Archive for March, 2003

Hyper Links

Monday, March 31st, 2003

These puppies have been piling up for a while, so to clear my desktop I’m going to do a link dump. There is neither order nor sense to the following list:

Out like a lamb?

Monday, March 31st, 2003

It’s snowing.


Sunday, March 30th, 2003

Despite my misgivings about Scientology, I’m really going to enter the Writers of the Future contest this time. The quarterly deadline is tomorrow, so I’m busily dusting off a novelette for the purpose. Short stories over 7,500 words are difficult to sell in the magazine market, but the WotF entry limit is 17,000 and still I’m well below that.

This story has been sitting around the hard drive too long and has gone through too many minor revisions, partly because of the size issue and partly because of the curse of perfectionism that dooms so many fine stories to the bit-bin of history. I have a new plan to replace my neglected New Year’s resolutions: I’ll submit one story a month for publication. That gives me a week to do research, a week for a rough draft, a week for a final draft, and a week to goof off. I think it’s a plan.

And yes, for anyone who’s keeping score, I’ve completely neglected NaNoEdMo and won’t be finishing in time for midnight tomorrow. Maybe next month…

Real Print

Saturday, March 29th, 2003

I took a fanfic survey today; the usual paleo-fan questions about zines and how-has-the-net-changed-fandom were in there. One question no one asks is how print changes your perception of a fic. Since I printed out my Glory Days PDF, I’ve found myself enjoying the story more than I would on-screen. I read one of the stories on-screen before, so I do have a basis for comparison.

So I have this option for the printed page. It’s easier on the eye, less disposable, less likely to be dismissed with a command-W. Maybe it’s thirty years of reading good stories in print, compared to three years of reading questionable stories on-screen, that has given me the prejudice. Maybe it’s the ease of picking up and putting down a book, compared to the trouble of bookmarking a story and searching for where I left off. I usually think of the pro-zine crowd as exclusionary and inbred, but if it were just about the advantage of paper over photons, I’d be in their camp.

I hope someday someone invents a passive computer screen - something black and white, at 600dpi, that generates no light - something that looks just like the printed page. It could be done mechanically in black and white, or chemically in color. It might even break down the barriers between pay-per-fic and fanfic.

Finger Strain

Friday, March 28th, 2003

Sock of the day: Harry Kim

I haven’t been entering my votes in the ASC Awards for the last few days, but I have them all typed up in a file. I have only two Voyager categories left to read: J/C and Glory Days. Glory Days isn’t an official awards category; I just saved all the stories from the series (except for one Seven fic) to read together. Toward that end, I converted the whole series to PDF. My special, paper-saving version is only 82 pages, but I also looked at the double-spaced version, which was 344 pages and 100,000 words. Now I have a printed copy thanks to the wonders of LaTeX and duplexing laser printers. It had better pass the three paragraph test…

[The three paragraph test: read the first three paragraphs of the story. If it hasn’t caught your interest by the end of paragraph three, close the window and move on to the next story.]

Police Activity

Thursday, March 27th, 2003

According to, Park Street Station was closed for part of rush hour this morning because of a strong odor. That’s nothing new at Park Street, where I’ve caught a whiff of burning trains before.

The odd thing about this report is that it contradicts my experience this morning, when Park Street was open on both levels, but my Red Line train skipped Downtown Crossing entirely. At Park Street, the conductor said that Downtown Crossing was closed due to “police activity,” and that people who wanted the Orange Line should go back upstairs and take the Green Line to Copley. Apparently there had been a shuttle bus or bussing plan, but that had been changed to the Copley scheme. There is no connection to the Orange Line at Copley, by the way. Who knows what happened to those poor commuters?

Downtown Crossing and Park Street are connected by a pedestrian tunnel (as well as by the Red Line), so maybe the Downtown Crossing closure was a direct result of the Park Street incident. I was already wondering what was taking so long when my train reached Park Street, but I didn’t smell anything out of the ordinary. Who knows what I breathed in as my Red Line train was speeding past Downtown Crossing?

