April 21st, 2008


[links] Link salad for a travel day

APOD on bacteriophages

Hiawatha NoirShorpy with a deeply awesome train photo.

Algae-Bot Scouts for Toxic Blooms — This be some cool tech.

Record Heat for Land Surfaces in March — The weather has clearly been conspiring with the Antarctic ice sheet.

The Return of Big GovernmentUS News & World Report with a stunning story about how the limited government and conservative spending policies of the Bush administration are going to be overthrown in the next election.

McCain: A Question of Temperament — I realize McCain's allegedly violent temper isn't nearly on a par with Obama ordering orange juice, but it might be important should he win the election. Or maybe not. After all, Bush has shown us that a president with poor personal qualities in no wise leads a damaging administration.

Secretary Rice announces Second Amendment is incompatible with democracy — "...the prime minister has laid down some ground rules which any functioning democratic state would insist upon, having to do with, you know, arms belonging to the state, not to -- not in private hands." Imagine the reaction if Hillary had said those exact words.

Time in saddle: 0 minutes (airport)
Last night's weigh-out: n/a
This morning's weigh-in: n/a
Currently reading: The Cater Street Hangman by Anne Perry Powell's | Amazon ]


[writing] Miscellaneous notes

Recent triviata:

Said by me at tillyane's birthday party: "Dystopian fiction isn't meant to be aspirational."

Incorrectly recalled by me at one of karindira's birthday parties: Allen Drury's novel, The Throne of Saturn Amazon ], which I read when I was about 12. Anyone remember this?

Observed today: Mystery is a weird genre. More about that later.

[process] Bubbles and fossil beds

Just lately, coming off a 3-1/2 month novel-writing jag, I've been doing a lot of reading, mostly novels. (Well, and Blue Highways Powell's | Amazon ].)

I've made another one of those sky-is-blue observations. Ie, stupidly obvious in retrospect, and probably apparent to most of the rest of you, but an eye opener for me.

Some books are bubbles, some books are fossil beds.

Bubbles are books (or stories) which exist almost entirely on their surface. The characters, the plot, the setting all work together in a coherent whole, but there's not a lot of subtext or deep texture. The Cater Street Hangman by Anne Perry Powell's | Amazon ] reads that way to me.

Fossil beds are books which have layers within layers within layers within layers. Pieces move inside parts, and almost everything carries the implicature of other elements, many of them hidden or distant from the surface of the story. I'm currently reading Flood by Andrew Vachss Powell's | Amazon ], which is very much a fossil bed to my eye.

Most of the spec fic I love falls in the "fossil bed" category. My taste leans very strongly that way, both as a reader and as a writer. At the same time, I'm coming to appreciate bubbles. They have a strong value to many readers, and an important place in the commercial market.

Like most dualistic distinctions, the truth almost certainly lies somewhere in the middle. Perhaps there's a fossil-bubble continuum. Perhaps I'm full of it. (Wouldn't be the first time.) But now I'm gnawing on this observation to see if it takes me anywhere important, or at least interesting, with respect to my own work.

What do you think? Does this characterization make sense to you? How would you elucidate it?

[personal|writing] Drake and Fermi and Dyson, oh my

After an astonishingly uneventful travel day (my luggage even came out near the head of the pack in Omaha), and a Hertz random upgrade to a new(ish) Toyota RAV4, I had dinner with garyomaha and elusivem. We had a rather fascinating conversation about the Drake Equation, the Fermi Paradox and Dyson spheres, which led me to wonder about several sfnal plot elements and tropes.

For example, what if brown dwarfs are in fact Dyson spheres built by a galaxy-spanning Kardashev Type II (or nascent Type III) civilization, and we're seeing their heat signatures? Yes, I can readily think of a number of things wrong with this idea, but it still merits some further consideration.

Likewise, per the various objections to METI programs, what if the putative inimical aliens showed up one day and started building a Dyson sphere around us? What the hell could we do about it?

And so on...

I'm going to finish reading Vachss now, and off to work in the morning.