Monday, December 22, 2014

What's inspiring me right now

So I kind of already had space scifi in mind for a future/next project.

Then I saw this .gif somewhere (I've sourced it from Daily Mail in this linkage). It's what astronauts see out the window on reentry.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Is that a comet I hear?

This is what Comet 67P/Churyumov/Gerasmenko sounds like, if it's tinkered with a bit so the sound is in a range humans can hear:

Pretty cool, I thought. It's easy, on the Internet, to click through things super fast without taking a moment to consider what you're doing. I mean, stop and listen to that. Listen to the whole thing.

This is a rock flying through space, which no human has set foot on. Remotely, we've put a spacecraft near it, and from that spacecraft landed another craft on it to study it. The guy at The Oatmeal illustrated an amusing comparison in some peoples' abilities with regards to this.

But wait, there's more. Some of these were recorded by a space probe in 2001. Again, the pulses or whatever are not in an audible range for the human ear, and so they had to be tinkered with.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Just some Exorcism information

Evidently, in 1999, the Vatican revised both the rules of and the Rite of Exorcism. The original rite, "The Roman Ritual" (or the foundation thereof) was written in 1614. The Pope frequently talks about the Devil as a real entity on Earth to test people and their faith. There are priests trained and appointed to perform exorcisms (it's not as easy as the movies make it look, of course, both to get an exorcism and to actually cast out whatever the force is). do we reconcile information like this in contrast with what I recounted about the Pope recently, and with Vatican II rulings and the Pope's recent assertation that "God is not a magician", and Science and Religion are not mutually exclusive.

I...dunno. I guess I feel like there's room in the world for both the scientific and the fantastic. I can tell you the next course on Exorcism and Prayer of Liberation is being held in Rome in April of 2015 at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum and is, by accounts I find, open to those who can attend. I can only assume it's in Italian, the (as yet undetermined) price of admission does not include lodgings, and you need to get yourself to Rome. It seems like it would be fascinating to attend; five days to cram your brain with these topics, in a sanctioned manner? Yes please.

It's hard to reconcile demonic possession with mental illness as well. There are very sad and angering stories of people with schizophrenia, or developmental disabilities, being injured and even dying during an exorcism, which is perhaps one reason it's so hard to get the Catholic Church to do one; they want to be certain without a doubt something like demonic possession is the case, and not brain chemistry. It's a terrible mistake to make, and causing more pain and suffering is never the intent (should never be the intent). I'm not sure how one ever reaches that certainty but, God willing, it will never be my job. I just like to read about it and, sometimes, write about it.

(why yes, my current novel in progress opens with an exorcism; how could you tell?)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Digital Vatican

You may or may not be aware, the Vatican is digitizing its collections.

Think about this a moment.

There are things in the Vatican collections which are entirely unique. Hundreds of years old. Fascinating and beautiful and even, dare I say, education and/or informational. And they're digitizing it. I cannot begin to describe my joy. 4000 manuscripts. It's too much to ever get to, I'm sure, but it's there and I'm happy. It's one of those things I think about sometimes; the Vatican contains so much history, which hardly anybody is able to scratch the surface of. Access is limited (though I confess I don't know the full details of this. I'm sure scholars are permitted to do research there. I'm sure showing up at the Vatican and saying "let me in, I'm Catholic!" though true, would not just let me in.)

The Oxford library (the Bodlein Library specifically) has also made some of its super old manuscripts available online, for free.

Another fantastically amazing religious book which is available to view online now is the Gigas Codex, which translates to "Giant Book", but is also referred to colloquially as the Devil's Bible. It's the "real" Bible, as it were, in Latin [of varying dialects], but also contains a big huge picture of the devil, and then other non-Christian-Bible style documents. Oh yeah, and legend has it that it was written by a monk who traded his soul to the Devil so the book would be finished in one night, like some kind of fucked up Christmas Carol. National Geographic did a neat documentary on it, and it really is a huge book. Like, coffee table sized.

Pope Francis actually puts quite a lot of emphasis on the Devil, mentioning him in speeches fairly frequently. I confess I haven't really paid attention to prior popes' speeches, so I'm not familiar with all of the content. It could be that secular media are just blown away that we Catholics still believe in such things, I don't know. This year in May was the 9th annual Exorcism and Prayer for Liberation conference in Rome, and Pope Francis has only been pope since 2013, so clearly the Devil has still been in mind.

Though I don't think you need me to tell you I think Pope Francis is a rock star. Calling out a Bishop for spending millions on his official residence? Not picking up the red leather shoes the former Pope Benedict had made for him? Auctioning his own Harley (and leather jacket) for charity?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Lazy Link Roundup™ October 20 2014

So I haven't had any rejections in a few days. It's kind of weird. I've submitted to Spacesuits and Sixguns, Betwix, Tin House, and Asimov's Science Fiction since last I reported. A couple of days I've subbed two in one day, but overall I have 26 submissions planned just now, even if they don't match properly to the days. This week's Chuck Wending flash prompt is only 500 words instead of 1000, so I may dash that out to bring the current total to 27. Another couple stories are almost done, but I know better than to try too hard with shorts.

In novel prep news, a couple of links I've perused lately. Not all of these are novel prep, but some are. It's almost always justifiable.

Friday, October 10, 2014

October Madness update, 10/10

Well, I'm slowly starting to run out of stories. I think I only have 6 left which are "done" and/or "ready". Have to spit-shine the others, which at one time I thought were ready. Funny how opinions change.

Let's see, on October 8, I sent a story to Apex. October 8 is also the day I received my first rejection of the month, from Fantastic Stories of the Imagination. That story will go out again before the end of the month.

On October 9, I sent a story to Urban Fantasy Magazine, and then jumped the gun (went to bed before midnight) to send a story to Buzzy Mag.

We've got people visiting this weekend, so I've already sent Saturday's sub to Shock Totem.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Honorable Mention

Almost every time Janet Reid has a 100 word flash contest on her blog, I enter. Most of the time I get nary a mention, which is fine. There's tough competition over there, and a lot of talented, thoughtful writers. But twice (!) now, I've gotten into "special recognition" categories. The first time was for "not quite a story but man oh man", and now in this most recent nod, the category was "Special recognition for entries that weren't quite stories, but if they were the start of novels, I'd want to read on". It's hard to write a beginning-middle-end in 100 words.

But, for your perusal, here is my entry in the "We Are Not Good People" giveaway flash contest (it's by Jeff Somers, and is the sequel to Trickster. I haven't read it yet, but I loved Trickster. So you should check 'em out.) The words to include were "cat, blood, spirits, magic, pants"

I was careful to set things up just so: salt circle, folded-pants with their customary dusting of cat hair, with an old fashioned dial phone resting on top. Music was always optional; the spirits didn't guide me one way or another, so I slipped a record on the turntable.

The witching hour. I pricked my finger and flicked my blood into the flame of a balsam candle. The record cut out and I waited in the silence. The magic's tidal pull rolled around me, and finally, the phone rang. I reached across the circle to pick it up.

"Hi Dad."  

Who knows, maybe there's a novel in that and maybe I'll send it to Janet Reid when it's finished. That's personalizing a query for ya! 

(for October Madness, I send a story to Shimmer yesterday, and to Apex regular submissions today.)

Friday, October 3, 2014

My October Subs so far

So far so good for the October Submission Game (title pending)!

On October 1 I submitted a story to Strange Horizons. They're following me on Twitter now, and I can only assume it's because I have, in my Twitter history, shared stories from their site, retweeted some things, and mentioned how I always love their stories which is why I sub to them. But it's hard not to read into, y'know? I tried to tell myself I wasn't that kind of writer. But we all are, if even a little. Ugh.

On October 2 I submitted a story to the Apex magazine Stealing the Spotlight microfiction contest (you have 'til the 15 to submit, in fact). 250 words or less, on five beasties they don't feel get enough spotlight. Super cool! I wrote a hellhound story. I feel like they fit into my Urban Fantasy "mythos" pretty well, and I can revisit the notions.

On October 3 (today!) I submitted a story to One Story magazine. I've gotten personalized rejections from them in the past, so maybe this one's the one! (heh, get it? The one? One story? I'll just let myself out....)

I also still have two pending submissions from prior to the game's start. I daresay if I get an acceptance (!) on one of them, I'll give myself a day of grace. Time to get some more pieces ready to submit, as right now it looks like I've got thirteen or fourteen or fifteen I'm "sure" of (sure is an iffy state of mind), and obviously that's just about half. I could write four more stories for the Apex thing (you can enter up to five, one for each beastie) and that could be fun.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October Submission Challenge (I'm not sure what else to call it)

Well, I sent in my first story submission for the October Submission Challenge. The story is one of my newer shorts, and I sent it to Strange Horizons.

Taking part in this....challenge? Game? Madness? has a couple of purposes for me. One, I'll put endings on some stories I've beein githering about for YEARS. Will they be the right endings? I guess I'll find out. But all these half finished stories laying about are kind of like having half finished coffee cups laying about. Nobody will consume them in their current state.

