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“I am, in all modesty, a skilled author, one of the finest writing today.” — John C Wright, 23 Aug 2015

“So, all modesty aside, I understand materialism, and the arguments for and against it, far better than anyone who had arisen to argue with me here.” — John C Wright, 18 Oct 2012

In all modesty, my science fiction writing is first rate. If I were not a Christian, I should most probably win awards for my writing.” — John C Wright, 2 Feb 2011

“I know there are honest atheists in the world, great souls armed and armored to fight for the truth for truths sake, and no personal benefit to themselves — because (in all modesty) I used to be one.” — John C Wright, 28 Feb 2010

“I was at first reluctant to read this book, because it covers much the same genre — far future utopianism — as my own THE GOLDEN AGE, and, in all modesty, I did not want my imagination to be contaminated with ideas better than mine, but not original to me, which it would then be a struggle not to use in my own work.” — John C Wright, 3 Apr 2009

“This is my favorite book by my favorite author, and, in all modesty, I am the only writer alive today with the skill and inclination to write a Vanvogtian tale of superscientific wonder, give it the mood and flavor of the 1940’s, and introduce a new plot twist every 800 words, just as van Vogt would have done.” — John C Wright, 5 Dec 2008

“And, putting all modesty aside, I was perfectly suited to write this book.” — John C Wright, 20 Nov 2008

In all modesty, if I were to leave science to experts, I could not be a science fiction writer, nor could anyone, except, perhaps, Fred Hoyle.” — John C Wright, 25 Feb 2007
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According to someone on RPG.net, Margaret Weis Productions is discontinuing their Battlestar Galactica and Serenity RPGs, and you can get the PDF versions massively discounted on DriveThruRPG.com, but only if you buy today. I see that the Serenity main rulebook, for example, is now $10 instead of $40. (Isn’t $40 kind of a lot for a PDF?) Anyway, I decided not to buy anything, but I figured other people might be interested:

Oh, wait, the BSG Quickstart Guide is free (usually $10). Might as well snag that….

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I noticed, rereading Samuel Delany’s Nova a couple of weeks ago, that Delany doesn’t spend as many words as most male writers do talking about how hawt his female characters are, but he does quite often point out when his male characters have broad fingers, bitten nails, or work-roughened hands. The reasons are obvious if you know anything about Delany.

Just today I realized: He does do some of the usual excited description about one of the women — Ruby Red, when describing her in the part of the book that focuses on Lorq Von Ray. Tyÿ, the other major female character, doesn’t get nearly the same level of attention, but she’s only in the parts of the book that focus on Mouse’s point of view.

If all of the male rough-hand descriptions occur in the Mouse sections, that could be saying something about Mouse’s sexuality.

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It’s happening faster than I’d thought:

Up to 114!
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razor curvesSomeone at The Economist with a bit of extra time on his hands was looking at the recent proliferation of many-bladed razors, and noticed that the time gap between blade increments seems to be shrinking: 70 years before someone added the second blade, a couple of decades to the third, only two or three years between the four-bladed Schick Quattro and the five-bladed Gillette Fusion. Might there be a Moore’s Law for razors blades? Hence the chart over there.

Now, that power-law curve predicts 14-bladed razors by the year 2100, but that’s not the interesting curve. The interesting curve is the hyperbolic one, for two reasons: One, it matches the real-world data. And two, it goes to infinity in 2015. And how are you going to get an asymptotically-accelerating number of blades onto a razor? Why, you’d need godlike super-technology to do that.

Right. There it is, proof of the approaching Vingean Singularity, sooner than anyone expected it, clear as the chin on your face.

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Look like I’m decently well-read in the genre up till the mid-’80s.

SF book awards meme )

31 of the 53 Hugo winners
13 of the 41 Nebula winners
13 of the 35 World Fantasy Award winners

My numbers would have been like 20% higher if I’d read Robinson’s Mars or Card’s Ender books.

(via [livejournal.com profile] jry)
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I was amazed at how many of these I got from just the first few words, not even a full phrase. “The sky over the—” “It is possible I had some pre—” “to wound—”

Among the Gods
You have a Geek Lore rating of 95%

The rest of it... )
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I’ve been thinking for a while that nerd culture — SF fandom, gaming fandom, comics fandom, hacker culture — are taking over the world. Traditional nerd passtimes (big fantasy novels, comics) are now major smash movie hits. Computer games are a major business. Important politicians (Al Gore, Newt Gingrich) are SF enthusiasts.

So I was reading (thanks to Jim Henley) this essay about Al Qaeda by Marc Sageman (fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, former CIA case officer in Afghanistan, now a forensic psychiatrist), and noticed this profile of Al Qaeda’s membership:
[... T]hree quarters of my sample came from the upper or middle class. The vast majority—90 percent—came from caring, intact families. Sixty-three percent had gone to college, as compared with the 5-6 percent that’s usual for the third world. These are the best and brightest of their societies in many ways.

Al Qaeda’s members are not the Palestinian fourteen-year- olds we see on the news, but join the jihad at the average age of 26. Three-quarters were professionals or semi- professionals. They are engineers, architects, and civil engineers, mostly scientists. Very few humanities are represented, and quite surprisingly very few had any background in religion. The natural sciences predominate. Bin Laden himself is a civil engineer, Zawahiri is a physician, Mohammed Atta was, of course, an architect; and a few members are military, such as Mohammed Ibrahim Makawi, who is supposedly the head of the military committee.

Sound familiar? How about these:
At the time they joined jihad, the terrorists were not very religious. [...]
Eighty percent were, in some way, totally excluded from the society they lived in. Sixty-eight percent either had preexisting friendships with people already in the jihad or were part of a group of friends who collectively joined the jihad together [...]
There is no recruitment, really. In my sample, I have found no case of a recruiter. They’re all volunteers.

And then there’s China Miéville’s speculation that the name Al Qaeda comes from Asimov’s Foundation books.

Makes you wonder what Claude Degler might have wrought in some parallel universe.
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The Central Intelligence Agency has announced the impending publication of Alternate Iraqs, an anthology of alternate history stories based around the Middle Eastern nation. Among the stories confirmed for inclusion are Harry Turtledove’s “Points of Light”, in which aliens invade during the Gulf War of 1991, SM Sterling’s “A Highway Worse than Death”, about a serf rebellion in the Mesopotamian region of the Draka Dominion, and Ken MacLeod’s “The Fortified Castle”, about a search for illegal smart-mass weapons.

Noreascon 4

Sep. 7th, 2004 08:19 pm
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OK, convention, yeah. That was more fun than I’d ever had at a Worldcon, and less time spent in the filk room than ever at (maybe) any con. There’s probably a causal relationship there — the filk room has become the place I go when I’m bored.

Spent my evenings party-hopping, and managed to get into many more interesting conversations than I usually do, including some with people I hadn’t previously known. It’s almost like I’m developing social skills.

A lesson I ought’ve learned long ago: When picking which panels to attend, ignore the topics and pay attention to the panelists. Any panel with Patrick and/or Teresa Nielsen Hayden on it will probably be fun. Same goes for Cory Doctorow, Neil Gaiman, Gavin Grant, and others I should have made note of.

I checked out the art show, something I often forget to do. I went around with Teresa and Ctein’s guided tour, and that’s just about the best way to see an art show I can think of. Afterwards I looked up the Frank Kelly Freas art in the Retro-Art section. There’s stuff that guy does that you’re just not supposed to be able to pull off. I picked up his book As He Sees It later in the dealer’s room.

The con had wireless Ethernet (802.11g), but for some reason it didn’t jibe with the WiFi card (802.11b) in my Clié. This isn’t the first such trouble I’ve had; the Clié seems wonky on this score. I was able to connect with the free WiFi in the Marché Mövenpick in the big Habitrail, so they wound up getting a lot of my eating business, helped along by the food being really good and varied. The free dessert they gave [livejournal.com profile] bugsybanana and me when we first had dinner there was also an encouragement. That first Worldcon post I made? I typed it up at the panels (with a folding keyboard) and posted it while waiting on line for some pasta. So cutting-edge you could slash your wrists!

Oh, another lesson: I should spend more time in the hotel bar. Even if I can’t always manage to do it with [livejournal.com profile] papersky, John M Ford, Elise Matheson, and Jordin and [livejournal.com profile] marykaykare.
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So there was this TV show, right? A pretty blonde California girl has special powers. Her father has departed before the series starts, but her mother’s still around. And a sister who unexpectedly turns up later. Mostly she gets by with the help of her goofy male friend, who’s too brother-like to be a romantic interest, and an older mentor character, played by Anthony Stewart Head (he’s actually her second mentor, after the first got killed), with links to a secretive order of some kind.

VR-5 ran for nine episodes on broadcast TV back in 1995. There were a few more made that didn’t get shown till the Sci-Fi Channel ran it, but I somehow missed that. The pilot sucked, so I didn’t bother to watch the first episode, but I caught the second because I was bored and nothing else interesting was on, and damn! If you pretended that the technology was all magic (because it was totally implausible otherwise) it was really good. Lots of clever twists and playing against viewer expectations.

It came up in conversation with one of my coworkers today. A quick Amazon check turns up a DVD edition, four years out of print. I can’t even find out if it’s got all 13 episodes, or only the originally broadcast nine. There’s one copy going on eBay for like $50. Feh.

Hat trick

Jun. 22nd, 2004 10:49 pm
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From Tapped, a story about Illinois GOP Senate candidate Jack Ryan. His wife’s suing for divorce. Why? Because — she says — he three times took her on “surprise trips” to sex clubs and she didn’t wanna:
Respondent asked me to perform a sexual activity upon him and he specifically asked other people to watch. I was very upset. [...] People were having sex everywhere. I cried. I was physically ill. Respondent became very upset with me and said it was not a ‘turn-on’ for me to cry.

His unlucky wife’s name? Jeri Ryan. Yes, that Jeri Ryan.

Sex, politics, and a sci-fi angle; it’s the ultimate weblog post!
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Just saw the trailer for the upcoming I, Robot movie, and it looks terrible. I don’t just mean that the trailer depicts a movie that seems to miss the essence of Asimov’s stories, although that’s also true. (A better trailer in that respect would have spent a little more time emphasizing how important the Laws of Robotics are, and how dramatic it is that a robot seems to have killed someone.) It’s also just chock full of really stupid and unfunny character bits, attempts at comedy that just fall flat. The movie’s clearly not a comedy, so why do they have to spend so much time telling us (badly) that Will Smith’s character is a funny guy?

The trailer for Van Helsing makes it look like it might be stupid, but it’ll deliver serious supernatural-butt-kicking bang for your moviegoing buck.
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A brief exchange over in [livejournal.com profile] camwyn’s LJ reminded me of something I’ve been thinking about for a bit — time travel as political metaphor.

Poul Anderson’s Time Patrol )

John Kessel’s Corrupting Dr. Nice )

Back to the Future )
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Finished Cory Doctorow’s Eastern Standard Tribe last night. (It’s a short book, and reads pretty quick.) Premise: It’s 2012, and subcultures have grown up around time zones. Art Berry is living in London, but his true loyalty lies with the east coast of North America, to the detriment of his sleep schedule. Also to the detriment of his official employer, a European conglomerate that he’s sabotaging with plausible-but-bad user interface design advice. Then his lover and best friend betray him over his brilliant idea for a wireless networking music-swapping scheme for use in traffic jams, and have him committed. Or maybe that’s just a paranoid fantasy brought about by sleep deprivation....
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The Book of the New Sun is the classic Gene Wolfe book. It was originally a four book series (well, originally three, but the last one got too big). But, well, wait, let me tell you another story so I can tell you this one:

Within the story of the Book of the New Sun, our viewpoint protagonist, Severian, carries around a book called Wonders of Urth and Sky, a collection of old stories. (Very old stories — New Sun takes place some large but unspecified number of millennia in our future.) Every so often he’ll sit down and read a story. One such is “The Story of the Student and His Son”. The names of the hero and monster in this story are both puns, but the names are not given in the story. There’s enough information for you to figure out who they are, and to figure out what the puns are, and that’s good enough for Wolfe.

For those who haven’t figured it out... )

New Sun is built around a climax, but the climax never appears in the four-book series. Instead, there’s enough information for you to figure out most of what happens, and that’s good enough for Wolfe. Not good enough for his editor, who made him write a fifth book, Urth of the New Sun, which I’m halfway through, and I’ve finally come to agree with the folks who say it’s not as good as the other four. I think now that the best way to read the series is to read all five, and then go back and reread the first four.

SPOILERish speculation, that didn’t pan out, about Urth and the Long and Short Sun books )
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Finished The Claw of the Conciliator on the way up to my parents’, started Sword of the Lictor. A bit of speculation, and some note-taking:

SPOILERS for the Book of the New Sun )

April 2017



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