Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Implied Spaces is available at! And Pete Johannsen has already got his copy!

(I repeat this news for those who have not been following the Implied Spaces Watch.)

To quote William Mulholland on the completion of the Los Angeles Aquaduct:

"There it is! Take it!"


George Carlin, Who Art in Heaven

Last night Bravo re-ran an Inside the Actor's Studio featuring an interview with the late, extravagantly lamented George Carlin. James Lipton asked Carlin his version of the Proust Questionnaire. Among the questions was, "When you die, what would you like God to say to you?"

"'At last we'll have some fun up here,'" Carlin said.

I trust the Deity is now rolling in the aisles.

A member of the audience also asked Carlin about his method in putting together his concerts, and and it turns out Carlin has--- (had! I should say, I'm not used to thinking of Carlin in the past tense)--- anyway, Carlin had an interesting method. He kept something like 2000 files of things he was interested in, and they were divided roughly into three groups.

The first was Words. (Carlin was pretty obviously interested in linguistics.) The second was Big Questions--- politics, philosophy, religion, teleology, etc. And the third was Life--- the amusements and frustrations of dealing with ordinary existence, of cars cars, people, home appliances, television talking heads, and other minutia.

What struck me about this was that this is very good advice for a writer of fiction. Fiction is all about the words, and you should pay very close attention to them. Fiction is about life, and if your characters aren't anchored in real life they lack that which will make them come alive in the reader's mind. And if fiction isn't about big ideas, why are you bothering?

George, a tip of the sombrero to you. You're going to make my writing better.



I've been getting really splendid reviews for Implied Spaces, and it may seems ungrateful of me to quibble with some minor aspects of what are otherwise terrific notices. But that's exactly what I'm going to do--- and I'd like to think I'm not acting entirely out of ego (though of course I am), but out of an objectively virtuous attempt to set the history straight.

Here's a quote from one (otherwise delightfully positive) review: "He [that would be me] is playing with a fairly familiar set of SF tropes . . . Implied Spaces is very much mature SF, building on the ideas the field has been addressing in the past decade or more."

And, from another splendidly positive review: "There is little in Implied Spaces that will surprise readers acquainted with the post-human space operas of Iain M. Banks, John C. Wright, Peter Hamilton and others of their ilk ..."

Do I detect a theme here? The notion that, perhaps, Implied Spaces is treading on ground pioneered by other writers?

Again I hate to quibble, but may I respectfully point out that I've been on this ground for over twenty years? Hardwired (1986) dealt with immortality via transfer into new bodies, and it and its sequel "Solip:System" (1989) featured reprogramming the human brain to create new allegiances. "Flatline" (1988) was about nanotechnology and vast, inhuman artificial intelligence. "Dinosaurs" (also 1988) dealt with posthumanity, and was nominated for Nebula and Hugo awards. Aristoi (1992) was New Space Opera before New Space Opera had a name. "Lethe" (1997) concerned itself with immortality, space travel, and the process of history.

The whole creating-universes thing is pretty much mine, though I suppose it may lean on the last scene of the final Cities in Flight novel.

What I'm outright stealing is the Singularity, or at least my version of it, but Vernor seems to think that's pretty cool, and I reference Vernor anyway. And besides, after a thing's been in the literature for twenty years, it's fair game.

So there's my grump for the day, for all that I feel like I'm banging my cane on the boarding house porch as I complain about how the younger generation don't know nothing, anymore.

Learn your history! Dammit.

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Monday, June 23, 2008


Here's a video showing what clever amateurs can do these days.

Ryan vs Dorkman 2.

Okay, they can't act, and they don't know how to sell their kicks and elbow strikes, but honestly--- when was the last time you saw an action movie climax that was as good as this?


Sunday, June 22, 2008


So one morning, as I was staring blearily at my laptop screen, sipping tea, and trying to wrap my head around the morning's critique, I heard Kelly chortling, and she told me that she'd just taken the What Middle-Earth Race Do You Belong To? quiz over on HelloQuizzy. Turns out she's an Elf.

So I took the quiz, and lo! I'm an Elf as well. I could live with that--- in fact, as an Elf, I could live forever--- but when I examined the stats I found out I scored a zero on size and strength. Since I'm over six feet, over 200 pounds, have a black belt, and work out a lot, I thought this was probably an error. But then, when all's said and done, I'd rather be immortal than the Incredible Hulk, so there you go.

