RSS

Monthly Archives: October 2010

Scribbler’s Scoreboard, Oct ’10

Technology robs us of some great entertainment.

October was a little more eventful than I expected. Two sales, and about 20000 words written on my sequel to The Muse, tentatively titled, The Seer, which I will finish in November.

I heard that. Stop laughing! I will finish it! Or die trying!

The two story sales are “Promises,” a superhero romance scheduled to appear in the March issue of Big Pulp,  and “The Transfer,” a science-fiction flash that went to Every Day Fiction, publication date TBD.

The October Scoreboard

12 Oct: “The Transfer” submitted to Every Day Fiction

29 Oct: 17-day acceptance from Every Day Fiction for “The Transfer”

30 Oct: 57-day acceptance from Big Pulp for “Promises”

Still waiting on a response from Digital Dragon for “One”

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 31, 2010 in Writing

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Weekly Weimaraner, #5

When Josie naps, she naps hard. She’s found a cozy spot in our laundry basket, which won’t fit her much longer.

Why my clothes smell like puppy breath.

 

I’ve also noticed a haunting resemblance to a certain famous canine. Coincidence? I think not!

Perhaps this celebrity is lurking in her family tree.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 25, 2010 in Family

 

Tags: , , ,

I Found a Cool Story the Other Day, #14

“Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish, looking like it’s far too few fish…

If you’re one of those folks who sits in the back pew at church and texts during the sermon (that’s right, buddy, I’m looking at you, because I would never do that), give a listen to this fresh and cool series of homilies podcast by Lutheran pastor, spec-fic writer, and all-around cultural raconteur, John W. Otte.

Homiletics can be fun, but you have to know how.

Rev. Otte uses the works of that understated literary genius Theodore Geisel, aka, Dr. Seuss, as a springboard, and the result is both entertaining and profound. From Green Eggs and Ham to Ten Apples Up on Top, we’re challenged to examine our assumptions about life a little more closely.

As Jesus demonstrated, all great sermons begin with a story, and all great stories provide a window into truth that is both timely and timeless. It’s a match made in heaven.

Here’s a link that will pull up all the podcasts in the series. Start with 26 September, and scroll your way up through the end of October.

And here’s a link to John’s always-worth-reading blog.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 25, 2010 in Faith, Podcasts, Writing

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

What’s Going On, 10/25/2010

Burning the Midnight Oil at Both Ends of the Candle: One week to go on my last work trip of the year. I am very, very tired of being away from my family, and manning the night shift doesn’t help my frame of mind. On the plus side, I’ve had quiet time to write, and cool evenings to run.

I’m making steady, if slow, progress on The Seer, my sequel to The Muse Though I don’t expect to finish the first draft by month’s end, I’ll be past the halfway point, with the finish line visible in the distance. I have to keep reminding myself that novel writing is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s also all-consuming. I’ve been absent from my regular online writing forums, and mostly marking time on my blog. I’ll have to bow out again on this month’s CSFF Blog Tour, too. It seems I always have to drop a ball or two to keep the rest of them in the air.

I Have Seen the Future, and It’s 1984: For a country that enshrines freedom of speech in the First Amendment to its Constitution, we sure do spend a lot of time censoring ourselves.  The recent brouhaha involving some blog comments from sci-fi writer Elizabeth Moon about the proposed Islamic Center near the 9/11 Ground Zero in New York resulted in her ouster as Guest of Honor at next year’s WisCon feminist SF convention. I hate to see this sort of thing happen, particularly in the speculative fiction community. If the people writing about our future think suppressing controversial speech (or at least, speech they don’t agree with) is a good thing, that’s worrisome. George Orwell’s 1984 was supposed to be a cautionary tale, not a cultural guidebook.

Ms. Moon is a writer of some note, so I’m sure she’ll survive this, and as the saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Some folks are already counter-protesting by purchasing as many of her books as they can find.

As for myself, I’ll continue to keep my private political opinions mostly private, not that they’re awfully coherent anyhow.

On a related note, at Rebecca Miller’s A Christian Worldview of Fiction, there was a back-and-forth about “adult content” such as coarse language, explicit sex, immoral behavior, etc, and its appropriate use, if any, in Christian fiction. I elected not to weigh in, but I blogged my position on the language piece of this issue here a while ago, and I think it applies to the broader issue of portraying “warts and all” humanity as a Christian writer.

