Monthly Archives: July 2008

I Don’t Know Art, But I Know What I Like

“Now up for bid, this absolutely stunning piece of modern work entitled ‘I Will Be There At The End of All Things, or, The Shreddination’ by the prodigiously talented artist Zeus Scalzi. Zeus Scalzi has quickly established himself as a young master of the paper form, rending and shredding fibers as a way to comment on the fraying of the fibers of life, and how each of us, in the end, is wiped away by the progress of events; indeed, our expulsion and removal is necessary for the continued health of the whole, to allow space for new generations. Gazing upon the work, one can appreciate this new and vital metaphor for the inevitable pinching off of our continuity with the community, after the community has, with animal efficiency, extracted all that is valuable from us. Truly, a difficult work best contemplated through solitary effort, perhaps after a fine meal with companions.

“What am I bid for this dark yet exhilarating work?”

Another Entry in the Annals of “People Who Haven’t the Slightest Idea What They’re Saying”

Awww, look. Someone’s trying to lecture me on speech and the Internet!

(claps happily)

Background: In the comment thread to this entry yesterday, someone named Gretchen came in and acted in a manner I thought was inappropriate, and I told her so. She maintains I misunderstood her intent, to which I said fine, then I beg your pardon (which, to be fair, she might not have seen). She goes back to the LiveJournal community from whence she came and complains about her treatment here, which inspired another member to write me a letter lecturing me about some “facts” of the Internet, among them:

Internets 101: When you publish something on a public blog and neglect to disable the comment function, you have already given readers your permission to reply. This little slice of Internet magic is also known as the First Amendment.

Well, okay then.

First irony: The person lecturing me on the First Amendment of the Internet is apparently located in Australia, home of absolutely no First Amendment protections. Rumor has it Australia is its own country. I’d need to check an almanac to confirm, but off the top of my head I’m pretty sure about that. I’m also pretty sure that the Australian constitution is not just a complete lift of the US Constitution, and that the right to free speech in Australia isn’t even explicitly in it.

Second irony: The person lecturing me on the inherent right to comment online is doing so in a moderated LiveJournal community, into which the right to comment is strictly limited.

Third irony: There’s no third irony, this person is just absolutely, completely, ice-pick-to the-eyeballs wrong in their understanding of the First Amendment, how it applies to my site, and how it applies to the Internet. Reading this person’s understanding of how the First Amendment applies in these instances is like being slathered in a thick coat of ignorant, and then being put out into the sun to dry out before a second coat is applied, which itself will be topped off by a sealant of complete and utter stupid, and lightly drizzled with a glistening varnish of epic fail.

Because it apparently needs to be pointed out to some, let’s review some essential facts:

1. Your First Amendment rights do not apply to this blog. Why? Because, as it happens, I am not the United States government, nor one of its several subordinate state or local governments, nor is this blog an arm of any of those several governments. Je ne suis pas l’état. I am a private citizen of the United States and this blog is understood to be my private property. I am no more obliged to let any person exercise their First Amendment rights on it than I am obliged to allow people to assemble on my lawn against my will. When people come onto my site, they are obliged to play by my rules (and keep off my lawn!). Likewise, I reserve the right (noted in my site and comment rules, which are posted in a clear and obvious fashion and linked to on every page of the site generated by the WordPress install) to moderate and edit if I see fit. If I decide, in pure Yossiarian fashion, that I wish death to all gerunds in the comment threads, I am perfectly free to root them out. Editing! Gerunds! Death!

Occasionally people — usually the trolls — will tell me I can’t stop them from posting what they please on my site. Then once they’re dropped into the ban queue, I read their increasingly foamy, otherwise unseen messages, saying that I’m just another censoring tool or whatever. My general response to this is (or what would be, if I were to respond, which I don’t) is to say: Yup, sure am. Because the people I ban are generally assholes, you see. I don’t feel in the slightest bit bad not letting them play in my virtual yard. Likewise, I don’t feel in the least bit bad in telling people a) to behave when they aren’t, in my estimation, behaving in my site, and b) to cram it when they appear to be under the impression they have any right to tell me how to express myself on my own site. If people don’t like it, of course, they have the right to leave.