Then because, y'know, work continued to impend, I went on to take the Would You Have Been a Nazi test, because it's one of those questions that always lurks in the back of the brain. Sure, it's easy being for democracy and freedom living as I do in the 21st Century USA . . . but had I grown up in 1920s Munich, would I have been so attached to Enlightenment ideas of liberty, or would I have gone head-over-heels for the new, shiny, so-very-Twentieth Century Fuhrer?

The quiz reassured me that, while my patriotism approaches dangerous levels, I would nevertheless have been a leader of the anti-Nazi resistance. What a relief!

Of course this means that, had I actually been living in Fascist Germany, Himmler and his minions would have probably turned me into dog chow. But I would have been on dog chow the right side!

(Though, however you look at it, it's difficult to picture someone like me being produced by the Germany of the period.)

Now hooked--- and my actual work still pending--- I went on to the What Greek God are You test. Turns out I'm Dionysus!

No complaints here! Though I confess there may be something a little wrong with my godlike powers--- while it's true I like having a good time, I seem a little lacking in the driving-hordes-of-women-into-an-erotic-frenzy-all-at-once department.

I'll have to work on that.

And then, because I still needed to get the critiques done, I went on to the What's Your Signature Weapon test, and discovered that what I really need is a Desert Eagle, the most powerful production handgun available today. As a guy who spends much of his time working out with swords and big sticks, I found this a surprise. Though when all's said and done, I'd rather shoot the bad guys from a safe distance, so there you go.

After contemplating, then rejecting, the idea of doing my critiques with a .44, I finally returned to the work I was supposed to be doing.

But let's sum up. I'm an anti-Nazi party god with pointy ears, and when Fascists show up to spoil the fun--- which they do, rather--- I send them to their cold Nordic hell with my .44 magnum!

Or--- when I finally fix that glitch in my powers--- I inspire hordes of women to tear them to bits with their bare hands. Which is fun, too!

So how do you waste time when you've got a job to do?


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Implied Spaces Watch (2)

Copies of Implied Spaces have been seen! Actual physical copies!
But they were seen by someone connected to publishing, so the sighting doesn't count for the Implied Spaces Watch contest!
To repeat, the winner is the first person to see a copy of Implied Spaces in a store, or to see it for sale online such that you can buy it right this instant, as opposed to having to wait "3 to 6 weeks," or whatever.
Winners get a free signature to their copy whenever we can arrange a time/space coincidence. (Yes, I'm still going to make you buy it. I'm greedy.)


Saturday, June 14, 2008


I've lost two friends to cancer in the last week.

The first was Erick Wujcik, and the second my companion of 17 years, the cat named Sandman.

Though his black-and-white coloration might make it seem obvious, he wasn't named after the Neil Gaiman character. He acquired the name Sandman because, as a kitten, he did very little but sleep. I had thought that kittens were compulsively active, but not this one.

Sandman was a one-man cat. He'd follow me around the house to keep me under observation; he'd snarl if other cats got near me; and when I was away, he'd guard my office to keep others--- particularly other cats--- away.

In this photo, he's giving me a new hairstyle.

Sandman fell ill when I was away at Rio Hondo--- a little over three weeks ago. He was seriously losing weight--- two pounds since the previous visit to the vet. After a trip to the vet, I got some meds, which produced a temporary improvement.

By yesterday, he'd lost another two pounds. He had very little energy and didn't eat. I was teaching Taos Toolbox, so our wonderful housesitter Nan took him to the vet and received the news that he had a large, cancerous mass in his abdomen.

I left the workshop so that I'd be with him when we put him to sleep. All praise to the Toolies: they were very forgiving.

At least his illness was brief.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008


My friend, Erick Wujcik, died on Saturday of pancreatic cancer. He had just turned 57. His companion of nearly thirty years, the wonderful Kate Kozora, was by his side.

I think I can say without fear of contradiction that he was a creative genius. He was the sort of person who has about a dozen brilliant ideas each day. His problem was deciding which of them to act on, if any. Most of them, by necessity, fell by the wayside.

His personality was engaging, humorous, informed, and generous. Talking to him was an enormous pleasure, and he was willing to talk on any subject at all.

His professional life was devoted to the gaming industry, particularly roleplaying games. He was a co-founder of Palladium Games, and created, or worked on, such games as Palladium Fantasy RPG, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles RPG, After the Bomb RPG and sourcebooks for it, Ninjas & Superspies, Mystic China, Rifts, China One and Two, Revised RECON, and Wolfen Empire. He worked on Paranoia and Robotech.

In recent years he worked teaching game design at Hong Kong Polytech, and worked for Ubisoft in Shanghai as the lead designer for Return to Krondor. Of late he's been working for Totally Games north of San Francisco.

