Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Just so you know

On my lunch break, I took another story over the post office and send it winging its way to some unsuspecting editor's desk. Back in the saddle, and all that.

Now Playing: Pink Floyd Staying Home to Watch the Rain

Why no hurricane postings?

I'm not ignoring the growing disaster of Biblical proportions unfolding 400 miles east of me on I-10. But there's very little I could add to the ongoing discussions that haven't already been said more effectivley than others. For excellent ongoing coverage of the Drowning of New Orleans from a bloggish perspective, I recommend Making Light and Kathryn Cramer's blog.

Now Playing: Violent Femmes New Times

Blatant defiance

Just so you know, I was up until 1 a.m last night finishing a story that I've been working on, off and on, since 1998. Granted, it just sat there a lot of time in the intervening years, but there was a great deal of rewriting, remodeling, restructuring and rethinking the story along the way. Last night I buckled down and wrote the one, final flashback scene that I'd realized the story was lacking. Although I'm not entirely convinced that I got the characters' voices right, the section is polished enough not to torpedo the whole story. I can always tweak it a bit later if an editor thinks the need is there. More importantly, though, I noticed a glaring continuity bungle in the other flashback scenes this one ties into. Big blunder on my part, stemming from not clearly thinking through the timeline. Fortunately, it was a fairly straightforward one to correct, but again, it kept me up later than I'd normally like.

I fully expect this one to garner a lot of rejections before it ever finds a home. There are several reasons for this. If I had to blurb it, the story's sort of a mutant hybrid of Enemy Mine and Jack London's "To Build a Fire." Except, of course, that it's not really like either of those at all. Oh yeah, it's 13,000 words long, a length that'll have editors simply lining up at my door.

Knowing that a particular story is going to be rejected is something of a liberating feeling. Much better than the letdown that comes when I write a story that I know is perfect for a market, and that market unceremoniously declines it. Doesn't stop me from submitting it, though. That sucker shipped out this morning.

Now Playing: Violent Femmes 3

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Wallowing in self-pity

I got a couple of rejections in, which in and of itself is not big news. I get rejections in all the time. No, what makes these worthy of blogging about is the fact that these were two of my better stories, the ones that have generated strong reactions in workshops and commentary from editors in the past. Both were declined, but what really stung was the editor's comments (and I'm paraphrasing here): "What you write is good enough, but it's not irresistable enough."

This is a categorization I've recognized for quite some time, but kept quiet about except for an occasional whine about it here. For an editor to specifically recognize that in my writing and comment on it is... well, depressing, to be blunt. Am I doomed to be the 13th best story in an anthology that has room for only 12 pieces (a situation that's happened to me more than once)? Am I perpetually locked into rejection letters that read "I enjoyed the story, but not enough to buy it" rather than "Here's a check"?

Those rejections and the accompanying comments (meant to be encouraging, in all sincerity) hit me far harder than they should've. It prompted me to do a quick inventory of my career to date... and what I saw wasn't pretty. In fact, it was pretty damn ugly (avert your eyes if you can't stomach the truth): I haven't made a pro sale in more than five years.

Sheesh. That's kinda like outing oneself, or dropping trou in the middle of a wedding reception. But it's true, and the truth hurts sometimes. Oh, yeah, I've made a bunch of sales over the past five years. Been paid pretty well for some of them. I published a book, and showed a profit to the IRS a few times, even. But I haven't had any professional fiction sales, which is where my true goals lie. I've had a couple of semi-pro sales, and a couple of reprint sales. But as a professional fiction writer, I'm in a major drought. My interviews and articles don't count--not to me, at any rate. Not at a gut level.

It's my own fault, mostly. As it grew easier to produce and sell interviews, that's where I channeled more of my energy. My fiction output suffered. Simple mathematics: If I'm writing fewer short stories, I have fewer opportunities to sell. Nevermind that the few stories I did produce over that span were better than the other stories that sold to pro markets in years past. Better conceived, more professionally executed, more competent and confident writing.

Which is one of--if not the main--reason I'm ditching siren song of the interview. I've mentioned this before, and I've gone a full year without transcribing a single word. There's just one unpublished interview still in the pipeline somewhere, one which I will get a nice check for in six months or so. I have a handful of short stories on the verge of completion, several of which are among the most innovative and creative I've ever produced. I have two novels under way. I am writing more fiction (albeit in fits and starts, as ficiton writing have never come all that easy for me). Will they sell? Who the hell knows. They'll get a lot of nice comments. I know that, at least.

So I'll feel sorry for myself for another couple of days. I'll question whether or not it's worth it for me to continue wasting my time writing these things that nobody wants to buy. I'll grouse and mope and find things to distract myself with so that I actually don't do much writing at all. I'll wonder if there really is a secret handshake that lets me into the "pro writers club" that I missed out on somewhere. But then I'll read something--be it a badly written story in a pro market, or a stupid blog post, or a woefully misguided media article--and I'll get pissed off, big time. And start writing with a vengeance. Can you tell I've been here before?

Now Playing: Wyndnwyre Under One Sky

Thanks for the warning

Seen on a flashing traffic message sign on I-10 last night outside of Luling:

Interstate 10 closed Baton Rouge. 370 miles.
Severe weather in Louisiana.

Good thing I was only going as far as Columbus.

Now Playing: Wyndnwyre Out of Time

Monday, August 29, 2005

Hummingbirds are gone. Sort of.

Three weeks ago the cadre of ill-tempered, territorial and funny as heck black-chinned hummingbirds that cruised our neighborhood and argued over the feeders we'd put out vanished. Poof. One afternoon they were zipping through the yard as always, then next, nada. Migrating to South America, I imagine, although it strikes me as odd for birds in south-central Texas to be migrating in August, which is still the height of summer for us. There are still plenty of flowers in bloom and bugs in the air for them to feed on, and will be for at least another month. For more northerly hummers, I can understand an August departure. Winter will hit up there much sooner--while we're still hitting 90 degrees in October, Michigan may well have its first snowfall. No reasoning with nature, though.

We're not bringing in the feeders yet, however. The other night, around sunset, a hummer shot up to one to drink, then perched in my thoroughly-dead Mollie's Delicious apple tree to guard the territory. It was a ruby-throated male, the first I'd seen since April. Within minutes, a couple of others arrived--at least one black-chinned male and a female of either species. The argued and squabbled until dark, but it's my impression that the ruby-throated male roosted in the gala apple tree overnight. The next morning, of course, they were all gone, heading south. I expect I'll see a lot more of these transients as the month wears on.

Now Playing: Talking Heads Little Creatures

Another week, another review

There's a new review of Voices of Vision up over at Green Man Review. It's quite a kind one, which is the kind we like the best:
Jayme Lynn Blaschke is a freelance interviewer, which earns him points for courage under fire: interviewing is not really very easy, and writers and editors are sometimes among the most difficult of subjects. Voices of Vision is a collection of Blaschke's interviews with editors, writers, and, as he calls them, "comic book creators" in science fiction and fantasy. The result is a look at a group of artists (and yes, that includes the editors, most of whom are writers themselves and who bring that sensibility to their work as editors) as varied as the twin genres themselves.