Is tailoring your writing to the needs of your audience the same as censorship? Beats me. I do think there’s a big difference between self-censorship and a suppression of language and ideas which is imposed by external agencies. It’s the difference between freedom and tyranny.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on October 25, 2010 in Writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Book Review: Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall

In the seedy lobby of an old hotel in the Sierra Madre, an American journalist finds the legendary Caballo Blanco, and it will change his life forever.

No, this isn’t a tale of the old west, a spy thriller, or an advertisement for Mexican distilled spirits. It’s not fiction, genre or otherwise, though many of the characters are larger-than-life and their exploits are, by any measure, superhuman.

Born to Run is a story about running. Surprise.

Christopher MacDougall is a former Associated Press reporter, sometime freelance writer, and past-his-prime athlete who is launched on a remarkable odyssey by a rather mundane problem. He’s out of shape and trying to get himself back into condition, but he invariably injures himself just as he’s beginning to make progress. After a few less-than-helpful trips to the doctor, he begins to wonder how anybody can run without hurting themselves, and why anybody would want to run if it’s the fast track to crippling injury.

These questions lead him into the world of extreme long-distance running, where races of 50 to 100 miles or more across torturous terrain are the norm. He encounters some incredible athletes and unique personalities, discovers a few odd things about human performance in situations where endurance trumps speed, and begins to hear whispers of a tribe of extraordinary running savants in the mountains of Mexico–the Tarahumara, the “Running People.” They eat 100-mile runs for breakfast, continue running well into their geriatric years, and are almost supernaturally immune to both injury and illness. Some say they hunt deer by running them to death.

Before long, McDougall is trekking through the Copper Canyons, pondering his motives and chances of survival in a desert maze of  sheer, rocky precipices–the lair of historical outlaws Geronimo and Pancho Villa, and the home turf of modern drug runners. In his search for the Tarahumara, he hears rumors of the ghostly Caballo Blanco, the White Horse, a crazy gringo with a connection to the reclusive Running People. It turns out Caballo Blanco is much more than a campfire story, and he becomes the link between the Tarahumara and an assortment of American ultradistance runners who long to know their secrets and test their skills against the legendary tribe.

Along the way from the U.S. to Mexico and from the Rocky Mountains to Death Valley, McDougall learns a lot about the physiology of running, why humans are better adapted for long distance running than any other creature on Earth, what the Tarahumara do right that we do wrong, and the compelling stories of a host of people who run ridiculously long distances under ridiculous conditions for the sheer joy of it. He also discovers a connection between running and community, and why, for the long-distance runner, compassion might be just as important as conditioning.

The story wraps up with a dream-team throwdown race through the Copper Canyons between the Tarahumara and the Americans, and a bittersweet ending that acknowledges the twilight of a culture slowly eroding beneath the advance of civilization and the encroachment of Mexican drug gangs–a world in which the Tarahumara may no longer be fast enough to outrun their enemies.

This was a good read. A colleague tossed this in front of me during a work trip in the middle of the night shift, and I chewed through it in about three hours of nonstop racing, er, reading. It kept me awake and alert at 3 am, and that’s no small achievement.

McDougall tells an engaging story with plenty of humor and heart, leavened with enough science and investigative journalism to make this much more than a love letter to mountain trails and the people who run them. If you’ve got a runner or any other flavor of athlete on your Christmas list, get them a copy of this book. You won’t be sorry.

There are a few bits of coarse language sprinkled through the narrative, and these extreme athletes also enjoy extreme partying, giving some passages a sort of college frat vibe. So, I don’t recommend this book for kids. They’re not the target audience anyhow. Mid 20′s and up will probably like it just fine.

There’s some advocacy of minimalist running footwear and a variety of vegan-ish performance diet recommendations that are controversial at least and faddish at worst. The scientific court is out on much of this stuff, so though a lot of the incidental advice in Born to Run makes sense, I wouldn’t use it as a model for any sudden adjustments to your workout patterns, running stride, or daily menu without professional advice. Just sayin’.

Mr. McDougall has a tres cool website with lots of bonus info related to the book, photos of the people and places within, and much more. Check it out.

Chris McDougall’s blog. Also tres cool.

There’s also a fan club site where you can discuss the merits of barefoot running and parched corn with other like-minded individuals.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 22, 2010 in Book Reviews

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Book Review: Darwin’s Radio, by Greg Bear

Disgraced archaeologist Mitch Rafelson follows a pair of relic hunters across a glacier to a cave in the Alps that contains an impossible secret.

Biologist Kaye Lang investigates a mass grave near Geordi, in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, and makes a startling discovery.

Officials at the CDC struggle to comprehend a strange new disease killing expectant mothers and their babies.

Three events more intimately related than anyone might imagine. Something is rewriting our genetic blueprint, and time is running out for the human race.

In his Nebula Award-winning novel, Darwin’s Radio, Greg Bear spins a globe-spanning tale that is one part apocalyptic thriller, one part near-future speculation, and one part meditation on the nature of humanity and the forces that drive us to adapt and thrive in a constantly-changing world.

How might coping with changes in our environment change us? What adaptations might be necessary? While the evolutionary mantra is “adapt or die,” Bear draws our attention to the fact that it’s easier said than done. Human beings don’t take kindly to change, and when, in Darwin’s Radio, evolution gets up-close and personal,  society begins to crumble.

Perhaps more terrifying than the relentless progress of a genetic disease is the response of the federal health authorities and the scientific establishment. For the government bureaucrats, the first priority is protecting their own interests. Science takes a back seat to political expediency, even as the crisis spirals out of control. As for the scientists, the idea that our future as a species might be determined by something more sophisticated and intentional than random chance or brute-force competition gives them a collective case of the vapors. Even as the evidence stacks up for something disturbingly intelligent behind the new epidemic, they cling to the comfort of timeworn paradigms about how biological change happens.

The story shines in its well-researched speculations about human genetics, but follows the familiar formulas of the scientific thriller until Kaye Lang decides to become her own research subject. As she applies her intellect and skills to make sense of what exactly is going on, she finds herself swept along in the tide of forces physical and emotional that defy rational analysis. She begins to realize that nothing can stop the change that is coming, and fighting it may be precisely the wrong answer. At this point, the story really starts to wrestle not only with what might happen, but with what it could mean to us as individuals.

It’s a gripping and very emotional story. A few characters border on cliche’, like the self-interested government bureaucrats, corrupt scientists scrambling for research funding, and those eternal bogeymen of scientific “progress,” fundamentalist Christian demagogues.

National governments promote abortion as a solution to the impact of the disease on the unborn, presumptively condemning an entire generation of children to death, but a groundswell of opposition to this policy arises and is sympathetically depicted. The ultimate message of the story is unambiguously pro-life.

Despite the caricatures, I found it striking that it was the idea of a design behind human creation and development that gave the scientific community their most profound shivers. It didn’t seem to matter whether the source was God, some unfathomable intelligence, or an emergent process of our own genetic hardware, the scientists to a man (or woman) fought the idea of anything beyond aimless random chance guiding the biological fate of humanity, to their last tooth and nail. I don’t think Bear is far off the mark in depicting that reaction. When science stops searching for truth and chooses instead to defend conventional thought and the status quo against all challenges, it stops being science and becomes something quite irrational, a religion without a moral compass, particularly dangerous in the kind of crisis described in Darwin’s Radio.

The ending screams for a sequel, and there is one: Darwin’s Children. Perhaps I’ll get to it sooner than I did Darwin’s Radio. Hey, it could happen.

I’d rate this at an R for adult situations, some explicit sexuality, and some rough language. Not for kids.

Darwin’s Radio (barnesandnoble.com link)

Greg Bear’s website

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 19, 2010 in Book Reviews

 

Tags: , , ,

Weekly Weimaraner, #4

Glamor shot! Josie’s sitting pretty, but check out the eyes. It’s the old Weimar Mind Trick. “You will surrender all your Milk Bones to me…”

Mind-bendingly cute.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on October 16, 2010 in Family

 

Tags: , , ,

October Reading List

Autumn has arrived, the leaves are turning, and it’s time for me to turn over a few new leaves myself.

Some of these are old leaves, stories that have been shuffled to the end of the reading list for whatever reason, but I’m slowly catching up. I’ve got another work trip this month, so opportunities for both reading and writing should abound. Since I’ve got a novel manuscript to finish, I’ll be doing more writing than reading, so my list is, of necessity, brief:

Masters and Slayers, by Bryan Adams, which I’m well overdue to finish and review.

 

 

 

 

 

Darwin’s Radio, by Greg Bear, out for years and purchased a few months ago.

 

Kaleidotrope 10, the latest issue of Fred Coppersmith’s modest yet consistently excellent twice-a-year print ‘zine. I am a subscriber.

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 12, 2010 in reading list

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Book Review: Alpha Redemption, by P. A. Baines

The first near-lightspeed spaceship is accelerating toward Alpha Centauri, guided by an artificial intelligence and carrying a single passenger. Brett has volunteered for what may well be a one-way mission, trying to restore some shred of meaning to his shattered life.  The AI, “Jay,”  mimics a human mind and personality–it’s designed to learn, and has the potential to surpass its programming. Something–or someone–is waiting for them in the darkness of space, and the encounter will change both Brett and Jay forever.

P. A. Baines’ debut novel, Alpha Redemption,  is a thoughtful, emotional story, full of wonder and mystery. Though it’s set in the future, the speculative window-dressing takes back seat to a tale about grief, coming to terms with loss, and the meaning and nature of redemption, a word we blithely toss about in both secular and religious society without thinking too deeply about it. Baines asks what it might cost to restore a life in shambles and obtain an opportunity to begin again. His answer involves a journey of both spiritual and physical transformation that left me pondering the story’s outcome for a long time after I finished reading.

In a series of flashbacks that go further back in time as the ship nears its destination, we discover more about Brett and the details of the tragedy that defines his life and has driven him to volunteer for this risky mission. In the present, we watch Jay learn from Brett what it means to be human–a parallel journey from programming to sentience, and from student to teacher. When an unexpected crisis threatens their mission, both occupants of the spacecraft must make a decision that will complete their respective transformations and seal their fates.

I enjoyed Alpha Redemption. Some of the speculative elements will be very familiar to readers of the genre. There are echoes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but the focus on the characters’ inner journeys is distinctive, and the human and AI are partners, not antagonists. Baines does a nice job developing their relationship into something much deeper than simple comradeship.

Some plot elements were a bit of a stretch, at least at first glance. Brett is little more than a passenger, but so were the first astronauts–it took a few flights for their participation to progress to more than symbolic actions, and the old jokes about “ham in a can” weren’t that far off the mark. Brett also seemed a little old, in his mid-forties, for a mission of this nature, but again, it’s not unusual for astronauts who entered the service in their twenties and thirties to have to wait until their forties before they make it to the front of the line. Selection criteria for Brett’s mission remained shrouded in mystery, as were the details of the star drive. The unusual effects of near-lightspeed travel did reflect some recent observations of subatomic particles accelerated to those speeds in the laboratory. Bottom line, even though the science in this story played only a supporting role, it wasn’t tossed about willy-nilly and didn’t feel far-fetched.

There’s not a lot of bang-zoom action, but if, like me, you prefer science fiction stories that make you think, feel, and wonder, Alpha Redemption might just be the ticket to the stars you’ve been looking for.

Alpha Redemption is available in both print and electronic format from Splashdown Books, or via Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, and smashwords.com.

P.A. Baines’ website

>>This review is based upon an electronic copy of the book provided to me free of charge by the publisher, a courtesy I appreciate, but which does not guarantee my recommendation. I strive to evaluate every book I review purely on its intrinsic merits.<<

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 11, 2010 in Book Reviews

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Weekly Weimaraner # 3


"When you can snatch the toy from my jaws, it will be time for you to leave."

It’s the Alpha Dog Challenge!

Well, sort of.

Here we have Josie in a tug-of-war throwdown with Brinkley, our Golden Retriever and the canine matriarch of the household. Not a great picture, but it illustrates the difficulty of capturing Josie in a motionless moment and also shows her current size relative to the resident big dog.

It’s a classic match-up: youth and speed versus experience and weight. Who won? I’m not sure, but I expect the only way Josie emerged victorious is if Brinkley got fed up and quit–she doesn’t have much patience with the young whippersnapper.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on October 8, 2010 in Family

 

Tags: , , , , ,

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 239 other followers

%d bloggers like this: