Jim Hines taunts the Intarwebz in a short but hilarious post (via Tobias Buckell).

George RR Martin had a brief surge of optimism about his progress on the next Ice and Fire novel. Let's hope he can carry the good vibes and finish that finicky beast of a book!

An unlikely tale that almost is too far-out to be non-fiction, The Luckiest or Unluckiest Man in the World? at the Times Online (via Jed Hartman's blog). The story of Tsutomu Yamaguchi, double A-bomb victim... Well worth reading!

Some links:

>> A Song of Fire and Ice video game rights optioned This sounds like a game franchise that might interest me. Even though franchise games (Star Wars, LotR) games in my experience are seldom great games.

>> Release day for Jay Lake: Green hits the shelves today.

>> Japanese weird: Cyber Figure Alice on sale now. In a must-see link for Idoru (W. Gibson) fans, this is a virtual girl/pet that you can carry around in your pocket. I need to look at it some more to figure out how it works, but the video is kind of interesting.

Brief sales (well, not sales, but activity) update:
  • submitted to Abyss & Apex magazine and got rejected after three weeks. Not sure whether it's a form rejection or not. It says the story was "well received here, but after some thought [the editors] decided not to accept it for publication". Probably form, but a form letter that is mindful of the author's feelings :-)
  • submitted to the Hadley Rille anthology Destination Future, just today, so no results yet. They seem to be quite fast to respond, according to Duotrope stats.

Still no mentionable creativity to report, I'm afraid. Surely the baby is still to blame, but still, it makes me feel uncomfortable from time to time. I feel I'm not living up to my own expectations. Then again, I realize on a more conscious level that I'm being too harsh on myself. A third child is a big change in one's life, especially if that child is born ten weeks early - with all the worry and stress that accompanies any birth.
Right now, the baby is relatively low-impact compared to our other kids, who were, quite frankly, terrible screamers... they both suffered from acid reflux - quite common, I know, but they had quite severe reflux problems.
Baby boy Nand does not have this problem - so far - but like all babies must, he puts in for a few hours of crying and general restlessness each day. Mostly in the late evenings, between nine and twelve PM. My creative hours, yes that's right.

So up to now, I have not touched my keyboard for anything other than some light surfing, Day Jobbery, and the occasional session of Sins of a Solar Empire. Cool game, that, by the way. A real space strategy game, in fact, many people think it's the first space strategy game that is really executed (almost) perfectly. It looks fabulous - zooming in and out between planets and star systems is a joy in itself - and the gameplay is very involved. All the favorite aspects of RTS games are present: resource gathering, technology development paths, building a fleet, pirate raiders, diplomacy, scouting, etc.
All in all, just the kind of game to idle away a few hours waiting for the baby's night feeding, and nothing too serious that suffers from frequent interruptions when he wakes up and needs to be picked up for a couple of minutes.

Anyway. I hope his sleeping pattern stabilizes just a little more, so I can get back to writing in earnest quickly.

I stumbled upon this cool little blog: http://blogoficeandfire.blogspot.com. It's the record of someone reading the novel(s) for the first time. The blogger, a certain Jason, has a nice down-to-earth style and tone that is quite funny when contrasted to the deadly seriousness of much of George RR Martin's writing... Enjoy.

In a delightfully phrased response to a reader e-mail, Neil Gaiman writes up a powerful reply to any fanboy who is outraged at the fact that the authors of their favorite series spend their time doing anything other than writing the next sequel.
You're complaining about George doing other things than writing the
books you want to read as if your buying the first book in the series
was a contract with him:..
Good point there. It's not because we fork over a puny fifteen dollars to buy volume one of a series, that we get any sort of claim on the author's time. Gaiman also puts it a little more strongly, with his characteristic direct verbiage.

In other news, I saw a powerful documentary on the landing at Omaha beach yesterday night - in between baby feedings. Amazing to hear the veterans talk about the build-up towards the landing, and how they were unaware of the danger that waited. They said "they were just going to do it" and they "did not think much of what was ahead".
Sadly for them, the Germans had fortified the beach in the months after the Allied decision to land there had been taken, and the artillery and aerial bombardments missed their targets completely, turning the beach into a desperate killing zone. I don't have anything useful to add about this, other than express my wonder at how those young people ever were able to jump out of the landing craft and press on, despite the carnage that surely they must have known (or did they really not see it coming?) must follow.

The internetz giveth, the internetz taketh. Just wanted to mention that while the net saps away a lot of time, as I am wont to spend far too much time browsing to my favorite author blogs, agent blogs, message boards and whatnot; but on the other hand, at some points the people you interact with there do stimulate you to get back to it.
A fairly chance conversation with someone on the sffchronicles Publishing board, followed up by some private messages, while not completely writing-related, has brought back the urge to write. And to write right now, tonight, as soon as possible. Strange how some little things do that to you.

