Ursine Wisdom

A bit of intelligence from Elizabeth Bear:

“Feminism is never an excuse for laughably bad prose.”

Indeed not. Feminism is never an excuse; neither, for that matter, is socialism, capitalism, libertarianism, objectivism, Catholicism, Marxism, racism, or any other sort of -ism you wish to think up of, up to and including the ones that don’t, in fact, end with “-ism.” Indeed, in all the history of the known world, there’s been only one excuse for laughable bad prose, and it’s the special case of ferreting out evil publishing folks (an example of which you’ll find here). Otherwise: Bad prose is bad. Try to avoid it, even when you Have a Message. Messages don’t help bad prose, and God knows that bad prose doesn’t help the message any.

A corollary to this: Excusing bad prose with an “-ism” that isn’t actually in evidence doesn’t work either. Which is to say that not every book whose bad prose is defended from a feminist perspective has any relevant feminism in it (or socialism, capitalism, etc); the ideological rationalizations in these cases are bolted on after the fact to defend craptastic writing. One can usually tell when this happens. This is the “rock lyric” maneuver, in which some ambitious undergraduate tries to square his love of Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” with his emerging intellectual insecurity by trying to find allusions to the world-historical left in lyrics like “You’ve got the peaches, I’ve got the cream, sweet potato, saccharine.” Yeah, it doesn’t fly, says the fellow who tried to tie some Kate Bush lyrics to the thinking of certain pre-Socratic philosophers, and got a nice fat “D-” for it. You live and learn.

In short, and to repeat: Bad writing is bad. There is no excuse. Don’t make or accept any — either bad writing or excuses. That is all. Thank you for your attention.

NASA Becomes Marginally Less Stupid

Looks like NASA won’t have George Deutsch to kick around anymore after all:

George C. Deutsch, the young presidential appointee at NASA who told public affairs workers to limit reporters’ access to a top climate scientist and told a Web designer to add the word “theory” at every mention of the Big Bang, resigned yesterday, agency officials said.

Mr. Deutsch’s resignation came on the same day that officials at Texas A&M University confirmed that he did not graduate from there, as his résumé on file at the agency asserted.

That last little bit of information, incidentally, uncovered by a blogger (go team blog!). I read about his not graduating yesterday and wondered about whether to append the information on the earlier piece I wrote about the fellow, but eventually decided against it on the grounds that mocking someone for not having a college degree was just a cheap shot (particularly since I can think of at least one extremely smart person I know who if memory served never bothered to even finish high school). However, now that I discover that not only did Mr. Deutsch not graduate, he lied about graduating on his NASA resume, I feel ever so much better about it. Lack of a degree is not an issue; lying about it is. In any event, he’s now out on his ass. This would be a lovely time for the fellow to go back to J-School and take that ethics class I suspect he might have skipped.

However, as I noted in the comment thread to the previous discussion, Mr. Deutsch isn’t the problem, he’s a symptom of the problem. Here’s a relevant quote from the article:

Yesterday, Dr. Hansen said that the questions about Mr. Deutsch’s credentials were important, but were a distraction from the broader issue of political control of scientific information.

“He’s only a bit player,” Dr. Hansen said of Mr. Deutsch. ” The problem is much broader and much deeper and it goes across agencies. That’s what I’m really concerned about.”

Oddly enough, that’s what I’m concerned about as well. For every fumbling apparatchik like Deutsch who gets hauled up for ridicule, I suspect there are a couple of others who are less stupid, whose resumes are in order, and who toil away fiddling with truthful information meant to benefit the public — scientific and otherwise — because it runs counter of an administration’s political goals. Deutsch is a case of one down, uncountable others to go.

And of course now that Deutsch has resigned, there’s another presidential appointee position open. Here’s a hint, Mr. President: have someone fact-check the resume first. It’s a small detail. But it’s an important one.

Crystal Rain is Out!

Congratulations to Tobias Buckell, whose debut science fiction tome Crystal Rain is officially out today. The inside is as groovy as the cover art (look! Parrots!), but you don’t have to take my word for it, as Toby’s got the first third of the book up for you to check out for yourself.

Toby’s been writing short science fiction for some time now — indeed, he co-wrote a piece I’m publishing in the Spring 2006 edition of Subterranean magazine — but as most authors will tell you, the day your first book or novel comes out is like your birthday come early. Enjoy it, Toby.

