April 1 2014

My Hugo Nominations 2014

Here are the works I nominated for Hugo awards for 2014. My general process is to think about the works that I have actually read and not to cast about looking for things. You will also notice that I only nominated a couple (at most) things in each category rather than using all five nominations. These are the works that I felt deserved the Hugo for this work. I didn’t nominate in categories where I didn’t feel I had spent enough time to have a really good opinion.

Best Novel:
Something More Than Night by Ian Tregillis, published by Tor
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, published by Orbit

Equoid by Charles Stross, published by tor.com

Short Story:
Thirteen Steps in the Underworld by Su-Yee Lin, published by tor.com

Editor, Short form
Liz Gorinsky

Best Fan Writer
Kameron Hurley — example: “‘We Have Always Fought’: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative,” by Kameron Hurley, at A Dribble of Ink.

Best Related Work
Sleeps With Monsters, by Liz Bourke at tor.com

Best Dramatic (Long Form)
Pacific Rim directed by Guillermo del Toro

August 28 2013

Arcane Disk

Whilst perusing an assortment of oddities in an old steamer trunk I found in the attic, I was struck by an inscription upon a fire glazed disk. I will attempt here to reproduce this:


The disk, measuring some five inches and with a slight hump, is much heavier than one would expect. The inscribed forms give every appearance of having been created at the same time as the object upon which they reside. Further study will be needed.

March 4 2013

Gritty Futures and Good Reading

Recently, down in the comments, mentioned they were reading Neuromancer (1984) by William Gibson and asked what else they might find that was similar that they might enjoy. I thought that might be of interest to others, so I’m promoting and expanding on my answer a bit.
A decent place to go after reading Neuromancer is to pick up the next to books in the “Sprawl” trilogy–Count Zero (1986) and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988).

These books all share the same gritty feel of a future that sometimes seems almost possible. Elements of it–cyber criminals, are here already while we are just seeing the very start of orbital activity and AI.
From author John Brunner, the books Shockwave Rider (1975) and Stand On Zanzibar (1968) really can’t be beat. These are also set in a gritty future. Shockwave Rider is the origin of the idea of a computer worm (virus) while Stand On Zanzibar talks about the growing issues of muckers–people who seem to suddenly just start causing havoc. Both books deal more with the aspects of accelerating change–Future Shock and its toll on society.

The final volume I’ll mention here is Snow Crash (1997) by Neal Stephenson. This book is often credited with being the idea behind today’s MMOG’s and virtual environments like Second Life. Again, it is set in a world a bit further on than ours where things have decayed a bit more.

All of these books are jam packed with iconic ideas and realizations of futures that are maybe a bit too close for comfort. They are a good entry place into this area of SF.

January 4 2013

Apollo Robbins — Pickpocketing the Brain

I read this very interesting article about Apollo Robbins in The New Yorker yesterday. He’s been around a while, but I hadn’t heard anything until this article. Apollo Robbins performs a pickpocketing act at a very high level. Cool stuff.
What I found particularly interesting was his exploitation of various holes in human’s perception and psychology. Here is an article from Scientific American that goes into more on this aspect of the subject.
What we (our consciousness) perceives as a smooth flow of information is really anything but. From blindsight to Change blindness there are a multitude of holes that can be exploited.

November 6 2012

Election 2012

Today is election day here in the US. Voting is important–do it.
As for myself, I will be voting for Barack Obama for president. My reasoning here is quite similar to that of John Scalzi here. Basically, the direction of the Republican party is not at all aligned with either anything I believe in nor (I believe) the best interests of the country.
Here in Minnesota, we have two proposed constitutional amendments:

I will be voting no on both of these as they are restrictive of the rights of individuals in manners that I don’t see any need to be restrictive.

October 11 2012

Rare Earths, Redux

Since my friend Ian has posted an update on the state of Helium, I thought I might also make a brief update my original post on rare earths.
Things have continued pretty much on the trajectory I mentioned in the first article. China still controls 95% of the world’s total rare-earth supply. The restricted supply of rare earth elements has continued to keep prices high and this has in turn continued to encourage either opening or reopening new rare earth mining facilities.
In particular, the company Molycorp announced on August 27, 2012 that it had resumed production at the Mountain Pass mine in California.
From their press release:

We began construction on the project in January 2011. The project remains on track to begin producing at our Phase 1 annual rate of 19,050 metric tons of rare earth oxide equivalent (REO). Additionally, we are on track to achieve our Phase 2 annual production capacity of 40,000 metric tons per year by mid-2013.

They are also, actively mining of 2,800 short tons of fresh ore per day, 4 days/week.

