Monthly Archives: October 2006

When A Scalzi Sings

Atavismscalzi.jpgGenerally speaking, when you search for “Scalzi” on the Internet, you usually end up with me, because, of course, I’m a raging egomaniac who has spent the better part of the last decade infiltrating every last nook and cranny of the World Wide Web. But occasionally another Scalzi will show up. Such a one is Mike Scalzi — not related as far as I know — who is the lead singer of Slough Feg, a band which, according to its Web site, “is an eclectic mix of Celtic Folk and Traditional Metal peppered with buckets of energy and lyrical depth.” Because, damn it, Celtic Frost was a total letdown in the Celtic Metal sub-genre, and Slough Feg is here to reclaim and wave that flag.

But don’t just take the Web site’s word for it: check out “I Will Kill You/You Will Die,” a song in which, presumably, somebody kills you, apparently Mike Scalzi, and then you end up dying. That’s truth in advertising for sure. It’s from Slough Feg’s all-to-appropriately-named album Atavism. And if you enjoy that, here’s some more music from Slough Feg, from the band’s site. Rock on, Slough Feg!

Doomed to Victory!

omwrussia.jpgSo, apparently Old Man’s War has now been published in Russia, under the title Обреченные на победу, which as I understand it translates as something like “Doomed to Victory.” Which seems, you know, an awfully dour title. “Oh, okay, we’ll win, but we won’t like it.” But, hey, Eksmo (my Russian publisher) knows its market. And now I know definitively how to spell my name in Cyrillic. The cover art is recycled from an interesting place. My first Jim Burns cover! Well, sort of.

I got this picture off the Russian online store linked to above; I don’t have my own author copies yet. Come to think of it, I haven’t gotten my Hebrew copies of OMW yet either. Hey! I’m the author! Show me some love, foreign publishers!

Another Auction for the John M. Ford Book Endowment

No, not from me this time, but from an up-and-coming writer I think you’ll be hearing a lot about, and she goes by the name of Lois McMaster Bujold:

I am auctioning the galleys of Lois McMaster Bujold’s upcoming novel The Sharing Knife: Legacy to benefit the John M. Ford Book Endowment, for the Minneapolis Public Library. Part 1, The Sharing Knife: Beguilement just came out in hardcover; the sequel won’t be available until next spring.

This is a one-of-a-kind item, and the ONLY way to read the novel prior to its 2007 release. Opening bid is $100; bid increments of no less than $1, whole dollar increments only. Auction closes 11:59:59 pm Central, Friday, October 27.

Here’s where to go for all the information and also to bid on the galleys. If the wording on the information looks familiar, it may be because it’s been mostly swiped from my own auction. And you know? I’m just fine with that.

This is a pretty damn cool thing, if I do say so myself, and I suspect that there are enough rabid Bujold fans out there for whom this will be irresistable. If you’re one of them, go bid, and help fund the Mike Ford Endowment. And remember, you can also just chip in a few bucks yourself.

The Blessed Gift of Self-Censorship

So I was writing something today about writing, and I realized that as I was writing it I was boring the ever-living crap out of my own self. So I stopped, trashed it and you will never see what it was, for which you should be thankful. I think it’s nice that I know when I’m writing boring, annoying crap, because it means I get to spare you the terror of having to read it. I won’t say my self-censorship is perfect — no doubt boring, annoying crap gets through — but at least it works now and then.

Calling All Geeks

The computer I bought in 2003 finally died yesterday (I’m writing this on my Mac, to forestall any questions). The computer lasted 3 3/4 years, so I can’t complain too much, but it means that now thanks to my philosophy of “only buy things when you’ve run the previous version into the ground,” I am now able to justify spending money on a new one.