(ew. that was a terrible metaphor. Ah well.)

Anyway. It'll also keep my mind off the approach of NaNoWriMo. Or keep my mind in just the right stage to approach NaNoWriMo, which is to say I'll be thinking about my novel, but not obsessing it into the ground so I can't actually write it in November. I'm pretty sure I have my idea. One of the shorts I'm finishing has to do with it in a satellite fashion, which is interesting.

And, thirdly, if I submit prolifically, it will increase my chances of publication. Casting a wide net is much better than just dangling a couple of hooks, and I haven't lowered my submission standard. I will send only to magazines whose work I've enjoyed, who will pay me (the Submission Grinder helps immeasurably with this).

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Lazy Linking™ September 23 2014 (space news)

I stayed up super late on Saturday night to watch the SpaceX resupply launch to the ISS. Cargo includes mice (apparently), a 3D printer (!) and a bunch of experiment equipment. Dragon (the SpaceX ship) will return to Earth with frozen lettuce samples which were grown in space. Space lettuce! They want to know if it's safe to eat, natch, and if it's a viable thing to think about doing, say, on the Moon or Mars. Dragon also has solar wings, which were spread in the third phase of the launch, after the Falcon rocket and its Merlin vacuum engine (I'm not making this up) deployed or fell off or whatever they're said to do.

there's actual accepted naming conventions for Space Things, as set forth by the International Astronomical Union. So sure, you can spend that fifty bucks or whatever to "name a star", but its real name is going to be numbers and letters, or Canis Major, or whatever.

And in Mars news, the MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) craft inserted in Mars orbit on Sunday night.

Scientists have made diamonds into nanothreads, which seems as though it might work as well as (or better?) than carbon nanofiber in order to make a space elevator.

Monday, August 25, 2014

I kind of think I probably don't need that....

Two years ago (!) I posed about the word "that"; how most sentences retain their meaning without it, how it's overused in writing (I definitely overuse it in my first drafts!), that kind of thing.

In editing The Last Song, I've noticed a couple of other words or phrases I've overused, the removal of which seem to strengthen the sentences, and the writing overall. "Probably" is one; it's one thing to use probably in conversation. It happens. It's cool. But in descriptions? It can be very frustrating to read "probably" over and over. You just want to know, "well is it or isn't it? Why won't you tell me?"

The same with "kind of", which has two meanings. There's "What kind of dog is that?" which okay, fine. You can say "type of" or "What breed" or whatever instead, but not too terrible. Then there's "It was kind of a pain". Is it or isn't it? "It was a pain." Say that instead (and there's that word again).

It's occurred to me to wonder if, organically, I've begun the attempt at removing most/all "weasel words" from my novel but no, apparently weasel words are something else and not like this:

But whatever words one might want to get rid of, suffice to say the "find" function you can do in a document is a Godsend.  Called somebody by two different names? Find and replace. Can't remember what kind of guitar it was? Find guitar. Did the thing with cats happen before or after this conversation? Find cats.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Recent Flash fiction Entries (no winners yet!)

I know I talk about Janet Reid a lot, but what can I say? She's professional and informative, both of which are invaluable in pretty much any industry.

Well, every once in awhile, she'll do pretty regular flash fiction contests on her blog. She gives us 5 or whatever words to use, and a 100 word limit. I posted once before about getting a favorable comment from her on my entry.

I haven't gotten any more honorable mentions just lately, but I figured I might as well share what I'd come up with.

Most recently was the Get Well Soon Writing Contest, with key words "Evil, mono, virus, piper, blush." Here's my entry:

Black hat means never having to say you're sorry. Not that I'm evil. The shrink said I had certain sociopathic tendencies. I told him it wasn't a real diagnosis, and besides, he just wanted to sleep with me. Very Freudian.

But that kind of binary morality doesn't last past the first blush. Maybe I am a socipath, but it doesn't mean I don't want to hold hands in this monochromatic monotone drone of a Gibsonite future. None of my viruses were damaging, per se. After all, who doesn't like bagpipes? I thought police did especially, until the handcuffs snapped shut.

Winners found here, and congrats to Donna Everheart, because hers was great, and followed my thoughts for the rest of the day after I read it!

Prior to that was the Face Off Writing Contest, with key words "rose, berry, child, parker, finder". My entry:

Mrs. Parker had cuts on her hands; he noticed when they lit their cigarettes. "I never wanted children," she said.

"Haven't found the right woman." Too involved in his work, they always said.

