Archive for November, 2008

Economy, meet wall

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

With another 800 billion tossed into the mix, the bailout(s) is reaching mindboggling proportions, and those in charge of it are pretty much making up the rules as they go, hoping to somehow borrow their way out of this mess. This latest move is aimed at consumer lending; it’s unclear to me how that’s really going to help, given that more consumer borrowing is precisely what we don’t need—and cash-strapped citizens are unlikely to step up and do their patriotic duty by continuing to Shop/Spend anyway. Meanwhile, the first, Wall Street-focused bailout (back when 700 billion seemed like a lot) trundles along pretty much immune to oversight.  My predictions are as follows:

—Paulson’s friends are going to get even richer than they already are

—The giant sucking sound you’re about to hear will be the U.S. dollar once it turns out there are way too many of them

—We may have bought our way out of the last downturn (2001), but we’ll eventually realize that our efforts to do the same for this one have only stirred the shit up to unholy proportions

—Paulson may not realize he’s being set up as Number One Scapegoat, but a lot of us will laugh when it happens.

—Can’t we start spending money on shit that will actually be useful when all this fucking money’s worthless?

—Aren’t you glad that Bush 43 failed to privatize social security?

Privatized gains; socialized losses

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

“It strikes me as unbelievably generous.” —former (unnamed) Fed official on the Citigroup bailout, cited in WP this morning.

The auto bailout

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Letting the Big Three go bankrupt would crater what’s left of the economy and reduce the midwest to a sea of rusted iron. Allowing them to continue to make cars is insane. Injunctions to retool the whole output to making green cars are going to lead to an awful lot of eco-friendly hybrids sitting around looking idle. No one’s got the money to buy anything anymore.

Except, of course, the government.  So . . just as the automakers retooled during wartime to produce tanks and munitions, now they should be retooled to produce Shit We Actually Need, like high-speed rail infrastructure, shitloads of windmills, clean mass transit, etc.  I’d also like to see Rick Wagoner run over by an SUV on pay-per-view TV, but you and I both know he’ll get a big bonus to fuck off instead. As long as he keeps the hell away from Detroit, that’s okay with me.

Secret agent woman

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Most of what I post about agents on this site involves the sort found in my book: folks who are busy blowing up shit, or getting their memories wiped, or fighting their way out of maglev trains racing beneath the Atlantic. But there’s a whole different kind of agent out there, the kind that made THE MIRRORED HEAVENS possible in the first place. I’m talking, of course, about literary agents, none of whom are dearer to my heart than Jenny R. Rappaport, who took a chance on my manuscript when I was an unpublished newbie, and managed to turn what had been mere dreams and ambition into a three-book deal with Bantam.

So it gives me a lot of pleasure to tell you that Jenny has now hung out her own shingle, founding The Rappaport Agency after several years of working with industry vet Lori Perkins.  The split is entirely amicable; Lori is increasingly focused on erotica and chicklit, whereas Jenny intends to continue concentrating on SF/fantasy.  Check out her own blog for details.  You can also learn more about Zoe the Wondercat there, but I’ll let Jenny bring you up to speed on that. . . .

Why I write SF

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

ScienceOnline09 is sponsoring a blogging conversation among SF writers and science bloggers on Why We Write SF; they’ve posted questions, and here’s my answers. (Thanks to fellow scribe Kelly McCullough for the heads up.)

Why are you writing science fiction in particular? What does the science add?

I’m writing science fiction because it’s the only literature that addresses the issue of our long-term survival (or not) as a species. No other branch of writing out there gives an author a canvas broad enough to grapple with the question of Where All This Is Going—in fact, I’d go so far as to say that most contemporary mainstream “literature” could care less about anything that’s occurring outside the angst-ridden local coffeeshop where all the MFAs hang out (and I guess this is the part where you ask me how I really feel).

As to the science: it’s critical for me, but nonetheless it’s perhaps not as central as it is for many SF writers.  My main focus is on the politics/geopolitics, and I’m interested in the science insofar as that creates parameters that shape/constrain the decisions of leaders at various levels of the military-industrial complex.  That said, SF is all about the corruption (dilution?) of technology’s promise, so the science is by definition high in the mix. . . .

What is your relationship to science? Have you studied or worked in it, or do you just find it cool? Do you have a favorite field?

I just find it all cool as #$#, but I have no professional standing in it whatsoever.  I was trained as a historian, and I’m a recovering management consultant.  So when it comes to science, I’m a generalist, and probably a dangerous one at that.

How important is it to you that the science be right? What kind of resources do you use for accuracy?

It’s vital that the science be right, and I research it exhaustively, all the more so as I’m not a professional scientist.  Sometimes you get to the point where you just have to speculate, of course, but the question is how far you can inch your way forward before you have to take that leap. . . .

Are there any specific science or science fiction blogs you would recommend to interested readers or writers?

The one I’m addicted to is (inevitably) Pharyngula; the fact that this is one of the most popular blogs on the web is truly heartening.  Peter Watts often posts on science as it relates to his novels, and unlike me, the guy’s not just bullshitting his way through it.  I also follow a variety of space sites like (though I realize that ain’t a blog) . . .

Lieberman stays?!?

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Obama is taking an enormous gamble in leaving Lieberman in charge of the Homeland Security Committee. All the arguments for doing so—new tone in Washington, increasing the chances of passing key legislation, another seat in the Senate, etc.—all of it pales before the fact that should another 9-11 occur on the new president’s watch, Lieberman will be the one in charge of the ensuing investigation. The Senator gave Bush a free pass these last couple of years, but I somehow doubt that the man he insinuated is a Marxist on the campaign trail would get anything approaching the same treatment. Lieberman’s whole MO is to use his centrist position for maximum political/media exposure; Obama had better hope that his decision to prioritize his domestic legislation above all else doesn’t ultimately hand Lieberman yet another opportunity to seize the limelight.

Quantum of Solace

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

The reviews have been tepid, but screw ‘em. I loved it, and I love the direction the Bond reboot has taken the franchise. The old movies were classic, but let’s face it, by the late 1980s they were way past their sell-by date, with only the occasional gem (like that psycho truck chase in License to Kill) to enliven what had become a hackneyed formula that usually revolved around Bond-beats-supervillain-before-he-can-unleash-his-ultimate-weapon (usually a gigantic space-based directed energy cannon).

But Casino Royale swept all that aside, and suddenly Bond was plunged into a world that was far grittier, far more in-your-face, and much more contemporary. Perhaps it took Daniel Craig to make the tracking of terrorist finances into something sexy, but it also took a new breed of screenwriters who created byzantine plots so twisted that they made the previous Bond flicks look like lightweight candy. Those writers continue to push the envelope with Quantum of Solace, which is the first direct sequel to occur in the Bond franchise (there’s another first, but you have to wait to the end to see what it is).  The dialogue is relentlessly clever/funny, and the fight-scenes continue to be low on gadgets and high on interesting topography.  And as with Casino Royale, there’s even a bit of (gasp) character development for Bond….

In fact—and this is going to seem really fucking petty—the only problem I had with the movie were the titles used to identify locales; each location-signature was plastered obstentatiously on the center of the screen in various loud fonts, and it really got on my nerves. Give me a quick digital read-out in the lower left-hand corner and just get on with it, okay?  Thanks guys.  And thanks for kicking butt with everything else.

Hang him by the balls?!?

Friday, November 14th, 2008

At least, apparently that’s what Putin wanted to do to Georgian leader Saakashvili, according to one of French president Sarkozy’s advisers.

With Russian tanks only 30 miles from Tbilisi on August 12, Mr Sarkozy told Mr Putin that the world would not accept the overthrow of Georgia, Mr Levitte said.

“I am going to hang Saakashvili by the balls,” Mr Putin replied.

Mr Sarkozy responded: “Hang him?”

“Why not? The Americans hanged Saddam Hussein,” said Mr Putin.

Mr Sarkozy replied, using the familiar “tu”: “Yes but do you want to end up like (President) Bush?”

Mr Putin was briefly lost for words, then said: “Ah, you have scored a point there.”

WindyCon schedule

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

I’ll be at Chicagoland’s WindyCon this weekend, which (as luck would have it) is dedicated this year to military science fiction. My schedule’s as follows:

Saturday, 10:00: Strategy, Tactics, Logistics

Saturday, 20:00: Building Future Weapons

Sunday, 13:00: Space Battles are Not Sea Battles

Only problem is that right now my plane back to D.C. flies out of Chicago BEFORE the last panel, and I may not be able to change the flight.  Stay tuned. . .

Ancient Rome, courtesy of Google

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

Ok, now THIS is cool . . . Google’s beefed up its GoogleEarth offerings with Rome, c. 320 A.D. Everything you ever wanted to know about the city when Constantine ruled the place. Now if they could just get keep my #$# Gmail from going down every five minutes, we’d be all set.

But I gotta admit, this is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time: the idea that the web would eventually get us to the point where you can walk through virtual historical cities.  I just never thought there’d be a market for it (and maybe there won’t be).  But there are so many places I’d love to see.  Paris during Year One of the revolution. London in early Norman days. Closer to home, I’d like to see what Dupont Circle (where I live, in D.C.) was like before I showed up. What WAS at R and Connecticut before they put that #$# Starbucks there? This mapping out of the past has possibilities.

“So many dead roads you will never use again . . . ” —William Burroughs