Monday, April 15, 2019

Not a jug of wine and loaf of bread, to be sure, but still ...

Perhaps you've encountered my 2007 short story "A Stranger in Paradise," whether in its original (in the late, lamented Jim Baen's Universe) appearance, or reprinted in the Best of Jim Baen's Universe #2 anthology. Or maybe you've read that story's 2017, generations-after sequel, "Paradise Regained," winner of an annual Analog Readers Poll award

Art for "Paradise Regained" (by Eldar Zakirov)
If those two -- surely among my favorite short stories -- are not (with apologies to Omar Khayyam) "paradise enow," then I ask you to consider this late-breaking news:

Monday, April 8, 2019

Un-wordy (with, IMO, good cause)

Today finds me:
  • waiting for decisions on three story submissions.
  • on the lookout for paperwork on a story resale. 
  • expecting page proofs on the next (May) installment of an ongoing serial.
  • anticipating copy edits for the story collection in the publication process.
  • hoping to see draft cover art for the novel in the publication process.
Oh, and starting tomorrow, I'll have painters onsite for a few days.

I'm thinking it'll be a while till I start a new project. And that a bit of downtime is okay.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Starry-eyed

You guessed it: a post replete with astronomy news. (Wherein "news" is a relative term. My file of fascinating articles seems to expand faster than I can comment, and some of today's items first came to my attention toward the end of last year. Bear with me. These are all worth a read.)

Today's emphasis: how much remains to be understood about matters astronomical. And how much we continue to discover!

By Jove, that's hot!
Case in point: details of how how solar systems -- star(s), planets, and lesser bodies -- form. For example, it always seemed impossible that gas giants (i.e., planets like Jupiter) could originate close to a star -- but jovians *are* seen with close-in orbits. The inference drawn has been that such "hot Jupiters" formed farther out, and that the dynamics of interplanetary gravitational interactions on occasion caused planets to spiral inward. For all we know, that is sometimes the case -- but apparently not always. See "Giant planets around young star raise questions about how planets form."

And recent estimates of the number of potentially habitable exoplanets may be due for a downward revision. Determinations of which exoplanets orbit within habitable zones (basically, the range around their respective stars in which water will remain liquid) depend on estimates of the absolute brightness (energy output) of the parent stars. There are several ways to mis-estimate a star's absolute brightness, and if you get it wrong, your estimate of the habitable zone will be off. Planets you thought orbited in the Goldlilocks zone might instead be too hot or too cold. See "Number of Habitable Exoplanets Found by NASA's Kepler May Not Be So High After All."

Monday, March 25, 2019

Cyber pain

Not -- although the timing might have had you jump from my subject line to a mis-impression -- a comment on Russian Internet trolls, the 2016 election, ballot-infrastructure hacking, and/or the Mueller report. (I don't discuss anything remotely akin to  politics in this venue.) Different cyber pain ....


Not, IMO, a currency
Are you still mystically drawn to the faddish non-money "asset" that is cryptocurrency? Perhaps this will give you pause: "Crypto Mystery: Quadriga's Wallets Are Empty, Putting Fate Of $137 Million In Doubt." (Who's Quadriga? you ask. Until recently, Canada's largest cryptocurrency exchange. Not that I live in Canada, but if I did I'd rather trust my assets to the currency issued by the Canadian finance ministry.) A key article snippet:
The money was there — it was just locked away. At least that's what the QuadrigaCX cryptocurrency exchange had been saying, before an auditor revealed it had finally accessed digital wallets set up by Quadriga's late CEO Gerald Cotten — and that instead of holding $137 million, the wallets were empty, drained in 2018.

Six "cold wallets" Quadriga used to securely store cryptocurrency offline were expected to hold millions. But they were emptied out in April, months before Cotten's death was reported, "bringing the balances down to nil," audit firm Ernst & Young says.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Mega-peeve

I freely concede: my hearing isn't what it once was. That doesn't, IMO, explain what I'm about to gripe about. To wit:

At least the PICTURE improved
Dialogue on TV and in movies has become challenging to follow. With streaming, it's easy to watch (or re-watch) shows and movies even decades old -- and those, as well as shows and movies just a few years old, I hear without difficulty. (In all cases, I'm listening through a modern audio system, with 5.1 Dolby surround sound. Stereo soundtracks, of course, don't make full use of those 5.1 channels.)

