Wanderings

Anything you dream is fiction,
and anything you accomplish is science,
the whole history of mankind is nothing but science fiction.
- Ray Bradbury
January 31st, 2005

Quick thoughts on Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash

Snow Crash is much like an action packed buddy movie with lots of car crashes and an implausible plot with guys doing guy stuff. Just the sort of book I like.

There is some good fun stuff here and some original thinking. The book is mostly a mish-mash off imagery of the sort that Cyberpunks like to call Eyeball Kicks. It is also full of well-researched anthropological and religious references to the ancient Sumerian pantheon. It takes place in the very near future, but I am of the opinion that the world will not have changed enough in the next ten years to allow the political and technological revolutions that are the foundation of the book.

The basic premise is that a burnt-out samurai hacker pizza delivery man can save the world from Snow Crash, a computer virus that can spread to humans by recoding the deep structures of the brain. A nifty idea until Stephenson relates it to a Sumerian hacker named Enki who lived 3,000 years ago.

The main flaw in the book are the difficulty that I had in suspending disbelief. Stephenson has to work harder on making things work. The book is also flawed in that it reads like a rough draft at times and there are gaps in the plotting. References are occasionally made to previous events that appear to have been skipped. There is no real denouement, either. Like The Diamond Age, which I read a few weeks ago, Snow Crash just ends all-of-a-sudden. There are many plot threads that I would like to have seen completed. What happens to Raven? Do he and Hero become friends? What happened to Y-T’s mother? What happens to the nuke that Raven was driving around with?

By all means read Snow Crash, but don’t expect great literature.

I am listening to “A Monstrous Regiment� by Terry Pratchett now. It is a silly story of a girl who joins the army disguised as a young man. It is full of Pratchett puns and the usual cast of Vampires and Trolls and Igors.






January 27th, 2005

Beer Prevents Certain Cancers

Thanks to SciScoop.com, I found out that beer contains compounds that fight certain cancers. I will herewith drink more beer.

My ancestors who came to New England on the Mayflower stopped at Plymouth Rock, not because it was a good anchorage, but because they were forced to come ashore when they ran out of beer. The Native American they found there, who translated with the local Indians, Squanto, came to John Alden, my 18th or so great grandfather. His first words to the white man were “Do you have beer?”

So you see, beer is my heritage.






January 27th, 2005

Human Animal Chimeras

National Geographic has an article on mixing human genomic material with animals. I have used this several times. Twice in the pig stories at KeithGraham.com and in several unfinished stories.

This article describes Chinese scientists using rabbits as a medium to grow human stem cells, by injecting human DNA into rabbit cells. There is also a reference to pigs that have been altered to produce human blood.

This is good source material for “near future” SF that zine editors are always requesting.






January 25th, 2005

Hot Tuna in Nyack

Here’s how the evening went.

At 5pm I picked up Larry (my brother) and we went to Suffern where his band was playing at the Wicky Lounge. This bar used to be a practice studio, but Suffern has changed from just another red-neck town on the Jersey border. 20 years ago, the bars all used to cater to drinkers who crossed the border to get to New York’s 18 year old drinking age. Now the town has been yuppy-fied and all the biker bars are wine bars or martini bars. Wicky lounge is a martini bar.

Wicky lounge was running a Tsunami benefit on the evening after the worst snow storm of the year on a night when there were two important football playoffs. There was hardly anyone there.

The band that played before Straight-Up was very bad and loud, so I left Larry and went down route 17 to get the cheap gas ($1.71 – not bad). When I got back the evil band was playing their big hit, Mustang Sally. A good song, but a dead giveaway that the blues band playing it is not very good.

Carlos and Straight-up went on stage at 6:45 and Hot Tuna was going on at 7. Straight-up was great, even with a pick-up drummer. I got Larry out at 7:25 and my truck flew down the thruway and hit Nyack running. Because of the snow, there was no place to park in Nyack. The truck was slipping and sliding on the unplowed roads but we found a place on our third trip round the block.

Hot Tuna went on 15 minutes late and we still missed the first half hour of the Accoustic set. They closed with Water Song, and they did a nice version of “Good Shepherd”.

The Electric set was mostly sad old men not playing very well and was not worth $37.50. Yorma flubbed a song and they had to restart. This is a far cry from the days of my youth when Hot Tuna would spend 7 hours on stage playing incredible blues and Pappa John Creach would wail on the fiddle.

I did not get to hear Candy Man or Embryonic Journey or any blues. They did “Rock Me Baby” which is by BB King or John Lee Hooker or Muddy Waters, depending on who records it. The people next to me insisted that Chris Isaacs wrote it, but it might have been Bonny Raitt. Damn yuppies.

My friends John Ballard and Robert Peloquin who I haven’t seen in a year showed up and Larry and I and John and Robert and Bob Cardelli went over to Jim Callan’s house to raise a glass to Jim for his birthday and then Larry was afraid that he’d turn into a pumpkin so I drove him home.

An interesting night, but not very satisfying.

The good news: Poker is back to Friday nights and Ballard and Peloquin promised to make it.






January 23rd, 2005

More cute cat pictures

My sister-in-law, Justine gave me a laptop computer. I is a Gateway m520mx with a huge screen and 60 gig drive and 512 meg ram and a dvd burner and built in wifi and a place to put my flash memory from the camera. I am connected to the internet now through a neighbors wifi connection! Top speed and free!

It snowed about 18 inches over night and I spent the day shovelling out the cars. Tonight is “Hot Tuna” with Yorma and Jack doing an accoustic and an Electric set. It looks like a good weekend. For those of you who don’t know, Hot Tuna is Jefferson Airplane without Grace Slick. They do old blues and rags mostly when they are accoustic and then some killer electric rock and blues.

Since I can load the pictures directly to the laptop from the card, here a couple of cute cat pictures.

Here’s Princess Gracie (notice how her bad eye doesn’t react to flash):

Here she is killing one of my shirts:

And here are Gracie and Ollie watching “Video Catnip” on a snow day.






January 18th, 2005

P&E Poll Drama Continues

The Predators & Editors Readers Poll is now mostly in the hands of Romantic Erotica eZines. Arthur and I are doing well. Arthur is the #3 eZine editor and Astounding Tales is the #4 eZine. I think that this is pretty good. This represents the reaching out that Arthur and I have done – for the most part groveling for votes.

Personally, I am not doing as well. I have the #8 story, just ahead of Arthur (he was ahead of me when I came in this morning), but just behind Justin Stanchfield who has become my nemesis. Out of a pack of more than 100 stories, this sounds good, but I should be able to do better.

This is like watching CNN during a crisis. It is getting habit forming.

Watch the action at:

http://www.critters.org/predpoll/tally.html

Vote Early, Vote Often!

(hint: you can vote more than once if you use a different email addy)






January 13th, 2005

P&E voting form

I’ve made a Preditors and Editors Voting form to help you vote for moi.

http://www.strangetales.net/pevote.html






January 12th, 2005

P & E Poll

I put AstoundingTales and Arthur Sanchez into the P&E poll for zine and editor. Now the rest is up to the almighty and our piddling readership.

Links:

Voting

Tally

I have to figure a way to hack the poll results. If GW can do it in Florida and Ohio, I should be able to come up with something on a much more modest scale.






January 11th, 2005

Up and Coming Events

Sunday night, January 23, I will be seeing “Hot Tuna” live at the Helen Hayes theater in Nyack, NY. I am looking forward to this. We listen to Hot Tuna on vinyl every sunday night at poker. We have named one of our games after the group.

On March 25, I will be at the Capital Region Guitar show up in Saratoga Springs. This is the “Guitar Widows” show on Good Friday starting at 5pm so it doesn’t ruin the weekend. I always have a good time at this show and always bring home an old amplifier.

On April 16th and 17th the Trenton Computer Fair is returning to its roots at the College of New Jersey, Ewing Township, NJ. I started going to this show in 1980 and have not missed it since. It is the granddaddy of computer shows and I pick up great junk.

Around 1992, Arthur Sanchez and I went as dealers (this was at CNJ back before it moved to Raritan). That year there was a real tornado that passed over the parking lot. Arthur and I were lifted off the ground trying to hold down the tent, which blew to shreds in the wind. I sold about $800 worth of junk from my basement, but I bought about $500 worth of stuff. Erica was pissed when she saw that I brought home more junk than I got rid of.

Check out the Trenton Computer Fair






January 10th, 2005

Books on Tape – Short Reviews

Books on Tape

I finished “The Diamond Age” by Neal Stephenson. The ending was not as good as I would have liked. Stephenson ended it, but it was not satisfying. It sort-of reached a point where the book was long enough so he just shut down the plots. I bought Stephenson’s Snow Crash on eBay. We’ll see how that goes.

My personal belief is that Nanotechnology, as Stephenson describes it, will not take off for the simple reason that it is easier to engineer microbes to do all of the things that nanites did on “The Diamond Age”. I have included bioengineered coral that can grow into nearly anything in one of my recent unfinished stories. I have used bioengineered living vehicles in three of my space stories to great effect.

I finished listening to The Galactic Pot Healer by P. K. Dick. Ward gave it to me for Christmas. This was written in 1969 towards the end of Dick’s career. He was very Schizophrenic at this time and self medicating with LSD and speed. The book seems like it was written in a two week period without any forethought or editing. Great P. K. Dick stuff, like the games he played, but interesting only as a part of his vision as a whole. It does not stand up as a good novel outside of Dick’s grand landscapes of realities. It has a great last line, though.

I am listening to Heinlein’s Friday, now. Friday is from the period after Heinlein’s Medical problems and not one of my favorites. Erica gave it to me for Christmas. There are two distinct Heinleins. Those before “I will fear no Evil” and those afterwards. I much prefer the early Heinlein and I am big fan of his juveniles. (I have pre-ordered “Citizen of the Galaxy” on tape.)

Friday is the story of a woman told in first person. I didn’t like it when he did this in Podkayne of Mars or The Menace from Earth and I don’t like it with Friday. The reader is male, affecting a female voice, which makes it even weirder. Heinlein comes off like an old transvestite who thinks that he’s pretty. Heinlein had a strange view of women or Virginia Heinlein wrote much of this and did not self-edit very well. Some of it is clearly Heinlein’s inner voice, but most of it is silly.

On the other hand, the book is a discussion of prejudice and Heinlein seems very sincere about condemning the evils of racial hatred. By bringing in SF elements, he is able to generalize his feelings without discussing contemporary issues, and yet his arguments apply well to contemporary prejudice. I own an abridged version of Friday read by Sarah Westdale and it is much better. The book really needs editing (as do all of his later works.)

Coming up, in addition to “Snow Crash”, I have a “Monstrous Regiment” by Terry Pratchett (a disk world book) and “A Traveller In Time” by Alison Uttley. I look forward to these two books. I enjoyed “A Thief of Time” by Pratchett. Uttley is a children’s books writer with whom I am unfamiliar, but I got it for $2 and I figure I can always sell it on eBay if it sucks.

Check bookcloseouts.com for inexpensive books on tape. It has mostly Star Trek stuff, but I bought the Pratchett and Uttley books there cheaper than you can get them on ebay. I should have bought Snow Crash there, but I already had a bid on it on eBay.






January 10th, 2005

Hit and Miss

I received a no from SDO Ghost on a story that I thought that I had not submitted to them and a Yes from Tales of the Talisman for my Western tale. I thought that this one was a dead-un also because I mistyped my email address on the submission. The Talisman sub was for the December issue, but they are behind schedule. My story will be in the Fall issue.

I still have three stories out, but I don’t think these have a shot.

I have decided that in 2005 that I will no longer submit to the zines that don’t pay pro rates. It means that I must start investing in postage and long waits. I have proved that I can sell to most of the cheapo sites. I can’t sell to Chizine or Ideomancer, but I believe this is due to the character of the zines. My stuff is just not appropriate. Their stuff is dark or sexual and my stuff is golden age style. I will continue to hit F&SF and try a few at SciFiction. This decision also means that I need to produce higher quality stuff; no more dashing off a piece with a pat plot and shipping it out. Only really unique stories will be finished. I’ll see how long I can stick to this.






January 3rd, 2005

James Baker Award

Bad news on the James Baker Award over at SamsDotPublishing.com. I am up against Justin Stanchfield who seems to be pretty damn good. His story Steel Birth pisses all over my “Flare Bound” story. In addition, the SamsDotters telegraphed their hand by having his story on their Preditors and Editors sample ballot.






January 3rd, 2005

2005

Boy are you guys lucky. I started writing a 2004 retrospective and an outlook on 2005. Both were pretty grim, and I trashed the entry, so all I will say is that 2005 is going to be another tough year. I hope things get a little better – at least for a while. I’m sick of being sad all the time. I want to win at poker, and have a good harmonica jam, and get one of my amps finished, and make a pro sale. Is this too much to ask? I’ll settle for having a job in 2005 – this one looks like it’s winding down at last.

Erica and I both had a miserable flu bug over New Years weekend and I am hoping that 2005 will be generally better than it was for the last couple of days. (The bright side is that I was so sick that I lost 7 pounds in 5 days.)