Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Over on the right is an RSS feed from the NEW version that IS being updated. Clicking on one of those post headlines will take you to the new version where you will find the new RSS feed link.

I know it’s a pain – I’ve been chasing down links to this version myself and probably will be forever – but I would appreciate it if you’d do the same for your own, personal links to COF.  I really appreciate the visits from you folks and would like to have everyone going to the same place.

See you in the new digs!

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The LIST THAT SHALL NOT BE NAMED (SMOFs for the uninitiated) has been having a, ummm, lively (yeah, that’s the ticket, lively) discussion of ‘waivers of liability’, privacy rights, ownership and digital recording.

Considering that part of this discussion touches on issues that I am personally (and majorly) concerned with – enough so to have written a story devoted to the subject (one that has so far received two rejection slips) – I’ve decided to make that story available here. It’s called ‘Masker Aid’ and details one person’s solution to the ever-growing invasions of personal privacy. You can find it at the end of this post.

But before you get to that:

Mike Glyer over at File 770 has once again tweaked me, this time suggesting that I am such a traffic-whore that I’ll do anything to increase my hits – including stooping as low as criticising Star Wars on the basis of its lack of science fictionalness.

I’m not that cheap. In fact, I think Star Wars is emminently science fictiony and to suggest otherwise is to deny such things as the appearance in the (septology?) as Asimov’s robots, Herbert’s dunes and sandworms, Piper’s Little Fuzzies, Alex Raymond’s swords&blasters in space, Forbidden Planet’s Krell city, Niven’s and Robinson’s and (?)’s inter-species watering holes, Schomburg’s and DiFate’s and Gaughn’s and Freas’ Astounding Stories spaceship covers, Pournelle’s legions, Star Trek’s genetic supermen, Heinlein’s the-mother-thing (think Yoda) Smith and Hamilton and Brackett’s galactic sweep, Asimov’s world-girdling cities and a host of other author’s and artist’s contributions to the canon since at least the 1930s. Of course, if Mike had challenged me to discuss Star Wars’ lack of originality, flattery of the genre, that would be another thing entirely.

I have not been stingy with my criticism(s) of IO9 in the past. I know that this blog and my website are not anywhere close to the brightest stars in the science-fiction-on-the-web galaxy, but over the past eight months I have managed to get picked up by (on a somewhat regular basis) most of the other blogs/websites that do “burn so brightly” – including BoingBoing, SFSignal, Whatever, File 770 and the aforementioned IO9.

I therefore find it indicative of the mindset(?), culture(?) over at that site that they linked to me on a couple of occassions prior to my criticism, and not once since – despite the fact that they have covered a couple of items that originally appeared here.

I’m not suggesting that they ‘stole’ stories – anything that’s appeared here (other than original content) has appeared in many other locations, either before or after I mentioned them, depending on the breaks. I’m not even suggesting that if I cover something, they MUST mention me in their coverage of that subject.

What I am suggesting is that, like some other websites serving other communities, IO9 seems to think that the world revolves around them and that by turning a blind eye to someone who has been critical of them, they can somehow deny their existence. This is exactly the same thing that a 6 year old does when they close their eyes, stop up their ears and pretend that someone they don’t like isn’t there because they can no longer see or hear them. And about as effective.

Just for giggles, I’m going to try it myself. MMMMMMmmmmmmmHHH! MMMMmmmmmHHHH! Darn. Nope, IO9 is still there.

The internet doesn’t work that way (neither does reality).

Today, Neil Gaiman expressed his own criticism of IO9’s practices. (Yes, it did make me happy to see that I am not alone.)

Neil’s focus was their attempt to create news via internally-generated rumor, while mine has generally focused on their barker-like “look at the freaks geeks!, look at the freaks geeks!” view of the industry.

I’m relatively easy to ignore. I’ll be interested to see if Neil receives the same treatment. For some reason, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Masker Aid

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I won’t go into a rant, other than to say – yes, I am one of those people who finds it annoying that some other people assume that everyone in the world shares their holiday/religion and won’t take the time to consider alternatives or the fact that a generic greeting/wish covers all the bases without dissing anyone.

But I do try to take into consideration the intent of the well-wisher.