2. The First Amendment does not apply to the whole Internet. What? You say the whole Internet is covered by the First Amendment? Excellent! Won’t those bloggers in China and Iran be relieved. Not to mention Charlie Stross, who very carefully moderates his blog because, as he notes, “the server this blog is based on is sited in London, and is therefore subject to the English law on defamation and libel, which is entirely batshit crazy.” And hey, anyone accessing the Internet in Australia, home of some of the most stringent online laws in the Western world, is no doubt relieved that those laws will never be enforced, because the Internet is covered by the First Amendment!

Oh, wait.

Now, as it happens, I wish the whole of the Internet were covered by First Amendment law, because you know what? I would like an Iranian or Chinese blogger not to worry that posting his thoughts online might mean that he spends time in prison, or ends up with a bullet in his head. Call me crazy that way. But you know, wishing doesn’t make it so, and out here in the real world, the First Amendment’s legal force stops at the US border. Would be nice if it didn’t but it does. And while, yes, theoretically an Iranian blogger who could send his words to a server based in the US would thus have those words protected, when the thugs come to stomp down the door of his house in the Tehran suburbs, that’ll be a cold comfort.

(Mind you, even if the First Amendment applied everywhere online, I could still do what I wanted on my own blog; see point one, above.)

3. Not disabling comments does not give people permission to comment. See, watch:

Hey everyone! I’ve not disabled my comments, but I expressly and explicitly deny you permission to post comments here! Don’t do it!

Wow, that was easy.

Yes, yes, you can post comments here — you have the ability, since I did not disable comments — but you do not have my consent to do so. And that’s what permission is: my consent to your actions. My leaving the ability to post comments on the site no more inherently offers my consent for you to comment than my not locking my house inherently offers my consent for you to enter my house and plop down on the couch. Certainly disabling my comments would reinforce my lack of consent for you to post comments, just as locking my door reinforces my lack of consent for you to step into my front hall. It does not mean, however, that the permission is otherwise there if I do not do these things. Likewise, one might assume not disabling comments on a blog implies permission to post, since that’s how most people do things. But your assumption, in fact, does not equal actual consent.

Okay, I now give you express and explicit permission to post comments again, under the rules noted in the comment policy — if, in fact, I’ve not already banned you. And if I’ve previously told you not to post in a specific comment thread, you still can’t, in those threads.

Because that’s the other thing, isn’t it? I might want to leave my comments open to most people and ban or restrict one or two people. The blogging software might allow me mechanically to ban someone — take away their simple ability to respond on the site — but if I don’t use that mechanism, it does not mean that those I have banned have permission to post. And also to the point, even if you do have permission to post, I still have the right to moderate, censor and even delete your comments, if in my opinion you’ve crossed some line I don’t want crossed.

So, let’s recap: You don’t inherently have permission to post comments to a blog, even if the blog owner doesn’t disable the commenting function. You don’t have First Amendment rights on this blog. And the First Amendment doesn’t apply to the whole Internet. Basically, every single assertion this person makes is completely wrong.

Which is impressive, in its way, but not something I suspect this person was aiming for when they decided they were going to try to offer me a snark-laden lecture about how the Internet works. Snark only works if in the process of offering it, you don’t do the factual equivalent of faceplanting into the concrete.

Fourth irony: Over in the LiveJournal community where this person has just embarrassed themselves by being entirely wrong about just about everything, Gretchen is thanking them for their post.

Don’t Stop MP3in’, Hold On That Feeling

Via a tip off from Rob Thornton, behold the Journey mp3 player!

Oh, yes, it’s real:

The Zvue Journey comes preloaded with Journey music — 11 of their classic hits (“Any Way You Want It,” “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Wheel in the Sky,” “Open Arms,” etc.) as well as the 11 songs on their new album Revelation featuring a new vocalist, Arnel Pineda. With a 1GB capacity, the Windows-only Journey also has room for additional MP3, WMA and WAV music, a microphone for recording your most fervent Journey-related musings, a rechargable battery, seven EQ presets and a tiny little speaker.

