Sunday, September 28, 2008


Yeah, I know. Merciful extended silence again.

Not that there's nothing to talk about. There's a paper just out in Consciousness & Cognition which purports to prove that logical thinking requires consciousness (which would seem to contradict other findings, but I haven't read the paper yet so who knows). I've been ruminating on the inherent and hardwired dumbness of electorates throughout this continent, and various recent neurological findings — not to mention archival analysis of "Hardy Boys" novels — that might cast some light on why this would be. My name seems to be getting cited as an exemplar of Gloom in an online squabble about "The New Dismal" in science fiction. And at long long last, I sent my first tale of the intrepid and grumpy starfarer Sunday Ahzmundin off to Gardner Dozois, who received it with somewhat greater enthusiasm than I was expecting, so that's good. (Thanks again to Ray for pointing out the inconsistencies in the penultimate draft of that story, and to all those others out there who threw rocks at him. You can stop now.)

But for various reasons — not the least being the necessity to prepare for a course that will probably end up being cancelled anyway, but which I have to gear up for regardless because we're only one registrant away from critical mass and the damn thing starts on Wednesday if it starts at all — I haven't had time to set all that stuff to screen yet. So in the meantime I'll simply point out that the broken Fizerpharm Vampire Domestication slideshow has at last been fixed, and is running again over here*.

*It is not yet running over on the Backlist page, though; that's a different Flash file, which I'll get around to fixing in turn eventually

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Avast! Here Be a Blindsightinator for Ye!

Aye me hearties, be ye rememberin' that time in Blindsight when Rorschach, she be putting the sun in scurvy Szpindel's eyes?

"Argh, I be seein' naught," Szpindel be sayin', his timbers a'shiver.

"It be the EM fields," James be barking. "That be how they signal. The briney deep, she be fulla words, she be—"

"I be seeing naught," Szpindel be saying. "I be blind as the skipper with his patch on the wrong eye!"

"Yar," Bates be lassooing the capstain. "That be a pretty mess— blast those scurvy rads…"

And then when they be hiding below decks, Szpindel be putting words to it…

"Ya reached for it, ya scurvy dog. You near be catchin' it. That not be blind chance."

"Argh, not blind chance. Blindsight. Amanda? Where be ye, wench?"


"Aye. Nothing be wrong with ye receptors," he be saying. "Eye be working right enough, brain not be seein' the signal. Brain stem, he be mutineer. Arrgh."

Now those buggering cabin-boys from Denmark, they be laying claim to me booty. They be putting out "Action-blindsight in two-legged landlubbers that be having compasses on their skulls, Arggh", and they be staking their claim last winter in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

They be asking me to be hanging their guts from the crowsnest, they e'er be blackening my horizon.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

A couple of you asked about my offhand reference to an Israeli book deal a few days back. It now appears to be a go. Blindsight, by Peter Watts, is being translated into Hebrew by Kitdmat Eden, of which I know little beyond the fact that they put out some very nice cover designs. Or rather,

is being is being translated into Hebrew by Kitdmat Eden, of which I know little beyond the fact that they put out some very nice cover designs.

I can only hope that Blindsight's message of hope and universal harmony might help in some small way to bring peace to the Middle East.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I'm teaching a course on Writing Science Fiction at the University of Toronto

Or at least, I might be. Depends on how many people sign up. We're talking Wednesday evenings, between October 1 and November 19: eight two-and-a-half hour sessions covering the hallmarks of the genre, tips and techniques on research and world-building, plot construction, character development— you know the list. It will be hands-on. You will write. I will read your writing, and provide all manner of pithy insight and constructive feedback. Finally, I shall pass judgment upon you (in what I suspect may be my most favourite part of the exercise).

The course will focus on science fiction, not fantasy (which is being offered as a separate course). The only exception to this will be a brief digression into the horror genre, as I share with you my personal experiences with marketing, publishing, and promotion. Regular visitors to this crawl probably know what to expect on that front.

Right now, we're on the bubble; whether the course goes ahead depends on how many additional folks sign up over the next week or so. It's short notice, I know. I didn't know I was going to be teaching this thing myself until yesterday. Karl Schroeder — who was originally slotted for the gig — had to back out for health reasons, so I'm stepping up to the plate at the last minute.

Anyway, if you live in Toronto and your Wednesday evenings are free; if you have a yen to write science fiction; if you crave the kind of House-lite attitude and cat-laden asides you can only get at, plus a big helping of practical, customized nuts-and-bolts on the how-tos of the genre— and, most importantly, if you have $570 you're not especially attached to— why not surf on over to Continuing Ed's "Writing Science Fiction" listing and sign up? Online evidence notwithstanding, I really can be quite charming and informative in person.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Pedophilia in a Pill

You may remember the case a few years back of the Floridian hypersexual pedophile whose depravity hailed from a brain tumor; the dude (rightly) got off, since he wasn't culpable for the wiring in his head. You may even remember me taking the next step (scroll down to June 30th on the right-hand side), and remarking that the tumor didn't really make a difference— nobody is responsible for the way their heads are wired, and the legal system had taken the first step (again, rightly) towards acknowledging that the very concept of culpability, while convenient, is neurologically unsound.

Exhibit B*: Phillip Carmichael, a former Oxfordshire headmaster and pedophile, exonerated after a court decided that his extensive collection of child porn had been amassed while under the influence of prescription drugs. Once again we see evidence that we are mechanical. The very phrase "control yourself" is dualist at its heart, a logical impossibility. It conjures up images of a driver fighting to stop a careening car with bad brakes. But the fact is, there is no driver. There is only the car— we are the car— and when the brake lines have been cut, careening is just what cars do. Medical professionals prescribed a bunch of pills to this man, and they literally turned him into someone else.

You might think that this would make people feel a bit more kindly towards natural-born kiddy-diddlers. After all, if it's a chemical that turn you into a pervert, you're not really culpable, are you? You're taking the same drugs Carmichael was; the only difference is that they're not being produced by the factory Pharm down the road, they're being produced in your own head. If anything, natural-born pedophiles have even less choice in the matter than did our Exhibit B; at least Carmichael could have chosen more competent medical council.

I would be willing to bet, though, that most people would not think more kindly of pedophiles after performing this thought experiment, and in fact most people would vilify and shout down anyone who dared to make excuses for these monsters. Anything to do with kids is, by definition, a motherhood issue; and motherhood issues by definition turn us into irrational idiots.

But our legal systems generally define culpability in terms of whether offenders know that their acts are against the law, and by that standard I guess some kind of punishment is called for. Still. Let's at least be consistent about it, shall we? We know that a human system called Phillip Carmichael deliberately broke the law; it just wasn't the same Phillip Carmichael who ended up in court after the drugs were withdrawn. That Carmichael had been rebooted back into a benign, Linux sort of personality. The evil child-molesting Microsoft OS had been wiped. So if you want to be consistent about this, put Carmichael back on drugs until the guilty iteration reappears. Then put him in jail.

At least you'd know you have the right guy.

*Thanks to Nas Hedron for the link

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Friday, September 12, 2008

A Duality of Dysfunction at DragonCon

I was not at DragonCon this year. Actually, I have never been to DragonCon. But Aaron Douglas (aka deck chief Galen Tyrol*) was. And I'll have you know that he actually requested, nay, even demanded the books you see in his hands, thanks to some subtle psychological manipulation by one adrienne everitt the week before when he was up here in TO. So she brought him the books, and I believe they may have had some beers.

I do not know if ol' Aaron will ever get around to reading either novel, but perhaps that's just as well; evidently he's hoping that his next acting gig will be a little "less dark" than Galactica, in which case Starfish and Blindsight would not be a step in the desired direction anyway. But at least my own dysfunctional characters now share a documented point of intersection with the most gloriously dyfunctional cast o' characters in televised sf, and that is cool.

BTW, just to head off any misunderstandings, I did not put adi up to this. In fact, I kinda cringed to learn that she was doing it on my behalf; we're all familiar with those tub-thumping authors who shout ME ME ME at every opportunity, and, well, ewwww. But while I would never pimp my stuff so brazenly to anyone — much less to a prominent community figure who probably gets accosted with this kind of shit all the time — I gotta say, I'm squeeed into the stratosphere that adi did.

*And if any of you have to be told who that is, you have no business on this crawl.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Blame Him.

So why have I been so silent lately? It's not as though there's been any recent shortage of events worthy of scorn. Sarah Palin brought home the Moron Vote— that most vital of American voting demographics— to the Republicans. The craven cocksucking cowards leading every major Canadian political party got together and decided to exclude the Green Party from pre-election debate, lest the whole country see them getting beaten up by a girl. And the Large Hadron Collider avoided blowing up the universe by the merest of margins. Why aren't I commenting on any of this?

Blame this guy:

Note the dull, cunning hatred in the eyes. Note the sullen set of the mouth, the garish bling, the gangsta shirt that celebrates one of the most pernicious and addictive drugs on the planet. Notice how he refuses to meet your eyes, no matter how long you look at him.

Let's call him "Ray".

"Ray" "works" at the "car dealership" around the "corner" (at least, that's his secret identity). I gave him a sneak peek at a story I'd just written for an upcoming space-opera anthology (if you visit the crawl with any regularity, you may remember the fiblets I've been dribbling out over the past several months). I wasn't quite satisfied with it myself— seemed too talky, too motionless— but I knew I had nothing to worry about from this puppy. After all, "The Island" had been thoroughly vetted by not one, but two groups of published authors, whose expertise ranged from engineering to anime with a smattering of Mormonism in between; it had come through those gauntlets with pretty glowing reviews. What was an IT guy from Porsche gonna come up with?

"Ray" pointed out that the back half of the plot depended on one of the characters knowing stuff that the front half of the story had clearly established he didn't know. Also that the front half of the story depended on the same character not knowing a bunch of stuff that the back half of the story established that he pretty much had to know. Neither I nor any of the 15 people who workshopped the story had noticed this.

"Ray" has destroyed the past two weeks of my "life", as I scramble to do corrective surgery on a 13,000 word story due at the end of the month. There's been no time to blog, answer e-mails, vet Israeli book contracts, or track down the source of the rancid cat-pee smell lingering in my bedroom. There is only the rewrite.

Which I should probably get back to. In the meantime, if you happen to be in downtown Toronto and run into "Ray", do me a favor and buy him a drink.

Then, when he isn't looking, hit him with a rock.