Monday, November 30, 2009

Taos Toolbox

Huge news!!!

December 1st is the first day for receiving applications for Taos Toolbox, the master class in SF and fantasy taught by Nancy Kress, Carrie Vaughn, and myself.

We are awaiting your submissions with great anticipation.


The Perils of Lucidity

I was interviewed for an hour at Utopiales, standing in for GoH Robert Charles Wilson, who was down with la grippe porcine. The audience was tiny at the start, but grew to a gratifying size by the end.

A surprising amount of the interview was taken up with the question of why I am not, well, really really famous. They seemed to think I ought to be.

Of course I am preoccupied by this question, but I confess to being a little uncomfortable discussing it in a public forum (aside from this one, anyway). And discussing the complexities of American publishing in front of a French audience was daunting. I mean, it doesn't even make sense in English.

Still, one interesting theory arose. Which is that my writing is simply too lucid.

I discuss complex, sophisticated ideas (according to this theory), but I've made the mistake of explaining them with far too much clarity. They just zip into the reader's head and zip out again without gaining a lot of traction.

What I need to do (according to this theory) is to roughen up my style. If I make the reader work harder to absorb my ideas, then they'll stick in his/her head, and I'll be appreciated more.

Or so the theory goes, anyway.

I have to say the idea is counterintuitive. I work hard to communicate with clarity. (And if you doubt that it's work, you should read my first drafts, with their convoluted sentences and polysyllabic Latinisms and the weird little placeholder words that substitute for the mot juste that has somehow escaped me, but that I'll try to reach later.)

But if writing less well is my ticket to fame, then I suppose I could do that. If I had to.

But I thought I'd consult with you all first. Is lucidity my bane?

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On the Video

Here's an interview from ActuSF, conducted at Utopiales a few weeks ago. The interviewer is Julien Morgan. If I'm a bit more articulate than is usual for me-- particularly considering that this event took place in the morning--- consider that it was the second time I've answered these questions. (The first time we did this interview, the sound got buggered.)

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Graphic Plots

The brilliant XKCD provides charts showing time and movement of major characters in Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and other classics.

I sometimes graphically plot the dramatic movements in my stories using differenly-colored pens, but I've never got as elaborate as this.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Got Fab?

Okay, so it's a kit. You may have to do some soldering.

But it's still a 3D printer for your home. For only $750.00.
I'd buy one if I were you. You can earn the money back in just a few weeks by selling phony IDs printed on your new machine.
Kit includes:
* The lasercut parts to assemble a CupCake CNC machine.
* 3 x NEMA 17 motors to drive your machine
* The nuts, bolts, and various hardware to assemble it.
* The belts and pulleys for it to move things around.
* All the bearings to make your machine nice and smooth.
* The highest quality precision ground shafts for the X and Y axes we could find.
* Fully assembled 3rd Generation Electronics to drive it better, faster, and stronger.
* A magnetized, detachable build platform to make removing your finished prints easier.
* A pinch-wheel Plastruder to make things in plastic with.
* 1lb of ABS plastic to get you started printing.
* Allen keys to make it easy to put together

What more do you need?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fascist Digital Economy

So I watched this week with appalled fascination as Britain's government brought in its Digital Economy Bill, another giant leap forward in the Labour Party's ever-evolving "soft fascism." (And which will probably become law just in time for the Tories to step into office. What joy.)

As a blinkered and baffled American, I can't hope to equal the level of anger and vitriol flooding across the Atlantic from Britain, but I can sure as hell quote it. This from Charlie Stross:

Want to write a casual game for the iPhone and sell it for 99 pence? Good luck with that — first you'll have to cough up £50,000 to get it certified as child-friendly by the BBFC. (It's not clear whether this applies to Open Source games projects, but I'm not optimistic that it doesn't.)

Want to publish a piece of shareware over BitTorrent? You're fucked, mate: all it takes is a malicious accusation and your ISP (who are required to snitch on p2p users on pain of heavy fines) will be ordered to cut off the internet connection to you and everyone else in your household. (A really draconian punishment in an age where it's increasingly normal to conduct business correspondence via email and to manage bank accounts and gas or electricity bills or tax returns via the web.) Oh, you don't get the right to confront your accuser in court, either: this is merely an administrative process, no lawyers involved. It's unlikely that p2p access will survive this bill in any form — even for innocent purposes (distributing Linux .iso images, for example).

And even more from Cory Doctorow:

The British government has brought down its long-awaited Digital Economy Bill, and it's perfectly useless and terrible. It consists almost entirely of penalties for people who do things that upset the entertainment industry (including the "three-strikes" rule that allows your entire family to be cut off from the net if anyone who lives in your house is accused of copyright infringement, without proof or evidence or trial), as well as a plan to beat the hell out of the video-game industry with a new, even dumber rating system (why is it acceptable for the government to declare that some forms of artwork have to be mandatorily labelled as to their suitability for kids? And why is it only some media? Why not paintings? Why not novels? Why not modern dance or ballet or opera?).

So it's bad. £50,000 fines if someone in your house is accused of filesharing. A duty on ISPs to spy on all their customers in case they find something that would help the record or film industry sue them (ISPs who refuse to cooperate can be fined £250,000).

But that's just for starters. The real meat is in the story we broke yesterday: Peter Mandelson, the unelected Business Secretary, would have to power to make up as many new penalties and enforcement systems as he likes. And he says he's planning to appoint private militias financed by rightsholder groups who will have the power to kick you off the internet, spy on your use of the network, demand the removal of files or the blocking of websites, and Mandelson will have the power to invent any penalty, including jail time, for any transgression he deems you are guilty of. And of course, Mandelson's successor in the next government would also have this power.

What isn't in there? Anything about stimulating the actual digital economy . . .

If I were a Brit, I'd email my MP. While I still had the right.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lord of Light Trailer

Yes. Back from France. But still wrapped up in the complexities of being back from France.

So while I cope with coping, check out the trailer for the upcoming film Lord of Light. Which tells the true story of how the CIA, masquerading as film producers scouting locations for a film of Zelazny's Lord of Light, succeeded in liberating six Americans held hostage in Iran.

Comment, one feels, would be superfluous, except to remark that this might be a salutary lesson for people who might think that the premise for my upcoming Deep State might be too farfetched.

Thanks to Trent Zelazny.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

South Beneath the Full Moon

Utopiales ended on Sunday, and a fine convention it was, too. Then we spent three rainy days in Bourgogne, visiting Kathy's cousine Karen, who with her S/O Jean-Bertrand owns an old stone farmhouse dated 1641. We left bloated with Jean-Bertrand's superb cooking, spent a day and a half in Avignon checking the scene, and are now on the road in Provence, which looks very like van Gogh paintings only more so.

Now off to find an expensive and highly calorific dinner!