Monday October 28, 2013
When Life magazine ran a bunch of science photos from the previous century I perused the collection with delight, and then the last one (#37 in the stack of 37) really spoke to me.
The caption suggested that scientists in the 1950's were pretty desperate to understand how microgravity environments might disorient astronauts.
The photo suggested a better caption. Sadly, I did not know what it was. I'm not a meme person, but I know what they are, and I know what they're for. So I posted a link to the photo, and suggested to my following on Twitter that a better caption existed somewhere, but I did not know it.
My brother Randy Tayler did.
Happy Monday! Halloween is around the corner, and this seems to fit. And on a related note, my brother's dating website for the dead, Ghost Singles, has been getting international news coverage this year, and the chat room there is a great place to spend some quality Halloween time.
Thursday October 24, 2013
I met Vernor Vinge this last weekend at Conjecture, but my copy of A Fire Upon the Deep was at home. Then I got busy, and lost track of time, and by Sunday I realized my chance to buy something and get it autographed was probably gone, since I didn't see him around.
Then I did! Standing right outside the dealers room! So I bounced into the dealers room and asked Patrick, who was running the Mysterious Galaxy bookseller, which of his many Vinge titles I should buy RIGHT NOW because the man was right outside and did not appear to be immediately busy, and yes, I was going to ask for a signature outside a scheduled signing but at this event at this time I was pretty sure I could get away with it. He handed me Rainbows End, which I bought.
Note: Vernor Vinge is gracious, brilliant, and is delightful company -- we got to talk for almost an hour, and I got my copy of the novel signed.
Back at home I tried to read the book in bed, and I discovered that my eyes are no longer up to that task -- not with these glasses, at any rate. So I bought it again, this time electronically, and the only reason I'm telling you this is that the theme of "I'm not getting younger, but there are technological solutions for that" was present early on in the book, and really resonated with me. YMMV.
Stylistically, the book has some omniscient POV moments, and while they might ring weird for some readers, they're one of the things I love about the science fiction I grew up with, so the book resonated with me on a second level. And since the book is recent (2006) and tells a solid, prescient, near-future (2025) tale, it resonated a third time. Oh, and it won the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Novel, so there's that.
Structurally, the most daring thing the book did was present us with a protagonist whose flaw is that he's a very mean person. Usually that's a big turn-off, but in the context of this story, I found myself on the edge of my seat (well, bed. Also, metaphor) hoping for a voyage of redemption. To quote Patrick Rothfuss, an author can threaten a character with much worse things than death. This character has already cheated death. Now he has real problems.
Ultimately, Rainbows End (the absent apostrophe is not a typo) was satisfying enough that I'm quite happy to have bought it twice. My next purchase probably needs to be bifocals, but Vernor Vinge writes such a compelling vision of the near future that I'm half-convinced that a better medical or technological solution might be just around the corner.
Monday October 21, 2013
Conjecture/ConChord was a lot of fun. It's a small show -- maybe 400 attendees -- but the panels were always well attended and enthusiastically delivered. The facility is lovely, and made for a delightful vacation. I'm back now, and the post-convention blues are nicely offset by the fact that I'm not leaving town again until January of 2014. I have two complete months here!
I need to spend them well. The 2014 Calendar project isn't art-complete yet, and the buffer needs to be re-stocked. Book 14, Broken Wind, will be wrapping up at least a month later than I thought it would, probably sometime in February of 2014. Yet again I have succeeded in outlining a story that should only take six months to tell, and then filling it out with more stories.
On a semi-related note, I probably won't be seeing or reviewing any movies until after Bad Grandpa is in theaters. If I never see another trailer for that film it will be too soon.
Monday October 14, 2013
This Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, October 18-20, I'll be in San Diego for Conjecture 2013/Conchord 25. Programming runs from Friday at 2:00pm through Sunday at 4:00pm, and if you pick up a three-day membership at the door it'll only set you back $50.
This year's theme is "the lighter side of SF&F," and the guests of honor are Esther Friesner of Chicks in Chainmail fame, and the inimitable filk*-machine Tom Smith. Oh, and me, rounding out the funny-bone-tickling trifecta. Kirstin and Volker Tanger are the Interfilk guests. And if that's not enough to get you through the door, the program grid also features Larry Niven, Vernor Vinge, and numerous other folk.**
I'm not manning a table at this show, but Schlock Mercenary merchandise will be available in the dealer's room through Mysterious Galaxy***, and originals and prints will be on display in the art show. This means I'll be free to wander around between panels, shoot assorted breezes, and enjoy the show the way many of the attendees do. Since none of my events start early, I'll likely be out as late as most of the rest of the crowd.
I may even filk. Fortunately, I don't think I know any of the songs, so me actually singing is something you are unlikely to be exposed to.
Here, for your reference, is my schedule:
5:00pm, Clarendon -- Structures of Humor with Esther Friesner and Tom Smith. (Note: Three career humorists on a panel about humor is a MUST SEE if you have a professional interest in funny things.)