I found the interviews with the editors -- Gardner Dozois, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Stanley Schimdt, Gordon Van Gelder, and Scott Edelman -- the most exciting for reasons that I can't quite explain. Call it the editor in my own makeup, or maybe it's just my conviction that these are the people who are molding the literature: the stories they select for publication are the ones that influence the next round of stories, because for all intents and purposes, these stories are what other writers are looking at and reacting to.


What is most engaging about this book is that it is a glimpse at the belly of the beast, so to speak -- science fiction and fantasy as a business, a discipline, a means of livelihood, and a community. Writers are not the only ones fascinated by how other writers work, and I think anyone who reads science fiction or fantasy (or both) is interested in how and why editors make the decisions they do. Blaschke is an engaging interviewer and has obviously done his homework on each subject -- the questions are specific, pertinent, and invite elaboration, and each interview begins with a short introduction detailing the circumstances (including the information that those with Gardner Dozois and Gordon Van Gelder were first published in Green Man Review.)

All the positive reviews I've garnered thus far--coupled with the not-disastrous royalty statement from a couple of weeks back--have convinced me that the time is ripe to start general preliminary work on compiling a follow-up volume (subtitle: Everything I Have Left in the Files). Perhaps, if things remain somewhat stable in my life, I will have a manuscript to send in to Nebraska by December or January.

Now Playing: Salsa del Rio Que Siga La Tradicion

Thursday, August 25, 2005

In which NASA's manned space program falls farther behind the pack

New Scientist is reporting in the article Space-ferry may be ready by 2010 that the European Space Agency and Japan are signing on to a development deal with Russia to jointly fund and build the Kliper reusable crew carrier, which I compared to NASA's more conservative manned spaceflight plans a while back.
Russia, Europe, and Japan may jointly develop a crewed spacecraft called Kliper to ferry as many as six astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The spacecraft could launch as early as 2010 - just as NASA retires its space shuttles.

The three space agencies are in discussions to develop the craft, which is intended as a replacement for Russia's Soyuz spacecraft. Soyuz has been the workhorse of Russia's human spaceflight programme, but is based on 40-year-old technology.

“Soyuz works and works but the components are becoming obsolete," says Alan Thirkettle, head of the development department at the European Space Agency's (ESA’s) human spaceflight and exploration directorate.

The craft carries three people and can stay docked to the International Space Station for just six months, but the Kliper may transport twice as many and could stay in orbit for up to a year. Officials estimate the first uncrewed flight could take place in 2010, with the first crewed flight in 2011.

Without seeing the final version of either the U.S. or the Russian spacecraft, it's hard to make informed judgements, but heck, that's never stopped me before. Russia's lifting-body Kliper design is a better, forward-looking approach than NASA's utilitarian Apollo regression. The fact that Russia is building on all the pioneering lifting body work NASA (not to mention Scaled Composites and Lockheed Martin) had done over the decades merely compounds the frustration.

Yes, the new NASA plan is much more sensible than the current shuttle program. But we should be an aerospace leader and innovator, rather than a follower.

Now Playing: Johnny Cash The Essential Johnny Cash

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The day job

I write media releases for Texas State University, among other editorial duties. A lot of material I produce is routine, but every so often my job affords me the chance to work on a really cool story. Such as this one:

(Left-to-right)Louie Valencia, Don Olson, Kara Holsinger and Ashley Ralph stand off the trail below the Geology Hut at Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park, where Ansel Adams stood 57 years earlier while taking Autumn Moon.

Astronomers sleuth Ansel Adams' Autumn Moon

SAN MARCOS--No single person in history has done more to reveal the splendor of the American west on film than famed photographer Ansel Adams.

Now, a team of astronomers at Texas State University-San Marcos have applied their unique brand of forensic astronomy to Adams' Autumn Moon, the High Sierra from Glacier Point, shedding new light on the celestial scene--and rediscovering a long-lost Adams photo in the process.

Texas State physics professors Donald Olson and Russell Doescher, along with Mitte Honors students Kara Holsinger, Louie Dean Valencia and Ashley Ralph, publish their findings in the October 2005 edition of Sky & Telescope magazine.

Solving the Mystery

Adams kept detailed notes on the technical aspects of his photographs--exposure time, film type, lens settings--but information about the location, date and time of his images was often incomplete or contradictory. Such is the case with Autumn Moon, taken by Adams in Yosemite National Park and featuring a waxing gibbous Moon rising over mountains of the Clark Range in the southeast. Various sources give the date of the photograph as 1944, while others list it as 1948. After consulting lunar tables, topographic maps, weather records and astronomical software, the Texas State researchers determined that Adams created Autumn Moon on Sept. 15, 1948, at 7:03 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time.

As part of their research, the group visited Yosemite in the spring for extensive on-site double-checking of their findings. Additionally, the team determined that Adams had set up his tripod just off the trail below the stone Geology Hut at Glacier Point, pinpointing the location to within 10 feet. Olson and Doescher, along with another team of honors students, used similar techniques in 1994 to pinpoint the time, date and location Adams photographed his famous Moon and Half Dome.

An Unexpected Discovery

In the course of research, Olson stumbled across something wholly unanticipated: A color version of Autumn Moon, published in the July 1954 issue of Fortune magazine. Adams is best known for his black and white photography, so this color photograph by him was a rare find.

"Imagine my surprise when I turned the page and saw this color moonrise photograph by Ansel Adams," said Olson. "We checked with several Ansel Adams experts. None of the Adams experts we spoke with had seen this photo--all of us had been totally unaware that a color version of Autumn Moon existed."

Some additional investigation revealed that beginning in the 1940s, Eastman Kodak commissioned professional photographers to "beta test" new color sheet film, and Adams was one of the photographers who participated in the program. Eventually, the results were published in an article titled "Test Exposures: Six Photographs from a Film Manufacturer's Files."

The cloud formations and shadows in the scene matched those in the well-known Autumn Moon, leaving no doubt that the two shots were taken during the same session. By overlaying the two photos and measuring how far the Moon had risen between exposures, the researchers determined the color version was taken at 7:01 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time, roughly two-and-a-half minutes prior to the black-and-white version--just enough time for Adams to change the film holder and adjust the settings on his camera.

Encore Performance

For fans of Adams' photography, 2005 offers a rare opportunity to relive the scene of Autumn Moon--both color and black-and-white versions. This year, the progression of 19-year-long lunar Metonic cycles coincides with that of 1948--meaning that skywatchers at Glacier Point are in for a celestial encore. On Sept. 15, 2005, exactly three Metonic cycles will have passed since Adams photographed a waxing gibbous Moon rising over the Clark Range, presenting a scene that will closely duplicate the one in 1948.

