Monday, December 31, 2007
This is the first year in which I've written full-time, with Georgia spending part of every day (ideally, at least) in preschool. Life intruded more than a few times, of course, and so I didn't actually get to work every day (in December, particularly, I only managed a scant handful of days working, due to various family illnesses and trips to doctors and hospitals, and those few days hardly productive ones). Still, I was interested to see how my productivity this year compared to previous years in which I was only able to work part time.
As a basis for comparison, here's my total output for the last two years, in both of which I was only able to work part-time at best.
Set the Seas on Fire 22,382 new words
End of the Century 167,245
Iron Jaw and Hummingbird 64,093 new words
The Dragon's Nine Sons 94,151
Star Trek: Brave New World 40,600
Three Unbroken (first twenty chapters) 30,234
"Death on the Crosstime Express" 8,056
"Assault on Miral Prime" 7,427
"Abominable Memory" 7,478
Total new words written in 2007: 441,666
Not bad. Not bad at all. This year I managed to do better than the last two years combined, and this year's output included some of my best long-form work to date, at least in my opinion. Considering that I only wrote a few hours a day at most (about four or five hours daily on average), and then only for a few weeks out of each month, I feel pretty good about the results. One of my goals for the year was to work out a sustainable schedule, one I could follow over the long haul, including time each day for exercise, loads of time for playing with Georgia and just hanging out with Allison, and time off every now and again to lunch with friends or read a book just for pleasure. Aside from the last month, which was pretty much scrubbed due to the aforementioned difficulties, I've pretty much managed to hit all the marks and still produce more work than any year to date. It's a promising indicator of what I'll hopefully be able to do in the next few years.
Wearing my editor/publisher hat, I did reasonably well, in comparison. MonkeyBrain only published three titles this year, due to a variety of factors, internal and external, but those three were gems: Paul Cornell's British Summertime, Kim Newman's Secret Files of the Diogenes Club, and Sean Williams's Cenotaxis. For those keeping score, that's one first-US novel, one short story collection, and one original novella. We're expecting to do about as many next year, if things go according to plan, for what it's worth.
And on the parenting front? Georgia is still the cutest, smartest kid on the planet (don't believe me? Go see for yourself). So I've got no complaints on that score.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
The applications to gaming are obvious, but I'm thinking about what it could mean for desktop productivity, creating a truly 3D workspace on a flat monitor display. Imagine working with a really enormous image in Photoshop and being able to maneuver from one area to another just by leaning to the side, or tiling multiple documents and being able to navigate between them just by shifting your body to one side or the other.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Free Fiction Friday: "Timmy Gromp Saves Christmas"
Back in the Clockwork Storybook days, when we were producing regular material for our webzine, we'd occasionally do round-robin stories with a character called Timmy Gromp. He was a hapless kid, unloved by his parents (or anyone else, for that matter), and we seemed to delight in heaping abuse on him. Sort of like Kevin Shapiro in Daniel Pinkwater's Young Adult Novel, nothing but misery ever came poor Timmy Gromp's way.
In December 2001, I wrote the following bit of nonsense for our "holiday issue," clearly the result of watching far too many stop-motion animated specials as a kid. I was reminded of it the other day while watching Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer with Georgia, and figured I might as well inflict a Timmy Gromp story on the world again, for old time's sake.
Timmy Gromp Saves Christmas:
The Final Installment
What has gone before…
Timmy Gromp, a seemingly normal American boy, has been recruited by the Council of Holidays in the effort to save Christmas. Santa Claus, beloved icon of the season, has been taken prisoner by the Anti-Claus, his nemesis and opposite number from an alternate dimension of pure evil.
Aiding Timmy in this effort is Denny S. Hopper, renegade member of the Easter Bunny Corps, who sees this mission at his one last chance at redemption. He is small, but has a big heart, and a motorcycle, and a gun.
In our last installment, Timmy and Hopper were hot on the trail of a supernatural fish with the powers of locating the Anti-Claus’ secret lair: the magical Rankin’ Bass. Unfortunately, the Fishing Chimps, minions of the dark one, beat them to the prize, hooking the Rankin’ Bass and spiriting it away before Timmy and Hopper could react.