After the long period of inactivity I plan to get back on track with my blogging service - and here's some more stuff to keep my visitors surf-satisfied:

Jay Lake is back in Cancerland and writes about with his usual openhearted candor >> I really feel for him and hope he gets better soon. He writes wonderful short stories and cool novels, is a blogging voice I have come to rely on, and has worked so hard this year to drive off the Fear that this is just utter unfairness exemplified. But there it is.

British SF author Ian Sales lists his personal SF Film Top 50 in response to Time Out's flawed list >> His list includes many of my own favorites and hints at some interesting films I will have to dig up. And yes, Blade Runner, Alien and Metropolis are on his list...

From the Guide to Literary Agents blog, a list of the top 10 things that make a Literary Agent *stop* reading your manuscript. They're the obvious things, really, but it's nice to have them all together. Useful for framing purposes. That blog entry should come with a downloadable picture frame and wall-mounting instructions.

Well, not my commercial success, obviously, because no one seems to want to read my scribblings so far, but about Dan Brown's. I spotted a thread on the SFFChronicles board where someone mentioned that his new novel, The Lost Symbol, has an initial print run of 6.5 million copies. That's a lot of paper.

On the board, a whole debate ensued in which some claimed Dan Brown is unable to write decent prose - and the undertone there is clearly that he does not deserve this success because of this perceived lack of skill - whereas some others claimed his prose is simply not "up to literary standards" but because it is so successful, you cannot uphold that it is "bad prose".
I tend to agree with the latter opinion. If he sells so incredibly well, he must be doing something right. For the masses at least. For a novel to become so popular, it must touch a large section of our population in a shared psychological soft spot, and the writing must at least be good enough not to detract from the story.

I feel that to malign people like Dan Brown, Ian Rankin and others who were mentioned on the board as "bad writers" is a little sad - especially when the comments come from unpublished or relatively unsuccessful (commercially speaking) writers. It always sounds a little like "I'm not enjoying this huge success but that's because I don't want to stoop so low, I'm a much better writer but the masses don't get, and the agents don't get it because they're all so focused on bestsellers...".

What do you think?

Just wanted to point out this link to Futurismic, where you can find some interesting news on the US-Mexico border protection strategy. It sounds eerily similar to what I describe in my first short story... I guess I better get it sold somewhere before it becomes completely outdated!

Expect normal blogging service to resume gradually, starting today. Our baby boy has finally come home yesterday evening, after six weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit. He's still only 36 weeks, so he should not have been born for another three or four, but thankfully he has grown strong enough to come home.

Forty-four days. It was long enough.

It's been almost a month since I wrote anything here. I had not expected the impact of our baby boy being born two months early to be so big; it's hard to imagine how that affects your "real life".

I've noticed that I miss writing. I know now that it makes sense for me to keep trying to write stuff that other people might want to read, because I at least enjoy writing it. I feel "useless" when I'm not doing anything creative at night, and it's a feeling I've had a lot lately, even though I know - rationally - that I cannot take on any other projects at the moment. Between spending time in the NICU, spending time with my kids, and high pressure at work... I'm all spent. But it feels awkward not working on anything else.

It probably makes no sense if you don't have this same - drive? But there it is. It's a bug gnawing away at me, an itch that keeps driving me in circles at night. And when our little boy comes home and life returns to normal, I'll finally be able to scratch. I look forward to it.

Our baby boy is doing fine, breathing on his own since this afternoon. He's still on the NICU of course, and needs round the clock care and monitoring.

Combined with my wife's recovery from the C-section, blogging activity will be intermittent to nonexistant. Writing fiction not planned for the next few weeks.
Total exhaustion of the mind has sapped away the creative drive. Let's hope it comes back soon.

Oh yes. Got a rejection from Futurismic, but couldn't care less in these circumstances!

Yesterday my wife gave birth to our third child, a baby boy called Nand. Those of you who know me a little better know that this is not all good news. She was only 30 weeks pregnant, so he was forced onto this planet a full two months early. Things are looking okay at the moment but we'll be living from moment to moment for the coming eight weeks or so...

Expect very light blogging until then.

Feel quite good tonight. Saw my grandmother in the hospital today, she was a little better than I'd feared, which was nice.
Also, I went running for the first time in months. Only about 3km I think, but for a first not bad; and as I've got a whole lot of winter fat to get rid of, that's just going to be the beginning. I definitely feel a lot more energetic already. I used to swim competitively until I was about 22, but since then I've gone down from 20+ hours of training per week to absolutely zero.

