Monday, July 31, 2006
I'm slowly catching up on email and bloglines. Being absent so soon after returning from San Diego was more than a little disorienting, leaving me feeling like I've been out of touch for weeks. Which, when you get right down to it, I have been.
Some good news was waiting for me in the inbox this morning, though. A couple of book sales, one in each of my two ongoing sequences (Celestial Empire and Bonaventure-Carmody). Once the contracts are signed I'll be a little more forthcoming with the details.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Tales of the Shadowmen in Asimov's
After publishing their monumental encylopedia, Shadowmen (2003) and Shadowmen 2 (2004), subtitled respectively "Heroes and Villains of French Pulp Fiction" and "Heroes and Villains of French Comics," Jean-Marc and Randy Lofficier took the next logical creative leap and commissioned an original anthology featuring many of the classic characters whose biographies had been given. The result, Tales of the Shadowmen: The Modern Babylon," is a feast of retro-styled thrills. A varied troupe of authors, including such familiar names as Robert Sheckley (in what must sure be one of his last appearances), Brian Stableford, Chris Roberson, and Terrance Dicks, bring all their affection for the famous creations of other authors into a postmodern melange of adventure. As you read these pieces, you can play the game of identifying the more familiar figures--Maigret, Lupin, Dupin, Robur, Holmes--before turning to the handy key at the rear of the book that tallies the various appearances of lesser-known personages. The stories range from low-key homages to gonzo outings. It takes Roberson, for instance, some convolutions to get Batman's parents on the French scene, but he does so expertly. A second volume of this series is already scheduled for 2006. With a third installment of Alan Moore's allied League of Extraordinary Gentlemen coming up soon as well, we'll have a banner year for interbook, trans-author commingling.Lofficier's anthos have been loads of fun to work on. I've got a story in the second volume, as well, and will very shortly be working on my contribution to the third. For someone with my affection for the pulps, Francophone or otherwise, they're a blast. (Oh, and as for "Dr. and Mrs. Wayne" being the parents of a certain dark knight detective, I admit nothing...)
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Now, I read that an outfit called BCI has announced plans to release virtually every cartoon and live-action Saturday morning show from the mid- to late-80s, none of which I've seen in three decades. Ark II. Space Academy. Hero High. The Secrets of Isis. Even Jason of Star Command.
Now, the problem is that even though it's been thirty years or so since I saw any of these, I already know they were crap. The question is, how truly horrible must they have been for me to realize, even through the misty haze of dim memories, that they weren't any good? Between the good graces of Netflix and the good people at BCI, it looks like I'm about to find out. But could I stop myself from checking them out, even knowing it's bound to be nothing but painful? Doesn't seem likely...
Paul Cornell's Wisdom
The same thing we do every night, Pinky...
Comic Con Recovery
My brain feels pureed, my voice is raspy and hoarse from too many cigarettes, and my feet are still kidding me. I think I had a good time, but it'll probably take a couple of days to piece together my fragmented memories of the week to know for sure. If nothing else, I got to spend time with a lot of friends, and met some great new folks.
Now I've got a few thousand entries on my bloglines feeds to read through. Why can't the internet just take a break for a few days while I'm away? Is that so much to ask?
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
I may be making updates from the road, depending on the availability of internet access at the hotel and elsewhere, but there's a good chance that I may be completely offline until my return next Monday. In which case, everyone have a great third week of July, and try not to get into any trouble while I'm away. (And, of course, if you'll be at Comic Con, be sure to drop by table F1 and say howdy!)
SF Signal interview Alan Beatts
They're Taking the Hobbits to Isengard
Monday, July 17, 2006
San Diego Comic Con Signing Schedule
Thursday, July 20
Editor Win Scott Eckert and fellow contributors signing copies of Myths for the Modern Age: Philip Jose Farmer's Wold Newton Universe: Peter Coogan, Chuck Loridans, Chris Carey, John Small, Brad Mengel, and Dennis Power
Friday, July 21
Peter Coogan signing copies of Superhero: The Secret Origin of a Genre
Saturday, July 22
John Picacio signing copies of Cover Story: The Art of John Picacio
John, Peter, Win, and the others may well be milling around the area at other times during the convention, but these blocks of time will be their only scheduled appearances at the BenBella/MonkeyBrain table, if you want to be sure to catch them. Naturally, copies of all these books will be on hand and available for sale throughout the weekend.
Seven Soldiers #1 (no, really...)
