Capclave Wrap

Capclave 2014 is a wrap. I was not involved. I was just an attendee who had a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful time.  It’s not nearly as much work to attend as to be celebrated, though…

Capclave 2014 GoH Signing Table

Capclave 2014 GoH Signing Table

At the Capclave 2014 GoH Signing Table last night Genevieve Valentine, Paolo Bacigalupi, and Holly Black. These folks (along with many others) worked hard at this literary Science Fiction and Fantasy convention. I commented to Paolo last night that clearly, being Guest of Honor at a con is a lot harder than previously assumed. I wondered aloud if it was much like a goose being the Guest of Honor at a Christmas Dinner? I got a fair laugh out of that one.

But these folks, along with about 75 other program participants and the talented hardworking team from WSFA that put on the con, worked hard on panels, in workshops, and in the hallways, putting on a good show for the fans and current/aspiring writers who attend this show. I attended the following panels, readings, etc:

  • “Holy Shuftik!” he cried. (partial)
  • The League of Substitute Heroes and the Inferior Five (partial)
  • Dealers Room (spending money)
  • Fast Forward TV interviews GoH Paolo Bacigalupi
  • The 2013/14 and 2014/15 TV Seasons
  • Don’t Go There. Unless You Really Want To.
  • The Charms of Dystopia
  • Interview with GoH Genevieve Valentine
  • DC in 17 Worldcon Bid
  • Reading (Genevieve Valentine)
  • Best Short Fiction of 2014
  • Author Table / Dealers Room (spending money)
  • I Hate His/Her Politics But I Love His/Her Books
  • Creating Religions for your Secondary World Fantasy
  • Mass Signing
  • Awards Presentation and GoH Gifts
  • Beyond Sword, Spear, and Shield: Exotic Weapons for Fantasy
  • Astronomy Through the Ages
  • Bookstores: RIP or Not Dead Yet?
  • Why So Many YA Dystopias?
  • Even Hard SF Uses FTL

Finally, with two sessions left in today, I ran fully out of steam. But as you see, I sat in on a lot of interesting material in two and a half days. I came home each night, and didn’t stay for the late night parties and filking – I don’t have all of the energy I once had… But I did come away with some wonderful memories of a great small con, I met a great number of smart, eloquent people, and I have a nice, shiny stack of reading material. WIN!*      *      *DoD has reported no new casualties in the last 7 days.

Last of the eighties

At least, one may hope that we’re now done with high temperatures for the year. Both weekend days have got to 80 or thereabouts. I managed some yardwork yesterday, and a washing of the car today. Certainly not an interesting weekend by any stretch of the imagination.

*      *      *

Recent Reading –

Terry Pratchett’s Raising Steam

In this latest Discworld book, pTerry brings back Moist von Lipwig and Harry King as chief protagonists in this tale of steam locomotives. Aided by The Patrician, The Low King, and an unexpectedly large assist from the recently ascendant goblins, von Lipwig battles extraordinary logistics problems and a recidivist dwarvish community who lay most of their problems at the feet of Ankh Moorpark and upon Moist’s head as an accessible and vulnerable symbol thereof.

Self-taught engineer Dick Simnel solves the most fatal of issues with steam engines, and ushers in a new future on the Disc, and in doing so brings a host of problems to the surface as well. Harry King (at first) and Moist von Lipwig (shortly thereafter, following the usassailable logic provided by Lord Vetinari) guide and protect Mister Simnel along the path (one might say, rails) that Vetinari wants and needs.

Initially distinct plots quickly coalesce into a fast, absorbing and rollicking read that held me right on through the book. As usual with the work of the estimable Mister Pratchett, Highly Recommended.

Unidentified Funny Objects 2, edited by Alex Shvartsman

From the editorial submission page: “We’re looking for speculative stories with a strong humor element. Think Resnick and Sheckley, Fredric Brown and Douglas Adams.  We welcome quality flash fiction and non-traditional narratives. Take chances, try something new, just make sure that your story is funny.”