All for 40 bucks! At Wal-Mart!

I’ve already got the album and an mp3 player, but I’m seriously thinking of buying one just to terrify all my friends. $40 is not too expensive to watch the reactions on their faces.

You’re All Insane

For everyone in comments and e-mail who have plaintively asked if it’s okay if they like the Seven and the Ragged Tiger album, here’s a Duran Duran video for y’all:

It’s “New Moon on Monday,” in which Simon, John, Roger, Andy and Nick (God please strike me dead for being able to remember all their names without a Wikipedia check) foment a proletarian revolution against the lightsaber-wielding secret police through the cunning use of kites and fireworks. Who knew it could be that easy? Mind you, had I been the commisar of the secret police of Duranoslavia here, I could have stopped this incipient revolution simply by rounding up every man wearing a leather coat and eyeliner, and then throwing them into a room full of Saxon fans. Yes, that would have solved that problem very nicely.

Anyway: Enjoy your stinkin’ Duran Duran, you freaks.

Airing a Repeat: On Submitting Bitchy E-Mails to Scalzi’s Attention

Someone is presently boring me in e-mail, so I thought this might be a nice time to haul the following chestnut out of the archives. This is originally from 2004.

On Submitting Bitchy E-Mails to Scalzi’s Attention

A quick note to anyone who has got it in their mind to send me bitchy e-mail: My tolerance for said e-mail appears to be very short these days, so do me the favor of front-loading whatever relevant thing you have to say, because if you don’t, it’s likely that I won’t get to it because I’ve stopped reading before you’ve made your point.

This comes in the wake of having received a ten or twelve paragraph e-mail by one of those nutbag childfree folks. As most of you know, I enjoy getting hateful mail from psychotic people, because usually nothing perks up the day like invective hurled at you by someone you don’t know. But this time around, I just wasn’t into it. The first paragraph just wasn’t there, you know? It was clear that this woman was yet another of those people incensed that the world would not give her love and chocolates just because she’s decided to make her inchoate loathing of children a cornerstone of her life. And really, I’ve been down this aisle and I’ve checked out all the specials. The prospect of wading through yet another of these formless rants just to be polite filled my brain with a lassitude the consistency of heavy molasses prior to a February thaw.

So I didn’t bother. Instead, I wrote to my correspondent:

I’m sorry, I lost interest in your message after the first paragraph and couldn’t be bothered to finish it. No doubt it was very clever and devastating and if it makes you feel good, please consider me abashed or chagrined or whatever it was that you intended me to feel after reading your brilliant, scintillating words. In the meantime, allow me to congratulate you in your decision not to breed, as clearly a person of your qualities represents a full stop on the genetic paragraph; the evolution of your line need go no further.

Please feel free to respond, whereupon I’ll be happy to ignore you again in greater detail.

Bye, now.

Now, to be fair to this person, it’s entirely possible that she made some excellent points in paragraphs two through twelve, inclusive. But her first graph just didn’t make the argument that I needed to continue reading, so why should I have? This may be rude, but we’re all friends here, and I feel I can share this with you all: I don’t feel obliged to read all of my e-mails all the way through. I’m a busy man and even after you cull away all the e-mails for erectile dysfunction drugs, lesbian MILF pee orgies and Dale Earnhardt commemorative Beanie Babies, I get a lot of e-mail.

I read e-mail from friends, and e-mail from clients, and everyone else I get to when I get to it. So if I don’t know you, you’re not automatically a high priority. And if I don’t know you and you’re planning to bitch at me, you damn well better do it in an effective and engaging manner, because otherwise you’re just wasting my time. As I’ve mentioned before, I view hate mail as entertainment. So if you’re not entertaining me, you’re going to get plonked.

