Monthly Archives: July 2009

Do You Like Clouds?

I like clouds. Here, have some clouds.

In other news, I utterly failed not to re-download Photoshop. On the other hand, holy crap, is the 64-bit version of Photoshop CS4 so much faster than the version I was using before. I actually feel a little giddy about it. Expect a fair amount of Photoshoppery in the coming days, weeks and months.

In the Category of “Things I Would Not Expect to Go Together”

Apparently people who buy wolf urine on Amazon also buy The Last Colony. And LEGOs. And toilet paper, but that almost kind of makes sense. Almost.

(Snurched from BackBackHeyHey on Twitter)

Explaining the Hugos

First, yes, I’ve impaled a headcrab on my Hugo. Because I had to impale it on something. Thing was trying to eat my skull.

Second, given the recent (yet, also, annual) contretemps concerning the Hugos and the shortlists thereof, and whether they truly represent the best of science fiction, and whether something needs to be changed in how they are selected and/or voted upon, let me give you an analogy that I feel explains what the Hugos actually are and how they work:

Let’s say you visit a friend of yours in a city you don’t live in. Your friend has lived in that city her whole life, and is always talking up the charms of the town to you. So you go and you visit and you’re hungry. And you say to your friend, “so what’s a good place to eat around here?”

And your friend says, “well, there’s this very nice and expensive restaurant that just opened up that’s getting fantastic reviews, we could go there.”

You shake your head. “No,” you say. “Take me someplace you go to eat. Someplace you and your friends really like.”

And your friend’s eyes light up and she says “I know just the place,” and then you go someplace in the neighborhood. And maybe it’s a really nice place, and maybe it’s a taco truck. Maybe you get something to eat that you recognize, and maybe you get something that you just have to assume is a local delicacy that you’d have to have eaten your whole life to enjoy. Point is, your local friend is showing you what she considers the local flavor. If you like it, great. If not, well, you’re from out of town, and it’s fine that you don’t like what your friend and her local pack of pals like. They’re still going to like it anyway.

That’s the Hugos.

There, that solves that.

Personal Work Minutiae, 7/30/09

Answers to various questions I’ve received relating to my own personal projects over the last several days:

1. Regarding That Project I Can’t Tell You About Yet: Sorry, still can’t tell you about it yet. Not trying to be a dick, I’m just not in a position to go into any detail about it at the moment. When I can, I will. In the meantime, just in case you’re feeling slighted, know this: Even my mom doesn’t know what it is. Sorry, mom.

2. What’s out next: I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve no problem going over it again: Between now and the end of 2009, I have four things of note:

  • METAtropolis, in printed form, which will be out via Subterranean Press in the next couple of weeks;
  • Stargate: Universe, for which I consult, will premiere on SyFy on October 2nd;
  • The novella The God Engines, my first fantasy work, will be out in time for the holidays from Subterranean Press;
  • “Judge Sn Goes Golfing,” a short story set in the Android’s Dream universe, will be available as a special chapbook, also in time for the holidays, also by Subterranean Press.

3. Hey, speaking of Stargate: Universe, here, have this here shiny, shiny trailer:

For the record, yes, I can see some of the stuff I advised the SG:U folks about in this trailer. Which rocks, if you ask me. Nice to see it on the screen. Not that anyone else will notice it, mind you; they’ll be focusing on the actors and stories and special effects. But, you know, that’s the point. If I’m doing my job right, you won’t see me doing it.

4. Yes, yes, you say. But what about novels? Well, I start writing the next novel on August 17 and plan to have it done by the end of the year. When it will be out to stores depends on various aspects of the publishing industry, but I wouldn’t expect it earlier than late 2010 or early 2011.

This is a fairly substantial gap in novel publication, which to be clear is in no small part my own doing, because I asked Tor to pull The High Castle off its schedule when it became clear to me it had structural problems. I’ll just have to hope people don’t forget I exist in the two and a half year gap (minimum) between Zoe’s Tale and the next novel. We’ll see, won’t we. That said, I do have plans for publishing short fiction in the interim between now and whenever the next novel hits (beyond “TGE” and “Judge Sn,” I mean), so you likely won’t entirely be rid of me.

As to what the next novel will be about, I still have to decide that. I have three story ideas that I’ve fleshed out enough that they’re at the writable stage, and now it’s a matter of picking one over the others. I think all three will be written eventually, it’s just a matter of which is next. I may flip a coin. With three sides, obviously.

And that’s where all that is at the moment.