I met Alex Shvartsman at Capclave last year, and picked up a copy of Unidentified Funny Objects 2 from him. I finally dug out my stack of reading material from that event, and quickly found myself absorbed in this excellent anthology of new, original works by such authors as Silverberg, Liu, Reznick, Hines, Nye, and fourteen others. I smiled, giggled, and laughed my  way through the nearly 300 pages of nicely bound trade paperback. I enjoyed meeting the stories from each of these authors, both old friends and new (to me, anyway) arrivals. If you like Science Fiction and Humor, this is definitely up your alley, as it was mine. I’m looking forward to UFO3, due out in the upcoming week (but I’ll wait and get my copy from Alex in a couple of weeks). Excellent!

Gordon R. Dickson’s Necromancer

Paul Formain, a survivor of the first water, most recently rendered one-armed due to a mining accident, contends with Walter Blunt of the Chantry Guild, and with the super computer that runs Earth. His metaphysical powers make him both the lynchpin of the changes that society is undergoing, and a target of every party that’s interested in a different agenda. Later tales in Dickson’s Childe Cycle stories reveal a bit more about Paul Formain than appears in this book. Necromancer is a superbly constructed tale (as usual for Dickson, then) that allows for the suspension of disbelief both for the SciFi and Fantastic elements in the story. While the story stands well on it’s own, I must recommend ALL of the Childe Cycle stories to you. Find them. Read them. Be Happy.

Clarkesworld Magazine, edited by Neil Clarke

I’ve been a subscriber to Clarkesworld Magazine for a couple of years now. Neil Clarke puts together a world-class collection of new science fiction, as well as reprints, non-fiction, and art, every time. How do I mean, “world-class”? Hmm. How to put this to you … Three time winner of the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine. Does that cover it properly? I thought so.

I look forward to the first of each month so that I can discover what Neil found for me to read. My particular favorite story from the current (September) batch is Brendan Dubois’s Falling Star. It’s a tightly constructed post-apocalyptic short story that features one of the last of the astronauts as the protagonist. I can’t say much more without spoiling some part of the tale.

In related news, Neil announced that his recent secret project is a push to get more translated works into the magazine, explicitly from China at first. The initial funding is being done through Kickstarter, with the intention of building more readership and other revenue sources to carry the feature going forward. Visit the Clarkesworld: Chinese Science Fiction Translation Project page for more details, and to support it if you can and if it floats your boat.

Clarkesworld Magazine: Highly Recommended.

Oh, I nearly forgot! I’m currently reading Against a Dark Background by Iain M. Banks.

*      *      *

There have been no new casualties announced by DoD in the last 6 days.

Work Week Plus

The work week started early … really early. I was up at 0500 this morning, and at my desk at the office by 0555. We had an 8 hour maintenance window to do a raft of VMware and other patching. Licensing issues prevent us from doing things the easy way, so we get outage windows and do things the hard way. That includes getting key virtual machines back online before 0800 on Sunday morning. It was actually a pretty good day – we finished up with two hours left in the maintenance window, which is good estimating. Had something gone horribly wrong, two hours is enough to fix much of it.

Side note – first night down into the 40’s – it was about 47°F out in the back yard when I got up.

Since nothing went horribly wrong at work, I was home and out in the yard mowing by 1300. Got inside and relaxed a bit, and grilled some lovely marinated chicken for supper.

As Sunday’s go, not too terrible.

*      *      *

Recent Reading – Caliphate by Tom Kratman

No piece of fiction I’ve read in recent years has filled me with sadness for our future like Tom Kratman’s Caliphate. (Note, if you want to read it, the Kindle price at this moment is $0.00.) There is nothing in this book that seems implausible to me. If anything, I find it to be a bit optimistic in the reading of the tea leaves. All civilizations fall, but Europe falling to the radical Muslims through willful ignorance and apathy seems like exactly the path they’re already on. Will events play out as they do in the book? I don’t think so. The radical muslim world are the latest batch of humans happy to play hardball in a brave old world that keeps wanting the game to be played by the rules set by first grade teachers. Be clear: the world is not a kind and easy place. We’ve had it pretty good for the last century or so, but to expect these conditions to last is implausible. What is plausible is Tom Kratman’s premise in Caliphate.

