Friday, March 31, 2006


Warren Ellis loves Fantastic Victoriana

Of Jess Nevins's The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana, Warren Ellis says "you need this book." Who am I to argue?


Hot Jupiter

An interesting article in New Scientist about a new model that describes how extrasolar "Jupiters" migrate from the outer regions of their planetary systems down into orbits we associate with Mercury-type worlds. What's interesting is that this new model allows for terrestrial worlds in the habitable zones, even with these migrating giants trucking around.
"'It's not as favourable as having no migration,' says Mandell. 'But with the right conditions, you can get giant planets in the interior and habitable terrestrial planets on the exterior' of the planetary system."

What does it say about me, though, that the term "hot Jupiter" sounds to my ears like some sort of kinky sex act?

Thursday, March 30, 2006


Truth, Justice, and Peanut Butter

Don't ask, just watch.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


The Long Now

The things you learn. It takes BBC's recent Time documentary series, hosted by Michio Kaku, to point out Danny Hillis' 10000 Year Clock to me, even though the project has been in the works for more than a decade. Still, better late that never. Brian Eno, who apparently coined the name of the Long Now Foundation, has contributed the bell chimes for the clock.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


New Paragaea Review

Rick Kleffel of the Agony Column seems to have enjoyed Paragaea. What's immensely gratifying is that he's hit upon exactly what I was hoping to accomplish with the novel.
The result is the literary equivalent of a haut-cuisine, health-food Twinkie. It's really smart, it's really good for your brain and it's really fun to eat/read/consume. Roberson gets to have his cake and eat it too, mind you. He gets to write both fun-loving pulp and hard-science speculation. It's definitely an everybody-wins situation.

So here's what's really delectable about this novel. Beneath the good-time pulp fiction plotting and exterior, readers will get the thrill of discovering some meaty science fictional speculations. Roberson has managed to offer us up a double-edged sword -- cutting-edge science with trailing-edge plotting.
A "haut-cuisine, health-food Twinkie." Sounds tasty to me.



Second Series of Who

Many American viewers are just discovering the chewy goodness that is the new Doctor Who on Sci Fi, but British viewers and broadband users with flexible moralities should be advised that the start date of the second series of Who has apparently been officially announced.

The new issue of Doctor Who Magazine, reaching subscribers today, has confirmed rumors that Series Two will debut on Saturday, April 15 at 7:00pm. Widely rumored as the target date by fans and even the press as early as last November, this is the first official confirmation anywhere of the date of transmission of the first new episode, "New Earth".'


Life on Mars, only sucky

Okay, this is a spectacularly bad idea.

I can just imagine the pitch session. "Hey, there's this great British show called Life on Mars, a subtle and affecting time-travel/police drama that works on all sorts of different levels. But we can't show it on American television, because the characters all have accents. So let's hire the guy that gave us Ally McBeal and Lake Placid to make it slower, simpler, and dumb. It'll be a hit!"

Mark my words, the American remake (which will be horrible, no doubt about it) won't be set in the early seventies, like the original, but in the late seventies, so they can use disco music in the soundtrack. And if the characters all end up neurotic and unlikeable, well, that's just par for the course...

Monday, March 27, 2006


First Line

I've accidentally started writing a book. I'd planned on doing research and outlining on the space opera through the third week of April, but the process of setting up my wiki database last week has inadvertently shifted my mental gears entirely, such that I'm not able to concentrate on reading any more. Which sucks, as I'd saved some of the books I'd most been looking forward to reading for the end. Well, I'll read them as soon as my brain slows down a bit, hopefully.

In any event, I think I have the first line of the space opera, composed this morning while taking Georgia for a walk.

"When I woke up, surrounded by talking dog-people, it was clear we'd strayed pretty far from the mission parameters."

Saturday, March 25, 2006


Ten Things

The emergent "ten things I've learned about writing" memelet has been making the rounds of writers' blogs, kicked off by Elizabeth Bear, but I've realized that my list of ten can be summed up in just one entry:

1) Just go ask Hal Duncan. He's bound to say it better than I could, anyway.

I realize this is sort of the inverse of using one of your three wishes to wish for infinite wishes, but there it is. That Duncan is one clever bastard, and I'd not have summed up the development of a young writer better in a month of Sundays.

Friday, March 24, 2006


Lots of Damned Luftballons

(via Steven Silver) Okay, this I could get behind. Precisely the sort of thing I might say I'd do if I won the lottery, when I've perhaps had a bit too much to drink, but it's nice to know that someone with the wherewithal has actually gone through with it. Awesome.

Thursday, March 23, 2006



I've reached the point in the preproduction of the space opera where I become fairly insufferable to be around. My attentions have gotten so narrow in recent days that I can't sit still for more than fifteen minutes without doing work of some kind or another. The only way I'm able to sit down with Allison for a short while in the afternoon in front of the television is by watching documentaries that are tangentially related to my researches (and thank god for BBC's Horizon, which has been a freakin' goldmine of great stuff), but even then I've got my Moleskin on the arm of my chair, furiously making notes. But the last few days I haven't even managed that.

I've done little else the last couple of days but work on a wiki I'm building, collecting all of my notes (handwritten and softcopy alike) in one place. I can hardly remember how I used to work before I got online, but I can't imagine it was terrifically efficient. Now, I'm collecting thousands of words worth of worldbuilding in a hyperlinked wiki database, adding additional detail as I go. The ability to cut and paste text from my online sources directly into the wiki means that, when I start writing the book in May, I won't have to go hunting for my references to that secondary school in Bangalore, or the exact text of the UN Outer Space Treaty, but can just pull up the wiki and find the appropriate page in the index. How cool is that?

It occurs to me that when the book is published, making this wiki publically available online would make for pretty effective "bonus materials."

(Thanks to Tobias Buckell, btw, for recommending TikiWiki. It works a treat!)

Okay, I'm back to work. Hopefully I'll have something interesting to say in the next few days.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Campbell Nomination (oh, and the Hugos, too)

It's better the second time. I'm happy to announce that I've been nominated for the second time for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Thanks are due to John Lorentz for incorporating a grandfather clause after last year's rules change, which meant that KJ Bishop and I got another chance to go to the Hugo Losers party.

The full list is here. Go ahead and look, if you haven't already, I'll wait.

Huge congratulations are due to John Scalzi, who pairs his Campbell nomination with a Hugo nod for Best Novel. Spectacular, and apparently only the second time a Campbell nominee has garnered a Best Novel nomination in the same year. His chances at the Best Novel win are pretty long (it's a great list of books, and all but one of them are actually science fiction!), but if he doesn't win the Campbell I'll eat my hat.

The John Picacio juggernaut continues to roll along, as he gets his second consecutive Best Artist nomination (along with splendid artists and charming dinner companions Donato Giancola and Stephan Martiniere). My pal Paul Cornell racks up his first Hugo nomination in the Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form category, and it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

The rest of the list is filled out with all sorts of worthy folks, many of whom I know and like. It's immensely flattering to be included in such august company.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


To Boldly Go...

Kirk, Spock, and McCoy have never had it better. Go ahead, tell me I'm wrong.

That's World Fantasy and Chesley Award-winning John Picacio rocking it old school.


Gender-Neutral Pronouns

In the preproduction stages of the space opera project, I've been reading a lot of novels. Sooner or later I'll post my reading list, when I get it finished (hopefully sometime in April), but the last few months have been a real eye-opener. I've previously mentioned my late discovery of Cordwainer Smith's genius, but that's the tip of the iceberg. I've had loads of hands-t0-forehead, "How long has this been going on?" moments recently. Last week it was Dan Simmons' Hyperion, which ripped the top of my head clean off. The week before it was Iain Banks' The Use of Weapons (I'd read Consider Phlebas years ago, but clearly it was years before I was ready for it, since I recall liking it, but not loving it), which is an almost perfect novel.

In any event, last week I discovered that I adore Greg Egan. I've enjoyed his short stories over the years ("Singleton" and "Oracle" in particular, for reasons that should be apparent to anyone who's read Here, There & Everywhere), but Diaspora was the first of his novels I'd read. It is, in a word, awesome. Mind-expanding stuff, that had the effect of messing with my worldview for a while after I finished reading it. One thing in particular that worked its way into my consciousness was his use of the gender-neutral pronouns ve, ver, and vis, for polis-citizens who are not gendered.

In my in-progress space opera, the probe Xerxes, broadcast back into human space by the Exode at Ka-Band frequencies, doesn't self-identify as either gender. I'd toyed with just referred to Xerxes as "he" and "him," for the sake of convenience, and then thought about using "it" instead, but I wasn't happy with either option. After reading Diaspora, I considered using "ve" and "ver," but wasn't too keen on the idea of ripping off Egan so blatantly.