September 4 2012

Chicon 7, 2012 Worldcon Recap and Adventures

This was the first Worldcon I have attended and I had a great amount of fun. In this post, I’ll tell you about it.
We arrived in Chicago on Thursday about 6PM. We took Amtrak from Winona, MN to Chicago Union Station. The train is kind of fun and easier than driving–you get to look at some decent scenery along the way. Here is the view from our room, the room was quite nice:

View from our Room — Chicago river.

Once at the hotel (Susan exclaimed, “Hey look, that guy has a tail!”) and safely ensconced in our room, I proceeded down to registration. I started to realize at this point that the hotel and conference area was large–quite large. Registration was set up quite nicely and I quickly collected my materials and badge. We then ate dinner at a hotel restaurant. David Brin and a bunch of other authors were seated at some tables next to us, so that was my first official author sighting.
After dinner, I wandered around a bit familiarizing myself with the layout (split between two towers) and then at 9:00 I went to the panel: “Ozma Plus 50: My Week Among the Searchers for Extraterrestrial Intelligence” presented by Bill Higgins. This dealt with some of Bill Higgins experiences on a tour of the Ozma SETI site. I only stayed for about half an hour. The panel was interesting, but I wanted to go up to the 34th floor where the Minn-StF people were hosting a party. So, up there I did travel. I hung about there for awhile. Jo Walton came in and mentioned that she had a new summary post on tor.com. I said that I had seen it and then she was whisked off. That was all I got to actually say to Jo over the Con–she was understandably busy.
Friday morning I discovered the Jo Walton Kaffeeklatsch was full and so I went to the panel: (9:00 – 10:30) “Anarchism in Fantasy and Science Fiction.” This was quite a good panel. They discussed anarchism in various works and its relationship to various groups in real life. After this, I proceeded to the Dealer’s Room. This was quite large and I started walking back and forth browsing things. I was extremely happy when, as I browsed, I came upon Glen Cook’s booth. I hadn’t known he was going to have a both so this was a nice surprise. I chatted with him for a while. He mentioned that he was working on a new Garret Novel, book 4 of the Instrumentalities series, and that “Port of Shadows,” is a real thing and is the next Black Company novel. It will take place in the time between “The Black Company” and “Shadows Linger“. He also pointed out that he had written parts of that as a couple shorts in two anthologies that he had on the table.
I then went over to the Angry Robot tables and talked with Amanda Rutter, now editor of Strange Chemistry and one of the reread reviewers for the Malazan reread on tor.com. We mentioned that it was fun to see one another after having exchanged so many words in the reread.
From 11:00 AM-11:30 AM I went to the Seanan McGuire reading. She read from one of the October Daye books. I missed the first couple minutes, so I am unsure which one but I liked what was read and plan to check them out.
Next, it was time to head over to Ian Tregillis’ reading (12:00-12:30). Ian read from the Klaus/Gretel/Jar portion of The Coldest War. This is a really really good portion and it was quite nice to hear Ian read it. The readings were scheduled in half hour time slots. That gets lots of authors slots to read in, but doesn’t leave much time for questions or anything. So, after the reading a number of people wanted books autographed and Ian was happy to oblige. He found a table down the hall and started autographing. I tagged along in my quiet fashion. When the last autographee was satisfied, there were about six people left. One of them glanced at me and said, “You I recognize from the website.” At that point Ian saw me and we chatted about how it is odd to have had lots of conversations with people (I post over on his website and he posts over here) but to have never actually met them. He then kindly invited me along to lunch (Potbelly’s). There were six people along and we chatted about a number of things from food dislikes to the annoyances of the film Prometheus, Ian’s need to learn about Exoplanets for his next panel and the disappointments of the Torchwood:Miracle Day series. This was a very great deal of fun.
At 2:30 I bid adieu to the group and went to Jo Walton’s reading. She read from her work in progress–a generation starship in mid voyage. After this, I again wandered around the dealer room and other exhibits. At 4:30 I went to the panel “Exoplanets, Exobiology, Extensions of SF” (4:30 – 6:00). I addition to Ian Tregillis, David Brin, Dr. Charles E. Gannon, Geoffrey A. Landis and G. David Nordley were panelists. They discussed some of the recent findings in extra solar planets and how that might relate to science fiction and reality. Ian must have effectively looked up some good stuff as he had a number of good comments.
At 6, Susan and I went to dinner with her brother and his girl fried, so, non-con related.
At 9:00PM I went back up to the 34th floor and went to the Tor party for a while. David Brin autographed an imprint sheet of Existence for me. These sheets address a need of which I hadn’t even thought–with eBooks, there isn’t really anything physical that you can carry along and have someone autograph if you are so inclined.
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