Wednesday, June 27, 2007

And Now for Something Completely Different...

These are pictures from the bottom of the earth. (Click on 'em for higher res.) Who needs alien planets?

This is part of a transmission from the bottom of the earth, recently received from a very cool chick I met at Readercon last year, who works with satellites and builds raccoon-scaring robots as a hobby and to whom I owe an e-mail:

"I ended up getting drafted into hosting a small movie party that involved lots of martinis and half the guys wearing skirts (I'd never made out with a guy in a skirt before; there are advantages).

Life really is very strange down here!"

Now I can't get the image of Kurt Russell in a grass skirt out of my head. If I was a horror writer I'd probably be able to put that image to constructive use.

The photos were taken by Anthony "Antz" Powell and are used with permission. I do not know what he looks like in a dress.

Any shapeshifting alien they dig up down there? Gonna be in therapy for fucking years.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Nature Nurtures.

The Nature interview went pretty well, after a start-up technical glitch or two. I had a blast. The ideas were thick upon the ground. (I especially liked Ken MacLeod's premise of military robots developing self-awareness on the battlefield due to programming that gave them increasingly-complex theories-of-mind as a means of anticipating enemy behaviour.) I got in references to fellatio, child pornography, and Paris Hilton's enema (a subject which Joan Slonczewski explicitly stated she was not going to run with, or even mention by name.) Oh, and I also talked about, you know, some biology-in-science-fiction stuff. I don't know how much of it will survive the edit, but we'll find out in early July.

But the real cherry on the sundae? I'm not sure how definite this is, but it sounded as though my cat Banana — aka Potato, aka Spudnik — is going to appear in Nature.

My cat. Nature.

I have never been so proud.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

The New Superstar of the Science Fiction

Which is what Google's translation software makes of der neue Superstar der Science Fiction, which is evidently what I am according to the Random House/Bertelsmann web page heralding the German edition of ButtPflug — er, Blindflug — which translates as "Blind Flight", but that's fine because the literal translation of "Blind Sight"— Blinder Anblick — sounds out phonetically like a couple of attornies-at-law.

Also, according to their catalog, I am a talent who "enters the international science fiction scene as it occurs only every ten years once" — which sounds nice — and "the present shooting star among American SF-authors", which sounds even nicer until you remember that a) I'm not American, and b) shooting stars are flaming chunks of debris with life expectancies measured in seconds, disintegrating in public.

Not a bad cover design, though. Doesn't take my breath away, but it's perfectly serviceable and I see they stuck my name above the title and in an equally prominent font. I seem to remember reading somewhere that that means they're promoting the author, as opposed to just the book.

I've only got one problem with all this: if I'm some kind of superhero, how come I got paid like a sidekick?


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Canadian... Smugness... Failing... Must... Read.... Darwin...

From yesterday's Globe & Mail, this flabbergasting factoid:

Only 51% of Ontario residents accept the reality of evolution.

Even Americans do better, at 53%. Nationally, Canada beats the States in the Enlightenment Sweeptstakes — at 59% — but that's not by very goddamn much. Sullen, resentful thanks to Dave Nickle for the link.

Meanwhile The EU, wary of similar threats on their own shores (these ones arising largely from Islamic fundies rather than Christian ones), is entertaining a resolution (albeit a nonbinding one) to keep such easter-bunny stupidity out of their science classes. Evidently they regard creationism as a Human Rights issue. Saddens me to say it, but maybe we need something along those lines here at home.

Oh, and okay. I'll look into this forum thingy. Looks pretty straightforward. Maybe I can embed a poll or two therein, get some sense of how widespread your irritation might be with the current on-screen format.

Update/Note o'Hope, 1750 CDT: Springer, the 800-lb gorilla of scientific publishing, is launching a new journal explicitly designed to help science teachers defend against creationism in the classroom. If you check out its Board of Directors you'll find some pretty heavy hitters, including Dan Brooks, in whose whose lab I took up space for two years.