"Is that how you became a people finder?" Missing toddler, dropping temperature. The golden flag of Drift's alert. The berry bramble tore up his arms when he lifted the little girl out, cheeks rose red.

"I guess."

"Will she be okay?"

Not with you, he thought, finishing his cigarette, stubbing it out. "You'll have to ask them."

When he left, she was still out there, smoking.
 Winners found here.

I have a lot of fun writing these. I also have a difficulty writing a complete story, beginning middle end. I seem to end up with oblique referential pieces, or things which seem to be pretentious gestures at O. Henry. Practice makes perfect, that's for sure, and I'm going to keep doing it. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Lazy Link Roundup June 18

Hello and welcome back to the Officially Named (yeah, whatever) Lazy Link Roundup™!

First off I'm going to give you 21 Secrets for Shopping at Sephora. Not because I've ever set foot in a Sephora, or because Sephora or Buzzfeed is offering me money (hint: they're really not. I wish they were), but because some of the things on the list are fabulous novel fodder. I feel. Have to remember to use my "I statements".

Next, here's a link to get a free PetMassage CD. I haven't gotten one myself, so I cannot vouch for the efficacy of the product. But it dovetails nicely with this magnificent Youtube video on Proper Opossum Massage. I cannot vouch for the seriousness of your reaction. I know I watched some other videos and then laughed until I wept and my fiancé strongly encouraged I put the laptop down.


In other news, if you haven't watched True Detective yet, you should. NO SPOILERS. I'm not done yet. But go do it. DO EET. It is everything I want from a television show. I also quite enjoyed the first season of Bates Motel (the second season isn't on Netflix yet). And Game of Thrones, but I read the books (mostly) first thankyouverymuch (I only just recently read the most recent book).

Monday, May 12, 2014

Eye in the Sky

So I said to my coworker: "Hey, the ISS put cameras on the outside of it, so you can watch it live stream Earth."

"Is it boring?" she asked.

I thought about it. "On one hand, yes. On the other hand, you're watching EARTH from SPACE in real time. It's simultaneously amazing and boring, and that such a thing can be both at once is absolutely mind blowing." She thought about it as well, and concurred.

The link I provided is on the Johnson Space Center portion of the NASA web site. It's neat because it shows you what the International Space Station is streaming in one window, and then shows you where above Earth the ISS is as well; it shows you where on Earth is nighttime, what time it is, etc. There are four cameras it can swap between. The Johnson Space Center is in Houston, Texas, which is also (I believe) where Mission Control, Houston is. So "Houston, we've had a problem here" during the Apollo 13 mission? That's who those guys were talking to.

But call up the livestream, and look at it for a little while. Put your boredom away and let the wonderment creep in. You're not going to see baby animals, you (hopefully) won't see much happen at all. But at the same time? You are watching what is almost literally everything. You can see the real horizon, the glowing curve of the planet we all live on and have to come from. You can see the solar arrays of the ISS. And sometimes? You can see some lights down here, when it all grows dark.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Places I've been "published"

Well, okay, not really published. But put up publicly where total strangers can take in my work.

I already told you about Housekeeping, my science fiction short story that my good buddy Jacob narrated and put up on Soundcloud. If you like what you hear, you should follow him on Facebook. He'd probably like that.

Now I've got another "credit", wherein my buddy Dave, who we game with weekly if not more frequently, has shared my piece on his blog. He's been doing a character journal of our Dungeons and Dragons game, which is the adventure path titled "Age of Worms", published in Dungeon magazine from 2005-2006, and he's graciously opened his blog space up for other players to contribute. My character, Larkin, is the party's fighter.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Remake or mistake?

I like Shakespeare. I took a Shakespeare year in high school, essentially. Two electives, one for the fall, one for the spring. We watched the movies rather than read the plays, and while we did have tests, they were easy if you'd been paying attention. My high school English teacher had concentrated on Shakespeare in college, and his love of the work combined with his command of the material made for an amazing experience which has stuck with me.

From Wikimedia Commons

Monday, April 14, 2014

How Many Novels Have YOU Written?

Just something I have to get off my chest.

It really bugs me when I see and hear comments like "It takes her ten years to write a book!" (Donna Tartt) and "It took him six years to write the last one....too long!" (George R. R. Martin).

Most of the people making these comments are not, I think, writers. I don't like to make assumptions, but they are, so why not?

Found on Tumblr

Friday, April 11, 2014

I really need a snappy title for my link posts

All right, another lazy link roundup (ooh, should I call it that? Lazy Link Roundup™? Has somebody already thought of that?)