What a REALLY resent is the politicizing of the whole thing by some who tell their troops to shove ‘Merry Christmas’ down others throats as a way to save their religion/holiday/sense of self/dollars.

Who’s being the crass commercialist now, hmmm?

But forget all that stuff because you know, none of it is what the holiday season is really all about. What it is about is remembering that you have other people in your life who its nice to tell – at least once a year – that you’re thinking about them and care about them.

So have a great day – and take some time out to remember the important people in your life.

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I’m not going to be around much today because I’m watching THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL


and over

and over



You should too!

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David (the Franklin Pierce historian) has put up his own entry on the affair, and you can read it here.

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ok second test

obviously the first one did not work

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I’ve picked up some extra duties (like another blog and a website) that are practically full-time jobs (well, not really, but right now it is) and my posting here has been a little affected, and probably will be for the next few days until I refine the time-management and get everything ship shape.

In the meantime, spit on the mat, call the cat a bastard or go futz around with the Manchenn drive…

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I’m scheduled to vote later on this afternoon and hoping I won’t have an issue. Having moved to New Hampshire in February, I had to do the registration thing and it proved to be pretty difficult.

Here in NH, we register with the Town Clerk who requires proof of residency; unfortunately, all the utility bills are in my wife’s name (despite numerous requests to have it read otherwise) and the only ‘residency proof’ I had didn’t meet the clerk’s requirements.

I filled out the paperwork anyhow and left it with her promise that when I had an affadavit from a landlord, she’d process it.

I went back a few days later – and no form was in sight. I was assured that “it had been taken care of”. Requests to see my name on the rolls were denied.

We have ‘at the poll’ registration here – I’m hoping I won’t have to use it – but it could prove to be an interesting and long experience.

In other news, Dixville Notch, the residents of the little town in northern NH, have cast their ballots and Obama has won 15 to 6.

Dixville Notch has predicted the national winner about 70% of the time – so all of you Republicans may as well not waste your valuable time, unless you like to waste your time on 30% chances. One in three. I won’t take a bar bet on those odds.

Seriously – get out and vote. Help make this election the best turnout ever in US election history.

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I was struck (again) the other day by the unending lamentations coming from some quarters of the SF community.  In my head, it sounds like I’m standing in an alley between a Catholic Church and an Orthodox Synagogue as both congregations engage in response:

From the left: Priest: “For God hath created the singularity beyond which there is no knowing”

Congregation: “It is  truly a turd in the punch bowl that stinketh to high heaven”

Priest: “It is an abomination in the sight of the Lord, from which he turneth away”

Congregation: “And there shall be no more science fiction”

From the right: Rabbi: “And the Lord said ‘these words lacketh in style'”

Congregation “Truly, they are non-literary”

Rabbi: “And the Lord said ‘these characters are flat and uninteresting”

Congreation “Truly, they are non-literary”

Rabbi: “And the Lord said ‘Go ye forth and write literary works for they are a sweet smelling sacrifice. No longer shall ye write in a clunky pulp style”

Congregation “And on that day, science fiction was no more. Amen.”

It seems like every day there is yet another reason why science fiction is no longer relevant, is dying or already finished but for the burial.

The post singularity future is unknowable, so we can’t write about the future.  SF is not literary enough and will therefore die in the marketplace.  We’re living in a science fiction world and therefore can’t imagine a future sufficiently wonderous enough to engage the reader. SF is and always will be perceived as an adolescent affectation. Science Fiction is for geeky nerds. There aren’t enough geeky nerds in the worlds to support the market. YA is stealing SF’s thunder. SF is a literature of short stories and the short story is dead. Magazines are the foundation of SF and magazines are dead. The audience has dumbed down and can’t handle thought-provoking literature of any genre. The society is falling apart and is too distressed and depressed to care about the future.  Genre’s only have a 75 year life cycle and we’re in year 100+.

My first thought is: you can’t have it both ways. Liteature of any kind is supposed to be about character.  SF’s contribution is a focus on the future, a vehicle for illuminating today through non-threatening speculative tropes, the home of the ‘big idea’.  But all of those things are realized through the characters that inhabit the story, the people that things happen to. 