Now Playing on Filk Radio

Wednesday, March 26th, 2003

Sock of the day: Chakotay

My modem connection has been bad lately because changes in weather throw the phone lines for a loop, but despite the challenges I’ve been listening to Filk Radio. There are some great one-liners (You’re not retro - you’re old!), and some very odd ideas (Joey who fills his waterbed with beer). My new favorite filk is “Black Davie’s Ride” from Avalon Rising by Avalon Rising, a techno-medieval band. You have to hear it to appreciate it.

The filk standby is, of course, popular songs with new, sci-fi, lyrics. Take, for instance, The Saga Begins, Weird Al Yankovic’s filk of American Pie (from the album “Running with Scissors”). This filk covers the entire plot of The Phantom Menace, but my favorite lines are the chorus. (You have to hum along to the tune of “American Pie” to really appreciate it.)

Oh my my, this here Anakin guy
May be Vader someday later - now he’s just a small fry
And he left his home and kissed his mommy goodbye
Sayin’ “Soon I’m gonna be a Jedi,”
“Soon I’m gonna be a Jedi…”

The video is hilarious, but my connection is decaying rapidly - I can’t tell whether that’s the Emperor or a sand dude from Tattooine playing the piano. I’ll have to watch it at work tomorrow to find out.

Hang On Tight

Monday, March 24th, 2003

There was a crowd at the T stop this morning. That’s odd, I thought, and then I noticed the new Green Line trolley heading in the other direction. Aha! I thought. That explained it.

The new Green Line trolleys aren’t all that new anymore. Every six months or so the MBTA puts them back in service, until the next little derailment incident, and back they go in the T garage. Today they were creeping along (and it’s tough to go slower than the usual trolley crawl), making their tinny automated stop announcements. Mine didn’t derail, at least not while I was on it.


Sunday, March 23rd, 2003

Sock drawer of the day: the Enterprise NX-01 Mess Hall

I’m finally done commenting on TNG stories in the ASC Awards. VOY voting is already open and I have a schedule to read everything by next weekend, though I probably won’t have time to do Paris/Torres and the VS7.5 stories. I was worried about AAA, but the deadline isn’t until April 25th so I’ve put it off yet again.

So far I’ve gotten one comment back from the VOY voting - I’m on digest on the Awards mailing list, so I haven’t seen most of this weekend’s voting frenzy yet. That one comment was great to find in my inbox, though. I’d say more people should run feedback awards, but they’re a writer’s kind of award system. Most people have trouble writing feedback - the prospect of reading 250 Voyager stories in two weeks and then saying something intelligent about all the ones you liked is just too much for the average reader. The average reader doesn’t send feedback the first time, so it’s unlikely they’d do it months after the fact.

Dreamsnake, Prey

Saturday, March 22nd, 2003

Dreamsnake by Vonda McIntyre won a Hugo and a Nebula - that’s how I heard of it. I’ve always thought of her as a Trek writer, but it turns out she’s written other original stuff. This novel is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the heroine, Snake, is a sort of 1970’s Xena - she does it all on her own or with one unexpected female sidekick, while her boyfriend spends the novel wandering about the radioactive desert following her elusive trail.

Dreamsnake is most interesting, and sometimes most annoying, for its brief tangents into technology and sociology. Although genetic engineering is the main form of technology, only certain people practice it - to everyone else it looks like magic. One adventure in the middle of the book is centered around teaching and using one’s biological ability to kill gametes and zygotes. Another adventure takes the reader to the gates of Center City, where a paranoid civilization bars itself behind impassible walls, but the glimpse within is frustratingly brief. Everywhere there are signs of polygamy, or perhaps polygynandry (group marriage) - I can’t say which because the practice is never commented upon or explained. Near the end the contents of one sealed dome are revealed and used, but not accounted for.

Taken together, Snake’s travels fill out a novel but they don’t quite coalesce into a novel-length plot. Her trials are all dead ends from which she retreats, until she stumbles over her goal purely by accident. The setting overpowers the plot, making this an example of the milieu story (Orson Scott Card’s terminology) in which a character explores a world. If you’re in the market for a new world, check Dreamsnake out.

Prey by Michael Crichton is a medical thriller about nanotechnology programmed with simple behavioral routines that runs amok. For all the explicit scientific background (don’t trip over the info-dumps), the novel takes a twist into horror that is neither convincing nor scientific. Most of the novel (up until day 7) was a very good adventure, though, and if you’re not inclined to nitpick you might want to pick it up.