Archive for the ‘SF’ Category

Rudy Rucker, THE BIG AHA

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Rudy Rucker, THE BIG AHA
Rudy Rucker just release his latest book as a kickstarter. You can read the whole book for free at the address above. I have the Kindle version. I am looking forward to reading this. Rucker is one co my favorite writers and I haven’t read one of his novels in a while.


My story at The Martian Wave

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

J. Erwine (a newly expectant Dad) has announced that The Martian Wave Science Fiction magazine is now available. I don’t remember if I get a free copy or not.

My story The Reefs of Jove is in it. The story is about adventure while exploring the high atmosphere of Jupiter in a dirigible. The cover could almost be an illustration of part of the story.

I can hardly wait to see a copy. Sorry, the story is not available online. I wonder if I could ask  J. would put it up on the SamsDot site is a kind of teaser for the magazine?

Here is the lineup:

Steve De Beer: Adaptor
Tyree Campbell: Somewhere With Mornings
Dan Thompson: Prize Crew
Keith P. Graham: The Reefs of Jove
Patty Jansen: Luminescence
Bret Tallman: Into the Silence Flies a Moth
Rick Novy: The Pillars of Europa
Lawrence Dagstine: The Great Martian Depression

Shelly Bryant: Bypassed
Justin Bohardt: The Barren Wastes
s.c. virtes: another pit for sale
Marge Simon: A Hollander’s Secret Weapon: 1609
Marge Simon: Hindsight

The Martian Wave Magazines.

In Defense of RAH

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

I was once at a party where I had a conversation with a woman artist about Robert A. Heinlein. When I told her that he was my favorite writer, she told me I was an idiot and that Heinlein was a fascist woman hater. This is an attitude that I have come across from time to time, especially from women. It could not be further from the truth, and I don’t know how this has happened. I have read everything that Heinlein has written at least four times and one or two of his books as many as 20 times. He is not a woman hater. He is not a fascist. To me his an intelligent and reasonable observer.

At the The Lensman’s Children blog,  Sarah Hoyt has an article defending Robert A. Heinlein. She discusses Heinlein’s problems with women and how they are dead wrong. It does my heart good to read something like this.

Here’s a sample:

But I was raised by Heinlein through his books, and I hope at least the spirit and the intention of the search for truth and individual freedom remains in my work. As well as the certainty that it’s always easier to be a live lion than a live lamb or a dead lion.

How Real does Sci-Fi have to be?

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

There was a discussion about the realness of SF over at one of the Nanowrimo forums. It seems that they read my “Laws Science Fiction” page and I was trashed – the page and me personally.

Also – I wouldn’t worry too much about that website. Personally, I think their “laws” are a load of crap, and that anyone who talks about “laws of writing” in that way should probably go take a hike. :-p

And another:

That website is crappy. Just reading the laws show their ignorance of Science Fiction. I doubt they’ve ever read Asimov.

My own personal opinions are stated clearly in the list of laws, so you might be able to guess what I think about the kind of writing that these people produce.

I imagine that I have sold more stories than everyone on that thread combined. In my brief stint as an editor, I had to read a lot of the stories that these people obviously prefer, and my eyes still hurt when I think about it.

via How real does Sci-Fi have to be? | National Novel Writing Month.


one commentor said:

The web site referenced has some good points to make, but it takes some uncomfortable hard lines on some things.

The author then goes on to describe how his or her novel is about an alien that (in my view) is really a human in a rubber suit. If you want to write about humans. Using SF to hide your true intentions seems like laziness to me. I guess some people find it easier to cast a story in a an sf setting so they will not have to do the hard work of character development and creating believable conflicts and plots.

There was only one criticism to my list of rules that I could buy into. Writing SF is fun so writing a story that breaks all the rules, but is fun to write and read is the only excuse for not following the rules.

This give me the AHA moment and I will add a disclaimer at the end.

Hugo Voting

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Steve Davidson turned me on to the fact that there is unusually low turnout for the annual voting for the Hugo Award, which is like an academy award except that it is for SF.

I did a little research based on Steve’s model for “Rocking the Hugos” and I was able to discover that in recent years it has taken under 20 votes to get a nomination on the final Hugo ballot. Although there are more than 500 nominations for each category, the minimum to get on the ballot was 17 a year ago. That means that all you need to appear on the final Hugo ballot is about 20 nominations. Once on the ballot you could have a real shot at winning a Hugo or at least boosting sales with a “Hugo Nominee” banner on you book, magazine or short story.

