Archive for May, 2009

May 20 2009

Writing to the Point

Published by under Writing

I find I haven’t talked about the process of writing nearly as much as I thought I might when I started this. That’s going to change. I’ve been a little reluctant up until now; I know there are many aspiring authors out there, but there are quite a few sites, with authors more experienced than I, offering excellent advice. But perhaps I do have something to offer, if only another viewpoint that might click with someone a little better. (Or, worst case, as a bad example.)

On that note, let me mention a slim (64-page) book of excellent writing advice, Writing to the Point, by Algis Budrys. Algis was a well-respected author and editor in his own right, and served as the managing judge for the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. (Don’t let Hubbard’s name put you off. If there is any connection between the WotF contest and the Church of Scientology, it is by no means apparent to any of the contest participants, and the contest, its online forum, and award events are excellent.) In this little book Budrys offers up brilliant advice in easily absorbed chunks. He distinguishes between a story and a manuscript. A manuscript is one way of presenting the story. The story itself is a character, in context, with a problem, and the attempts and final success in overcoming the problem. Other authors, including Orson Scott Card and Marion Zimmer Bradley, have offered similar advice, but Budrys nails it in fewer and clearer words. Other chapters cover everything from agents (sell your first book first) to ideas to manuscripts to some specific advice on writing science fiction.
Writing to the Point - cover

I had been stalled out on a novel in progress, and after reading this book I realized that I had stalled because I didn’t fully understand the main character’s central problem (a story beginning is a character, in context, with a problem). With that realization I saw where the novel needed to go, and also where I could take an individual chapter and create a stand-alone short story from it. (This offers not only the chance to get paid twice for essentially the same work, but the short can help build a market for the novel.)

If you’re at all interested in writing fiction, I recommend this book. One thing, when I went looking for it on Amazon they only had a couple of used copies at an asking price of $499.98 (!). It is, however, available directly from the publisher (Action Publishing) for only $10.50 plus a couple of bucks shipping. I got my copy in just a few days. (And no, I’m not making anything by linking it, I just think it’s a worthwhile book.)

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May 15 2009

Astronomy updates

Published by under Astronomy

It has been another good week for astronomy, in particular for space-based astronomy.

The Hubble Space Telescope repair mission has been the biggest of such news items, and at the moment seems to be going well. This week (yesterday, in fact) saw the successful Ariane launch of two European space observatories, the Planck observatory to investigate irregularities in the cosmic microwave background, and the Herschel telescope, which is essentially a souped-up Hubble (it’s mirror is 1.5 times bigger than Hubble’s). All will add significantly to our knowledge of the universe as a whole and the various planets and stars in it.

But it gets better. This week another space-based telescope, NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, began its formal mission to, as Star Trek puts it, seek out new worlds. It is specifically intended to look for Earth-like (terraform, if not terraformed) planets around other stars. Over the next three-and-a-half years it will examine over 100,000 stars. The observatory itself was launched in March and its telescope saw “first light” in April. Between then and now it has been going through testing and calibration. This past Tuesday (5/12/09) it was pronounced ready for its primary mission. Kepler is designed to look for planets as small as Earth orbiting their stars in the habitable zone (where temperatures could let surface water remain liquid on at least part of the planet). I’m eagerly awaiting results, the first of which will be transmitted from the satellite in mid-June.

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May 07 2009

Tau Ceti

Published by under Astronomy,T-Space

This past week-plus has been pretty hectic. Jill came back from Ohio with a truckload of her parents’ possessions, which we’re still finding homes for (including storage), and we have to get the place prepped for when her mom comes up later this summer.

I did get another T-Space page written, this one about Tau Ceti, a nearby Sun-like star that has been both a popular location in SF and a prime target for SETI (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence). It occurs to me that I haven’t really written much set in that locale; I’ll be changing that shortly.

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