This time, rather than go typical route of just going to the store and buying what’s convenient, I thought I’d try having one custom built. The question now is what should I put into it. This is where you geeks come in. I’m open to suggestions on what I should put in this thing. Here are the parameters:

TYPE: PC, Vista Premium capable
PRICE RANGE: $2000 +/- 10%
PRIMARY USE: Multimedia/Gaming (it’ll really be mostly used for typing. You know. But even so)
USEFUL LIFESPAN: At least 2.5 years

To give you a little idea of what I’m looking at as a baseline (i.e., these are guidelines, not things I’m absolutely sold on):

CPU: (Sckt775)Intel® Core™ 2 Duo E6600 CPU @ 2.4GHz 1066FSB 2x2MB L2 Cache

MOTHERBOARD: Intel D975XBX I975X Express CrossFire Chipset LGA775 Supports Core 2 Duo CPU FSB1066 DDR2/800 Mainboard w/GbLAN, USB2.0, IEEE1394, &7.1Audio

MEMORY: (Req.DDR2 MainBoard)2GB (2x1GB) PC6400 DDR2/800 Dual Channel Memory (Corsair XMS2 Xtreme Memory w/ Heat Spreader)

VIDEO CARD: 2 NVIDIA Geforce 7950 GT 512MB 16X PCI Express Video Cards

HARD DRIVE: Single Hard Drive (250GB SATA-II 3.0Gb/s 8MB Cache 7200RPM HDD)

Optical Drive: 16X DVD±R/±RW + CD-R/RW DRIVE DUAL LAYER

SOUND: Creative Labs X-Fi 24-BIT PCI Sound Card

I’m treating the monitor as a separate expense, not to be considered in the price here. Also not considering labor costs at the moment. I have a single hard drive at the moment but will be adding the dead computer’s C drive as a slave, which why I have only one in there at the moment.

Any thoughts? Anything I should add, subtract, swap out for a better version. I particularly need help with case, power source and cooling. Please note that as regards cases, I don’t need it to look super-bitchin'; functional is a positive. With power source/cooling, quiet is better than not. Also, in terms of gaming/multimedia, I want my performance to be really good, but I’m not going to pay a stupid price premium so that I can crank out 10% more fps.

And one question for the true geeks out there: One reason I’m choosing the 975x motherboard here is that it’s my understanding that it’ll support the upcoming Intel Quad Core processors that will be coming out later, and I like the idea of being able to swap out the CPU at some point. Does this jibe with what you’ve heard?

Also, the first person who says “Get a Mac!” gets beaten. I already have a Mac and have decided the for the moment the Mac Pro is not how I want to go.

Okay, there you have it. Let have your thoughts and comments. And if any of you actually do build computers, I’m not opposed to entertaining bids.

Androids in the Wild

androidhentoz.jpg

We have our first spotting of The Android’s Dream in the real world: Whatever reader Jeff Hentosz sends along this photo of TAD on his desk (along with his name plate, a Silent Bob figurine, and the US Constitution — yay!). Jeff reports that he got it at the Barnes & Noble at the Easton Town Center in Columbus, which had six copies (now clearly down to five). So if you’re in the Columbus Ohio area and you can’t wait for Halloween (the official release date, don’t you know), then now you know where to go. Remember also that the Easton Town Center B&N is where I’ll be doing a signing/reading/interpretive dance on November 9th, at 7pm.

Thanks, Jeff! Anyone else who spots TAD in the wild prior to the official release is likewise invited to send along a photo. Because I’m hungry for reassurance, you see.

Instabounce: Still Working

See, this is why I keep telling people that Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds is the secret king of online bookselling: He mentions that he received The Android’s Dream — just that it’s arrived in the mail, mind you — and the Amazon ranking shoots up to 1500 (or so) in three hours. Boing, there it goes. Damn, he’s good.

Update, 3:00pm: Now it’s at 699. All hail the Instabounce!

Update, 4:00pm: 542! Yes, now I’m just being obsessive-compulsive.

Update, 6:00pm: 515. I can quit anytime.

Update, 7:00pm: 504. Oh noes! I’m plateauing!

Update, 8:00pm: 451. Help me! It’s a sickness!

Update, 9:00pm: 442. Dude, I just totally passed a Star Wars novel on the Amazon SF bestsellers list. Hah!

Update, 10:00pm: 414. One thing I’ve noticed about the Amazon SF/F bestseller list, incidentally, is how 1984, Fahrenheit 451 and Brave New World are always lurking about in the top 25. Dystopia never goes out of style.

Update, 11:00pm: 440. Clearly, the sales death spiral has begun. Off to bed before the black depression strikes.