Monday, June 18, 2007

A Motley Mosaic of Miscellaneous Minutiae

Sorry for the recent radio silence; been a lot going on lately, events to plan, agents to approach, interviewers to charm (not easy when you're me), awards to lose (somewhat easier). Also, I was hoping to get back to some cool science postings, since a lot of cutting-edge stuff has been coming down the pike and I don't want the crawl to revert to all-me-all-the-time mode. But that would have involved having time to actually read about the research, and time has been short these past few days.

So today, despite my best intentions, it's a diffuse cloud of unrelated particles centering on me me me. I'll try not to let it happen too often.

First up: I have passed the giddy peak of being a multi-award finalist and begun the long ignoble slide into multi-award loser. The Locus went to Vinge's Rainbows End, which I really should read one of these days. Not entirely unexpected; one does not (one should not) easily topple someone of Prof. Vinge's stature. (I just hope he chokes in all the other awards I'm about to get an ass-kicking in...)

For those interested in catching sight of me in the wild, it looks like I'm going to be Guest of Honour at Pure Speculation, this upcoming October 13-14. It's in Edmonton. It's in the Masonic Hall in Edmonton. This could be really interesting. Also, as usual, I'll be your regular garden-variety writer at Readercon this July 5-8 (just outside Boston), where they're trying to talk me into giving a Blindsight-related talk (I'm considering it) and an autograph session (not bloody likely: I gave a reading last year and a leprous woodworker could have counted the attendees on the remaining fingers of one hand).

Here's something cool: I'm getting interviewed tomorrow by Nature, in a kind of teleconferenced roundtable with fellow bioskiffs Paul McAuley, Ken MacLeod, and Joan Slonczewski. We're going to be talking about everything from the sublime (H.G. Wells) to the ridiculous (Michael Crichton), and it's going to end up both in their print journal and on their website (plans to also release the event as a podcast may be aborted depending on Skype's sound quality that day). In slightly staler news, I was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal's online edition a week or so ago, in relation to the whole Creative Commons thing. (I gotta say, publicity wise, that CC decision of mine was at least the luckiest move I ever made, if not necessarily the smartest). I don't know if that story will ever run, but the guy who interviewed me seemed hopeful at the time.

Oh, and this Marc Andreessen guy who included me amongst the top ten sf writers of the decade? I don't often mention personal blog entries here — it makes the frequency of my own insecure egosurfing all too apparent — but evidently this dude co-invented Mosaic and cofounded Netscape. This guy is huge in the real world. The fact that he puts me in the same league with guys like Stross, Asher, Reynolds, Scalzi et al — on the basis of a single book, no less — shit, that almost makes up for Marvin Minsky calling Blindsight "stupid" (Update: Marvin Minsky did not call Blindsight stupid after all! It was all just a cruel hoax!)(Meta-update: okay, not a hoax, then. A misunderstanding. But hoax still sounds better.)

Now I'm gonna go answer some of the comments you've been leaving.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Three Times the Scabbery

Today's edition of the Vancouver Province carries a piece by Peter Darbyshire on online fiction giveaways, focusing on three of us Creative Commoners: Cory Doctorow, David Wellington, and me. The layout in the dead tree edition is quite pleasing to the eye, showing one of Blindsight's alternate covers without comment (I love it when that happens, when reviewers just act as though the original jacket didn't even exist...). The online edition contains the same text, but no snazzy graphics. And the longer, director's cut is over on Darbyshire's blog; it contains never-before-seen quotage of me being grumpy and pessimistic (and yet another alternate cover!). It's probably just as well that none of these versions include my take on NIN's This is the Year Zero as a new example of multiformat novel-scale storytelling. (By the way, am I the only one who wonders if the last line on that album is meant to suggest that the whole story was a computer simulation?)

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Thursday, June 7, 2007

One millionth the budget of Spiderman 3. One thousand times the smarts.