Also, Toby, some of us will be ’round about 7pm to pick you up for your “published novelist” initation ceremony. Now, I know you told us that you bruise easily, but we have ways to keep from leaving marks. Well, mostly. There’s not much you can do hide the branding, I suppose. But then, that’s why we brand you… well, where we do. And you can certainly handle sleeping standing up for a week or two, right? Right. And you have memorized that list of Brazilian state capitols? Excellent. And you’ve practiced your hand grip on that goat we lent you? Perfect. I need that goat back, by the way.

So, anyway, 7 o’clock! Be sure to wear something we can hose down afterward.

Free-Speech Jackassery Built Right Here in the US!

Update, 1:18pm: D’oh! This story is way stale — my fault for not checking the date. Please hold your free-expression outrage for a fresher target. Thank you.

Lest anyone think it’s just those wacky Muslim fundamentalists who have a hard time grasping the basic concept of free speech:

Saying the nation’s symbol “deserves more respect than the protest message of some liberal hippie,” a Missouri state lawmaker has introduced a bill legalizing the use of force to stop someone from desecrating the American flag.

Republican Rep. Sam Gaskill, a former fighter pilot in Vietnam, defended his bill yesterday, insisting the measure would prevent the defilement of an important symbol rather than promote violence.

“You should be able to take hold of the flag and take it off the ground and rescue it,” Gaskill said. “If the guy doesn’t want to let go of it or he swings back then the person ought to fight back.”

I guess I’m confused about the part where making it legal to beat the crap out of someone burning the US flag isn’t, in fact, totally abridging the flag-burner’s 1st Amendment rights, because if a bunch of good ol’ boys is busy stomping your ass, you’re not exactly going to be able to make your point. Mind you, in one sense this bill is entirely unnecessary because I’m pretty sure burning a flag in protest anywhere in Missouri will get your ass stomped anyway. It’s just now your stompees won’t have to perform 30 hours of community service afterward.

I’m not terribly concerned about this one becoming law, since there are no doubt legislators in Missouri who remember about that whole US Constitution thing, even if Mr. Gaskill apparently couldn’t pick it out of a lineup. Nevertheless, on the off chance it passed, what would be really amusing would be to burn one of the Not-Quite-American-Flags noted here in front of Mr. Gaskill and then, after he’s assaulted you, reveal that’s it not actually an American flag, and then sue his ass for lots and lots of damages! Bwa ha ha ha ha hah! Where’s your flag now, Mr. Gaskill?

Iranian Free Expression, Such As It Is

In the “Totally Not Surprising” category:

A prominent Iranian newspaper says it is going to hold a competition for cartoons on the Holocaust to test whether the West will apply the principle of freedom of expression to the Nazi genocide against Jews as it did to the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

A newspaper in Iran — run by allies of that country’s Jew-hating current president — printing cartoons that might possibly be anti-Jew? Who thought we would ever see that day?

Christ, this is boring already. Speaking in my capacity as Official Spokesman for The West®, I think Iranian newspapers — particularly ones run by pals of the current president of Iran — should go ahead and run any sort of dumbass Holocaust cartoons they want to. Indeed, I celebrate the right of Iranian newspapers to run whatever the hell they want. This is, alas, more than can be said about the Iranian government, whose grip on the press in that country is so total that the 2005 Reporters Without Borders Annual World Press Freedom Index has Iran listed 163rd in a field of 167 (a field in which Denmark, incidentally, ranked number one).

One can hope that when the allies of Iran’s president are enjoying their refreshing little taste of “free expression,” they might consider asking their pal for a little more genuine freedom of the press while they’re at it. But, you know. I’m not exactly holding my breath for that one. Because then the people who run the paper probably wouldn’t remain pals of the president of Iran. And we all know how problematic that can be. But in my capacity as Official Spokesman for The West®, I certainly hope they give it a try.

And of course I certainly hope someone who actually is a spokesman for The West® remembers to ask Iran when it plans to give its newspapers the ability to run actual news, as well as Jew-hating cartoons. Let’s see if that makes it into the Iranian newspapers, particularly the ones owned by the allies of the president. I wouldn’t be holding my breath for that, but I’m already busy not holding my breath for something else. So I invite you not to hold your breath for that in my stead.

Another Review, and a Link, Oh, and Another Link

First the link: The online cartoon Unshelved has an amusing cartoon about Scott Westerfeld’s Peeps. Yay! Comics celebrating literacy!