Now, south of the border in
“I don’t know, Hopper,” Timmy said, “it’s beginning to look like there’s no hope.”
“Pshaw,” Hopper answered, slamming a clip into his semi-automatic pistol with a satisfying click. “There’s always hope.”
“But Christmas starts in just a few hours, and we don’t even know where Santa is being held prisoner!” Timmy was getting agitated, jumping up and down and turning several shades of red.
“There’s always options,” Hopper said, sighting along the pistol’s barrel. He held his short arm out extended, pointed towards the far horizon, and then swung his aim in a slow arc to the west. The bunny paused when his aim tracked across Timmy, and seemed to mull something over before swinging his arm a few degrees further to the west.
The bunny finally stopped when the pistol was pointed at an ancient and weather beaten telegraph pole, on which was stapled a faded sheet of paper.
“POW,” sounded the pistol, and a shot thunked into the pole at the dead center of the paper.
“Perfect example,” Hopper said, and turning started to walk off down the road.
Timmy Gromp was confused. He called after the bunny to wait, but the bunny walked on. Timmy ran over to the telegraph pole, and squinting tried to read what he could of the faded text. It was all in Spanish.
“Dang it,” Timmy said. “Isn’t anything in
Leaning in, ignoring the text, Timmy saw crude drawings of giant men with strange masks covering their faces, with only little holes cut for eyes, nose and mouth. The men wore skin-tight trunks and high-laced boots, and seemed to be trying to hurt each other.
This was all pretty confusing for Timmy. He just wanted to be back home, icing cookies with his parents and looking forward to the presents he’d get the next morning on Christmas day. Of course, since his parents had decided that it was the spirit of giving that really counted, and not the actual act itself, Timmy’s gifts had seen something of a decline in quality. This year, far all he knew, he’d might have gotten just a picture of a toy cut out of a catalog. Last year, after all, they’d only given him a toy’s empty box, which they’d got from the neighbors after they’d given the toy inside to their own little boy.
Still, it had to be better than this.
Sighing, Timmy shoved his hands deep into his pockets, and scuffed his feet down the road after the bunny.
“I don’t think this is going to work, Hopper,” Timmy whispered.
“Trust me, kid,” Hopper answered. “Look, if I’ve learned anything from my years as a symbolic pagan holdover representing a secular holiday with tenuous ties to a religious celebration, it’s that people will believe what you damn well tell them to believe. People are sheep, kid.”
“O-kay,” Timmy said, unconvinced. “But I still think…”
“Dónde está el Polo Norte?” said the giant man in the red suit behind them.
“Uh, we’re here, champ,” Hopper replied, chewing on the end of his cigar. He waved a stubby arm in a wide circle, indicating the show covered hills, the big inviting house and the workshops, from which streamed an army of elves and reindeer, bearing down on them.
“Bueno,” the giant man answered, taking a step forward.
“Hopper,” Timmy protested, “he doesn’t really look very convincing. I mean, he’s still wearing that mask, and I don’t think that Santa Claus normally carries a bottle of tequila.”
The fake white beard had been glued inexpertly to the bottom edge of the giant man’s red and black facemask, which he had refused to remove for any reason. In the chill wind of the North Pole, the strands of artificial hair were starting to freeze up and break off, leaving only a fringe of wisps and glue on the fabric of the mask.
The elves and reindeer had gathered in a circle around the trio, Timmy, Hopper, and the giant man. They waited eagerly, looking at them with breathless anticipation.
The giant man raised his muscled arms over his head.
“Claus,” Hopper whispered furiously behind his hand, nudging the giant man in the leg.
“Si, si,” the giant man added. “Yo soy Santos Claus.”
There followed a protracted silence, as the assembled elves and reindeer looked at the giant man in the mask and the ill-fitting red suit with mouths hanging open.
Timmy began to suspect that this was going to be his last Christmas, even if it wasn’t for everyone else.
Suddenly, and without warning, the elves erupted in a spontaneous cheer, and swarmed around the giant man with hugs and smiles, while the reindeer leapt into the air and danced swirling loops overhead.