The challenge now is to build at least two or three hours back into my (kind of busy) daily routine. I work full time, have two kids with a third on the way and I like to spend lots of time with them and the love of my life, my newly PhD'ed wife, and I want to become a published SFF writer. Add in some exercise and well, we're looking at a preferred day/night cycle of the kind found on... Pluto. Well, maybe that's a little over the top (6 Earth days if for some reason you find this interesting, as I do) but still. Too much to do. And that's leaving my graphic & webdesign freelancing out of the picture. Arrgh!

Anyway. Pondering whether I should start a weight/exercise log here as well, but who'd want to know about that?

>>Excellent article on the BBC News site: Can science fiction keep up with modern times?
They asked this pertinent question to some of my All-Time-Favorite SF Authors; Nay, SF Authors I Adore and Wellnigh Worship in My Fanboydom: Ken MacLeod and Iain (M.) Banks. Also answering the question are Paul Cornell and Ian Watson. It's a bit short but nice to see these guys interviewed on a single page!

From the Spacewriter's Ramblings, this beautiful picture: Sand Dunes on Mars. The pictures the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been sending back have stunning in their high-resolutional brilliance. The HIRISE instrument in particular, which generates 3D images, has produced classic images that make you feel as though you're almost there. Of course, you're still at least 56 million km away (probably a lot more these days as this was the closest we got to Mars in 60,000 years or so, and that was in 2003).

Not much writing or blogging getting done these past few days. There's a simple reason: real life has stepped up and swept me to highs and lows both:

  • my lovely wife defended her Ph.D. dissertation Monday night, so there was quite a build-up to that. She did great of course, and I'm now happily married to a doctor - albeit not a medical one :-)

  • at the same time my grandmother took a turn for the worse. She's in hospital now, we'll see how she recovers. As she's suffering from oncoming dementia, it's difficult to tell how well she will cope.

  • the day job is extremely busy and demanding.

Still, some links for the day:

>> Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing spotted a story about a group of eighteen-year-olds who sent a helium balloon 100,000ft up (just over 30km), right to the edge of outer space; their simple craft had a basic Nikon digital camera which survived the drop (at its extreme height the balloon popped because of the too-low air pressure) and brought home amazing pictures of its rise over the Barcelona area, up into space, and back down again.
Did some digging of my own and the full story with lots of pics and info is here: Meteotek 08 (this is the students' project blog in Catalan).

>> Mind-boggling wordage to be seen over at Jay Lake's. He's updated his bibliography. He has sold 240(!) short stories and written 8 novels so far. Blimey.

Bad Astronomy has a post on science coverage by the media, science education (all in the USA) and how it relates to the sorry state of scientific understanding displayed by many citizens. The research and articles cover the US situation only, but I'm afraid it applies to much of Western Europe as well; although perhaps just a little less so.

The post links to an study (PDF here) that illustrates just how bad the situation is. Some striking things that popped up: in many media outlets, pseudo-science hogwash gets the same attention as real science (e.g. in evolution vs intelligent design series, or in the many "docufiction" series produced by Hollywood for news channels). Not surprising that people start believing idiotic theories if they hear about them on tv every day.

The discussion on Bad Astronomy was sparked by the terrible results of a national survey commissioned by the California Academy of Sciences (phone survey of 1,000 people in December 2008). The lowdown:

  • Only 53% of adults know how long it takes for the Earth to revolve around the Sun.

  • Only 59% of adults know that the earliest humans and dinosaurs did not live at the same time.

  • Only 47% of adults can roughly approximate the percent of the Earth's surface that is covered with water. (the survey allowed answers between 65-75% as okay)

  • Only 21% of adults answered all three questions correctly.

Quite stunning to see this. 41% of Americans think humans and dinosaurs coexisted? Oh my.

As I noted above, I would think, or hope rather, that the situation here in Belgium is better. Then again, on second thoughts, it might not be. We don't get pelted with conservative Christian ID propaganda, and science is not considered as "evil" or "anti-religious" by most of our religious tendencies. On the other hand, evolution is vehemently disavowed by our large Muslim minority, and recent debates on evolution have shown that that is likely to become a problem in the future.

I can only try to stimulate my own kids to question their environment, to probe it in an inquisitive and rational manner. So far that seems to be working quite well, as evidenced by my four-year-old's constant questions that I find myself almost unable to answer... How is steel made? How does electricity work? What am I made of? Why is electricity dangerous? Where do the photos go once we've printed them, are they in the computer still?
And so on. Challenging, for sure, but also good fun trying to come up with answers that are understandable at his age, but not too "bad science-ish".

Via - I first got this off Jay Lake's link salad.

Wired has a nice round-up of their top ten annoying geek partner habits.

I guess that as an SFF afficionado, an ex-RPG player and because I work in an IT company, I qualify as a "geek"... but do I have the annoying habits?