"Even the direction of sunlight and shadows will be repeated this year," said Olson. "Our group plans to be on Glacier Point when the Moon's position will match the Adams photographs at 6:50 p.m. and 6:52 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time on Sept. 15. The balance of light between the rising Moon, the setting Sun and the shadows in the foreground mountains will last for just a few minutes and will provide a rare opportunity to share Ansel Adams' experience from half a century ago."

I'm particularly pleased by the fact that Sky & Telescope thought so highly of my write-up that they used it as the official S&T release, and several papers that have run the release verbatim credit me with a byline. Very nice.

One thing that makes these releases so much more fun to do that the standard, dry press copy of facts and talking points is that I've been able to craft them as a feature article for print media. That makes them more lively, allows me to use quotes liberally and in general be more creative with it than I could be with other material. For examples, check out some of these other stories I worked up on Don Olson's "forensic astronomy" research projects in the past: Texas State astronomers unravel Marathon mystery, Don't Scream for me, Krakatoa (yes, I'm the one responsible for that doozy of a title) and Astronomers sleuth van Gogh “Moonrise” mystery.

The one big annoyance I've seen this time, however, is the mis-identification of the school. Somehow, some yahoo at the AFP news syndicate thought it'd be cute to call Texas State "Southwest Texas State" in the story. The university changed its name in 2003, and my efforts to contact AFP for a correction have been... difficult, to say the least. And of course, when the bloggers and Yahoo! News pick up the story, they don't go with Reuters or any of the others who've gotten everything right. No, they run the AFP story. As if that's not bad enough, some blogs have been crediting the University of Texas in their version of the story, which is not the same thing at all. Not by a long shot.

Now Playing: The Police Message in a Box

Balancing the scales

I space this stuff out, you know. If I posted everything as it happened, some days would have 20 posts and then a couple of weeks would go by without anything!

So back on Thursday, before Armadillocon, I crank up the family minivan for some reason. And a hideous metallic banging comes from the engine. Not good. Chris, my uber-mechanical brother, thinks it's the lifters. So we tow it to the Chrysler dealer in town to see what they think.

They think it's going to cost me $2,500 or $4,000, whichever is more costly. They want to sell me a new engine, which is roughly equal to the value of the minivan at trade-in time. So we can't buy a new car because 1) we're still paying off the PT Cruiser from earlier this year, 2) the minivan is non-functional, which negates any trade-in value, and 3) we don't have $2,500 or $4,000 for a new engine or a new car. Chris is convinced the engine does not need a complete overhaul, and can get it up to snuff again for $500 or so--it's just going to take time, since he doesn't have all the necessary equipment for the job. Which is a great option for us to have, because if Chris says he can fix it, he can fix it. Unfortunatly, we're reduced to being a one car household for a month (at least) and even $500 in unplanned autor expenses is going to bite. Ouch.

Now Playing: The Police Message in a Box

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The quick and dirty Armadillocon recap

Arrived at the con later than I'd planned, around 5 p.m. on Friday. This was a new hotel for the convention, the Austin Doubletree, and the layout of the hotel was so different from other hotels Armadillocons have been based at in the past that I had a severe case of disconnect going through most of Friday. Several other congoers told me the same thing. It was a very nice hotel, however, nicer than the Red Lion, Omni Southpark or Hilton that have recently hosted the con, so by Saturday I was settled in and really developing a strong appreciation for the new digs.

Since I'm sort of committed to write a more formal con report for RevolutionSF, I'll restrict this commentary here to personal experiences. I was a little disappointed I didn't get to hang out with Charles de Lint and MaryAnn more, but since I was a program participant I had my own obligations to fulfill. I caught about half of their performance on Saturday, though, and they're as gracious and entertaining as I remember. Charles Stross and Sean McMullen were both friendly and funny, raising the quality of the panels I shared with them.

One development that was wholly unexpected knocked me for a loop early on and repeated itself several times throughout the convention. During the "Meet the Pros" reception, Damian Broderick, the Australian SF author of Godplayers, among many others, walked up to me and introduced himself, saying he'd wanted to meet me after seeing my posts to the IAFA mailing list. Wow! I found out about six months back that Broderick now lives in San Antonio, and nagged Armadillocon to invite him. So to say I was flattered is something of an understatement. I have no illusions about my stature in the publishing world. We chatted for a bit, and he commented to the fact that I was lucky, since New Braunfels had it's own resident astronaut (Charlie Duke). Later on during the con, he suggested we could get together sometime, go knock on Duke's door, and run away. Sounds like a plan to me. I shared a rather uncomfortable odd moment with Broderick at a Saturday night party, when a fan (who is a well-established presence at Texas cons) asked Broderick why there weren't many fantasy stories featuring Aborigine mythology, "Dreamtime" and the like. Broderick explained that there were strong cultural and social taboos to this in Australia. All would have been fine and good at that point, except that the fan continued to talk about the subject, referring to the Aborigine as "Abos." Broderick stopped him, explaining that "Abo" was as offensive a racist term in Australia as "nigger" is in the U.S., to which the fan replied, "Oh, I know that," and continued to toss off "Abo" left and right. It was so egregious that I wonder if he was even paying attention to what Broderick had so diplomatically explained.

Later in the convention, Wil McCarthy, a talented SF writer from Denver, came up and introduced himself. Wil and I had exchanged messages in the past on, so his knowledge of my existence wasn't as shocking as Broderick's, but it was no less gratifying. During the ConDFW party Saturday night, he drank some of my beer, and listened to my entirely too-passionate rant about the failings of Paul Verehoven's Starship Troopers film, which just happened to be playing on the TV. He also engaged in a little discussion of a gaming geek nature--a sure sign that I've had a beer or two in the preceeding hour. A self-confessed gaming geek himself, he didn't hold my Champions stories against me, and bought a copy of my chapbook for "The Dust" at my autograph session on Sunday to "read on the plane." I just hope he doesn't think it sucks too badly.

During that same autograph session, the fine folks from Edge Books came up and asked when I was going to sign their stock of Voices of Vision. I replied that I'd already done so way back at Aggiecon. They explained that no, they'd sold out of all of those (30 books!) and had 25 new ones for me to inscribe. Holy moley! An autograph session where I actually sign something other than the completist fan's program book! I really, really like Edge Books!

I got to hang out with Deborah Layne of Wheatland Press fame. We breakfasted with the unparalleled Rick Klaw Saturday morning and boogied to the "Time Warp" during the Baby Face Nelson concert on Saturday night (along with Ann Guin and Martha Wells). She sold me a copy of the talented Steven Utley's new collection, Beasts of Love. The only reason she didn't sell me a copy of All Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories is because they ran out before I got there.

I also caught up with Del Rey editor Jim Minz at the various parties happening on Saturday night. He not only remembered me (wow! Another one!) but talked about an author I'd recommended to him as having a killer novel manuscript in need of a home. He then asked when I was going to send him something. Which, of course, sent my heart all a-flutter. Granted, he may very well have been making polite conversation, but when you've been through as long of a sales drought as I have, any encouragement is welcome. On a related note, several times during the weekend various Austin-area writers brought up the last short story I workshopped at Turkey City, asking if it'd been published yet (unfortunately, no) then making appropriately rude jokes about some of the ruder scenes I have since reined in to some degree.