Well, a bit of googling over the weekend turned up the Gender-Neutral Pronoun FAQ, which in addition to being fascinating reading in and of itself, revealed two interesting tidbits: first, that Egan wasn't the originator of the "ve, ver, vis" pronoun, and second, that there was another pronoun I much preferred.
(1975) — S:ey, O:em, PA:eir, PP:eirs*, R:eirself*. —
Good: Complete set of distinct forms, acting as the singular form of the already-existing pronoun set of "they, them, their, theirs, theirself."

This is genius. I already use the third-person plural whenever possible, when describing someone of unknown (or indistinct) gender, but it becomes problematic when using it to refer to a specific individual. The idea of dropping the initial dipthong to make the plural into a singular form, which would inherit the gender non-specificity, is brilliant.

So when Xerxes wants to refer to another like eirself, ey'll have a full set of pronoun declensions available to em. That solves eir pesky pronoun trouble nicely, I think.


Blonde Extinction

(Via Neil Gaiman) A few weeks ago I came across an article online that advanced the theory that blonde hair had been a selective advantage 10K years ago, but that in short order the gene would be extinct. And I'm ashamed to say I bought it hook, line, and sinker. Via Gaiman's blog I discover that the good people of Snopes have called bullshit, with the full weight of their authority behind them. What's fascinating, though, is that they trace this particular myth back to the nineteenth century.

Monday, March 20, 2006


New Interview

The incomparable Tobias S. Buckell did an interview with me recently for his email newsletter, and he wrote this morning to let me know that it's been reprinted on The Eternal Night, a UK genre site. More of me nattering on about my outlining process, as usual, and a bit of insight into my zombie contingency plans.


Sunday, March 19, 2006


Bender on the Horizon

(Via Lou Anders) Okay, this is cool. Alcohol-powered artificial muscles, just like Bender Bending Rodriguez. From the article on New Scientist:
"One day you could find yourself sitting in a bar next to a humanoid robot, who is taking a shot of vodka to give himself the energy to go to work," jokes Ray Baughman, a nanotechnologist at the University of Texas at Dallas, US.
Awesome. I can't help but leave you with a choice Bender quote, inspired by this news.
"I came here with a simple dream. A dream of killing all humans. And this is how it must end? Who's the real 7 billion ton robot monster here? Not I, not I..."

Friday, March 17, 2006


Snakes on a Plane

I can't seem to shut up today, but I can't help it. When you see something like this, you just have to share it. The official trailer for the movie with the best title evah!

Premier magazine had a sidebar a few issues back, describing the early flack this movie's already garnered, and their plans to change the title to something a little less "on the nose" than Snakes on a Plane. They were stymied when Sam Jackson insisted, insisted, that the title not be changed; it seems that was the reason he agreed to take the role in the first place. Just one more reason that Sam Jackson is bad motherfucker.


Titan Flu

The ideas in the news that "Earth rocks could have taken life to Titan" are so obvious that the stories could write themselves... but that doesn't mean that I'm not going to write one, myself.

I was thinking about something similar last week, reading about the exchange of material between Mars and Earth, through ejecta from big asteroid impacts, and wondering if something like panspermia could have acted in the opposite direction, originating on Earth and being transplanted elsewhere. And here comes New Scientist to give me the theoretical justification. Thanks, New Scientist!


Doctor Who on SCIFI

A quick reminder. If you live in the States and have basic cable, you owe it to yourself to watch the first two episodes of the first season of Doctor Who on SCIFI tonight. It's in the same slot that Battlestar Galactica vacated last week, so you should have already set aside that viewing time years ago. Starting next week they'll show an episode a week, but they're showing two tonight, largely because the first episode is, well, not the greatest, and the second episode is a home run.

If you loved Tom Baker as the Doctor in the seventies, you should watch. If your response to the title is "Who? What?", you should watch. Everyone should watch. It's just that good.


Phil Hester's The Atheist

I've never understood why Phil Hester isn't a comics superstar. He's a triple threat: a talented artist, a gifted scripter, and a spectacular "idea" guy. Most comic readers probably know him (if at all) in the first of those roles, from books like DC's Green Arrow and Nightwing or Marvel's Ultimate Marvel Team-Up. Those who have been lucky enough to pick up the books Hester has written, things like The Wretch, Firebreather, The Coffin, or Deep Sleeper, though, know that he slings a fine keyboard as well as a pen-and-ink.