1. Punning.
Hmm. Not so much, I think.

2. Using Klingon or other such lingo's.

3. Celebrate holidays in weird freaky ways
No. Dress-up cons are my idea of hell.

4. Dissecting movies
Erm, well, yes maybe a little. But not at home, I think, just with some of my like-minded friends.

5. Wear geeky t-shirts

6. Require extra room in house for geeky stuff
Oh yes. There's the old RPG books I can't get rid of. There's computers, SF book collection, some comic books. Guilty as charged!

7. Geeky toys

8. Looking up info while the discussion is still in progress
Yes, I've been known to do that. I pride myself on my Google-Fu!

9.Need to watch TV shows ASAP.

10. Geeky home projects.

So all in all, only two and a half out of ten. Not a great score. Mild geekiness only? What's your score?

Finally got around to some wordage tonight. Nothing dramatic, but an important five hundred words nevertheless - as they're the opening scene of a new short piece. Tentative title Galton's Dreams.


Frozen in fearful panic, I could only stare as the intruder swung through the opening in the fractured panes of glass, and stepped crunching onto the shard-littered corridor. She straightened and only then spotted me in the doorway ahead. The figure was a she, that much was clear, and the sharpest edge of the fear ebbed away as I realized the girl was alone. No police squad in sight.

We were both absolutely still, studying each other. It was difficult to make out her features; she wore a dark training suit and the moonlight slashing through the broken window was the only illumination. It leeched all the color from her face, and the sharp shadows cast across her narrow face gave her a ghostly aspect. Then she turned her head a little and the shadows shifted favorably - No, it could not be.

Destination: Future is the title of an upcoming anthology by Hadley Rille books. They're looking for submissions in the SF field, pay 3 cents a word plus royalties if the book earns its expenses back.

Note to self: write and submit to this one. No excuses this time.

Leeched off Scalzi's scrumptious Whatever blog, but it's an image that is just too good not to repost!

Article on the student protest here at the Chicago Maroon. What happened was about a hundred students taking to the streets as a reaction to a few Westboro Baptist wingnuts protesters. The Westboro Baptist Church seems to think Obama is some kind of devil, as they were deriding the University for employing him in their Law school. Duh.

Some other good quotes from the student signs: "God hates the New Facebook", "Jesus rebuked the fig as an evil abomination" and "God Promises Terrible Vengeance Upon Any Fig-Loving Nation" (both referring to the remarkable Fig Tree incident in the Bible, Mark 11:12–14, in which Jesus curses a fig tree because it is not bearing any fruits - outside the fig season), and of course my favorite "Cthulhu Hates Chordates".

It's nice to see University of Chicago students using christian fundies' tactics right back at them. With the Cthulhu mythos of Lovecraft no less! I'm quite into that at the moment. Got a box full of sixties, seventies and early eighties SF and horror paperbacks from my mom a few weeks ago and I'm currently exploring the Lovecraft volumes in there... Dagon was my latest read.

Tir Na Nog Press has bought Realms of Fantasy and is going to release a first "new" issue in May. Barebones site here.

SFScope has a complete article with some more details, including reactions by new publisher Warren Lapine as well as the editor Shawna McCarthy who will apparently be staying on. Continuity seems guaranteed:

Lapine is not anticipating any changes that will be visible to the public. Realms will continue paying authors the same rates, on acceptance, and leave the editors in place. He hopes to have his first issue out in May. "Our plan is to miss only one issue. The next on the schedule would have been 15 March, and for obvious reasons, that's not going to happen."

Finally some good news from the SFnal magazines...

Some general netleechery:

>>Kepler mission launched successfully.
The Kepler mission will go hunting for exoplanets - planets in other solar systems close (in astronomical terms) to our own.
Why care? Kepler's instruments should allow it to detect tiny planets - Earth-scale - and with the recent flood of exoplanet discoveries, the general expectation is that quite a number of these will be found. Who knows, there might be one or two with just the right combination of orbit distance (temperature), atmosphere, surface composition, to more or less match our own preferred environment. That would be cool, wouldn't it? All we would need would be transport...


>> And talking about transport, there's been some debate following Charlie Stross' predictions about space colonization not being a realistic scenario, because of the many inhibitive factors (cost to lift sufficient mass outside of the earth's gravity well being the main one). Some people keep coming back to "Orion project"-style propulsion as the solution to all these problems.
Sorry, but I for one am not convinced the rapid detonation of nuclear bombs is the great way forward. Rocket launches - even using conventional technology that has been around for over sixty years - go wrong at an astonishing rate. Is it two out of every ten launches that fail? I'm not sure I got that statistic right, but anyway, rockets keep malfunctioning under the extreme conditions that arise when you shoot something out of the atmosphere. And call me a coward, but I'd rather not see a vehicle carrying enough fuel for millions of nuclear explosions blow up in the night sky.


