Monday, June 27, 2016

Savoring the moment

Twenty-five years ago, on a shelf in a B. Dalton Bookseller -- remember those? -- I first happened upon copies of Probe for sale. This technothriller was both my first novel and my first pro sale. (My second sale, a short story, ended up being my first pro appearance, having run a few months earlier in Analog.) This sighting came a few days ahead of the book's official publication date of July 1, 1991.

You always remember the first time
Twenty-five years ... a quarter century ... yowza. That's the silver anniversary. I don't suppose Warner Book's artist had this day in mind when incorporating that right-hand silver stripe into the rather abstract cover design.

(Aside to those of you who have read Probe ... who among you finds any resemblance between the cover nearby and the tale told within?)

No way could I have guessed where writing -- in those days, merely a hobby -- would lead: the books and shorter works, both fiction and non-, I would go on to write. The five-novel collaboration with future colleague Larry Niven. The gamut of plots, themes, eras, and science & technologies that my writing would lead me to explore. The friendships I would forge with authors, editors, and agents around the country -- and sometimes farther afield. So many wonderful interactions with readers: at cons and book signings, through email and social media. The cons, tech venues, speaking and teaching gigs, and even, now and again, a nomination or award. This blog. A second career and whole new lifestyle.

Twenty-five years later
But back to Probe ... I like to believe it's held up pretty well over the years. Sure, the novel included what has become the occasional anachronism -- but it also anticipated the commercial mining of asteroids, computerized cars, a networked world, and plenty more au courant ideas. If you're curious, check out this post (Alien probe (no, not that kind)) from when Probe was reissued a bit over five years back.

Am I savoring the moment? Absolutely! But that's insufficient, methinks. I shall savor the day :-)

Monday, June 20, 2016

Of matters strange and (some of them, anyway) wondrous

It's the things you don't anticipate that get you -- as the folks at the LHC learned yet again. See "Weasel Apparently Shuts Down World's Most Powerful Particle Collider." You can consider this an instance of not being dis-CERN-ing. (The weasel couldn't have been too happy about it either.)

Optical meta-material
It's long been a basic tenet of optics that the resolution limit of a lens or mirror stems from its size relative to the wavelength of incident light. Well, that tenet arose in an era before meta-materials. See "Meta-lens works in the visible spectrum, sees smaller than a wavelength of light." Among other implications, the lenses in future smart phones won't need to be as bulky as today. And, those new lenses may be flat. All in all, cool stuff.

But wait! There's more!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A dark turn to events = a turn to Dark events

Several weeks back, I was pleased to announce (Dark Secret ... now less of a dark secret) June 29 as the publication date for my next novel. For unimportant reasons, the pub date for Dark Secret has slipped to the right. Best guess, late summer rather than early.

Dark Secret -- the retro look
Until the publishing process offers up a cover, I've turned to Pulp-O-Mizer and had a bit of fun creating my own concept :-)

More news as it happens.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A change of pace

Frequent visitors will have noticed that science/tech posts here tend toward physics, astronomy, space exploration, and network (in)security. Those are certainly among my interests -- but they're not my only interests. Not by a long shot. Today, I'll get into a few of the exceptions ...

Let's start with self-driving cars (not to deny that before this tech is widely deployed, computer security must be a huge consideration). As the WaPo would have it, "The future of driverless cars isn’t going to look like you think." The analytical factor they've added is market segmentation, and with it how varying consumer classes and preferences will impact the roll-out (heh) of such vehicles. However imprecise and immature, economics is a science ....

Speaking of consumer items, WaPo went to the Consumer Electronics Show 2016 and considered, "Are we in an innovation lull?" Their take:

In some ways, the answer is yes. For years, smartphones, televisions, tablets, laptops and desktops have made up a huge part of the market and driven innovation. But now these segments are looking at slower growth curves -- or shrinking markets in some cases -- as consumers aren't as eager to spend money on new gadgets.

Meanwhile, emerging technologies -- the drones, 3D printers and smart-home devices of the world -- now seem a bit too old to be called "the next big thing."

Basically the tech industry seems to be in an awkward period now.