I found the book to be a more-than-good-enough read. Not tightly-paced enough to keep me awake while I read it through. But the story is compelling. I was able to care about the characters, and weep for the world that we’re making for ourselves in this work of fiction. For me, it’s also reminiscent of the Daybreak series by John Barnes. But while there’s tech that doesn’t exist in Daybreak (thus allowing me to distance myself from the action), no such issue exists to prevent me from buying into everything that happens in Caliphate.

You can (and oh, people do) criticize his writing, his stance, his service to America, and everything under the sun. It’s clear how he receives his criticism, right at the top of his website. I wouldn’t say he revels in it, but he want to be sure that before you proceed, there are people foaming at the mouth to disagree with him and his perspective. Frankly, I hope this particular vision of the future is wrong, but I fear it isn’t.

Out of the batter’s box is Terry Pratchett’s Raising Steam.

*      *      *

DoD has announced no new casualties in the last week.

Late Summer

With three weeks to go in Summer (proper), summer in terms of weather and humidity finally arrived this week. A few days up into the low 90’s brought us some unpleasant heat and occasionally lots of rain. Last night we had 1.3″ here alone. I didn’t look at the weather  radar at the time so I don’t know how broad that front was. But we had lightning and rain for the best part of three hours.

Leading up to that, I spent about 5 hours working out in the yard. Some of that was regular stuff like mowing and cleaning out some dying plants in front.  But I also gave a couple of hours to fence-mending…

A few days ago, Lexi was out hunting bunnies in the back yard, then … she wasn’t. Lexi followed a rabbit, not down a hole, but out a hole. Yep, a hole in the fence which Lexi was able to rapidly enlarge enough to chase through and after. Sigh. The good news is, once discovered, we went out calling her name, and she came running up to me from out of the small wood in the common area behind our property. The bad news was that the fence needed mending.

I ended up replacing about 20 boards, and blocking off a few more bits with patching. I’ve still got to mix up a slightly matching stain combo and get those boards coated. But between the fence and other yard work yesterday, I dropped about 6# sweating. So, I rehydrated for much of the afternoon.

Today: Shopping and patching systems at work consumed the bulk of the day.

*      *      *

Recent Reading: The Big Aha by Rudy Rucker.

Last year, I backed Rudy’s Kickstarter ™ for his new book, The Big Aha. I’d been a fan of Rudy’s since reading Software in the early 1980’s. The Big Aha is a big departure from the style of fiction, and of writing, from that earlier era. The author credits Bill Craddock’s Be Not Content as his primary stylistic influence. Using quantum mechanics instead of Lysergic acid diethylamide as his tool for making an entire world behave like a bunch of loons is … interesting. However, I found it difficult to follow the story. I found it difficult to care about the characters – they remind me of everything that’s bad about soap operas. And, sadly, though I persevered to the very end of the book (and it’s taken me a good long while), I just didn’t like it.

That doesn’t mean that you might not like it. You will want to be happy in a place where there are lots of new, made-up words. You’ll want to like characters that make even less sense (when straight, aka not in “cosmic mode”) than people on this screwed-up planet. If you like soap operas, and fantasy, and science fiction, you might like this story. My clear personal failing is that I don’t like soap operas.

The better news, from my perspective, is that with The Big Aha done, I now have my permission to start reading pTerry’s Raising Steam.

*      *      *

Our condolences to the family and friends of Spc. Brian K. Arsenault, 28, of Northborough, Massachusetts, who died on Sept. 4, in Ghazni, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when his unit was engaged by enemy small-arms fire.

A Lovely Day for an Anniversary

Yep. Sixteen wonderful years I’ve been married to Marcia. To celebrate, she worked on a t-shirt quilt for a customer, while I … went to work. But this evening, on the way home …

Got my gal some roses

Got my gal some roses

She seems to like them. She also got a sewing thing accessory as a pressie, while I’ve got a set of E. E. “Doc” Smith paperbacks headed my way. We’re so romantical. We’ll go out to supper to complete our celebration one of these days.

*      *      *

Marcia got a FitBit thing a while back, and she likes it very much. It helps her keep track of a lot of the things she needs to. Since I’ve been trying to do better on that front, like this (this evening):

Burned a kilocalorie

Burned a kilocalorie

I could also do better at keeping track of such things, as well as managing my portion control through better records keeping. But I chose a different bit of gear: a Jawbone UP24. I executed the purchase through Amazon, which saved a few bucks, and I have had very few problems puzzling out how to make the App interface operate. I’ll report further on the product, the app, and how/if it’s helping me with any of my goals at some ill-defined later date.

Downs and Ups

In one sense, it was a really bad week. Hours after I posted last Sunday, I became violently ill, almost certainly due to something I ate. After about 24 hours, I was able to start re-hydrating, and taking in such challenging foods as soda crackers (in small quantities – I had ten crackers, all of Tuesday). Wednesday was slightly better, and that night I slept through the night. So I went to my one day of work on Thursday, and got enough done.

The upside of the week was Capclave, which I attended on Friday and Saturday. It was going on today as well, but I am still not fully recovered, and decided to lump Sunday and holiday Monday together into another period of recuperation instead.

Capclave was, just like last year, awesome. I had a lot of fun hanging out with a bunch of really smart people, many of whom write F&SF or work with writers, from editors to artists to publishers. Clearly, I’d get even more out of the conference were I in the biz, but time for that sometime later. Because I’m not nearly as much of a George R. R. Martin fan, I was able to spend more time learning about new writers, and other fun stuff. Last year, with John Scalzi as GoH, I frankly spent more time in squee mode, to the detriment of the balance of my conference. Capclave peeps, I thank you for a wonderful Con, and I’m already looking forward to next year.

*       *       *

Mmmm, rain. I almost left this out. Since last Monday, we’re just shy of 5 inches of rain in our back yard. That brings our 11-1/2 month total to 44.06 inches, just over the 30-year annual mean rainfall for our area.

*       *       *

My message to Congress: Do Your Freaking Job!

*       *       *

Our condolences to the families, friends, and units of these fallen warriors:

  • Lance Cpl. Jeremiah M. Collins, Jr., 19, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, died Oct. 5 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
  • 1st Lt. Jennifer M. Moreno, 25, of San Diego, California, died Oct. 6, in Zhari District, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked her unit with an improvised explosive device.
  • Sgt. Patrick C. Hawkins, 25, of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, died Oct. 6, in Zhari District, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.
  • Sgt. Joseph M. Peters, 24, of Springfield, Missouri, died Oct. 6, in Zhari District, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.
  • Pfc. Cody J. Patterson, 24, of Philomath, Oregon, died Oct. 6, in Zhari District, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.
  • Spc. Angel L. Lopez, 27, of Parma, Ohio, died Oct. 5, in Zabul province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire.

Liaden Book Time

  • Agent of Change
  • Carpe Diem
  • Plan B
  • I Dare

These I have read (relatively quickly, given how busy I am these days) – books written by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. I came across Agents of Change when it appeared in the Baen Free Library. I devoured it, and went to Baen to feed the habit. I ended up buying the Korval’s Legacy Collection and the Phase Change Collection direct from Baen. Good pricing, ten books full of awesome. Taken together, the four books named above are a galaxy-spanning space opera that brought me to mind of the best of E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith and Heinlein. They make me very happy. I’m also partway through Fledgling, which is set in a different part of the same universe. Tie-ins? Of course, at least a bit.

Why didn’t I know about these when they were written? Del Rey first published Agent of Change in 1988! That was admittedly a frantically weird part of my life, but I’ve almost always found time for great science fiction. I just … missed them, some how. I’m so glad that Miller and Lee not only wrote these, but have kept on writing: Exciting Times for the Liaden Universe® tells us that there’s plenty more to come, and I still have lots to read from Korval’s Legacy and Phase Change. Highly Recommended!

Travels done

And we’re back!