The long-delayed third issue of Phil Hester and John McCrea's The Atheist is just out this week, and it's staggeringly good. It's the kind of thing that, were it published with Warren Ellis's name on it, comics afficianados would be wetting themselves over.

Here's the tagline, from the publisher's website:
Our world has dark corners normal people refuse to enter. They are populated by unspeakable things that defy logic and feed on fear. But these beings do have a natural predator in the form of Antoine Sharpe. He’s a scalpel on two legs bent on cutting out the disease infesting the human race, even if it kills the patient. A misanthropic genius and heartless hero, he’s better known to his government handlers as simply…the Atheist.

Sharpe, in the first three issues of the series, has dealt with a sentient cancer and a plague of dead "spirits" possessing the bodies of the living. Fairly standard work for a misantropic genius hero, but it's in the details that Hester really shines.

Sharpe explains in the third issue why he's called the "Atheist." It is because he believes nothing. He either knows, or he doesn't know. Later, he explains to his companion something of his working methods.
I'm a bit autistic, dear.

I read at the pace of a first grader. I cannot drive. Yellow and white are the only colors of clothing that do not make me vomit when they touch my skin. It is dangerous to let me cook.

I can, however, tell you the age and sex of an author by merely glancing at a printed page, or the flaw in a car enigne by feeling its vibration through the hood, or when a dam will fail by the coolness of the mist above its spillway.

All systems reflect information the way an object reflects light. I see information bloom in front of me--a fractal flower of probability.

There are some sample pages from the first issue of The Atheist on the publisher's site, but sadly it looks like the preview pages of the third issue are all dead links. Long months separated the release of the second and third issues of the series, so there's no telling when another will be released. Check out the first three issues, though, as well as some of Hester's other recent creator-owned projects, The Coffin (soon to be a feature film directed by Guillermo Del Toro) and Deep Sleeper. It's good stuff.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Africa's New Ocean

(Via Metafilter) Anyone writing a story set in Africa of 10 million years in the future (and really, who isn't?) will want to take into account Africa's new ocean. Fortunately for me, my space opera is set only twelve thousand years in the future, so it would probably be merely Africa's new pond by then (if we hadn't already dismantled the Earth to rebuild it in a more interesting shape...).

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Amphibious Robot Snake

(Via William Gibson) I have seen the future, and it is Amphibious Robot Snake. Watch the video, and I'm sure you'll agree. Asimo running is cute and all, but put it up against Amphibious Robot Snake and Asimo's cute ceramic ass'll be up on a chair, waving its actuators in terror.


Silver Lining Territory

Last year sucked. I won't go into any details, but suffice it to say that it was inarguably the worse year of the last thirty-five. Worse, the effects of last year threatened to spill over into this year, as well, even with Allison's new job. Back in January, she and I devised a plan that would save our bacon, but in order for it to work I'd need to sell three books pretty damned quick. It seemed a long shot, but we'd already cut our budgets back as far as they'd go, and there weren't any other options.

A month and a half ago, we got the good news that Viking was taking my YA alternate history, Iron Jaw and Hummingbird. A third of the way there, which was cause for minor celebration. On Friday I got word that Pyr was taking the next in my Bonaventure-Carmody sequence, End of the Century, which features the return of Sandford Blank, the hunt for the Holy Grail, and the Millennium Dome. Tantalizingly close now, but one more big hurdle to go. We smiled a bit, and I had an extra glass of wine, but held off on any big celebrating, afraid to jinx our good luck.

Well, yesterday's news meant that I'm digging in the closet for my long-unused dancing shoes. Just as I'm set to sign the contracts for End of the Century, I get word from my agent that he's received a formal offer on one of my work-for-hire franchise novel proposals. (I'd heard from the editor herself a couple of hours earlier, so it wasn't a shock, but it always seems more official when the word comes from my agent.) I'll wait until the contracts are done and the editor gives the go ahead to say what the project is, but the "research" involves me reading huge stacks of old comics, so how can that be bad?

Three books sold in the last six weeks, and we stay in the black this year. We've still got crushing amounts of debt, but hey, who doesn't? I've got the best job in the world.

Okay, now I'm off to celebrate.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Subterranean Magazine Cliche Issue

Issue number four of Subterranean Magazine, the John Scalzi-edited "Cliche Issue," is now available for preorder. Just look at the goodness that can be yours, just by ordering:

* "Scene from a Dystopia" by Rachel Swirsky
* "The Third Brain" by Charles Coleman Finlay and James Allison
* "It Came from the Slush Pile" by John Joseph Adams
* "A Finite Number of Typewriters" by Stuart MacBride
* "Cliche Haiku" by Scott Westerfeld
* "Horrible Historians" by Gillian Polack
* "Hesperia and Glory" by Ann Leckie
* "What a Piece of Work" by Jo Walton
* "Remarks on Some Cliches I Have (By Definition) Known Too Well" by Teresa Nielsen Hayden
* "The Last Science Fiction Writer" by Allen M. Steele
* "Shoah Sry" by Tobias S. Buckell and Ilsa J. Bick
* "Labyrinth's Heart" by Bruce Arthurs
* "The NOMAD Gambit" by Dean Cochrane
* "In Search Of...Eileen Siriosa" by Ron Hogan
* "Tees and Sympathy" by Nick Sagan
* "Last" by Chris Roberson
* "Refuge" by David Klecha
* "The Inevitable Heat Death of the Universe" by Elizabeth Bear

I've seldom been as eager to read the other contributions to an anthology project in which I've participated. I'm really looking forward to seeing how the other folks used the theme.


Publishers Weekly reviews Paragaea

I'm having the best day in recent years, today. The capper is this review, from the March 13 Publishers Weekly:

Paragaea: A Planetary Romance
Chris Roberson. Pyr, $25 (400p) ISBN 1-59102-440-4; $15 paper ISBN 1-59102-444-7

At the start of this entertaining speculative novel of lost races and time travelers from Roberson (Here, There and Everywhere), cosmonaut Akilina 'Leena' Chirikova, aboard Vostok 7 in Earth orbit, enters a strange silvery gateway to a planet called Paragaea, where a single giant continent and inland sea host dinosaurs and giant sloths, as well as humans and such hybrid creatures as jaguar men, snake men and bird men. Luckily, Leena meets fellow dimension-hopper Hieronymus Bonaventure, a sailor from the Napoleonic era, and his jaguar-man partner, Prince Balam. Together the trio set off across a barbaric alternate Earth worthy of Edgar Rice Burroughs to find someone who understands the dimensional portals so Leena can return home. Roberson's style, in the best pulp manner, favors enthusiastic exposition and travelogue with dashes of swashbuckling. His colorful characters and setting transport readers to a simpler era when every story offered new worlds to explore. (May)


I hope to have the words "[Creator of] a barbaric alternate Earth worthy of Edgar Rice Burroughs" engraved across my tombstone, by the way.



More Microlensing

Since yesterday, I've been skimming headlines about this new icy "super-Earth" discovered by the OGLE team using gravitation microlensing, thinking it was the same discovery I blogged about in January. Turns out it's another Neptune-mass terrestrial planet, this one more than twice as big and twice as close as the previous one. At 9K lightyears away, even if this new rock contains an ecosystem complete with sentient ice worms that 8999 years ago started sending radio signals, we're not going to be opening up any kind of meaningful dialogue. Still, as Andrew Collier Cameron, a planet hunter at St Andrews University, UK, points out in the New Scientist article linked above, “The fact that they’re picking up so many Neptune-mass planets is certainly interesting – it does suggest that they really are abundant.” The first half-dozen microlensing events have turned up two rocky planets, and that's a pretty good ratio. We've come quite long way from the idea of extrasolar planets being only hypothetical just a decade ago.

Monday, March 13, 2006


The Things I Worry About

Yesterday, Georgia and I were lazing in the living room before her nap, channel surfing, when we chanced upon an old episode of The Munsters. We only watched a few minutes before it was time to bustle her off to bed, but the brief exchanges between Herman, Lily, and Grandpa got me thinking. If Grandpa is Lily's dad, then why would his last name be "Munster"?

This plagued me the whole afternoon, as Allison and I attacked the mountain of leaves that's accumulated in the backyard over the winter. At one point, the leafblower momentary silenced, I asked Allison what she thought. She gave me one of her long-suffering looks, behind which I knew she was wondering just why she'd ever thought it was a good idea to marry me.

Today, I thought about it, on and off, and the only conclusion I could come to was that Munster wasn't Grandpa's last name. He either had another last name, or was only ever referred to as "Grandpa."

Why I didn't Google the answer yesterday on the laptop, while sitting on the couch, I'll never know. Tonight it took me all of forty-five seconds to determine that the character's actual name was Count Vladimir Dracula, but that he's identified only by his nickname "Grandpa" in the credits.

I honestly believe that if I could take all of the time I've wasted in my life worrying about things like this (and don't even get me started about my theories on the complicated genealogy of the Dukes of Hazard County), I might have actually accomplished something substantial by now. As it is, I've got a head full of useless trivia, and a very, very patient wife.


Google Mars

Because there's something wrong with me, I breezed past the first half-dozen articles in my Bloglines feeds about the new Google Mars project, and only on the seventh actually hit the link to see what all the fuss was about.

I've got a globe of this shaded relief map of Mars in my office, and have used it in writing Fire Star as well as Iron Jaw and Hummingbird. But I can't imagine how much easier it would've been if I'd had this tool, as well.

The map does a funky thing when you zoom out too far, repeating the landscape like a tiled background image, but other than that, this is drool-inducing cool.


Sci Fi Wire Interview

The inestimable John Joseph Adams has done a new interview with me for Sci Fi Wire that went live this morning, about the Celestial Empire sequence in general and the forthcoming Iron Jaw and Hummingbird in particular. One minor correction is that Iron Jaw is actually coming out initially in hardcover from Viking, with the follow-on paperback release being from Firebird.


Sunday, March 12, 2006


Missing Pages

(via Metafilter) Missing Pages is a 24 minute short movie, shot entirely with a digital still camera. The photos were then manipulated in a technique the creator Jerome Oliver calls "Fotomation," which is about a hundred generations beyond the filmstrips I saw in my elementary school classrooms. This is conceivably cheaper than shooting on digital video, but it couldn't possibly have been easier.

From the first seven minutes, available online, it seems to be a time travel story, the audio all in Japanese and subtitled in English, that starts a bit slow and picks up considerably by the seven minute mark. Doesn't appear to be any way to see the full movie outside of a few film festivals, but I'll keep an eye out for it. An interesting beginning.


The Middle Man, Redux

Last month I blogged about Javier Grillo-Marxuach's very excellent comic series, The Middle Man. A comment on another post this morning led me to Grillo-Marxuach's blog, where I discover that the same day I made my earlier entry, he had posted the news that the complete first issue of The Middle Man was available online. That's what I get for not hitting Technorati more often.

Speaking of free comics, the first few dozen pages of Colleen Doran's worthy A Distant Soil are now online, too.


How William Shatner Changed the World

No commentary here, really. Just pointing out that there's actually a program tonight on The History Channel with the title "How William Shatner Changed the World."
This 2-hour special will reveal how scientists, inspired by Star Trek, would revolutionize medicine and are surpassing the far-out vision of the future foreshadowed in the 1960s TV series.
Hey, it beats another documentary about WWII...

Friday, March 10, 2006


New Caprica

Wow. Show-runners, take note (and JJ Abrams, I'm looking at you). That is how you switch up the status quo with a season closer. Every character's standing and their personal relationships completely changed, but all of it entirely in line with the trajectory of their arcs to date. And so much said with so little (Apollo's haircut, or lack of one, his softening jaw line, and the fact that his girlfriend just called him "Commander"... what does that suggest about the last year?).

It's going to be a long wait until October.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


Locus Magazine's New and Notable

The Win Scott Eckert edited Myths for the Modern Age : Philip Jose Farmer's Wold Newton Universe, which came out last November from MonkeyBrain Books, has been singled out in Locus Magazine's list of New And Notable Books in the March 2006 issue. How about that?

All sorts of other great stuff on the list, too, including Lou Anders's FutureShocks (I'll admit, I'm biased) and Tobias Buckell's debut, Crystal Rain. Fine company to be in.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Dark Energy Stars

Man, I was just to the point where I'd wrapped my brain around the physics of black holes. Now George Chapline, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, and Nobel laureate Robert Laughlin of Stanford University, come along and say that there might not be any black holes after all, but dark energy stars instead. Added bonus? These dark energy stars would also account for all of that pesky dark energy and dark matter. This supposedly addresses the whole question of information loss.

I've just written a whole novel that hinges on controlled, artificially created microscopic black holes. I hope that the black hole theory remains accepted currency at least until the book is published!

On a tangentially related note, another project of mine, set in the near future, includes a United States that has taken a fairly radical turn towards a non-rational, fundamentalist religious, totalitarian culture. What is unexpected and ironic about this is that every bit of horrible news that shows up, on an almost daily basis, about just this sort of thing unfolding right before our eyes, is ironically welcome news, since it means I won't have to rework the project. If America were to turn into a free-loving, anarcho-syndicalist, weed-smoking agrarian commune tomorrow, I'd be screwed.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Blackstar Spaceplane

A quick check of Technorati shows me that the Aviation Week & Space Technology story about the Blackstar Spaceplane has been making the rounds the last day or two, and I'm sure no one has been waiting for me to weigh in on it, but what the heck? It's an amazing story, if true. Conspiracy theorists are (virtually) always wrong, but I suppose that doesn't mean there really aren't the occasional conspiracies, does it?

The article also serves to remind me of the existence of the Air Force Space Command, which I'd forgotten about in the last few months. Neither the future nor space belongs to America in the Space Opera I'm outlining, but there's still a place called the United States in the mid-twenty-second century when the story opens. The existence of this spaceplane might influence what the American players are doing off-stage, though, come to think of it.


Alan Moore Interviews

The Alan Moore Interview Index is, in its own words, "an index of all Alan Moore’s interviews currently available online with a summary of chief topics and subjects discussed." This is the sort of thing really of interest to the kind of fan who obsesses over every word Moore writes or says, and who would likely be interested to see his grocery shopping list, just to see what sort of influence it might have on his writing. Of course, seeing that I am that sort of fan, this is right up my alley. Endless hours of fun.

Monday, March 06, 2006


Keeping Time

Okay, so now I'm confused. I've been working on questions of time-keeping and time-scales for the space opera, and thought I had it licked, until I remembered that Earth's orbit is an ellipse, and not a circle. As a result, seasonal shifts in the Earth's orbital speed and distance from the sun, which puts it deeper into the sun's gravitational well, mean that terrestrial clocks actually tick slower at some times of the year than others. Right?

So if you're a near-future space man, hanging out on a mining station in the Asteroid Belt, communicating back and forth with your corporate bosses on Earth, does your chronometer--oh, hell, let's just call it a "clock"--have some sort of integrated logic to compensate for the differing clock-speeds as the Earth moves around in it's orbit? (And I'm assuming here that the asteroid in question orbits in a perfect circle, and so doesn't have any changes due to relativistic effects itself.) You're already going to be a few minutes "behind" your boss, in any radio communication, given the lag of several light-minutes between the Earth and the Belt, so simultaneity is already a pretty tricky concept, but what I can't work out is whether there's any cumulative effect from the different clock-speeds, or whether it all evens out when the Earth-clocks "speed-up" again.

How does NASA handle this, when programming or communicating with robotic probes sent out to the outer planets? As the probes move further out into the sun's gravity well, don't their clock-speeds change, as well? Since a lot of the maneuvers have to be performed at extremely precise moments, how do the programmers compensate?

I wish my skills at mathematics weren't so horrible. I sometimes brush near understanding the concepts in physics, but the ability to grasp the underlying formulae and calculations are just completely beyond me.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


Words on Paper

Jane Espenson, a television writer whose credits include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and DS9, has been keeping a blog about the art and craft of writing for television, much of it aimed at novice writers working on spec scripts. I've found, though, that much of what Espenson has to say has application in other media. A recent discussion of dialogue, for example, contains a few pearls of wisdom that many SF/F novelists could benefit from reading. In any event, I found yesterday's post about outlining particularly interesting. My own process is very much like Espenson's unnamed colleague's "words on paper" approach.

One of my Buffy colleagues had a method I want to tell you about. He would write what he called a "words on paper" draft. In this draft he would give all the scenes their shape, but he wouldn't finalize the dialogue. The characters were all given on-the-nose versions of what they needed to say.

After this draft was done, he would go through and rewrite the lines and polish the action and description, creating the draft he would turn in.