Why has dialogue become difficult to parse in so many recent productions? Is it:
  • sound mixing that prioritizes special effects over dialogue clarity? 
  • directors who can't be bothered to require a clear speech channel?
  • some inherent flaw in the Dolby 5.1 technology (one that doesn't impact old-style, stereo soundtracks)?
  • actors who can't be bothered to enunciate?
  • directors who can't be bothered to require their actors to enunciate?
  • the trend to make all dialogue super-snappy fast (a cynic would say, to squeeze in more commercials)?
  • many -- or all -- of the above?

Assuredly, some of the above are at issue, because -- I repeat -- I can watch older shows and movies with none of the difficulty of the newest ones, using the same AV setup in all cases.

The next time I feel the urge to rant: TV and movie plots dependent on the audience reading in about a nanosecond (often tiny) text messages and caller IDs flashed across a character's phone.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Which do you want first?

By tradition, given their choice, people ask for the good news first. So here 'tis, smallest to largest:
  • "A Time for Heroes," a favorite short story from several years back, has been picked up by StarShipSofa for podcasting. Availability is TBA -- though I imagine you have an idea where the eventual release will be announced. Yay!
  • I've finished my first draft of "The Satellites of Damocles," a longish novelette. From here, the story goes to a beta reader, and tweaking, then onto the shelf till my head clears for final polishing and submission. So, while not yet ready for prime time: a completed draft, as any author will tell you, is A Certified Good Thing (TM).
  • Finally, a major project I don't feel at liberty to identify further (much less to discuss -- these things don't always pan out) is gaining traction.
And (you've been expecting it) the bad news? These few sentences are all you're getting from me for a bit. For several days, anyway.

There's beaucoup catch-up to be done ....

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

So much physics news. So little time.

If you're new to SF and Nonsense, know that before I became a full-time author my background was in physics and engineering. Physics and physics-enabled tech remain compelling interests, and I continue to follow news of the field(s) -- where news can mean "reported in the past few weeks or months," versus "breaking story this past 24-hour media cycle." News such as: 

Recent years have bombarded us with gloomy predictions of the imminent demise of Moore's Law.(*) True, the shrinkage of transistors has slowed down, because chip makers' focus lately has tended more toward any means of reducing chips' power consumption -- i.e., coping with the aggregated waste heat from literally billions of transistors shoehorned onto a chip -- but transistor densities do continue to rise.

(*) That "law," if it's unfamiliar, basically forecasts a steady rate of shrinkage of transistor dimensions -- thereby increasing the number of transistors on a single chip -- with attendant increases in transistor speed and improved power thriftiness. When Gordon Moore first made his prediction, chips held, at most, a few dozen transistors each with multi-micrometer features. Many chips today hold billions of transistors, with features measuring but 14 nanometers.

Increasingly, a third dimension plays an interesting role in chip design. Several manufacturers have taken to stacking transistor layers to increase overall density. Now, in a new twist, and for reasons unrelated to transistor density, others may go toward all but eliminating circuit depth. As in, getting to a news item: "2D diamonds set to drive radical changes in electronics."

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Now it can be told ...

Have you been following my "company man" stories? Perhaps so -- but only if you subscribe to The Grantville Gazette, in whose "Universe Annex" (which is to say, the zine's non-alternate-history) department these stories have been appearing. Today marks the official release of "The Company Bane (Part I)." Bane, in two parts (with the second half slotted for the May issue), concludes the long-running story arc.

But Bane Part I isn't my only appearance in the March 2019 issue. The editor's remarks offer the first mention of news I've been waiting to share. To wit: later this year, Ring of Fire Press will publish my novelization of the entire story line. I'm psyched!

What, you may wonder, is The Company Man about? It's a hard SF, neo-noir detective tale set in -- and across -- the colonized Solar System of a not-distant future. Think Dashiell Hammett meets Andy Weir.

You'll of course find more news and description on this blog as soon as a specific release date for The Company Man is announced, and more as release approaches.

A favorite bit of zine art from mid-series