Tuesday, August 25, 2009

One year (and counting)

One year ago today I made my first blog post. And while the traditional U.S. first-year anniversary theme is paper -- hardly apt for a blog! -- the modern theme is clocks. So let's look at what's happened over time.

In the blog's first year, I've posted 87 times. Which topics most interested you, the readers? That, it turns out, is hard to determine.

  • The free version of Sitemeter -- fairly enough -- offers only limited statistics. And Sitemeter doesn't count all traffic: it misses, for examples, views of cached web pages and via many blog readers.
  • Sitemeter misses, in particular, views of syndicated blog copies. For about two months this blog was featured at Analog and Asimov's web sites. The blog remains syndicated on an ongoing basis through Amazon.com.
  • When readers arrive at the blog's front page, does that indicate interest in the most recent story or a routine drop-in?
  • How does one compare topics that generate lots of reader comments with topics that get a lot of views?
  • How does one contrast onetime topics with ongoing themes?

There are other complications, but you get the idea: The list of popular topics I'm about to give has an element of subjectivity to it. I am unrepentant :-)

Herewith my best guess of your interests. (Don't read relative rankings in the order of the list. The method is too imprecise for that.)

  • tropes in SF (a series)
  • alien aliens (a series)
  • science/technology news & opinion
  • my own writing
  • the state of the genre

That'll be input to -- but not controlling of -- future posts.

Thank you all for clicking in, commenting, cross-linking, and emailing. I appreciate your interest over the past year and look forward to continuing the dialogue.

An anniversary toast: to more SF and Nonsense.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Just the facts, ma'am

For anyone old enough to recognize the subject line: it's part of the Webb of truth. (I'll pause for you to groan.)

ANYway, I refer to the November 2009 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact, which has already found its way to my mailbox. I've not yet ready any of the stories, but I did read all the nonfiction -- and what I read was thought-provoking.

One of my lengthier -- and most commented upon -- post series deals with tropes in SF ("Trope-ing the light fantastic"). In brief, a trope in SF is a science-centric author/reader agreement to willingly suspend disbelief. As in: what if faster-than-light travel were possible?

Some folks find such tropes unacceptable in *science* fiction. For them, there's a movement called "mundane SF." No FTL (for the lack of a basis in current science). Perhaps no interstellar travel of any kind (too hard). No time travel. Etc. Mundane SF stories tend to be Earth-centric and near-future.

In "Aiming High -- Or Low?", the editorial in the November issue, editor Stan Schmidt takes exception to the premise that what exceeds present-day science is beyond science (and beyond legitimate SF). Stan's challenge, in my brief paraphrase, is: we don't know what we don't know. A hundred years ago we didn't know -- to name only a few items -- about quantum mechanics or general relativity or plate tectonics. If a story's "science" premise can't be disproven, and if the imagined new science/technology is used consistently within the story, then, Stan would have it, it is legitimate SF.

New topic.

The adjoining graph, typical of many in the global-change conversation, shows a dramatic change. Note that that is somewhat a matter of representation. By showing only changes around a recent-year mean, the changes are emphasized. And by showing only a short period of time, long-term climate trends are left out. A graph of temperatures referenced to absolute zero and covering all the years since the Little Ice Age would look much different. I say this not by way of stating a position on the extent of global change but to emphasize we're dealing with measuring small (in relative terms) changes.

Which brings me to physicist (and SF author) Jeff Kooistra's "Lessons from the Lab" (an instance of the monthly Alternate View feature). I've long been aware of the measurement problem caused by heat islands: the effect of (for example) the expansion of paved areas on temperatures measured in cities. Jeff adds the complication of perhaps improperly calibrated weather measurement stations around the country. The article cites meteorologist Anthony Watts and his "surface stations" project, which surveys measurement stations of the National Weather Service. The project reports:
  • different paints used in the instrument enclosures (paints differ in how they reflect or let through energy),
  • extraneous equipment (that generates heat!) within enclosures,
  • measurement stations sited too near external heat sources (such as parking lots and air-conditioner vents).
Climate-change science deals with prospective changes of a few degrees over centuries -- the details really matter.