Nine days in California and in the air are done: We flew out to SFO on the 22nd, and flew back through DFW on the 30th. We visited with my folks for about three days, then headed over to SF and stayed there while I attended VMworld 2013. I attended three general sessions and 19 technical sessions in four and one-half days … my brain nearly exploded. I watched countless demos, met many wonderful and smart people, and acquired enough t-shirts to last me until the next millennium. The weather was lovely, and Marcia split her time between the City and learning some design software.

While in the air, I was reading a couple of Liaden Universe novels by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. Agent of Change and Fledgling are both available for free at both the Baen Free Library and on Kindle for the time being. You can consider those to works to be a gateway drug, since the writing is wonderful. You’ll spend some more of your time and money on their books, because you should. Learn more at http://korval.com/.

I’m not sure, but I’d guess that the authors get more of your money if you purchase through Baen … you can always ask them. It’s certainly worth encouraging the Baen Free Library when you buy from Baen, too.

*      *      *

Our condolences to the families, friends, and units of these fallen warriors:

  • 1st Lt. Jason Togi, 24, of Pago Pago, American Samoa, died Aug. 26, in Hasan Karez, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Ricardo D. Young, 34, of Rosston, Arkansas, died Aug. 28, in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with small arms fire.
  • Staff Sgt. Michael H. Ollis, 24, of Staten Island, New York, died Aug. 28, in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device, small arms and indirect fire.
  • Staff Sgt. Joshua J. Bowden, 28, of Villa Rica, Georgia, died Aug. 31, in Ghazni, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire while on dismounted patrol.

Mr. Penumbra’s … A Review

I’ve been stalking watching Robin Sloan for a while now. He apparently lives in San Francisco when he’s not on the Internets. Robin wrote and posted online a short story called Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, back in 2009. I read it shortly thereafter, and was greatly pleased by the characters, the settings, and the plotting. All-in-all, one of the tightest, shiniest short stories I’ve read in a long, long time.

So, when Robin headed down the Kickstarter path with his first dead trees work, the novella entitled Annabel Scheme, I jumped on the bandwagon, and supported his effort with real moola. It’s good to be a patron of the Arts*.

Recently, all this attention and excitement got Robin into the eyes of a publisher. The opportunity blossomed, and expressed itself as a novel-length version of that original short I loved so much. Now you can buy it online, here, for example. There’s also B&N, and some other  little online bookseller that probably has stock, too. Amazon? Yeah, probably. Anyway… Putting glow-in-the-dark book stacks on the slipcover is genius, by the way.

Last night, when I should have put the book down and turned out the lights, I carried on reading through to the end of this wonderful tale. It’s like Robin took the perfect little doll house version of the tale, and scaled it up into a proper people-scale edifice worthy of living in for a while. I can hang out in different rooms, and see many more wondrous sights from all the new angles and perspectives that the more capacious novel provides.

Our hero is still diffident, his girl is still a genius, and Penumbra still is … but the horizons are much further out, and the tale’s changed to accommodate the expansion. New characters are woven in and out of the fabric of the story – you can see the short story in there still, but it’s got a lot of new friends. Some of them are likeable, some less so, much like the folks in all of our lives. The blurring and bending of reality at the intersection of old technology (books and moveable type) and new technology (the Internet and extreme-scale computational power) is more pointedly the focus of the story, now, and that’s no bad thing. It hits a demographic that’s likely to work really well for Robin’s writing career.

One more thing about Penumbra’s: it’s a good world, too. Robin has room to grow more stories in that space, if he wants. Annabel Scheme is in a related universe, but only just. I look forward to his next work, and the next. Does Robin mind if I put such expectations on his time? I hope not.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Robin Sloan. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux: New York. 2012). Highly Recommended!

*  Patron of the Arts – I’ve been supporting authors and musicians, mostly, with my entertainment dollars. Just because something can be had for free (like the PDF edition of Annabel Scheme), doesn’t mean I don’t go buy the Kindle version instead. Okay, not true – I got the signed dead tree edition from Robin via the Kickstarter. Today, driving home, iTunes offered up Amanda Palmer, then Zoe Keating … two more artists I’ve been paying as directly as possible. I want them to keep working, which means mortgage and food and such, so supporting artists I love is important to me. I hope it is for (some of) you, too!