He wrote and designed Amber Diceless Roleplaying, the astoundingly faithful game based on the works of Roger Zelazny. It was in connection with this project that I first met him, probably around 1990.

Probably his best work in the field was never published--- there were campaigns that went on for decades and that were legendary among his friends. As we never lived in the same city, I participated only in the occasional offshoot of his major campaigns, each of them memorable, each of them unique.

During our friendship, we kept in touch through phone calls and emails. We sent each other books and videos. Erick and his steady Kate were my guides in Hong Kong a few years ago.

Erick always wanted to turn my Metropolitan novels into an MMORPG. Entranced by the vast wads of cash that would fall into my lap when this occurred, I did my best to encourage him in this dream. It turned out to be one of the projects that never quite came about, mainly I think because money was never one of Erick's chief motivations. He wanted to enjoy himself. He wanted to entertain his friends. He wanted to work on the projects that interested him at that moment. I'm sure he wouldn't have objected if a million dollars landed in his bank account, but seeking money was far down his list of priorities.
He was diagnosed with liver and pancreatic cancer around Thanksgiving. The liver cancer was far more advanced, and he underwent chemotherapy in order to push back the liver cancer and give himself a few more months in order to take Kate to a few places she'd always wanted to visit. He took her to Hong Kong, her favorite city, and to Shanghai.
During his illness he remained remarkably cheerful. I was able to see him on a visit to the Bay Area in December, and though easily tired he was still clearly the same Erick, still curious and generous and full of life. When I got depressed, it was Erick who cheered me up and not the other way around.
He died last Saturday at home. There will be a memorial service this coming weekend, but I'm stuck on a mountaintop teaching and won't be able to go.
Farewell, Erick. You were one of the most creative and interesting and delightful people that I ever know. Go with joy.


Saturday, June 07, 2008

And Before I Leave . . .

I hope everyone had a great Tuen Ng Festival!


To the Mountains!

I'm back to the mountains for Taos Toolbox. I don't know how much free time I'll have, or what the Internet connections will be like, but I'll check in when I can.


Al-Qaeda Wants a Posse

Got a plan to save the world? Check out the American Security Initiative, which is soliciting your ideas--- well, your business plans--- to make a safer world. (For business, I imagine.)

" . . . America's first business plan competition devoted to our nation's security, seeks to fill this gap in funding and assure the long term security and prosperity of our nation. In conjunction with the 2008 Homeland Security S&T Stakeholders Conference East, presented by the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) with subject matter support provided by the Science & Technology Directorate (S&T) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the American Security Challenge will award $100,000 or more to the winning business plan."

The prize is $100,000! Go for it!

And the NDIA, etc., isn't the only group wanting new ideas. So are our friends in al-Qaeda.

Al-Qaeda, working through a password-controlled Internet system, is asking jihadis and jihadi-wannabes worldwide to contribute notions for causing trouble throughout the world. It makes sense, as their current sclerotic leadership hasn't managed to pull off a major attack since September 2001.

"Frankly, it seems like Al Qaeda is becoming more like the Pentagon with each passing day. Women want equal rights to wage Jihad; the bureaucrats issue nasty memos and want to coordinate strategic communication; and now they're putting out the equivalent of a "request for proposals" on how to cause madness and mayhem."

Unfortunately this could, you know, work. A whole host of Internet-savvy jihad geeks are bound to be better in the imagination department than al-Qaeda's current leadership, stuck as it is in obscure lightless valleys in Pakistan.

Fortunately Osama isn't offering a big prize. Otherwise I could picture a whole new class of guerilla entrepreneur, selling ideas to Osama, then offering the counter to the NDIA.

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Ms Rowling Speaks

JK Rowling has given an utterly splendid commencement address at Harvard.

It's twenty minutes long, but it's worth listening to.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Apocalypse Mail

Devout Internet geeks rejoice! Now you can send email even after you've been raptured!
Thanks to, your nonbeliever friends can be sent a personalized email six days after the Rapture urging them to reconsider their pagan ways and join Christ's army for the seven years of the Tribulation.
For $40 per year, you can arrange for 62 friends to receive emails from you six days after you've been raptured up to Heaven.
According to the web site: "We have set up a system to send documents by the email, to the addresses you provide, 6 days after the "Rapture" of the Church. This occurs when 3 of our 5 team members scattered around the U.S fail to log in over a 3 day period. Another 3 days are given to fail safe any false triggering of the system."

Wow! "By the email!" Sounds flawless to me!
In addition, subscribers can have up to 150mb of encrypted storage, which can be emailed to friends afterwards to tell them about powers of attorney, bank accounts, passwords, brokerage accounts, and other crucial information that might help them survive the Last Days.
The domain name is registered through a proxy service, the names of the executives are not given on the web site, and the type of encryption used for vital documents is not specified. Skeptics might find this suspicious, and suspect perhaps an elaborate phishing scam, but believers will be reassured by the site's statement that the site is run "by Christians for Christians."
The site also urges me to "Tell your friends about You've Been left behind. [sic]" I just have!
More end of the world research may be done here.

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Lancashire Aeronautics and Space Administration

So after knocking off work late last night, I poured myself a well-deserved margarita and started flipping channels on the satellite dish to see if there was anything on worth watching. (Most worthwhile programs are on after midnight, I've found.)

So I clicked onto the Beeb, and there was Top Gear, which is an English program in which high-performance automobiles are tested, for example, by being made to drag-race against jet aircraft.

On this particular show, the hosts had teamed up with a group of British rocket geeks to, well, start their own space program. They had converted a tiny English car, the Reliant Robin, into a space shuttle, and were about to find out whether they could launch and recover it. Power was provided by six 40960 NS O hybrid rocket motors giving a maximum thrust of 8 metric tons. This was going to be the largest private rocket launch in Europe.

The show was freakin' riveting, no pun intended. Could a successful liftoff be achieved from a weapons testing range in Lancashire? Would the solid rocket boosters successfully detach, would the Reliant achieve separation from the external fuel tank and then glide to a successful landing at a nearby aerodrome?

Bear in mind that this whole thing was done on the budget of a weekly television series.

I don't want to spoil anything by giving away the ending. But here's the video.

It looks to the naive and gullible observer, like me, that Rocket Ship Galileo-style private space programs are closer than they might otherwise seem.

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Mystery Plane

Instead of sitting around in Baltimore waiting for the con to start, I headed out on Friday to lovely Chantilly, VA, to see the Steven F. Utvar-Hazy Center.
Which will probably ring no bells with you, until I state that it's part of the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum. In fact it's the part that contains the 80% of the Smithsonian's collection that won't fit into the museum in D.C.!
So I entered the huge hangar-like structure and gazed down at the floor below me, and I said, "Holy crap! That's a P-61!" And then I looked a little to my right, and I said, "Holy crap! That's an SR-71 Blackbird!"
My dialog grew very repetitious at this point, so I'll just skip the rest.
(Can you tell I used to build model aeroplanes as a child?)
I was with Greg Bear, who not only built model aeroplanes as a child but still builds them, so the two of us were in total Geek Heaven. We completely spazzed as we feasted our eyes upon the Corsair, and the Tomahawk, and the Northrop N-1M flying wing, and the P-38, and the Concorde, the insane-looking Dornier Do-335, the gorgeous Arado 234, the weird manned little autogyro kite that the Germans designed to be towed behind U-Boats, the submarine-launched Aichi M6A, the Wright Flyer (a replica built by someone with an unusual design sense, as it's heavily chromed, with red velvet seat cushions), the Nieuport 28 with its hat-in-the-ring insignia, the Spad 13, the Virgin Atlantic Globalflyer, all the strange little between-the-wars craft, the Double Eagle II, the MiGs 15 and 21, the Tomcat and the Sabrejet, and even the F-35, which isn't even in service with the Air Force yet.
Not to mention the Enola Gay, very large and shiny, and the Enterprise, which is off in a hangar of its own along with a lot of capsules and missiles.
Which brings me to this week's contest. (My last contest didn't work out, since nobody [including me] can seem to scare up a copy of Implied Spaces.) So here goes:
Can any of you Aero Geeks identify the aircraft in the photo above? It's an obscure one, but then the Smithsonian specializes in obscure.

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Mr. Diddley

Bo Diddley, the big, goofy-looking bow-legged guy with the homemade guitar, has died.

He made the first guitar tremolo control out of auto parts and a clockwork spring, and he popularized the Bo Diddley beat that has been used by Buddy Holley, Elvis, The Who, Springsteen, and the White Stripes among many others.

His guitar technique was uniquely his own: he'd learned the violin first and he applied violin technique to his playing. His hands were too big to use the frets, so he tuned the guitar so that he could play chords by sliding his finger up and down the guitar neck.

When his career faded, in the Seventies, he lived just down the road from me, in Los Lunas (though I wasn't living here at the time). He became a deputy sheriff and donated three cars to the sheriff's department before his career was revived with an appearance in a George Thorogood video and a tour with the Clash.

The NY Times obituary, Kathy notes, refers to him as "Mr. Diddley."

Good for them.