But if this finding disappointed you, don't exclusively blame the tech companies. The case can be made that consumers are experiencing something of an enthusiasm gap re new toys.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

As for the silence

I typically post on Monday or, most often, Tuesday. Many of you long ago spotted the pattern (the weekly visit spikes within Blogger stats are pronounced). Well, it's now Thursday evening, and this week -- till this moment -- I have yet to post. This quick note is for any of you wondering why.

Fish gotta swim / authors gotta write
There was Memorial Day weekend. And Life has intruded, from a leaky sprinkler system to a balky doorknob to, well, matters perhaps (if you can imagine it) less interesting. Uninteresting and deferrable are, most definitely, different concepts. And then there was the novelette that insisted upon my attention -- to all hours.

Happily, some of Life's administrivia has begun (by paying attention thereto) to sort itself out. And -- of far more relevance to visitors here -- as of earlier this evening, I finished a first draft of that novelette. In a word: Yay! In a few: there's a fighting chance I'll sleep better tonight.

Next week, I hope to do better blog-wise :-)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Genre-ally speaking


For years, one of my favorite genre news-and-reviews sites has been SF Signal. The latest news posted there is quite sad: they are ceasing operations (All Good Things…). To operate and sustain even a small blog -- and theirs is no small blog! -- is a commitment, so I understand their decision. I wish the principals, Messrs. DeNardo and Franz, well in their future endeavors. Gentlemen: you did our community a great service over the years.

So long, and thanks for all the fish ...

But as an old adage goes, when a door closes, a window opens. Must be an air-pressure thing ;-)

ANYway, on the upbeat side, it's great to see progress by the Museum of Science Fiction on their Escape Velocity project. (From the MOSF website: "Escape Velocity is a micro futuristic world’s fair to promote STEAM education within the context of science fiction using the fun of comic cons and fascination of science and engineering festivals. Escape Velocity seeks to make a measurable positive impact to boost informal learning on the more conceptually challenging academic areas.") Escape Velocity will be held July 1-3 at the Gaylord Resort in National Harbor (Maryland, just outside DC.) For the latest on the museum in general, and on Escape Velocity in particular, see MOSF's latest newsletter.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Committing SF with my peeps

I'm pleased to announce that I'll be participating in the upcoming anthology, Science Fiction By Scientists. The editor is astronomer, SF author, Launchpad impresario, and my good friend Mike Brotherton.

My contribution is the AI story "Turing de Force," which draws upon my background in computer science. Each story in the antho, mine included, comes with a related essay about the science behind the fiction.

Until Mike can preview a cover, here (courtesy of Pulp-O-Mizer) is my concept:


So far, the book has no firm publication date -- but sometime before year's end seems likely. Updates as I know more ...

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Looking WAY up

The most recent post here (Looking up) reviewed some astronomy news within the Solar System. I deferred until this post a look at astronomy news from farther -- often much farther -- afield.

When the Large Hadron Collider was first about to be turned on, some people fretted (needlessly, as I pointed out in "LHC and FUD") that its operation might produce black holes, or stranglets, or whatever, to devour the Earth. The gist of my counterargument (and that of others) was that there exist cosmic rays with higher energy than anything the LHC can produce. (The LHC collides particles with combined energies of a paltry few trillion electron volts, tera-eV. Cosmic rays sometimes have energies up to a quadrillion electron volts, peta-eV.) If billions of years of cosmic rays smacking into Earth's atmosphere hasn't done in the planet, nothing the LHC can do is going to hurt us.

Cosmic rays and cascading showers
While it's long been known that very-high-energy cosmic rays exist, what scientists haven't known is: how? What could accelerate a particle to such enormous energies? But we're now a little closer to understanding ...

From the recent determination of the source of these ultra-high-powered charged particles -- the galactic core -- it seems likely that the super-massive black hole in that vicinity is involved. Without yet knowing the exact mechanism of cosmic-ray acceleration, it makes intuitive sense that something as powerful as a super-massive black hole is involved. See "Astronomers find source of most powerful cosmic rays."

Meanwhile, at the galactic outskirts ...