August 2008 Archives

Back Tuesday. Not taking a laptop.

I'm being quiet because I am:

a) Tired from too much travelling,

b) Dealing with the backlog of everyday administrative work that built up while I was away for a month (French tax forms, last year's accounts, book contracts, etcetera),

c) Working on the copy-edits to THE REVOLUTION BUSINESS (which is due out next April, and said edits are due back in New York at the beginning of September),

d) Working on finishing the novella PALIMPSEST, which is going into the short story collection that's coming out next summer (probably to be titled WIRELESS, but that's in the hands of the marketing folks),

e) Trying to get all of the above nailed down before I fly off to Belfast for Mecon next weekend.

I'm probably going to fail on point (e), but hopefully I won't be running more than a week late by the time I get into September. And then ...

Another novel!

Ace are re-publishing THE ATROCITY ARCHIVES as a mass-market paperback at the end of the year, and I've got a set of galleys to comb for errors. I've also got the copy edits of THE REVOLUTION BUSINESS to vet, on approximately the same time scale, so I'm running around in ever-diminishing circles right now.

If you've read THE ATROCITY ARCHIVES in the US trade paperback edition (not the British mass market paperback edition) and spotted any howlers, please leave a comment here (preferably giving a page number and some textual context so I can find the offending error). You've got until September 7th before it's typeset and printed. Thanks!

This is 2008, and the Beijing Olympics are in full flood. I am, of course, doing my best to ignore the proceedings; however, I have been unable to avoid the unwelcome realization that in 2012 the circus is coming to the UK.

Leaving aside all other issues (for example, one friend of mine is planning on spending 2012 somewhere nice and easy-going like Singapore, purely to avoid the five-ring security nightmare that will descend on London during the games), I believe the proceedings could be enlivened by the adoption of a suitable present-day ethnic guest activity remixing the best and most popular recreations of the host country to maximize audience involvement and draw the entire world into the true British Olympic spirit.

I therefore present to you the best of contemporary British sporting activities: the Ned Pentathlon.

The Ned Pentathlon consists of five events. Participants are required as usual to remain free of drugs, but a special exemption is made for alcohol and tobacco.

1. Crack dealing.

The contestants are required to shift 10 grams of assorted size rocks among the Olympic audience. Hard-sell techniques are encouraged but limited to purely verbal and unassisted physical persuasion. Arrest and prosecution by the Police is an absolute disqualifier, as are the use of knives or firearms as a sales tool. (Remember: "The customer is your friend.")

2. Carjacking

The contestants must proceed to the venue for the third and subsequent events by means of private transportation. Failure to TWOC (Taking Without Owners Consent) is an absolute disqualifier, as is arrest and prosecution by the Police. Bonus points awarded for: assault, abduction of baby still in child seat, driving under the influence, setting fire to the vehicle and posting the results on YouTube prior to disembarking, and driving without insurance.

3. Buckfast drinking

This is a presentation event. The contestants drink 2 litres of Buckfast while singing tunelessly and shouting abuse at passers-by. Points will be awarded by the judges for deportment, inelegance, incoherence, and projectile vomiting. Unconsciousness or arrest for a Public Order Offense is an absolute disqualifier.

4. Happy Slapping

The contestants must locate and happy-slap a police officer. Failure to successfully post the cameraphone footage to YouTube is a disqualifier. Additional points will be granted for good style and illiterate self-incriminatory boasting in discussion forums. A maximum bonus may be awarded for happy-slapping an SO19 unit (and surviving).

5. Out-running the police dog

Contestants must out-run the police dog on the 300 metre steeplechase circuit, with obstacles. Points will be deducted for bites delivered (see anatomy chart). Biting the dog is an automatic disqualifier. The normal anti-doping regulations are applicable to the contestants, but not the dog.

6. Tie-breaker

In the event of a tie, the surviving contestants will be locked in the Big Brother House with a bounteous supply of processed foods, tins of Carlsberg Special Brew, and blunt knives. A loaded Mac-10 and five grams of Columbian White will be hidden in one of the rooms. The last three survivors will be allowed out of the house and given their medals before being taken to hospital (where Police officers will interview them once their medical condition has been stabilized).

I do not play well with sleep deprivation. And trans-Atlantic red-eye flights in economy class are an exercise in sleep deprivation for me; I can't sleep sitting up. So, having gotten home more or less alive, I've just slept for about 18 hours straight; now I will try to stay away for eight to twelve hours before I succumb again.

William Gibson wrote, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that when we fly across time zones our souls can't keep up with us, and take a few days to catch up; I think he's onto something.

The RBN Exploit blog is following the ongoing Russia/Georgia cyberwar. And — no surprises here — the Russian Business Network are up to their elbows in it, apparently systematically attacking Georgian servers (in an echo of the Estonian inforwar assault of 2007).

At this point, cyberwar is merely a new adjunct to traditional communication blockades and attempts to jam enemy propaganda channels; I haven't seen any reports of attacks on SCADA systems or attempts to crash enemy logistic infrastructure (although if such attacks were ongoing it's likely that we wouldn't hear anything about it until afterwards). It's still at the stage of air war in 1914.

If you're not familiar with the RBN, read the wikipedia article. Then if you want some more technical information, look at the RBNExploit blog. And don't underestimate its importance, just because it's a bunch of hackers kicking over other folks' routers. This stuff is going to shape the coming century, just as the early experiments in using stringbags for aerial reconnaisance led to strategic bombing and shock'n'awe campaigns.

As you probably guessed, I did not win a Hugo award last night. Well, it's not as if I don't have a lot of practice at not winning, and I'd like to congratulate everyone who did win, especially those who did it for the first time; and at least I don't get to worry about how to carry something resembling an anti-tank rocket through airport security. (FedEx. You know FedEx will happily ship something that looks like a bazooka shell? Who knew? Not me; the only time I won one of the things, the worldcon was close enough to home that I drove.)

I'm flying home tomorrow, getting in late on Tuesday, and probably spending Wednesday and Thursday comatose in charge of a washing machine. Normal transmissions will be resumed thereafter.

The Association of the Sovereign Order of the Temple of Christ (better known as the Knights Templar) have just launched a legal action against the Pope: among other things they want him to recognize the seizure of assets worth an estimated €100Bn, and restore the good name of the order. (More here.)

No. Just, no. This is too silly. Back in 2001 we obviously changed Cosmic Scriptwriter, with a new team consisting of the ghosts of Eric Blair and Philip K. Dick taking over from the previous incumbents — but this? The Pythons aren't even dead, yet! (Well, most of them.)

And I'm in sunny Denver, waiting for Denvention 3 to kick off.

Just in case anyone's interested, the public half of my schedule (as opposed to the private half that consists of things like lunch with editors and agents) looks like this:

Friday

Panel: Twisting Time: Alternate Histories , 10am

Panel: Timeless Stars: H. P. Lovecraft, 1pm

Signing, Asimov's SF magazine 30th anniverary anthology, 12pm-12:30pm

Kaffeeklatch, 4pm

Saturday

Reading, 1pm

Panel: The Evil Empire: Microsoft or Amazon?, 2:30pm

Sunday

Panel: The Coming Thing - what's next in SF , 1pm

(I'll update this with locations when I get the final program list through.)


I've just finished the signing tour and I'm holed up in a hotel in Denver, recovering. (Seven flights in eight days; two readings, two public interviews, a live radio session and a podcast, and five cities. Phew.)

Meanwhile, here's some supplementary stuff that fetched up in my inbox after the last blog entry.

Here's the original blog article by Jennifer Kesler over at The Hathor Legacy that tipped me onto the Bechdel test. Go read it. (Joe-Bob Stross says: Recommended.)

Meanwhile Jed Hartman, one of the editors over at Strange Horizons also has a grab-bag of related links, including an amusing cartoon comment by Karen Ellis before diving into the darker question of the Frank Miller test, which looks at "how much male sci-fi writers are obsessed with whores; if the proportion of female sex workers to neutrally presented female people in his story is above 1:1, he fails." Go read this one, too. (Then have a shower.)

Jed points to a checklist of story tropes that turn up too damned often in the slushpile at Strange Horizons.

Finally, Karen Healy provides a checklist for How To Write An Original Female Lead Character In A Fashion That Doesn’t Drive Karen Crazy. (Works for me, too.)

Sorry to keep banging on about this, but as the comment thread on my last blog entry richly demonstrates, there are still quite a lot of men out there (and reading this blog) who Don't Get It with respect to their own privileged status — fish who aren't aware of the water they swim through.

(And besides, I currently feel a strong need to demonstrate that not all SF writers are reading from the same hymn book as Orson Scott Card.)

Finally, on a lighter note, the truth about the paranormal romance genre.

Specials

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