Archive for February, 2003

AAA Again

Wednesday, February 19th, 2003

Seema informed me that it’s time for the Awesome Author Award yet again. I’ve entered in the past two years, and I’ll be carrying on the tradition this year as well. My goal last year was not to repeat any entries. I wasn’t sure I could do that again, seeing as I haven’t written any J/C to speak of lately, but when I checked carefully I still had more stories than categories. Here are my lists, including this year:


  • Action/Adventure: Colony
  • AU: The Unity of the Multiverse
  • Drabble: The Worst Day
  • Episode Addition: Holodeck Safety Protocols
  • Friendship: Sans Ailes
  • Haiku: Romance
  • Humor: One Line, Two Dimples
  • Romance/Sap: Marriage is Irrelevant
  • Sad: Assimilation
  • Wildcard: The Bottle of Bajoran Blue Wine: A PADD Story


  • Action/Adventure: The Museum
  • Drabble/Poetry: Jade’s Drabble
  • Friendship/Hurt/Comfort: A Light Beyond
  • Humor/Light: Lethe
  • Romance/Sap: The Dance
  • Sad/Tragedy/Angst: Thrive
  • Wild Card: Lurking


  • Action/Adventure: Hiatus
  • Drabble/Poetry: Vote for the Roses
  • Friendship/Hurt/Comfort: What’s Left of Her
  • Humor/Light: Beta Energy
  • Romance/Sap: The Author
  • Sad/Tragedy/Angst: Honey-Dew
  • Wild Card: Janeway: The Musical! (Filk of La Mancha)

The only J/C stories I still haven’t entered are Taboo, Like This, Video Meliora Proboque, and A Maquis Holiday. That’s a good start for 2004, I suppose. Two repeats were allowed this year under the contest rules, but I’m not repeating. If I didn’t win last year (I didn’t), I’m never going to win, so no tactical considerations apply. I’d rather put out newer fic that people are less likely to have read and have a few people see it and think (to misquote Monty Python) she’s not dead yet.

Awesome Author Award

The Blizzard of ‘03

Tuesday, February 18th, 2003

People began fleeing Boskone on Sunday around 3 p.m. The snow didn’t start here until Monday morning, and it stopped Monday night. In that brief time, we managed to break all previous snow records, including the Blizzard of ‘78:

National Weather Service Taunton MA

715 AM EST Tue Feb 18 2003

Record 24 hour snowfall and record snowstorm snowfall set at

As of 7 AM Logan airport in east Boston had measured 27.5 inches of
snowfall. This eclipsed the previous 24 hour snowfall record of 25.4
inches set during the April fools day blizzard of March 31St and
April 1St of 1997.

The total of 27.5 inches also set the record for greatest snowstorm
snowfall total. The previous record was 27.1 inches set February 6th
and 7th 1978.

I haven’t heard whether the winds were high enough to qualify as a blizzard here in Boston, but I understand it passed the bar elsewhere.

It didn’t look like that much snow when I headed out to work this morning. The T was running fine (note past tense), cutting a lovely green figure through the snow - not that my co-workers made much use of it. I found two people who’d been camping out in the office since Sunday, and three others made brief appearances. I wish they’d email me to tell me when a snow day has been declared. I could have used the sleep.

So, about that past tense… Apparently sometime between my departure this morning and my return home, the overhead power lines for the Green Line trolleys succumbed to the excessive snow. We were all tossed off the Green Line at Star Market and put on buses for the rest of the T route. Bussing on the Green Line usually makes the commute faster - even today with the streets looking no cleaner at 8pm than they had at 10am - so no one complained.

Tired or Exhausted?

Tuesday, February 18th, 2003

Seema got hold of the Boskone program and asked Zendom about tired fanfic writers jumping the shark. I made a distinction between tired writing, with (perhaps) intentionally repetitious themes, and exhausted muses who won’t produce any new ideas no matter how you prod them. Maybe it’s just an issue of whether the author rests when the muse is silent or tries to write anyway.

I only mention it because I needed a title to go with this untitled meme from YCD via Sara G:


  1. Jane Austen
  2. X-Files
  3. Voyager
  4. Buffy The Vampire Slayer
  5. Stargate

Pairings I used to love and now thoroughly detest because they’ve been so [expletive deleted] up by both canon and fanon that they are no longer recognizable:

  1. JA: Darcy/Elizabeth
  2. XF: Mulder/Scully
  3. VOY: Janeway/Chakotay
  4. BtVS: Xander/Anya
  5. SG-1: (not Jossed yet)

Pairings I look at with old affection:

  1. JA: Bingley/Jane
  2. XF: (there are no other pairings)
  3. VOY: Chakotay/7
  4. BtVS: Willow/Oz
  5. SG-1: (I haven’t actually seen the show yet)

Current pairings I squee over:

  1. JA: Charlotte/Colonel Fitzwilliam
  2. XF: (I Said, There Are No Other Pairings)
  3. VOY: Janeway/Paris
  4. BtVS: Buffy/Spike (kick me, I’m a fan)
  5. SG-1: Sam/Jack

Pharaoh Fantastic, Looking Backward, Darwinia

Sunday, February 16th, 2003

I tried to post this entry with Archipelago, a Mac blogging interface, but the interface and documentation were too obscure. So the reviews will be typed up the old-fashioned way, through the web interface.

I really ought to know better than to read topical anthologies like Pharaoh Fantastic. The theme was ancient Egypt, and most of the stories took a magical approach to the topic. Some were closer to sci-fi or pulpy adventure, and several were disturbingly irreverent tales of the origins of Judaism and Christianity. Even that was better than the Wicca-style magic of other stories.

The stories I enjoyed were the ones that best recreated the spirit of ancient Egypt. “Succession” by Tanya Huff followed an aging queen in her struggles to save Egypt from the stereotypical Evil Vizier. The prose wasn’t always clear, but the characterization was good. In “The Voice of Authority,” a new Pharaoh becomes acquainted with his powers and duties as a god. “Whatever Was Forgotten” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman recounts thousands of years of the immortal dead, up to the final tomb robbery.

I picked up Looking Backward: 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy at some library sale. It’s a typical Rip Van Winkle story, in which an insomniac has himself hypnotized to sleep in 1887 Boston, and doesn’t wake up until the year 2000. A doctor revives him and he discovers a communist paradise. Of course, the doctor has a beautiful daughter and the inevitable happens. All of that is standard for this sort of proto-scifi utopian novel. The interesting bit for me was near the end, when Our Revived Hero repents of his past capitalist sins, and becomes converted to the wonders of communism. The Christian imagery is used, and perhaps abused, by the author, but the conversion is in essence intellectual, making it a fascinating sci-fi theme.

Of course, it’s not called communism in the book. It’s just some rosy socialist view of the future, long before anyone had tried socialism and found it wanting. Looking Backward is only occasionally a novel; most of it is polemic, with Our Hero making naive protests that this workers’ paradise can’t possibly exist and the doctor telling him, “Nothing could be simpler,” and variations on that theme.

It’s easy, after 2000, to mock the doctor’s simple communism; the biggest hole in his logic is the hole in man’s motives. Whenever Our Hero asks why the workers will do their best rather than slack off, or share alike rather than hoard, or be comrades rather than asserting their power over one another, the doctor answers that they will have no incentive to do wrong. He keeps saying exactly that. The absence of selfish or evil motives is assumed. Maybe it was a reasonable assumption in 1887, though I doubt it; it’s certainly glaringly naive after the year 2000.

Robert Charles Wilson’s Darwinia deals with a very different sort of conversion - the Conversion of Europe. Strange lights like a giant aurora borealis fill the sky one night in 1912, and in the morning, Europe is no longer there. In its place is a jungle, and not just any jungle - a jungle with a completely different evolutionary history, where the vertebrates’ spines run up their stomachs, and the poisonous things are very, very poisonous. The population is gone; there’s nothing smarter than a pack animal on the entire continent.

The nickname for the new Europe is Darwinia, a joke, since this miracle is supposed, by most people, to have disproved Darwin. Yes, indeed, species arise out of single stupendous acts of creation. The huge, obvious (if ambiguous) miracle starts a religious revival and raises creation science to scientific respectability. A few of Our Heroes disbelieve the nouveau science, but the novel’s creation-science bashing never gets intolerable.

The reader soon finds Our Heroes on an expedition into deepest, darkest Darwinia, à la the Lewis and Clark expedition. This bothers the surviving Europeans, who don’t like the Wilson Doctrine declaring Darwinia a new world open to any colonists - which is to say, American colonists. The expedition runs into the dangers of the new continent and of the angry partisans, and makes a startling discovery. That’s just the beginning.

Early on there’s an interlude that lets the reader in on what’s really behind the “miracle,” though Our Heroes remain in the dark for quite a while longer. I don’t think I wanted to know that early on, but perhaps the truth was so strange that the author needed to work up to it. I don’t think he filled out his premise quite as far as he could, and his technical details and bad guys were a bit sketchy, but the excellent characterization more than made up for the problems.

Don’t do it for the children

Sunday, February 16th, 2003

I got to hear David Brin speak again today, on privacy. He has a book out about the advantages of openness, The Transparent Society. I thought I’d relate that to why I don’t believe in doing things for the children.

A person should have nothing to hide from children. I believe that anything out there that is bad for children (say, smut, or pre-marital sex) is also bad for adults. I don’t think there’s an age where bad things suddenly become good for you, or even acceptable indulgences for you. Behind every sentiment that such-and-such is bad for children is an unspoken admission that such-and-such is just plain bad.

On the other hand, anything that interests adults is going to interest children to some extent, whereas things aimed specifically at interesting children (such as David Brin’s plans to save fandom with Teen Appeal) go oft awry.

Enough about the children! There were some other good speakers at Boskone - which is not to say that the panels were all that informative, just entertaining. I especially enjoyed Darrell Schweitzer, Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Allen Steele. I hope it’s not too fennish of me to say so. I’m not planning on getting into the sf scene - I get more than enough fandom on-line.

By the way, Allen Steele says he wouldn’t want anyone to write fanfic about his works - to do it to him I believe were his words. I arrived at the end of the derivative fic panel, but it sounded like it was all about media fic, not fanfic. I never heard a positive word about fanfic. If you ignore the most active portion of fandom, it’s no surprise that you think fandom is dying out. Hint: it’s only you dying out.

One thing I wish I’d known about was the NESFA Short Story Contest for unpublished authors. I’m hoping not to qualify by the next deadline, but you never know.

Geeks in groups

Sunday, February 16th, 2003

This is a late-night update from Boskone. Clam Chowder, the filk guests of honor, were more folky than filky. Fortunately, I also like folk music.

I missed David Brin’s reading, but I did get to hear him lecture the attendees about fen going extinct because they aren’t attracting enough young people. “Look around you,” he said, and I looked around and saw a sea of greasy pony-tails, grey beards, thick glasses and ample waistlines. I’ve never felt so attractive in all my life, and I’ve been to my share of academic conferences.

I’m not saying that to be snarky. I’ve never been to a con before, but in any case I don’t believe in doing things for the children. No one made any efforts to attract me to Boskone - I signed up all on my own. I’ve tried to get involved in NESFA in the past and gotten little response and no encouragement. A group that has a clubhouse that isn’t on the T, gatherings at people’s houses that aren’t on the T, and, until this year, even conventions that weren’t on the T, is aimed at an older, suburban crowd and is going to get one. It’s no use trolling high schools for proto-geeks when the problem with fandom is…fandom.

There are plenty of teens in on-line fandom and a huge sci-fi section when I visit the bookstore, so I don’t buy the doom-and-gloom scenario. The genre of science fiction has a permanent audience in the N’s, one that will never get much larger but will also never shrink, because personality type is more nature than nurture. The cult of science fiction may be dying out, but if that concerns the faithful they might want to start by attracting 30-year-olds and work their way down to teens.

That’s just my two cents.


Friday, February 14th, 2003

Cool link of the day: Immigrant by Kyohei Abe, a winner in the .Mac HomePage Creativity contest

If you’re bored in Boston this weekend, you might want to consider SF28, a 24-hour sci-fi movie marathon starting Sunday at noon at the Coolidge Corner theatre. If you can drag yourself away from the contradancing at Boskone, the SF28 movie list looks interesting.

Fire is our friend

Thursday, February 13th, 2003

Thanks to Rocky for the title. This morning, true to my word, I got on a train that smelled like it was on fire. (I hear the brakes are the trouble.) I didn’t see the conductor or check for rooftop nukes. It was cold outside and the T was warm and crowded - not quite as crowded as the hajj, but well-packed nonetheless.

I still haven’t bought any duct tape or plastic sheeting, or begun hoarding foodstuffs. Maybe next week…

Between the Rivers

Thursday, February 13th, 2003

Cool link of the day: a cartoon that could be subtitled same suit, different day. Also, Apple has released the XML schema for Keynote (their Powerpoint replacement).

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a book review. Most of the lag was for a rereading of The Lord of the Rings, which I trust every literate English-speaker on the face of the earth has read by now. Tolkien goes without reviewing. I tried to read The Shelters of Stone, but I was confused by a major POV shift on the second page, annoyed by the frequent infodumps, and bored by the end of the first chapter, so I gave up and switched to the only other novel of the ancient world on my to-read shelf.

Between the Rivers by Harry Turtledove was another one of my Buck-a-Book finds. I hadn’t heard of it elsewhere, not even on that list I once found of books based on the ideas in The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. The blurb sounded more interesting to me than his usual histories of wars.

The novel is an history of Mesopotamia at the dawn of consciousness, if you consider The Origin of Consciousness to be the true history. The psychological deities of Julian Jaynes are trotted out as larger-than-life gods and goddesses, jealous of the advances men have made, most especially in the new crafts of writing and bronzeworking. Men from other cities behave as Jaynes claimed the god-possessed peoples of the ancient world behaved, while Our Heros are the fully-conscious modern men who eventually arose out of the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates.

War is endemic between the conscious men and the followers of various regional gods, but as the novel opens the gods are especially riled up and band together against the crafty people of Gibil. Our Heroes strive to find a way to elude or appease the wrath of the angry gods.

The best part of the novel is the style of speech. All the characters sound like they’ve just stepped out of the Bible, with their poetical repetition. The book is at least a quarter longer than the story itself required because each character must restate what he himself has said, or what others have said to him. It sounds terribly annoying but somehow it never is.

The cover art features a man who looks like he’s dressed for an ice age and a woman in a burqa. Neither is appropriate for ancient Mesopotamia; the book itself specifies the minimal clothing of the well-to-do of both genders, and that the poorest went naked. I know cover art is often inaccurate, but this is the first one that actually annoyed me, probably because it reminded me of my recent bad experience with The Shelters of Stone.

Another disappointment was the gods. Having them trooping around, spying on people and tossing boulders, was too fantastic for my taste. The description of god-possessed men was more intriguing than the appearances the gods made outside of people. I would have appreciated something closer to the spirit of The Origin of Consciousness.

The ending was a good twist, but would have had more of an emotional impact for me had I found the gods more believable. Instead, their flaws made them less believable - a fantasy addition to a more realistic history. Nevertheless, it was an engrossing tale.

Nightmare at Park Street

Wednesday, February 12th, 2003

Cool link of the day: c s s / e d g e, cutting-edge CSS layouts that will probably only work in Mozilla-based browsers. Another cool link is favelets, a collection of bookmarks that do cool things.

It’s after midnight and I haven’t even blogged yet. It’s been one of those days. Besides the usual insanity at work, I just missed a D train this morning. D trains are fast, but it takes forever for another one of those things to come along - that’s what I get for taking the alternate route. On the way home, Park Street station was unusually crowded. At first I thought it was some sort of sick fascination with the street magician, but it turned out that there was a disabled train on the tracks at Arlington. Somehow it was blocking traffic in both directions.

So I stood around and waited, and waited, and waited some more. If it were just the waiting, it wouldn’t have been so bad, but next came the smell. I think they towed the disabled train to Park Street; either that or it was in flames down at Arlington and the toxic plastic fumes drifted all the way past Boylston to us. People covered their faces with their scarves, and waited some more.

Of course, that’s the point where I started thinking about terrorist attacks. Maybe that occured to you a couple of paragraphs ago, but I was still annoyed about my bad day at work. But toxic fumes and terrorist alerts don’t scare off a real Bostonian. I paid $57 for that Combo Pass and there was no way I was walking home from Park Street. If a burning train had come through the station with Osama Bin Laden conducting and a North Korean nuke strapped to the roof, I would have taken it, as long as it was going my way.

It took me a total of 2 hours to get home - I think that’s a personal record. As an extra special bonus, my bad day at work was still going on in my inbox when I got home.