Archive for June, 2009

James Nicoll syndicates Pournelle vs. Williams

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Industry luminary James Nicoll has posted on my conversation with Jerry Pournelle. The resultant conversation on his blog covered many topics, including SDI, but was in sharp contrast to the one on mine in that:

(a) people were civil to each other

(b) no one sought to argue from authority: e.g., Pournelle was there when SDI was invented, how dare you question him, or I’m an expert in military history, so what I say should be taken as gospel, etc., etc.

(c) there was no chest-thumping from partisans during the blog discussion about how much Pournelle and his friends were owning me/kicking my ass/destroying me/taking me apart/taking me to the cleaners.

(d) people seem to be alert to this thing called nuance.

Conversation is here.

And I’m in a bit of a mood this morning, so will probably just delete any comment that falls into the above categories while Spartacus laughs like the maniac he is.  You said it already, guys, so save your breath.

Use your energy instead to buy BURNING SKIES at Amazon and other fine bookstores.

RIP Michael Jackson

Friday, June 26th, 2009

All the bullshit of the last fifteen years ultimately won’t matter. I’ll remember him for those summers in the early 1980s, to which his music furnished the soundtrack. Funny how I’d forgotten just how good those songs were—nothing could stand against MJ in his prime.

Meanwhile, in the middle of the Larry King retrospective last night, the power in the neighborhood of LA where I’m staying went out.  People were on the streets with flashlights trying to figure out how far the blackout extended.  It could have been the setting to one of Jackson’s videos, but fortunately no crazy thriller werewolves were spotted.  A quarter-century’s a long time, but it’s still strange how much a man can age across it.

Science, politics and near future SF

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

That’s the subject of my latest post over Bantam’s Suvudu. Check it out.

And why not check out BURNING SKIES as well?

Join Autumn Rain’s legions and get your name into Book Three!

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

I’m pleased to announce the creation of the Autumn Rain legions! All you have to do to join is sign up on the right-hand side of my Contact/More Info page, at which point you too can receive batches of cool 4×6 cards that you can plaster all over your local coffeeshops, bookstores, and libraries. Plus you’ll get your name in the acknowledgments of Book Three, and qualify to win an advance copy of the book!

You can also put your pen into the service of AR, writing reviews/blog-entries, etc. . . . and you can even go into your local bookshop and persuade them to carry BURNING SKIES if through some incredible oversight they aren’t already.  Joining the AR street-team doesn’t require you to commit to any particular activity; it’s whatever you feel most comfortable with.

And what makes all this particularly exciting is that I’m now featuring banner-ad widgets, so you too can take the code for my new banner ads, and plaster them all over the World Wide Web!  You don’t even need to join the legions/street-teams to do so!

And of course you can always buy BURNING SKIES!

An Open Letter to Jerry Pournelle

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

Jerry Pournelle responded to my my most recent blog post with a detailed series of comments worth reading in their entirety. Given that we were already deep in the thread, I’m rebooting the whole discussion for a brand-new week.

Jerry-  thanks for the comments.  I’m sorry (though not surprised) to hear you reiterate your judgment re the rigor of the science in my books, all the more so as this is based on a ten minute exchange we had in which you repeatedly interrupted me and rarely allowed me to finish an answer.  Same goes for your view on my knowledge of history.  But in the hopes that print will lend itself better to clarity than talk, here’s my take on the various issues we’ve been discussing.

Re SDI: we agree on much here.  But I think the daylight between us centers on the distinction between the system’s architects saw the projected capabilities/intentions of what they were building VS. what was being sold to the American public.  The American people weren’t told that SDI would still leave most of their cities a smoking wreck, otherwise there’s no way they would have supported it.  They were simply led to believe that ultimately an effective “missile shield” was possible.  This isn’t the first time that insiders have been aware of the nuances of something while the broader public was encouraged to subscribe to a more black and white view.  All the more so as it was important to amplify/oversell SDI’s capabilities to the Soviet Union as well, so as to keep the Red Bear scared and get him to the negotiating table at speed.  All of which seems like practical politics/diplomacy to me.  Note at no point in our conversation have I disagreed with you about the ultimate intention of those who initiated SDI, and yet here I am being told I’m misinformed and don’t know what I’m talking about.  I fear you may be misinterpreting–or may have misheard–my position.

On those solar powered satellites: I understand that belief in a comprehensive, cheap SPS solution is an integral part of your world-view, and I hope you’re right that it’s a workable one.  It’s just that in my fiction. . . you aren’t.  For what it’s worth, this skeptical stance re the environmental side-effects of SPS is by no means an integral foundation-item for the Autumn Rain universe, and this is one area where being cut off Thursday night probably got in the way of clarity.  The Autumn Rain world is one that’s trying to turn the corner, and the question it faces is whether bootstrapping the off-Earth economy can occur before environmental decline becomes irreversible.  Even if SPS works, we will still, I think, face this task.

Re global warming:  yes, I subscribe to the current mainstream position that global warming is a serious problem, and that human industrial factors are contributing to it.   As you say, that position *may* be incorrect.