Finally, we come to the main science article. "Rock! Bye-Bye, Baby" deals, as you might expect, with possible asteroid/comet strikes on Earth and what might be done to prevent them. Current thinking has it an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs. And astronomers very recently saw something smack Jupiter. It made an Earth-sized black mark.

Said Analog science article was written by Your Humble Blogger, a followup to attending last year's Asteroid Deflection Research Symposium. Writing SF is one of the cooler jobs in the world.

So there you have it ... much to think about.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Potpouri (the sequel)

I'm immersed in writing this week, so this post is going to be mostly a set of pointers -- with less commentary than usual -- to interesting stuff. (Well, I find it interesting. Your mileage may differ.)

August's Year of Science theme is Celebrate Weather and Climate. Important topics, to be sure. Much interesting stuff to be reviewed, and well-deserved credit for the increasing accuracy of weather forecasts. I'm less enamored of the superficial treatment of climate change.

Here's more news about the (in)security of RFIDs, in this case the cloning of proposed "unforgeable" UK identification cards.

Here's a recent fascinating extrasolar planet find: a world that orbits backward.

And a really humanoid robot.

Sorry to be so terse, but the muse is with me. Gotta write.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Time for another chat?

(Updated June 17, 2012) This post has become of historical interest only ... the chat log lived on someone else's website and is now overcome by events. But if chatting is your thing, check out my new discussion group at Goodreads). 

Where does the time go?

My thinking about occasional SF and Nonsense internet chats was: every couple of months. Today I noticed that the first-and-so-far-only chat was way back in ... January. Yikes!

That inaugural chat was a lot of fun. (Curious? Check the chat log here.) So: I thought I'd test the waters (see virtual toe dip) for doing another. Hence, the poll on the righthand side of this page, immediately below my profile. As before, the chat would be on a Saturday late afternoon (as such things are judged in Eastern time).

You want to know more? IIRC the last chat touched on many of the topics you read (and comment) about here: aliens, SF tropes, TV and movie SF. Those are all fair game if we do this again. But the calendar suggests my own writing as a topic (internet chat hasn't been foremost in my mind for a reason):

Last June: Juggler of Worlds (a collaboration with Larry Niven) was reissued in paperback.

September 1: Fools' Experiments will be reissued in paperback.

October 13: Small Miracles will be released.

November 10: Destroyer of Worlds (a collaboration with Larry Niven) will be released.

The poll runs through September. Vote early and often ;-)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Another short straw for short fiction

In recent years a fair chunk of my short SF has appeared in Jim Baen's Universe. JBU has been an excellent, thoroughly professional venue -- and now, alas, it's closing. JBU will be missed, as the market for short SF keeps shrinking ...

But it's not about me. My sympathies go out to the editors and staff at JBU. They produced a first-rate product and treated their authors with courtesy and respect. They deserved a happier outcome. Sorry, my friends.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Pardon our dust

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA, with one "f," for reasons of -- at best -- historical interest) has given a face lift to its website. It's quite nice. If you haven't been by recently, check it out.

Like all big construction projects, the update comes with ... surprises. A surprise that strikes close to home for me is some inadvertent breakage to my authorial website. That's at www.sfwa.org/members/lerner/ (but you knew that. Right? :-) ). As the URL suggests, my website is hosted and webmastered by SFWA.

SFWA's web wizards will be cleaning things up. Till then, pardon the dust.

March 11, 2103 update: I have no idea why, but this post had a spate of visitors today. Given that my website moved almost a year ago (announced March 20, 2012, as Grand opening!), here's the link to the new(ish) and improved Edward M. Lerner: Perpetrator of science fiction and techno-thrillers.