Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

January 24, 2009

Stross seminar imminent

by John Quiggin on January 23, 2009

The comments threads are already buzzing with anticipation so I’m very happy to announce that our long-awaited Charles Stross Book Event will be published here in the next few days. It features Paul Krugman, Brad DeLong, Ken MacLeod and of course Charlie Stross himself, along with CT regulars. Keep a lookout, and be ready with comments on your favorite Stross work.


November 30, 2008

Saturday November 29, 2008  Farther ahead on “The Day They Took Port Sharehold.”  A simple tale of a bureaucrat doing his job — which happens to involve dealing with starships named after female pirates.

***”What are your favorite things to cook when you really don’t feel like cooking or spending a lot of time in the kitchen – those quick, easy, go-to meals when you’re in recovery from preparing a feast?”

Recipes in comments so far are all beyond what many people would consider easy.

“B-Movies, Serials, Old Time Radio, Westerns, Comics, Railroads (real and model), Collecting…we are interested in all of them. There’s even room for other memories too.”

Caution:  Might make you feel old.  For example, there’s a Battlestar Galactica article.

***’Historically, European cuisine had promoted the pseudomedical belief that particular seasonings and modes of preparation could — and should — eliminate imbalances in the human constitution. In the middle of the 17th century, however, leading French gastronomes let go of this idea and undertook the refinement of flavor for its own sake. Butter and cream sauces, whose value was gustatory (enhancing the taste of underlying ingredients) as opposed to medicinal (recalibrating the body’s four “humors,” as set forth by Hippocratic physicians), thus came to the fore, and an elegant, toothsome new brand of cooking was born.’ (register, or go through

November 10, 2008

Sunday November 9, 2008  Got restarted on the story now titled “A Matter of Forms.”

***The newsgroup soc.history.what-if is devoted to alternate history.  Some posts are written as if from alternate worlds, dealing with such questions as “What if JFK had been assassinated?”  These are called DBWI’s (from Double Blind What Ifs.)  One subset of these:  reviews of could-never-happen “West Wing” plots which are what did happen in our world.

There’s now a thread about the recent US Presidential election as a “West Wing” plot.  James Nicoll gives it a thumbs-down for lack of plausibility and inconsistency with what’s been established earlier:

October 26, 2008

Saturday October 25, 2008 My night mind had worked out some background for “The Brain of Any Tree.”  The small detail of how a planet could have trees with brains and Earth-compatible (we can eat them, they can eat us) life was left to me.

Possibilities:  1) Cross-time:  this is an alternate version of Earth.  2) A spacefaring civilization arose on Earth at least a few hundred thousand years ago, and terraformed at least one planet before collapsing.  The evidence of its existence has been explained as natural phenomena.  3) It’s the far future.  Which is what I’ll probably go with.

So far, I have the title and some background.  I won’t have a story till I get at least one character (rather than character role.)

***Department of Redundancy Department:  United Fascist Union:  Found through, which tries to list every US political party with at least one member.  (Including one suspected of being a hoax:  the Libertarian National Socialist Green Party.)

Back to the United Fascist Union:  “Fascism is the one economic theory that has been proven time after time.  It can raise the standard-of-living and improve the quality of life for all citizens fortunate enough to live in a Fascist Country.”  The thinkers they acknowledge as intellectual ancestors are Benito Mussolini and Saddam Hussein.

***Gail Collins:

“Let’s be realistic. There are lots of calls for reform, but we have a country in economic meltdown. The globe is warming, the Middle East is in chaos and “Mad Men” keeps teetering on the brink of cancellation. We’re not going to get around to repairing the Electoral College any time in the near future.

“I have given this a lot of thought, and I think our best immediate course of action is to whine a lot.”

October 26, 2008

Friday October 24, 2008 Michael Merriam reading at DreamHaven Books.  Well-attended. [His account, titled “And They Did Not Kill and Eat Me,” is at

Before DreamHaven moved, there was an after-gathering at Dulono’s Pizza.  No new place has been settled on yet.  Tonight, people went to the Cardinal Bar; I don’t know how well it worked out.