The gotcha is that it costs $50 to get yourself a voting membership in the World Science Fiction League. People who would gladly spend $50 on a weeks worth of smokes decide that it is not worth it to hack the system. You get all kinds of bling and extras for that $50, but $50 is too much.

Unless I can find 20 people with $50 burning a hole in their pockets, I can give up on “Best Short Story” this year. I would have been an honor to be nominated.

Science Fiction Keywords

Monday, September 21st, 2009

The main key to success on the internet is keywords. 99% of all of your readers find their way to your site by doing searches on Google (and now Bing) looking for keywords. If you want to have readers that will  stick with you, you have to have the right keywords in order to lure and trap them.

The Crotchey Old Fan has a post about this. His is in reference to text ads and their keywords, but such talk can get you in trouble, so I will mention no mentions.

I have borrowed his keyword list (in exchange I offer a very valuable link back to his site).

Here is what Steve wrote:

Please bear with me: Science Fiction. Sci Fi. SciFi. Speculative Fiction. Spec Fic. SpecFic. Genre Fiction. Steampunk. Cyberpunk. Greenpunk. Space Opera. Science Fantasy. Urban Fantasy. High Fantasy. Sword and Sorcery. Military SF. Hard SF. New Wave SF. Paranormal Fantasy. Donkey Kong.

Neil Gaiman. Charlie Stross. John Scalzi. Cory Doctorow. Robert Sawyer. Nick Mamatas. Robert Heinlein. Arthur C Clarke. Isaac Asimov. A. Bertram Chandler. David Drake. Mike Resnick. Edward Lerner. Larry Niven. Eric Flint. John Ringo. Baxter. Weber. Ellison. Delany. Silverberg. Piper. Russell. Brown. Ooops! Cherryh. Bradford. Butler. Russ. Wilhelm. Norton. Bradley. Ursula LeGuin.

Tor. Baen. Angry Robot. Haikasoru. Subterranean Press. DAW. Del Rey. Ace.

Fandom. Fanzine. Worldcon. Hugo Award. Nebula Award.

Donkey Kong?

via The Crotchety Old Fan: Science Fiction For Old Farts.

Critters Post Mortem

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

I received 13 critiques from of my short story “The Perfect Gold”. I used this story as a barometer of how the critiques might help me because it was one of the first stories I wrote after a 35 year hiatus. I wrote it early in 2003 and it appeared online in Atsoise (now defunct) in February of 2004. It had 5 rejections before it was accepted and I believe that this is because of my ignorance of how editors expected a story to be written.

I made lots of mistakes in “The Perfect Gold”. I was trying to write in a fairly remote omniscient viewpoint, which is an older style and not acceptable today. Currently, editors want a tight personal viewpoint, almost first person (but they don’t like first person). Another mistake was that I had a break in the middle of the story where the main character leaves the scene to get something, but it chops off the flow until the character returns. In another break I spend some time describing the background and history of one of the characters, almost as though it were a footnote, and this disrupts the narrative. I had lots of trouble with the language. My words flow a little smoother now, but I remember at the time that I was concerned that the sentences seemed like lines from a technical manual with lots of “she did this” and “then he did this”. This computer programmer approach to narrative has been somewhat abated, but I still tend to write in syllogisms.

The critiques I received were of different kinds. One had an attached word document that cannot be opened due to viruses. Four were people who told me that they really enjoyed the story and went on to tell me their favorite parts (useless other than for moral building). Three people hated the story or thought it was boring. It seems that I wrote a “mood” piece. The people that did not like the story wanted less emotion and more blood and guts. The story has an emotional impact, but it is not an O Henry type story with a twist or revelation at the end (I wanted to write a story like “The Dead” by Joyce).

About three quarters of the critiques had valid remarks. They found numerous typos that I did not see. They complained about the narrative breaks that interrupted the flow. Many complained about my short choppy declarative sentences. I am almost tempted to rewrite the story, give it different title and try to resell it as new. I’ve done this with other stories, but right now I have new ideas, and I have dozens of stories that I have yet to write before I rehash older stuff.

The critters experience has been a good one overall. When I first started writing, I would not have found it useful because I would have disagreed with some of the conclusions. My attitude today is that most editors have had their souls corrupted by the Clarion brainwashing and there is nothing I can do about it. The Clarion workshops have created a static standard that renders classic short stories by Bradbury, Clarke, and Heinlein as “bad”. If I am to publish stories, they must fit into the little box created by advocates of Clarion and the Turkey City Lexicon.

Now that I have been through the critters process, I will be leaving the group. I was going to put my stories “Carnivale of Blood”, “Nigerian Soul”, and “The Reefs of Jupiter” through the process, but it takes too long for too little. In order to get a critique you have to submit 10 critiques, which I find stressful, and then wait 45 days. I’d have to wait four and a half months to get a three stories critiqued, and I usually write one or two stories each month.

I was thinking about hijacking the process in order to speed things up by using four or five different emails and writing a critique a week for all of them, but this would be too much like work. I am far from the right person to criticize a story (pot calling kettle…). I didn’t like most of the stories that I critiqued so it was hard being diplomatic.

I will have to prevail on family and friends to edit my stories. I just don’t see my typos, grammar and syntax mistakes. This would have been a good use for critters, but I don’t have the patience.

Disappointing Stats – Cthreepo, BoingBoing, Freezine

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

The BoingBoing post referencing this blog has pretty much played out. A Sunday in the middle of the summer is not going to be the best time to hit a major site like BoingBoing. Yesterday, three days after the post, the blog is down to 22 hits from BoingBoing related posts. That includes Neatorama and the thousands of sites that clone BoingBoing through their RSS feed. From here on it’s turtles all the way down.

I just had the memory of my late friend Stan sighing “Oh Well”.

I am still hammered by, but the stumblers don’t hang around. The traffic on this site is about triple what it was three months ago, but none of it is important traffic. The traffic from has only grown slowly over the years, and local bumps don’t effect the long term trend.

In similar depressing news, I decided to find out how popular Shaun’s Freezine wound up. I tried Google, Bing, Technorati and Alexa only to discover that there were only three sites giving Freezine any traffic. This site ( was the main one. I mentioned Freezine multiple times and put a link to my story on about 4000 of my web pages. The Discussion board formerly know as John Shirley’s Board, was another major link to Freezine. I, Shaun and even John plugged Freezine on the Board multiple times.. John Shirley’s web page was the third. John’s blog shows considerably less traffic than mine on Alexa et al, which shows I’m better at SEO and web promotion, even if Shirley is a much better writer. I doubt if there was significant traffic from John’s blog to Freezine. There was brief mention on a few blogs, but I checked a few and they had very low Google page ranks and probably did not send any traffic. Facebook probably sent some traffic, but I can’t measure that.

Freezine was BoingBoinged too, but it was a Friday in mid July, which was probably just as bad a day as Sunday. Believe it or not, most people surf the web at work. People don’t surf on weekends because there are more interesting things to do. I estimate that fewer than 500 people read part of Freezine and a fraction of that, probably less than 50, read my story. Sigh.

I don’t know what I wanted to accomplish by placing a story at Freezine. I hoped to get my name associated with a better class of writers (an oxymoron if there ever was one). It is disappointing to be pretty much ignored.

The Ring is Destroyed, finally

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

I’ve spent the last two weeks tramping through Middle Earth. (Listening to mp3s on Justine’s iPhone.) Gollum just fell into the crack of doom and I’ve had it with Hobbits for another year. I have read or listened to LOTR probably over 100 times. There was a time, 20 years ago, that I know I passed the 50 count just on reading. At that time I obtained the tapes and listened two or three times a year as I commuted to work. I since found the audio in MP3 format.

I can get back to reading, again. I have rediscovered the simple pleasures of reading since I started taking the bus in the morning. My six months’ bus anniversary came and passed without celebration (I was still bummed about Christmas.)

Monday I start reading Black Glass, by John Shirley. This is billed as Shirley’s Lost Cyberpunk Novel. I like Shirley’s Science Fiction and I am a Cyberpunk kind of guy. Last Year I read Shirley’s Demons, and a couple of months ago I read an old copy of City Come a Walking by Shirley, and I thought it was excellent. I should reread his Eclipse books, since it has been a few years. I went through the link above and got a signed copy of Black Glass at the regular price, although I was raped on shipping. Media mail should have been about $1.50 not $6.50.

The Infinity Concerto – Greg Bear

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

infinityconcerto I have received disparaging words from an unnamed sister-in-law about book reviews on my blog, so this will be brief.

I have always been a fan of Greg Bear, in spite of his novels being too long. The Infinity Concerto; not so much. I prefer hard science and I believe that Bear writes hard science fiction better than fantasy.

The basic story of the Infinity Concerto is that a boy enters the world of Fairy based loosely on Celtic mythology. Bear tries his best to create hard rules, but in a magical world that is difficult. I amused myself by deciding that the third law of thermodynamics didn’t hold in the land of the Sidhe, and then stopped thinking about science.

In a world where nothing is impossible, nothing is very interesting. I felt that Bear continually fabricated a new solution out of thin air whenever the protagonist got in trouble.

The book was well written with good characters and some interesting ideas, but was not my cup of SF. I am, however, reading the sequel, The Magic Serpent. There are entirely too many words where nothing much happens, but I want to find out how the plots all come together. I’ll have a review of The Magic Serpent by early next week. I may move these book reviews to another blog to satisfy in-laws only interested in cat pictures.

I am still on the "B" author row of my collection of unread books. The holidays have cut into my reading time. I am spending all of my spare moments on programming projects. I expect to have my iPhone app done any day now.

Edd Cartier 1914-2008

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

I am saddened to learn that Edd Cartier, one of the great artists of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, passed away on Christmas Day.

I met Edd quite by accident when he and his son were having a garage sale. I was lucky enough to buy some of his work and get it signed and personalized. I have since exchanged email with his sons a few times.

After I met the great man I began seeking out and collecting his art work. I have a shelf of old magazines and illustrated books with Edd’s fantastic drawings.

The photo is Edd Cartier the day I discovered him.

I hate this whole grow old and die thing. It does not seem right that the world should lose a talent like Edd Cartier. He lived a long and rich life, but still, the world is a poorer place without him.


Ray Bradbury – Quicker Than the Eye

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

bradburyquicker Continuing with reading only Ray Bradbury books in October – This is the fourth book that I’ve read. I am averaging a little less than a new book every two days (not counting weekends when I don’t have much time to read).

I have the feeling that I’ve read some of the stories in Quicker Than the Eye. The stories were published in 1995 and 1996, but I don’t remember where I would have read them. I don’t read Playboy or American Way, but many of these appeared in F&SF and Omni, so I might have read them there.

Comparing these stories to the stories in Golden Apples of the Sun, you realize that Ray has mellowed over the years. There is no lurking danger or hidden fear in any of these stories. They, for the most part, are much happier and romantic than the earlier works. Many of the stories are downright maudlin (Maudlin: Extravagantly or excessively sentimental; self-pitying; Affectionate or sentimental in an effusive, tearful, or foolish manner, especially because of drunkenness).

To give you an example, in the story Another Fine Mess, Ray writes about a pair of ghosts haunting a stairway in Hollywood. The ghosts are Laurel and Hardy trying to move a piano. You can’t be afraid of the ghosts of Laurel and Hardy. At the end, the two women who try to banish them invite them to come back once a year. Maudlin, I said. Maudlin, I meant.

There are other stories about the ghost of Bradbury’s mother and the death of a dog, but the sweet sentimentality ruins the stories for me. I smile when I read them and I did enjoy them, but I am eager for the chilled spine or the goose bumps on my arm. I don’t want these feel-good stories.

There are a couple of more chilling stories. Dorian in Excelsus is about what happened to Dorian Gray’s portrait, but it is a one dimensional story where just the one thing happens and then it ends, no real plot to it, just an interesting idea. There is also The Finnegan about a hidden monster in the woods, but that too is over quickly and the final revelation is telegraphed a little too early in the plot to have an impact.

I am going back to his earlier works. I still have a couple of new books in the queue, but I want to cleanse my pallete a little and read some stories from Weird Tales before I get back to the more recent Bradbury.

Last Day of Summer

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

We went up to Connecticut to the flea market today. Last year we went up at least ten times and in previous years we have gone as far as Pennsylvania to shop flea markets. Because of the price of gas, this trip costs about $50, so we may not make it up again this year.

The Elephant’s Trunk Flea was quite full. Here are some shots from the north side up on the hill.