Wednesday Author Interview: Cherie Priest

Hey, if you’re not doing anything (and you’re not, otherwise why would you be here?), you should click through and catch this week’s Author Interview of the fabulous Cherie Priest, whose equally fabulous new novel Wings to the Kingdom officially hit the stores yesterday. I read it in galley — because I’m just that privileged — and I loved it; also, I’ve got Teh M4jur Crush00r on Eden Moore, Cherie’s heroine, and not just because my internal casting director has slotted Rosario Dawson into that role, although that doesn’t hurt. Mmmmm… Rosario Dawson.

In any event, check out the interview, because Cherie’s awesome and you want to get next to that awesomeness in your life. Also remember that Cherie and Subterranean Press are serializing Cherie’s novella “The Wreck of the Mary Byrd” online. Because you want to get next to that awesomeness, too.

Author Interviews coming in the next few weeks (in no particular order): Catherynne M. Valente, Sarah Hoyt, Karen Traviss, Charles Stross and Sean Williams. After that things are getting thin, so, authors, if you have books coming out in the the next four months or so, let me know (this is includes the authors who have already pinged me before but who I may have forgetten about. I guess the Mad Cow Disease is finally getting to me). You don’t have to be a science fiction/fantasy author, either; I’d love to have folks from other genres, including non-fiction, participate.

An Interesting New Wrinkle in the Ohio Governor’s Race

It seems that someone is challenging the residency of Ted Strickland, the Democratic candidate for the Governor’s seat here in Ohio. Apparently Strickland has more than one residence, one in Lisbon (Ohio) and one in Columbus, and he votes in Lisbon; however, the complaint says that Columbus is his real address, so he should be disqualified to vote in Lisbon. Thing is, as I understand it, if he’s not qualified to vote, then he can’t run for governor. The local voting board tied on party lines as to whether Strickland is qualified to vote in Lisbon, and in cases where there’s a tie on these matters, the issue gets booted upward to the Secretary of State’s office.

Who is the Secretary of State? Kenneth Blackwell, Republican candidate for Governor.

Bwa ha ha ha ha hah ha hah!

Ohio has a law barring Blackwell (or anyone in his seat with a similar situation) from personally adjuctating an issue which affects his campaign, so the issue was handled by one of Blackwell’s assistants. That assistant has sent the issue back to the county voting board, telling it that its members failed to conduct proper investigation into Strickland’s residency, so they have to do it again. That’s where it stands at the moment. Strickland’s campaign folks say he has voted in Lisbon before; presumably no one complained then. If after the investigation the voting board takes another 2-2 tie vote on the matter, off it goes again to Blackwell’s office, to the same appointee, who will then apparently have to make the call.

All of this, incidentally, transpiring after the deadline for Ohio voters to change their residency.

I can’t even imagine what’s going to happen if someone in Blackwell’s office, who Blackwell appointed, decides to throw Ted Strickland off the voter rolls and possibily disqualifing him from running for governor. Especially because Blackwell is trailing Strickland by double digits in most polls at the moment. Any Democratic spin doctor worth his or her salt would hold it up as a perfect example of how the GOP can’t win in the marketplace of ideas, so it has to resort to dirty tricks. The voters already have trust issues with the GOP this election year; this would be the feculent icing on that particular nasty cake, or, to torture another metaphor, the straw that breaks the elephant’s back.

To be clear, I deeply doubt Strickland’s going to get disqualified from the gubernatorial race here in Ohio. That just seems nuts. But there’s that little paranoid man in my brain, the one that goes Ken Blackwell tried to disallow voter registration cards in 2004 on the basis of paper weight! Of course one of his lackeys is going to do this!!! Anarchy!! Anarchy!!! I’m having a hard time shutting that guy up these days.

Posing For the Cover of Her First Punk Rock Album

badgirlnocollege2.jpg

Athena’s reaction to this picture when she saw it, incidentally: “Good one. You should post it.” It’s terrifying how well she knows me.

I think I’ll make a t-shirt out of that picture. Then Athena can wear it to school and give her teachers a heart attack. That would be cool.

For those of you worried that my adorable child has irretrievably gone over to the dark side, here’s a picture of her posing winsomely with my author copy of TAD, in a Photoshopped field of mutton:

Of course, ask her which of the two pictures is her favorite. Yeah, her teenage years are going to be interesting.

