Jan 31 2010

Boskone, yes!


Yep, I’ll be going to Boskone.   It’s one of the two east coast conventions that I rarely miss (the other being Readercon).

Here’s my schedule:

Saturday3pm        The Heroine’s Journey
Lois McMaster Bujold
Greer Gilman
Rosemary Kirstein        (M)
Margaret Ronald
Jo Walton
Is it different from that of the hero? If so, in what ways?

Yes,  I’m the moderator of that one — always an adventure.

Saturday5pm        Autographing

Sunday  12noon     When The Magic Goes Away
David Anthony Durham
Rosemary Kirstein
Tom Shippey        (M)
Jo Walton
Jane Yolen
There is magic and mystery and great beauty. And then the Old Magic
slips away from the forests, the gates to Faerie close, and the last
ships sail to the west. There is a bittersweet memory, perhaps, of
what it was to be more than merely mortal. Explore this theme, and
why it is so potent.

Sunday  1pm        Long Series: What Gives Them Staying Powers?
Jeffrey A. Carver
John R. Douglas        (M)
Alexander Jablokov
Rosemary Kirstein
Alastair Reynolds

Is it just the comfort of returning to a familiar place….or something more? Expound.

I’m  pleased that I’m sharing the panels with this particular collection of writers.   It should be really interesting.

Downside: I won’t be staying at the actual hotel this time, but commuting from the hither side of yon.   So I won’t have my guitar.   Or a place to take a nap, should the pressure of fame overcome me.

(edit: the convention is in Boston, February 12, 13 & 14.)

Hey, come to Boskone!   Here’s the info.

Jan 24 2010

Reply to the inevitable question


Over on Facebook, after I apologized for forgetting her birthday, my friend Libbey asked,  “… and how is the book coming?

I said:

It’s an adventure.

I don’t just mean that the story I’m writing is an adventure story— I mean that the process of writing it is an adventure all its own.

There are heroes (me and my friends!), villains, goals and obstacles (plenty of those); shining moments of revelation; some dark despair, just enough; hacking through tangled forests of confusion, while being pursued by SomeThingElse; encounters with dragons; taming of dragons; riding on dragons; falling off of dragons in mid-air; deserts that must be crossed (very large ones); spaceships viewed in the far distance, inaccessible; moments of courage; moments of no courage whatsoever; and moments where everyone sits around and drinks a great deal of tea.

Unlike the book itself, I don’t get to edit out the boring bits.

Jan 21 2010

I, Blogger


This morning I was checking out the Del Rey website (a thing I do with a fair amount of regularity)  and I spotted a link I hadn’t noticed before.

Apparently, they’re looking for bloggers to review books.

And I thought: Hey, they publish my books.

The Language of Power

Plus: I read.

Plus: I now have a blog.

Also: I’ve written reviews in the past.

Is this a match made in  heaven, or what?

So, I filled out the form and sent it off.     We’ll see what happens…

Jan 16 2010

Down in the Great Big Numbers


Every now and then when channel surfing, I check what’s going on below channel 3 on my dish satellite listing — where the channel numbers suddenly crazily convert to 9000’s.    You’ll find some religious shows (ack!), women’s basketball (zzzz), and something called the Research Channel.

Yes, I’m a geek.  And proud of it.

The presentations sometimes actually get so far down the bare bones as to consist of some guy (usually a guy, yes; although if primates are involved, it’ll be a woman) and a microphone and a whiteboard or chalkboard, or overhead projector.    And some cool corner of science.

This time, I saw the title “Urban Astrophysicist”.     Had to see it!   Clicked and:

Neil deGrasse  Tyson!

Now, I love Neil deGrasse Tyson.   I’m always looking for good science communicators, and he’s been at the top of my list for quite a while — long before he became as well-known as he is today.   Long before his appearances on the Tonight Show, the Daily Show, Colbert Report, and hosting Nova Now, and all.


But here’s the interesting thing:  true to the Research Channel, it was bare-bones.   Tyson, a room full of actual students of science, a very geeky interviewer, and the camera (which seemed also to be operated by some sort of student).

I found this fascinating, after seeing the slicker presentations of his recent career.   Just talking, answering questions.

Because, without all the bells and whistles and special effects, without the easy sound-bites, the thing that I love best about Tyson came forward and stood front-and-center.

It’s the same thing that I love about all the best science popularizers: they communicate not  just the facts of science, but the passion of science.

Carl Sagan did that, too — and yeah, everybody’s measuring Tyson against Sagan.  We loved Carl Sagan; we miss Carl Sagan.  Everyone’s looking for the next Carl Sagan.

But here’s my opinion on the subject:

There is no next Carl Sagan — nor should there be.

I think that we get the science communicator appropriate to our time.   Sagan came out of the seventies and eighties, with his turtleneck and Beatles haircut.  The way he presented science was almost spiritual, at a time when we were coming out of the strait-jacketed fifties, and  thinking cosmically, expanding our consciousnesses.   And he was giving us something better than LSD, because it was real,  accessible to all of us, all this glorious, true wonder, true beauty right there.