SF Site Review of Cover Story
The details still need to be worked out, but the basic approach is clear. A high voltage device on the spacecraft would tear the hydrogen into its constituent protons and electrons. This plasma would then be spewed out into space, creating a cloud around the spacecraft.This is a notion I don't think I've seen before. I dig it.
There would need to be a wire mesh outside the spacecraft and enclosing the plasma cloud. Electricity supplied to the mesh would keep an electrical current running in the plasma cloud and help confined it near the spacecraft.
The plasma's magnetic field would be a powerful deflector of cosmic rays, equivalent to aluminium shielding several inches thick, Slough says.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Saturday, July 15, 2006
Friday, July 14, 2006
Beyond the Threshold, a novel in progress
Chapter Twenty-Eight (excerpt)
Thursday, July 13, 2006
New Paragaea Review
Not only does it hearken back to a more innocent time in SF, Paragaea also embodies everything lovely and wondrous about the genre before it was, while applying a glossy new coat of modernism.
The Amazing Screw-On Head
Mike Mignola's second greatest creation (right after Hellboy, right before Lobster Johnson), made into an animated spectacle under the guidance of Bryan Fuller for the Sci Fi Channel.
Emperor Zombie. Airships. Werewolves. Chairs made out of live rats. A chimpanzee with a crown. A hookah deathtrap. Abraham Lincoln. And America's greatest defender, Screw-On Head.
Go watch the pilot online, say nice things in their little survey, and convince Sci Fi to make loads and loads more episodes, won't you?
"Godspeed, Screw-On Head!"
Socialist, humanist, feminist, anti-war activist and atheist, who warned in his fiction and nonfiction that the future would be a pretty bleak place indeed if social injustices, sexism, religiosity, and the barbarism of warfare weren't checked. Well, I guess he did, didn't he?
You Need This - Scarlet Traces: The Great Game & The Escapists
First up is the truly spectacular Scarlet Traces: The Great Game, from Ian Edginton and D'Israeli. Last year, I told you about Edginton and D'Israeli's adaptation of H.G. Wells's War of the Worlds, which is available online and in print. Easy enough. Except that their WotW was a prequel to their previous work, Scarlet Traces (see preview), which was itself a sequel to Wells' novel. And Scarlet Traces: The Great Game (see preview), then, is a sequel to Scarlet Traces. Confusing enough?
Well, confusing or not, you need all of them. Trust me. In Scarlet Traces, Edginton and D'Israeli showed us an England a few years after the events of Wells's original novel. While other WotW-sequels have had it that the invasion happened all over the world, the conceit of Scarlet Traces is that the Martians' sole beachhead in the novel was in England, starting in Woking and working out from there. Fair enough. Except that means that, at the novel's end, there's all this great Martian technology laying around in England, which nobody else has. In short order, of course, the British Empire is a force to be reckoned with, armed with reversed engineered Martian technology. There follows a surprisingly well-thought-out and researched alternate history, much better than it has any right to be.
Scarlet Traces was centered around a murder mystery, as Captain Robert Autumn and Sergeant Major Archie Currie investigate a rash of seeming murders, young women found washed up on the banks of the Thames, completely exsanguinated. A vampire? Not hardly. I won't spoil the clever twist ending, but it's a doozy.
Scarlet Traces: The Great Game returns to this same world a few decades later. It's the middle of the 20th Century, and clearly it's been England's century so far. But there are loads of folks who'd prefer the sun set on the English empire, once and for ally. Separatists in Scotland, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia agitate to leave the commonwealth, while the papers are filled with stories of the valiant British forces taking the fight to the Martians on the red planet itself. Except, of course, that what's really going on up on Mars appears to be quite different than the government's propaganda would have it. The main character is a reporter for the bastion of the liberal press, The Interceptor, an upperclass woman who's turned her back on the society set, choosing instead a life of adventure.
The first of four issues was released this week. A trade collection is inevitable, I'm sure, but then you'd have to wait months and months to find out what happens. Pick up the first two collections now, and you can follow along the action of The Great Game with the rest of us. And doesn't that sound like fun?
Go buy it. Honestly. You need it.
Okay, next up is The Escapists, from Brian K. Vaughan and Philip Bond. Originally planned as a serial in the late, lamented anthology series The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist, this new miniseries also features the characters of Michael Chabon's Pulitzer-prize winning novel, The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. But while the anthology series featured stories of the "fiction" character the Escapist, Luna Moth, and the like, Vaughan and Bond's The Escapists takes the opposite tack, presenting the "real" world of the novel, and the successors of Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay.