***Finished writing down “Foolkiller For Hire.”  It will get revised; for one thing, I need to state the premise much nearer the beginning.  (Anyone who hires the protagonist goes out of business.  Hiring him to take a job with someone else has an obvious flaw, but there are people who think they know ways around that.)

October 8, 2008

Wednesday October 1, 2008 Thinking out forms for a nonhuman government dealing with human immigrants.

1) ____ Church is a philosophical cooperative whose members have vowed loyalty to Reverend/Father/___ ___ as representative of the One Who is Three:  the Father called Jehovah/____, the Son Jesus called the Christ, the Holy Ghost.

2_ ____ Synagogue is a philosophical cooperative whose members have vowed loyalty to Rabbi ____ as representative of the One Whose name is not written in full.

***Mail included something sent from zipcode 21666; return address did not include sender’s name.  It was from the Human Rights Campaign; a Guacamole, Lettuce, Bacon and Tomato organization.

***Today transit fares went up.

I stopped briefly at DreamHaven Books.  Continued on to the 38th St LRT station, where I added money to my Metro Card.  Then #23 bus and #4 to the Wedge coop.

At the Wedge, I got money from the ATM and bought a few cheese samples.

Across the street to Steeple People thrift store.

Back to the Wedge; bought turkey giblets (which they have only sometimes, and which I haven’t seen anywhere else) and a couple more cheese samples.

On to Aldi supermarket on Lake Street, where some prices have dropped.  Egg prices fluctuate, so a ten-cent change isn’t remarkable.   But onions and cabbage are noticeably cheaper.

***At — probability of Obama winning is now 100%.  A strong Republican surge could lower this to 99%.

September 22, 2008

Monday September 22, 2008 From the BBC website:

Stormont bomb was art, says Stone

Loyalist paramilitary Michael Stone has denied trying to kill the Sinn Fein leadership.

He said the day he tried to force his way into Stormont was simply “an act of performance art”.

Each item he was carrying had symbolic significance, he said, including a bird-shaped pair of scissors as a “begrudging” symbol of Irish republicanism rising from the flames, and a poppy badge on his jacket as a mark of respect for “fallen comrades”.

He said a sponge inside the butt of the fake gun was to symbolise the “sponging unionists”, the wire he had with him was for the “precarious path to peace and reconciliation,” harking back to a painting he gave to Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Stone told the court he tried to keep everything in a “monochrome pallet” – black, white or grey.

“The symbolism of that was as in life, not everything is black and white – my perceived attack is a grey area, that it was an attack of art, an artistic protest,” he said.

Even his clothing had its own symbolism, he said, including a pair of sunglasses, in that he had worn the same outfit in 1974 to a mass protest against the Sunningdale Agreement.

He said he wore a fisherman’s hat because Martin McGuinness’s alleged codename in the security forces was “the fisherman”.

*William Blake: “I must create my own system, or be enslav’d by another man’s.”

August 9, 2008

Friday August 8, 2008  From theferrett’s LiveJournal

“Ferrett,” my [Clarion East] instructor asked, “Where do you write from?”

“Uh… My hands?”

“No, no – do you write from your head or the body?”

I’d never thought of it that way before. “I write from the head,” I said, tapping my temple. “I’m very in their minds, about what’s going through their thoughts at a given moment. In fact,” I mused as the thought sunk deeper and deeper into me, “I barely see what they see at all.”

“Write from the body,” my instructor suggested. “You wrote about a fifteen-year-old girl in this manuscript, but we didn’t feel that. It felt like <i>you</i>. But if you’d written it from the body of a teenaged girl, starving, high up on a girder as she’s waiting for a charity boat to come down the river with her food, you’re going to notice different things.”

Very good advice, with a few problems for me.

1) I live more in my head than in my body.  This is probably true also of many Clarion attendees, and others trying to write speculative fiction.

2) My focus sense is kinesthesia, with touch second.  I can remember what it felt like to move around in places where I’ve lived much better than what they looked like.  There’s not much common vocabulary for kinesthesia; instead, there are several sets of technical terms.

3) I’m a synesthete.

