Archive for May, 2008

Russia: what’s next?

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

There’s no better way to pick a fight than to try and pick the future, and my predictions of what nations are going to be Top Dogs in a hundred years are, apparently, no exception. In particular, my depiction in THE MIRRORED HEAVENS of an Eastern superpower composed of a rising China and a resurgent Russia has stirred up some debate about the feasibility of such a construct. Particularly vis-a-vis the Russian part of the equation.

And with good reason. We crushed Russia in the Cold War: suborned its satellites to revolt, and deprived the Soviet Union of large sections of its outlying territory. Leaving only the Russian core, which across the 1990s became an economic basketcase.

But Russia has a way of coming back off the mat, and that’s what they’ve been doing. Here are some of the reasons why—despite the fact that Russia remains in serious trouble—it’s unwise to count them out. And why I contend that great power status for Russia a century from now is eminently plausible:

#1: Rising energy prices: Russia is one of the world’s largest energy producers, and they’ve been ruthless in using the onset of peak oil for military/foreign policy advantage. You think that oil at $130 a barrel gives them leverage? Try oil at $200.

#2: Location, location, location: MacKinder’s geopolitical theses have needed revising since he first proposed them in 1904. But his core contention—regarding the advantages conferred on the nation that occupies the Eurasian heartland—is one we ignore at our peril.

#3: Several thousand nuclear warheads: Nukes don’t translate automatically into power, but they sure as hell make you difficult to ignore. And Russia’s military remains formidable, though a far cry from the old Red Army days.

#4: National psyche: This is always a difficult one to invoke, but the fact remains that the Russians as a people are very dangerous to underestimate. As the Nazis found out.

No one’s going to argue that Russia isn’t beset with problems. But here’s the thing: anyone can come up with Giant Challenges a nation faces in the here and now, and cite those as Absolute Proof that it’s bound to face decline. But if you’re going to argue convincingly for decline, you not only have to show that those factors are accelerating, but that no action that nation is likely to take will reverse those factors. Alternatively, you have to show that whatever advantages a nation has are certain to erode, no matter what that nation does. (Case in point: Britain’s world power across the 19th century was based to a large degree on the fact that she was first to industrialize. As the larger land powers followed suit, they surpassed her, virtually inevitably.) I have yet to see anyone do that convincingly with Russia, though I will fully admit that Russia may very well fail to rise to its current challenge.

Indeed, my personal view is that Russia’s trajectory across the next century will be a function of its leadership. Again and again throughout history, a strong tyrant has rallied Russia and pushed it forward, albeit often at a terrible price. History may or may not repeat itself, but as to one scenario in that regard: in the world of THE MIRRORED HEAVENS, a man embodying all the (best?) qualities of Peter the Great, Lenin and Stalin comes to power in the 2030s; under his leadership, Russia institutes full-scale “super-modernization” schemes, with an emphasis on space-based systems and information technology—and is then able to formulate an alliance with China that both keeps them out of Siberia and redirects Chinese expansive impulses south.

But you know what? I really thought the thing that would cause all the controversy was my prediction that the UNITED STATES would still be a superpower. To be continued.

Book launch!

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

So, this time I did a reading and NO ONE fell asleep! It was a jam-packed venue—though in the spirit of full-disclosure it must be said that my friends were out in force, ‘cos they rule. Including the infamous Brian De Groodt, who flew in all the way from the west coast unannounced, causing me to doubt my own sanity before realizing his total lack thereof. I gave a brief talk on ideas behind the book, drawing on the essay I’d sent to John Scalzi for the Big Idea that he was kind enough to publish yesterday (which you can read HERE, I’ll have some thoughts on the debate it seems to have triggered later), and then delivered the Infamous Spaceplane Hijack Scene, as promised. I made two aesthetic compromises to accomodate the family friendly Borders environment: (1) semi-sanitizing some of the language (funny how the F-word is beyond the pale, but “Christ” is just fine), and (2) removing all signs that the two lead characters were caught in a state of coitus interruptus at the outset of the scene. (though really that was because it would have just been too much to explain on top of everything else).And then I signed some copies of a book that I’d actually written. Weird.At any rate, here are some photos of the event for your amusement.  David J Williams The Mirrored Heavens Science Fiction Novel Reading at Borders BooksDavid J Williams The Mirrored Heavens Science Fiction Novel Reading at Borders Books

Reading tonight, Northern Virginia, Borders

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

I’ll be reading/launching the book/going nuts tonight, at Borders, Baileys Crossroads. 7:30. It begins.

And yes, the rumors are true: I’ll be reading from the infamous spaceplane hijack scene. Come on out if you dare.

Or you can just join us at the Black Cat afterward, where is where a bunch of us are gonna head after I’m done going off mine.

Fantasy Bookspot interview/Balticon

Monday, May 26th, 2008

The nice folks over at Fantasy Bookspot have published an interview with me in which I touch for the first time on the relationship between 9-11 and my book (hey, they asked), in addition to revealing some behind-the-scenes moments in my quest to get the #$# book published.

In other news, Balticon was great fun, and featured me being on at least two more panels than I’d thought: one on Arthur C. Clarke, and the other on megastructures in SF. I also did the first post-publication reading of THE MIRRORED HEAVENS, which must have been at least somewhat successful, since a member of the audience fell asleep during the middle of it. I think this had more to do with him than me, though, because I tend to act like I’m on coke when I’m doing my readings. (If you don’t believe me, come on out to Borders Baileys Crossroads tomorrow night.) Beyond that magical moment, highlights of the con include meeting John Hemry, author of the Lost Fleet series, and one of the blurbers of my book, as well as the weapons in space panel that Hemry moderated, in which a bunch of us had a great discussion ranging across near future vs. far future universes, kinetic energy vs. directed energy, and unmanned vs manned vehicles. Very interesting indeed. Had some great conversations with Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray too . . . knew them both by reputation, but it was awesome to actually have the chance for some drinks.  Oh, and Jeri Smith-Ready gave me a signed copy of Wicked Game that she scored at a local Border’s (the dealer’s room had sold out, given that her book’s flying off the shelves). . .she rulz!

Balticon schedule

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

I’ll be at Balticon this weekend; schedule is as follows:

The Outlaw Panel (don’t ask), 7.p.m. Friday

Writing Military SF, 9 p.m. Friday

Space Weapons, 7 p.m., Saturday

And I’ll be doing a reading as well. The schedule says 3 p.m. on Sunday. Forwarded emails from Balticon’s organizers say 4 p.m. The cats in the alley behind my apartment say, well, they say so many things. All of it loudly.


Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

Some of you might recall that Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review was kind enough to post a very complimentary review of THE MIRRORED HEAVENS last week. Well, Graeme has gone one better, and is holding a contest in which he’s giving away two copies of the book! Check it out here.

That’s the good news; the bad news is you’ve only got until this Saturday, the 24th of May. Don’t let this golden opportunity to acquire free content pass you by!

By the way, I can’t help but notice that on his site, Graeme claims to have “found himself working some of the most disgusting jobs known to man.” I’m not exactly sure what jobs he’s referring to, but I just want to state for the record here that I’ve done time at Toys R Us, being bombarded by Geoffrey the Giraffe’s propaganda, and listening to the same goddamn forty minute tape loop of early 80s songs for months on end. (Before that, there actually was a time I quite liked Mandolin Rain.)

Yes, I know. There are jobs that far, far worse. Doesn’t mean I don’t have my scars.

But enough about me. What are you still doing here? Head on over to Graeme’s site and get busy.

The day after

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

Well, it’s out there. In bookstores. The thing that sat on my computer and grew for all those years has finally gone forth into the world. My thanks to everybody who made Day 1 such a success: everyone who went and bought the book, everybody who’s planning on coming to the reading next Tuesday (Baileys Crossroads Borders, if you’re in the area), everybody who’s given their support. Special thanks to veteran scribes David Louis Edelman and Jeri Smith-Ready for advice and counsel on What This Would Be Like (they were right), and to John Joseph Adams (aka Slush God) for this awesome piece in

And so we’re off to the races. The book seems to be doing fine on Amazon (did I mention you can buy it there right NOW? Just checking)–and just as important, it’s been sighted at numerous bookstores. The next few weeks will be critical in getting off to a strong start. And hey, Memorial Day weekend’s coming up. Like my high school English teacher used to say, there’s nothing that makes for better beach reading than guys in powered armor kicking the shit out of each other (though my memory may be a little hazy here). The plot thickens . . .

The book trailer!

Friday, May 16th, 2008

It gives me great pleasure to unveil the trailer for THE MIRRORED HEAVENS, courtesy of the inimitable Paul Ruskay of StudioXLabs in Vancouver. Paul’s a great friend of mine, and has been a supporter of the book since, well, long before it WAS a book. We were practically completing each others’ sentences when he was working his magic on this, and the result is something I’m really pleased with. Check it out.

Direct link to trailer here

Initial reviews

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Well, here we are five days out, and already some folks have been rash enough to weigh in with reviews. Library Journal kicks things off by calling THE MIRRORED HEAVENS “a powerful, rapid-fire SF adventure/intrigue story with echoes of cyberpunk . . . This stellar hard SF debut with hopes of sequels belongs in most SF collections.” They fail to specify the parameters that define those collections in which the book DOESN’T belong, but you’re not going to find me complaining. Nor will you even hear me carping about the “echoes of cyberpunk.” (Folks, there’s more than an echo in this book. But don’t take my word for it. Go ahead, try it and see.) At any rate, this review comes in after what’s been a bit of a deafening silence so far, so it’s greeted over here with no little relief.

Likewise with Graeme’s Fantasy Blogspot. I’ve been a fan of this gentleman for some time, so it’s a total honor to have him write stuff like “it’s a bit early to be picking my favorite sci-fi novel of the year, but I can say that [this] is definitely on the shortlist.” He does note that the plot gets maybe “a little too convoluted” (in my opinion there’s no such thing as “too”, but maybe that attitude is part of the problem), but he went on to say it nonetheless “kept me hooked right until the end.” After which he claimed I know how to write a “mean action scene” (guilty) and that I’ve put a great deal of thought into world-building. And he specifically cites “cityscapes that are gorgeously drawn (if menacing) with a real cyberpunk feel.” See, Library Journal? Cyberpunk: it’s more than an echo! Graeme sez so!

More to come as I get them. For now, over and out.