Second, another review of The Ghost Brigades, from Bookslut, which finds the book good, not great:

While The Ghost Brigades falls short in exploring its underlying philosophical and ethical themes, it delivers on its promise of solid science fiction entertainment with a leavening of serious issues. It is more of a riff on existing themes than an original composition, but it provides an action-driven plot that is grounded in very human characters. I found it a thoroughly enjoyable read, and a heartening example of an author taking on a more ambitious novel than his prevous ones and becoming a better novelist in the process. The Ghost Brigades may not make a lasting impression, but it’s a fun read.

This review also drives home the point that different people like different things — the reviewer here calls the first chapter “clunky,” which is the same chapter the reviewer in the SFRevu review in the last entry calls “brilliant.” Is it clunky? Is it brilliant? Is it brilliantly clunky? Is it a dessert topping and a floor wax? Guess you’ll have to find out for yourself.

And for fun, here’s another link: Chris Roberson’s Paragaea. It’s a site pimping Roberson’s upcoming whiz-bang book Paragaea: A Planetary Romance, but what makes it extra super mega ultra fun is that it features an entire prequel novel for free. And there’s nothing better than free! That’s why they call it “free!”

SFRevu Review of The Ghost Brigades

SFRevu got a look at The Ghost Brigades and the reviewer seems pleased, calling it “An outstanding new work from an emergent author,” which is nice, aside from the fact that now I feel I should be fighting my way out of a cocoon or something. The other paragraph the Tor publicity department will no doubt be tickled with:

Scalzi has lost none of his flair for spare, evocative prose: the opening scene—in which a raid on a planetary installation turns out to be somewhat different than expected—is brilliant, and the scene that closes the first part of the book—another raid, this time on one of the enemy’s home planets—is both gripping and poignant. But this book—like the first—is more than a fine war novel: it is also a meditation on why we fight, the nature of loyalty, the meaning of consciousness, and the moral significance of free will.

This just in: I have flair!

I’m pleased that the reviews for TGB have been pretty good, but what I’m even more pleased about is that so far the reviews have the book within spitting distance of Old Man’s War in terms of quality — either a little above or a little below depending on reviewer tastes but either way pretty close to the mark. Being able to deliver consistently is pretty useful in a career sense (as long as one is consistently good, mind you — consistently delivering crap, yeah, you want to avoid that if possible). This is good news for me because TGB is different from OMW in several non-trivial ways, so I’m happy to see these early readers have been able to roll with those changes and still get a positive experience in the end.

Prioritizing the Idiots

People in e-mail have been asking me what I think of the whole thing about fundamentalist Muslims getting stupid over a dozen cartoons of Muhammed, but aside from the rote observation that being a religious fundamentalist of any stripe means you are rather more liable to get stupid than not, I find I’m rather more concerned that some 24-year-old press officer (and Bush political appointee) at NASA named George Deutsch has been taking it on himself to screen that organization’s materials from a religious point of view, and to ride herd on scientists whose talking points, in his opinion, make the president look bad.

The good news is it looks like the little twit has gotten a slap down from NASA’s administrator, who released an e-mail saying “It is not the job of public-affairs officers to alter, filter or adjust engineering or scientific material produced by NASA’s technical staff.” The bad news is that apparently the twit is still hanging out at NASA, probably stewing at how such a slap is bad for his career and plotting against all those who oppose him, and also, of course, the administration that installed this moron in this position is still in office, and will continue to get all puckered and testy when science — as it frequently will — flies in the face of whatever damn fool thing the administration wants to say. As long as this jackass is around, the Bush-pucker view will have a proponent at the agency.

Look. I’m not terribly surprised that thousands of largely ignorant Muslim fundamentalists were manipulated by their mullahs and governments to pitch a fit about pictures of their prophet that they haven’t even seen, printed in newspapers in countries they don’t live in. I prefer not to disrespect Muhammed, not to avoid turmoil but simply because it’s polite, but at the same time I’m foursquare behind the idea that a free press doesn’t need to be polite, and if largely ignorant Muslim fundamentalists don’t like that, they can suck it, as can any largely ignorant fundamentalist of any stripe who doesn’t like when his god or prophet or preacher or president gets a healthy slam.