>> Why do Killer Asteriods Fascinate Us So?
To continue on the spacey theme, Discover Magazine (via Jay Lake's link salad) has a story on why asteroids fascinate our collective conscience. I know it is something that worries even my four-and-a-half year old son; it's been something he keeps asking from time ever since learning about the asteroid impact as a possible extinction event for the dinosaurs. From that perspective, I don't think it has anything to do with cultural predilections, but everything with an innate fear of the unpredictable, the unpreventable, "divine intervention"-style events that no one can do anything about.
And who can blame us?

Off to the Ardennes later this afternoon; will most likely be 100% offline until Sunday late afternoon. Let's the weather holds up - with 14 adults and 9 children under 5 it might get a little busy if we have to spend all weekend indoors :-)

A couple of sugary-sweet links for you sweet-tooths out there:

>> The Perfect Job as according to Neil Gaiman
Did I mention that Neil Gaiman is the author of some of my favorite books of all time?
Not only did I have something of a revelation watching Neverwhere on the Beeb when I was what, fourteen or so - the revelation being that fantasy did not have to be all-out in-your-face elves and orcs in order to be deeply interesting; no, he also wrote American Gods and Anansi Boys, two books that are thematically related and that left a deep mark on my soul. Underneath the light-hearted tongue-in-cheekness of Gaiman's writing lies a vein of sparkling insight in the core fabric of real life.
Anyway: Gaiman points us to his favorite job - let's just say it involves Iceland and elves. Hilarious but true...

>> Did Ambrose Pierce invent the emoticon?
On William Gibson's blog - yes, another one of my literary heroes - an interesting snippet about how the emoticon might have been invented as early as... 1912?

I promised some thoughts on Gibson. What has always appealed to me in his work is the absolute minimalism that characterizes his style. Using short, terse sentences, he somehow manages to both drive the plot forward at breakneck speed and to paint an intensely realistic picture of his near-future/future-present environments. And his short blog posts speak of this very same talent: sometimes no more than a few words and a link, sometimes a little worked, they all fit into his piercing analysis of our modern age.

>> John Scalzi on "Unfilmable" movies
Interesting article on books or comics that are (were) thought to be unfilmable, yet have been turned into blockbuster/failed (strike what does not apply) flicks regardless.
I also learned from this post that A Song of Fire and Ice (by George RR Martin, I'm currently reading volume 3) has been optioned by HBO. That sounds interesting!

Just for your and my reference, I submitted The Snow Fell Fast to Futurismic on Monday. I changed some minor things based on some helpful crits on the OWW. It's now out there, on its own feet, living its own life and I had to let it go...

So, some yummy links from the interwebs:

Charles Stross gives us the lowdown on the coming century in his FAQ >> Highly interesting questions are answered in a very straightforward manner. I almost completely concur with Charles' analysis of our near future...

Jay Lake's new novel Escapement is released to the masses in paperback.

"Lively and thought-provoking...Lake effectively anneals steampunk with geo-mechanical magic in an allegorical matrix of empire building and Victorian natural science." --"Publishers Weekly" (starred review) on "Escapement"

I really liked Mainspring, so I'll have to go for Escapement as well. Besides, Jay seems like a great guy judging from his blogodentity; so go out and shop!

Jed Hartman reports on the flood of submissions they're seeing at Strange Horizons >> Is this symptomatic of the collapse of a number of other fiction markets? Is this because they are one of the few "pro" markets who accept electronic submissions, which makes them much more accessible for the novice writer?

Once in a blue moon, you load the front page of the New York Times and you see a headline that makes you feel all happy and fuzzy inside. Perhaps this world will not go careering to its doom after all, mayhap our world leaders will in the end choose for the common good instead of for smallminded self-centred patriotic insanity.

Today was such a day, as the NY Times runs the following headline:
Obama Offered Deal to Russia in Secret Letter

Read and enjoy. Thank God for a Democratic President with brains and basic human values. Let's hope Obama's plans come through and we don't end up in a new Cold War with Russia.

Finally, I think one can only be impressed by the speed and scale of Obama's first acts of government. After little more than a month, he has announced not only huge internal reforms that would have seemed improbable under any other president, but he's also made bold moves on the international diplomatic front.

As to the Rush Limbaughs of this world, who wish Obama to fail: there can be no apology for your stupidity. How can anyone who is half sane object to defusing the time bomb that was the Bush missile defense plan? How can anyone object to better education and health care?
As for Limbaugh, Scalzi has an excellent post on the danger professional mediabigots like Limbaugh pose for the GOP first, and the US democratic system second.
I am beginning to think that lobotomies are part of the GOP initiation rituals...