Re the state of hard science fiction:  My understanding is that hard science fiction involves a rigorous attempt to ground the narrative in science and scientific speculation.  But if we’re going to narrow that definition to science approved by particular authors/scientists, then yes, I would agree, hard science fiction is in rapid decline, and that’s probably a good thing too.  Personally, I think the genre is in much better shape than you might think vis-a-vis the issue of scientific rigor, all the more so with regards to the social sciences, where the level of realism used to veer toward the laughable.  Indeed, I think science-fiction has historically subscribed to way too many illusions regarding how politics really works, but I guess that’s an issue for another time.  Maybe over a beer some day.

I already gave Jerry a copy of BURNING SKIES, but the rest of you are going to have to buy your own.

Incident at LASFS (or, I get in a steel cage with Jerry Pournelle)

Friday, June 19th, 2009

No, I’m not making any of this up.

My talk yesterday at the LA Science Fiction Fantasy Society regarding BURNING SKIES triggered the ire of Jerry Pournelle, who became nearly apopoletic with rage that I was unable to articulate exactly how many degrees warmer the Earth of AUTUMN RAIN is than now. Things sped downhill from there.  I’ve got a couple notes in the timeline of how much said temperature has gone up by specific years, but Jerry wanted the exact figures . . . and I didn’t have the heart to tell him I didn’t have spreadsheets on the ocean salinity factor, and had neglected to draw up the precise ratio of atmospheric composition to describe the peasoup of the early 22nd century. This led to the question of whether I was a Real Science Fiction Writer, or just one of those imposters you keep hearing about. We had a particularly vigorous dispute on my doubts about whether solar power satellites would be the panacea that he thinks they’d be.

All of which was good fun.  But Jerry was a big teddy bear compared to his partner in all of this, Karen Anderson, who happens to be Poul Anderson’s widow (and Greg Bear’s mother-in-law—ye gods Greg, talk about karmic burden).  She was about as angry as anyone I’ve ever seen, interrupting me repeatedly, and ultimately stalking out of the room halfway through snarling that the world of Autumn Rain was obviously “magic not science.” It just wasn’t the same without her, but Jerry and I managed to cope nonetheless, getting into a no-holds barred debate on whether Reagan’s SDI could have been used as a first strike weapon.  Jerry seemed less incensed by that point, but maybe it’s because I was getting used to how loud he yells.

Anyway, everyone else at the club seemed pretty chill, and watched the conversation unfold with interest. And I gave Jerry a signed copy of BURNING SKIES afterward (“to a living legend”), so it was all good.  They really do have a clubhouse there, btw, right in the middle of North Hollywood—one reason they’re the oldest running science fiction society on the planet.  This was meeting #3749, and I can only imagine what’s gone down at the other 3748. The stories those walls could tell….

Anyway, I need to go find some coffee.

And you need to go buy BURNING SKIES.

Los Angeles appearance tonight!

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

I’ll be in North Hollywood at the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society tonight, the world’s oldest continuously meeting science fiction club—meeting regularly since 1940! Stop by if you’re in the area:  7:30 at 11513 Burbank Boulevard.

On other fronts, I saw The Hangover at the Arclight last night. All I can say is (a) you LA-ers sure know how to build a movie theater, and (b) believe the hype.  From one angle, Hangover is the dumbest movie ever made, but from where I was sitting last night, it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen:  a comedy juggernaut that is crushing everything in its path.  And with good reason.

Meanwhile, BURNING SKIES continues to await you!

Science fiction’s subordination

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

I’ve got a new post up on Suvudu, in which I explain why Ursula Le Guin is barking up the wrong tree.

And why not check out BURNING SKIES on Amazon?

Borderlands/WriterswithDrinks BURNING SKIES readings!

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

No coincidence that my favorite bookstore is in my favorite town . . . and the Borderlands reading this year was the most successful yet, featuring stanimg_0222ding-room only capacity! I brought Spartacus along, but he suffered a Transmogrifying Event from all the excitement, and now looks a little different than before.   (Or maybe that’s me.  I can’t tell.)   Ace writers Erin Cashier, Gail Carriger, and Chris Reynaga were also in attendance, thanks for coming out, folks!  A special highlight was meeting the OpenBuddha; we’ve corresponded before, but it was cool to meet up and realize the extent of our shared interests.

Then that evening was WriterswithDrinks, with the amazing Charlie Jane Anders as MC.  She blew us all off the stage, and we loved every moment of it.  Not to be missed.  It was a great line-up too, and a packed venue:  the first time in my “career” that I’ve performed to more people than I could actually see.  Needless to say, it was a complete rush.  Now if I can only figure out how to reattach Spartacus to his fur. . .

BURNING SKIES continues to sell like crazy on Amazon, so buy now while supplies last!

San Francisco appearances, Saturday, June 13th

Friday, June 12th, 2009

I’m heading into the Bay Area tonight—assuming LAX, Virgin, and the SF fog cooperate—and have two events tomorrow, to wit:

Borderlands Books, 866 Valencia, at 3 p.m.

Writers with Drinks, 7:30 p.m. @ the Makeout Room, 3225 22nd Street.

They’re both in the Mission, which means I won’t have to fall prey to Eddie Izzard’s discovery that there are, in fact, only five cabs in all of San Francisco. . .see his DVD, Dressed to Kill.  And see you there!

And why not buy BURNING SKIES in the meantime?