The (Hopefully) Endless Cycle

TADTLC.jpg

A package arrived today that fairly sums up my creative life: Two finished copies of The Android’s Dream and the copy edit of The Last Colony. Android is done and presumably soon to be winging its way to all y’all in the stores; The Last Colony I need to look over and make sure I agree with all the copy edits and return to Tor in just a little over a week. Not pictured: The book after Last Colony, which is in process. Sometime around May of 2007 this picture will likely be repeated, with The Last Colony in the position of the completed book, the the book after that coming back for a copy edit. And thus for as long as I can manage — and not including the other books and writing projects and what not and so on and etc.

There are worse lives to have.

I’m out of here for the rest of the day — I have some work piled up I need to get to, and now I’m dropping a big ol’ copy edit on top of that. I declare an open thread: you kids have fun. See you tomorrow.

What I’m Up Against

I made a mention a few days ago about the amount of comment spam I get, and I thought you might enjoy some numbers: In the last week, the Whatever received 4,760 pieces of comment spam, as of about 6:20am this morning. I know this because I deleted them all from the junk folder today, because all that crap in the junk folder was slowing down the site refreshes.

For those of you not wishing to do the math, that’s 680 spam messages daily. As a comparison, in the last 24 hours I’ve logged 116 legit comments (i.e., made by real humans), which is pretty much an average day around here. So the spam outpaces the humans by about 6:1.

The vast majority of the spam gets trapped in my moderating and junk queues thanks to my filters, which are updated via a shared blacklist, although from time to time a new purveyor gets through. I woke up this morning and found over 100 spam messages on the site; each had the same keyword. Dropped the keyword into the local junk filter with an instruction to catch all its variants; since I did that 20 more spam comments went right into the junk filter.

I could probably reduce spam comments by entirely closing off comment threads older than a couple of weeks, but some threads are still active by way of real people (the “Writing Tips for Teens” thread is an example of this), and I’m loathe to just seal them off unilaterally. Active spam management is a reasonable compromise at the moment, although if it gets much worse I may have to revisit this idea. I do seal off individual comment threads if I see that the only traffic they get is spam. It’s a continual battle between the forces of good and evil, it is.

The fact I get 4700 spam messages a week is the primary reason why I suspect, should direct brain computer interfaces ever become available, I won’t be getting one. Does anyone doubt that within weeks, the spammers would have found a way in, and your entire visual field would be riddled with spam advertisements for Tramadol, in Cyrillic lettering? And they would never go away. Yeah, I’ll be keeping my brain unwired, I suspect.

Two Cool Things

A couple of cool things that have gone down in the last couple of days:

1. I’ve been invited to be the Toastmaster for the 2008 version of ConFusion, the convention run by the Ann Arbor Science Fiction Association (the link goes to the site for their 2007 convention, which I’ll also be attending, as a normal human being). This is exciting for me since it’s the first time I’ve been invited to be a convention Guest of Honor in any capacity, and also because I have a fond place in my heart for ConFusion: it was the first non-Worldcon SF convention I ever attended. It’s also the place where, last year, a significant number of the attendees kissed my skull, and one fellow actually licked it. Hopefully, this won’t become a tradition. In all, one of my favorite SF conventions, so I’m delighted that it’s the first who asked me (and who I’ve accepted) to be a GoH.

Incidentally, I have no idea what I’m supposed to do as toastmaster. I am, however, an undisputed master of toast. Beware, dried, singed bread! I am your dread lord! Perhaps that will be enough. And I’ve got, uh, 15 months to figure out the gig.

2. The Android’s Dream has been selected as a December 2006 Book Sense Pick. Book Sense, for those of you who are not immersed in the world of bookselling, is an umbrella organization for independent booksellers to help them compete against chains and online stores by way of marketing and Web sites and the like. Book Sense maintains its own bestseller lists (which I’ve been on before – w00t!) and also a monthly guide to notable books, with the recommendations written by the booksellers themselves. That guide is what Android’s been picked for.