Maxwell Roth lives in Cleveland, the Comic Book Capital of the World. Ever since he discovered his late father's collection of Escapist memorabilia and comics, he's wanted nothing more than to write for comic books. When his mother dies and leaves him a healthy inheritance, he blows the whole thing on buying the rights to the moribund character, hires struggling storyboard artist Case Weaver, and enlists his childhood friend Denny Jones to letter the book and wear an Escapist costume for staged public appearances.
Only one issue of the miniseries has appeared so far, and it's really just a reprint of the chapter that appeared in the final installment of the anthology series. But already it's brilliant. I particularly like the terrific fourth-wall breaking, direct-to-camera bits, but the straight narrative is splendid, as well. Brian K. Vaughan is one of the best writers working in comics today (I can't say enough good things about his current series Runaways, Y the Last Man, and Ex Machina) and Philip Bond has been a personal favorite since Deadline-days.
Please ignore the dogshit Frank Miller cover, by the way. I don't know why publishers continue to put his drunken scrawls in public view like this, but I can only imagine they think they serve as some kind of draw. Who knows, maybe they do? But this is a book not to be judged by its cover (and I can only imagine that the razor-wire looking loops on the cover are meant to be chains--which would make sense in context--but that Miller couldn't be arsed to actually draw the individual links), so check out the preview to see what the gorgeous interiors are actually like.
Again, trade collection is inevitable, but Dark Horse has a tendency to let long periods of time lapse between the periodical publication and the collection--one imagines to give the individual issues more of a shelf-life--so there's no telling how long it'll be until one comes out. If you read and enjoyed Kavalier and Clay, I can't recommend The Escapists highly enough. Well worth seeking out.
Chesley Award Finalists
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
That's a bearded, seventies-era Adventure Team GI Joe, a mummy's sarcophagus, and an all terrain vehicle. Nothing spells "holiday" more than that, right?
Damn, I want one of these...
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
High Score: CHMP
Powerpuff Girls... Z?
"Cryptid is a story created in the spirit of the classic pulp fiction action adventures of the 1930's. Kipling McKay is a soldier/safari hunter who is recruited by a secret society of cryptozoologists to hunt down and capture Cryptids. During Kip's adventures he joins forces with a powerful Yeti and a beautiful scientist. The story has heaping doses of suspense, action adventure and humor. The comic and film script was written to work for multiple markets. Each issue will end with a cliffhanger, leaving our hero Kip McKay battling an unstoppable Cryptid creature…"
There's every chance that Cryptid could be very not good, but on paper it's sounding well worth checking out.
Where Did Everybody Go?
A bit of anecdotal "evidence" (based very little on anything like hard facts. Some of this I can prove, but some of it is based on assumptions that could be incorrect):
- Theater owners and movie studios complain of worrying trends in the declining number of moviegoers.
- Subscription and newsstand sales figures for genre short fiction magazines have steadily eroded in recent years.
- The vast majority of American comic books sell only a fraction of what they did at the beginning of the 90s, and the best selling comics today don't approach the lowest selling numbers of the 50s and 60s.
- Viewership of network television is only a shadow of what it was in the 80s.
- Book sales are down across the board, and in science fiction and fantasy in particular.
- Entire genres once found on mass market paperback racks in the 60s and 70s have vanished.
- Many American cities support only one daily newspaper, and those that remain struggle with ever declining readerships.
- Live theaters struggle to remain commercial viable, if they manage to remain open at all.
I usually see these facts discussed in isolation, and if ever any linkages are made between two or more, they usually are attributed to a single cause. For example, the fact that fewer people are reading anything these days can explain the decline in book sales, newspaper readership, and magazine circulation numbers. But there are other factors: collapsing distribution systems, increases in production costs (pulp paper prices, for example), competition from other media (video games, DVD), and the ever looming threat of piracy, of course.
There's a corollary here, and I think it's an important one. Inarguably, and irrespective of quality, there is a wider range of choice in entertainment than at any point in the recent past, if in fact ever in history. More channels on your cable box, new forms of media that didn't exist a couple of decades ago, more new comic titles on the shelves, newpublishers and imprints almost every year. And while there may be a decline in variety--see the whole "vanishing genres" comment above--I think there has arguably been a rising waterline of quality in virtually ever media. Perhaps not at the high end--there are few standouts on the order of Citizen Kane or Watchmen or The Stars My Destination in any given year--but most definitely at the low end. People complain about the poor quality of Hollywood blockbusters, but is any given flick littering the screens of the local cineplex really harder to watch than Raw Deal? And love reality television shows or hate them--I'm personally not a fan--are they really worse than Battle of the Network Stars? Really? And I'd argue that in some media the high end has improved. I challenge anyone to point out anything on American television before ten years ago that was anything like as good as Deadwood or Rome.
