October 26th, 2007


[links] Link salad for a Friday

Staph Screening Said May Wipe Out Germ — Problems fighting the superbug that's out there.

Steampunk Raygun — (Thanks to threeoutside.)

French ministry blocks return of mummified Maori head

bram452 reports on a fantasy symposium — Well worth checking out. He's just posted part one.

Razzle dazzle camouflage — (Link snurched from gears_and_steam.)

In Event of Moon Disaster — The speech Nixon never had to give. (Thanks to elfs.)

FreeRice — Vocabulary quiz that donates rice. (Really.) I think I got this from rosefox. I touched level 50 several times, but seem to keep settling down to level 47 or 48.

Dilbert on decision making processes

A Defect in the Cosmos? — A discussion of asymmetry and the Big Bang.

"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled." — Feynman's final official comment on the Challenger disaster. Substitute the word "policy" for "technology" and you have much of what is wrong with our current political leadership in a nutshell.

What's in a name? — On stage names and character names.

Is the word "moist" offensive to women in general? — I realize that people get to decide what offends them, but this is just bizarre.

[politics] My pithy observation for the week

Just said by me in comments here:
...conservatives loathe Clinton because his administration was largely a political and economic success, which undermines their own political narrative. Progressives loathe Bush because his administration is largely a political and economic failure, which reinforces their own political narrative.

[process] The writer who came in from the cold

I chat online with jeffvandermeer reasonably often. He's a good friend, and a thoughtful human being. Plus we like to kvetch with one another. Sometimes, though, I feel like I'm participating in the world's slowest moving interview. I think that's because Jeff tends to ask insightful questions. As most of you who've met me in real life know, I've never met a silence I couldn't fill, or an idea I couldn't talk to death, so this questioning is like throwing a bale of catnip into the tiger pit at zoo.

He asked me yesterday how the New Model process had affected my writing goals. Short answer: I'm not sure it has. Slightly longer answer: The short answer is BS, but I don't have a long answer yet. However, this prompted me to muse on an observation I'd recently made to lasirenadolce, to the effect that I've been moving from the second world toward the first world in my writing.

A brief exegesis on my terminology:
  • Second world: Fiction which takes place completely outside the bounds of objective reality. Most high fantasy and future-based SF, for example. See my story "The Cleansing Fire of God".

  • First world: Fiction which takes place in or near the bounds of objective reality. Much of mainstream lit, non-paranormal romance, mystery, etc., along with contemporary fantasy and current-state or near-future SF. Includes secret history and some of alternate history. See the story by specficrider and me, "The Canadian Who Came Almost All the Way Home from the Stars".

  • Feel free to offer corrections or alternatives to these definitions in comments, btw.

I first started writing short stories with structured intent (as opposed to homework assignments or random noodling) around 1980 or 1981 when I was still in high school. I was all about the second world then. It was an escape for me, in the manner of angst-ridden teens throughout the history of angry teenagers. Around 1985 I read Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun, and I thought, "Wow, you can do this with words?" I was hooked. I continued to write, more or less in a vacuum, until I fell into my first crit group in 1990. I continued to write, with support, critique and encouragement, until the_child came along, at which point I took a two year hiatus, and moved from Texas to Oregon. I resumed writing in the fall of 2000, around the same time I found the Wordos, the very excellent critique group in Eugene, OR which played an enormous role in launching my professional career. I began publishing in 2001. The rest is a matter of public record, a fair portion of it on this blog.

In all that time, I was deeply immersed in the second world. I wrote some contemporary fantasy, but the stories always felt more real to me, more truly mine, when I controlled all aspects of setting, character and plot. This stems in part from my lifelong love for our genre, and part from simple fear of screwing things up. (Which is one reason Black Tulip will be such a big step for me — I've always steered away from historical fiction out of a desire to avoid embarrassment.) But mostly it was because those were the stories I wanted to write.

Over time I've written a fair amount of stuff in or close to the first world, our world. My recent work under the New Model process has been both — "America, Such as She Is" is alternate history but firmly grounded. "Witness to Fall" is contemporary fantasy, except set in the mid-nineteenth century. On the other hand, other recent New Model short fiction such as "Human Error", and "The Sky That Wraps the World Round, Past the Blue and Into the Black" are second world.

What I'm discovering is that I feel more power, more control, more magic writing in the first world. This is a transition in progress, and it startles me considerably. I have no idea what it means, and it scares me a bit, but it's also fascinating.

[poll] The "moist" poll — offensive words and the people who love them

Cringe words! Per the "moist" discussion here, how do you react to cringe words?

Poll #1078025 Cringe Words

Do you find the word "moist" either cringe-worthy or outright offensive?

Of course I find it offensive. All sensible people should. It's a gross little word.
Offensive? No. It makes me twitch, though.
Are you kidding me? Who could be scare of a word like that?
This question makes me want to reach for a towlette.

Are there other ordinary, daily use type words you finde cringe-worthy or offensive?

Naturally. Vocabulary is very personal.
Not offensive, but there's a few which make me cringe.
What kind of prescriptivist idiot are you? No way.

Will you share your most hated word(s) in comments?

Hell yes!
Not unless you hold me while I type.
Geeze, you want me to type "Skeezix"?
You ought to be ashamed.

What is your gender?

Not telling.
Something else I'll explain in comments.

[tech] Free to a good home

I have a couple of 512MB SIMMs out of my MacBook (upgraded to 2Gb memory in preparation for Leopard). I'll be happy to pass them along to someone local, or mail them out for $10 postage.

They have been spoken for. Thank you very much.
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[links] Link salad's afternoon snackeroo!

Ray gun possible for use in Iraq — You have to scroll down the page to find this story.

Lost Luggage, In-Flight Division — Wow, a whole new hazard to flying. Or even a hazard to just standing around minding your own business.

Mary Queen of Scots Skull Watch

Glitch Hits Burial Of Man With Mobile Phone

'The Moment Has Come to Get Rid of Saddam' — About Bush's decision to go to war with Iraq long before the "more in sorrow than in anger" speeches stopped.

FEMA Meets the Press, Which Happens to Be . . . FEMA — Mmm...more of that Republican ethics in action!

ETA: Apparently someone discovered their ethics after all.

Rabbit-shaped police lights

[personal] Let the games begin

As of 10 minutes ago, I am on vacation from the Day Job.

Going to a party tonight which kenscholes is throwing for msrotundo and Mrs. msrotundo.

Tomorrow tillyjane is taking the_child horseback riding out at the coast. I'm coming along to photograph and kibitz, though I will remain blissfully equine-free.

Tomorrow night a big goth Halloween party here in town.

Sunday lasirenadolce and I pack and prep for WFC and kill whatever rats remain.

Monday we're off to the Eastern time zone until Monday 11/06, most especially for WFC>


See some, all or none of you somewhere on the swingaround.

[personal] Sometimes you're the lightning, sometimes you're the bug

Went and picked up mail today. Large bill from the_child's school for the second half of annual tuition. Check from agent for slightly more than tuition bill. The delta is just about right for the expense of next week's WFC trip.

In other news, a power surge last week fried Mother of the Child's almost new washer and dryer. Repair bill will be $1,300, about what they cost last summer. Called the insurance agent, who informs me this is covered on the homeowner's policy on our duplex, subject to a deductible. On a flyer, called the power company and told them my story. I wound up talking to an insurance adjuster who manages their liability coverage. Lo and behold, as of today I have been informed that MotC will be receiving a new washer and dryer at zero cost to me.

Sometimes the universe just opens up and smiles.