The SF Site is always a good source for news on the SFF publishing front: they spit out good and in-depth reviews on almost everything that is published in the SFF world, and they've now published their own "best of year" list for 2008.

Read the list here.

I'm sad to say that I have only read one of the ten novels listed on that page. I really must read more... I did read Neil Gaiman's the Graveyard Book. And I really, really loved that. I'm a big Gaiman fan. For me, he's perhaps the best SFF author around today.

As for the other books on the list, I'll have to check a few of those. Scalzi's Zoe's Tale is one I look forward to picking up - I really loved his Old Man's War, and I'm a regular on his blog as well.

Joe Abercrombie sounds interesting; I plan to put his work on my to-read list as well. I'm really enjoying the gritty world of George RR Martin's Song of Fire and Ice series, but I've taken a break on that series (don't want to get over-exposed because that would reduce my enjoying of the series; also he's still working on it so there's no hurry!). Perhaps Abercrombie would be a good fit for that hole in my fantasy reading slot :-)

On a more personal note, I need to finish some last edits on The Snow Fell Fast and Final, and then I'm going to officially call it finished and get on to something new. Something entirely different is playing around in my head, some with lots action, bushfires, and aboriginals. Yummy!

Rather on a whim, I responded to a post on Absolute Write from a startup e-zine called RUSE Magazine. They were looking for people who were willing to write articles on an advertising share scheme. For some reason I gave it try; mostly because I liked some of the content on the site, and also because I wanted to practice my writing muscles outside of fiction. And hopefully make a few dollars in doing so, although that rather depends on the success of the magazine and the advertising market.

My first article is now online at RUSE: The Future is Flexible. I take a look at the different news stories that have emerged this week surrounding flexible display technology. Who is actually working on them, how realistic are the plans, and does this tech actually have a chance of reaching "Joe the Plumber" (pardon my French) in the short term?

Let me know if you like it! I hope to continue writing on that site, posting on tech, space, science, maybe even science fiction literature if they'll let me :-)

Snippet below:

This week's news that the Flexible Display Center at Arizone State University (ASU) has a created a flexible display with touch sensitivity brings the flexible display concept to another level. Thanks to US Army funding, they have managed to integrate E Ink technology - the electronic ink that drives the success of e-book readers such as Amazon's Kindle, but more on that later - with the flexible screens. This makes the screens extremely energy efficient; and now that they are touch sensitive, devices using a flexible display no longer need bulky cases housing keyboard or control buttons.

While this all sounds promising, one aspect was still prohibitive towards mass production and consumerization: the production itself. The LCD displays that have become commonplace in our houses - used as...

Read the entire article here.

Another milestone reached today: fifth-ever rejection letter, this time in a record time of one (1) day! Clarkesworld Magazine didn't like The Snow.... I decided to repost it for crits on the OWW, perhaps it is still missing something.

Clarkesworld Magazine is a nice market though: they have some very good stories up, they pay pro rates and the submission system is top notch. Kudos to the editors for that: they have an online submission status tracker that is perfectly designed. Very simple, tells you the status of the submission and even its place in the slush pile queue. Very nicely done!

Sadly, I didn't even have the chance to fully the status page, by the time I went to check my story had been rejected. Well, better luck next time...

There. I think I've done editing my third ever story, The Snow Fell Fast and Final. I have a good feeling about it, but I'm still not quite sure it is really finished. As such, I'm contemplating resubmitting it for crits. Then again, I might just submit it to markets instead, and get on with writing a next story. I need to up the pace a little on the output...

Word count: 3,964 words
Total writing/editing time: approx. 5 hours

Excellent read here:

Pitfalls of Prophecy: Why Science Fiction So Often Fails to Predict the Future >> Gary Westfahl on predictions of "the future" in Science Fiction literature, and why the predictions are almost always dead wrong. Very interesting, and quite along the lines of my own thinking when I construct the near-future world in which my stories seem to naturally take place.

Today's healthy dose of linkage:

Ireland's most wanted reckless driver has been caught >> A wonderful story I heard this morning from a few Irish colleagues here in the office, but apparently it's also on the BBC today [via Jay Lake and said colleagues].

Scalzi on writing media tie-ins (i.e. Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica,...) novels >> A bit discouraging, this defense of the media tie-in novel by blogger-extraordinaire Scalzi. Especially the bits where he mentions how hard it is to make any money writing SFF. Perhaps I ought to rethink this whole venture?

A lengthy, interesting post on shifting POV (point of view) by Jacqueline Lichtenberg over on Alien Djinn Romance >> haven't read all the way through this article, but I will do just that later tonight. A lot to learn about the craft of writing on this blog. Thanks to the peeps at OWW for pointing this out.

