Thursday, February 25, 2010

Another Day, Another Column

My Apex blog piece just went live. It's kinda long, but it ended up being a lot of fun to write. The funny story behind this is that I got a reminder from the editor yesterday that it was due, and then realized that some sites want the submission BEFORE the due date, so that they can do things like add graphics and correct your grammar. Lesson: learned! I ended up hammering this out in three hours, one hour of which was spent re-acquainting myself with the Mirror, Mirror episode of TOS. Hey, did you know that YouTube has full episodes of Star Trek? Well, I didn't . . . .

Of course, I now have day-after jitters; is it comprehensible? Is it interesting to read? I stretched the point a bit because I wanted to look at two very different examples of other-worlding. We'll see if people think it worked or not. . . .

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I've got a cold, so writing has been minimal for the past few days. I have, however, managed to bang out a new Forces of Geek column. Remember kids: reading is fundamental!

We now return you to The Outlaw Josey Wales, already in progress (on my DVD player in the bedroom). Which is a good movie, cliches and all.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Aetheric Ephemera: Horny Werewolf Day Edition

1) I'll let Warren Ellis tell you succinctly why today is Horny Werewolf Day. I can also provide you with a longer explanation. My wife and I, in the spirit of syncretism, kinda celebrate both. Neither of us are big fans of Valentine's Day, but it's an excuse to be even sillier with each other than usual. If you are looking for a quick e-card for that special someone, Chris Sims has just the thing to stimulate geek love. . . .

2) While linking to Ellis' Lupercalia statement, I found this link. Sweet canary conniptions! We have finally arrived at non-Animatronic robotic performers! Well, South Korea has. Given the review of this thespian's performance, and proclivity to knock stuff over on stage, I do not foresee a musical revival of RUR coming to Broadway anytime soon. Well, maybe with Keanu Reeves as the star. . . .

3) I am all signed up for Readercon. I don't see Chip Delany or Paul Park on the guest list yet, but I hope one or both of them can make it. The highlight of the con for me last year was talking to Mr. Delany and thanking him for the inspiration he has given me as a writer. I'm happy to see Lucius Shepard on the list for this year; I definitely want to meet him, since he is another one of my inspirations.

4) A taste of courtship in 2015, courtesy of Paleo-Future.

5) io9 has a great piece on PKD's The Man in the High Castle, which is also about the tension between the idea of the genre as showcase for the future and an author writing in and about the present. It could be a bit more in-depth, but the authors gets points for slipping in an Ezra Pound invocation (Degree of Difficulty: 7.8). I've been thinking about alternate history a lot today, partly due to Jay Lake mentioning his novella "America, Such as She Is," and partly due to me then reading some reviews and discussion about it, and partly because I got an idea for an alternate history story that goes somewhere neither Lake nor Jo Walton in her excellent Half a Crown trilogy venture to in their explorations of WWII What Ifs. But it would require a Super Star Destroyer load of research, so I'm just putting some notes in a folder for later.

If you have never read Dick's take on alternate history, best go read it. The idea that is invokes of "how nebulous reality was about to become" is certainly a central concern in many of Dick's novels, but this particular approach to it has neither the dizzy paranoia of, say, Valis, nor the "are they or are they not human" question behind Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. It's about questioning the solidity of reality, the malleability of the future. It is provocative on multiple levels, and oddly inspiring in how it deals with historical turning points.

6) Finally tonight, John Scalzi brings together both the Great E-Book Kerfuffle and authors giving out advice in one blog post. I found the linkage so compelling that I then wrote a response nearly as long as his post, one which was completely ignored by all other commenters. I think I have to learn to either be more interesting, or be pithier and more controversial. But I thought my point, which was that the situation would impact new writers in a number of ways, and thus the way they received and used advice from more established writers, seemed salient. But please note, I will NOT be writing about that for either my FoG or Apex blogs. I kinda want to, but I need to move on.

Currently, I am trying to put The City & The City down, partly as an example for my next Apex column, which is going to be about how authors portray and use "worlds within/parallel to worlds." It will make more sense when I write it, but the examples will be Mieville's book and Star Trek's Mirror Universe.a sort of "When Unfamiliar Worlds Collide." Really, it'll make sense.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Rousing Roundup of Writeups!

I have not blogged here in the past few days because I'm doing it elsewhere. To wit:

---My regular Forces of Geek column, wherein I milk the Amazon thing for all it's worth. Well, going for a different take by comparing books to donuts.

---I have a piece in the latest SFSignal Mind Meld. I swoon a bit because I'm up there with Mike Resnick and a number of other fabulous authors. What's it about? Um, Amazon. . . .

---I am now totally NOT writing something about Amazon! I am working on "The Last Flight of Chimeric Aetherlines." Away, e-books! Hello hobnailed boots & homunculi with dry wit! here's the opening:

He loved the sound of hobnailed boot on pristine, polished teakwood. He loved it even more when it was the only sound reverberating through a vast space, as it was now. He descended the traverser sprily for his size, the clunk of his boots remarkably resonant on each unmoving step. He remembered when the bass thrum of the moving stairs would set your bones a'singing and drown out the footfalls and slithers of passengers heading down to the gates. They would have to raise their voices to be heard over its sonorous workings, as woodsprites and kami were urged on by the drone of a cajoler to make the ligneous workings hum and spin.

