Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Because two Eds *are* better than one

Perhaps it's impossible to be serious when Sirius rises with the sun (see: Dog Days). And though my currently running serial in Analog is Energized, the current heat wave has rendered me enervated.

(But even when I am serious, I stay current with the goings-on aboard the space station RU Sirius. If you haven't discovered Brewster Rockit, you should.) 

But two Eds, you say ...

Monday, July 18, 2011

National navel-gazing

As Atlantis prepares to return to Earth, ending the era of the space shuttle, we have the discouraging news that Congress may cancel the James Webb Space Telescope, NASA's long-planned successor to the Hubble.

The Hubble Space Telescope is, simply put, one of the greatest observatories ever built. The discoveries it made possible are simply astonishing. The ability to service and upgrade the HST on-orbit -- done five times! -- has been one of the few unambiguously good reasons to have space shuttles. Without the shuttle, the Hubble will die, and we'll have no way to repair it the next time.

Why cancel the JWST? Money, of course. It is over budget, by a not-insignificant $1.5B. But this telescope is exceedingly advanced tech. What high-tech project hasn't overrun its budget a bit?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Gw'oth revealed! (And other fun stuff)

Several Known Space alien species have been imagined by artists, both pro and fan. But not yet every species, and I've been eager for someone to visually capture the essence of the scary-smart, aquatic Gw'oth. I think that's natural, given that the Gw'oth are prominent among my contributions to Known Space. (If this paragraph isn't obscure enough, I'll be forthright: its neat images aside, this post is aimed largely at Known Space aficionados.)

What are the Gw'oth? These aliens [singular: Gw'o] were introduced in the novel Fleet of Worlds; they went on to figure prominently across the Fleet of Worlds series. Most important among the Gw'oth are the very few individuals who together can form -- what I can't characterize further without spoilers -- into a special group called a Gw'otesht.

What do they look like? I'm happy you asked. Here's a descriptive passage from Destroyer of Worlds:
     A Gw'o had five limbs arrayed about a central disc, sort of like a starfish. Spines covered the skin, again like a starfish. There the resemblance ended. A Gw'o's skin changed colors like a squid or octopus. Its appendages were flexible, like those of an octopus, and hollow like tubeworms. Tier after tier of sharp teeth ringed the inner surface of each tube. Eyes and other as-yet unidentified sensors peeked out from behind the teeth. Almost certainly Gw'oth had evolved from some type of symbiotic carnivorous worm colony. Yes, Gw'oth had become familiar, singly and in groups. Except--
      Fascinated and repulsed, Sigmund examined a pile of writhing Gw'oth. The archival image was flat -- in the era of Explorer’s visits, the Gw'oth had yet to develop holography -- and for that Sigmund was grateful. Those piled, pulsing tubes, ends swallowing one another, the throbbing flesh, the occasional limb disconnecting and groping free of the twisting mass (to breathe?) came just a little too close to ... what? A spill of loose intestines? A nest of snakes having an orgy?
 I took a bit of a vacation last week, during which I dropped by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. And what did I discover at the MFA but -- most extraordinary! -- the Dale Chihuly exhibition of blown-glass sculptures. Through the Looking Glass, the exhibition is called -- but Alice was not the fictional character who came to my mind. 

So: you see me here with a Gw'otesht on a lunch break.

The Gw'oth are predators. Happily they settled for those purple worms instead of my arm :-)

Monday, July 4, 2011

All roads lead to nonsense

SF and Nonsense, that is. And, of course, some roads are more heavily traveled than others ...

In an April post, I looked at which posts and topics on this blog attract the largest audience. Funny thing: that self-referential post quickly became one of the most frequently viewed items here. Today I'll analyze SF and Nonsense another way: where viewers come from. (Not individually. I don't know that, nor would I want to. But I'm delighted when visitors comment here or email me.)

Since Blogspot began sharing statistics with their bloggers, they've accumulated a year's worth of information. First up, mining that trove of data: popular referring URLs.

Dramatic drum roll ...