I'm about 4k words behind on my CampNaNoWriMo project. Still doable, certainly. I haven't lowered my word count goal yet.

Found on Imgur, but also on this Buzzfeed post

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Ethics of Space Travel

You'd think somebody with as much nuclear paranoia as mine would have considered the amount of radiation a person would be exposed to on a trip to Mars. But I didn't. I think to some degree, I assumed ships were shielded and left it at that. It's how it works in the movies, right?
Picture of Space Shuttle Atlantis, from NASA web site

Monday, April 7, 2014

Book Brownies (the fae kind, not chocolates)

A couple of times in the past year, I've had a strange sort of book luck.

See, we have a book sale at the library, both for items the library itself has withdrawn and also for donated items. Books are a dollar, fifty cents if they're trade paperbacks. You might imagine I come home with more book sale books than I ought, though I do try to exercise a measure of control.

Two times in the past year, I've walked past the book sale and found the exact book I was looking for, for the low low bargain price of one George Washington.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Selections from my bookmarks

I've been bookmarking links for years. You know how it goes; you see something you want to read, but maybe you're not in the mood for it right that second. Or maybe you don't have time. So it goes.

My bookmarks are"organized". I have many folders, have had good intentions for all of the headings. Some of them pertain directly to particular writing projects (so I've got ones called "Rebel yell" and "Detroit"), at least three are for recipes I've almost certainly never cooked, and many are just things I thought might be interesting. One folder is called "inspiration", because of the piles of information in it, there's sure to be story fodder.

So, while looking at those bookmarks instead of editing The Last Song, I found a few I figured I'd share. In a way, they're loosely connected in my mind.

I thought these pictures were eye-catching, and would eventually lead me to some story or another. They're all from the 40's, if memory serves, though they're in color (!).

This one is from XKCD, and is a Radiation Dose Chart, using Sieverts, which is the unit for an absorbed dose, named after Rolf Maximilian Sievert, who studied the biological effects of radiation.

Here's A-E on The Observatory ~ The Tough Guide to the Known Galaxy. Links on the bottom take you to the rest of the definitions on the site. I'm glad I re-found this one, as I've been trying to build the vernacular for my science fiction space culture. The writer also has the blog Rocketpunk Manifesto, which looks to have even more great information on it.

And I forgot about this charming Forbes article, Why I Named my Dog After Neil Armstrong, published in 2012 not long after Neil Armstrong himself passed away.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Wheels in the sky

Did you know that you can see all kinds of recent pictures of the moon, courtesy of the Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter?  They in fact released a mosaic image of the north pole of the moon, something that blows my mind.

(artist rendering of LRO, from NASA page)

It got me thinking about other orbiters we have. Because we do have other orbiters.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Nukes and Space, Space and Nukes

So had an interesting article on research being done towards meteor detection systems, and how to mitigate that threat for Earth. As one can expect, nuclear bombs are a proposed (and perhaps plausible) solution. The notion is that, depending on the size of the asteroid, a nuclear explosion could either fragment the asteroid into harmless (or far less harmful) bits, or it could knock it off course. It would be delivered via a Hypervelocity Asteroid Intercept Vehicle (HAIV), which could theoretically punch a hold in the asteroid, then deliver the nuke, which could have greater destructive force due to the insertion (I guess Operation Plowshare was good for something, right?)

Plowshare Sedan Crater, via Wikipedia
 Asteroid detection is another concern, however, especially in the light of last year's meteoric explosion over Chelyabinsk, Russia, which nobody saw coming. Similarly, the Tunguska Event in 1908 (also in Russia) is also (I think) thought to have been a meteorite.

in 2015, the ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System) is expected to be online, with warnings ranging from a day to three weeks. In a strange mirror, the sizes of asteroid impacts, like nuclear ones, are also measured in megatons (the above linked site calls a "city killer" 5 megatons, and a "county killer" 100 megatons (like the Tsar Bomba).

Friday, February 21, 2014

Takes a licking...

I occasionally read opinions like this one, which feel we no longer "need" a Doomsday Clock.

And then I read articles like this one, about Soviet-era nuclear waste (including subs!) that will potentially be released into new sea currents due to climate change (I blogged briefly about that here).

And then I read about how trucks of waste are, apparently, regularly stolen in Mexico. This is medical waste, so Cobalt 60. If you open the containment box, the resulting dose would kill you in 3 days, according to many of the interviews I read. When they found the most recent one (that I knew of), the box was open.

Or how the Carlsbad, New Mexico Energy Waste Isolation Plant has all kinds of false positives on their radiation alarms, and may have a real one this time. 