Finally, my reading Sunday saw a turnout of eight or so people--none of them related to me. I was shocked, and was compelled to ask if they'd found the right room. I read the first chapter of Wetsilver, which I'd been very, very nervous about. I workshopped maybe 10,000 words of the novel with Slugtribe in Austin a few years ago before interviews consumed my writing time. I'd taken the Slugtribe comments and reworked the opening chapters, but was having real doubts about them. I didn't think I had real characters or compelling action. I questioned my worldbuilding. I felt my tension and suspense ham-fisted and unconvincing. I was certain the crowd would thin as I read. But something strange happened as I started reading--the prose came alive for me. Suddenly I felt the words gain meaning and resonance as I spoke them aloud, and my ponderous dialogue became lithe and lively, the narrative crisp and energetic. The audience reacted in all the proper ways, and seemed genuinely annoyed that I didn't have chapter 2 with me to read when I came to the end of chapter 1. I did read The Days of Rice and Assault for them, which got a bunch of laughs and seemed to satisfy them.

So that encouragement, coupled with Important People knowing who I was without my first explaining myself to them... well, it turned into a spectacular weekend.

Now Playing: Neville Marner Amadeus Soundtrack


Lou Antonelli's newest piece of short fiction, Dialogue, is now live over at RevolutionSF. And you can still catch his story "A Rocket for the Republic" on the newsstands now in the current issue of Asimov's.

Now Playing: The Moody Blues Time Traveller

Best. Armadillocon. Ever.

It's Tuesday and I'm still exhausted. Wow. Fantastic stuff happened over the weekend, some I can share, some I can't... at least not yet. I'll try and get a writeup here later on today, and RevolutionSF wants a more formal report as well. Sheesh, that's a lot of writing for a guy who's day job is suddenly hopping (the fall semester starts tomorrow, for those of you keeping score at home).

I have managed to put up a gallery of pics I took over the weekend, to tide you folks over. Maybe they should retitle it "The Ubiquitous Mark Finn Con"?

Now Playing: The Monkees Then and Now: The Best of the Monkees

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Armadillocon awaits

I'm heading off to Armadillocon tomorrow for three days of panels, pitches and schmoozing. I'll get to hear about Mark Finn's near-fatal arm amputation and miraculous re-attachment of a substitue arm from a donor ape many times over the course of the weekend, I'm sure. I'll get to see Charles de Lint and his wife MaryAnn again, along with all the usual suspects that tend to turn up in Austin at this time of year. Here's my schedule:
  • Developments in Space Opera
    11:00 PM-Midnight
    Blaschke, Broderick, Minz*, Roberson, Stross
    Space opera is one of the earliest forms of science fiction, and in recent years there has been great growth in this area. Why is this happening, where's it going, what's the best stuff, and why is so much of it coming out of the UK?

  • Current Trends in British SF
    11:00 AM-Noon
    Blaschke, J. Mann*, Person, Siros, Stross
    Several British writers are currently producing some of the most exciting and best-written sf yet seen. We'll sort out the best stuff, try to discern trends, and overall try to spread our joy and enthusiasm.

  • Speculative Fiction in Academia
    1:00 PM-2:00 PM
    Blaschke*, Crider, Johnson, Ringel, McMullen
    Speculative fiction has emerged into a form of literature seriously studied, taught, and written by adademics. Let's learn what the professors are saying about our favorite genre.

  • Autographing
    Sat 4:00 PM-5:00 PM
    Blaschke, Crider, Osborne, Wells

  • Reading
    Noon-12:30 PM
    Jayme Lynn Blaschke
    I'll be reading the first chapter from my in-progress novel, currently titled Wetsilver (at least, that's what I'm calling it this week, at any rate).

  • The Rewards of Electronic Publishing
    1:00 PM-2:00 PM
    Blaschke, Burton*, Hall, Marin
    New technology leads to new methods of distributing fiction. Our panelists discuss why they are turning to paperless publication.

I suppose it goes without saying that I'll have some of my limited-edition literary beer on hand Saturday for all you of-age partygoers!

Now Playing: James Horner The Rocketeer Soundtrack

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Gilliam on Dark Horizons

Dark Horizons has an interview with Terry Gilliam, in which many things are spoken of, including the upcoming release of The Brothers Grimm and Tideland. But this quote is what caught my attention:
I think if you read in the press, I mean, when I write stories about my erratic career, you know, in comes 'Munchausen,' you know, a disaster, a failure. They all rate 'Brazil' now, 'Brazil' is okay, but the others, I mean 'Munchausen' keeps getting the shit kicked out of it, I don't understand what's going on here. I think it's a really, really fine film.

Okay, I'm going to spell it out for you clear and simple, people: The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is the most spectacularly visionary film ever made. Deal with it.

Now Playing: The Doors The Best of the Doors

New image

It occurs to me that with all this posting of late regarding passion flowers and personal revelation and contemplation, some folks out there in cyberspace might be getting the wrong impression. That I'm going soft. That I'm turning into a weenie. A wuss. To head off such slanderous misconceptions before they come to a boil, I've decided to change my image to that of a criminal mastermind, capable of going head-to-head with the Dark Knight Detective himself:

All tremble in fear before Ra's al Drool, Head of the Idiot!

Now Playing: Christopher Franke Babylon 5 vol. 2: Messages from Earth

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Royalty statement!

My first royalty statement came in today! Wow, now I have actual black-and-white evidence to tell me how my book is doing in the stores of this fine nation. And the down and dirty is that I am halfway toward earning out. Yay!

The downside is that I have no context with which to frame this information. Is the book living up to the publisher's expectations? Is this the pattern shown by most of their titles, or am I falling short? Ahead of the curve? I'd imagine the bulk of library sales happen in the first few months of release, so I'd expect my sell-through to decline significantly for the second half of 2005. But how much? Is it reasonable to expect it to earn out by this time next year? Or can I kiss the hope of it earning out goodbye since it didn't achieve that milestone within the first six months? I dunno. I hope to find out, however.

Now Playing: Gewndlhaussorchester Leipzig Sensual Classics II

Talking Squids In Outer Space!

Award-winning science fiction author Vonda N. McIntyre has been up to no good. Namely, building a website devoted to all those icky Talking Squids in Outer Space, which we all know is the hallmark of base and crass hack writing. So I'm proud to point out that my short story, "The Dust," is included among those tales featuring aquatic, tentacled aliens. :-)

Now Playing: Jimmy Buffett Boats, Beaches, Bars & Ballads

Monday, August 15, 2005

More passion

I learned several things over the past few days. First is that nurseries in this area have no clue what they're talking about when it comes to passiflora. Schumacher's Hill Country Gardens, which has a sterling reputation for native plants, seemed like a sure bet to get native p. incarnata, otherwise known as maypops. They had some passiflora, all right, but didn't know what species they were, where they'd come from, how they'd been propogated--nothing that would give me a clue as to their suitability for my needs. They only thing they could say was that they were "blue." I don't need any more p. incense, and p. carulea has poor fruit quality. So I took a pass. This experience was repeated at several other nurseries. Quite frustrating.