“Come on, Santa,” one of the elves said, tugging at the giant man’s huge hand. “We’ve got to get this show on the road, Christmas starts in just a few minutes.”
“Bueno,” the giant man said, and allowed himself to be slowly dragged to the waiting sled by the elves.
“I don’t believe it,” Timmy said.
“It’s like I told you,” Hopper answered, lighting another cigar, “people are damned sheep, and elves and reindeer are no different.”
“So that’s it, then?” Timmy asked. “But what about the real Santa Claus?”
“Shhh,” Hopper hissed violently. “You want to get us lynched?” He paused, and then added, “Don’t worry, kid. I’m sure someone’ll rescue him sooner or later. For now, just be content in the knowledge that the holiday is saved, I get to keep my job, and you get to go home, right?”
Hopper laid a stubby arm across Timmy’s shoulder, and blew out a smoke ring that hung overhead like a wreath.
“God bless us everyone one,” Timmy said sarcastically, without a trace of sentiment.
“Yo tambien,” Hopper answered, smiling.
The sleigh, loaded down with holiday toys, lifted uneasily off the snowy ground.
“Cómo se dice ‘jolly’?” shouted Santos Claus down to Hopper and Timmy.
“Ho ho ho,” Hopper shouted up as the sleigh lifted into the skies.
“Si, si,” Santos Claus shouted back. “El Ho, El Ho, El Ho.”
Thursday, December 20, 2007
"We are no longer citizens of the United States of America and all those who live in the five-state area that encompasses our country are free to join us," long-time Indian rights activist Russell Means told a handful of reporters and a delegation from the Bolivian embassy, gathered in a church in a run-down neighborhood of Washington for a news conference.
A delegation of Lakota leaders delivered a message to the State Department on Monday, announcing they were unilaterally withdrawing from treaties they signed with the federal government of the United States, some of them more than 150 years old.
Lakota country includes parts of the states of Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.
The new country would issue its own passports and driving licences, and living there would be tax-free -- provided residents renounce their US citizenship, Means said.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Blood & Thunder review
Mark Finn, biographer, is, in his literary fashion, as large a hero as Conan, the most famous creation of Robert E. Howard, who happens to be the subject of Blood & Thunder... Battling manfully through the hordes of lies and legends surrounding REH, Finn delivers a clear-eyed, sympathetic portrait of this seminal writer. Depicting the man, his place and times, and his story-telling accomplishments vividly and discerningly, Finn shows that journalistic accuracy is more powerful than sleazy mythologizing. This book will be enjoyed by veteran fan and newbie alike.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Friday, December 14, 2007
Clash of the Titans
Steve Norrington will direct Clash of the Titans, a remake of the 1981 mythical adventure that is best remembered for Ray Harryhausen's special effects, Variety reported.I have fond memories of Clash of the Titans, not least because it was the first flick I saw on cable when I was eleven or twelve and it featured some nice glimpses of nudity, but I'm well aware of its shortcomings. But still, why remake a Harryhausen movie? And if you must remake a Harryhausen movie, why for the love of god give it to this guy to do? What, because "LXG" did so well critically and commercially?
Norrington hasn't directed a film since 2003's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.Gee, I wonder why...
Free Fiction Friday: "Long Night, Holy Night"
Like "The Likeness of a Wolf," which I posted a few weeks ago, this is another story from the old Clockwork Storybook days, taking place in a suburb of San Cibola, and like that one this also features werewolves.
(I've got a few more werewolf stories littering the hard drive, which I may post one of these days. And if the stars align, I may end up writing my "gay werewolf roadtrip novel" eventually, which features the younger brother and grandfather from this story, and the boy's maternal uncle who appeared in yet another. All of them werewolves, naturally. But, to be pedantic about it, not all of them gay.)
Long Night, Holy Night
by Chris Roberson
“I don’t know, Ivy,” Allan Harvey said, running his fingers through his greasy shoulder length hair. “Maybe I should just stick around town this weekend. I’ve got a lot of stuff to catch up on and…”
“No,” Ivy said, with a little too much force. She modified her expression of panic mingled fear into playfulness, and punched the boy lightly on the shoulder. “With the museum closed for the holidays, and Bergier spending Hannukah with his work, you’ve got nothing to keep you in the city. What kind of girlfriend would I be if I left you home all by yourself?”