Don’t Panic: This is How it Works

I find it really hard to get terribly emotionally invested in the ups and downs of the health care reform legislation in Washington, not because I think we don’t need reform, but primarily because I find the play-by-play, who’s-up-who’s-down BS silly and perhaps a bit ahistorical as regards how legislation is done. I mean, really: What? The president is not getting 100% of what he wants out of Congress? What? The opposition is opposed? What? Some congressman with shaky re-relection chances is making a stink that looks good to the people back at home? What? Getting it all through the legislative process is taking longer than anyone expected? I am shocked and may become vaporous.

Seriously, this is what happens with legislation; moreover, this is what’s supposed to happen. It is not, in itself, terribly remarkable. I’m interested in the process and what’s coming out of it; I’m rather less interested in following it like it’s The Most Important Sports Championship Final Game EVAR. Watching commentators running around saying OMG the Blue Dogs are delaying the vote until September OBAMA’S ADMINISTRATION IS SO OVER or things of that ilk makes me want to reach for a firehose.

So: Deep breaths, everyone. When 2010 and 2012 come around, what people are going to remember is whether the health care reform package passed or didn’t, not whether there was a one-month delay in the vote. And even then whether it will KILL OBAMA is another matter entirely: HillaryCare imploding didn’t do much to keep Bill Clinton from getting re-elected in 1996, you may recall.

A Little Bit of Fiddlery

Those of you obsessed with the sidebars here might have noticed me fiddling a bit with them today, and here’s what I’ve done: I’ve removed the “Recent Posts” section and replaced it with a “Last 100 Posts” section, which now resides below the “Blatheration of Others” section. I did this because I think it makes it easier to casually look through the last month (or so) of entries, if one is of a mind to.

I may do more fiddling with the sidebars today as well, so if you see things moving around or changing, or if the site explodes, don’t panic, it’s just me, and I meant to do that. Yeah.

I’m Not Evil, I’m Just Programmed That Way

The AMC column this week looks at famous evil computers in science fiction and asks: Are they genuinely evil? Or just misunderstood? And then asks you to post your own favorite example of an evil computer. That’s right, I crave your input. As I so often do.

What You Have to Give Up to Write

Got a letter today from an aspiring novelist who is wondering if wanting to write means that one has to be willing to sacrifice a great deal for one’s writing and craft. Because one hears of writers who have made great sacrifices in order to work on their writing, including giving up jobs, friends and spouses in order to put their words into being. Does one have to be willing to put that all on the line for one’s art?

Nah. What you really need to do is cut an hour of TV watching out of your day. Seriously, now: Keep your job, keep your marriage, keep your friends, keep the kids. Just drop an hour of TV.

Because, look: If you’ve got an hour a day to write uninterrupted, you can probably manage between 250 and 500 words a day. Do that five days a week, and in the course of a year that’s between 65,250 and 130,500 words; i.e., hey, you’ve gone and written a novel. All while keeping your day job and not turning into a hermit. This is not complicated.

I think the whole “you must be willing to suffer for your art” thing is overrated and is generally bruited about by people who want to make writing look like some amazing, holy process or whatever. My response to this is, sure, writing can be a wild, transcendent thing, but at the end of the day it’s also about putting your ass into a chair and typing. Writing is a process, and like most processes, if you do it on a regular basis, you generally increase your facility for it.

Now, that covers the process, but maybe the question is meant existentially and experientially, as in “no great writer leads a strife-free life.” But you know, my feeling about that is that life is going to smack you around anyway, so there’s no point in making more trouble for yourself than you have to. Certainly a writer should be open to experience and even seek it out, but going out of one’s way to make one’s life more difficult just seems more trouble than it’s worth, and of dubious utility in any event. Just as a matter of practicality it’s a problem; I mean, when my life’s turning to crap I certainly don’t feel in the mood to write scads of prose. Usually I just end up sitting in my office and glowering at the computer screen.

Yes, there are a lot of writers with tumultuous lives. But I submit to you that in many if not most cases, their lives would have been just as tumultuous had they been in some other line of work, because that was just who they were, independent of their writer brain. I have no doubt there are accountants and firefighters and dentists with equally tumultuous lives, we just don’t hear about them. And very few people suggest that one must be willing to accept strife if one is to file people’s taxes with the IRS or perform root canals.

So yeah, no: Don’t give up everything for your art. Just turn off the damn television for a bit (or put down that XBox controller, or stop staring unblinking at your RSS feed or whatever), and get yourself used to writing a bit every day. You’ll be surprised at how effective it turns out to be, and you’ll still have a job and loved ones at the end of it. Unless you screw up some other way, in which case you will suffer. But it won’t have been for your art. And I think that’s for the best.

My Anticipation Schedule

For those of you heading to Montreal next week for Worldcon, here’s the schedule of what I’m doing there and when.

Thu 14:00 @ P-524B
Hollywood’s Favorite SF Writer
David Weingart, Jason Bourget, Lou Anders, John Scalzi, Lenny Bailes

Forty years ago it might have been Jules Verne or H. G. Wells.  Today it’s the late Philip K. Dick who died before the release of “Blade Runner,” based on his “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Since then we’re seen “Minority Report,” “Total Recall,” “Next,” “Screamers,” “Imposter,” “Paycheck” and “A Scanner Darkly.”  More are on the way.  Why has Hollywood embraced PKD even as they ignore other giants on the bookshelf?  Which of the films have been most successful?  Most faithful?

Notes: Hey, who doesn’t like Dick? Hmm, that didn’t come out right.

Fri 12:00
John Scalzi Autographing

Notes: This date and time is very likely to change. The reason for this is that they’ve scheduled me for a half hour autographing session and then scheduled me for a panel a half hour later, so either I look like a dick by not sticking around for my entire autographing time in order to get to my panel, or I look like a dick by coming in late to my panel. I noted to the programming people that if I’m going to look like a dick, I prefer it to be because of something I willfully did, not because of scheduling on someone else’s part (translation: I did a diva footstomp about it). Fortunately the programming people are fine people and are working on setting up another signing time, likely Monday at some (early) point. I’ll post when/if I get confirmation. Also, when you get to Anticipation, check the “pink sheets,” which will tell you about late schedule changes and etc.

Fri 12:30 @  P-512AE
Author Reading: Hugo Nominated Non-Fiction
Farah Mendlesohn, Paul Kincaid, John Scalzi

John Scalzi, Paul Kincaid and Farah Mendlesohn read from their nominated works.

Notes: Because, honestly, why should the fiction nominees have all the fun? The folks in the Best Related Book category in fact wrote rockin’ tomes, and if you come out for this, you’ll hear for yourself. I all ready know which bit of Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded I’ll be reading from, and I will read with unreserved glee. You know you want to be there for it.

Fri 20:00 @ P-517D
Singles Meet-and-Greet
Eva Whitley, John Scalzi

A one-evening mini-relaxacon where single con-goers can meet and get acquainted in a no-pressure setting, hosted by Eva Whitely and John Scalzi.

Notes: No, I’m not single (just ask my wife). However, the Worldcon Powers That Be figure I might be a genial host type for you singles out there. Why not come by and find out? Because other singles will be there too. You can tell the kids how you met your future spouse!

Sat 10:00 @ P-512AE
Author Reading
Jon Courtenay Grimwood, John Scalzi, Peter Watts

Notes: This time I’ll be reading fiction. I think I’ll bring something new. And short, since the three of us have an hour slot.

Sat 11:00 @ P-524B
Abby Normal: Comedy and SF
James Zavaglia, Joe Pearce, John Scalzi

The 35th anniversary of the Mel Brooks spoof “Young Frankenstein” is a good excuse to look at movies that treat science-fiction, fantasy and horror not with reverence but for laughs. How difficult is it to balance the genre with the comedy?  Movies like “Galaxy Quest” and “The Princess Bride” get it right, while recent spoofs like “Epic Movie” get it horribly wrong.  Do you have to love the genre to laugh at it?

Notes: I dunno. I’m not very funny.

Sat 14:00 @ P-521B
John Scalzi Kaffeklatsch

Notes: Get up close and personal with me! John Scalzi! This is one of those things you’ll have to sign up for, so don’t forget to do so. They won’t just let you slide through the door.

Sun 9:00 @ P-512CG
How Not to be a Jerk Online
Catherynne Valente, Kate Nepveu, John Scalzi, Michelle Kendall

Is there an equivalent of Miss Manners for this modern age? How to avoid flamewars and actually learn something.

Notes: There is irony in the fact I’m the moderator of this particular panel. That said, these are really excellent co-panelists, so my plan is to let them do most of the talking.

Sun 11:00 @ P-516D
Michael Jackson’s THRILLER: SF Culture Landmark
Nora K. Jemisin, Stephen H. Segal, John Scalzi

In 1983, Michael Jackson’s THRILLER video gave us lycanthropic romance, zombie dancers, and state-of-the-art special effects — not to mention Vincent Price reciting graveyard poetry. How did this watershed television moment set the stage for the next 25 years worth of SF/pop music/pop culture crossovers, from Jackson’s own subsequent oeuvre through Rob Zombie and beyond?

Notes: They’ve scheduled this for 90 minutes, which I think is a bit optimistic. Also, Melissa Auf der Maur was originally supposed to be on it. I’m very sad she appears not to be on the panel anymore because ZOMG I have such a crush. But I guess 90 minutes of me making cow eyes at her wouldn’t be entertaining for anyone else.

Sun 12:30 @ P-512CG
Is Privacy a Thing of the Past?
Jason Bourget, Steven R. Boyett, John Scalzi

Governments spy on us, we photograph police officers, and our children broadcast their sex lives on the internet. Does privacy matter any more? What is it for?

Notes: While I’m sure this will be an interesting and enlightening panel, I’m mostly just chuffed that I’m going to meet Steven R. Boyett, whose novel Ariel I am a huge fan of. Yes, I’m a fan boy. Sue me.

Sun 17:00 @ P-517D
The New Space Opera 2
Session ID:  1702

Meet the editors and authors of both the first and second The New Space Opera anthologies.  Jonathan Strahan, Gardner Dozois and Tom Clegg will attend the entire event and will be available for autographing.  Other New Space Opera writers may drop by.

Notes: I’m going to try to swing by this, but I’ll note it’s just a couple of hours before the Hugo ceremony and I may be a big bundle of twitch. In which case I may just stay in my hotel room and shiver. Call it 50/50.

Beyond these scheduled events, I’m likely also to do a stint hanging out at the SFWA table as well as attending some of the various publisher’s parties, and of course I’ll also be wandering about aimlessly throughout the Worldcon. If you see me, please feel free to say hello.

I’ll note updates to this as they come.

I think this is going to be a very cool Worldcon.

Your Anticipation Schedule (as of 7/18/09):

When: Thu 14:00
Location:  P-524B
Title:  Hollywood’s Favorite SF Writer
Session ID:  392
All Participants:  David Weingart, Jason Bourget, Lou Anders, John
Scalzi, Lenny Bailes
Moderator:  Lou Anders
Description:  Forty years ago it might have been Jules Verne or H. G.
Wells.  Today it’s the late Philip K. Dick who died before the release
of “Blade Runner,” based on his “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”
Since then we’re seen “Minority Report,” “Total Recall,” “Next,”
“Screamers,” “Imposter,” “Paycheck” and “A Scanner Darkly.”  More are
on the way.  Why has Hollywood embraced PKD even as they ignore other
giants on the bookshelf?  Which of the films have been most
successful?  Most faithful?

Duration:  1:30 hrs:min
Language:  English
Track: Media
AV/Internet request:  None

When: Fri 12:00
Location:  Other
Title:  John Scalzi Signing
Session ID:  1479
All Participants:  John Scalzi
Moderator:  <Not Available>
Description:  John Scalzi Signing
Duration:  0:30 hrs:min
Language:  English
Track: Autographs
AV/Internet request:  None

When: Fri 12:30
Location:  P-512AE
Title:  Author Reading: Hugo Nominated Non-Fiction
Session ID:  245
All Participants:  Farah Mendlesohn, Paul Kincaid, John Scalzi
Moderator:  <Not Available>
Description:  John Scalzi; Paul Kincaid; Farah Mendlesohn read from
their nominated works.
Duration:  1:00 hrs:min
Language:  English
Track: Reading
AV/Internet request:  None

When: Fri 20:00
Location:  P-517D
Title:  Singles Meet-and-Greet
Session ID:  112
All Participants:  Eva Whitley, John Scalzi
Moderator:  Eva Whitley
Description:  A one-evening mini-relaxacon where single con-goers can
meet and get acquainted in a no-pressure setting, hosted by Eva
Whitely and John Scalzi.