6:00pm, Le Sommet -- PRETTY PRETTY BATTLE TIARAS FOR ALL. This is a craft session, and yes, I need to make a battle tiara for myself because I don't wish to be left out.
7:00pm, Chanticleer -- Opening Ceremonies, and then a Meet the Guests ice cream social.
12:00pm, Clarendon -- Guest of Honor Interview, in which Ron Oakes grills Howard Tayler mercilessly.
1:00pm, Clarendon -- Refined Handwavium: Plausibly Faking the Science -- Calvin W. Johnson, David J. Peterson, Eric Rand, Nicolai Shapero, and Howard Tayler
4:00pm, Clarendon -- You Really Get Paid to Do That? Tim Griffin, Neil Hallford, Keith Hartman, Kirsten Tanger, Volker Tanger, and Howard Tayler (Note: If you've ever wanted to ask me "how do you make any money?" this is the panel for you.)
6:00pm, Chanticleer -- IRON HACK, featuring Marc Biagi, Esther Friesner, Dani Kollin, Allison Lonsdale, Tom Smith, and Howard Tayler (Note: This is storytelling as an improvisational performance art. Subject matter may not be appropriate for children, sensible citizens, or sophonts with class III or higher digestive limitations.)
11:30am -- Dealer's Room -- Autograph session (which with me does, in fact, mean I'm drawing pictures in books. And no, you do not need to have purchased the book at this show.)
1:00pm -- Art Show -- Art Auction. (I'm not sure I'll be in attendance yet, but I probably do need to put in an appearance long enough to direct all of my unsold schlock back into the right boxes.)
I fly out late Sunday afternoon, which means that autograph session will be your last firm opportunity to catch up with me at the event. Don't miss out! I haven't been in San Diego since 2007. That's half a lifetime in dog years, and it's an entire generation in Internet Time.My schedule is too tight to allow for any off-site activities, so I won't be seeing San Diego, not really. But that doesn't mean I can't see you. Come to the show!
*Note: "Filk" is a music thing. It is weird, and wonderful, and I cannot think of anything more under-appreciated. This show will have lots of it.
**Note: I never thought I'd see the day where I was the Guest of Honor at a convention where legends like Larry Niven and Vernor Vinge were "mere" program participants. I'm chaining my inner fanboy to a wall so he doesn't embarrass me with ill-timed squee.
***Note: Mysterious Galaxy only has about 30 pounds of my books (2 copies of each volume, plus another ten of The Body Politic.) If you've been saving up for this show in order to complete a collection of Schlock in print, please email firstname.lastname@example.org so we know whether Sandra should be shipping another case of things.
Friday October 11, 2013
As many of you are no doubt aware, the Monster Hunter International team (read: Larry Correia) is kicking some minting. I haven't plunked my money down yet, but I'm totally on board for some sweet MHI challenge coins. Yes, my collection is currently dominated by IP-related coins rather than precious tokens of exceeded expectations earned during military service, but that's because I almost never, ever put myself in places where people are using lethal force to exert their will.
Which brings me to my next point. As part of the Schlock Mercenary Challenge Coin Kickstarter, Sandra and I promised to collect, edit, compile, and spot-illustrate The Anecdotal Unofficial History of Challenge Coins, a documentation of the tradition as told by you, the people carrying it forward. Many of you have put yourselves in dangerous places and have been awarded challenge coins for that service. We've collected some of your stories for this project. You deserve to know where that project stands. Here's the update.
We're behind schedule, because we put something in front of it. I'm not proud of that, and it's not what we agreed to do, but it's what happened.
Specifically, Sandra and I took part in the Jay Wake event (a pre-mortem outpouring of friendship for our friend and fellow fictioneer Jay Lake,) realized it needed to be documented, and that this had to be done soon while our friend was still in good enough health to enjoy the anthology. Sandra spent much of the summer collecting and collating essays, anecdotes, photos, and other materials from Jay's friends, and is creating The Jay Wake Book. It's a project not unlike the challenge coin book, so it drank deeply and completely from the same wellspring of time and energy the other project needed to move forward.
The Jay Wake Book is almost complete now.
It's time for us to get back on task. The next two things on our publication plate are The Anecdotal Unofficial History of Challenge Coins, as written by many of you, and "The Schlock Mercenary 2014 Monthly Calendar." We'll be running these in parallel. The calendar will probably be finished first because it's only 24 pages long.
The Anecdotal Unofficial History of Challenge Coins (TAUHoCC isn't a bad acronym...) will be a free ebook when it's complete, and the call for papers is here. If you haven't yet submitted something, it's not too late.
One final note: before the end of this year, Sandra and I will be letting you look under the hood a bit with regard to that Kickstarter. Your generosity and enthusiasm funded our entire year, created a new line of merchandise for us, and helped us pay for some projects that were not part of the Kickstarter, but which you'll get to enjoy nonetheless. We'll be documenting all of this for you. Part of the appeal of Kickstarter is its transparency. We feel pretty strongly that you deserve to have this information, and that by sharing it we'll maintain enough of your trust that you'll feel enthusiastic about supporting us the next time we need a good kicking.