Topics Not Generally Relating to Me, Part One

Having gotten bored with myself, I asked you all to list some topics you’re interesting in me opining about that aren’t me me me me me. Here are some of them, and we’ll do another one of these tomorrow.

JReynolds: What do you think about the current polls that indicate that John McCain is now tied (or ahead) of Obama in the presidential race? Do you think it’s due to the negative advertising of the McCain campaign?

What? In the doldrums of the August of a presidential year, right before the conventions, the race has somehow tightened? Inconceivable!

I think the race has tightened because that’s what often happens around this time, if I’m not wildly mistaken. Do McCain’s ads have anything to do with it? Oh, probably. So does the fact that Obama went on vacation. So does the fact that conservatives have unleashed their poo-flinging monkeys (see: Jerome Corsi), and so does the fact that some liberals have come around to the realization that Obama, does not, in fact, fart cinnamon-scented rainbows. It’s a whole lot of things, really.

Matt W: If there was to be no more Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, etc. in the world ever again, would you switch to Pepsi, RC, Faygo? Or would you go thirsty?

Well, you know. Hard as it might be to believe, I don’t only drink Coke Zero. I do drink other stuff, including plain old water. I think I might survive. In fact, I have been giving some thought to cutting soda out of my diet entirely; I did it before, when I stopped drinking regular Coke, and save for the one day where I had a splitting caffeine withdrawal headache, it was doable. At the very least it would cut down on the recyclables.

Rick: The new edition of Dungeons and Dragons, or some other role-playing game if you don’t like D&D.

I haven’t really played D&D since back in the day, but I know a few people who do and from them the reviews of the 4.0 version of the rules seems to be pretty positive: I am led to understand everything’s more balanced and so on. Naturally I invite contrary opinion on the matter if I have been misinformed.

James J.: Maybe your opinions on what’s going on over in Beijing? IE: China having a huge gold lead over the US, etc…

You mean, aside from China showing yet again that it’s a world leader in illegal child labor? Not really. It’s not surprising that a host country would invest heavily in building up Olympic-caliber athletes, and the Chinese are strong in the marginal sports the US doesn’t give a crap about, such as Table Tennis and Badminton. So it’s not surprising to me they’re racking up some gold. I have only a mild interest in the Olympics this year; as egocentric as this sounds, my August has been busy enough without stationing myself in front of the TV to find out how we’re doing in, say, the equestrian events. Although apparently we did win a gold, silver and a bronze there. Go us.

Ashman: What good blogs have you recently read?

Seriously? None. Not that they don’t exist — I have an RSS blog feed that has a couple hundred blogs, all of which are interesting enough that I put them in the RSS feed — but more that I don’t have time this month to read them. And then the entries just sit there piling up and I feel guilty when I finally just delete them all, unread. But I really don’t have the time at the moment. Also, to be honest, I’m tired of reading many of the folks on my blog roll losing their minds because McCain has suddenly closed the gap on Obama. There’s only so many people you can watch lose their shit before it makes you edgy, you know? Better just to skip over it all for a while.

Christian: How did you lose your virginity?

Pretty much the usual way, with no particularly weird elements to make it an anecdote really worth the detailed retelling.

EvilDan: Skyline chilli: Worth the intestinal distress?

I’ve not found it so. And in fact I’ve wondered for a long time why Cincinnati has somehow developed a reputation for excellent chili, because in my opinion Cincinnati-style chili kind of sucks. I mean, really: spaghetti? WTF? I much prefer western-style chili. I understand there may be Cincinnati-style partisans out there, and to them I say: You are welcome to your chili-flavored soup.

Giacomo: Drinking age: 18 or 21?

Not being a drinker, nor ever having been one, I have no real investment in this particular question, save for the observation that I’ve never met an 18-year-old who couldn’t get a drink into their hands with minimal effort, so perhaps the law should reflect that reality. I read somewhere earlier today that someone suggested that what should happen is that the drinking age is lowered to 18 but the driving age is raised to 21, which solves the problem of drunk 18-year-olds on the roads. I don’t know that I agree with this idea, but I do think it presents an interesting argument.

More tomorrow.


The Fate of Short Fiction Online

Over at the Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine blog, F&SF editor/publisher Gordon Van Gelder comments and wants your feedback on short fiction published online. If you’ve got a moment, check it out and give him your thoughts.


Further Tales of Home Improvementary

In which we view the seldom-seen formal dining room, wrapped in plastic, awaiting the refinishing of the ceiling. Below the dining room, unseen in this photo, the basement is being emptied of much stuff, most of which is now on its way to the Salvation Army and/or Goodwill, which will no doubt be surprised by the appoximately a metric ton of old clothes, shoes and stuffed creatures that will be dropped upon them. I stayed home because someone has to keep Kodi from chewing on the ceiling spackler. They hate that.


Officially Bored With Myself

Man, blah blah blah blah ego ego blah. If I’m bored with myself by this point, I can only imagine how the rest of you feel.

I’m taking topic requests for today and tomorrow. Suggest something for me to write about, not involving me or my career. I’ll put them up in a couple of “Quick Hits” posts like I do at the end of my Reader Request weeks (see: here and here). Come on, help a guy out of an ego rut, will ya? Thanks.