DSCN0313 DSCN0314 DSCN0315

I did very well. At one table a nice couple sold me some Weird Tales Magazines and a vintage 1948 JT-30 microphone. Since I collect both vintage microphones and vintage pulp SF magazines this was an incredible coincidence. I bought a J.J. Cale album for poker for a quarter – it would have been too weird if I had found it at the same table.

The Weird Tales pulps were from 1951 ad 1952, which is not Weird Tale’s best period. The stories are mostly, if not all, reprints. Weird Tales was digging into their contracts and finding stories that had been purchase with All Serial Rights or First and Second Serial Rights. This means that the authors gave Weird Tales or one of her sister publications the right to print their story again and in some instances as often as they wanted.

The magazines were OK quality, but would not be rated good or fine if I wanted to sell them. I thought that I was getting a bargain, but I probably paid just what they were worth. They are the same age as I am, but they are too fragile to take the bus with me.

The JT-30 is a military version called a model 80.  It came with a long cable (missing) and had a rising response element. The element, of course, has been dead for 25 years. Some day I’ll find a 60 year old microphone that works. I made up for not getting a bargain on the magazines and got the JT-30 for $10, which is a very good deal.

flea1 flea2

Erica had some good luck and found some vintage quilts, which she was able to get for a very good price. They are all in need of a good cleaning, but there are not that many bad stains. The binding on the pink quilt is shot, but there are only a few small spots on the quilts themselves that need repair.

The first is a Basket Quilt top, made with Cranberry red cloth and muslin. Erica dated it from the patterns of the pieces as 1880 to 1910.



The next is an Indigo Quilt in a "9 patch" pattern (I think that this was called flying geese, but Erica isn’t sure). This was about 1890 from what Erica can tell from her pattern references. It has feed sack, Victorian shirting, and several kinds of Indigo.





Ollie and Gracie were helping us photograph the quilts.


The next quilt is an "Around the World" which Erica dates it possibly the 1920s, although some of the patterns are much earlier. There is cheddar type material and some double pink from 1880s. It also has Indigo and Victorian shirting.



H. Beam Piper – Space Vikings

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

vikings Space Vikings was serialized in Analog in 1962-63. Piper committed suicide not long afterwards. Piper, as far as I can tell, was not considered to be more than a hack writer in his own time, but has recently risen to the ranks of a truly unique and respected writer from the golden age. He wrote stories an novels from 1947 to 1963.

Piper wrote a series of future history novels, which could be classified as military SF. Space Vikings is one of these. It reads like an historical novel and is probably similar to the mainstream historical novels of the time. Although it is Science Fiction, there is nothing in the story that would prevent it from being set as a real Viking novel or even reset in any time or place. The plot is a good one where a man is nearly killed and his wife murdered by a madman who is insanely jealous. The man joins with free-booting space Vikings, a loosely organized group of planets that survive by trade as well as raiding weaker systems.

The story is the rise of the Space Viking from an educated nobleman to a ruthless Leader of men and his search for the man who killed his true love. Along the way there is plenty of politics, action and a love affair with a beautiful princess.

Piper’s writing is energetic and clear. He is easy to read and understand and yet his plots are full of unexpected twists and turns with rich characterizations. The story is a swashbuckler with lots of blood running down the scuppers. I enjoyed it much more than the endless and plodding Honor Harrington Books, even though they have much in common.

More interesting is Beam’s philosophy, which he includes from time to time. Beam was a gun enthusiast (he killed himself with one of his own weapons), and he would be characterized as a conservative today. He might have belonged to the John Birch society, as far as I can tell from his writings, but it is never obnoxious, strident or even illogical.

Here is an example from the book (page 151):

Every society rests on a barbarian base. The people who don’t understand civilization and wouldn’t understand if they did. The hitchhikers. The people who create nothing, and who don’t appreciate what others have created for them, and who think civilization is a something that just exists and that all they need to do is enjoy what the can understand of it – luxuries, a high standard of living, and easy work for high pay. Responsibilities? Phooey! What do they have a government for?

In spite of the run-on sentence, you have to tend to agree with Piper on this. Piper has some valid points. It is a central theme of the book that Piper doesn’t much like Democracy. He says that it is full of bugs and we need to spend more time getting the bugs out before we put our faith in it. He points out that Hitler rose to power by using a democracy, but got rid of it as soon as possible.