Despite my desire to support the area nurseries, I ended up buying a p. vitifolia (known as the crimson passionflower) at Home Depot. At least Home Depot identified their plants (although one labled as "Lavender Lady" could either have been p. amethyst, which I'd like, or the actual Lavender Lady, which is sterile, and I don't want. They're often confused, and without the actual species name on the plant...). The vitifolia may or may not survive here. It should overwinter without much problem, but it's originally from higher elevations of Central America, so the summer heat of Texas may prove too much. We shall water liberally and see if it survives.

Passion fruit are apparently out of season. I visited several grocery stores that have carried the fruit in the past, and none of them had any. Plenty of mangos, tho.

I eventually gave in to temptation and got some seeds off of eBay. Passiflora seeds are tempramental to grow if they're not very fresh, but at like $1.78 for two packets, I figure I can afford to take the risk. I've got some p. flavicarpa and p. edulis coming in the mail now. Flavicarpa is grown mostly in Africa, and makes a popular yellow fruit that is rarely seen in the U.S. but is sold commercially elsewhere. Edulis is the common purple passion fruit that is grown extensively in California and elsewhere. Both varieties should be able to handle the Texas climate--they don't like cold winters, so unless global warming suddenly reverses itself, they ought to make it through the brief, mild freezes we get in this area (heck, I've seen a bunch of bananna plants producing fruit these last couple of years). My in-laws (who gave us the p. incense to start with) tell me they've found a native maypop on their property outside of Bastrop, so the next time I'm out there I'm going to try and get a rooted cutting. Maypops will supposedly pollinate every variety I've got thus far, so that one's a good one to have--particularly since it is native and makes pretty good fruit.

Now Playing: Melissa Etheridge Melissa Etheridge

Friday, August 12, 2005


Grandpa Joe was born January 2, 1916 and died August 9, 2005. He was 89 years old. The funeral was at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Yorktown, where I haven't been for 25-30 years. It was your traditional ornate rural Texas Catholic churches, with marble column arcades on either side and a barrel-vaulted ceiling with intricate patterns in the tin ceiling. There were beautiful stained glass windows that were vaguely Byzantine, and the flat wooden crucifix was decorated with distinctly Byzantine iconagraphy. Rather than the life-size crucifix above the altar, this church had an enormous pillared, marble "palace" that made me think of St. Peter's Basilica (even though it didn't actually look all that much like St. Peter's Basilica) that held a small (maybe two feet tall) golden version. Lovely and unusual. Incense filled the air, and I dearly love incense. Very turn-back-the-clock. But on closer inspection, the columns were actually painted to look like marble, rather than the real thing. Candle and incense soot stained the upper reaches of the walls. In various places moulding was cracked and deteriorating. Plaster was cracking and crumbling from the walls and paint was peeling here and there. I noticed later that the windows at the entrance of the church had been broken out at some point and covered with water-stained plywood. It felt old and poor. Yorktown is an agricultural community, and it's grayed noticeably over the years. It's shrunk and withered along with all the other ag-based towns in this part of the state. The land is tired, and that's reflected in the church.

Grandpa Joe's casket was open at the entrance for final viewing before mass. I hadn't seen him in 20 years, but I wasn't prepared for the shock. He didn't look a thing like I'd remembered. Firstly, I can't ever remember seeing him without a cowboy hat on. But here, obviously, he wasn't wearing one, and to see him with his white hair combed back was disconcerting to say the least. And he'd always been fat, the type of stereotypical round Texas cowboy farmer. After he suffered a stroke maybe 8-10 years back, I'd heard that he ballooned up over 300 pounds, so I was expecting the worst. But this man in this casket had to have weighed significantly less than 200. In the last year, I'm told, he lost his taste for food and shed almost 100 pounds. Which would've been a positive development for his health under normal circumstances, but here portended that the end was near.

As the priest led the funeral mass, I was startled to learn that Grandpa played the guitar. I never even knew he owned a guitar. Certainly he never played it while my family was around. As I thought about it, I realized that I never really knew the man--certainly not like I knew Grandpa Fritz, who died of cancer back in '98. Grandpa Joe was always a fixture in his chair in the living room of his home outside of Nordheim. I can't remember him ever saying anything to me, although in my memory he wasn't unfriendly. When he wasn't sitting in his chair, he was going out to feed the cows. He had an old, battered white pickup--a '52 Chevy or like year model, with an odd welded iron frame that boxed in the bed. He'd drive out into the yellow mesquite pasture and us kids would throw flakes of hay out of the back for the cattle, who swarmed after us like locusts. A section of land by the hay barn was more lush, since that's where the windmill and water tanks were, and wild melons grew there. About the size of a cannonball, the dark green melons weren't really edible, but they were good to throw at each other and crack open to scatter the white seeds everywhere. There was slowly rusting farm equipment here and there, and the old, concrete dairy barn that hadn't seen a drop of milk in 50 years. It was filled with all manner of junk, and along the eaves of the back wall, where it backed up against a cedar grove, was a mass concentration of the most mind-bogglingly enormous black widow spiders I'd ever seen.

So my feelings in church were those of nostalgia and sadness, but not necessarily for Grandpa's death. He'd lived a long life, and had more years after his stroke than probably anyone expected. I daresay I won't have room to complain if I'm fortunate enough to reach 89 years. But it's sad that he never met Calista or Keela. That my sister, Candice, was only 2 the last time we visited those grandparents. It's sad that idiotic family feuds devolve into finger-pointing and self-important martyrdom. It was an embarrassment and a shame that my father was the only family member not there, despite some very sincere and heartfelt efforts over the years--and prior to the funeral, in particular--to make amends and rebuild bridges that had been burned years before. I find myself wondering if there is some bizarre genetic compulson towards estrangement in the Blaschke lineage. Our ancestor, Joseph Blaschke, came to America in 1861 via New Orleans, apparently leaving everything behind him in Europe. His three sons went their separate ways, settling different parts of the state and never having contact with each other ever again. Grandpa Joe was one of seven children, and he had a bitter feud with his brother, Weldon, that began well before my birth and ended only a couple of years ago with Weldon's death. And now my father's imperious self-importance not only refuses to allow him to make amends with his parents and siblings, but has alienated and estranged myself, my sister, our mother from him, and is coming periously close to driving a wedge between him and at least one other son. Is there such a thing as hereditary asocial insanity?

I think, perhaps, that the tide may be beginning to turn with regards to the rest of the Blaschke family, however. While I've never been part of any of the feuds, and indeed, have only the vaguest understandings of the conflict's underpinnings (although I've pieced things together and have suspicions) the overwhelming mood at the post-interment reception was one of burying the hatchet and clearing the books of any and all old debts. My brothers and I were greeted warmly with genuine gratitude for coming (although, again, we were never avoiding that part of the family. It's just when your father severs ties with his siblings and parents, the flow of information slows to less than a trickle). There was talk about holding a full-blown family reunion next year, which would be good. In October, after Grandma has a chance to emotionally recover and the weather cools, Lisa and I are going to take the girls to visit the great-grandmother who they've never seen before. I learned that one of my uncles and aunts live on the same street as my birthmother, so the next time we visit Oma we'll drop in to say "Howdy." My cousin, Keith, who I roomed with for a year in college, is expecting his first child in a couple of weeks. His sister, a few years younger than us, has a two-year-old.

We've got 20 years of missed contact and family relationships to catch up on. It's going to take effort on everyone's parts to reconnect. Do I believe the insanity gene has been purged? Not really. Somewhere, some time, a mole hill will grow into a mountain and speaking terms will be torn asunder. It might happen in a year or so, or it might happen a generation from now. But I'm working to prevent that from happening in my immediate family, and everyone else appears to be doing the same. As far as I'm concerned, that's the important thing.

Now Playing: Pink Floyd The Division Bell

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The newest passion

Okay, this may be another example of me putting my ignorance on display for the world's amusement, but I never connected "passion vines" and "passion flowers" with the incredible flavorful passion fruit. So imagine my delight when I learned that the dozens upon dozens of gorgeous passion flowers blooming in the front of our house (see below) will all turn into edible passion fruit if we just add another variety of passiflora to act as a pollinator.

After checking the excellent online resources Garden Web and Passiflora Online, I learned several things. 1) the varietal I have is most likely the hybrid called "Incense," which produces beautiful flowers, is very hearty and fast-growing, but makes only so-so fruit; 2) there are infinitely more passion flower species out there than I had ever suspected; 3) people get very, very into growing passiflora, particularly with developing new hybrids; and 4) there's a huge, thriving market for passiflora on eBay. I'm not sure what I'm going to be getting yet--must do more research--but golly, I can feel a new obsession coming over me.

Now Playing: Pink Floyd Piper at the Gates of Dawn


When I got home from work yesterday, I set to sanding the cabinets and a sheet of paneling I'd stained over the weekend for my office. The cabinets went quickly--producing a glossy, slick finish after just a few light rubs. That's what I love about sanding sealer! But the paneling was a different story. The surface was much rougher, and I had to sand much more vigorously to get a smooth finish. Even then, the result wasn't slick, and what's more, I was going through sandpaper like it was going out of style. After about three quarts of sweat and not quite half way through the job, I had an epiphany: Yours truly hadn't gotten around to coating the wood with sanding sealer. D'oh! I can be sooooo stupid sometime.

I watched Steamboy last night. I've been looking forward to it. Directed by Katsuhiro Ôtomo--the guy who did Akira way back when--this one apparently didn't do the gonzo box office everyone was hoping for. A lot of folks were disappointed with it, from what I understand. And if they went into it wanting Akira II, I can see why they wouldn't like it. Steamboy is just about as far away from Akira as you can get. It's like comparing The Matrix to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. It's like comparing apples to silicon chips.

For the record, I like Steamboy more than I liked Akira (although to be fair, I was first exposed to Akira via the inventive, groundbreaking manga, which left me very let down with the movie's more pedestrian resolutions). Steamboy is, as if you couldn't tell from the title, a steampunk adventure. Lots of steam-powered high technology here, in the setting of Victorian England. Most of the characters are British, and there's a fascination here with turn of the century Europe that is evocative of some of Miyazaki's work. In fact, this film feels very much like Otomo's effort to do a Miyazaki-style film. The anti-war elements are there, the wonderous flying sequences, the clever, self-reliant kid who's fascinated with technolgy, the misguided adults willing to sacrifice too much to achieve personal goals... Heck, it's very much a 19th century remake of Castle in the Sky.

The trouble with Steamboy is that it's too long. Everything unfolds at a languid pace. After a promising opening set in Russia-controlled Alaska (which got me jazzed--I really wanted to see more of this) it downshifts for the next 30 minutes, introducing a bunch of secondary characters that don't have much to do, then lets them wander around before the bad guys show up and the plot picks up steam. But even when things start happening fast and furious, they still take their time about it. Almost every scene goes on a minute or so too long, dialog is drawn out, too many sub-plots are added in but then dropped without any resolution. That said, I still like it. It's probably not for everybody, but I found it fun and inventive and while over-long, not tediously so. Check it out when you get a chance.

Now Playing: Gustav Holst The Planets

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Death in the family

When an early-morning phone call comes informing you that your father has died, do you:

A) Say, "What do you expect me to do about it?"
B) Continue driving to Mexico
C) Hang up

When it's suggested that you could call your bereaved mother to offer condolences, do you:

A) Say, "I don't have her phone number."
B) Continue driving to Mexico
C) Hang up

If you're clever and answered "D - All of the above" then congratulations! You've got a keen insight and understanding on just how much a self-centered, immature little shit my dad can be. Not just when he wants to be, but all the time.

Now Playing: Billy Joel Fantasies & Delusions

Monday, August 08, 2005

The sanding crew

As promised, here are some photos of Calisa and Keela helping me sand down the paneling for my office bookcase project. You can see below that Calista is full of enthusiasm, simply giddy to be able to help Daddy with such delicate and important work. Look, Pa! Two hands!

Before long, her sister joined in, and quicker than you can say "Daaaaad! She's looking at me!" they began to argue over who got to use which sanding block. That was merely the prelude, however, to them starting to grumble, "Hey, why are we doing all the work, while he lounges around taking pictures!?"

Now Playing: Neville Marriner Amadeus

Analog review

I tracked down the new issue of Analog today, and yeppers, there's a good review of Voices of Vision by Tom Easton contained therein:
The latest in the University of Nebraska's Bison Books series is Jayme Lynn Blaschke's Voices of Vision. Over the last few years, Blaschke has interviewed seventeen editors (including our own Stanley Schmidt), novelists (Robin Hobb, Patricia Anthony, Charles de Lint and Elizabeth Moon), comic book creators (including Neil Gaiman), and Old Masters (Samuel R. Delany, Gene Wolfe, Harlan Ellison and Jack Williamson). Those interviews are here assembled for your edification.

As usual in interview books, you get an assortment of views, comments, reflections and so on that can illuminate the persons behind work you enjoy. It helps when the interviewer asks intelligent questions and draws his subjects out, and that is precisely what Blaschke does. It also helps that the interviews are still fairly fresh; there's nothing here from before the late nineties.

Now Playing: Andean Fusion Spirit of the Incas: Andean Symphony II

Bookcase project update

Recently I bought some additional cabinetry for my ongoing office bookcase project. Since Cannon Valley Woodwork is long out of business, I ended up getting a "mostly unfinished" oak corner cabinet and two small upright cabinets to bookend the bookcase. With the earlier unfinished spruce cabinets, I'd used a polyurethane cherry wood stain, and the longer I looked at it, the less I liked it. The effect was more of a opaque redwood look rather than the natural wood aesthetic I was going for. So for the new cabinets, I reverted to a non-polyurethane stain to see if my suspicions were correct. Yep. The new cabinets looked gorgeous, making the older ones look even more like crap warmed over. Too make sure it wasn't just the differences between oak and spruce talking, I proceeded to stain the spruce (or was I birch? I can't remember rightly) plywood that will form the back of the bookcase. Again, beautiful results.

So my task was clear. No escape. I had to sand down all of the cabinets I'd stained earlier with the polyurethane abomination. Then restain them all. And following that, apply a coat of sanding sealer and, well, sand to a smooth, glossy finish. None of this is particularly complicated, meaning that even my feeble carpentry skills weren't challenged much. But geeze, it is time consuming. Particularly during the scorching afternoon heat. Fortunately, Calista and Keela helped me with the staining and application of the sanding sealing (a little bit, at least) then a good deal more with the sanding. I'll post pics later. The horizontal spruce cabinets still don't look as good as the new oak ones, but their color no longer clashes and the compatibility is much improved.

The end result to all of this is that some actual, honest to goodness progress was made. I was able to take, at the end of the day, one on the big 3/4-inch birch plywood panels and put up in my office, partially closing off the open "window" that connects the office to the living room. In the next day or so, I'll cut the remaining panel to fit, and finally close off that big gap (thus banning the housecats from my office once and for all. Hairballs... yuck!).

Now Playing: The Rutles The Rutles

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Hugo awards!

Interesting selection here. I'm shamed to say that I haven't read a single word of the winning fiction. Will have to change that. But I'm pleased with the Incredibles' win.
The winners of the 2005 Hugo Awards were announced tonight at Interaction, the 2005 World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon). Around 2000 people including many of the nominees attended this major event. Full voting figures for both the nominating and final ballots were released simultaneously and are available from Interaction's Web Site.

Best Novel: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Best Novella: "The Concrete Jungle" by Charles Stross

Best Novelette: "The Faery Handbag" by Kelly Link

Best Short Story: "Travels with My Cats" by Mike Resnick

Best Related Book: The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction
Edited by Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: The Incredibles
Written & Directed by Brad Bird

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: "33" - Battlestar Galactica
Written by Ronald D. Moore and Directed by Michael Rymer.

Best Professional Editor: Ellen Datlow

Best Professional Artist: Jim Burns

Best Semiprozine: Ansible
Edited by David Langford

Best Fanzine: Plokta
Edited by Alison Scott, Steve Davies and Mike Scott

Best Fan Writer: David Langford

Best Fan Artist: Sue Mason

Best Web Site: SciFiction (
Edited by Ellen Datlow. Craig Engler, general manager

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (not a Hugo Award): Elizabeth Bear

Special Interaction Committee Award (not a Hugo Award): David Pringle

Now Playing: Wilson Pickett The Best of Wilson Pickett

Friday, August 05, 2005

One step forward, two steps back

I'm both encouraged and discouraged after the announcement of NASA's new manned spaceflight strategy. I'm encouraged, because NASA appears committed to a next-generation version of the Shuttle-C heavy lifter I've discussed previously. It appears the new cargo lifter improves on the old Shuttle-C design by mounting the cargo atop the rocket, rather piggy-back style, thus eliminating many of the hazards that doomed the shuttles Columbia and Challenger. That's good. It also uses existing technology, giving us heavy-lift capabilities sooner rather than later, and keeps shuttle contractors in business, which keeps those congressional representatives and senators happy. Which is pragmatic.

So I'm happy with NASA's plans for the heavy lifter, even if production of the thing comes 20 years later than it should have come. The Crew Exploration Vehicle, on the other hand, inspires considerably less adulation.
The Crew Exploration Vehicle, which NASA hopes to field around 2011, is expected to cost another $5 billion to develop and would be designed both to service the space station and to carry astronauts to lunar orbit. A heavy-lift launcher capable of delivering 125 metric tons of cargo to low Earth orbit would be finished after the smaller crew launch vehicle, according to NASA's plan, and would also cost in the neighborhood of $5 billion to develop.

The Crew Exploration Vehicle, according to NASA's plan, will be a capsule capable of accommodating three people and a limited amount of cargo for space station missions, a crew of four for a lunar mission and up to six people to dock with an awaiting Mars-bound vehicle.

What we have here is an Apollo retread, plain and simple. Granted, the Apollo capsules were robust and focused on one goal--crew transport. This is good. But you'd think that in the 30 years that have passed since the last Apollo flew, we could come up with something a little better than Buzz Aldrin's "Pigeon" concept. Rather than ride the cutting edge of aerospace technology, NASA is instead backpedaling--they're even using the same basic engine, the J-2--that powered the moon missions. The spacecraft are disposable. Essentially, the U.S. has turned its back on everything learned from the admittedly-flawed shuttle program, and instead falling back on what the previous generation of NASA engineers accomplished. It's particularly disappointing in light of the fact that development of the true next generation CEV had already been well under way (and no, I don't mean the VentureStar boondoggle).

The X-38 project was under development by Scaled Composites (remember those guys?) using a lifting-body design for a crew return vehicle to be used with the International Space Station. The design could carry as many as seven astronauts. Not a bad trick.

The lifting body design used the shape of the fuselage itself to create lift (hence the name) and eliminate the need for significant wings. The ship landed on skids, like the X-15, and used a steerable parafoil for controlled landings. All in all, it was and incredibly elegant and simple design, that performed well in flight tests. So successful, in fact, that plans were begun for a scaled-up version capable of carrying a crew into orbit in addition to reentry. At leas, until funding for the entire project was yanked because of space station cost overruns.

But that didn't stop others from noticing the promise of the design. Lockheed Martin entered the CEV sweepstakes with a design that was--at least visually--based wholly on Scaled Composites' X-38. Like the shuttle, the lifting body design is reusable, but unlike the shuttle, this one would be launched via an in-line design, perched atop the booster to avoid the hazards of falling debris. Even Russia got into the act, announcing in February they would begin production of a next-generation spacecraft called "Kliper" to replace the aging Soyuz vehicle. What form would this new ship take? A lifting body design. That Russia probably won't have the funding available to get this ship into production by their announced 2010 launch date is beside the point. Whereas the rest of the world is leaving the '60s behind and embracing spacecraft technology and design innovations that NASA itself pioneered, NASA instead is turning conservative in its old age, shunning innovation in favor of misplaced nostalgia. The irony of this is that back in 1961, Lockheed Martin's predecessor (then known as Martin) scored the highest evaluation for the Apollo command module contract, only to lose the bid to North American Aviation. Now, 44 years later, it loses to Boeing against the same spacecraft that beat it the first time. Man, that's gotta suck.