I’m pretty pleased. Looking at the picks for the year so far, there’s a lot of excellent reading there, and while there are a few fantasy books in the mix (and Julie Philips’ Tiptree biography), there’s not much in the way of science fiction so far this year, save for Alan DeNiro’s short story collection. So it’ll be nice to wave the SF flag with Alan to independent booksellers (especially since, to put it mildly, my book and his are very different). And of course, anything that raises awareness of the book with the people who will actually sell the book is a good thing. I’m happy that my book has the opportunity to make that impression.

The Case For RSS Feeds

Got an e-mail today from a reader letting me know he was taking me off his favorites list because he found that my indulgence in one particular general topic impeded his enjoyment of other topics I write about. There is nothing to be done for the problem of topics, of course; I write about whatever I want to write about here and that’s not going to change. Certainly I encourage people to suggest topics for discussion, but the converse is not true, i.e., you don’t get to tell what not to write about.

Also, given the number of people who visit the site and the myriad ways they’ve come here, it’s while it’s almost entirely the case that most people are less than enthused about any one topic I might discuss, which topic that is will vary by individual. Some people will wish I would shut up about politics, some people will wish I would shut up about writing, some people will get annoyed when I play with Photoshop. No one will be happy with me 100% of the time. Them’s the breaks.

However, I do think it’s a bit of a shame if my desire to discuss a single topic — whatever that topic may be — makes someone want to disappear. For those folks who discover they have an allergy to me when I discuss any one topic, allow me to suggest that you put Whatever into an RSS reader. The RSS excerpts for the site are 150 words long — usually enough to get an idea about what I’m blathering about this time — and from there you can decide whether or not it’s worth you time to click through and read the whole thing, or roll your eyes and ignore me until something more interesting to you comes along.

Certainly I don’t have a problem with people filtering my online blatherations. God knows I sort of skip some of my favorite bloggers’ entries when they get particularly screedy about something I disgree with them on, or don’t care about, and if I do it I can’t complain when someone does it to me. I really and honestly don’t expect any of the Whatever readers to enjoy every single thing I write, so please: If I annoy you sometimes, avoid the topics on which I annoy you. Unless you go out of your way to tell me what topics of mine you’re filtering out, I’ll be none the wiser and will happily putter on obliviously. Everybody wins.

You can find the RSS feed at the bottom of the Whatever sidebar; there’s also an Atom feed for those of you who want the full entry sent to your reader. They’re there to be used. Use ‘em.

Meanwhile, In Ohio…

From today’s Dayton Daily News:

Domestic-violence law being challenged (registration required):

Ohio is one of those states that in a haze of gay panic (“OMG WTF! Teh gayz wants the marry!!!!11!!!!ONE!1!!”) passed a state constitutional amendment that not only defined marriage as between a man and a woman but went out of its way to make sure no other relationship could ever have the same rights and privileges as marriage. Yes, that sure showed the homos a thing or two — now they’ll have no choice in Ohio but to have the empty personal lives devoid of meaningful relationships that the particularly hateful have always demanded they have.

But it also means that when a straight male jackass beats the crap out of his live-in girlfriend, you know, maybe because she just wouldn’t listen, he can argue to the Ohio Supreme Court, as one Michael Carswell is doing after he was indicted on felony domestic violence, that he ought not be charged with the crime in question. Because the law covers “people living as a spouse” — and as we all know, no one in Ohio can live as a spouse except a spouse.

So go ahead, Ohio jackasses! Beat the crap out of your girlfriends! The worst you can be charged with is misdemeanor assault! You can probably talk your sentencing down to a fine and 15 hours of picking trash off the highway. Plus, it’s more difficult for your girlfriend to get a restraining order against you, which makes it easier for you to keep her in line. And remember, guys, nothing sticks it to the fags wishing for the rights and protections marriage provides than a straight man kicking in the ribs of his live-in lady. Yes, that’ll show ‘em. That’ll show them all.

To be fair to Ohio, not every court in the state has determined that the domestic-violence law conflicts with the Ohio State Constitution. However, the 2nd District Court of Appeals, which covers the county in which I live, has ruled that it does. So in my hometown, you can’t be charged with felony domestic-violence if you pummel your longtime companion when she gets mouthy. But I suppose if she wanted protection from your fists, the bitch should have married you.

