Wanderings

Anything you dream is fiction,
and anything you accomplish is science,
the whole history of mankind is nothing but science fiction.
- Ray Bradbury
September 30th, 2006

THE MARTIAN WAVE

I’ve got TWO stories up at The Martian Wave.

Please check them out and then VOTE!!! If I get enough votes, I get the story in a “best of” book at the end of the year.






September 29th, 2006

Site being spidered by spammers

I moved some message archives (111,000) messages to harptab.com and I just noticed that the site is getting 40,000 hits a day for the last few days. The ip address in the logs indicates that it is the African Network Information Center who is accessing my site. I guess that they are skimming off emails. I will change the code to obsfucate the addresses, but the damage is done. I hate spammers!






September 29th, 2006

Variable Star by Heinlein and Robinson

I received the new Spider Robinson/Heinlein book, Variable Star, in the mail and I am about 1/3 of the way through it. I read the end notes by Spider first. Spider writes that Heinlein did not make a real outline of the book and left only a few notes on the plot. What Heinlein did was to put together the background information of the characters, the setting, and the chief conflict. He did not finish the plot or write anything about the ending. So the plot is mostly Spider’s based on Heinlein’s setup and Spider’s knowledge of Heinlein’s writings. (I think, at least in some of his novels, that Heinlein would create a good setup and just write until he had enough words and end the story.)

The main characters are almost identical to the people in the last third of Citizen of the Galaxy, which Heinlein wrote shortly afterwards. The hero is similar to the Farmer in the Sky character. I think that Heinlein used many elements from his notes to finish Citizen and start Farmer, and that is the reason why he never returned to it.

Citizen of the Galaxy, one of my favorite books, is four distinct novellas in one novel. It was originally serialized in Astounding, but I am thinking that Heinlein may have written the parts separately and tied them together for the magazine. The first part is about a boy named Thurby and his life as a slave. The second part is about Thurby’s life on a ship of space traders. The third part is Thurby in the space patrol, and the last is Thurby’s life on earth as a very, very wealthy heir to a fortune where he uses his past experiences to regain control of his inheritance from some evil men. This last part of Citizen is very similar to the beginning of Variable Star.

Spider sometimes seems to write like Heinlein. Heinlein was a product of his times (starting in the 20s and 30s) and Spider is a hippie dude, but both of them have a similar voice when they write. Spider is calling in all of Heinlein’s familiar memes, even throwing in a little sexless nudity. The Jinny character (mispelled Ginnie on the second or third page) is an homage to both Virginia Heinlein and all of the female characters in Heinlein’s books. In my life so far, I have never met a woman who talked or acted like a Heinlein female, so Virginia must have been very special.

I am enjoying Variable Star as much as I would a Heinlein novel and I enjoy seeing the old man’s pet phrases and ideas appear from time to time. Spider did a great job. It is not exactly Heinlein, but close enough and the parts that I think of as being mostly Spider’s voice are among the best Spider Robinson that I’ve ever read.

Buy the damn book!!!






September 28th, 2006

Fooling with Bryce


I downloaded the free version of Byrce and the free version of Daz 3D studio. Unfortunately my stint as an engineering draftsman back in the 70’s limits my use of these tools to mere drafting. I have a half written story called “The Cold Men” about an invasion force sealed in bubbles and brought down to near absolute zero. I tried to make a “cold man” using these 3D modeling tools. I have trouble posing the models, but I might get the hang of it eventually. I put them in marbles and used backlighting. I made an astronaut from a picture ( it’s not 3d) and combined the three for a test. I am impressed with the quality, but the layout is still not cool enough.
Click to see the larger image.






September 27th, 2006

Picture of Keith Richards

I am forwarding the old AstoundingStories.com website to sciencefictional.com. John had an image of Keith Richards in one of his blog entries. John asked me to delete his blog, but now I am getting 20 to 30 hits a day on this picture from google image search. I decided to put the image on a bunch of my websites just to get hits.

Ugly dude, but it’s a funny pic. This is like having a link to Britney Spears Nude. It will get lots of hits for no good reason.






September 27th, 2006

Goofy Class Pic

I started my Web Design class last week. I go again tonight. I took some pictures of the class. I wanted a goofy picture, but as you see, some of the students a little too self conscious to mug for the camera.

This is an interesting problem. It is not a technical course. It is an Art course. I, having no artistic taste, have problems with this. I will try to teach accessibility and usability rather than esthetics of a web page. I can’t teach HTML, which is the backbone of web page design.






September 22nd, 2006

Scr***d again

I don’t know why I submitted to A&A. I knew it was bad as soon as I did it. So far, they have lost 3 out of 5 of my submissions. They are an upper tier (not pro, though) market and I want to break into the pro/semi-pro section of Ralan’s. The following appeared in Speculations:

We have discovered that we have no submissions from 8/15 through 8/21/06. This was no doubt due to our spam attack, which is now over.
Please understand that the January 2007 edition of A&A is now filled, so it might be wise to wait for the November reading period anyhow, _but_ if you wish send us a story that bounced during between the above dates we will certainly take a look at it.
Decisions on stories that were held for second opinions will be sent in the next week or so. Thank you for your patience.

Wendy S. Delmater, Managing Editor
ABYSS & APEX

Over a month wasted. Never again!!!!!!!!!!!

Now I have to search Ralan’s for an editor looking for weird stories – not clearly SF, Horror, S&S, or Fantasy. I’d send it to Aoife’s, but I don’t want to wait 6 months for an answer.






September 22nd, 2006

Bryce image

I sold a story to J at SamsDotPublishing about a concert in space. At the end the guitar player loses his fender tele and it falls to earth and is burned up in the atmosphere.
While trying to learn Bryce, I decided that this was the kind of scene that bryce was good at. Since I can’t do people, I found a guitar (not a telecaster as in the story, but close) and I showed it bursting into flames as it fell to earth. It took 10 minutes to render when I finally finished it and then Bryce crashed so I lost the working files. The moon is my own work, taken from a Nasa image of the moon. The flames. sky and sea all come with Bryce. Click on the picture above to see the big image.

Here is a closeup of the guitar:

My next step is to get some humans into the scenes. I am searching for Poser or Daz studio models of men in spacesuits. I have very nearly decided to buy the Daz Millenium Dragon so that I can illustrate my Dragon stories. I am not sure, though. I don’t want to have the same dragon as in a million other scenes. I would like to learn how to customize the models and perhaps produce my own spaceships and space suits and the other stuff that goes with Daz 3d Studio and Bryce.






September 21st, 2006

ScienceFictional

Despite my best efforts, I received a submission at ScienceFictional.com. I rejected it. I really wanted to accept the story, but I found that it wandered a bit and lost focus, at least for me. I read about half of it before I made up my mind on it. I have to figure away to disable the submission form so that this doesn’t happen again. I will lie awake all night wondering if I did the right thing and hoping that it did not hurt the author’s feelings. I decided to use a stock non-judgmental rejection rather than try to critique it. I can barely write a story and I would not be a good person to give another writer advice.

My tastes are very narrow in what I read and write. I know for a fact that I cannot read almost all of the stories in Strange Horizons, Ideomancer or the other zines on Ralan’s pro list. I either don’t understand them, or dislike the style or theme. I know that these same stories are considered good by many people. The fault is in me. I am not a good judge in what the reading public likes or dislikes.

Here’s an interesting anecdote about taste. Erica had to stay in the truck for a few minutes while I ran an errand. In a bag on the front seat were two magazines from 1954 that I was reading at lunch. One was an Astounding Stories, edited by (my hero) John W. Campbell, Jr. and the other was Galaxy, edited by Horace Gold.

When I got back, Erica expressed the opinion that the Astounding was stuffy and that the Galaxy had much more interesting stories. Well, I was shocked. When I calmed down and stopped shouting, I saw what she had meant. Campbell had a magazine full of adult, serious fiction. There was a Poul Anderson, an early Frank Herbert, and articles on Atomic energy. The Galaxy had action adventure and fantasy stories, most of which had probably been rejected by Campbell as frivolous or lacking that Campbell story resolution. Galaxy had stories by William Tenn, Robert Sheckley and a serial called “Gladiator at Law”.

Of course, the Galaxy stories were not as well structured or believable as the Astounding ones, but they were probably more interesting and definitely more fun. Campbell had a kind of technological tunnel vision. He preferred gadget stories and intellectual dramas. He did not have room for the high flying imagination or simple adventures that Gold accepted. Erica was right. In 1954, Galaxy was a better read than Astounding. Even though I like Campbell’s taste, I think Gold was getting the better stories by buying the Astounding rejects.






September 19th, 2006

Teenage Wasteland – The Who at MSG 9/18/2006

It must have been my senior year in high school. One hangout for teenagers that I knew was Paone’s Pizza in Nyack. It was at the top of Main Street and an easy walk for me from home. They had a pinball machine with spaceships on it, a jukebox turned up loud, and the best pizza in Nyack.

I stopped by there on my way home from work at night. When I was 17, I had a job as a counter man and short order cook at a coffee shop that closed at 7pm. I used to stop at Paone’s, put $2 worth of change on the glass top of the pinball machine and feed the juke box at three songs for a quarter. What did I play? Hendrix, Cream, Temptations, and of course, The Who’s Pinball Wizard.

The pinball machine had a forgiving tilt sensor and I learned that making the play last longer was more important than trying for a high score. I could make a quarter last an hour by playing carefully, using my flippers to save rather than attack, and I could get a free game every once in a while. I was a pinball wizard and I remember singing along with the song while I tried to guide the steel ball with just body english and mental concentration.

I wasn’t a great Who fan. I remember that I enjoyed many of their first albums, but I bought Happy Jack and it really sucked. When I finally heard Tommy, I was very disappointed and I never could get into Quadraphenia when it came out. The Who was a fun band from childhood with a few great songs. Maybe it’s because they are an ensemble group who are known for their arrangements rather than flights of virtuosity. The Who, as a teenage band that was like early Stones or the Kinks, I liked, but the rock opera crap turned me off. Also the stage antics, like smashing guitars and amps was dumb.

I set The Who aside for 35 years.

Lately you hear quite a few good Who songs on TV. CSI type shows use some of the better ones, and a few commercials use them. When Justine asked me if I wanted to see the Who, I said yes. It was a blast from the past. It was a historical perspective on Paone’s Pizza in Nyack. I thought that I knew enough Who fans so I got 4 tickets at $91 each.

Last night I had to eat $180 as everyone who had promised to go, backed out.

Larry and I went and tried to sell the two extra tickets on the MSG steps without any luck. We had poor seats up near the ceiling and nobody wanted them. We sat with drunks (I got a quart of beer dumped on my head about half way through). Somebody was smoking some nasty skunky weed. I have the smell of it my head and a noise and smoke hangover this morning.

The opening act, I think, was a kiddy group called Dub Trio, but they never announced themselves, at least not so I could hear. They were just bad, playing rap music to a 50 something crowd who came to hear the Who – a stupid stupid idea by the tour organizers. Larry and I were there at 8:30 PM in time to hear the poor guys get booed off the stage.

Daltry and Townsend played for an uninteresting hour and a half ($3/minute). The high point of the evening was the drummer Zack Starkey – Ringo’s kid. He can compete with any of the great rock drummers of the last century. He put heart and soul into the night’s performance and I am sure that the Who, as a band, never sounded better due to Zack’s performance.

The crowd liked the TV songs and they knew all the words to every song used on every CSI series. They sat quietly through the more obscure songs and the lackluster new material.

Finally, after walking off stage and getting called back, they did Pinball Wizard. It was amazing to hear about 20,000 aged overweight boomers at Madison Square Garden singing “Sure Plays a Mean Pinball” off key. The balcony was shaking as everyone jumped in time to the music, and I was a little worried that the place would come down.

Larry and I left as they started the Tommy medley. It was late and I didn’t need to hear that “see me, feel me” crap.

Paone’s Pizza moved downtown when Nyack became a cool place for NYC yuppies to hang out. They sell quiche and brioche and other yuppy food at high prices. They didn’t have a pinball machine the last time I looked and if they have a Juke Box, I doubt that Pinball Wizard is one of the selections.






September 18th, 2006

Fooling around with Bryce 5.0

I played with Bryce today for about an hour trying to get some art for my websites. I made some interesting landscapes and learned how to do space and stars. I still need to add some characters to make it work. I may have to actually buy poser or 3d studio and figure out how to make a spaceship or alien or dragon or something. The Bryce landscapes are cool, but I haven’t figured out how to populate them with characters.


(click to see big image)






September 18th, 2006

Girl with the Error Message Eyes

This is from a blog about the online Second Life game/rpg/environment. The picture is a fantastic idea – very Gibson-like or P.K. Dick.

There was an error when the software started to render the eyes, so instead of eyes you see the error catch message.

This should make a good flash fiction entry or maybe a plot point in a cyber-story. I have a dead character in one of the stories that I am writing. I should have the error message appear (blue background with white letters like the infamous NT blue screen of death.)

Girl with the Error Message Eyes (link to person who cares quite a bit about second life).






September 15th, 2006

Bryce 5 Free Download


You see quite a bit of 3D art produced by programs containing canned images – for example, Poser. The better the tools the better the output. I have gotten in trouble criticizing the faces created by poser as having vacuous expressions. (It’s true!) I can spot a Poser girl a mile away.
I need better tools to create art for my website and I went on to Renderosity.com in order to see what the artists there are using. There are some nice poser images and there Blender and Photoshop stuff, but the Bryce images caught my eye. Bryce is generally for doing landscapes. It costs around $80, but I did some research and found that you could download the older version, Bryce 5, for free until September 20.

I got Bryce 5, downloaded the standard stuff (like rocks, water, clouds and sky), and went through one of the tutorials on Renderosity. It is a very nice product. I like it.

I will be fooling with it this weekend to make some stuff. There are dozens of Bryce tutorials on Renderosity and I want to do a few. I expect that I will be buying some textures and shapes for Bryce.

If you are interested in computer art and want to try out 3D rendering, this is a good cheap way to get started.

Download free Bryce 5






September 13th, 2006

ART 144: Introduction to Web Site Design

I got a call from Don, one of my poker buddies. He is the head of the Art Department at Rockland Community College. One of the instructors suddenly quit and he needs an instructor to fill in with a course called Introduction to Web Site Design. He called me and I agreed do it. It is only a little better than MacDonald’s wages, but it looks great on the resume. I wanted to start teaching again. I feel that I am vegetating in front of the TV at night. I applied over the summer to the CS department at RCC, but I received no answer.

It is strange that a technical guy like me will be teaching in the Art Department.

My biggest problem is that the course is taught on Macs. I don’t nuttin about no Macs, but I can hack most anything. Don told me that it is really just a course on how to use DreamWeaver. The course description below seems to be vague about the tools. I am now searching for an inexpensive text book for the students.

What I really want out of this is to meet some art students who are interested in Web Art and who can help me bring some of my graphic ideas to life.

ART 144: Introduction to Web Site Design
3 hours, 3 credits. Prerequisite: Art 280 or permission of instructor.
How to design Websites in terms of content and structure. Designing effective graphics, proper use of links, typography and animation and nonlinear organization of subject matter. Study of effective sites in U.S. and abroad. Course uses site construction software with some attention to HTML (not a programming class). Taught on Macintosh; skills applicable to PC environment. For anyone who wants to build a business or personal Website, or for students considering a career in Internet graphics.