This is clearly where this woman miscalculated: Like many people who are aggrieved and insensible, she labors under the opinion that I am somehow obliged to provide her mental outgassings a fair hearing. Surprise! I’m not. Does this make me a bad man? If you define bad as “not really giving a crap what you think unless you amuse me first,” then, yes, I am indeed a very bad man, a real enemy of humanity, right up there with Stalin and any three members of Duran Duran. But unlike these others, I have neither starved millions of my countrymen in a rigged famine just to teach them a political lesson nor tried to foist off Seven and the Ragged Tiger as a document of art worth $7.99 in 1984 dollars. In terms of crimes against humanity, I can live with mine.

This is not to say I’m opposed to getting mail from people whose opinions differ from my own. Many people with whom I’ve corresponded will tell you that I am more than happy to consider points, information and opinions that are dramatically different from my own. Hell, I’ve had cordial e-mail with Confederate sympathizers and creationists, and you all know where I stand on those topics. However, these people might also note that when they sent e-mail to me, they tried to be at least somewhat civil. I do try to answer civility with civility; to do otherwise is rude. However, I don’t see why I should bother being nice to people whose e-mails are transparently a proxy for a good, healthy head-shrinking. You want me to be polite when you rant, then have your health insurance pay me $150 an hour like it does your therapist. Otherwise, you get what I decide to give you, which ain’t going to be much.

Perhaps the best metaphor to go with here is a literary one. When you compose a bitchy e-mail to me, consider it a submission to a magazine called Scalzi’s Attention. This magazine, I’m proud to say, has high standards — not all who apply are accepted. There are regular columnists and contributors (friends, clients, the occasional reasonable correspondent with an opposing viewpoint), but everything else is in the slushpile. Anyone who’s been in a slushpile knows you have to be really good to stand out. Anyone who’s been in a slushpile also knows that while those who read through slush are hoping to find something good, they are also usually simultaneously looking for any excuse not to have to keep reading something, so if you give a slushpile reader an excuse not to read you all the way through, they’ll take it. Let me finally suggest that of all the material in my personal slushpile, I consider bitchy e-mails the slushiest. You want me to read all the way through, you’ve really got to work it. Impress me. Don’t bore me. Otherwise your submission is likely to be rejected by Scalzi’s Attention. On the plus side, as you can see above, we have nifty rejection letters.

Quite obviously I realize that most of the people who wish to send me bitchy e-mails won’t see why they should bother keeping me amused long enough to read their e-mails all the way through. But allow me to note this is not exactly a problem from my point of view. Rather the opposite, in fact.

History and Science Fiction and Movies

Hey! Thursday again, and another AMC column on science fiction movies. This time I talk about what science fiction and historical movies have in common, which is, not a whole lot of fidelity to their academic subjects — and why maybe that doesn’t matter a whole lot when it comes to science fiction. I’m sure this is an attitude that may annoy some science purists. But what the hell, I live to annoy. As always, the comment threads at the AMC site yearn for your wisdom, so leave your thoughts there.

Just in Case You Thought the Hand-Wringing Over Science Fiction Was an English Language Thing

There’s a nice, long piece in El Pais, Spain’s largest newspaper, about the current denatured state of the science fiction genre. Naturally, having a facility in reading Spanish might help (I relied on the good graces of Google Translate, myself). Personally I don’t think things are as apocalyptically bad as the writer of this piece does; nevertheless, it’s nice to get namechecked in a major daily as one of the few bright spots in the current science fiction scene (I can think of a few others, mind you; even so). And in a general sense it’s an interesting article, presuming Google Translate has done its job. It’s a shame few newspapers in the US would devote as much time to the genre, handwringing or not.

Hugo Prognosticating

Over at Tor.Com, folks are putting down their markers on who they think will win the Best Novel Hugo this year. For obvious reasons, I am refraining from making an appearance in the comment thread, and anyway, I’ve already essayed my chances here. But if you want to put in your two cents, over there’s the place to do it.

I will say this much: While any of the books would be a good choice this year, and I don’t think there’s a runaway front-runner, from a personal fanboy point of view I’d be happy to see Charlie up at the podium at the end of it all.

Your Wednesday Musical Interlude

Mandy Moore doing “The Whole of the Moon” by the Waterboys:

It’s surprisingly not horrible! Indeed, I think it’s pretty good. Also, not to put too fine a point on it, there would be no way Athena would listen to the actual Waterboys version without proclaiming her boredom with it (“Dad, the whiny man is boring me with his voice,” is a phrase I believe she’s used regarding Mike Scott). Maybe she’ll grow into the Waterboys; in the meantime, there’s this.

(This is the covers album this is off of, by the way.)

Reminder: ArmadilloCon

Just a reminder to all and sundry that if the dates of August 15 through 17 are just a big ol’ gapin’ hole in your social calendar, there’s something you can do about it, namely, come to Austin, Texas and hang out with me, Joe & Gay Haldeman and lots and lots of other truly excellent folks at ArmadilloCon 30. This will be my first time in Texas, save being trapped inside of an airport, so you know you don’t want to miss that. In all seriousness, this looks like it’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun, so if you can make it, it’ll be great to see you there.

Zoe’s Tale: Not in SFBC

For those of you hoping to pick up a copy of Zoe’s Tale via the Science Fiction Book Club, I have some bad news, which is that SFBC won’t be carrying it. The reason for this is fairly uncomplicated: they made an offer for it which we felt wasn’t acceptable, so we didn’t accept it. This was a little sad for me — the OMW books had done pretty well in their SFBC editions, and I liked having them there — but that’s business sometimes. It will, of course, be available just about anywhere else hardcover books are sold, so it won’t be like you won’t be able to find it otherwise. So that’s good.

In any event, just a head’s up for you SFBC subscribers.

The Big Idea: Greg Egan

If you like your science fiction hard – we’re talking diamond-scratching hard, here — then you already know that Greg Egan is your man; this Hugo winner’s been spinning tales of hard SF for years that make you think and thrill at the same time. After a six-year break from novels, Egan is back with Incandescence, which features a journey to the very core of the galaxy. You know, like you do. And for those of you who are wondering just how seriously Egan takes the “science” part of the phrase “science fiction,” here’s Egan to explain the genesis of Incandescence, which involves Einstein’s greatest discovery, and how people who aren’t exactly Einsteins themselves might discover it.

GREG EGAN:

Incandescence grew out of the notion that the theory of general relativity — widely regarded as one of the pinnacles of human intellectual achievement — could be discovered by a pre-industrial civilization with no steam engines, no electric lights, no radio transmitters, and absolutely no tradition of astronomy.

At first glance, this premise might strike you as a little hard to believe. We humans came to a detailed understanding of gravity after centuries of painstaking astronomical observations, most crucially of the motions of the planets across the sky. Johannes Kepler found that these observations could be explained if the planets moved around the sun along elliptical orbits, with the square of the orbital period proportional to the cube of the length of the longest axis of the ellipse. Newton showed that just such a motion would arise from a universal attraction between bodies that was inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. That hypothesis was a close enough approximation to the truth to survive for more than three centuries.

When Newton was finally overthrown by Einstein, the birth of the new theory owed much less to the astronomical facts it could explain — such as a puzzling drift in the point where Mercury made its closest approach to the sun — than to an elegant theory of electromagnetism that had arisen more or less independently of ideas about gravity. Electrostatic and magnetic effects had been unified by James Clerk Maxwell, but Maxwell’s equations only offered one value for the speed of light, however you happened to be moving when you measured it. Making sense of this fact led Einstein first to special relativity, in which the geometry of space-time had the unvarying speed of light built into it, then general relativity, in which the curvature of the same geometry accounted for the motion of objects free-falling through space.

So for us, astronomy was crucial even to reach as far as Newton, and postulating Einstein’s theory — let alone validating it to high precision, with atomic clocks on satellites and observations of pulsar orbits — depended on a wealth of other ideas and technologies.

How, then, could my alien civilization possibly reach the same conceptual heights, when they were armed with none of these apparent prerequisites? The short answer is that they would need to be living in just the right environment: the accretion disk of a large black hole.

When SF readers think of the experience of being close to a black hole, the phenomena that most easily come to mind are those that are most exotic from our own perspective: time dilation, gravitational blue-shifts, and massive distortions of the view of the sky. But those are all a matter of making astronomical observations, or at least arranging some kind of comparison between the near-black-hole experience and the experience of other beings who have kept their distance. My aliens would probably need to be sheltering deep inside some rocky structure to protect them from the radiation of the accretion disk — and the glow of the disk itself would also render astronomy immensely difficult.

Blind to the heavens, how could they come to learn anything at all about gravity, let alone the subtleties of general relativity? After all, didn’t Einstein tell us that if we’re free-falling, weightless, in a windowless elevator, gravity itself becomes impossible to detect?

Not quite! To render its passenger completely oblivious to gravity, not only does the elevator need to be small, but the passenger’s observations need to be curtailed in time just as surely as they’re limited in space. Given time, gravity makes its mark. Forget about black holes for a moment: even inside a windowless space station orbiting the Earth, you could easily prove that you were not just drifting through interstellar space, light-years from the nearest planet. How? Put on your space suit, and pump out all the station’s air. Then fill the station with small objects — paper clips, pens, whatever — being careful to place them initially at rest with respect to the walls.

Wait, and see what happens.

Most objects will eventually hit the walls; the exact proportion will depend on the station’s spin. But however the station is or isn’t spinning, some objects will undergo a cyclic motion, moving back and forth, all with the same period.

That period is the orbital period of the space station around the Earth. The paper clips and pens that are moving back and forth inside the station are following orbits that are inclined at a very small angle to the orbit of the station’s center of mass. Twice in every orbit, the two paths cross, and the paper clip passes through the center of the space station. Then it moves away, reaches the point of greatest separation of the orbits, then turns around and comes back.

This minuscule difference in orbits is enough to reveal the fact that you’re not drifting in interstellar space. A sufficiently delicate spring balance could reveal the tiny “tidal gravitational force” that is another way of thinking about exactly the same thing, but unless the orbital period was very long, you could stick with the technology-free approach and just watch and wait.

A range of simple experiments like this — none of them much harder than those conducted by Galileo and his contemporaries — were the solution to my aliens’ need to catch up with Newton. But catching up with Einstein? Surely that was beyond hope?

I thought it might be, until I sat down and did some detailed calculations. It turned out that, close to a black hole, the differences between Newton’s and Einstein’s predictions would easily be big enough for anyone to spot without sophisticated instrumentation.

What about sophisticated mathematics? The geometry of general relativity isn’t trivial, but much of its difficulty, for us, revolves around the need to dispose of our preconceptions. By putting my aliens in a world of curved and twisted tunnels, rather than the flat, almost Euclidean landscape of a patch of planetary surface, they came better prepared for the need to cope with a space-time geometry that also twisted and curved.

The result was an alternative, low-tech path into some of the most beautiful truths we’ve yet discovered about the universe. To add to the drama, though, there needed to be a sense of urgency; the intellectual progress of the aliens had to be a matter of life and death. But having already put them beside a black hole, danger was never going to be far behind.

Incandescence: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s

Visit Greg Egan’s Incandescence page, which features quite a lot of supplementary material. Also visit his listing of his works available online.

Things I Forgot to Remember, Monday Edition

Some stuff I probably should have mentioned before:

* As you know, Tor.Com is live and is featuring my new short story “After the Coup,” which takes place in the OMW universe. What I neglected to mention was that in addition to writing it, I also read it aloud, and the audio track is available both to listen online and to download. Just go to the story link, and click on the “Listen” link over there to the left side of the page, and there you’ll have an hour’s worth of me reading into a microphone. Have fun!

* Speaking of audio, last week I did an interview for the Geekly Weekly podcast, in which I discussed various subjects, including (yes) bacon and pets. It’s available here — I come in at around the five minute mark and talk for about a half hour, I think. The rest of the podcast is also a lot of fun.

* The fabulous Mary Robinette Kowal has pointed out that the KGB Reading Series — a fabulous monthly gathering in NYC where speculative fiction fans and writers meet and mingle and read work aloud — is having a raffle to raise funds to keep the reading series going. For the price of a $1 raffle ticket, you could win neat prizes ranging from having your name in a story to a story critique by an editor to signed copies of excellent books. It’s cheap, it’s a great cause, and it’s fun. So get a ticket, why don’t you.

* We’re about a week away from the official release of the mass market paperback version of The Last Colony, which means you might actually start seeing it in the stores in the next few days. If you prefer to buy online, Tor has thoughtfully provided you this page with links to several different online retailers. But I won’t mind if you choose to support your local booksellers.

The imminent release of the paperback also means that if you were planning to pick up the hardcover edition of the book, you might want to do that sometime relatively soon, otherwise they will disappear on you and you’ll have to get a used copy on eBay, which does me no good. Also, Tor was pretty spot on in guessing how many hardcovers to print for TLC, so there’s not likely to be too many remainders.

* Finally, Jeff Carlson has a ginchy book trailer for his upcoming book Plague War available here. It’s quite spooky.

I think that’s everything I forgot to remember, but you know what? I may have forgotten to remember other things I’ve forgot. It happens.

Two Small Observations

They are:

1. People who don’t know what they’re talking about don’t like to have that fact pointed about, especially if you use the word “ignorant” in context to the fact.

2. People like to confuse “pointing out the fact you don’t know what you’re talking about” with “being hostile,” because it makes them feel better about themselves. It’s generally not worth arguing to them that it’s not necessarily hostile to point out when someone doesn’t know what they’re taking about, but inasmuch as many people who don’t know what they’re talking about are invested in appearing like they do know what they’re talking about, and in the process of trying to make it seem like they do know what they’re talking about will make more statements that show their lack of knowledge, thus necessitating further pointing out that they don’t know what they’re talking about, it’s certainly understandable that they would regard it as hostile. And of course, eventually one may indeed become hostile toward people determined to continue to not know what they are talking about.

Discuss.

New Short Story at Tor.Com — Now Live!

Tor.Com is finally live, and as noted in various news organizations, the site combines “original fiction, a group blog, lightweight social networking features and an extensive art gallery.” Plus it’s just generally cool.

Am I involved with Tor.Com? I am, in two ways. First, I signed on there to be their roving Science blogger, occasionally posting there about interesting things going on in the world of science. Because, as it happens, I do write about science from time to time on a professional basis, and now Tor.Com gives me a fun, regular outlet to do that. Awesome. I’ve already posted some entries there and will be posting more as time goes on.

Second, the site is debuting with a short story by me, set in the Old Man’s War universe, called “After the Coup.” Fans of the series may be delighted to know that after supporting appearances in Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades, the character Harry Wilson steps forward for his first starring role in this tale of diplomacy, biology and beating the crap out aliens with sticks and fists. The artwork above, by John Harris, accompanies the short story. I think you should have a ball with it.

(But wait, there’s more! There’s also a fabulous new story by Charlie Stross, set in the world of his “Laundry” stories, called “Down on the Farm.” Tor didn’t waste any time lining up good stuff for you to read, folks.)

I’m very excited about the Tor.Com site — The folks at Tor put a lot of thought and planning into the site, and it’s paid off. I think it has a chance to be a cornerstone of the science fiction blogosphere. Go check it out, sign up to comment and participate, and have a ball with it. I have so far.

Fan Fiction in Canada

For all you fanficcers out there, an interesting take on fan fiction from the Canadian legal perspective, i.e., whether fan fic would be legal in Canada if it ever went to court there. The author suspects not and notes that in Canada (and much of the rest of the world outside the US) there’s an additional layer of complication in that the author is assumed to have a “moral right” to a work which includes some strictures on how the work (and the characters within) is to be used. There is no moral right issue in US law, of course, because we in the US don’t have morals. Or something.

The article also namechecks the Organization for Transformative Works, the group founded last year to (among other things) promulgate the idea that “fannish” works are transformative and thus legal. My thought on that last year was that it was an interesting idea but probably wrong, and at this point I’ve not seen too much that convinces me otherwise. I’ll note that no one seems to be in a rush to push a test case into the courts.