He jumped down the last three steps, landing heavily on the reception platform. He was briefly irked that it did not splinter, and that the dig of the hobnails vanished immediately. The wood of the floor, and all around him, was still saturated with charms and wards. Possibly the most magical place in the Worlds, one pedantic hag had told him. She was right; the place stank of spell and scrawl like chintzy maquillage on a Red Court dame.

Have a lovely day.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Oh,Yeah, That.

I am working on something for SFSignal's Mind Meld at the moment, but as I was reading a few previous posts here to remind myself of a point that I wanted to make, I realized that I had never put up the link to my Apex blog post! You can find it here. I am quite happy with it, and I would like to write at greater length about this idea in the future.

Juggling ideas for the next Forces of Geek column, and squirreling away scenes for fiction projects, unfortunately at the same time that I am trying to finish the piece I need to finish today! Writing just gets the mind working, which is great, but I wish that I could queue my thoughts rather than have them all rush through the conceptual door like a pack of kids vying for the biggest cookie.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Aetheric Ephemera: Scattershot Kaleidoscope Edition

1) It's funny, in that stomach-churning way, to hear how authors are being deluged with e-mail from readers complaining about the Great E-Book Kerfuffle. Fortunately, Cherie Priest tells us just how powerful authors are in the system. Hint: less powerful than Jeff Bezos or John Sargent. Authors have creative control, and input in some business aspects, but the publisher is the one making the big decisions. Might that change in the future? I wonder what the next stage for e-books will be after this situation is resolved. I have some thoughts, but I think I will save them for an actual blog post.

2) Despite what seems to me to be an obvious misrecognition of what's going on, people also continue to chide authors for chiding Amazon. Jay Lake wrote an open letter to Kindle users today, and some folks responded in unkind fashion to it. I always wonder what people are really worried about when they decide to upbraid someone who does not have a lot of power in a situation, but a lot at stake. The most annoying thing I have read so far have been those moments where readers dismiss authors entirely as easily substituted.

As an aspiring author I bristle at that, but when I look at the market, it is easy to see why some people would feel this way. Some people just go for genre, while others go for series or thematic books (such as Magic the Gathering novels). The author's artistry is secondary to their demands for a certain type of story or narrativity. I see it all too often as a bookseller. Almost as bad is the author as generic brand, from people buying every James Patterson co-author to someone asking me how "kerouac" a certain book was.

3) This is a great gallery of dinosaur illustrations that demonstrate the evolution of our understanding regarding their appearance. The progression is fascinating, to the point where the last illustration is a bit unsettling to me, having grown up with the gray, armadillo-skinned sorts of dinos. The science behind the identification of their colors is pretty cool as well.

4) Warren Ellis talks about his kit. No, not THAT kind of kit! I am referring of course to the stuff he uses to help him write. I too am a big fan of the notebook and pen. We carry cheap journals at the bookstore and one of those can be easily filled with ideas, although my fervent scribbling sometimes becomes hard to decipher later. I find the MP3 player to be handy when not writing at home also. I'm happy to hear that other writers still get results from lo-tek. . . .

5) The 2009 Locus Recommended Reading List is out, and there's a lot to admire here. But boy is it an expensive list! That awesome Jack Vance book Wild Thyme and Green Magic alone is going for at least $50 and is already OOP. The (sadly) late Kage Baker's The Empress of Mars retails at $60. Ack!

I have read 3.75 books on this list, and only a few of the shorter works. I am soooooo behind. But there are a lot of works on here I really want to read, and, in the case of The City and the City, finish reading. Hopefully by then Boneshaker will be back in the library for me to snag. I have some catching up to do. . . .

Monday, February 1, 2010

Aetheric Ephemera: In Dubious Battle Edition

So, welcome to my new links post! Aetheric Ephemera is where I point you to some items of interest on These Our Intarwebs, with scintillating comments to provide you with insight and delight. Ready?

1) Folks should go read Charles Tan's take on the Great E-Book Kerfuffle. He makes some points that many others have not, points worthy of thought and debate. Also, take a look around. He is a prince among link-conjurers and has loads of info on SF. It is easy to get lost poking around his blog, but sooooo much fun!

2) Kage Baker has died. I never met her, and have only read a bit of her work, but she sounds like a great person and was admired by many in the field. And I hate, hate, hate the fact that cancer took her. It's really exhausting to watch people get cut down by this stupid condition. It happens far too often. . . .

3) SFSignal has a cool ebook giveaway from Bookview Cafe. DARE you enter?

4) The Cleveland Plain Dealer had a great interview with Bill Watterson today. What was great about it was Watterson's utter lack of pretension. He made something that people loved and were mad for, but lays all of the hullabaloo squarely at their feet. "[T]he work takes on a life of its own. . . " and it is obvious that while he enjoyed creating Calvin & Hobbes he does not lose sleep wondering why they became so popular or if he made the right decision to stop. I really admire that.

I leave you, dear reader, with this one final link. PLEASE, if you ever try this libation, READ THE WARNING LABEL!