Bigger population, more choice, rising quality, but shrinking audiences. Why is this happening? Well, I'm not certain, but I think the answer may be in the question. Here's my half-baked theory: The potential audience for entertainment expands as the population grows, while at the same time the number of entertainment choices expands at a similar rate, but the audience for each form of entertainment shrinks.
What can be done about it? Should anything be done about it?
I've begun to suspect in recent years that the idea of mass media, as it was commonly understood throughout the last century, might have ended. Thirty years ago, one could be reasonably assured that a majority of the population watched the previous night's episode of a top-rated television show. A top-selling recording audience in the middle of the last century would have been familiar to huge segments of the population. And when the local cineplex only had two screens, it was a sure bet that any moviegoers would have seen one or the other.
Today, though, with so many choices and different forms of media, a majority of Americans are likely never to have tuned into a top-rated television show. And two coworkers could independently go to a new release a week, and even if they were going to the same cinema could manage never to see the same movie as the other. Countless millions of Americans have never even heard of any of the New York Times best selling novels for the past year, much less read them.
I've been fairly convinced that the "long tail" is a real phenomenon, but I think it remains to be seen what the economics of it will be over the long haul. But is the long tail sympomatic of something even farther reaching? Is mass media a thing of the past?
(There are other wrinkles here, of course, which I don't have time fully to articulate: limited choice in Big Box retail, distribution monopolies, the sorry state of the economy, et cetera, et al. I know things aren't as simple as I've outlined, but I did say this was half-baked.)
Monday, July 10, 2006
Sunday, July 09, 2006
Year's Best SF
As always, Gardner's Summation is worth the price of admission all by itself. An invaluable overview of the year in science fiction, in all its various and sundry forms.
Saturday, July 08, 2006
Okay, so I'm bolding series of which I've seen at least three episodes, and bolding and italicizing those for which I've seen every episode.
Alfred Hitchcock Presents
American Idol/Pop Idol/Canadian Idol/Australian Idol/etc.
America's Next Top Model/Germany's Next Top Model
Babylon 5: Crusade
Battlestar Galactica (the old one)
Battlestar Galactica (the new one)
Beavis & Butthead
Beverly Hills 90210
Boy Meets World
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Commander in Chief
Coupling (the UK version, of course)
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Dancing with the Stars
Dead Like Me
Degrassi: The Next Generation
Dharma & Greg
Doctor Who (new Who)
Everybody Loves Raymond
Facts of Life
Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.
Homicide: Life on the Street
I Dream of Jeannie
I Love Lucy
Laverne and Shirley
Little House on the Prairie
Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
Lost in Space
Love, American Style
Malcolm in the Middle
Married... With Children
Mork & Mindy
My Life as a Dog
My Three Sons
My Two Dads
One Tree Hill
Queer As Folk (US)
Queer as Folk (British)
Saved by the Bell
Scarecrow and Mrs. King
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?
Sex and the City
Six Feet Under
Slings and Arrows
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Star Trek: Voyager
Star Trek: Enterprise
Superman (I'm assuming this is the George Reeves series)
That 70's Show
That's So Raven
The Addams Family
The Andy Griffith Show
The Beverly Hillbillies
The Brady Bunch
The Cosby Show
The Daily Show
The Dead Zone
The Dick Van Dyke Show
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
The Golden Girls
The L Word
The Love Boat
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
The Mighty Boosh
The Office (UK)
The Office (US)
The Real World
The Six Million Dollar Man
The Suite Life of Zack and Cody
The Twilight Zone
The West Wing
The Wonder Years
Whose Line is it Anyway? (US)
Whose Line is it Anyway? (UK)
Will and Grace
I probably shouldn't be surprised to see that I've watched so much, and so much of it crap. But I am. Damn, I've watched a lot of crap...
Friday, July 07, 2006
I found Xerxes in the Atrium, the domed ceiling overhead displaying a true-color image of the hull’s exterior view.And that's it. Now I'm off to sell the damned thing.
“May I join you?”
Xerxes waved absently to the bench beside em, eir eyeless face lifted, watching birds wheel high overhead.
“Sorry you didn’t find your extraterrestrials, Xerxes,” I said, sitting.
“It was an unlikely outcome.” Ey made a noise almost like a sigh, though for my benefit or eir own, I wasn’t sure. “It always is, I suppose. But there’s still the hope that our next destination may prove more fruitful.” Ey paused, and then said, “What is our next destination, for that matter?”
“A nebula a hundred or so lightyears away,” I answered. “The brothers Grimnismal think there’s a chance we might find their exotic matter in the vicinity.”
The robot shrugged, an almost imperceptible gesture. “It seems as good a destination to me as any.”
I smiled. “You know, that was pretty much my feeling exactly?”
The birds overhead swooped and darted, and the robot and I sat quietly for a long moment.
“Tell me, Xerxes. Do you regret not moving into your final stage yet, breaking your body down and beaming your signal out into space?”
Ey turned eir eyeless face towards mine, and smiled. “If I had, Captain Stone, I wouldn’t be sitting here, talking to you, watching these birds. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after that. The future lies before us, with all its endless promise of possibility, discovery, and surprise. How could I possibly want to give all that up?”
I laughed. “Xerxes, I couldn’t agree more!”
The stars beyond the curve of the Atrium ceiling began to shift, growing gradually redder, moving slowly but steadily towards our sky’s north pole.
We were on our way into the future.
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Any takers? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you're willing to accept this fabulous offer.
Me, Me Therapy
Mark Roberts is missing?
I've had many drinks with Mark Roberts in the short time I've known him, and he's struck me as a very right dude. Just the other day I was hoping that I'd see him at WorldCon or WFC this year, to have even more drinks and catch up. I'm still hoping.
Of course, this could all be a hoax, and I could be a gullible dupe, in which case I'll be very relieved. And if so, next time the first round's on me.
Tiny Solar System, Big Theory
Now, sending a spacecraft out to the Lagrange point L2 just to set a little tungsten orrery in motion might not seem the simplest test, but damned if it couldn't prove some pretty far reaching notions.
Once at the Lagrange point, the artificial solar system would be set in motion inside the spacecraft. An 8-centimetre-wide sphere of tungsten would act as an artificial sun, while a smaller test sphere would be launched 10 cm away into an oval-shaped orbit. The miniscule planet would orbit its tungsten sun 3,000 times per year.As the article points out, not only could this experiment be used to test the unseen spatial dimensions that underlie everything from multidimensional cosmology to M-Theory, but it could also test Modified Newtonian Dynamics, an alternate theory of gravity that could eliminate the need for dark matter in cosmological models. And all from a couple of tungsten spheres only a few centimeters across. How awesome is that?
If gravity is leaking into extra dimensions, the slight change in its force should cause the planet's oval-shaped orbit to rotate, or precess, slowly. Sahni and Shtanov calculated the effect for a theory called the Randall-Sundrum model, which says that our universe is a 3D slice of a bigger, higher dimensional universe. They find the orbit would precess by 1/3600Â° per year Â "a reasonable quantity to try and measure," they say.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
In a Hole
It's looking like the book will be closer to 80K or so, when it's all said and done, but I've left the progress meter at 90K, just cause. I'm much nearer the end than meter shows, though, more like 86%, and two solid days works (or one solid day and a couple of nights) might put me past the finish line.
68,388 / 90,000
Today's excerpt is a brief flashback of sorts, while RJ Stone waits between torture sessions. Or perhaps not torture, but beatings at least. It isn't anything kinky, though, I assure you. You know the inevitable scene in classic Star Trek episodes where Kirk is stripped to the waist, beat up, and shackled to a wall, covered in tasteful scars and bruises? It's like that.
Of course, the next thing Kirk always does is get loose and kick the bad guy's ass. Don't expect for RJ to do any less.
When I was a kid, I joined the Bharat Scouts. Then I fell in a hole, and decided I’d had enough of scouting for a while.
I’d earned the rank of Rashtrapati Scout, and moved up to the Rovers, and was going for my Rambler Badge. My crew had already been drilled on first aid and survival techniques, and all that was left was to complete a four day journey, organized by me and approved by the rest of the crew. The trip could be by land or water, and by foot, vehicle, or vessel, which meant we could have sailed, or flown ultralights, or any number of other options. Me? For some reason I opted to walk. We’d go trekking in the hills of Meghalaya, four days and nights.
The journey had to present a “definite test of endurance,” and “bring out qualities of self-reliance, intiative, determination, and leadership.”
Right. Some leader I turned out to be.
Four of us set out on foot from a village in the East Khasi Hills district. My dad had been our escort from Bangalore, but he’d be sleeping in a hotel bed in Shillong while we kids slept rough under the stars. I hadn’t told the adults, but I’d planned our route to increase our chances of getting to spend the night along the way in one of the little villages of the hill tribes, where we’d have a better chance of a comfortable bed—though still a pretty slim chance, at that.
I had a satellite phone with me, in case something went wrong. But aside from getting blisters on our feet, and aching calves and backs, I couldn’t imagine what could possibly happen.
Then, before we’d even gone a full days’ trek, the earth opened up and swallowed me whole.
There were caves all over the Khasi Hills, among them the deepest and longest in all of South Asia. People had been coming to Meghalaya to chart and explore caves for centuries, and if you’d asked me at the time, I would have figured that every cave that could be discovered, had been discovered. And then I fell into one that no one seemed to have found before.
One of the other kids fell in with me, but the other two managed to scramble back out of the way quick enough not to get dragged down as well. Apparently, we’d stepped where no one else had stepped, in the history of forever, because the roof of the cave was separated from the ground above by a layer of dirt and gravel only a few centimeters thick, and with our weight on it the whole thing just gave way.
Vikram was knocked unconscious by the fall, but for all I knew he was dead. It was almost pitch black, with only a hazy light streaming down from the hole we’d made far overhead. I’d landed at a bad angle, my legs tangled up in stalagmites, both of them broken in multiple places and my left arm pulled out of its socket. Only my right arm could still move at all, but any attempt to drag myself across the floor sent waves of nausea and pain ripping across my body, so I quickly decided to give that a rest.
I had the satellite phone in my pack, but after spending long, bone-grinding minutes digging it out, I discovered that it didn’t work, the signal blocked by the ceiling of rock and dirt overhead. Sanjay and Arati shouted down that they were going to go for help, and I discovered that one of my lungs must have punctured in the fall, since I couldn’t caught enough breath to shout up that one of them, at least, should stay behind.
They both ran off, back the way we’d come, and I was left down in the darkness, with the unconscious Vikram and a body racked with pain.
Then, night fell.
I’m not sure what was worse. The pain, or the waiting. Waiting, not knowing whether Sanjay and Arati would bring back help in time, or if they did come back, whether they’d be able to find the site of the cave-in again. Waiting, not knowing whether I was bleeding internally, and not sure how long I’d last if I was. Waiting, unsure whether I’d ever see daylight again. But ever-present, and inescapable, was the pain.
That’s what it was like, bound to the wall in the Iron Mass mining platform. Senses numbed with pain, waiting for the hatch to open again, and for new torments to begin. And I felt the same, dull ache in the pit of my stomach now as I did then, the same sick sense of expectation and anticipation.
The only difference was, this time there was no chance that my dad would show up in the morning to rescue me.
The Sound of a Barrel's Bottom, Being Scraped
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Military Manoeuvres on Celestial Bodies
62,958 / 90,000
Today's excerpt comes right at the opening of Part Three, just before the action begins, and is essentially just a little bit on the origins of the twenty-second century United Nations Orbital Patrol, in which RJ Stone served before joining UNSA and taking a twelve-thousand year long nap.
I was never military. But for a while I was a cop.
In her former life, before being reborn in the Human Entelechy, Amelia Apatari had been a soldier-flyer, a volunteer with the United Nation’s standing army, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. As a Peacekeeper, she’d been trained to fight, trained to kill. Of course, all she really wanted to do was to fly, and to see new places, but she’d had the training, if needed. And she’d needed, on occasion.
Me, I’d signed on with the Orbital Patrol because I wanted to go into space, and it seemed to offer the best chances. A division of the Department of Outer Space Affairs, the Patrol had been chartered for emergency response and search-and-rescue operations under the original draft of the Outer Space Treaty, before it was revised and ratified in the early 22C. The 1967 draft of the OST was pretty down on the notion of any militarized use of space.
“The moon and other celestial bodies shall be used by all States Parties to the Treaty exclusively for peaceful purposes. The establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military manoeuvres on celestial bodies shall be forbidden. The use of military personnel for scientific research or for any other peaceful purposes shall not be prohibited. The use of any equipment or facility necessary for peaceful exploration of the moon and other celestial bodies shall also not be prohibited.”
Needless to say, that language got tweaked a bit once extraplanetary colonies started declaring themselves sovereign nations. To say nothing of the growing numbers of “pirate kingdoms” based in the asteroid belt, the Jovian moons, or wherever smugglers and thieves could lay their hands or equivalent cybernetic appendages on a bit of real estate. In short order, the idea that space was solely for peaceful purposes seemed quaint, like steam trains or poodle skirts.
The Peacekeepers, who to that point had been limited to strictly terrestrial operations, were given expanded operational authority to allow them to deal with brush wars and border skirmishes on the colonies, belts, and elsewhere. That just left crime to contend with.
So while the Orbital Patrol hadn’t been chartered for law enforcement, by the time I was a kid it’d been given limited jurisdictional authority. But there were still old guard in the General Assembly who weren’t crazy about the notion of an interplanetary police force, and so the UN only granted interdiction authority to a small subset of Orbital Patrol officers.
When I’d signed onboard Cutter 972, I’d been tapped as an Interdiction Detachment. As with most ID officers, I’d had secondary responsibilities as a crewmember, but when circumstances demanded, I was authorized to board other craft. Most every Patrolman got trained in Interdiction Negotiation, a multidisciplinary approach incorporating elements of psychology, military strategy, negotiation tactics, and martial arts, even if only ID officers ever used the training, just like all Patrolmen were trained marksmen, even if only ID officers were authorized to use energetic firearms in the field.
A few times, after boarding smugglers’ ships or pirate vessels, just me with no backup but my cap-gun and the jurisdictional authority of an Interdiction Detachment, I’d found myself taken prisoner—a crook had gotten the drop on me, or managed to disarm me, or whatever the case might have been—and a time or two, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it out alive. But I’d never been completely without hope, had never given up on the notion of escape.
It had taken twelve thousand years, and an exiled group of genetically-engineered religious fanatics, but I was coming close to breaking my streak.
Superman Vs. Nick O'Teen
John Picacio Interview
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Brain Parade Future Science Fiction
Monday, July 03, 2006
Cover Story in Scifi Magazine
John Picacio, whose gorgeous book covers utilize materials from standard acrylic paint to found objects employed as elements in complex mosaics, eschews the obvious. The results are sometimes haunting, sometimes witty, sometimes ornate and sometimes startlingly simple, but almost always achingly beautiful. Among the best in this oversized collection, best appreciated by readers willing to page through it slowly: "Last Tour of Duty," an illustration for Devon Monk's story, which empties a soldier's pockets to frame its G.I. with dogtags, a grenade and a package of Lucky Strike cigarettes; "Dangerous Visions," a cover for a new edition of Harlan Ellison's anthology, for which he built a set of bat wings out of copper tubing and newspapers; and "Gateway," which evokes the mingled psychology and space opera of Frederik Pohl's novel.
The book closes with a lengthy interview, in which, among other things, Picacio describes his opposition to lazy illustrations that merely duplicate events or places from a given story. He says such covers steal from readers' right to envision such moments in their own imagination. And he may be right. But from the evidence on display, Picacio has plenty of imagination to spare. He doesn't need to steal a thing.
Locus Poll Results
Meanwhile, mad love for John Picacio, who clocked in at number three on the Best Artist list, right behind Hugo-perennials Michael Whelan and Bob Eggleton. The commentary notes that John got more first-place votes than Eggleton and came in second in the non-subscriber voting. It's only a matter of time before John gets a silver rocket of his very own.
Sunday, July 02, 2006
A Night at the Park
Today I hit the two-thirds mark, and since I've got five days available to write this week, with Allison home tomorrow and Tuesday, there's a chance I'll finish by the week's end. We'll see.
56,741 / 90,000
Today's sample comes just a few chapters before the end of Part Two, just as things start to go a bit wrong. But I figure, before things go wrong, why not have a nice night at the park?
As the ship prepared to drop back into normal space, rather than watching from the bridge, with just the command crew and department heads, I asked everyone who was interested to join me in the Atrium. The Further avatar perched on my shoulder, as more than a thousand crewmembers crowded into the park, lining the walkway, spilling over the bandstand and theater shell. Some lay on the grass, propped up on their elbows, watching the domed ceiling high overhead. I’d asked the Further to configure the ceiling to display a real-time, true-color image of the hull’s exterior view.
We were approaching our destination head on, so that the north pole of the Further’s main sphere was pointed directly as the binary pulsar. Only moments remained before the bubble of distorted space collapsed, but we’d already been slowing for hours. The stars, which had crowded only a short while before into a red dot directly overhead, were gradually shifting down the scale, spreading apart, barely pinked by our accelerations.
With the crowd around me, the only light that of the reddish stars overhead, I was reminded of my grandfather’s stories of his childhood in America, and Independence Day celebrations. The illusion was strengthened when Maruti ambled over, wearing a top hat and tails, drinking some sort of frozen cocktail.
“I thought I’d dress for the occasion,” the chimpanzee said, smiling. “Not all of us opt to wander around stark naked at all hours like Xerxes.” He glanced around. “Where is that dour robot, anyway? It’s his bloody pulsar we’ve come to see, isn’t it?”