Or in Fukushima, where they've just had the worst spill in 6 months, wherein 100 tons of irradiated water has leaked from containment. That's right; in addition to the original nuclear accident, rated at a 7 (the same as Chernobyl, for those following at home) , they also had a spill in August which received its own separate rating of a 3. I really wish people would stop believing Tepco when they say they'll handle it and step in with some actual effective oversight. Because California isn't going to fall off; it's going to glow. That and the rest of the Pacific.

Or Iran, who thank God just agreed to terms for their nuclear talks. Terms to talk about, that is. The nuclear talks themselves have not yet happened.

Or North Korea, who's been excavating at their underground test site. And who does whatever the fuck they want, apparently. But we're talking about Doomsday Clock potential here, not basic human rights.

I'm fairly certain people don't think much about nuclear accidents; I tend to be the only one I know who's alarmed. I think, despite knowledge of nukes as a Thing That Exist, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki that exist as a Thing That Happened, people don't much think about the implications of nuclear war. Theoretically, the US and Russia are not going to fire at each other any time soon. But can other, newer nuclear powers can be relied upon? Depending on who's got their finger on the button, the whole world is in deep shit, and has been all along, ever since Trinity.  Ever since Russia's Tsar Bomba.

The world itself needs a conscience, in addition to individual countries. If the Doomsday Clock can accomplish that, then it needs to. And we need it.

Oh, and a late addition: Whistle-blower fired from Hanford Nuclear Site. Hanford is where some of the Plutonium for Fat Man was produced, if I remember aright. And Hanford continues to have problems with its safety, apparently. Because you don't have whistleblowers if somebody wasn't doing something wrong, typically. Hanford's waste is threatening to leak into the Columbia River, which I don't think I have to tell you is a big goddamn problem. This whistle blower? She's the second one to be fired in the last six months. Over safety concerns. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Accuracy and Science in Space Sci Fi

So there's this Tumblr, Things that Cost More Than Space Exploration written (curated?) by somebody who takes Tumblr as a medium seriously, which is pretty cool in and of itself. The examples given are also pretty cool.

I found the Tumblr at the same time I located and perused this non fiction book, Scientific American: Inventions from Outer Space: Everyday Uses for NASA Technology, by David Aaron Baker. It includes things like actual UV protection glasses lenses (I guess there's a gel layer or something? I've only skimmed it so far) and water purifiers (both particularly useful things in space, one would assume).

Coronal Loops in the active region of the sun, from NASA website

And speaking of NASA, I watched the movie Europa Report the other day. Apparently NASA (or maybe just one NASA scientist? I'm a little unclear) had input in the movie's development, trying to make the space travel as realistic as possible. I dug it, for the most part, with only a few nitpicky problems (WHY WOULD YOU TRIM SOMEBODY'S HAIR ON A SPACE SHIP?!). My demand for accuracy notwithstanding, I'm able to suspend my disbelief fairly well in the watching of movies, only revisiting them later and realizing my dissatisfaction with certain points. I'd seems I'd heard NASA has an interest in being involved with peoples' scifi, to help with accuracy and such (And perhaps get more attention in the public eye, so maybe they can get some more funding again....), and there is a crapload of information on the NASA website, from fact sheets on research centers to pictures taken by our various picture taking devices (Hubble, etc.) There's even a NASA Kids Club!

 I happened upon Europa Report as a "You might like this if you watched Event Horizon", and so of course, I've fond subsequent titles for if I liked Europa Report (Apollo 18, Moon).  But anyway, flaws aside, Europa Report does use some real science, and I felt it was well acted (though they did this thing where two of the male main characters were of a certain build and coloring, so I was constantly going "Wait, is it a crew of six? Is it five? Is the thriller part of this movie that there's a GHOST CREW MEMBER? Oh no, there's the sixth guy. Okay."

So now I kind of want a movie or book with a ghost crew member. Which might also have to do with having watched the anime Another, in which a specific third-year high school class would frequently develop a ghost classmate.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Mining on the Moon

I thought this was a great article, and Very Pertinent to the Moon/Space fiction that I'm in the early planning stages of writing (hear that? I'm planning!) Mining the Moon: Plans Taking Off but Rules Lacking. The pertinent rule or "rules" here is from the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, wherein the signers agreed that the moon belonged to no nation (I'm sure this is a drastic oversimplification, but there you go). This is also the treaty that bars nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction from orbit, or installation on bodies such as the moon or a space station.