Maybe a lot of SF characterization is ‘bad’ when seen through some ivory tower literary prism, and maybe there is room for improvement but, if stories are really about character (or are supposed to be) then how can a concept like the singularity threaten the genre?

I don’t think any of the aforementioned laments is accurate, nor are any of them the genre-killer they’re sussed out to be. I think the real problem is some underlying dissatisfaction with where the genre is today.  But not even that.  I think it’s dissatisfaction with where the genre is as opposed to some people’s fevered imaginging of where it ought to be. It might be a pay-scale thing. It might be an earnings thing, it might be a marketing thing. Some authors look at their advances and royalties and think they ought to be doing better. Some publishers think they ought to get more notices, or a better distribution deal or more shelf space. A lot of people look at the enormous impact some SF films or televisions shows have had and wonder why the golden touch hasn’t reached the book end of the business.

I’m not intimately familiar with the behind the scenes work that agents are doing for some of the more vocal authors (film options, etc), but of the authors who’s intimates I am familiar with, none of them are amongst the complainers, because they’re doing ok.  I don’t draw any conclusions from that observation, merely pointing it out as a possible data point.

And I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with wanting more – better pay, more cultural recognition, bigger presence in the marketplace – but if that is what all of the complaining is about, I think the effort would be better spent on figuring out how to achieve those goals, rather than bemoaning the death of the genre.

Jason Stoddard was recently interviewed and covered a multi-part blog post he’s got going on SF and marketing.  His mantra is self-promotion and social networking (and the relatively low cost of high-impact advertising available via internet resources).

In those pieces he correctly identifies most writers initial reactions – “ugh, barf”.  And I agree that that is probably the standard reaction, except for a chosen few who seem to have a natural bent for it, such as Doctorow or Scalzi.  Not surprising, considering the relatively solitary nature of writing and world-building.  Most authors are, of course, happy to share the end product, but many are reluctant to let all but a few carefully hand-picked people in on the beta testing.

So, maybe the solution is to foist this activity off on the publishing companies? Maybe, as part of their marketing efforts, they need to not only host their own websites with lots of nifty content and quasi-social networking applets, but should, as a matter of course, automatically set up a blog, a youtube channel, a myspace page, add characters to virtual environments, generate appropriate widgets and etc.  Most authors have no problem writing, but many have a problem with the day-to-day maintenance of building a website, adding RSS feeds, finding the tributes and commentary, the reviews and such.

Instead of having each individual author try to do these things, there should be a department at a good publishing house that handles all the background crap.  Think of the traffic: if every single published author had at a minimum, myspace, youtube, flikr, website and blog, and all of those were linked in to the publishers main site AND cross-linked to each other (maybe a company logo at the top of the page), we’re talking a huge amount of internet real estate.  Think of the cross-promotion when every single one of those websites becomes a billboard, not just for the author in question, but for every other author represented by that publisher. 

Then the writers can do what they do – write. Preferably non-singularity conflicted, non-literary, pulpy science fiction.

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via one of my many aggregated blogs (I’ll post the link as soon as I can remember it), I was informed that Locus had published the results (online) of their 1998 All-Time Poll.  This one concerned pre-1990 SF novels.

In looking over the results, I was very pleased to note that virtually every author represented on that list of fine novels is also in my Top list of 150 Classic SF Writers.

Nice to see that I have my finger on the feeble, thready pulse of what people thought were classics ten years ago.

The only authors from the Locus Poll not appearing on my list are:

George Orwell (serious oversight), David Brin (serious oversight) Olaf Stapledon (serious oversight), George R. Stewart (oversight), Mary Shelly (???), William Gibson and Orson Scott Card, who’s works appeared after my classic cut off of 1983 (which – thank goodness – means that I don’t have to offer any other explanations as to their absence).

I’m surprised by my omissions of the first five and hereby declare that the list is now THE TOP 155 CLASSIC SF WRITERS OF ALL TIME.

More proof that – I have some idea of what I’m talking about (every once and a while, like a broken clock – at least twice a day) and that the above named mentioned authors are remembered for a reason, otherwise they wouldn’t keep on showing up in things like this.

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