Between Espenson's blog and Ron Moore's blog, I'm discovering more and more that the outlining wheel I've been gradually reinventing over the years was originally beaten into shape by the best television writers, most of them working on genre shows. As I've recently noted, I've watched a lot of genre television, so I don't suppose that should come as a surprise. Still, it's been an unexpected realization, for all of that.

Friday, March 03, 2006


Hugo Recommendation

I meant to include this in my earlier post on the subject, but it slipped my mind. If you're eligible to nominate for the Hugo's this year, and haven't yet done so, a quick recommendation. In the category of Best Dramatic Presentation - Short Form, you won't go wrong nominating the "Father's Day" episode of DOCTOR WHO (Paul Cornell/writer; Joe Aherne/director). A fine piece of television, and worthy of recognition.


Any New Futures?

(Via Locus Online) Another great essay from Michael Chabon, reprinted from the January 06 issue of Details. This one is all about the future.

Coincidentally, I've been thinking a great deal about the world of ten thousand years hence, too. Halfway through Chabon's essay I had my back up and was ready to rumble--something along the lines of "Hey, some of us are still thinking about the future, thank you very much!"--and then he said the following, and all was forgiven.
"...some days it feels as if the imagined future of the mid-twentieth century was a kind of checklist, one from which we have been too busy ticking off items to bother with extending it. Meanwhile, the dwindling number of items remaining on that list—interplanetary colonization, sentient computers, quasi-immortality of consciousness through brain-download or transplant, a global government (fascist or enlightened)—have been represented and re-represented so many hundreds of times in films, novels and on television that they have come to seem, paradoxically, already attained, already known, lived with, and left behind. Past, in other words."

This is something I've been wrestling with, all through the Space Opera project. I've been reading a huyge stack of space opera novels, published over the course of the last fifty years or so, and what I'm realizing is that "new" future are becoming pretty thin on the ground. Most of the innovative, forward-looking science fiction about the future new being published, it seems to me, at best introduces a handful of new tropes or spins to an already existing model of the future. And much of the most successful stuff (at least creatively successful) amounts principally to imaginative reworking of "old" futures.

I've come to accept that my humble efforts are not going to shake the genre heavens, and no new work exists in any kind of vacuum. Science fiction, perhaps more tham most genre forms, is built on precedence and interaction with existing texts. Charles Brown, in an editorial in Locus I believe, described science fiction as an ongoing dialogue, and it seems to be one in which the vocabulary has been gradually refined and codified over the course of a century. But that said, at key points in the last few decades, writers have occasionally been able to bring a whole new slew of concepts to the table. Have we reached the point, now, when all of the concepts, all of the vocabulary, has already been set, and every future vision from this point forwards is going to be built using an existing lexicon?

Thursday, March 02, 2006


Hugo Nominations

Nomination Forms for the Hugo Awards (including the Not-A-Hugo Campbell Award for Best New Writer) are currently being accepted, but the deadline of March 10 is fast approaching. If you attended WorldCon in Glasgow, or are already a paid attendee for this year's WorldCon in LA, you're eligible to nominate.

In the rare event that you're curious in which categories I'm eligible, here's the short list:
Best Novel: Here, There & Everywhere, Pyr, April 2005

Best Short Story: "Gold Mountain," Postscript #5; "Prowl
Unceasing," Adventure Vol. 1, MonkeyBrain Books, November 2005

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: Second year of eligibility
As for me, I'm pulling for Charles Stross's Accelerando in the Best Novel category. If there's any justice in the universe (and the jury is still out on that one) it deserves to win.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Somewhere between Oz and LA

(Of interest only to Lost viewers.) The guy locked up in the hatch? Says his name is Henry Gale, and claims to have crashed a balloon onto the island. Right?

Remember Dorothy Gale? The one who almost returned to Kansas in a balloon? What was her uncle's name, again?

Henry, naturally.

Too bad there don't appear to be any movie fans among the survivors (or that Locke's reading appears not to have extended to L. Frank Baum). I should have caught it in the last episode, but it only clicked this time out. Allison and I don't believe for a second that he was captured by accident.


RSS - "Really Seredipidous synchronicity"

This showed up in today's RSS feed, which led me to this, which led me to this. Asteroid 99942 Apophis. April 13,2036.

Suddenly my notes for the space opera have several more specifics than they did fifteen minutes ago.

Is the internet the greatest aid to the writing process in the history of mankind, or is it just me?

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