Duration:  1:00 hrs:min
Language:  English
Track: The Light Programme
AV/Internet request:  None

When: Sat 10:00
Location:  P-512AE
Title:  Author Reading
Session ID:  818
All Participants:  Jon Courtenay Grimwood, John Scalzi, Peter Watts
Moderator:  <Not Available>
Description:  John Scalzi; Jon Courtenay Grimwood; Peter Watts
Duration:  1:00 hrs:min
Language:  English
Track: Reading
AV/Internet request:  None

When: Sat 11:00
Location:  P-524B
Title:  Abby Normal: Comedy and SF
Session ID:  388
All Participants:  James Zavaglia, Joe Pearce, John Scalzi
Moderator:  James Zavaglia
Description:  The 35th anniversary of the Mel Brooks spoof “Young
Frankenstein” is a good excuse to look at movies that treat
science-fiction, fantasy and horror not with reverence but for laughs.
How difficult is it to balance the genre with the comedy?  Movies
like “Galaxy Quest” and “The Princess Bride” get it right, while
recent spoofs like “Epic Movie” get it horribly wrong.  Do you have to
love the genre to laugh at it?

Duration:  1:00 hrs:min
Language:  English
Track: Media
AV/Internet request:  None

When: Sat 14:00
Location:  P-521B
Title:  John Scalzi
Session ID:  1060
All Participants:  John Scalzi
Moderator:  <Not Available>
Description:  A chance to ask one of your favourite authors those
burning questions.
Duration:  1:00 hrs:min
Language:  English
Track: Kaffeeklatsch
AV/Internet request:  None

When: Sun 9:00
Location:  P-512CG
Title:  How Not to be a Jerk Online
Session ID:  930
All Participants:  Catherynne Valente, Kate Nepveu, John Scalzi,
Michelle Kendall
Moderator:  Yourself
Description:  Is there an equivalent of Miss Manners for this modern
age? How to avoid flamewars and actually learn something.
Duration:  1:00 hrs:min
Language:  English
Track: Human Culture
AV/Internet request:  None

When: Sun 11:00
Location:  P-516D
Title:  Michael Jackson’s THRILLER: SF Culture Landmark
Session ID:  1564
All Participants:  Nora K. Jemisin, Stephen H. Segal, John Scalzi
Moderator:  Stephen H. Segal
Description:  In 1983, Michael Jackson’s THRILLER video gave us
lycanthropic romance, zombie dancers, and state-of-the-art special
effects — not to mention Vincent Price reciting graveyard poetry. How
did this watershed television moment set the stage for the next 25
years worth of SF/pop music/pop culture crossovers, from Jackson’s own
subsequent oeuvre through Rob Zombie and beyond?
Duration:  1:30 hrs:min
Language:  English
Track: The Light Programme
AV/Internet request:  None

When: Sun 12:30
Location:  P-512CG
Title:  Is Privacy a Thing of the Past?
Session ID:  931
All Participants:  Jason Bourget, Steven R. Boyett, John Scalzi
Moderator:  Steven R. Boyett
Description:  Governments spy on us, we photograph police officers,
and our children broadcast their sex lives on the internet. Does
privacy matter any more? What is it for?
Duration:  1:30 hrs:min
Language:  English
Track: Human Culture
AV/Internet request:  None

When: Sun 14:00
Location:  P-517ABC
Title:  Hugo Award Rehearsal
Session ID:  1560
All Participants:  Neil Gaiman, Elisabeth Vonarburg, Taral Wayne, Tom
Doherty, Julie E. Czerneda, Alan F. Beck, Aliette de Bodard, Ann
VanderMeer, Beth Meacham, Bill Willingham, Cheryl Morgan, Christopher
J. Garcia, Cory Doctorow, Darlene Marshall, Dave Howell, David Anthony
Durham, David Hartwell, Elizabeth Bear, Ellen Datlow, Emma Hawkes,
Farah Mendlesohn, Gord Sellar, Gordon Van Gelder, Guy H. Lillian III,
Jay Lake, John Helfers, John Kessel, Jonathan Strahan, Karl Schroeder,
Kathryn Cramer, Kevin J. Maroney, Kij Johnson, Lillian Stewart Carl,
Lou Anders, Mary Robinette Kowal, Mike Resnick, Nancy Kress, Neil
Clarke, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Paul Cornell, Paul Kincaid, Rev. Randy
Smith, Sean Wallace, Stephen H. Segal, Yves Meynard, Steve Green,
Steven H Silver, Sue Mason, Tony Pi, Claude Lalumière, Mike Glyer,
John Hertz, John Scalzi, Stanley Schmidt, Charles Stross, John
Picacio, Frank Wu, Sheila Williams, Felix Gilman, Ginjer Buchanan,
LeAmber Kinsley, Paolo Bacigalupi, Pia Guerra, Tobias Buckell
Moderator:  <Not Available>
Description:  Hugo Award Rehearsal
Duration:  2:00 hrs:min
Language:  English
Track: Event
AV/Internet request:  None
Notes:  Each presenter and nominee should drop by for about 10 minutes
between 2 and 4 Sunday afternoon to see the layout of the stage.

When: Sun 17:00
Location:  P-517D
Title:  The New Space Opera 2
Session ID:  1702
All Participants:  Bill Willingham, Cory Doctorow, James Patrick
Kelly, Jay Lake, John C. Wright, Jonathan Strahan, Mike Resnick,
Robert Charles Wilson, Robert Silverberg, Walter Jon Williams, Tom
Clegg, John Scalzi, Peter Watts, Gardner Dozois
Moderator:  <Not Available>
Description:  Meet the editors and authors of both the first and
second The New
Space Opera anthologies.  Jonathan Strahan, Gardner Dozois and Tom
Clegg will attend the entire event and will be available for
autographing.  Other New Space Opera writers may drop by
Duration:  1:00 hrs:min
Language:  Bilingual
Track: Event
AV/Internet request:  None
Notes:  This is an informal event for most people related to The New
Space Opera book.  Jonathan Strahan, Gardner Dozois and Tom Clegg
should be there at 5pm, this is a “drop-by” event for the remaining
writers.

When: Sun 18:00
Location:  P-710A
Title:  Hugo Awards Reception
Session ID:  10
All Participants:  Neil Gaiman, Elisabeth Vonarburg, Taral Wayne, Tom
Doherty, Julie E. Czerneda, Alan F. Beck, Aliette de Bodard, Ann
VanderMeer, Beth Meacham, Bill Willingham, Cheryl Morgan, Christopher
J. Garcia, Cory Doctorow, Darlene Marshall, Dave Howell, David Anthony
Durham, David Hartwell, Elizabeth Bear, Ellen Datlow, Emma Hawkes,
Farah Mendlesohn, Gord Sellar, Gordon Van Gelder, Guy H. Lillian III,
Jay Lake, John Helfers, John Kessel, Jonathan Strahan, Karl Schroeder,
Kathryn Cramer, Kevin J. Maroney, Kij Johnson, Lillian Stewart Carl,
Lou Anders, Mary Robinette Kowal, Mike Resnick, Nancy Kress, Neil
Clarke, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Paul Cornell, Paul Kincaid, Rev. Randy
Smith, Sean Wallace, Stephen H. Segal, Yves Meynard, Steve Green,
Steven H Silver, Sue Mason, Tony Pi, Claude Lalumière, Mike Glyer,
John Hertz, John Scalzi, Stanley Schmidt, Charles Stross, John
Picacio, Frank Wu, Sheila Williams, Felix Gilman, Ginjer Buchanan,
LeAmber Kinsley, Paolo Bacigalupi, Pia Guerra, Tobias Buckell
Moderator:  <Not Available>
Description:  Reception for the Hugo award nominees, presenters and
guests
Duration:  2:00 hrs:min
Language:  English
Track: Event
AV/Internet request:  None

And Now, the Last Post About the New Computer For a While

Because I figure you’re all bored with it by now.

For those asking from whence the computer came, I bought it from IBuyPower.com. More specifically, it’s their Paladin XLC V2 computer, with some minor customizations. I bought it as a reward for finishing That Project I Can’t Tell You About Yet, and also (and as it turns out, presciently) because I figured the previous desktop was getting on in years and it was time to get a new one.

Aside from the issue of the hard drive damaged during shipping, everything about the computer is groovy, and when I contacted IBuyPower about the hard drive, they pretty rapidly made it right and shipped me a replacement without waiting for me to return the damaged one, which was convenient for me. So despite the damage my overall experience with IBuyPower has been positive so far. We’ll see if any additional problems crop up, but quite obviously I’m hoping not. Meanwhile the drive that is functioning is a 1TB drive, and I have a 1.5TB outboard archive drive, so I’m not exactly hard up for space at the moment.

And yes, the gameplay on the new computer is sweet like honey. That’s all I’m going to say about that. I will say that the computer is actually surprisingly quiet despite having two huge fans (it’s also liquid cooled). I can hear it if I pay attention but it doesn’t really impinge on my consciousness otherwise. I can’t complain about that.

Someone asked what I had named the computer; its name is “Mencken 7,” which as you may expect means it’s the seventh desktop I’ve had; I think the first Mencken was a Mac Plus 1MB rather some years ago, although I won’t swear to that. I name the desktops “Mencken”; the laptops are “Parker,” as in Dorothy (I’m up to Parker 4); when I got the netbook, I inaugurated the “Heinlein” naming convention, henceforth to be given to computers smaller than standard laptop. Why yes, I am a big fat geek.

And that’s the new computer.

Meet The New Computer

Here it is, looking vaguely Darth Vadery. It’s a bit bigger than the previous computer, but not obnoxiously so, and while I specified not to have neon lighting jammed into it, they appear to have put it in for free. It’s not the minimalist package I would have preferred, but inasmuch as the whole thing is sitting behind the monitor, I won’t really notice one way or the other on a day-to-day basis.

Aside from the dead hard drive that shipped with this baby, everything is groovy, and it’s up and running. I’ve already played an inaugural round of Unreal Tournament 2004 on it, and am downloading Left 4 Dead even as we speak. I’m expecting many zombie fatalities tonight, my friends.

And Of Course

The new computer arrived damaged. Because why wouldn’t it be.

Update: Appears to be one of the hard drives was damaged in transit. Pulled one, the second seems to be working just fine. The computer maker is mailing me a replacement for the damaged one. Now to see how the rest of the computer is doing.

The Computer Situation

For those of you fascinated by the minutiae of my technological life, an update on these sorts of things:

1. The primary desktop computer is definitely dead, and I rather strongly suspect it’s the power plant. The plan at this point is to remove it from the desk, swap out the power supply and then hope it powers back up again because if it doesn’t it means the problem is likely the motherboard, and, well, then it truly is dead and off to be recycled. The good news is that a power source is a relatively cheap fix; the bad news is if it’s not the power source, then I’ve paid for a power source I don’t really have a use for. But, hey: I guess you never know when you’re going to need a spare power source. Heck, I could have used one yesterday, right?

2. The funny thing about it is in fact if my desktop could have chosen a time to give out, this really would have been it. One, I had just recently backed up all my data on archive drives. Two, I am currently between major projects, so I wasn’t really using the desktop for anything but cruising the Internet and playing games. Three, I had ordered a new computer anyway. Basically, it’s almost as if it said “my work here is done” and then died in its sleep (literally, since I was away for the weekend and Krissy had powered it down). Farewell, Mencken 6, we’ll miss you.

3. According to my FedEx tracking number, my new computer is on the truck and will be here by 4:30pm today, so it appears as if I’ll be spending my afternoon and/or early evening fiddling with the new computer, which, if you must know, is one of my favorite things to do. For you tech geeks, some stats on the new rig:

  • Intel® Core™ i7 950 Processor (4x 3.06GHz/8MB L3 Cache)
  • Motherboard: Asus P6T Intel X58 Chipset CrossFire and SLI Supported w/7.1 Sound, Triple-Channel DDR3, Gb LAN, S-ATA Raid, USB 2.0, 3-Way SLI PCI-E MB – 3-Way SLI
  • Memory: 6 GB [2 GB X3] DDR3-1600 Triple Memory Module
  • Video Cards: ATI Radeon HD 4890 PCI-Express x16 – 1GB – CrossFire Mode (Dual Cards)

Plus two 1TB hard drives, Blu-Ray reader/DVD burner, Creative X-Fi sound card and so on, with a Windows 7 free upgrade when it comes along later in the year. Basically, it’s not the top of the line for desktops (which would have cost twice what I paid for this), but it’s close enough to the top that I can see blue sky from here. Which works for me.

4. I thinking of undertaking an experiment with this computer, which is basically seeing how few programs I can store on it and still do everything I need to do. The computer comes with Microsoft Office 2007 as a trial program, which I’ll keep and plug my registration key into because I actually use Office enough for it to make sense to have it (sorry, Open Office and Google Docs, MS Office is still the starter). Everything else, however, I want to see if I can offload. I’m not hugely optimistic this plan will work, given how much I use Photoshop (which, of course I still have, along with all my other programs, archived away), but it’s worth trying to see how it goes. And in any event it will leave by new hard drives free for the important stuff, namely, video games.

Incidental to this, I have to say that one of the reasons I’ve been sanguine about my computer crash is that these days I buy almost all my games off of Steam, or play them via GameTap, both of which function online. What this means is that when my rig goes kerplooey, I don’t have to worry about searching for the install discs for the games I want to re-install; I just go to Steam/GameTap and reload them from there. I really like living in the future.

5. I will say this: It’s amazing how much more quiet my office is without the desktop fans running all the time. It’s kind of nice.

Update, 11:44am: Ooooh, new computer’s here. Off to set it up.

Ice, Ice Baby

Via Elizabeth Bear on Twitter, the latest in the kerfuffle regarding whether Pluto is a real planet or not.

You know, here’s the thing for me. Despite having a famously pro-Pluto daughter and also personally thinking the actual mechanics behind the Pluto demotion were a bit mean and not entirely rational, I have no problem in scientists pointing out the obvious, which is that Pluto is not at all like the other planets in the system. It’s just not: its orbit is too eccentric, its composition is too undifferentiated, and its just plain small. Just not like the other kids. Fine.

However, where the International Astronomical Union went all screwy was in deciding to name Pluto, and objects of its icy ilk as a “dwarf planet.” Yes, it’s small. But you know what, sooner or later it’s inevitable that we’re going to find a “dwarf planet” out there in the Kuiper Belt that’s larger than Mercury, which is not a “dwarf planet.” And then the IAU is just gonna look dumb.

What they should have done is this: Simply say there are different categories of planets. There are rocky (terrestrial) planets, which in our system are Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. There are gaseous (jovian) planets, which in our system are Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. And then there are icy (plutonian) planets, which in our system are Pluto and Eris and very likely whole damn bunch of other ones out there past Neptune. And then, having admitted that there is this indeed this third (non-dwarf) category of planet, the IAU could admit this: Hey, there are in fact so many damn icy planets out there that it doesn’t make sense for the average person to try to learn them all, so let’s just stick to the rock and gas planets as the ones they need to know, and appoint Pluto as the token icy planet representative that the kids learn about in school.

Now, really, how hard would that have been? I say not at all. But no, the IAU had to go demoting. Silly, silly scientists. They’re gonna regret it.

Quick Note on Confluence

My experience with Confluence this weekend can be summed up thusly: What a lovely convention. It was well-run, the people who ran it were excellent and kept me well-stocked with Coke Zero, the attendees were very cool and seemed happy to see me, my co-panelists were all smart and engaged, and overall I had just a fine time. One highlight was spending a little time with the teens of the Alpha writing workshop, who were all very smart and didn’t in fact stab me for the Teen Writing Advice article; another highlight (for me, at least), was just after the con, when my friend Sari Gruber, whom I had not seen in real life for quite some time, dropped by so we could catch up. The nice thing about old friends is how little the passing of time actually matters.

So, again: Just a lovely time. Thank you, Pittsburgh, it was grand. I’ll be back.

Interesting Coincidence

I come home from Confluence to find that it looks like my desktop computer has just up and died. Fortunately, I ordered a new desktop computer a couple weeks back. Estimated delivery date via Fed Ex? Today or tomorrow.

That said, I need to play with the current desktop to make sure it’s really dead. I was planning to give it to Athena, and she’ll be sorely disappointed if she doesn’t get it. Maybe it’s only mostly dead. We’ll see.

Also: Hello. I’ve made it home alive.

Saturday Update

Taking a little breather up in my room, on account that from 1 to 6pm, I’m pretty solidly booked with convention activities. So, hello, Internets. The convention is going nicely up to this point: Two panels yesterday, one on Twitter and one on MilSF, both of which went well thanks to smart co-panelists, and then the usual hanging out in the bar and/or con suite with folks until the wee hours of the morning. Just did my signing, then another panel, my GoH schtick, a kaffeeklatch, and meeting with the teens from the Alpha writing workshop. Then I don my spandex uniform and fight crime as a masked crusader! Oh, wait, I’m not supposed to reveal that last part. I keep forgetting.

In any event, having a lovely time. I’ll catch up with all y’all again a bit later.

And Now, the Obligatory Picture Out the Hotel Window

I know you’ve been waiting for it.

No, a view of Bob Evans is not exactly inspiring. But aside from that, I have to say I’m very pleased with this hotel. The Internet’s free, the room service costs are not rapacious and the food (from the built-in restaurant) is good — the burger I had was one of the better hotel burgers I’ve had, and the shrimp-chorizo chowder is something I’ll be recommending to folks — and the rooms are fine and I was able to sleep for 10 hours last night. Plus they gave me a cookie when I showed up. In short: Well done, Doubletree Pittsburgh Airport. The only thing I can kvetch about is that they stock Pepsi products, so no Coke Zero for me at the moment. But I’m about to take a walk to fix that.

And you? How are you this fine Friday?