Of course the largely ignorant Muslim fundamentalists will pitch a fit. That’s what they do. As far as their mullahs and governments are concerned, that’s all they’re actually good for. It’s not as if these folks would allow them to think on their own, otherwise they wouldn’t have been out protesting, they would have just shrugged it off and gotten on with life (which would have meant, incidentally, that the dozen cartoons wouldn’t have been commissioned at all). Naturally, I think the attempts of largely ignorant Muslim fundamentalists to shut down anyone who promotes a world view that opposes their own should be met with defiance, possibly with cartoons of Muhammed cavorting with beer-bearing babes in bacon bikinis. That’ll really spin them up.

People with the right to free speech are not obliged to cave to people who demand that the world has to be their way and their way only, even as they are obliged to be respectful of those who are respectful of those freedoms. The ideal world is one in which one can print a picture of Muhammed without incident, but generally chooses not to because it’s not nice to those who see him as their prophet. Basically, the entire world as Minnesota. It’s not going to happen anytime soon, but we can strive. In the meantime, I’ll continue not to be surprised at the idiocy of largely ignorant fundamentalists of any sort.

I don’t expect much out of largely ignorant Muslim fundamentalists, but I do expect more out of NASA and of my government, which is why I am rather more distressed that some damn fool political apparatchik has the unearned ego to assume that his 24-year-old flatly ignorant self is an arbiter of what scientists can or cannot say, and what is science and what is not. While I have over the years become resigned to the fact that the way to tell if a government spokesperson is lying and/or evading is ask whether he is a Bush appointee and whether his lips are moving, it’s depressing to realize just how saturated the government is with these yahoos, even down to the lowly level of NASA press flack, and just how entitled they feel they are to their “truthiness” at the expense of truth. I mean, for God’s sake: a 24-year-old press officer for NASA who sees it as his primary mission to “make the president look good”? Gag me. Can’t we throw him to the largely ignorant Muslim fundamentalists? Then all our problems will be solved.

I don’t expect I can do anything to solve the problem of largely ignorant Muslim fundamentalists, especially when their mullahs and governments are actively working to keep them that way. However, I do feel I can do something about post-adolescent pinhead political appointees smearing their gummy little paws all over science in an attempt to look good to a president who couldn’t possibly give a crap about them. I’ll let someone else worry about the largely ignorant Muslim fundamentalists for now. But if George Deutsch ever Googles himself, as no doubt he will, he’ll eventually come across this entry. So he’ll read this: George Deutsch, you’re a idiot. It’s one thing to stick your own head up your ass; it’s another thing to try to stuff the rest of our heads up in there with you. You’re so obviously full of shit that it’s really an unpleasant experience for the rest of us. Please refrain from doing so in the future. Thank you.

Norwegian Wood


Athena wanted to sleep in the bathtub, for reasons that are opaque to anyone over the age of seven. We didn’t argue, although we did make her promise not to take a bath in her bed. So overall everybody got something out of it.

How did the Great Bathtub Sleeping Experiment of 2006 go? About as well as you would expect it to — at about midnight Athena decided a real bed would be more comfortable. Unfortunately, as her own bed was stripped to create her little bathtub nest, she crawled into bed with Krissy, and I, who was still up at the time, couldn’t very well relocate her to a stripped mattress. So I ended up sleeping in the guest room. I guess I could have slept in the bathtub, but let’s just say that if a seven-year-old found the bathtub less than comfortable, it’s not likely a 36-year-old is going to like it much, either.

Clearly, bathtub sleeping is not a thing to encourage on a day-to-day basis, but I think it’s fun to let a kid try new things from time to time, even if (and perhaps especially if) they’re a little silly. If nothing else, it’ll make a great story when she has her own kids and she tells about the time she made a bed in the bathtub. Childhood memories for the low, low price of a pillow and comforter in the bathtub. Sounds like a bargain to me.

Hate Mail is Done!

Another one done: Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: Selected Writings from “Whatever,” 1998 – 2005 is off to the publisher. Here’s the (tentative) chapter listing for this one:

Introduction: Decoding Hate Mail
1.  Disclaimers and Declarations
2.  Waiting for Athena
3.  America’s Funniest Elections
4.  Jesus Loves You, Some of His Followers Maybe Not So Much
5.  Let’s Get Fictional, or, Thank God Satire is Fair Use
6.  Kicking the Confederacy When It’s Down
7.  Imprudent and Incompetent: Our Last Two Presidents
8.  9/11 and Everything After
9.  That Was the Millennium That Was
10.  Civil Rights? That’s So Gay!
11.  I Blame the Parents
12.  Money or Lack Thereof
13.  We Paid Our Quarter, Now Dance Like a Monkey: Reader Request Columns
14.  The Junk Drawer, or, The Chapter of Misfit Entries

At the moment it clocks in at 99,300 words. Excellent.