Here's my first submission to Outshine. It got rejected so I'm just going to post it here. My accepted piece is a lot stronger, I can see that. But still. I feel like it's a waste to let this die in an e-mail thread, and it may give you an idea of just how concise twitter fiction (why not call it "twiction"?) is.

Shielding my eyes from the solarfield glare /
high on the hill,/
I saw her delightfully dark /
against the azure of pools and panels below

So. I got some great news yesterday - I made my first fiction sale!

Three cheers for myself, and all, even though it's quite a tiny sale. More specifically, a nanosale for twitterfiction. If you haven't heard of the concept, check out my Twitter feed. Twitter is a social site that allows you to broadcast tiny little updates about what you're doing, random observations, or short haiku-like statements to people who subscribe to your twitter feed. Very short, in fact, because posts are limited to 140 characters.

Jetse de Vries, formerly of Interzone and currently preparing the Shine positive SF anthology, runs a "twittermag" called Outshine. What's a twittermag, I can hear some of you thinking back at me? Well, it's a dedicated twitter feed on which he publishes SFnal "tweets" (twitterspeak for posts) that speak to the imagination. Sort of an instant SF magazine.
My second submission to Outshine was accepted. It will be published on April 29th, if the current planning holds up.

In other news, I am editing my third short story, The Snow Fell Fast and Final, after getting some majorly useful crits from an online workshop. More on that in a later post.

Two quickie links for you writerly people out there:

::: Nathan Bransford hosts a discussion on writerly auto-terminology
Nathan is a SFF-representing literary agent working at Curtis Brown, and he has a highly interesting blog (to which I subscribe). He sometime asks pertinent questions to the sizable crowd of authors, writers, aspiring writers and fellow agents who frequent his journal. This week's question sparked quite a debate:

So. When do you start calling yourself "a writer?", as in, "I'm a writer, please go easy on me with the bad news."

When you finish a novel?
When you spend a certain amount of time doing it?
When you decide it's what you want to do?
When you have an agent?
Upon publication of your first novel?

And what about "author?"

::: Pitfalls of Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy, General Useful Information & Other Opinionated Comments
You've probably seen this before, but I came across some broken links to this interesting list of Do's and Don'ts for new writers in the SFF field; so I decided to repost it here.
Actually it's more of a list of Don'ts only, but it's still really useful. Vonda McIntyre knows her stuff, she has quite a few SFnal novels to her name, though I have to admit not having read any of her work. I'll have to keep an eye out for her work. As to the Pitfalls, a recent crit of my latest short story highlighted a flaw that is listed in the Pitfalls: the Expository Lump of Dialogue. I need to work on that...

As a new item on the blog, I decided to introduce the "Currently reading" feature, where I'll talk about what I am reading at the moment and how I like it.

Right now, I am in the middle of:

Throne of Jade, the second volume in Naomi Novik's Temeraire series. The Temeraire novels are very well-done, in my humble opinion. The concept is simple but very nicely executed: think Napoleonic wars but with an air force. Not any old air force, though, but an air force consisting of dragons, dragons as big men-of-war of the skies with crews and captains and a separate corps. Lovely!

The Odyssey, the second volume in Homer's - well, you know the Odyssey, don't you? But did you actually read it? Like, properly read it from front to back cover? I hadn't, but I'm remediating that fault in my literary education at the moment.

More on both books in later posts...

There. I was strong and resisted the lure of Fallout 3 last night, and instead I finished off a short short story that I am provisionally calling The Snow Fell Fast and Final. It weighs in at almost 3,000 words and I think it will be just over that after an editing pass this weekend.

This is really quite an achievement for me, or so it feels, at least. I wrote this short in two sessions on consecutive nights. That's about 1,500 words per night.

Which is exactly the type of productivity level I want to aim for. Wordage is important, that's what reading lots of author blogs over the past few months has taught me (reaching a Jay Lake-like level of superhuman hypergraphy might be out of the question, but there seems to be a consensus that when you're drafting, you should just sit down and write, no matter how you're feeling or what the distractions of the day might have been).

Anyway. I'm feeling quite happy with myself!

Just stumbled on an interesting rant by Jetse de Vries (formerly of Interzone, now the man behind Outshine twittermag and the Shine Positive SF anthology). He starts off rambling about national postal services who screw over their small private customers and focus on large commercial contracts instead.
I very much sympathize, because mailing off manuscripts to overseas publishers is something I haven't even started doing yet, because of the cost and the hassle involved. As long I have online submissions options I will pursue those first.

Of course, Jetse being Jetse, he turns the rant into a valid point on the future of SFF magazine publishing...