Allan screwed up his face, obviously trying out a few responses in his mind and rejecting them all. Finally, he managed a weak grin, and took Ivy’s hand in his.
“Alright, alright,” he said. “If you want me to go I’ll go. But you’re sure you don’t want me to look after the bookstore?”
Ivy sighed deeply, seeming to work through a few responses of her own, before pasting on a smile and merging left to exit at Fortuna.
“It’ll be fine,” she said, unconvincingly. “It’ll be fine.”
“Little lamb!” Ivy’s mother shouted from the doorway, beaming. She wiped her hands on her apron and hurried down the walk to the curb, her arms wide. “You’re home.”
“Yeah, mom,” Ivy said, failing to duck the impending embrace. “Thanks for stating the obvious.”
“Don’t be rude,” Ivy’s mother scolded, squeezing her daughter in a bear hug. “And in front of strangers, yet.”
“Allan’s not a stranger, mom,” Ivy moaned, uncontrollable lapsing into childhood patterns of response. “Gah,” she added, rolling her eyes.
“Well, he is to me, missy, until you introduce us,” her mother answered.
“I’m Allan,” Allan said nervously, extending his hand.
“Obviously,” Ivy said.
“I’m Ivy’s mother,” Ivy’s mother answered.
“Duh,” Ivy said.
“But you can call Rose,” Ivy’s mother added, taking Allan’s hand and yanking him into the circle of her embrace.
“Nice… nice to meet you, Rose,” Allan said awkwardly, his cheek smashed up against little sequined trees.
Ivy’s mother pushed Allan away from her, holding him by both elbows at arm’s length.
“Such a nice looking boy,” Ivy’s mother said to Ivy, over her shoulder. “And so polite.”
“Mo-om,” Ivy moaned, “you’re embarrassing him.”
“Pish,” Ivy’s mother spat. “That’s what mothers are for.”
With the deft maneuvering of years experience, Ivy’s mother spun around, linking one arm through the crook of Allan’s elbow, the other through the crook of Ivy’s.
“Come on, you two,” Ivy’s mother commanded, leading them up the walk. “Everyone is waiting.”
Ivy rolled her eyes again, while Allan began to look even more uncomfortable.
“Everyone” turned out to be Ivy’s brother Andy (“It’s Andrew, alright?”), Ivy’s father (“Call me Simon”), and Ivy’s grandfather (“Jakob Stump, pleased to make your acquaintance”). The Koestler family home was cozy and warm, arranged in just such a way to seem lived-in but still presentable. It was enough like the
“Come over here,” Ivy’s father said, draping a paternal arm over Allan’s shoulders and steering him towards the liquor cabinet in the den. “Let me fix you a drink.”
Allan had enough knee-jerk teenage reactionism left in him to find the idea of adults drinking somewhat disturbing, the idea of young people drinking exotic, and the idea of young people drinking while adults watched downright frightening.
“What’ll you have?” Ivy’s father asked, opening wide the doors of the liquor cabinet to reveal an elephants’ graveyard of half-full bottles of every spirit Allan had ever seen. “Scotch on the rocks? Gin and tonic? A screwdriver?”
“Um…” Allan began, licking his lips and wondering just how far he could take this.
“He doesn’t want anything to drink!” shouted Ivy’s mother from the far side of the room, where she was proudly displaying her latest bits of handicraft to her daughter. “He’s only nineteen.”
“Eighteen, actually,” Allan said awkwardly below his breath. “But come to think of it…”
“Mo-ther,” Ivy called, stepping away from the macramé and festive ornaments, “Allan can have a drink if he wants to. He’s an adult, you know.”
“Right, Rose,” Ivy’s father answered, slapping Allan on the back with a thud. “It’ll do the boy some good, put some hair on his chest.”
Allan looked nervously around the room, remembering where he was, and who he was with. He decided he had quite enough hair on his chest as it was.
“Um…” he began, scratching his neck, “I’ll just have a soda.”
