Apr 14 2015

Wait, what? Forbes?


(Quick post during my lunch hour…)

So, remember Chad Orzel?   Author, physicist, blogger, one of the organizers of the Schrodinger Sessions — you know, that guy.

Well, he also does a science blog for Forbes online…

And yesterday he posted an article on good examples of science in science fiction…

Yep.  There I am.

(If you click through to the second page, there’s even a cover shot!)


This is lovely.   The general readership of Forbes might not run in to my books in the usual course of their day — and now they’ve had me brought to their attention by a genuine scientist.   It absolutely made my day.

Oh, and bragging rights?   Just the sort of thing to make those of my acquaintances who are not heavily into SF/F fandom sit up and notice.    They know I write “that stuff” — but a mention in Forbes?  Heh.

(Must get back to the Day Job.  More later.)



Apr 6 2015

She scores!


I made it into the Schrodinger Sessions after all!  So pleased.

It turns out that they were unavoidably delayed in finalizing their selections, and just sent out notifications today.

I have some prep to do between now and then… mainly, to review what I actually do know (or think I know) about quantum physics, so that it’s all fresh in my mind, preparatory to adding actual knowledge from actual scientists whilst being disabused of previous erroneous notions.

Also, I want to identify my areas of least understanding, so that I can formulate coherent questions.   I’m pretty sure that “WTF???”, while accurately expressing one’s internal state, would not be the most useful starting point.

On the application form, one of the questions was: What is your interest in attending this workshop? How do you hope it will affect your writing?

They didn’t put a word-count limit on the answer (ha!) so this is what I said:

There are three reasons any science fiction writer would want to attend this workshop — and it’s the third reason that most interests me.

First reason: To get it right. When we mention quantum physics — even if it merely serves as background to a story — it would be good if we knew what we were talking about. There’s already enough bad science fiction in the world, and we don’t need to make more. For this, we need to get the facts right.

Second reason: To generate story ideas. Science fiction is famous for the idea-driven story. If we want to write stories inspired by quantum physics, then we have to become familiar with both its facts and its underlying principles. And more: we need to know where the edges are, where the limit lies between what is known so far, and what remains to be discovered. Within what’s known, we’ll find ideas to drive our stories; at the edges, we’ll find scope for intelligent speculation.

And the third reason: To understand how discovery happens. What type of thinking brought physicists to our current understanding of quantum physics? Why do we think what we think about it, and how do we know what we know? What were the steps, what guided the explorations? To what degree are we sure of our knowledge, to what degree uncertain? In what frame of mind were the researchers operating? How did we figure this out? These are all questions that help reveal how humans go about learning the nature of the universe… which, actually, is the biggest adventure of them all.

So, all three reasons (accuracy, inspiration, and understanding) are important, and each will help me be a better writer. But I feel that the third reason — understanding the nature of discovery — is one that particularly needs to be communicated. And possibly because quantum physics is so famously weird, it seems to me that it might be especially illuminating on the subject.

I can’t wait to hear more about it.



Apr 4 2015

So, this thing happened to Jo Walton…


… where she won the Tiptree Award!  

It was a tie, actually between Jo’s My Real Children and Monica Byrne’s The Girl in the Road (which I have not read, but now must).

I think Jo is rapidly running out of awards to win… She seems to have gotten them all, for one work or another.  At least in literature.

What’s left?  Well… Pulitzer and Nobel, I suppose.  Just a matter of time now.

I’m so pleased about this!

The Tiptree, if you’re not familiar with it, is given to works that explore gender issues — which I had sort of forgotten that My Real Children did, since gender as such wasn’t the main focus of the book.   But it does examine attitudes towards gender, and expectations of  gendered behavior.  And it does so in a very interesting way; you should check it out, if you haven’t already.

In other news: No news from the Schrodinger Sessions people, which leads me to suspect I have not been selected (insert frowny face emoji).  Well, if it’s a success, maybe they’ll repeat next year, and I’ll try again.

Also:  Chaos at the Day Job!  Bizarre acts of management, with explanations for said actions to be provided one week later at a company meeting.  It’s very odd, and I’ll let you know more when the shakedown is done shaking.

Plus: I didn’t make it to Eastercon in England, which I had sort of been considering of attending, as compensation for having to cancel out of Worldcon last year.   But ongoing ominous rumblings at the Day Job encouraged me to hang on to my savings instead, until I knew for certain whether I could spare the bucks.  I had to give Uncle Sam a whole chunk in taxes, so… I figured I’d wait for a bit.

Lots of stuff seems to be up in the air….




Mar 29 2015

Move along, nothing to see here…


Still hunkered down, dug in.   Between the Day Job, trying to get some serious exercise, and working through the evisceration and reconstruction of Book 5, I barely see or speak to anyone…

But during it all, on and off,  I’ve been thinking, and you know what?

You know, that thing?  Where they say you should be writing every single day, no matter what?  That you should have a set amount of words or pages or something, and every day write that amount at least?

Guess what?
The writers I like best don’t do it that way.

Mostly, the writers whose work I like best will: get an idea, think up stuff, plan stuff out, stew on it, fuss with it at greater or lesser levels of intensity while going about their lives… and then at some point say, “This is it!” and then clear the decks and work on it until it’s done.

And the folks who do it the other way, the every-day-without-fail people — mostly, they tend to write stuff I don’t like much.  I’d name names, but then I’d have to tell you who I think sucks, and there’s not much point in that…

But, in my own work, every time I’ve finished a novel, I did it by dropping everything else.  For a time.

So… kind of nice to know that the writers I like most are mostly like me.