Two books down for the year! Now come the books I actually have to, you know, write in order to get them done. Inconvenient, that.

Writing Blah Blah Blah, 2/3/06


Above: An impressionistic representation of the next 18 months (or so) of my life — all the contracts I’ve signed for the three-book deal I have with Tor, the topmost contract there being for The Last Colony, the third book in the OMW series. If you’re wondering why there are so many contracts, it’s because each book has five copies of the contract I need to sign. After they are countersigned, one copy goes to me, one copy goes to my agent, one copy goes to my editor, one copy goes to legal, and one copy is shredded to make a paper-mache voodoo doll likeness of me, into which my publisher will stab steely knives should I wander too far from a deadline. Strangely enough, those are the contracts you always get paper cuts on. Coincidence? Doubtful.

While I’m navel-gazing here, some general notes about Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades:

* First, some good news about Old Man’s War (at least, good for me): I’ve been told they’re going back for a second printing of the trade paperback. The first printing of the trade paperback was about three times the first printing of the hardcover, so to burn through enough of them in a month to necessitiate firing up the presses for a second go-round is pretty happy-making. If you bought a trade paperback version of OMW, let me just say: You rock. You also rock if you bought it in hardcover of course. Oh, hell, you all rock. I’m just full of rock love today.

* Second, some news for those of you attending Boskone. As you may know, Boskone happens on the weekend before the release The Ghost Brigades, but because it’s damn fine convention of damn fine people, and because the NESFAns have been so kind to OMW, we’re making an effort to get a good-sized shipment of Ghost Brigades copies into the dealers’ room. I want to stop short of making an iron-clad promise they’ll be there — it’s a quantum physics universe and anything can happen — but right now it looks good. So, if you’re going to Boskone and you’ve been wanting to snag Ghost, cruise through the dealer’s room. And remember I’m happy to sign books.

* Third, The Ghost Brigades is going to be featured on and in the Barnes & Noble Explorations site and newsletter next month (and this month, it’s got a nice review of Tobias Buckell’s Crystal Rain — go Toby!). I’ll certainly remind y’all when it goes live there, but in the meantime, let me share a bit of the upcoming Ghost Brigades review by Paul Goat Allen, which I’ve been given permission to excerpt:

“Scalzi has been compared to science fiction legend Robert A. Heinlein for good reason: his smooth blend of hard science fiction, military sci-fi and space opera is addictively readable and his breakneck pacing and surprisingly deep character development makes his novels practically impossible to put down. Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades and subsequent installments in this loosely-knit saga could very well be the early 21st century’s answer to Asimov’s Foundation series – it’s that good.”

Yeah, it’s hard to complain about a review like that. So I won’t. Good of me, I know. Of course, now I have to make sure The Lost Colony doesn’t manifestly suck. Fortunately, I was planning on trying for that anyway (no doubt to the relief of my editors).

And now you’re caught up with me.

Music Pimpery

It was recently suggested that I should get back to recommending indie music, and while the comment was made sarcastically (harumph! harumph!), it’s not a terribly bad idea, and as it happens I have two prime bits of indie music right here at my fingertips.

First, my pal and editor Joe Rybicki, aka the unstoppable musical combo Johnny High Ground, has decided to make his catalogue of music available for free download while he toils away on a future CD. So if you go here, you can listen to the music as streams or download them so you can take them with you wherever you go. I’ve linked to Joe and his dulcet musical stylings before, but you know what? Here I am doing it again. Those of you who have a burr up your ass about Dubya will enjoy his protest tune “Trigger-Happy Texan,” while I think everyone can appreciate the elegy and eulogy of “Doing Fine,” which Joe wrote about his late father. And I’ve been a long-time fan of the song “Bad Girl.” It’s all good, yo.

Sorry, I won’t use “yo” again.

Also, while I was in NYC last week I loitered in the Tor offices and managed to scam the CD Some Other Place from the band Whisperado, which, as it happens, features my editor and pal Patrick Nielsen Hayden on guitar (clearly, there’s something about my editors being musical going on here). Whisperado plays roots-rock tunage which you may sample with the songs “Black and Blue” and “Never Been to Nashville“; if you like it, you can kick out $8 for the CD here.