But now, who was before him?   I’m writing this off the top of my head, so I don’t want to stop and do research…  but when I think of actual scientists, someone who might represent the face of science, so to speak, it’s Richard Feynman who comes to mind.   With, as well as the actual science, his wild parties, and his bongoes and all.

So… Sagan sort of hippie; Feynman a beatnik?   Am I talking out of my hat, or am I on to something here?

What about before that?  The name I know best is  Roy Chapman Andrews.

A Manly Man.   Articles for Argosy magazine.   Hunting the Blue Tiger in Thailand South China; organizing a caravan of scientists in those new-fangled automobiles, driving  into the Gobi Desert, while having to contend with Chinese bandits.   An adventurer.

All of them communicated the love of science as well as the facts of science.  But they each did it in very different ways.

The successful science communicator that we get in any era is someone who speaks the language we are ready to hear.   And that will be different for each era.

So, the question is:  what’s next?  And who?

Meanwhile, I found that entire interview with Tyson (1.5 hrs) on the Research Channel website.   If you don’t want to see the whole thing (and it’s worth it, believe me), there are excerpts on Tyson’s own site.

Okay, I’ve spent enough time geeking out about this… must go do something else.

(Hmm.  Geek, geek… might that be the language of our time?….)

Jan 15 2010

Awww…. (the good kind)


That’s the good kind of “Awww” up there. As in, “Aw, that’s nice!”

Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer just announced that they’re getting married.

Announced it on their blogs, that is.

They’re a cute couple. Plus: really talented.

Jan 12 2010

Vagabond no more


Yep.  There it is.

welcome home

Heh.  The perspective makes it look like it’s the size of a hockey rink, but it’s fairly normal sized in real life.

I’m still getting used to the aspect ratio.   At least it doesn’t do that horrible thing I’ve seen some wide-screen monitors do, of taking normally square images and making them panoramic by spreading them across the screen like butter on very narrow toast.   The aspect ratio of the original image is preserved, thank you very much.

Spent most of this evening just setting it up, opting all the options, designating the defaults, agreeing to every EULA that slides past my eyeballs.   I’ve got free laptop LoJack for a year, but I might not keep it.   And auto-backups, and all whatnot.

So far, love the keyboard, which is critical.   I keyboard a lot.

But now I must find some better means of hauling it around.   The computer compartment of my daypack doesn’t really have enough protection.     Some squashy cushioning, but no solid protection.

Must go and tweak a bit more before turning in.

Jan 3 2010

Welcome to 2010. Still no jet-pack. Time to get over it.


There’s a thing that happens more and more as I slowly claw my way up the demographic curve.  

 It tends to show up when I am in the company of other SF writers or fans of about my age or older, and we’re just hanging out,  shooting the breeze…

 If we go on long enough — then, at some point in the evening, someone  will bring up the “promises” that were made to us about what the future would be like.  

 You know.  Flying cars, jetpacks, humanoid household robots.     That stuff.

 And as soon as one person starts on it, the rest chime in.   Yeah, cities under the ocean!   A rocket in every garage!  Outfits with really big shoulders and capes!   What happened to  all that, why didn’t we get it?  And it goes on and on and on…

 Now, I’ve taken part in this ritual of nostalgia plenty of times, and it’s good, it’s fun.   We’re sharing bits of our emotional history, and we’re all on the same page.  It’s a bonding thing, really.

 But after a while — I don’t know, I just got bored with it.  It’s like some sort of code, or a button that gets pushed,  and we all start saying the same thing, in more or less the same words.   In fact, kinda creepy.

 Here are some things I don’t like about that subject:

 1.  The conversation is always the same.  We were told we’d get something; we didn’t get it; wah.  That’s the substance.  Doesn’t vary much. 

2.  The conversation doesn’t progress.  There’s no therefore.  We didn’t get what we were promised, therefore: Science fiction isn’t and never was actually predictive, how interesting; or Hey, let’s all go write stories in that imagined universe explaining why it didn’t happen here; or Let’s start up a business that builds jet-packs; or Let’s work on a TV show, a comics script, a psychological analysis of the emotional effects of media-delivered speculative promises — whatever.  Anything! 

3.  I am alive now.  Today.  2010.   This is the universe I’m operating in, and this is my zero point for my own science fiction speculation going forward.   Dwelling on what I didn’t get from promises made 20, 30, 40 years ago makes me feel like I’m cast in amber.   I’m not dead, and I’m not done!

Plus, of course, many things that we have now were unimagined in the 50’s/60’s version of now.   You know. Internet.  MP3 players.  Phones with as much computing power as Univac.

Anyway, what I’m hoping is that this is the year people stop looking at me as if I had a duck on my head whenever that conversation starts, and my two cents consist of: So, you didn’t get a jetpack?  Who cares?  What are you doing now?

2010 is going to be so cool. 

Oh, and I bought a new computer.   It’s only got 4 gig of memory and a 500 gig hard drive, alas —

Hey, wait.  How does that compare to what they used to put guys on the moon?


So cool.

Via NASA, from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

Via NASA, from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter