Archive for March 2012

Take The Plunge is off on its tour of SF markets, so we’ll see where that gets to. I think it has a better chance than The One That Got Away as it’s a more conventional style.

I just looked back in my logs and it looks like I finished the first draft of this story in November ’96, then Gregory Benford critiqued it a few months later and… then I sat it on it for fifteen years. It’s about time I did something useful with it :).

On the plus side, the current version is vastly superior to the draft that I had back then.

The One That Got Away is off making the rounds of the SF markets. I’m not sure that anyone will buy it because it’s a strange story I wrote as part of a writing contest but we’ll see how it goes. If not, it will be on Amazon in a few months.

Review of Long Eyes And Other Stories by Jeff Carlson is up:

Next in the queue is Panoptica by Patrick Hudson.

Normally I can delete any spam comments using my normal login, so I’d been searching the web for a few days to determine why I had four comments that I couldn’t select form the dashboard because there was no tick box next to them and none of the normal options to tag them as spam.

Today I finally discovered that I could only do that if I was logged into the administrator account rather than my own. They were posted to the ‘about’ page which is presumably owned by that account.

Just thought I’d mention this in case anyone else out there is confused by inexplicable WordPress behaviour.

This is embarrassing:

Of course the most embarrassing part is that Americans had to wait for foreign media to point out what a disaster their President is.

Sadly, the potential Republican candidates don’t look any better. As with the Tories in the UK, when faced with the worst President or Prime Minister in decades, the opposition decide to offer someone even worse.

I wish I knew why Youtube embedding no longer works in WordPress when it worked fine a few months ago.

Take the Plunge is finally almost ready to send out; it’s been sitting on my hard drive for fifteen years in earlier draft form, so it’s about time.

If no magazine wants to buy it in the next six months or so I’ll upload it myself.

I watched a couple of episodes of this show on the plane last night, and it’s one of those where you can see it’s interminably stupid yet can’t stop watching to see how far they can take it (I believe it’s already been cancelled, for obvious reasons).

As sci-fi, it’s a real clunker. Supposedly set nearly a hundred and fifty years in the future, but it could have been set any time since WWII without a noticeable change to the script (and a 1950s setting would have been a lot more fun). The last hundred and fifty years have taken us from the sailing ship to the space shuttle and the abacus to the iPhone, but apparently all the next hundred and fifty will give us are holographic display screens.

I haven’t watched anything Spielberg has been actively involved in since the stodgy mess of Saving Private Ryan, but I would have expected him to be able to make a decent adventure show. Instead we got a stupid and insanely stereotyped family drama, a cop show with dinosaurs and the obligatory mysterious messages carved into rocks; actually the latter would have been better.

In the future, it would appear, the government can track everyone using implants, but they’re inserted just under the skin so they’re easily removed. Luckily they don’t have any cameras so once you’ve removed the implant no-one can track you, and you can just sneak into the high security ‘going back in time’ base after escaping from jail using a laser your wife carried in to you. In a world that suffers from pollution and overpopulation, when they discover a wormhole into the past, rather than sending people through by the million with all the technology required to build a new world there, they send them through a few dozen at a time. Even though those people are going to be living among carnivorous dinosaurs, they don’t actually build guns that can kill them, instead they take late 20th century assault rifles. They also have no security, of course, so kids can just sneak out of the encampment, borrow a vehicle and go off driving around to get eaten.

The best part of the show is the confused opening, which mixes two tried and tested left-wing tropes; we have the ‘evil humans have destroyed the world with pollution’ trope and the ‘evil humans must be prevented from breeding’ trope. The funny part is that the ‘good guys’ are breaking the law by having too many kids, so throughout I was thinking ‘hey, these are the kind of evil bastards who destroyed the Earth, why should I care what happens to them?’

Ultimately it’s a glaring example of everything that’s wrong with popular SF. But when I spot the DVD on sale for $5 I’ll have to buy it watch the rest…

Hey, I just got banned from Absolute Write for questioning ‘Global Warming’ 🙂 ! Which isn’t such a bad thing, I need to spend less time on forums and more time writing.

It also gave me a good idea for another short story that I’m going to try to get written in the next week or so, and some future blog posts:

“Deifying scientists” – which was the original subject of the thread until someone brought up ‘Global Warming’ and someone else starting posting paraphrases from the fake Heartland ‘strategy document’.

“Why are so many writers left wing?” – which is an interesting subject and I think it’s more complex than it might first appear.

“Global warming: scam or what?” – I’ve been following the ‘Global Warming’ circus for around twenty years now and I rarely enter threads about it because they’re so tedious and boring. But I really should write something about it one day.

Many people complain that the speed of light is too low for interstellar travel, and most SF writers invent means of faster than light travel so their characters can flit from star to star in reasonable amounts of time (I did myself in Final Contact because the story didn’t really work otherwise).

But think about that again. The speed of light does mean you’ll never fly to Alpha Centauri and back in a weekend, but it also means you’ll never see bloated interstellar empires telling everyone what to do.

Traditional empires on Earth could handle a few weeks or months delay in communication and travel; even then the military might receive orders for a war that was already over. On that basis, interplanetary empires would be possible, but even expanding to the Oort cloud would be difficult. Power could be devolved from Earth to regional centres, but then you’re already beginning to lose control of your empire.

The nearby stars? Perhaps. Orders might take half a dozen years to reach you, but knowing that a military expedition might appear in a few years or decades if you ignored them could keep you under control.

But beyond that? There will never be a Terran Empire sending orders from Earth to colonists on the far side of the galaxy or loading up the battle fleet with marines ready to enforce the Emperor’s will after travelling for a million years to get there.

The speed of light ensures that the Evil Empire (whoever they may be) will never be able to enslave our descendants. We should be thankful for that.

While it may take a little too much from 2001, it does have some interesting ideas:
(possibly NSFW images)

Review of The Circle of Sorcerers by Brian Kittrell is up:

Next in the queue is Long Eyes by Jeff Carlson.

I hate cell phones.

I had one years ago when they were rare, and after a decade without I have one now, but only because it’s free from my day job because I’m on call one week a month. It’s the dumbest phone I could find, since I have no desire to check Facebook every five minutes or charge it every night, and it only has to make and receive phone calls and text messages.

Which would be fine, except for the wonderful ‘convenience’ features.

For example, all I want the phone to do is make the loudest possible noise when someone calls or send a text, because I have to respond ASAP if a customer has a problem. But there’s a wonderful button on the side of the phone which disables the ringer, so I have to continually check to ensure that I haven’t accidentally pressed that button in order to ensure that I get my calls. There’s another button which starts some random Java application; I can’t tell you what it does, because it never starts and just sits there forever saying ‘Starting Java’. When it does that it burns through the entire battery in a few hours, so if I accidentally press the button I’d better recharge it before I head home so I can be contacted if I’m needed.

Having worked in consumer electronics I understand why these things are there; either the competitors have them so everyone has to, or some marketing drone said ‘hey, wouldn’t it be great if…’ and the features were added without anyone actually asking whether they were a good idea or customers wanted them. But damn, it’s a pain. They could at least give me a menu option to disable all this nonsense.

I really wish someone would just build a phone which is a phone and doesn’t try to be an MP3 player, web browser or anything else. It would probably sell at a premium compared to other dumb phones and could have a battery life of weeks since it doesn’t have to do much. But good luck convincing the marketing drones that there’s a market for it.

Smashwords are having a promo this week, so I’ve added some of my e-books to it. Use the coupon on the book page for a discount until March 10th.