Around the dinner table, before Ivy’s mother set out the first course, everyone held hands and listened as Ivy’s grandfather made the traditional remarks. Allan, despite his best efforts, was positioned between Ivy’s brother and Ivy’s father, and let his fingers lay limp in their grips, his palms sweating.
“The Creator made the Volkdlak in Its own images,” Ivy’s grandfather said, “and made for them the day and night to live in. Two forms, two worlds. The Volkdlak were the first men, the True Men, who lived in peace in the Forests of Paradise until the coming of the False Deceiver. The Deceiver was a twisted, mirror image of the Creator, frozen in a single form.”
“Amen,” Ivy’s father said absently.
“I’m hungry,” Ivy’s brother said.
“Andy!” Ivy’s mother scolded.
“I’m not finished, you know,” Ivy’s grandfather said. “If your minds aren’t too terribly rotten with television and filth, it might be nice if I were able to finish before the Long Night was over, yes? Or would that be too much trouble? Maybe I should just go live with your sister after all.”
“Pop,” Ivy’s mother said, “don’t be like that. Simon was just teasing. Weren’t you, Simon.”
“Sure, sure, of course I was,” Ivy’s father answered. “You take your time, Jakob.”
“Take my time?” Ivy’s grandfather snapped. “I’ll take my time.” He paused, closing his eyes and letting out a dramatic sigh. “Now, where was I?”
“Frozen in a single image?” Allan offered helpfully.
“Exactly,” Ivy’s grandfather answered triumphantly. “Nice to know that someone was listening.”
“Grandfather, I was…” Ivy began.
“Not you, dear heart,” Ivy’s grandfather soothed. “I knew you were. It’s the rest of this family…”
“Jakob?” Ivy’s father prompted. “Maybe we could…”
“Right, right,” Ivy’s grandfather said, then shushed him. “Keep your shirt on. Now, ‘Frozen in a single image’. Right. Out of jealous rage, the Deceiver created the False Men and Animals. They were like the Deceiver, frozen in a single form. With the help of the Deceiver, the False Men drove the Volkdlak out of the Forests, and hounded them to the ends of the earth. Even now, generations later, the true children of the Creator are made to cower, hiding, for fear of the False Men.”
“Am…” Ivy’s father began.
“Simon!” Ivy’s mother hissed.
“Sorry,” Ivy’s father answered.
“Now,” Ivy’s grandfather continued, unabated, “each year, on the longest night of the year, the true children of the Creator gather together, to celebrate their varied forms and to remember the many gifts of the Creator to them. On this Long Night, we Volkdlak remember our heritage, remember where we have been, and look forward to where we are going. Look forward to the day when the Creator will finally defeat the False Deceiver, and the Volkdlak can return to the Forests of Paradise.”
Ivy’s grandfather paused, and dropping his granddaughter’s hand lifted up his wine glass.
“Next year in the Forests of Paradise,” he said, his voice cracking.
Ivy’s mother set the trays piled with blood red meat along the middle of the table, and lay a plate of pasta in front of Allan.
“I went ahead and made this up for you, dear,” Ivy’s mother said. “Ivy didn’t say, but I figured you wouldn’t want to eat with the rest of us.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Koestler,” Allan answered.
“Rose,” Ivy’s mother gently scolded. “Call me Rose.”
“Mom, is there any more of that?” Ivy asked.
“Well, no, but I could always make another batch,” Ivy’s mother answered. “Allan, don’t you think that’ll be enough?”
“No, mom,” Ivy said, “I meant for me.”
“Well…” Ivy’s mother said, flustered.
“What?” Ivy’s grandfather shouted. “And not eat the flesh?”
“I’m a vegetarian, thank you,” Ivy announced to the table in general, not meeting her grandfather’s eye.
“A vegetarian?” Ivy’s father said, bemused.
“Do you see?” Ivy’s grandfather ranted. “Like I’ve always said. You raise them outside the faith, you see what happens?”
“It’s not like that, grandfather,” Ivy said. “It just seems… wrong… to eat animals if we don’t have to.”
“Oh, wrong is it?” Ivy’s grandfather wheezed, waving Ivy’s father silent with frantic gestures. “Less than a year out in the world, and the traditions of your family for generations are wrong all of the sudden.” He turned to Ivy’s parents. “See, like I’ve said.”
“No, grandfather,” Ivy said. “The traditions aren’t wrong. Not really, anyway.”
“Not really?” Ivy’s grandfather aped. “Not really? So why don’t you explain to me how not really the Deceiver betrayed the Creator. Or is that wrong, too?”
“Not wrong,” Ivy answered. “But not true… That is, I don’t think it’s literal truth. But it has some basis in fact. I’ve been doing a lot of reading this year, and I think that the stories are really just an allegorical representation of evolution. See, we evolved first, and then the other species... man, included... started as evolutionary offshoots from us. “Twisted mirror images,” you see. Anyway, all of these offshoots eventually forced the Volkdlak to near extinction, somehow beating them out of food resources and such. Now, millions of years later, we’ve still got a pretty precarious place in the ecosystem.” She stopped to take a breath, and looked around the table to take in the blank stares directed her way. “That’s what I think, anyway,” she added.
“Sure,” Allan said, trying for helpful. “That makes sense.”
“Makes sense?” Ivy’s grandfather answered, fuming. “What do you know about it?”
“Um,” Allan stammered. “Not much, I guess. I was raised Methodist.”
“Isn’t that nice?” Ivy’s mother said, valiantly trying to steer the conversation away. “So? Who wants haunches?”
“Me, me,” Ivy’s brother said, bouncing up and down on his seat. “I do, I do.”
Later, around the seasonal tree (Allan had made the mistake of complementing the family on their Christmas tree, and only quick thinking on the part of Ivy’s mother saved Ivy’s grandfather from having to give another lecture), the family opened their gifts and sang traditional songs. While Ivy’s grandfather preferred to sing in the original tongue, the rest of the family insisted on the translated versions, which did little to put Allan at his ease, especially when the chorus about breaking bones and sucking out the marrow came around for the final refrain. Allan made a conscious effort not to notice the blood stains Ivy’s grandfather had let dribble down the front of his vest during dinner.
When the last song was sung, and the last present opened (a tasteful sweater Ivy’s mother had picked out for Allan, which didn’t really suit him, or even fit, but everyone agreed that it was the thought which counted), Ivy’s grandfather rose to his feet on creaking knees and raised his hands high over his head.
“Now, midway through the Long Night,” he intoned, “comes the time when we celebrate our diversity of forms, the truest sign of the Creator’s love.”
Ivy’s grandfather paused, and cast a charitable glance at Allan.
“Er… if you want,” Ivy’s grandfather said, “there’s a t.v. in the family room. They’ve got cable in here, you know.”
Allan looked to Ivy, who took his hand in hers and smiled.
“Well,” Allan said, “if you’d prefer…”
“It doesn’t bother us if it doesn’t bother you,” Ivy’s father said.
“Whatever makes you more comfortable,” Ivy’s mother said. “You can use the phone in there to call your parents if you like.”
“It’s up to you,” Ivy said in a low voice. “Whatever you want is fine with me.”
Allan looked from face to face, his eyes widened more than he’d have liked, and managed a smile.
“My folks aren’t in town,” Allan said with a sigh. They never were, he thought, had always preferred skiing with friends to spending the holidays at home. “But I’m here, and if you’ll have me, I’d be glad to stay in here with you folks.” He paused, and then added, “More than glad. Honored.”
“Such a nice boy,” Ivy’s mother beamed, wiping at her eyes.
Ivy gave Allan’s hand a squeeze. She leaned in close, and kissed him lightly on the cheek.
“Thanks,” Ivy said hardly above a whisper.
“Okay, then,” Ivy’s grandfather said, and clapped his hands. “Our blood run deeper than time, the ties of family stronger than any bond…” he began, and continued as long as he was able.
When it became necessary, when her nails grew to claws and cut into his palm, Allan let go of Ivy’s hand. But he petted her coat when he was able, and when the family (now a pack? Allan wondered) raised their howls in song, Allan broke into a wide, open smile. Above the din of the wolves’ song, Allan threw back his head and laughed.
“God bless us,” he said, holding out the palm of one hand for Ivy’s brother to lick and running the fingers of the other along Ivy’s father’s glossy pelt, Ivy curled up into a tight ball at his feet, her long tongue lolling contentedly. “Every one.”
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Trajan is the Movie Font
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Max Headroom returns
Monday, December 10, 2007
A Portrait of Indiana Jones
The researchers looked for the appearance of favorable gene mutations over the past 80,000 years of human history by analyzing voluminous DNA information on 270 people from different populations worldwide.Of course, the article only cites "mutations" like Europeans' lactose tolerance, Africans' resistance to malaria, and dry ear wax in Asia, but I'm sure that when the full findings are published they'll include things like optic beams, organic steel, and augmented healing abilities.
Data from this International HapMap Project, short for haplotype mapping, offered essentially a catalogue of genetic differences and similarities in people alive today.
Looking at such data, scientists can ascertain how recently a given genetic change appeared in the genome and then can plot the pace of such change into the distant past.
Beneficial genetic changes have appeared at a rate roughly 100 times higher in the past 5,000 years than at any previous period of human evolution, the researchers determined. They added that about 7 percent of human genes are undergoing rapid, relatively recent evolution.
A Year in Review (one sentence at a time)
Marianne Plumridge has written a terrific review of The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana for infinity plus.
Locus Magazine has released their list of Recommended Reading for 2006, in case you hadn't heard.
A few weeks ago it was announced that an underground ocean straight out of Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth had been found.
Only just now getting over the convention crud that settled in sometime between the Dead Dog on Sunday night at WHC and Monday night when we finally finished up twelve hours of travel, by plane and car, and were home.
Well, it's silicon instead of laminate, but if this is any indication, we might be halfway to Cordwainer Smith territory:
Hey, remember those Weta Rayguns I mentioned seeing with John Picacio at San Diego Comic Con last year?
Okay, this is pretty cool.
Jay Lake points out this terrifically interesting article on the Discover site about how down at the Planck length time might not actually exist at all.
This is what I miss not going to WorldCon in Japan.
It's book report Monday, yet again.
It's Wednesday, right?
A little metafictional hoohah from Tom the Dancing Bug.
Friday, December 07, 2007
The Dragon’s Nine Sons: A Novel of the Celestial EmpireStill, if the book has to get negative reviews (and I think it's a rule that all books must), I hope that they're all even half as complimentary as this one is.
Chris Roberson. Solaris (www.solarisbooks.com), $7.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-84416-524-7
Roberson’s latest (after Set the Seas on Fire) takes a standard Dirty Dozen plot that contrasts awkwardly with its ornate Chinese vs. Aztec interplanetary milieu. Two of the Dragon Empire’s dissident officers, space captain Zhuan Jie and troop commander (or “bannerman”) Yao Guanzhong, are tapped to infiltrate and destroy an enemy asteroid base. But before they can blow up the rock, they must first master their squadron of outcasts and improvise the rescue of dozens of prisoners marked for blood sacrifice. Cogently choreographed action and vividly drawn opposing cultures are intriguing (for instance, Mexica spacecraft are hardwired to work only when primed with human blood) but Roberson’s subtly distant tone, heavy-handed foreshadowing and narrow focus leave readers struggling to properly grasp the larger conflict. Tight, fully resolved character arcs leave few direct openings for the epic series the book supposedly begins. There’s potential here, but little polish and less context. (Feb.)
Go, Speed Racer?
Inside me, there's an seven year old squeeing with glee. On the outside, a thirty-seven year old not quite so convinced...
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Secret Files of the Diogenes Club review
The Secret Files of the Diogenes Club is vintage Kim Newman, featuring six reprinted stories and a brand new one, Cold Snap, a brilliant tall tale set in the mid 70s and in which some familiar Newman heroes and villains make their presence felt. Other stories take us to various parts of the 20th century, my favourite being Clubland Heroes (which originally appeared in the Subterrenan Press anthology, Retro Pulp Tales, 2006) which features a very British bunch of upper class super heroes. Also highly effecting is Another Fish Story in which Newman touches upon the darkness surrounding the Manson Family – disturbing and believable. Humour and horror sit side by side in Newman work, flanked by wit and a considerable amount of style.John only errs in referring to me as "the tireless Chris Roberson," which only means that he hasn't seen me at seven AM when the alarm goes off...
