Archive for July, 2011

Jul 25 2011

Coming soon: Stone Age

Published by under T-Space,Writing

I’m in the middle of prepping my story “Stone Age”, which appeared in the June issue of Analog a couple of months ago, for ebook publication. Here’s the cover, based on the Frederik Catherwood print which partly inspired the story. Stone Age cover I’ll update this when it’s available, and probably do a special intro offer through Smashwords.

This story is, as I think I’ve mentioned before, based on a couple of the first chapters of The Chara Talisman. Publication plans for that are still pending — the traditional publishing industry moves slowly — but I’m considering making an e-version available sooner, possibly serializing it on-line. Let me know if you’re interested.

Update: “Stone Age” is now available in ebook format from Smashwords, and should be available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and outlets supplied by Smashwords (such as Apple and Sony) soon. Stay tuned for an offer in connection with The Chara Talisman.

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Jul 16 2011

New story in the October Analog

Published by under Writing

My author’s copies of the October issue of Analog just arrived (early!), containing my Probability Zero story “The Sock Problem”. This is kind of a sequel to “Light Conversation” in that both stories feature a major appliance and the first-person narrator is a bit of a tinkerer. My son Robert is urging me to do a whole series of humorous appliance stories. We’ll see.
Cover, October Analog

Also in this issue is Brad Torgersen’s “The Bullfrog Radio Astronomy Project”. This is kind of a thrill for both of us; back in 2009 at one of Kris’n’Dean’s writing workshops, before he had had anything published and only my “Snowball” had been sold but wasn’t yet in print, we’d joked about one day both having stories in the same issue of Analog. Well, two years later and here we are. (Hey, Brad, one day we’re going to be on the Hugo awards stage together, right? ;-))

Should be on the stands in a couple of weeks, electronic versions possibly before that. Enjoy!

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Jul 14 2011

About that time machine…

Published by under Physics,Writing

Speaking of time machines (see my earlier post), news from the ArXiv today is that physicists have created a “hole in time”, the temporal equivalent of an invisibility cloak. Only 110 nanoseconds so far … but consider the possibilities!

Tangentially, writer Alex J. Kane, in a blog post titled “On the Use of Tropes in Science Fiction” today considers possibilities for science fiction, and quotes my buddy Brad Torgersen: “There’s nothing new under the sun. It’s all about how you use the various stock elements that makes the story.” I’d absolutely agree with Brad’s second sentence there, but I might quibble about the first. Is the above “time cloak” new to science fiction? Not exactly, if you consider stasis boxes, bobbles, or some of the ways time travel has been used in stories. But I’m willing to bet that nobody came up with something quite like what the physicists did. All kinds of interesting story ideas there.

Kane goes on to say:

Writers like Orson Scott Card have even gone so far as to reduce the genre, in a way, by saying that it’s merely “a subset of fantasy.” True, but when I heard those words […], I couldn’t help but feel a sense of betrayal.

Wasn’t science fiction the genre that had made Card’s career, after all? Without having written Ender’s Game, would I even know who he was?

But for the sake of argument, let’s take Card’s elaboration into account. He argues that science fiction is a sort of literary dead end because there just aren’t enough new scientific discoveries — or moreover, any new ideas — out there to justify writing sf anymore. From a storyteller’s perspective, he says, it makes more sense to just resort to a magical fantasy setting. Why bother with the facade of making things like FTL travel, etc., seem plausible in a universe where we know such key tropes to be utterly impossible?

I call bullshit.

So do I.

Card (and others) miss a key point when they call science fiction a subset of fantasy. True enough, much of what gets passed off as SF (or perhaps rather, sci-fi) is just fantasy with spaceships, computers and aliens instead of horses, magic and trolls — Card’s own Ender’s Game stories could be considered in that light (although perhaps not the original short story which started it all). But the hard core of SF — and I heard Connie Willis making just this point a couple of weeks ago — is as a literature of ideas. Yes, we as readers (and, we hope, as writers) these days we expect more than just the idea; the Hugo Gernsback days when cardboard characters and cliche settings were fine so long as the idea was new are long gone, we expect rounded characters and well thought out settings as well as ideas. Indeed, the ideas don’t even have to be new if you do everything else well enough, but if you do come up with one, or put a new twist on one, you’ve got a potential award-winner if everything else holds up. (Larry Niven in his short-story heyday had this finely honed; several of his award-winning stories were near category-killers. Just try writing a crosstime-travel story these days without considering the implications he raises in “All the Myriad Ways” — which have real echoes in quantum theory.)

Not that there’s anything wrong with a good rollicking space, time travel, or zombie apocalypse (to pick three not-quite-random examples from this year’s Hugo nominees) story either.

And I’ll agree with Kane’s closing quote: “To quote George Carlin: ‘The future ain’t what it used to be.'” Ain’t that the truth!

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Jul 14 2011

Quick updates: the times they are a changing

Published by under T-Space,Writing

Two months is a long time to go between blog updates. Things have been crazy busy around here, more chaos than usual.

I mentioned a few posts back that I’ve been having issues with hosting this site. Still am (my internet connection was just out for 2.5 days; that sucked), but I have a plan. As soon as I figure out an easy way to port the content database, this site is getting rehosted on a commercial provider (right now it’s on a server about ten feet from where I sit in my basement office). I’m giving up some control and gaining a bunch in reliability and connection speed.

I’ve already been using that provider to host the MagicBakeshop. As I explain there, the name Magic Bakeshop is adapted from Dean Wesley Smith’s “Magic Bakery” concept, the idea being that stories are like magic pies: you can keep selling (or giving away) slices of them and still have the whole thing. MagicBakeshop’s first product is a computer app to help authors and indie publishers track their sales through Amazon, Pubit, Smashwords, etc. If that’s up your alley, check it out.

Partly because I’ve been working on the above software, and partly because of some of the other events going on in my life, I haven’t been spending as much time writing as I’d like. I have two stories (shaping up to be novelettes in length, perhaps) about half done, one a Jason Curtis story, the other set in what may well be T-Space, but in our past rather than the future. I’m having a lot of fun with both of them, I just wish I had more time.

I have several more stories (including “Stone Age” from the June Analog) almost ready to up as ebooks. And I really need to get that redraft of Alpha Centauri finished.

Anybody got a time machine I can borrow?

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