Picture of the moon from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory web site

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Spacing Out

I discussed my latest science fiction inspiration last week. Untitled as yet, though I do have a main character in mind. I haven't started writing yet, not really. I've got a file of collected sentence fragments; world building, I suppose. Of course, this is research for two space/scifi/moon novels at once. There's a lot of moons, did you know that? Ours, obviously. But

Much like how I intend all of my urban fantasy books to take place "in the same world", whether they're cognizant of if or not, I also intend for my space scifi to take place in its own world. I'm not entirely sure I want these two worlds to be the same. Werewolves in space may not be my thing, savvy? Or, it might be just what we need. Hrm. But I digress. I have to build the culture, and the history, of how my humanity has become spacefaring. I need to decide what's run of the mill for them, and what's out of the ordinary. So I need to build a timeline, and to build a timeline, I need to know what the "real" one is, from V2 rockets on up.

(the Apollo 17 Lunar Roving Vehicle)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Michael Flatley's Rhino Horn Stolen

This sounds like a joke. It is not. Apparently Michael Flatly (yup, Lord of the Dance himself) had a trophy rhino head in his house (in County Cork), and thieves broke in and sawed the horn off. It was on the wall in his "safari room", which makes me wonder what other trophies adorn the space. But apparently the horn was valued at $400,000 (which is more than a rhino's life, depending on the rhino)..

Friday, January 31, 2014

What I'm talking about when I talk about Science Fiction

Science Fiction is a continually compelling genre. For me, anyway. Judging from the number of space and clone and and and things coming out, it is for a lot of people.

So, what's my first mental impression when I think "Oh, SciFi"?

Space. Really and primarily, space. Space travel, space ships, worlds that are not Earth. Worlds that may once have been Earth. I sometimes think about things like my brain in a robot body (or a cloned body! Thanks Richard K. Morgan, for Altered Carbon and the subsequent two books. I'd love for there to be more).

If there's a science for it, there's a fiction for it, so Science Fiction possibilities, in my mind, are fairly infinite. But when it comes down to it, when I write (or make gestures at writing) what I think of as "Science Fiction", I'm reaching back to that Golden Age of Space Travel and Possibilities, where Man willingly travels at the behest of his (or her; I'm using "Man" as the gender neutral noun here) government to Explore and Discover and what have you. I want that mood of the indomitable spirit, the inquisitive attitude, the endless question of "What will we find and how will we survive it?"

I've already got an idea somewhat laid out for a near-future Moon novel. I now, I think, have the most nascent dream of a novel somewhere along that timeline, after the events of Untitled Moon Novel are said and done, and we (meaning Earth People) have moved even further.

What do you think of when you think of SciFi, be it books or movies? 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

A thing I run into quite frequently (read: daily) at the library is a fear of genre. It's okay to have your reading preferences; I certainly do. Myself, I don't read a whole lot of mysteries. It doesn't mean I won't, but rather they aren't the books getting my attention. We all are more than allowed to make those choices. But what really gets me is people making those decisions without having ever even put a toe outside their comfort zone, or people making those decisions even when it's an author they're familiar with.

For example, Dean Koontz has his Odd Thomas books, right? One of them came out at a graphic novel and only as a graphic novel. Patrons who reserved it by merit of it being Dean Koontz and Odd Thomas, like you do. An unmeasured percentage of them, once they saw it was a "comic book", said "Oh, I don't want that" with a particular wrinkling of the nose and returned it unopened. Didn't even leave the building with it.

John Grisham has a series based around Theodore Boone, a 13 year old lawyer. Across the libraries in my system, that might be shelved in Young Adult or might be shelved in Juvenile (what we call MG). People come in asking for the new Grisham, or for that Grisham in particular, and when they find out it's "for kids", there's that nose wrinkle again. By the way, J is where we shelve our Harry Potter and Y is where our Hunger Games are, and people will check those out, typically after they've seen the movie. Seeing that currently with the Veronica Roth Divergent books.

We actually have a display right now, of subgenres, inspired by a conversation I had with a patron who was taking out Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest, and had never heard of Steampunk. She didn't end up liking it, but I thought it was cool she was interested and willing to give it a try. There are people who come in looking for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and when they discover it's a mystery, some don't take it. There are people who come in looking for Ray Bradbury, or Ursula LeGuin, and are put off when those are in the Fantasy and Science Fiction section.

There are the people who think Fantasy and Science Fiction should be shelved separately, because they aren't the same thing. There are people who are confused (I'm in this camp) by the fact that we shelve vampires, zombies, and Neil Gaiman in the regular fiction.

