Sep 30 2013

Not absent, merely busy


I’ve been cracking down on the writing lately, which tends to put the blogging on back-burner.  Just wanted you to know I hadn’t fallen off the edge of the Earth!

Random stuff you might like:

Via, I see that Jed McGowan has created a lovely wordless graphic story about Voyager I’s trip so far.


McGowan says that at some point a print version of this comic will become available…

It’s available to view online, and you can check out his other works. All of them are wordless, but I find the silence in this one to be more than beautiful.

If you want an idea of what a real steerswoman’s logboook might be like, take a look at artist/writer Hannah Hinchman’s  A Trail Through Leaves. There are some pages of it that are absolutely what you would find if you could peek into Rowan’s logbook.

I go back to this book over and over.

I go back to this book over and over.

The Amazon site will let you look inside the book, and there are some very steerswomanly pages. Also, you can click under the book image for the extra 9 images, which seem to have been selected as especially visually interesting. Be sure to check out the frog page — and imagine a trawler in its place!

And in the spirit of “three things make a blog post,” there’s an especially nice appearance of the ISS on October 2nd.

In my corner of the world, it’s at 5:25 AM, exactly the right time make me more willing to drag myself out of bed to get to the endless DayJob. I need some sort of reward for that, folks. On top of the money, I mean.

Heavens Above is the place to look for ISS sightings in your own backyard.

Thanks to Heavens Above, I once was able to identify a very weird sight I saw as being an Iridium flare. Clearly visible in broad daylight.

More later…

Sep 22 2013

A thing I will not do


Hot news in the SFF world:  the 2013  World Fantasy Convention in Brighton England has decided to charge people extra to attend Kaffeeklatsches.

I frankly find this appalling!

I have been at many, many kaffeeklatsches.   I remember when they were invented.  They’re a great idea that spread from Readercon to pretty much every SFF convention around, and are now a staple of the convention experience.

No other convention has charged for them.

WFC claim that they need the money to provide the coffee and biscuits (or cookies, as we call them in the States).   Very few klatsches I’ve been at have provided any cookies.   Occasionally, they don’t even provide coffee.   We grab some from the Con Suite, or the Green Room, or Starbucks and bring it, in those cases; and I’ve been known to buy something at the Tiptree Bake Sale and bring it to my klatsch for the fans.  Cookies and coffee are not the point.

The point is: hang out and converse with an author you like.   Sign up –  because there’s limited space, and there’s a limit to the number of fans an author can coherently interact with all at once — but no charge, for heaven’s sake!

So, here’s my promise:

If I am ever attending a convention as a professional, and they ask me to do a kaffeeklatsch, and they try to charge the fans, not only will I turn down participation in the kaffeeklatsch…

…I will also pick a time and a locale — like a nearby actual coffee-shop, a corner in the hotel bar, or one of the hotel rooms — and be there, available to meet and hang out with at the specified time.  We can bring our own coffee, as we would if we were just naturally hanging out together.    I’ll announce the time and location on my blog, on twitter, on any other social media I can think of, or the convention newsletter if there is one and they’ll let me.  A sign on the party board, whatever!

Honestly, what are they thinking?

Fortunately, I’ve heard that Worldcon 2014 in London (where I definitely will be going), won’t charge for kaffeeklatsches.

Here’s what John Scalzi says on the subject, because he’s a sensible man and a nice guy, and my favorte former SFWA president.

PS: to add injury to insult, WFC is holding their kaffeeklatsches in non-handicapped-accessible room.  That’s just mean!


Sep 19 2013

Back from an undisclosed location…


Actually, the  location is easily disclosed: I was at home…

It rained.



But I was at home with 3 days off from the DayJob, wrapped around a weekend, making a full 5-day run of nothing but what I wanted to work on, at all and any hour of the day.   Very similar to my intermittent writing retreats to undisclosed locations, except that no actual travel was involved.

Plus:  My sister had gone off for to North Carolina for a conclave of friends and a hike then another visit with friends.  For exactly the same five days, plus some extra at the end.   An entire house (well, condo) all to myself!

So I hunkered down, worked on stuff, kept foolish hours, wrote and spent a bunch of time on necessary writing-related chores and activities.     And I did some local hiking.   I need to get as much of that in as I can before the winter sets in…

Then, of course, the payback came when I got to work and found urgent messages, and knotted problems, and  — you get the picture.   Crazy-time.

Totally worth it, though.



This was without a doubt the tallest complete rainbow I have ever seen, occurring exactly at sunset.

Sep 10 2013

An astonishment


I am an astonishment to wrens.

Here’s how I found out.

Our bird-feeder is a bit broken. The side-spring is missing on one side.

That’s the bit that’s supposed to keep the perch lifted when light visitors, like birds, sit and dine, but let the perch drop when heavier critters (squirrels) sit on it.  The dropped perch makes a shutter come down on the seed-access windows.  So we don’t waste seed on squirrels.  Because they will eat it all.  Because they are squirrels.

But with the spring missing, the perch is in drop-position all the time, and nobody gets to eat.

We generally solve this by jamming a stick in the shutter, keeping it open all the time.  Because, hey, we just bought that feeder a few months ago, and we can’t be buying feeders all the time!

So, everybody eats, and we spend extra money on seed… I’m sure there’s a win/win in there for someone.  Probably the squirrels.

Every now and then a squirrel notices the stick, thinks, Hey — what the heck is this thing?, and yanks it out.

And nobody eats, again.

They’re smart enough to come and peer in the kitchen window when the feeder is empty, and smart enough to try to chew off the bungee cord that holds the seed-storage bin closed, but not smart enough to leave the stick in place.  Apparently.

So I have to replace the stick every now and again.

And recently, one time when I was doing that, I noticed this bopping in the bushes around me.

(That’s a technical term, bopping.  It’s the motion of a hidden bird: a quick, small bounce of leaves on a branch where a bird has arrived, or from which it has departed. It’s like a bob, but smaller, tighter and quicker.)

I grew perfectly still, of course, because the bopping was nearby, and getting nearer, and I love to see the birds close up, if I can.   Sometimes they come quite near when I stand by the feeder.  They’re hungry.

Usually it’s a house-sparrow coming as close as he dares, waiting for me to leave; or a chickadee, taking advantage of the fact that all the bigger bully birds are terrified of the horrible human and will stay away until I’m gone, allowing her to merrily flick in and out, right past my nose, being so fast-fast-fast that nothing as big and slow as some clumsy human could possibly present any danger to her.

So, I watched the progressive bopping, closer and closer, a goofy anticipatory grin already on my face, and when the bopper reached the edge of the brush, and came into view —

Not a sparrow, not a chickadee not even a tufted titmouse — a wren.

I couldn’t recall when I last saw a wren in this neighborhood.   I’m not sure I ever had previously at all.  But there he was, first time.  I was amazed.

And so, apparently, was he.

He looked at me, stunned.   We regarded each other, I might say with equal surprise, but not so — his surprise was much greater than mine.

Birds don’t have a whole lot of facial expression.   It’s all in the body language, really.  He stared at me; then hunkered down; then lifted up, side-eyed me first from the left, then the right.

He tilted this way and that, trying to pin down the oddness of me, and he just couldn’t wrap his brain around it.

I was amazing, colossal, incomprehensible!   What wonders does this world hold?  Can it possibly be real?

Just to be sure, let’s get a closer look.

And I stood still, as a proper birder will, not even moving my head, not even my eyes, as he closed in on me.  Bop by bop, each time repeating that scrutiny, that study from every angle, and still disbelieving, he came even closer.  And closer.

At last he was less than an arm’s length away from me, to my right, slightly above me, and I finally turned my eyes and then my head and we regarded each other.

He just could not figure me out.  And I could not believe my luck.

I said, “Well… hello there.”

