Archive for July, 2009

Shatner Does Palin

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Shatner does Palin’s farewell speech with bongos. This is true art.

The nbc server seems overwhelmed. You might have to try again in a day or so.


Friday, July 31st, 2009

I won’t be going to Worldcon in Montreal. When I was thinking about it last fall, I priced the whole trip at around $850. I just priced it out and it comes to around $1400 and that is not at the main hotel. Last year I could have reserved a luxury room there quite cheaply, right now the nearby hotels are full.

Next year Worldcon is in Melbourne Australia. It would cost around $3500. As nice as it would be to visit Australia, I think I’ll have to pass on this one, too. The $3500 is for tourist class and I don’t think that my 6’3″ frame could survive long in seats designed for 5’6″ people.

That leaves 2011 and Reno – that actually sounds like fun. Winter of 2010 I will make a decision, but I would like to attend at least one Worldcon before I’m too old to enjoy it.

Roxy at Tarrytown

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

I went to see Roxy play over at the Tarrytown Park. It’s beautiful there with a great view of the Tappan Zee Bridge and the Hudson River. I got a couple of nice shots of the sun setting over Central Nyack across the river.

Roxy July 30, 2009

Underwater UFOs

Thursday, July 30th, 2009 (I read it for the SF story ideas) has an article about newly released records from Russia about close encounters with alien spacecraft – underwater!

I seem to remember a movie about an alien spacecraft on the bottom of the ocean, but I can’t think of any alien submarine stories. It would make sense that an alien civilization might be water dwelling and come to our planet and pretty much ignore the dry land.

It goes into the story idea list, but I am not sure what kind of story I would write. It would make a good anthology because there are so many possibilities.

It would make a good screenplay. I have to think about this.


The Big Flaw

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

I’ve been doing critiques for a couple of weeks or so. I have written half a dozen critiques and read (or started to read) a lot of stories. I am amazed at the good quality of the writing.

This is counterintuitive, yet I should not be surprised that the critters stories were better than anticipated. Any author who wants his stories to be criticized by a bunch of strangers who have no more experience writing stories than he does, is a brave soul. Authors who submit their stories to critique are interested in finding the flaws in a story and improving the story, so their work has probably been rewritten and edited before it was submitted.

The main thing that I criticize is that almost all the stories are too wordy and can be cut. I also try to identify where transitions are choppy or easily misconstrued. I want the stories to flow, so I try to identify places where I stumbled while following the plot thread.

I don’t say much about characters, and only occasionally did I talk about setting. My thing is getting the narrative tightened up.

I think that mostly the style is very good in these stories. Some of the authors seem young, either through their subject matter of the way they treat the characters. Almost all the characters have been teenagers or younger adults, so I figure the author’s age to be near that of their characters. I think it is remarkable how well these kids (to me anyway) can craft a sentence or a paragraph. They are generally much better at it than I am.

There is one thing that almost all the stories have in common and that is what I call The Big Flaw. This flaw is a problem with the concept, plot, or setting, that makes the story unrepairable. It is the element of the story that makes it impossible to rewrite without actually writing a different story.

One story had 15,000 words about a character NOT named Conan who kills a sabre tooth tiger, but nothing else happens. One story is about young androids who have sex, and not much else. On story is about a gay robot who has sex. Almost all of the fantasy stories were about women with magical ability and the problems of being a woman with talent in a man’s world.

All of these stories were lovingly crafted, well written, but not one of them was a good story.

I now have to look at all of my stories in a new way. What is the big flaw? I am too busy trying to put sentences together so they make sense, and perhaps I am missing the major flaw in idea, plot or characters. How do you spot the big flaw when you are so close to the various mechanical parts that build the story?

My first story is due to be critiqued in three weeks. I have three stories in my to-do list and I hope to find time to write them soon so they can be critiqued. I hope that the critters group don’t pick nits with the stories, but have the courage to tell me what The Big Flaw is in my stories.

A Sense of Wonder

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

Steve Davidson has a longish post that starts with whining about someone who declared that SF is not “literary“. I am not concerned with the debate. I know enough to realize that at least one person in the debate is an idiot and not worth my comment.

The interesting thing is that Steve gets to the heart of what makes good Spec Fic by bringing up what he calls a sensawunda. I don’t know who first noticed that a Sense of Wonder was one of the main ingredients of Science Fiction, but I’ve been using it as my yardstick for what makes Spec Fic excellent for a while.

Steve equates this sense of wonder with participation in the story by the reader or viewer and by way of example compares the classic movie “Forbidden Planet” with “Star Wars”. Forbidden Planet, by way of incomplete information, encourages the viewer to fill in the blanks with imagination. Star Wars leaves nothing to the imagination. Star Wars is passive viewing, where Forbidden Planet requires the viewer to participate in the movie in order to fully appreciate it.

This is an interesting twist on a Sense of Wonder, and although it is not a full explanation, it definitely augments the idea.

Speculative Fiction will always be a genre and will usually be non-literary (whatever that means) at least to those who think they know what literary means. It will remain true that Speculative Fiction will only excel when it incorporates a Sense of Wonder.

Why Traditional SF is BETTER Than ‘Literary’ SF | The Crotchety Old Fan

Got Stumbled

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Stumbleupon has hit this site hard for the past few days. The site received over 800 referrals yesterday.

They are all for the cliches page, though, and stumbleupon traffic is useless. They look at the site, say “son of a gun”, and move onto the next site. They don’t even bother to bookmark it. All of my other pages received the usual traffic and there were practically no referrals from the cliche page.

I wonder how you get delisted from stumbleupon?

Update: Wednesday had its best day ever. It received 5,461 page views from 3,278 visitors.
Cliches got 2851 hits.
Math Page got 326 hits.
Map of Middle Earth got 250 hits.
Google Sky star finder got 329 hits.
The Blog main page got 341 hits.
The rest went to some of the other odd pages. (mirrors this site) got around 500 hits, mostly for the stars.

New Definition for Reality

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

I am about half way through Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner. The book is hard to describe. It might be compared to something James Joyce would write while tripping on LSD. It’s a difficult book, and like Ulysses, requires quite a bit of background. Unlike Ulysses, this is background that I have.

Brunner’s definition of reality ties in with information theory and the whole idea that real ideas and real information have the quality of surprise.

Realty is what Surprises You

I think that this is even better than Philip K. Dick’s definition of reality:

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

I am recomputered

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

I have a computer, Dual Core, 2.83ghz, 3.25 gigs ram (I could have used 4 gigs). I am trying to restore all the stuff that I need to get work done.

In the process, I was able to finesse a second monitor so now I have one monitor with email and another with work on it. I still have the little computer, but it keeps shutting down. I have to see if I can stop it from going to sleep every few minutes.

I will not be productive until some time tomorrow.

No Work Computer – Day 5

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

I found and appropriated a very small computer that was to be used in the Parks Department Kiosk project. This involved a kiosk that was to be placed in various places with County information. I wrote the whole thing, but the old Kiosks had screens that did not work with modern machines. The drivers were for Windows 98 and new ones weren’t available. We had to go with new kiosks. The old Kiosk with the new computer still sits in my cubicle (strategically placed so that passerbys have trouble reading my screen). The PC is a fairly nice one and only three years old. It has limited RAM, but I can live with it.

I formatted the disk and installed XP pro. I am in the process of updating it with software tools so I can actually use it for work. My old machine was declared officially dead by the Desk Top group and I am getting a new machine that has to be assemble and loaded with official software; that’s what’s taking so long. When it comes I will have two machines for work so I can do all kinds of nice things like debug on one machine and edit on another. When I worked at IBM I had five machines at once.

I miss my bookmarks most of all and I haven’t read my regular blogs in a week. I was also surprised to find that Lockheed stock took a big hit and my 401K lost around $10,000 while I wasn’t watching it.

No Work Computer – Day 4

Monday, July 27th, 2009

I am still getting paid, but I have nothing to do but sit here in the computer lab and surf. All the bosses are on vacation. Normally, this would be a very productive time – I do my best work when the bosses are gone. Unfortunately all of my tools and resources are on a hard disk somewhere that has been reformatted by now. I’ll probably lose a few thousand words of short story work in progress as well as several hundred lines of code.

Farewell Tour

Friday, July 24th, 2009

My story Farewell Tour, is up at Freezine. It is a Rock and Roll ghost story, not Science Fiction.

John Shirley, one of my favorite writers, is serializing an old fashioned pulp style adventure fantasy so my story is sandwiched between an exiting story that people are actually reading. I hope they hang around long enough to read my story.

More on low traffic ways to make money from affiliates

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Ten days ago I made a post about using a simple php script to create a web page of things for sale on eBay. I chose as an example Shimano Bicycle parts. I know little or nothing about bicycle parts, but I did a little research on eBay and found that there is a large subsection that is concerned with different brands of bicycle parts and Shimano was the largest section.

I created the RSS feed on the Ebay Partner Network and used my PHP script to convert that into a formatted picture list of ebay auctions. The script is set up so that if anyone is high bidder on one of the auctions I get a chunk of change. (The chart at left shows the clicks – blue line, and the revenue – yellow line. I made $4.46 on the best day. On the best day I got 44 clicks.

The web page received a low volume of hits. On the most active day it received less than 50 hits on the web page, which is hardly anything and it averaged less than 15 a day. I made, however, $15.68 in those ten days on one page of bicycle parts. I had just one blog entry pointing to the page and one link on my Facebook profile. This was enough to get the 150 hits in ten days on the page from people searching Google and Bing for Shimano parts (Bing is getting bigger).

This is magic. It’s free, and it’s not hard. I am glad that not many other people are doing it. I spent a day looking through eBay for high volume search items. I have a dozens of these pages out there and I am looking for more. I’m up into the hundreds this month.

I just read this post back and it reads like a sales pitch. I’m not selling anything. All I need now is testimonials.

More Rejects

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

It’s Karma.

I gave Crescendo a bad review and in the time it took to write the review I received a couple of unkind reviews of my own short stories.

It seems that this time the editors went out of their way to express their dislike for my stories. It doesn’t help me feel any better that these are two stories that I had trunked because my own opinion of them was that they pretty much sucked. I just don’t want to hear it from others.

Well, too more stories for the bit-bucket. Copies of these stories are scattered around my archives. I wonder what it would take to delete all evidence that they ever existed?