We have limited space at my library, and the catalogers aren't all familiar with genre. But it genre an all or nothing prospect? I don't think so. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, say, doesn't necessarily belong in the Fantasy/SciFi section, but he could fit there. Ray Bradbury could be comfortably shelved with the "regular" (literary and commercial) fiction. The time travel romances (with or without highlanders, but really, why are there so many Scottish Highland time travel romances? When did that become a Thing?) aren't in the SciFi, nor is H.G. Wells, but we have one Lovecraft there and the other in regular fiction.

I kind of wish my library would actually just Dewey Decimilize the whole damn thing. Just assign each book its number and let people look for it by merit of that, not by the fast-and-loose genre categorizing we're currently doing. You want fiction? It's in the 800's, then look for the author's last name. Done.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Book Review: Winter Soon, by David Michael Martin

I guess I should preface this by mentioning the author of Winter Soon is my maternal grandfather. That little fact had an interesting effect on my reading, to say in the least.

It's always interesting to read something written by somebody you know. For everything you know about a person, or have talked about with a person, there's a lot going on behind the scenes. Maybe some of that is pulled back, with all of our microinstantblogging social network extravaggrandizement (I might trademark that phrase, be warned), maybe not. We have our public face and our private face, and our family face.

 (cover art by Marina Ermakova-Martin, linked from Amazon)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Bird Espionage

In September, a stork was captured and put in jail under suspicion of being a spy. The bird had a wildlife tracker on it, and given our present-day situation with drones and shit, I can understand not wanting to deal with the treat of being surveiled by storks. The stork was released eventually, and then found "dead on an island in the Nile River, osuth of the ancient city of Aswan." Which in a way makes it sound more legitimately like espionage, not less. Admittedly, Egypt has been having a pretty rough time of late, what with the revolution and all. And then the disappointing new leader and then.....well, that's where I lost the trail of breadcrumbs. I'm ashamed to admit I don't know what subsequently happened in Egypt (other than the former president telling the court he did not acknowledge its authority to try him), but in the interest of honesty with y'all, I did not Google it so I could pretend.

I do understand that nobody in Egypt thought the stork itself was a spy, but rather just a vehicle for spying technology (and has a list of animals accused of espionage, and this is a list of the top 10 Animals spies). Animals, especially birds, are used for things like message carrying all the time. Something drone-like would perhaps have been the logical next step (and still might who knows), and in 2011 a vulture was arrested in Saudi Arabia for the same thing (that story and others discussed a bit here on this Huffington Post article. Smithsonian had an article back in October about the CIA's animal spies.

 According to this article, 250,000 pigeons were used to carry messages between Europe and Britain in WWII, with messages sometimes (often? always) in cipher. That article is in fact about a cipher whose key is no longer in anybody's possession, and somebody claiming to have cracked it anyway. The Germans also used carrier/"spy" pigeons, and the British had peregrine falcons for counter espionage. Apparently in 2008, Iran thought that it found a pair of spy pigeons, and this Wired article discusses the logistics of making such a thing happen, and this Mental Floss article talks about homing pigeons. In the interest of protecting against spy pigeons,  And really, that's just talking about pigeons doing what they do, which is going home. B.F. Skinner, also in World War II, worked on "Project Pigeon", which was intended to be a pigeon guided missile system. The project was actually successful (operant conditioning for the win!) but due to a lack of respect and thus subsequent funding, it ended up being tabled.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Dead Languages

Wikipedia has a "List of Languages by time of extinction".

I think, for the most part, the term "dead language" evokes Latin. But Latin, while not the official language of a country, say, is still used. Ish. Students still learn it. You can still hear a Mass in it. I think perhaps exorcisms tend to be performed in it. I mean, I'd want my exorcism to be in Latin, should I ever occasion to require one. Take this as official record of my wishes.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

I don't mean to alarm you, but....

So apparently, Soviet Russia dumped a crapload of nuclear waste, 16 reactors, and "several" nuclear submarines in the Kara sea. Several is a sticky word; you've gotta figure, "a couple" is two (see: a pair), a few is three or more, and several is the next step, tending to be between 5 and 7, say. After that, you're working with "a lot" or "a bunch", or perhaps even "a metric fuckton". Most probably, the article writer didn't know the exact number, and/or wanted to break up the sentence with a different word. But I'm left wondering if "several" is more than or less than 16. Unfortunately, with global warming, apparently that sludge can (and likely will) reach other continents. One wonders how this will interact with/piggy back on/exacerbate the issues with the Fukushima Daiichi runoff.

(picture from