***Rainbow Foods had eggs at 99¢ a dozen.

Everything else was priced at “I remember when that was less than a dollar a pound” or “I remember when that was under fifty cents a pound.”
“the last contest which I felt personally was when simon de montfort lost at the hands of longshanks.”  Comment at

Friday August 1, 2008

August 3, 2008

Friday August 1, 2008  Google News now has versions for Botswana, Ethiopa, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.  Previously, the only African version was for South Africa.

All of these are in English.

The Zimbabwe page does not appear to be censored.

Other versions in English are for Australia, Canada (also one in French), India (also Hindi and Tamil), Ireland, New Zealand, the UK, and the US (also in Spanish.)  There are versions in fifteen languages other than English.

If you want to see what a country’s news media are reporting about that country (and about yours), go to  Go to the bottom of the page, and see the links to other versions.  It’s not perfect; for one thing, some of the stories will be taken from sources outside that country.  But it’s probably the best overview available.

If you suspect the country’s press is censored or bias, you may want to also read the pages for nearby countries.  For the US, that would be Canada (and Mexico, if you read Spanish.)
Took a batch of donations to Steeple People thrift store.  Picked up a couple of free magazines.

Across the street to the Wedge co-op.
Steeple people — donated, got magazines

***DreamHaven Books is following its June sale and July sale with an August sale.  Bought a couple of used paperbacks:

Jack Chalker’s collection short story Dance Band on the Titanic, whose nonfiction content gives inadvertant lessons in writing an unreliable narrator.  Chalker talks about slights to his fiction; the way he says he doesn’t care about those slights leads me to believe he cares a great deal.

Algis Budrys’s fixup novel Some Will Not Die does some things very well.  I’m trying to figure out what they are, and how he did it.

It’s not a well-constructed novel; I don’t think Budrys managed that till nearly 40 years after his first novel was published and about 30 years after Some Will Not Die.

***On to the Aldi on Lake Street, where I bought some food.  Then Cub Foods, where I bought dish soap from their mostly-$1 shelves.

July 26, 2008

“The mission of this webzine is to increase diversity in the field of speculative fiction, both in the authors who contribute and in the perspectives presented. We plan to feature both speculative fiction stories and artwork, as well as essays about speculative fiction and fandom from diverse points of view. Any piece which furthers this mission will be considered for publication….

“Our specific objectives include (but are not limited to):

*Increasing the number of people of color in speculative fiction”

Like many people from Eastern Europe, I have Asian ancestry (undocumented.)  But I don’t look it.  I can tan darker than most Afro-Americans, but that doesn’t count.

“*Increasing the number of women in speculative fiction”

Leaves me out.  Note:  This is not a complaint.

“*Increasing the number of gay, lesbian, bisexual and asexual people in speculative fiction”

Probably leaves me out.

“*Increasing the number of transgender, transsexual, intersex and genderqueer/fluid people in speculative fiction”

I’ve sometimes thought of myself as belonging to a gender which doesn’t exist in our universe.  But not often enough for that to count, probably.

“*Increasing the number of people with disabilities in speculative fiction”

Marginal.  Speech problems, and can’t sing worth a tinker’s dam.  Movements off about as much as those of someone who’s had one or two beers.  Deaf in one ear since birth.  But I would consider dyslexia rather more limiting for a writer — and there are several dyslexic pro spec-fic writers.

“*Publishing essays and reflections on fandom which challenge the established biases of the field of speculative fiction”

I suspect they don’t mean by fandom what I mean by fandom.

“*Challenging all forms of stereotypes and cliches in speculative fiction”

Well, I can try.

“*Creating a venue so that those whose points of view tend to be represented unrealistically or negatively in most speculative fiction may speak out in their own voice

*Humanizing the ‘other’ by telling the story from a non-traditional point of view and/or reversing who is the insider and who is the outsider in speculative fiction

“We are expressly welcoming of submissions from esoteric minorities, including Otherkin in the broadest and most inclusive definition of the term, as well as people with rare sensitivities and awarenesses.”

I’ll have to ask if that includes synesthesia.