Very highly recommended.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Why I Don't Watch Heroes, Revisited
I'll make you Heroes viewers a deal, everybody I know that's been trying to get me to watch it. If, years from now, when Heroes finally wraps up and airs its final episode, the consensus among viewers is that the showrunners *did* know what they were doing all along, and the mysteries when revealed are internally consistent and clever, all along the way, then I'll get the DVDs and give it a shot. But at this point I'm hedging my bets, and taking it on faith that, like Alias, like X-Files, like Smallville, et cetera, et al, that when its said and done there'll have been some good episodes, maybe even good parts of seasons, but in the final summation the shows will have ended up closer to the shit end of the scale than genius. I'm happy and willing to be proved wrong, but I'm not going to invest the hundreds of hours to find out for myself. I'll let someone else be the canary in the coal mine!I had expected to wait years to put the question to all you Heroes viewers, but in light of the writers' strike, and the fact that the network has been promoting the most recent episode in some places as a "finale" (and in others as something called a "mid-season finale," whatever that means), this seems like a good place to stop and do a level check.
To recap, in the spring I said that, while Heroes might have some good episodes, and even good runs of episodes in different seasons, it would end up sucking, sooner or later. Bearing in mind that a few weeks back, in response to what Entertainment Weekly called "a creative decline," creator Tim Kring apologized to fans for the failings of this season, I have to ask: was I right?
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Extraordinary Engines and Edison
Speaking of which, can anyone think of any genre stories that feature Thomas A. Edison as a character, off the top of your heads? I'm conscious of not wanting to reinvent any wheels, but I only know of a handful of comics and stories with Edison in them, and I'm sure there must be more I'm not remembering (or have never seen).
Monday, December 03, 2007
Alphabets of Desire
Klein explains what this is all about.
"I launched my website and blog on July 3rd of this year, and as part of it I included some items for sale: two prints I produced in the 1990s, the book I co-authored on lettering and coloring, some original lettering on overlays, and two music CDs. The first week sales were brisk, and I made enough to recover most of my setup costs for the site, so I was very pleased. The second week sales were pretty good, the third week so-so. By the middle of August, they’d trailed off to almost none. Obviously the old stuff had reached everyone who wanted it. I began to think about producing something new to sell. But, what? Another Lettering Sampler? I’d done that, and a variation didn’t seem likely to be a big success. Then the thought came: what if I asked one of the writers I work with to write something for me to letter? Call in a favor, so to speak. The most obvious choices were Neil Gaiman or Alan Moore, but Neil is always so busy, and usually gallivanting around the globe on promotional or signing tours. Alan seemed like the one to approach first. He’s usually home, he usually answers the phone when I call him. The worst that could happen was that he’d say no."
Suffice it to say, Alan didn't say no. He wrote a new text piece "about letters as magic," and Klein got to work lettering it. And now you can order your very own. And they're signed by Alan and Todd! So what are you waiting for?!
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Spacenight - A Tribute to Bill Mantlo
"The first comic I ever read was ROM Spaceknight, a silver cyborg fighting evil monsters throughout the universe. I collected every issue until the series was cancelled at #75 (when I asked the comic clerk why it was cancelled he kindly replied, “Well, they just ran out of stories to tell.”). Years later I learned that all of these incredible stories were written by one man, Bill Mantlo. At the same time I learned that he had been injured in a hit and run accident in 1992. Due to the severe injuries, Bill currently resides in a Brain Injury Rehabilitation Nursing Home, and will probably do so for the rest of his life.If you're in the Portland area, consider stopping by. If like me you're a bit far afield, look out for the benefit book collecting the art next year, or consider picking up a copy of Mantlo - A Life in Comics, the proceeds from which go towards Bill's care.
"This show will serve as a fundraiser and celebration of the stories Bill has given us. All of the artwork and more will be compiled in a tribute comic next year that will be sold as a non-profit benefit book for Bill’s brother/caregiver, Mike Mantlo, to provide funding to enable Bill to enjoy somewhat of a quality of life."