes"? But I'm not sure if the Warrior Princess is helped or hindered to be known in Poland as "Xena - Wojownicza Ksiezniczka."
Japan Invaded by Giant Jellyfish!
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Living on Mars
Well worth watching, if you're in the UK, or have an eye to internet piracy in the rest of the world.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
John C. Wright does something similar to this in his Golden Age trilogy. There's still an overarching capitalist society, but on an individual level all of one's immediate needs are provided by technology, and artists and craftspeople seem to be more motivated by the prestige than by any monetary gain (the coin here being computer processing time). But it's really in the negative formulation that Wright gets closest to a reputation economy, since the most severe punishment that the civil authorities can mete out is a kind of "internal exile," cut off from all contact with other people.
I've always wondered whether the world of Star Trek worked something like a reputation economy. Since the Original Series it's been explicitly stated that the Federation doesn't use money. Star Fleet officers aren't paid for their services, and everything that an individual needs is provided to them free of charge. Clearly, though, there's some sort of economy at work, else why would the Picard family continue to labor in the fields to make their wines, or Joseph Sisko work all day in the kitchen of his New Orleans restaurant. Outside the Federation, and among Federation citizens who deal with outsiders, there's still a cash economy (usually gold, or "latinum" pressed between wafers of gold), which must account for the ability of the roguish elements of the Federation to put together the scratch needed to purchase their own warp-capable ships. But within the Federation, and certainly on Earth, there's no cash and no currency. The only conceivable answer is that the patrons of Sisko's restaurant, and the folks that buy Picard wines, exchange some sort of reputation or prestige with the craftsmen involved. This isn't ever mentioned in the canon, so far as I know, and so the idea, much less the unit of exchange, is completely hypothetical, but it seems to me the only answer that makes any sense.
Now, the thing is, so far as I know the cash-less economy of the Star Trek future predates the notion of a reputation economy by a wide margin, years if not decades. So what exactly did the show's creators originally have in mind when they stated categorically that the Federation had eliminated the need for money?
Monday, January 16, 2006
I'll likely not be coherent for a while longer yet. My apologies in advance.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
(As an illustration of my early senility that is already setting in, a brief anecdote. Last summer, I thought it might be a good idea to register www.paragaea.com, thinking I might use it to promote the book. I was bummed to discover, through Network Solutions, that it wasn't available. Then I thought, well, who the hell would have registered my made-up name? Is someone screwing with me? So I did a Whois search on the domain, and was surprised to see that I owned it. I'd registered the domain myself the year before, thinking I might use it to promote the book, and promptly forgot all about it. I shudder to think what will happen when the years really start to pile on...)
The site should probably go live in the next month or so, assuming that I can get all the bits and pieces together. I'll be doing it myself, so I doubt very seriously that it'll be anywhere near as sexy or muscular as the above examples (my web fu is weak), but hopefully it'll be utilitarian enough to get the job done.
Saturday, January 14, 2006
Life on Mars
Allison and I watched the premier episode of the 8-part BBC drama Life on Mars last night. From the makers of the very excellent Spooks (released in the States under the title MI5), Life on Mars is the story of a police detective in 2006 Manchester who, after being hit by a car, wakes up in 1973. (The title is drawn from the David Bowie song that's playing on his iPod in 2006, and playing on his car's eight-track player in 1973.) In the past, he's a police detective with a past, a flat, and a badge (though a lower rank), recently transferred to a new station. The character makes the natural assumption that he's in some sort of coma-induced hallucination, but his circumstances give just enough evidence to suspect that he might actually be in the past.
But the time travel (or not) aspect of the story is really just an excuse to present a compelling collision between contemporary CSI-style police procedural with a more muscular, skinned-knuckles, damn-the-regs police work of an earlier era. There's some implicit commentary about sexism and the like, naturally, but it's not over-played. The performances are top-notch, and the writing is spotless.