It occurs to me that I’m now officially an editor too, and I also play music (of a sort). Clearly, we must all combine our powers into a righetous editing supergroup! It’d be just like Blind Faith! Hmmm, okay, maybe not.

Ook! Ook! Ook!

So, you know why I like doing the By The Way blog over at AOL? Among many other reasons, it allows me an excuse to do silly pictures like this one:

The picture was created for this “Weekend Assignment” — which of course, I heartily suggest you participate in.

Anyway, sometimes I can’t believe I get paid to do stuff like this. I’ll be sad the day they finally catch up with me and make me go to work lifting things.

I’ve Got a Boehner

How’s this for conflicted: My representative to Congress, John Boehner, is going to be the next House majority leader. So on one hand: Not really my first choice for my personal representative (not like I have much choice, mind you, since he’s running without any real opposition this election cycle), and I’m all for making him minority leader ASAP. On the other hand: Rock on, my congressional district is going to roll in the sweet, sweet love that comes with having your Congressman in charge of things. Hopefully Boehner will avoid doing something entirely stupid like handing out lobbyist checks on the floor of the House, as he’s been known to do in the past. I think maybe he’s learned his lesson.

For Those of You Who Like to Vote For Things Online

The 2006 Locus Poll & Survey is up, and you can vote for your favorite SF books and short works, and no, you don’t have to be a Locus subscriber to vote. You just have to love science fiction and fantasy with a pure and gentle soul. Well, actually, not even that — you just need an e-mail address and the ability to use an online drop-down menu. See how far we’ve come.

I’ll note that Old Man’s War is in the drop-down menu for Best First Novel, but if you wanted to vote for it for Best Novel, you’d have to enter it as a write-in. You’d also have to enter The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies as a write-in for Best Non-Fiction Book. You know, if that was something you thought you wanted to do. Maybe.

Seriously, however — lots of good books in 2005, both in the drop down menus and out of them, so if you’ve read and enjoyed SF/F this year, swing by and vote for your favorites.

Boskone Schedule

For those of you going to Boskone, here’s the schedule of panels and appearances I’ve got going for me. I have eight thingies going on, so, uh, you apparently won’t lack for opportunities to see me blather on. Eight events is a lot, but frankly, I’d rather be busy than not. Otherwise I’d just sleep, and you all know how much I hate doing that. Here’s the schedule:

Friday  8:00 pm         
Scotty, I Need More Bandwidth: Managing Information Streams
        Fred Lerner    
        John McDaid
        Naomi Novik
        Sheila M. Perry   (M)
        John Scalzi

    Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink?! Many of us are already drowning in a sea of information (and misinformation) when we really just want the good stuff…. Does having more bandwidth help or hinder? How do you keep tabs on the information industry’s output? What if you had a direct neural connection? — Would it help you to manage all those online information streams before your brain explodes?

Comments: Mmmmm… exploding brains.

Saturday 10:00 am         
Online Writing and Online Communities
        Lenny Bailes
        Tobias Buckell
        James D. Macdonald    
        Teresa Nielsen Hayden    
        John Scalzi   (M)

Comments: No panel description comes with this one, so I guess as moderator I get to make it up as I go along. Bwa ha ha ha ha hah! I find it deeply amusing to be moderating a panel that has James D. Macdonald and Teresa Nielsen Hayden on it, as they are two of the great online moderators of our time (which means, of course, two of the great online moderators, ever); hopefully I won’t make too much an ass of myself.

 Saturday 1:00 pm        
 Political SF
        Daniel Hatch    
        Ken MacLeod
        Patrick Nielsen Hayden   
        John Scalzi   (M)

    Real world and utopian politics have informed the writings of some of the best in the genre. Who, how, and why? And does SF require new politics, or can it work with familiar politics in a new setting? (Please check all flamethrowers at the door – this is not a panel that debates contemporary political philosophies, except as they apply to contemporary works of SF)

Comments: Moderating a politics panel with PNH and Ken MacLeod and a political reporter/SF writer? I may have to pack my taser! I can’t imagine that this won’t be a wild and wolly panel.

Saturday 4:00 pm         
War and Peace
        Walter H. Hunt    (M)
        Clayton L. McNally
        Tamora Pierce    
        John Scalzi
        Ann Tonsor Zeddies    

    Why are so many SF/F books about war and not peace? And who is good (believable, anyway) at writing about war and who needs to go back to boot camp? Panelists will discuss realistic and unrealistic depictions of war in fantasy and science fiction….and may even do the same for peace….

Comments: There aren’t so many books about peace because peace is boring. That’s why it’s called “peace.”

Sunday 10:00 am  
Reading (0.5 hrs)
        John Scalzi

Comments: I have no idea what I’m going to read from — the first chapter of The Android’s Dream is too long for this time slot. Being that it is the weekend before the release of The Ghost Brigades, I may simply read from that book. In fact, yes, I will. I’ll read the first half of the first chapter of that book. Be there! Or, you know. You’ll miss it.

Sunday 11:00 am
Homage…..or, Stealing(?) from the Classics          
        John M. Ford
        Ken MacLeod
        Mark L. Olson   (M)
        John Scalzi
        Karl Schroeder   

    Ken MacLeod is having a conversation with classic SF — he clearly has a deep affection for the genre, and incorporates classic phrases that allude to other stories in the canon. Who else does this, well or badly? What makes it fun? When is it more like stealing?

Comments: I imagine I am on this panel because I shamelessly admit to steal ideas. Yes, I’m a thief. Lock me away in the literary prison.

Sunday 12:00 noon        

Comments: I suspect this will be a mass thing, otherwise I’ll be sitting in a room all alone for an hour.

Sunday  1:00 pm          

Comments: Oooh! My first kaffeklatsch! Uh, can someone tell me what I’m supposed to do in one of these things? No, seriously. I haven’t the first friggin’ clue.

Aside from these events I’m sure you’ll see me wandering aimlessly and/or hanging out at the parties; feel free to come over and say hello.

The Return of Beer in Space

Here’s a little blast from the past: “Beer in Space,” a three-panel science cartoon I made with my pal Richard Polt a number of years ago. I had the idea of doing an astronomy book illustrated by him (and featuring his characters Benny the Stick and Beniy the Spider) and this was a sample, based on an article I wrote for the Fresno Bee. I had it up on the site for a while, but then it went away, as did most things prior to 2003. But now it’s back, in (slightly) improved form — I fiddled with the graphics files to make them a little clearer. I think the text is more readable now (although some of you may still have to squint for the text on the last page). Sadly, we never got the go-ahead for this particular astro book. But I got one eventually, so I guess I’m okay.

The images will pop up when you click the links below.

View Page One

View Page Two

View Page Three

State of the Union

At the risk of getting myself kicked out of the “Dubya Hata Playa” club — you know what? I would have booted Cindy Sheehan from the State of the Union too. You know why? Because wearing a t-shirt to the State of the Union is tacky. Yes, yes, she was wanting to make a political statement. Don’t care. You’re at the State of the Union. Dress appropriately. A nice pant suit with a big button that says “2,245 and how many more?” would have worked just fine, and if she got kicked out the news stories would still report what it said. Just because you’re protesting doesn’t mean you need to look like you just stepped out of a Berkeley organic food mart. (Update: Apparently Sheehan wasn’t the only one booted from the gallery last night for wearing a message-laden t-shirt, and this other t-shirt was worn by the wife of a Republican representative. Hopefully she was wearing pearls with the t-shirt.)

As for the State of the Union itself: Eh. I stopped watching the speeches because I can’t stand hearing the man attempt formal speakitude, and the transcript of the speech doesn’t move me much. There are parts to which I disagree, which is not surprising, but also parts to which I agree — which may surprise people — but for which I have zero confidence that this administration is equal to the task of moving on them. I’m always heartened to see an American president declare we’ve got to kick foreign oil, as an example, but I’m terrified that in the hands of the Bush folks the implementation of a plan encourage alternative power sources will end up causing the lot of us to have power only during sunlight hours, and none on alternate Tuesdays. Beware the incompetent armed with a good idea.

In point of fact Bush State of the Union addresses depress me, particularly because there are significant chunks of what he lays out in them that I can get behind. I want my president to do good things — even as I naturally oppose the things I see him do which I think are unjust or unwise — and I’m very sad that based on previous performance I work from the position that any good idea this administration has is doomed in the details. I’m not a fan of Bush, but as I’ve said before, this doesn’t require me to take satisfaction in the idea his administration’s lack of ability. I really wouldn’t mind Bush and his people doing the right things right. I’m just not holding my breath.

Update, 6:53pm: Capitol police admit they were wrong to boot Sheehan and Young for their t-shirts. Their only crimes were crimes of fashion.