SF magazines are one of those 'small' customers: sending out a few thousand (let alone a few hundred) is not enough to get a bulk discount. So the postal rates for them go up, considerably, as well. Therefore, SF fiction print magazines are doomed (or more doomed than they already were): mailing costs will go up, and sending the magazines through commercial companies is even more expensive.

Read the complete article on Jetse's blog, In the Plane of the Ecliptic

Copying a common practice around the web here, with a light and fast link salad for your consumption. Only two ingredients today, mind you, as I've other stuff to attend to.

The famous Drake equation has been re-evaluated with the latest data >> Futurismic has an interesting post on the latest calculations for the Drake Equation, which is an estimate of the number of intelligent species in our universe. In a few words: the recent slew of planet discoveries has drastically raised the number of likely intelligent species out there, but the chances of ever encountering them locally remain unimaginably small.

TLOTR retold as a comic strip with RPG players controlling the protagonists >> And old one but a good one, if you ask me. Of course, this only makes sense if you have ever played role-playing games yourself. But if you have, some of this is very recognazible and quite funny.

Wrote 1,200 words in an hour and a half last night. For the first time since I tried to take up writing, I felt as though I "got it right", "it" being the drafting of fiction in a fast, enjoyable manner. Perhaps it helped that it's an idea that I had been turning around in my head for a while, so I knew where I was going. I managed to put a lot of personal feeling into it as well, I think, and that helped.

I hope to write the remaining 1,000 words or so tonight.


I edged out of the command unit, ducked through a hatch and stepped into the lab. When I reached the panoramic observation window, I drew a visor onto it and resumed our conversation. "I suppose you're all really busy right now."

"Well, yes. Most of us got pulled away." Alex shifted in his seat. "Look, Jon, maybe you should spend some more time in the SimUnit. Psych says you're getting a little too stressed out. They uploaded some new programs that will help you."

"I'm fine, Alex, but thanks. Tell them I'll do just that. I've seen the view, after all," I replied, gazing out over the plains of endless rust-colored rock. Wisps of thin reddish cloud, almost invisible to the naked eye, streamed across the murky sky. The last vestiges of a dust storm that had shaken the habitat quite badly.

To Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, the magazine with the longest name known to man.

I expect a three month wait for a response, but I'm confident I'll have two or three other stories to submit by that time.

A little update was overdue here. In between Fallout 3 sessions (I know, I know, it's Evil Procrastination Incarnate, but hell is it a great game) I finished the rewrite of Total Immersion. It ended up at almost 8,000 words and at that it's on the borderline between a novelette and a short story.

Of course, typically for my luck, that makes it harder to find a market for. Anyway, it just goes to show that I need to write up one or two of my other ideas right away. Tomorrow, perhaps...

Off to bed now!

It's all down to Persistence, baby. Psychotic Persistence no less. Jay says, in with characteristic clarity and eloquence, that all the successful authors he knows share a single trait:

What they have in common is psychotic persistence. Almost all successful writers exhibit behaviors which would be unhealthy perseveration in the everyday world, but are critical success factors in publishing.

Well said, as usual on Jay Lake's blog. Sadly, I have yet to exhibit this trait.

While I have the persistent feeling that I should be writing, I'm still in the "learning/thinking" phase of things, studying how writers I like go about constructing their stories, picking up bits and pieces of story ideas and collecting those. I guess it is a step in the right direction, but something still holds me back from just writing.

I think it's fear of failure. Stupid really.

At last, after not really being able to do anything productive in the evening or at night, I've finished A Clash of Kings, the second volume in the Song of Fire Ice series by George R.R. Martin.

I'm relieved - because now I can start writing and taking care of my growing list of to do's again - but saddened as well, because I have to admit that I was completely entranced by the author's grand tale of political intrigue and personal tragedy. More on what I liked so much later...

(I'm writing this from Google Documents, as a test).

I haven't posted anything for a while, for a variety of reasons:

1. Reading. Yes, I've been reading. Lots of reading - rather than writing. I was a voracious reader in my teens and tweens, right until our son was born. I kind of stopped making time for reading then, but now, as I picked up my pen and tried to write stuff of my own, I realised I had gotten out of touch with the voices that I love, with the stories that make me ache and burn inside.

So I started reading again. I finished Gibson's Spook Country, which had been lying around for a while, rushed through A Game of Thrones (and am now barreling on in volume two of A Song of Fire and Ice) and now, ten minutes ago, turned the last page of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. More on that later, I'm still too touched to analyse why it resonates so profoundly with me.*

2. Life. Work in times of Depression. Things that interfere and take away my drive to create.

3. Rewriting Total Immersion based on some valuable input from the SFF Writing Workshop people.

* Still listening to Sigur Ros, also to their previous album Takk, which is even more dramatic and makes for a great soundtrack to George RR Martin's epic fantasy!