Meanwhile, the Citizens for Community Values, one of the conservative groups that helped pass the anti-gay amendment in Ohio, and “officially Associated with Focus on the Family and Family Research Council as a Family Policy Council in Ohio,” has filed an amicus brief supporting the guy who is charged with beating the crap out of his girlfriend. Naturally, the Citizens for Community Values isn’t arguing for unmarried men methodically abusing their girlfriends, per se. It’s just that the sanctity of marriage is so important to protect that if it means some shameless hussy living outside the sanctifying grace of matrimony has to forgo the full protection of the law when her guy pushes her down the stairs, well. Some sacrifices have to be made. Unless, of course, she was pregnant at the time. In which case I’m sure all these fine folks would be happy to charge the guy with endangering a fetus. One has to prioritize one’s community values.

What’s really awesome about this is that if the Ohio Supreme Court agrees that the domestic-violence law is unconstitutional, girlfriend thumpers in other states that have similar anti-gay marriage amendments in their constitutions can start to use this strategy in their states as well! It’ll be like a renaissance for unmarried abusers. The glory days, as it were, for gut-punching uppity chicks. And they’ll owe it all to conservative homophobia. Sure, it’s a little weird to get from gay panic to a free ticket for girlfriend abuse. But they’ll take it.

Thanks, social conservatives! You guys rock.

TAD Review on SF Signal

Here you go. It has one spoiler in it, but it’s easy to miss, so I suppose it’s only a semi-spoiler. And it’s also a positive review:

The Android’s Dream might be what you’d find in an Elmore Leonard novel if he were to write a science fiction story with Keith Laumer in Reteif mode – which is to say that it is equal parts crime story, diplomatic drama, political intrigue and science fiction adventure… This is one of those books that makes science fiction fun.

Groovy. I’m happy with the Leonard comparison, since the way I’ve been explaining to the book to non-SF readers is that it’s sort of what Elmore Leonard or Carl Hiaasen would write, if either wrote SF. So I’m glad that sensibility is coming through.

Also, I’m very pleased that what the reviewer came away with from TAD was that he had fun with it. “Fun” is pretty much the entire point of TAD; it really has no ambition other than just to amuse the hell out of the reader. Is amusing the hell out of the reader the way to critical respect, awards, and piles and piles of willing, nubile groupies? Why, yes. Yes it is. Especially the part about the groupies. Come to me, my wiggly ones!

Oh, all right: No, probably not.

On the other hand, let’s not suggest amusing the hell out of readers is not a laudible goal. One of the nice things about science fiction is that you can write with the primary goal of amusing the reader and get away with it, as opposed to most of, say, lit fic, which appears largely designed for the authors to serve notice to their former classmates at Bennington that, indeed, they can write their way out of a paper bag, so ha! Ha! They should have slept with the author after all!

Not that there’s anything wrong with lit fic. Or Bennington. I was accepted to Bennington, you know. Heck, a Bennington grad won the Booker Prize this year, for a novel that is praised for “illuminating the pain of exile, the ambiguities of post-colonialism and the blinding desire for a ‘better life,’ when one person’s wealth means another’s poverty.” Meanwhile, my book starts with a chapter primarily about farting an alien to death. Would I have written a book with farting, had I gone to Bennington? And would it have won the Booker Prize? These are the personal alternate personal histories of my life. Be that as it may, two roads diverged in the woods, and I, well, I took the one in which intestinal emanations were used for humorous effect. And that has made all the difference.

The point is, one of the nice things about genre is that writing simply for the joy of telling a fun story is not necessarily looked upon as entirely wasting one’s time or talent. It’s fun to have fun, but you’ve got to know how. Genre still knows how. I think that’s a good thing. Or at the very least, it’s a good thing for me.

Philcon Update

I just got my plane tickets — which, as it happens, come to a sum nearly as cheap as the cost of gas and parking and tolls, so that’s nice — so I’ll definitely be attending Philcon this year. I’m actually flying in a day early on account I might be doing something education-oriented on the morning of 11/17. I don’t have my programming schedule of Philcon yet, but as soon as they send it along, I’ll let you know. This is going to be the first convention I’ll be after the release of The Android’s Dream, so I’m sure I’ll be relentlessly flogging that particular work.

Let me know if you’ll be attending Philcon — or just come up to me while you’re there and say “hi.” I should be about.