Since I can’t actually quit the Day Job (not quite yet), I’m trying to fool my subconscious into sort-of believing that I have – – for three days a week.

And… let’s give this a couple of months.   See what comes of it.


Mar 23 2015

Well, this is no fun!


Yeah, working for a living?  Leaves much to be desired.

And by this I mean: working at the Day Job.  At the beginning of March, I increased my hours to full-time.  Technically full-time; actually 32 hours a week, which is what I was doing before my year-long side-trip to Scary Medical Adventure Time Land.

So, back full-time.  It’s pretty exhausting, even at 32 hours; and more so as I’m trying like crazy to integrate a writerly work-week in there.

My doc says that what I’m looking at right now is no longer the side-effects of treatments, but simply the fact that I’m totally de-conditioned.  I’ve done not much of anything physical for a year, and she and I agree that I just have to dig in and get my strength back.  It won’t happen overnight.

My favorite exercise is just plain old walking — and I do wish the weather would cooperate on that!  But until Spring stops cosplaying as Winter, I’ve got the gym, and this extra-long corridor with staircases in the building where my writing office is.

But — I’m just impatient.   I’d like to have more energy… but the only way to get it is to do it, and be resigned to feeling extra tired, until my physical condition catches up with demands.

Not complaining, just reporting (as I used to say to my nurses when they did something that made me go “Ouch!”).

I’ve been trying to use my three-day weekend as a three-day second work week — mostly attempting to ignore the world at large, and dig in to my various writerly tasks.   But what I do need most at the moment is actual exercise, including strength training, and it looks like I’ve got to devote some serious time to that.

I think things will shake down in the next couple of months.  But I do wish that the months would not fly by so very quickly!

Mar 19 2015

The Shrodinger Sessions: Science for Science Fiction


(I almost left mentioning this until too late — but there’s still time to get in!)

The Schrodinger Sessions is a three-day workshop in modern physics, specifically for creators of science fiction in all its forms (print, movies, television, gaming, etc.)

It’s organized by Chad Orzel (of Dog Physics and Eureka! fame), and Emily Edwards and Steve Rolston of the Joint Quantum Institute, and will be held right there at JQI.

The whole idea is to help us writers to actually know what we’re talking about when we reference quantum mechanics in our work.

Come on, there’s a lot of bad science being promulgated out there, folks — don’t you want to get it right? Here’s your chance — a workshop with actual experts telling us exactly what we most need to know.

It’s not too late to apply – appplications are being accepted through March 20th — that’s tomorrow.

So, read about it. Fill out the form. Let’s see how many of us can get there this year.

(I really ought to have mentioned this weeks ago — there are exactly two days left to apply! I blame a sudden influx of Mundane Life Crap for distracting me…)

Mar 12 2015

Terry Pratchett is gone.


I cannot measure how much joy this man’s writing gave me. Endless joy.

New York Times announcement.

Mar 11 2015

Official steerswomen’s ring

this is it.

this is it.

Well, actually, any ring shaped like a mobius band will do.  And there are plenty of them around.

But a few years back, when the ring I was wearing got to be too tight too often (combination of age and intermittent general hand-swelling from much usage), I searched high and low and near and far, scouring the web for the perfect replacement.   I wanted something sturdy enough to wear every day, that really featured the half-twist, and was not out of my price range.  I knew I’d have to pay more than just a few bucks, if I wanted quality, but there was a limit to how high I could go.

And this is what I finally came up with.  It’s by Christina Kober Designs, and it’s available on Etsy.

the band is slightly matte, the edges shiny.

The band is slightly matte, the edges shiny.


The price is $96, which is more than I’d ever normally pay for a ring.  I’m just not a self-decoration person; never have been. But there are a few things that I love, and want to wear all the time. And considering that I would wear this ring every single day, it was a reasonable investment.

I love it.  In fact, when this year my ring size went up yet another half-size (because: life), I did not hesitate.  Plunked down another $96.

I gave the old one to Sabine — and actually, that one is the very ring that appears on the cover of the ebook of The Steerswoman.



This was worth doing…

But as I say, any mobius-band ring will do, if you want to get that Steerswomanly feeling. The very first one I had cost maybe twenty bucks. It broke, eventually, however.

So: unsolicited, unpaid testimonial. If there can be such a thing as an official steerswoman’s ring, this would be it.

In other news: I’m back from my retreat-while-staying-in-place.

Other other news:  I need to do it again this weekend.  It’s exactly what I need to do.  Think I’ll do it every weekend this month.

Mar 9 2015

Physics poem


Chad Orzel’s take on Robert Frost.

What’s especially interesting is how well it works.

Seriously, go check it out.

(Ack! I’m not supoosed to be blogging today… You didn’t see me do this!)

Mar 8 2015

Hunkering down


I’m spending three days just hunkering down and just trying to get my head wrapped around the story.  Deconstruction/reconstruction.  Disengaging from everyday stuff long enough to get sight of the sweep of the story.

Since I have Mondays off from the Day Job, and no more chemo, and no other medical appointments until the 16th, I have a chunk of time…

So, I shall be a bit quiet until, oh, Tuesday or thereabouts.

Call it a writer’s retreat without me actually going anywhere.

See you in a few.  Meanwhile, in the tradition of my posts from undisclosed locations while trying to write, I may drop a photo in every now and then.

Like this.  Here’s a spooky pic from the roof of my office.  There’s a whole complex of old factories and warehouses, now converted — this is the former smokestack (now a handy cell tower), the moon, an odd cloud, and the building next door.

tower at night 2 03-07-15

Via secret access to the roof.