Tuesday, September 27, 2016

My 2016 Capclave schedule


The fine folks of WSFA (trying saying that quickly five times) have published the programming schedule for this year's Capclave: "Where reading is not extinct." The 2016 version of this annual DC-area regional con runs from mid-afternoon Friday October 7 into Sunday afternoon October 9.

Capclave mascot
I'll be attending only Saturday, October 8th -- but pretty much all that day. Here's my (hectic!) schedule for Saturday:

11:00 - 11:55 am: Alternate & Secret History 
-- Salon A
Panelists: Neil Clarke, Walter H. Hunt, Edward M. Lerner, James Morrow, Tim Powers.

Although alternate and secret history seem related, they are quite different. What are the differences? How do you tell them apart? What factors must you keep in mind when writing in either area? 

12:30 - 12:55 pm: Reading -- from my hot-off-the-presses (published last month) novel, Dark Secret.
-- Seneca Room

1:00 pm: Author table (For autographs, or just to chat)
-- Hallway
(Sorry, that's as specific a location as we're given -- but I know the venue, and finding me won't be too taxing ;-)  )

2:00 - 2:55 pm: Writing Gadgets Well
-- Rockville/Potomac Room(s)
Panelists: Barbara Krasnoff, Edward M. Lerner, Lawrence M. Schoen, Darcy Wold

How do you work technology into your story without boring the reader? You want to make your "inventions" believable, but how much is too much?

Saturday 5:00 - 5:55 pm: Ask the Authors
-- Salon A
Panelists: Sarah Beth Durst, Edward M. Lerner, Sarah Pinsker, Tim Powers, Bud Sparhawk

Panelists answer whatever questions the audience has on writing, editing, character development, agents, and others. Includes non-writer-parts-of-being-a-writer, such as being your own boss, setting schedules, and many more. 

Mass autographing session 7:30 - 8:25 p.m. 
-- Salon A

And those scattered times during which I've not been scheduled? I'll still be around!

You'll find much more about the con, including bios of all the panelists, on the main Capclave website

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Star- (and Moon-) Struck

Today, a few astronomy topics of note ...

To begin, it's been discovered that the Sun has a slew of unobtrusive, heretofore unsuspected neighbors: "Astronomers Find 165 Brown Dwarfs in Solar Neighborhood." How near? All within 160 light-years.

(For those not familiar with the term, a brown dwarf is a not-quite star. It's a gas ball far larger even than Jupiter, and yet not quite massive enough to fuse ordinary hydrogen into helium. Some brown dwarfs, it is believed, are sufficiently massive to trigger fusion using deuterium -- of which there isn't much, so any such fusion soon dies out. Brown dwarfs can be hot, even sans fusion, from the gravitational collapse of so much mass.)

Boom!
Remote on the size spectrum from brown dwarfs are stars so massive -- ten times or more the Sun's mass -- that as one (at life's end) runs out of fusion fuel its collapse ends in a supernova. Talk about going out with a bang ;-)

As one more bit of evidence as to the prevalence of supernova events, consider the traces they've left behind in Earth's biological record: "Ancient bacteria store signs of supernova smattering." Some key snippets from that article:

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Things aren't always what they seem

I know, I know ... things usually are what they seem, else the universe would be in chaos. "Things are often what they seem" is among the eponymous rules of my 2003 short story, "By the Rules." But accepting first reports of, well, anything at face value is risky. A few cases in point ...

Suppose the Zika virus endangered "only" pregnant women and the unborn, as we were, for a long while, assured. That would be horrible enough. The situation may be worse than that. Per a more recent study, "Zika infection may affect adult brain cells, suggesting risk may not be limited to pregnant women."

Does it (can it) work?
Perhaps because it feels good to see stuffy adherents of dusty facts and institutions proven wrong, there's a cottage industry of uncritical reporting as to the supposed reactionless (read: contrary to long-established laws of physics) "em drive." Among recent plaudits doled out to the em drive is that an article on the subject -- as yet, unseen -- has been accepted by a peer-reviewed journal. Sorry, that's not enough to write off Newton's laws of motion. See "NASA's Impossible Space Engine, The EMdrive, Passes Peer Review (But That Doesn't Mean It Works)."

Friday, September 9, 2016

Dark Secret ... disclosed :-)

I'm delighted to announce the publication of Dark Secret. This is my latest novel (number fourteen, if anyone is counting)and an epic adventure with the very survival of humanity at stake.
When the experimental ship Clermont is urgently recalled from a long-range test flight, neither Dana McElwain nor Blake Westford, its captain and crew, imagines that they are about to embark on a much more urgent voyageor that this new mission will determine the fate of the human race.

A gamma-ray burst
the deadly beam of radiation spawned seven thousand years earlier in the death throes of doomed neutron starsis about to wipe the Solar System clean of all life. Only the Clermont’s prototype long-range drive might carry anyone, and any of humanity’s legacy, to safety before that extinction.

And then what? Where beyond the Solar System
is safe? What if the price of survival is to become less ... human?
Certainly I'm pleased with the early feedback:

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The final frontier

Stamp out mediocrity ;-)
2016 being the 50th anniversary year for Star Trek, you can guess what inspired today's subject line. But this post is about the actual frontier, about astronomy news, not fiction.

Based upon data collected by the Dawn space probe, NASA scientists have a new understanding of the dwarf planet, aka the largest asteroid, Ceres: "Ceres interior structure gives hints of early life." (That's "life" as in active geological processes, not as in protoplasm wiggling about.) Ceres is a slushy world, not rocky like Vesta, Dawn's previous observational target. Which makes all the more intriguing that "NASA just found an ice volcano on Ceres that's half the size of Everest."

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Con-fusion / Writing updates

Last updated September 12, 2016

A few days ago, after taking a circuitous but scenic route, I finally made it home from MidAmeriCon II (aka Worldcon 2016) in Kansas City, Missouri. I had a great time there visiting with friends old and new. I took part in four panels and attended others, gave a reading, and held an autograph session. I had wonderful conversations around the convention center, and in the dealers room, the green room, the SFWA suite, the hotel lobby, and at many a meal.

Getting goonie at the con
I'm exhausted.

Happily, today I have an easy topic about which to post: writing news.

The short story "Paradise Regained," whose sale to Analog I had previously announced, is now tentatively scheduled for the January/February 2017 issue.

Analog has since accepted, but not yet scheduled, another story, the flash-fiction piece "The Pilgrimage." (For you Analog aficionados, that'll likely be a Probability Zero feature.)

And currently running in Analog, in the September and October issues, is the two-part "Science Behind the Fiction" article about AI, "A Mind of Its Own."

As for life beyond Analog ...

Monday, August 22, 2016

Eight years! Yowza!

The first post here at SF and Nonsense appeared on August 25, 2008. That's basically eight years -- and almost five hundred posts -- ago. That first post was "So why am I here?" Looking back -- and somewhat to my surprise -- I've pretty much stuck with my topic.

Today, rather than post anything new, I invite you to explore some of (the quite a lot of) what's already here.
  • Check out the most popular posts (scroll way to the bottom for those).
  • Find a topic of interest within the tag cloud (right-hand side near the bottom), and zoom in on related posts. 
  • See what I've had to say about my books (find them in the tag cloud, or click on any of the right-hand thumbnails).
  • Look in the archives (right-hand column past the book thumbnails).
If you find something that (for good or ill) speaks to you? Comment away ;-)

In any event, have fun! I know I did.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A physics extravaganza

For today's post: exciting goings-on from the wide world of physics. We'll begin with "Latest search for dark matter draws a blank."

If only the hunt were this simple
Dark matter, you'll recall, is hypothesized stuff that (a) exhibits its presence through its gravitational effects on familiar/normal matter, for example on the rotational characteristics of galaxies and (b) doesn't interact with electromagnetic radiation, of which ordinary light is an example (hence the "dark" part of the name). Dark matter is most often expected to take the form of (many) tiny particles of a type(s) yet to be observed.

Alas, after several searches, no such particle(s) has been discovered. The experiments -- including the latest, per the above link -- do not disprove that such particles exist, but they do narrow down the mass range such particles might inhabit. Likewise interesting on this topic, "Why dark matter still proves difficult to detect."

Speaking of particles not found, a much ballyhooed "bump" in the data at the Large Hadron Collider -- possible harbinger of some "new" physics beyond the Standard Model -- has been discounted as mere statistical fluke. See "New particle hopes fade as LHC data 'bump' disappears." It pays to be cautious about exciting or provocative results. (A study reporting "We didn't find anything new," on the other hand, is apt to be true.)

Likewise not found: another dark-matter particle candidate, so-called sterile neutrinos that interact only with gravity. See "Search for fourth type of neutrino turns up none." The Standard Model continues to hang in there ...