Is this "Pigeon"-style CEV better than the current shuttle? Yeah. Is it as good as we could've had? Not by a longshot. I suppose we can take solace in the fact that since it took 25 years for the Shuttle-C heavy lifter to move into formal production (albeit in a significantly modified form) we can expect to see an X-38 descendant enter service.

Now Playing: The Rolling Stones Rewind

Thursday, August 04, 2005

SF Crowsnest chimes in

Geoff Willmetts, an institution among British SF book reviewers, chimes in over at SF Crowsnest on Voices of Vision:
There aren't many interview books around these days and also this is a somewhat slim volume compared to some I've picked up in the past but, nonetheless, such books should be encouraged because they give insight into the thinking of a variety of creators, providing the right questions are asked. As we've been on this side of the fence ourselves, we're also aware the art of asking the right questions is in giving the interviewee a chance to express themselves as well. Jayme Lynn Blasche's interviews here have been in print before in various mags like Interzone, Black Gate,,, amongst others. Some of them were also edited for paper publication and for the most part they've been put back to their original length here so even if you have read these in the past 5 years, there's a little more to keep you entertained here.

OK, so whose been interviewed? Editors: Gardener Dozois, Kristine Rusch, Stanley Schmidt, Gordon Van Gelder and Scott Edelman. Considering over half of them are still active editors, insight into their thinking would be essential for any writer submitting to their publication. From fantasy/speculative fiction: Robin Hobb (aka Megan Lindholm), Patricia Anthony, Charles de Lint and Elizabeth Moon. All discussing the fiction they were writing at the time of the interview. From comics: Elliott S! Maggin, Frank Cho and Scott Kurtz, Brad Meltzer and Neil Gaiman. Blaschke shows a little favouritism towards Green Arrow but he can be forgiven for that as the interviews extend beyond the DC archer. From SF: Samuel Delany, Gene Wolfe, Harlen Ellison (even if he doesn't like being categorised) and Jack Williamson. Of interest here is Ellison's own 3 year campaign to have AE Van Vogt recognised for the Grand Master Award. It's rare to see the internal politics (it does go on, folks) of the SF community allowed to rear its head and Ellison is just the chap to hit it on the head.

Although there is nothing fundamentally new here because of them being interviewed in the past 5 years but unless you haven't read it before, there has to be someone or more in the above that has to take your fancy. So, go read, OK.

I'm gratified that I earned another mostly positive review. I'm even more gratified that my book is now penetrating the British review circles, particularly with Interaction taking place in Glasgow this weekend. I'm just kicking myself for not sending any flyers along with several folks I know who are going (too late now--they've already departed).

Of Geoff's criticisms, well, I make no apologies for my obsession with Green Arrow--the Meltzer and Maggin interviews were conducted for the Fansite after all (now reverted to the Shrine). The slimness of the volume has been a concern for me, however. I'd actually misjudged the length of the manuscript, and left probably too much space for a promised introduction that never came. If I had to do it again, I'd add at least three more interviews to make it an even 20. But hey, that just means the follow-up volume will boast 25 conversations, if and when it gets published.

Now Playing: The Cars Greatest Hits

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Yeah. Sure. Whatever.

Why is it that nothing this presidential dipshit does anymore surprises me?
President Bush invigorated proponents of teaching alternatives to evolution in public schools with remarks saying that schoolchildren should be taught about "intelligent design," a view of creation that challenges established scientific thinking and promotes the idea that an unseen force is behind the development of humanity.

Cue my moral/intellectual outrage, ire and cynical/scating response yadda yadda yadda.

Now Playing: Rush Chronicles

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Dust, dust, dust

Who needs a safari when you've got Africa right outside your window? That huge dust cloud that blew westward out of the Sahara Desert last week has reached Texas. Actually, it reached Texas incrementally over the past couple of days, but today the effect was unmistakable. A thick haze hung over everything, obscuring visibility on the ground, in the sky, everywhere. Distant objects--be they buildings, cars or clouds--took on an indistinct, grayish-brown hue. The effect wasn't as thick or ominous as the thick smoke clouds that obscure our skies in those odd years where wildfires rage out of control in Mexico. Mexican smoke tends to form a thick blanket overhead that is reminiscent of overcast skies, although there's no moisture there and negligible cooling effect. This dust from Africa is spreading itself evenly from the ground to the sky, a uniform, nearly intangible haze that brings to mind Martian dust storms more than anything else. It's an interesting phenomenon, but I hope it clears out sooner rather than later.

Now Playing: Bonnie Raitt Luck of the Draw

Monday, August 01, 2005

Leonardo's Hands

Call the neighbors and wake the kids! "Leonardo's Hands" by Steven Gould and Rory Harper is live at RevolutionSF!

Steve's latest novel Reflex, comes out in mass market paperback tomorrow. It's an excellent book by the way. My review of it is up at

Unlike Reflex, "Leonardo's Hands" is a creepy horror piece, so those looking for a Jumper-style romp will probably not find it all that satisfying. But still, it's a groovy story. I hope you're as jazzed as I am by Steve and Rory's first new piece of short fiction in close to a decade! Discuss it here, or over at the RevSF forums. Spread the word! :-)

Now Playing: R.E.M. Green

Interzone review

Yay! A review of Voices of Vision has turned up in Interzone no. 199, which is a Good Thing, as Interzone is where many of these interviews originally appeared:
Over a five year period, Jayme Lynn Blaschke conducted interviews with numerous authors and editors. Published in a variety of locations on the web and in print magazines (including Interzone), seventeen of these interviews have been collected into the book Voices of Vision, which provides a snapshot of the state of science fiction and comic books at the turn of the millennium.

Beginning with the editors of Analog, Asimov's, Fantasy & Science Fiction and Science Fiction Age, Blaschke demonstrates that he is an insightful interviewer who is interesting in asking more than just basic, run of the mill questions. The results, in the editorial interviews as well as the auctorial interviews, means he is able to shed light on what science fiction is and can be.

Not only does he include interviews with some of the grandmasters of the field, Blaschke also interviewed a variety of up and coming authors, thereby providing a wide range of point of view as authors reflect on their careers and the fields from different perspectives. Of necessity, authors who are just starting out, like Patricia Anthony, will view the field very differently than longtime authors like Jack Williamson. Similarly, a comic book author and a science fiction author, while sharing some of the same concerns, will diverge in other areas.

The only real quibble with Voices of Vision is that Blaschke was unable to either conduct follow-up interviews closer to the time of the book's publication or provide information about how the authors' and editors' careers have changed in the years since he spoke with them.

Blaschke's interviews and their subjects are interesting and, while relatively brief in length, cover a tremendous amount of ground. Voices of Vision is essential for understanding the current state of science fiction from the point of view of those who write it and publish it.

I also hear tell that there's a positive review in the new Analog. I haven't seen it yet, but will certainly crow it from the rooftops as soon as I do!

Now Playing: R.E.M. Document