He did not startle at my voice, but he studied me again, literally from head to foot and back to head, needing to shift his entire body to take in the sheer scope of me.  At last, with a certain hesitancy, as if half-unwillng to leave behind this prodigy of the natural world — he proceeded to bop away.  Bop by bop.

And he was gone.   And all I could think was:  Damn, I wish I’d had a camera; because I’ll never get a chance like that again.

The next day, as I was having lunch on the porch, I heard a feathery flut — and he was sitting on the edge of the table, next to my left elbow.

I didn’t move — but I could see from the corner of my eye that he was studying me again.

Apparently my elbow wasn’t the most useful prospect, so — flit, flut — he perched on my can of diet Coke.

And we looked at each other.  He shifted a bit, his toes making little tik-tik-tik noises on the aluminum of the can.

Eventually I said, “… is there something I can do for you?”

He was less astonished, I thought, but still curious.  He side-eyed me again, left, right, tik-tik-tik…

Then: flut — gone.

At which point I rembered two things:

The wren is the King of the Birds.  Did you know that?

And: one of my back-burner stories, one of the really interesting ideas I have for things I want to write, but which have to wait for a while, because what writing time I have available right now has to go to the Steerswoman series — one of those stories — concerns, to a large extent, a wren.

I saw him once more, days later, up above me while I was writing on my stone bench in my little hideaway in the bushes.  I noticed the bopping, and we spied each other.

“Good morning Your Majesty,” I said.

He spared me a moment’s consideration; then bopped away and was gone.

Sep 4 2013

aBowman’s fish gadget


Another update: does not work on iThings.  Sorry. 

I found this in my travels.   Click to feed them.


Or just put on some soothing music, and relax…


Update:  if you use control-plus sign to enlarge, your fish will stay the same size, but their pond will get roomier.   You should do that.  Don’t be mean!


There are more gadgets here.


Sep 3 2013

Fred Pohl


As many of you know by now, Frederik Pohl passed away yesterday at the age of 93.

I’m so sorry to see him go…

His influence on the field as writer, editor, and fan is difficult to measure — I won’t even attempt to do so.

Persons more eloquent than myself have already said it much better. Here’s Neil Gaiman on Pohl, with a poem included; and here’s Jo Walton, ever wise and erudite.

I’ll add only this:

I met Pohl, briefly, on a couple of occasions, introduced by mutual friends.   We exchanged a few words, nothing significant, really.   But it was important to me…

Because of… let’s call it the Link.

He had been there: witnessing and participating in the real birth of SF and Fantasy as recognized genres; and helping to sustain them across the years; and contributing to them, and being one of those whose acts and arts served to shape the field….

And also, he was here.  In the same room I was.  At, say,  a convention, driving his electric cart past the table at which I was autographing, called back by the person signing next to me, introduced as a matter of course: Oh, yes, here’s a fellow SFWA member, a fellow author, Rosemary Kirstein — Rosemary, meet Fred Pohl.

He was my contemporary.  And he was also a figure of history.

It was a link, alive, from now to then.   From me to there. And from him to the future, I suppose; we’re SF, we’re all about the future.

I went over to his blog, which I sometimes visit, and browsed through, and found this, to my delight:


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Click to go to Pohl’s blog for a slightly better version; you’ll still have to squint, but it’s worth squinting…


It’s the Hydra Club,  one of the first SF fan clubs, some time in the 1950’s .  So many of the people in this image are writers,  people I worshiped as a kid —


And gosh, just look at ’em! Hanging out, talking, arguing, goofing off, being sly, being wise, being dopey — hey, they’re us!

Thanks, Fred.


Sep 1 2013

Will they, won’t they?


Holding out some hope for the live stream of the Hugo awards tonight.  As you might recall, last year they were blacked out halfway through, due to “copyright infringement!”  Gr.  Had to follow it by twitter feed.

Ustream apologized afterward, and left up the link so we could watch it the next day… But nevertheless, hoping for LIVE tonight.