With any luck, it'll be available on DVD in the States before too long. I suppose it could be picked up by an American network, but the odds aren't good. Am I the only one who'd pay real money to get the full BBC channels on satellite or cable in the States, and not just the weak-tea that is BBC America (which seems to be just a dumping ground for home improvement and gardening shows, spiced conservatively with the occasional mystery program or aged sitcom)?
Friday, January 13, 2006
The Justice Society of Justice
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Doctor Who on SCI-FI!
The DVD box set has been pushed back to July, understandably, to give the US channel a chance to air the episodes before the discs are available on the market. If you haven't seen the series yet, you're in for a treat. It's the best treatment the Doctor has ever gotten, bar none.
More details at Outpost Gallifrey.
Eko and the Smoke
Doomsday Vault, Well Guarded
This all sounds well and good, and I applaud the thinking. But I can't help but suspect that they're taking the piss. Why? Well, I don't know. How about this? (The gentlemen quoted is Cary Fowler, the director of the aforementioned Global Crop Diversity Trust.)
"[The vault] will not be permanently manned, but 'the mountains are patrolled by polar bears', says Fowler."That's right. Patrolled by polar bears.
Somewhere, Norwegians are gathered around their monitors, laughing into their cable-knit sweaters that this press release has been picked up by the media. Or else they're huddled behind locked doors, worried that the polar bears are going to get them. It's one or the other, really.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
New Worlds Atlas
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Warren Ellis's Fell
Monday, January 09, 2006
Concatenation's Top SF Books of 2005
About the novel, they had these kind things to say:
"A delightful waltz around time that brings together many interpretations of SF's time travel trope. Though intelligently written it is an easy adventure read for teenagers and with many nods to SF, history and, of course, Beatles music, to add depth for older readers."
Ron Moore's Five Best
Ron Moore is something of an oddity in media science fiction. Unlike many other examples (Brannon Braga, Rick Berman, Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich, et cetera, et al) Moore is extremely conversant in and respectful of the traditions of print science fiction. His contributions to the Star Trek franchise (most notably all the Klingon stuff in Next Generation, and virtually everything that was good about Deep Space Nine) make this abundently clear, and if there were any lingering doubts, Battlestar Galactica should put them to rest.
Moore's position paper for BSG, presumably written during the show's development, introduces his concept of "Naturalistic Science Fiction" which, while nothing new in print SF, is pretty revolutionary for media SF. Joss Whedon's Firefly was made in this mode previously, certainly, but I'm hard pressed to remember another example on television, American, British, or otherwise. In film there have been more examples that adhere to the majority of these precepts, but invariably they'll break one or two along the way (hell, Dark Star hits almost all of the marks, but the introduction of the beach-ball alien means it falls at the final hurdle).
Allison and I tuned into the season premier of BSG last week (or the first episode after the hiatus, or whatever this technically was), and I was reminded again of one of the things I love most about the show: I have no idea what's going to happen next. When I watch an episode of Star Trek (any incarnation) and aliens are threatening to destroy the Earth through one diabolical mechanism or another, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that in the end the heroes of Star Fleet will save the day. Earth won't be destroyed. The absolute worst that could possibly happen would be that the heroes' ship is destroyed, but there'll be another one waiting for them, with the same name and another letter appended to the registry number. On Battlestar Galactica, I have no idea whether some or even all of the characters in any given circumstance might end up dead before the next episode rolls around. It means that the show is able to generate actual suspense, and get some real mileage out of threatening their characters with dire fates.
I also like that the president still keeps an updated tally of the number of survivors on a dry erase board behind her desk. Has anyone noticed in recent episodes if that number bounced up when they encountered the Pegasus? (It may be a moot point, after the events of the last episode; looks like that number's about to drop down pretty quickly again.)
(Also, am I the only one a little disappointed that Kane turned out to be evil psycho, after all? I harbored hopes that what was really going on was her second-in-command angling for a power play, dropping hints with Tigh while his confederates--such as the new chief petty officer on the fight deck--spread rumors among the crew to corroborate his story. Then he could maneuver Adama and his crew into taking Kane out, leaving him in a perfect position to take over Pegasus with his own supporters. So Kane would have been a bitch, but not an evil one, and Adama and his crew would have become unwilling dupes in setting up the really evil dude in power. Oh, well...)
Sunday, January 08, 2006
I share a ToC with Greg Egan and a few Italian SF writers whose names I hadn't previously encountered. There's also an interview with Tim Burton that makes me wish I read Italian, and articles about WorldCon, SF movies and remakes, and reviews of DVDs and books. It's an interesting package, about the size and production quality of F&SF, but equally devoted to media SF as to fiction.
One of the most intriguing aspects of selling stories into foreign markets is these little glimpses of other genre scenes. Similar, but distinct. In the immortal words of Vincent Vega, "It's the little differences. I mean they got the same shit over there that they got here, but it's just - it's just there it's a little different." I couldn't have said it better.
Saturday, January 07, 2006
I also see from the listings of Here, There & Everywhere that it's back on the "Early Adopter in Science Fiction & Fantasy" list, at least for a while, this time at number twenty. I think it's been on there before, but I may be misremembering. Even so, it's nice to know that folks are still picking up the book and enjoying it, almost a year after its release.
Friday, January 06, 2006
Is Texas Heading for the Middle Ages?
Gubernatorial hopeful, musician, and mystery novelist Kinky Friedman had this to say of teaching intelligent design in science: "I'm agin it; there's nothing intelligent about it." Right on, Kinky.
The Return of Buckaroo Banzai
Mac Rauch was the creator of Buckaroo Banzai, and the sequence of events leading to the production of the film is a pretty strange one. Some of the details are here, but as I remember the story Mac Rauch was a novelist who'd come up with this crazy idea for a pulp adventure character, and had mapped out a whole supporting cast, wide-ranging setting, and history of past adventures long before the project was ever picked up for development. He even wrote several of the character's pulp adventures as a novel, complete with footnotes referencing previous (unpublished, of course) installments, one of which was later published as the film's novelization (recently rereleased with a truly horrible cover by Pocket Books). The character and his work are a note-perfect reincarnation of pulp adventure in a post-modern gonzo style, something that functions both as a commentary on and parody of adventure stories while at the same time functioning as a rollicking adventure story in its own right.
There have been hints and rumors about new Banzai projects for years, including of course the sequel, Buckaroo Banzai Versus the World Crime League. This comic series will be the first such to materialize, and the fact that it'll be written by Mac Rauch means that it'll be canon, not just a franchise spin-off. I'll be picking it up, how about you?
"Nothing is ever what it seems but everything is exactly what it is." - B. Banzai
Subterranean Magazine Cliche Issue
I'm almost completely unable to predict just what SF cliches the individual stories play with, just from reading the titles. I was a bit coy when titling my own, "Last," though the first paragraph of the story gives away the game; I wanted to set up a little double entendre with the closing sentence, though, which I think worked pretty well. I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of the issue, and seeing what everyone else came up with.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
My desk (complete with the ever-present glass of iced tea, and my current reading):
My working shelves (includes all the To Read, Just Read, and Should Read titles):
My comics files (most of them, at least; the rest are upstairs):
And, finally, my reading chair:
And that's it. The dark little hole where I spend most of my waking hours (at least those not spent in the living room with my daughter). Okay, back to work!
Well, Sony has announced a new product that might just be that hypothetical handheld, the Sony Reader. Full specs and features are here, but the site doesn't seem to list any pricing information, so the Reader may fall at the final hurdle. I'm impressed with the size and weight, though, and I'd love to see their "electronic paper" up close and in person. It looks like they'll be using some sort of proprietary e-book format, but it'll also be able to handle PDFs, JPGs, and RSS feeds (as well as "personal documents," which one would hope should include Microsoft Word, or at least RTF files), so pretty much anything should work.
I'm interested to see how this plays out. I'm rarely an early adopter, so this would have to make some significant headway in the market before I'd be in a position to pick one up, but having a hand-held electronic reader as robust as this looks like it might be would be one step closer to living in the future of Star Trek (can I call mine a PADD? Please?), which I'm all for.
RevolutionSF - What is Best in Life?
Update: Oh, and it looks like Mark Finn has singled out Nevins's Fantastic Victoriana as the "Best Nonfiction Book for Geeks" on his list, too.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Movie-going (or the lack thereof)
Today it occurred to me that, since we purchase all of our movie tickets on Fandago, our account history might keep a record of what we'd purchased recently. Lo and behold, it keeps a total record going back to the account being set-up back in May of 2002. What a treasure trove of potentially crappy memories!
Here is a complete list of everything I've seen in a theater in almost four years. When Allison and I were first dating, we used to go to the theater at least once a week, sometimes more. After a while, we soured a bit on the whole theater-going experience, and cut back to venturing out only things that we thought would benefit from being seen on the big screen, as opposed to waiting for the DVD. Then, in February 0f 2004, we had a baby, and a movie had to be really special to get us to find a babysitter and get out of the house.
This is probably of little interest to anyone (hell, it's not even that interesting to me), but the numbers break down like this:
Total movies seen in
2002: 10 (partial year, probably a higher number)
A couple of caveats. Some of these movies I saw alone (such as Fantastic Four, which I watched only because I was scheduled for a panel at WorldCon about superhero movies, and figured I'd want to be able to complain about it. I did.), but for most of them it was me and Allison together. And since we have a small social circle and no life, we saw them without company, by and large. Finally, I plead guilty for choosing Bewitched, which the trailer had convinced me might be a bit of metafictional brilliance and, well, wasn't, but I stand by Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. I'm not a McG fan, and I thought the sequel not as good as the original, but the original was a lot of fun, and I'll arm-wrestle anyone who says different (I may lose, but I'll still be willing to arm-wrestle to prove the point).
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
The Bourne Identity
Men In Black II
Austin Powers in Goldmember
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Die Another Day
Star Trek: Nemesis
X2: X-Men United
The Matrix Reloaded
Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle
The Matrix Revolutions
Master and Commander
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Team America: World Police
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
So, what have I learned? First, becoming a parent seriously impacts your ability to go to the theater. Second, NetFlix is a powerful temptation, when faced with the prospect of over-priced tickets and a theater full of chattering morons. And finally, I'm a sucker for anything Pixar, sfnal or superhero-y, apparently (though Post-Georgia even something like Serenity or MirrorMask wasn't enough to get me to the theater, with me opting just to buy the DVDs of each, sight-unseen) which means that The Incredibles was a movie-going perfect storm for me.
I'm half-tempted now to go back and look at my NetFlix rental history, to see how it changed in the same period. Hmmm...
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
If Accelerando doesn't win the 2006 Hugo for Best Novel, there's simply no justice in the world (or in awards, at the very least). It's a staggering, paradigm-shifting book, with a greater information-density than any work this entertaining has any right to be, and everyone involved in science fiction, professional, fan, or just reader, owes it to themselves to check it out.
I'm intrigued by Bee-Man's origin. A petty criminal, who becomes a supervillain, before finally shrugging and deciding to become a superhero instead... and all in two issues!
Monday, January 02, 2006
Wil McCarthy's Hacking Matter
From Wil's site (presumably the back cover copy):
I've been meaning to read the full text of the book for the last couple of years, having read only excerpts and articles here and there, and it was on my list of research topics for my current novel project, so this is a nice bit of serendipity. I highly recommend checking it out, as everything I've read from the book has been pretty damned mind expanding.
Programmable matter is probably not the next technological revolution, nor even perhaps the one after that. But it's coming, and when it does, it will change our lives as much as any invention ever has. Imagine being able to program matter itself--to change it, with the click of a cursor, from hard to soft, from paper to stone, from fluorescent to super-reflective to invisible. Supported by companies ranging from Levi Strauss to IBM and the Defense Department, solid-state physicists in laboratories at MIT, Harvard, Sun Microsystems, and elsewhere are currently creating arrays of microscopic devices called "quantum dots" that are capable of acting like programmable atoms. They can be configured electronically to replicate the properties of any known atom and then can be changed, as fast as an electrical signal can travel, to have the properties of a different atom. Soon it will be possible not only to engineer into solid matter such unnatural properties as variable magnetism, programmable flavors, or exotic chemical bonds, but also to change these properties at will.