A couple of weeks back I told you about Infest Wisely, the seven-part "low-fi sci-fi" independent film put together by Jim Munroe and his motley accomplices; Dave Nickle blogged his thoughts following the premiere. Since that night (standing-room only, by the way) they've been podcasting one episode a week. I've kept quiet about that until now, not because I didn't like the show but because I like it enough to want everyone to check it out; and this week, with the "Early Adopter" episode, I figure it's safe to send you over.

You see, while Infest Wisely was filmed in seven episodes, they're not really stand-alone episodes. Characters recur and intertwine throughout the overall story. Sometimes you've got no idea how a given episode ties in to the overall arc, until someone or something from a previous installment makes an appearance and ties another link in the braid. It's really quite elegant— but it also means that if you downloaded the first chapter when it first came out you'd be confronted with two characters saying strange things in dark alleyways and under overpasses in the dead of night, filmed in ambient light with muddy sound. When it was all over you would have no idea where the story was going, and you might not come back a week later to follow up. And that would be a shame, because the story does go somewhere.

It goes into public urinals, for example, where hapless men get "milked" by women who pounce from the stalls and deliver guerilla hand-jobs as a means of acquiring semen for identity-theft purposes (genetic ID has become the norm in this day-after-tomorrow tale). It goes into your mouth, with sticks of gum that deliver nanites that turn your eyes into cameras and cats into sentient tool-users who speak in effete British accents (today's jpeg is a scan of one of the treats they handed out to the audience on opening night). It touches on the mind-controlling powers of certain parasites (there's a consistent eco/bio vibe running through the whole story, which is a nice change from the usual inorganic nanotech). It even goes into the Wright-Ramsey Building at the University of Toronto, where I've been known to hang out. I recognise the lockers.

The point is, this experiment has smarts far in excess of its miniscule budget— and now that three episodes are up, you can watch a bunch of 'em in one go to get a sense of how it all comes together. And I think you should do that.

At the very least, it'll help wash the taste of Silver Surfer trailers out of your mouth.


Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Fourth Printing

Evidently Blindsight has gone into a fourth printing. Don't know exactly when, or the size of the run, or anything beyond the basic fact that it happened; hell, I wouldn't even know that much if some guy at the Wall Street Journal hadn't mentioned it.

Whatever the source, though, it's good news.

Not the Orange Juice. The Award.

One of these objects does not belong with the others. Guess which one.

  • "a complex drama of faith, love, church politics, and art, set in 17th- and 18th-century Cremona"
  • "A delicate, haunting story-within-a-story told by a girl who must choose between her bright, beloved town and the dark forest beyond it"
  • "A mortally injured child lying in a coma seems to influence, or somehow preside over, the lives of her parents and others."
  • "Keylanders, the boys are told, must keep within their walls to avoid the filth and disease spread by the Droughtlanders—those who struggle to survive on the parched land between the Keys."
  • "Neurobiology, vampires, alien encounters, mommy issues, deep space"

What we're talking about here is the short list of the 2007 Sunburst Award for speculative fiction. Most of you probably haven't heard of it; it's young and Canadian, which is enough to ensure its obscurity even (especially) amongst young Canadians. But it's juried, and it carries a thousand-dollar prize, so it's plenty credible as far as I'm concerned.

And Blindsight is on it.

I have to say I'm surprised, given the nature of the other contenders on the list; literary, small-press stuff mostly, respectable tales which, one gets the sense, not even Margaret Atwood would feel ashamed to be caught reading. I recognise none of these titles from other recent sf shortlists (although Jo Walton's much-lauded Farthing made the Honourable Mentions). In fact, I confess— with some embarrassment— that I recognise none of these titles, full stop.

Which, while it reflects badly on me personally, is a good thing overall. Here is an award recognising works others have overlooked, an award that eschews bandwagons and makes its own choices.

I'm not quite sure what my luridly-packaged space-vampire novel is doing there. Kinda sticks out like a sore thumb. But I'm grateful and honoured that the jury felt it belonged.

That's four now. I'm starting to reach the point where I figure I may just win one of these things through random chance...