ArmadilloCon Wrapup

(Picture of me at ArmadilloCon taken from here, because even though I brought a camera I never bothered to take it out, because apparently I’m an idijit. Thank you Merbrat!)

It’s taken me the better part of a week to get to my writeup of ArmadilloCon, but you shouldn’t take that as a negative commentary on the quality of the convention; I have, after all, had something of a busy week. And in fact, ArmadilloCon was a whole lot of fun, and I’m really glad I went, and I would definitely recommend it to any of you who are looking for a relaxed convention to meet some of your favorite writers. It was my first time in Texas, and based on how much I enjoyed myself, it won’t be the last.

I’m writing this early morning and I’m having a hard time crafting thoughts over consecutive sentences at the moment, so let me instead simply bullet-point some of my ArmadilloCon observations:

* FIrst, this is a convention that takes seriously its obligation to feed its guests; Austin is a food town and I’m pretty sure I gained five pounds while I was there. The night I arrived I was taken to Threadgill’s, at which I had chicken-fried steak and peach cobbler, and on the last night I was taken to The County Line, at which I was loaded with approximately 14 pounds of meat, across at least three different species. It would not have been a good place to be a vegetarian.

Now, I’m aware that some Austinites will be happy to show up in the comments and declare that the convention should have taken me to whatever their favorite Texas BBQ place is, or whatever, but two things: One, they were paying for my meals, so I went where I was taken, and two, trust me, these places were good enough. I didn’t have to consist on con suite cold platters. That’s an excellent thing.

* Proof that ArmadilloCon did its homework about me: When I checked into the hotel, the front desk presented me with a 12-pack of Coke Zero. Well done, folks.

* One thing I noticed once the programming started was how well-attended panels and presentations were: There wasn’t a panel I was on that didn’t have lots of butss in seats. Now, maybe this was a side effect of being the guest of honor, and people showing up where I was, but I don’t think so; I’ve done panels as a guest of honor other places that weren’t as well attended, and other people at ArmadilloCon did panels I wasn’t even on that were well attended. So I don’t suppose it was just about me.

Naturally, I liked this very much; it’s great to see folks have such an interest in panels, and I think one can both credit the quality of the programming choices and the quality of the panelists in a general sense.It was a good mix.

* One of the ArmadilloCon write-ups I read noted that this was one of those conventions where there were almost as many writers as fans, and while I’m not entirely sure about that, there certainly were a lot of writers and artists there, probably because Austin and its immediate environs (which in Texas means anyplace within a three-hour drive) is stacked with creative types, and you know us creative types. Anything to procrastinate. So, yes, a whole lot of writers and artists, and I had tons of fun meeting them. Sadly, ArmadilloCon icon Howard Waldrop wasn’t there in the flesh this year — something about a quintuple bypass surgery crimping his style — but on the final day, he managed a cameo via phone. That was pretty awesome.

* Some of my programming highlights:

— On Friday I popped into the ArmadilloCon writing workshops and give a quick five minute speech to the workshoppers about why it was okay to suck — and indeed it was necessary. I’m pretty sure this went over better than you might expect.

— A panel on Space Opera, which moderator John Picacio detoured into the aesthetics of Steampunk, which I thought was interesting (steampunk star wars for the win!) and actually, it turns out, related to the subject at hand.

— A worldbuilding panel with me, Steven Brust, Martha Wells and Warren Spector, about whom it took me a number of minutes to realize that he was the Warren Spector. In addition to being a kick-ass game designer he’s also a good panel moderator, since the panel didn’t devolve into the usual “here’s how to build a world” thing.

— The “fannish feud” panel, in which fans and pros played against each other in a variation of the old Family Feud game show. Despite my recent ascension into the role of Alpha Fan Writer, I played on the pro side, and we won (which is apparently unusual), but just barely.

— Sitting on a military science fiction panel with Joe Haldeman and Elizabeth Moon, which seemed oddly familiar, since I had done the same thing a week before. We had fun (again).

And I especially had fun with my Guest of Honor Q&A and my reading, mostly because I think the audiences in both cases were up for it and willing to tolerate my quirks, such as the fact that I pace all over the place while I talk and gesticulate like a monkey as I do so.

* If I try to mention every single cool person I met in Austin for the first time I’m going to fail, badly, because at the moment and no matter how hard I try I’m blanking on names. I blame artificial sweetener. Be assured that I met a number of very cool people and had a great time. That said, I do want to give a shoutout to my fellow Guests of Honor David Lee Anderson, Shelia Williams, Joe & Gay Haldeman, Bill Crider and Kelly Persons, all of whom were a great deal of fun to spend time with and talk to.

In sum, ArmadilloCon was excellent, and you should make it a point to go to one sometime soon. I plan on going back.


Daughters of Ripley

Over at AMC this week, I’m writing about the epochal science fiction character that is Ellen Ripley, and what she meant for strong, competent women (who don’t have to sex you up to get the job done) in science fiction film. Yes, female characters in science fiction have been on my mind recently, why do you ask?

As always, I encourage your thoughts and comments on the subject over on the AMC site, where each of your comments is viewed with the reverence it deserves.

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