Sunday, January 01, 2006
Some of my mid-year "resolutions" are lunacy like Deodorant-Shirt-Boxers-Pants, but some have been a bit more significant. Almost nine years ago I was working the tech support phone lines at Dell, and reached the point where I was approaching reading as a way of killing time (which is something you need working the night shift on a phone queue). I drifted quickly from reading science fiction and fantasy novels to reading the franchise novels foisted on me by my coworkers, and found that sinking into familiar genre worlds (Star Trek, Star Wars, what-have-you) was an activity that required very little frontal lobe activity, was mildly enjoyable, and burned up free hours at an appreciable rate. At that point in my life, I'd written a handful of crap novels and a stack of fair-to-middling short stories, but after filling a desk drawer with rejection letters from agents, magazines, and publishers, without making any headway, I'd lost my drive. Aside from the occasional comic series pitch (none of which even merited a rejection letter, as I recall), the only writing I did were vague formless notes towards unrealized projects. I probably went more than a year without finishing a single project. I was also playing a lot of PC games at the time, mostly first-person shooters, and was a full-time smoker (not a "convention smoker," like I am now), and would stay up half the night, long after Allison went to bed, chainsmoking and playing Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight or some such.
One night, long after Allison had gone to sleep, I had something of an epiphany. Feeling like I'd smoked a hole right through my throat, my eyes dry and scratchy, neck, arms, and wrists screwed up from several hours making like a mouse at a feeder bar playing some PC game or other, I looked around my cramped office at the piles of franchise novels crowding my bookshelves and the crummy superhero comics stacked on the floor, and I realized I was wasting my life. Seriously, in that one moment, I realized that the ache that had lingered for months in the pit of my stomach was the unconcious realization that nothing I did with my time mattered in the least. I made money so I could spend it, I read just to pass the time, I played games and smoked and drank and ate junk, and at the end of every day I'd progressed towards my dimly defined "life goals" exactly not-at-all.
So I made a resolution. I've probably got the hard-copy somewhere in my files, and I'm sure that the original soft-copy is still in my archives, but the upshot of it was that I was done wasting my time. I resolved to stop reading junk, to stop wasting my time with games, and to stop talking about being a writer and just fucking write. I typed up all of the things I needed to accomplish, and all of the things I wanted out of life. I printed out a hard copy, signed and dated it, and tacked it up on the wall where I'd see it everytime I went in and out of office. Then I had another cigarette, mulling it over, and finally went to bed.
The next day, I picked up the novel I'd been fiddling with, on and off, for the better part of seven years, and started working. (It was Voices of Thunder, the first I did under the aegis of Clockwork Storybook.) I didn't take the resolution down from the wall until the novel was done, almost a year later, but by then the work habits I'd forced myself to follow had become, well, habitual. So that as soon as I finished work on that novel, I started working on the next, and then the one after that, and on, and on.
I've made one or two resolutions since then (to stop smoking--except at conventions, naturally!--and to cut out carbohydrates), but none of them on New Years. I've managed to keep them all, though, for what it's worth. This New Years, I think the closest I'll come to making a resolution is this: Be open to making new resolutions, as circumstances demand. There's always room for improvement, after all.
Well, that was a longer and much more self-important post than I'd intended. Still, the name of the blog is "Interminable Ramble," isn't it? On a lighter note, via Jonathan Strahan, is this little gem. From the keyboards of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett comes a rare return of the heroes of their Good Omens (which served as my introduction to Pratchett on its release; I was a comics reader who came for the Gaiman, but I stayed for the Pratchett), as they present the New Years resolutions of Crowley and Aziraphale.