“I didn’t realize it was in your purview to deed ownership of stars, exobiologist,” said a voice from behind him, “but if that power is yours, I’ll happily accept.”
Maruti sighed, dramatically. “Good ship’s evening, Xerxes.”
Ey joined us, and the robot, the chimp, and I looked overhead as one, all of us eagerly anticipating our arrival in our own way.
“Just another moment, Captain Stone, and we’ll be arriving,” said the silver eagle on my shoulder.
“Did I miss it?” chimed the voice of Amelia, projecting onto my other shoulder. “I got caught up in learning to navigate a sailship, and lost track of time.”
“No, little ghost,” Xerxes said, “but we’ll be there momentarily.”
A short distance off, the cetacean Arluq lounged in the bowl of the fountain, luxuriating in cool water. The brothers Grimnismal were perched on a nearby bench, in some sort of disagreement with the cat Ailuros.
“Shouldn’t those two be down in drive engineering?” I said, pointing towards the corvids, asking no one in particular. “Shouldn’t someone be looking after the operations?”
“I have things well in hand,” the Further said, “but if anything should arise, I assure you I’ll alert the drive engineers immediately.”
“They’re busy arguing about Ailuros’s proposal to reconfigure the power routing system when we arrive,” said Chief Executive Zel, walking over to where we stood. “Ultimately I think it’ll be a question for the principals to decide, since it doesn’t look as though they’re going to reach an accord any time soon.”
“Captain,” said the voice of three Jida bodies in unison, approaching from the other side, “this is probably the best idea you’ve had yet. We need to have these sorts of gathering’s more often. I’m having the best time.” A pair of escorts walked with them, each flanked by Jida on either side—one a space-adapted anthropoid male who stood almost as tall as Arluq, the other a whip-thin artificial being of some sort who looked to be made of flowing quicksilver, and whose laughter was like tinkling bells—and from the gentle caresses the Jidas bestowed on arms of muscle and quicksilver alike, it wasn’t terribly hard to imagine what sort of time Jida was having.
“We’re almost there,” the Further said.
“Xerxes,” Zel said, “what can we expect to see when we arrive?”
“The display above us is coded to the visual spectrum, blocking out any harmful x-ray radiation or the like coming from the rotating neutron star.”
“Yes, but it’ll just be two small stars, yes?”
“Essentially,” the robot said with a sigh.
“Captain?” the Further said. “We are there.”
Somewhere between the words “are” and “there,” it happened. The stars, now only vaguely pinked, shifted once more in position before freezing in place, once more startling white, and the binary pulsar hung above us.
The Further was capable of fairly limited maneuvering in normal space, and so the Further had brought us in fairly close to the center of the system, so as to be in an optimal position. Directly overhead, a pole star to our night sky, hung the pulsar. Somewhere off in the night was a tiny white dwarf companion, only about forty-three thousand times more massive than Earth. Just as had been expected.
What hadn’t been expected, however, was that the pulsar might have an asteroid belt, much less a planet.
But this particular pulsar appeared to have both.
“Didn’t see that coming,” Maruti said, doffing his top hat respectfully.
Considering the tremendous burden of making a new Superman movie that would a) entertain and satisfy adults who grew up on the original Christopher Reeve films, b) build a new audience born in the intervening decades, and c) launch a new franchise, I don't think Singer and screenwriters Michael Dougherty & Dan Harris could have done a better job. They clearly studied Superman: The Movie and Superman II carefully, and I loved that all of the callbacks to the first two films in the dialogue were in character and for in-story reasons (what, for example, did the three sentence exchange between Superman and Lois in the seaplane suggest about what she might remember, or might be now remembering, about the events of Superman II?), so that they work in context and not as forcibly inserted in-jokes. And, for that matter, the fact that the narrative at no point comes out and says that the events of the first two Reeve films happened, but contains enough covert references that it's the only conclusion to draw.
I'll shut up now before I venture into fullblown spoiler land, and say only this: I'm already eagerly looking forward to the next installment in the franchise.
Saturday, July 01, 2006
Seven Soldiers #1
"Speaking of Morrison, Didio noted that Seven Soldiers #1, the conclusion of Morrison’s epic, is looking like it will be out in October."Delayed from June, remember. Again, I say Aargh!
The only bit of good news was the reveal that Morrison is responsible for the Animal Man scenes in the ongoing 52, which means I'm probably on safer ground to begin ignoring the other sections in this slow-moving trainwreck. (Thankfully, if nothing else, the truly horrible "History of the DC Universe" backup strip has got to be winding up any week now. And what a godawful piece of shit that's been.)