Ongoing Hugo Drama

April 17th, 2015  |  Published in Uncategorized

You may or may not have heard of the kerfuffle around this year’s Hugo awards. If you care, you probably already know about it, if not you probably have no interest in having me explain it. In any case, i just read a fascinating essay on the subject by Eric Flint. What’s more, he has a lot of interesting stuff to say about awards in general, and even if you aren’t a F&SF fan you should give it a read.

Stories I Probably Won’t Get Around To Writing: The Silent and The Dead

March 17th, 2014  |  Published in Uncategorized, writing

Okay, let’s say that there’s a zombie outbreak and virtually everyone gets infected (99% or more).  What would that look like? I’m going to use Olympia as an example, as that is where I live.

The average population density of Thurston County (where Olympia is located) is 347 people/square mile. This could be better (the average for the US is 88) but it could be a whole lot worse (Los Angeles County has a population density of 2,100 people/square mile). Assuming “Walking Dead” style zombies, with a small group, you should be able to clear a square mile without too much trouble over the course of a week. The problem comes in when people get guns. Something like an assault rifle might be audible as far away as five miles. With sustained shooting, it isn’t unreasonable to assume that you would draw every zombie within a three mile radius. Not so bad, right? Wrong. A three mile radius gives you an area of a little over 28 square miles, with 347 zombies per square mile, you’re talking about nearly 10,000 zombies.

Now, let’s say that you’re a survivalist shooting zombies from their roof. Even with a 100% accuracy rate, you would be talking about 10,000 rounds, and at 28 pounds/1000 rounds, you would be talking about 280 pounds of ammunition, just to give you an idea of the amount of supplies you would need. Furthermore, what would 10,000 zombies look like? Shoulder to shoulder, that many people would take up something like one and a half football fields. In any case, I think that you get the picture. Things would not be good for our lone survivalist with his buried gold, canned food, and mountain of ammunition. I wouldn’t write about him.

Instead, I would write about the sort of group that would survive the math of the situation. They would need to be competent, not necessarily at killing zombies, but in organizing themselves as a group. A disorganized or fractious group of people with weapons doesn’t have many more choices than the a single armed person (in fact they may even have fewer, as their resource footprint would increase with their size). Weapons are force multipliers for individuals. Organization, on the other hand, is a force multiplier for groups.

The group would find a defensible place with a source of fresh water (and as far from survivalist types as practicable), and they would secure that area as quietly as possible, then gradually move out, clearing the area around them.  Once they had carved out a large enough area for themselves, they would create zombie traps, basically pits with sound emitting things (perhaps a shishi odishi for zombies?) scattered around the area’s perimeter. Every day or so, someone would head out the pits, dump in some gasoline, and burn the day’s zombies.

Wouldn’t they need that gasoline for their cars? No. First of all, gasoline goes bad and eventually will not work in your engines (but will probably still be viable for burning some zombies). Second, cars are loud (see the bit about drawing zombies to you above) and require cleared roads or paths. Finally, gasoline production would cease at the zombie outbreak (or shortly thereafter), and the group would soon find itself scavenging farther and farther away just to fuel their vehicles.

So what sort of stories would take place in this setting? First of all, there wouldn’t be much soap opera (which isn’t to say that it would be entirely absent, either), as it requires a fractious group and would likely get everyone killed before long. Instead, the story would probably focus on the various struggles from within the group, such as how decisions are made, and how to deal with divisive issues (51-49 votes are terrible for morale, see congress). The group would have to decide on its relationship to other survivors. I’m sure that there would be plenty of stories to tell in this setting. The main difference is that it wouldn’t be as annoying as much of what you see being made these days, which either assumes that people are basically bad (it seems to me that our world is an example of the opposite) or that people want to watch petty squabbling, or both.

In any case, I probably won’t write this, or at least not any time soon, but wanted to share the ideas anyway. If you do want to write it, feel free.

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Weekly Reading 4.6.12

April 6th, 2012  |  Published in Reading, Uncategorized

Books and Novellas

  • Sauerkraut Station, by Ferret Steinmetz – Described as Prarie Home Companion in space, this story was a lot of fun. Plus, GigaNotoSaurus allows you to download epubs of their stories, which makes them much more readable.
  • A Web of Air, by Phillip Reeve – After enjoying Fever Crumb, I thought that I would give the sequel a try. I was disappointed. First, the audiobook had a different narrator (the author did the first one, and was fantastic). Second, the simplistic view of spirituality that it portrayed (summed up as religion always hinders progress) annoyed me. Third, the most interesting part, birds with human intelligence that had decayed since their creation (but with the possibility of redemption) weren’t very well explored. Finally, the main character shoots someone by clamping a bullet in a vice and setting it off. Since the character is trained as an engineer, she should know that the bullet would need a barrel to achieve any sort of velocity. I won’t be reading the next one.
  • A Planet of Viruses, by Carl Zimmer – An excellent introduction to the world of viruses. Informative without being dry.
  • Palimpsest, by Charles Stross – This novella makes me look at every time travel story I’ve ever read and think that the authors lacked in ambition. I cannot overstate how much I enjoyed this book.


  • Real Spending, Real Dollars – Our spending priorities are just scary.
  • The $30 Billion Social Security Hack – I imagine that we will see a lot more of this in the future.
  • The Inadmissible Assumptions – Like a tiny Jaron Lanier sitting on my shoulder.
  • Not an April Fool – You know that saying about never attributing to evil what is more easily explained by stupidity? Well the corollary is that there is no functional difference between stupidity (or ignorance or incompetence) and evil.
  • It’s the Economics, Stupid! – Interesting look an energy prices and politics, although I think that he doesn’t take into account the effect of staring at a pump for a minute or two as you pump your gas, rather than simply seeing one number one time each month when you get your natural gas bill.
  • What Book Publishers Should Learn From Harry Potter – Namely that readers want to be your advocates, and that perhaps abject fear isn’t the correct response.


Weekly Reading 3.20.12

April 3rd, 2012  |  Published in Reading, Uncategorized

This was supposed to be posted on the 20th of last month, but due to operator error, it wasn’t. Oops.


Last Week: The Statues That Walked, Ship Breaker, The Quantum Thief, The Third Reich, and One Way Forward. Of these five, my favorites were definitely The Statues That Walked, which made a rather persuasive argument that rather than polluting themselves to death/killing each other, the people of Easter Island were both peaceful and remarkably good stewards of the environment, and One Way Forward, which was one of the most hope-inducing political book that I’ve read in a long time.

This Week: Ragamuffin, Fever Crumb, and Dark Life. All of them were good, but nothing really bit me.



Weekly Reading

March 10th, 2012  |  Published in Uncategorized


This week, I finished reading Richard Matheson’s Other Kingdoms, Sherman Alexie’s Flight, Tobias Buckell’s Crystal Rain, Tamora Pierce’s Tortall and Other Lands, Jonathan Hickman’s Red Wing, and Oscar Guardiola-Rivera’s What If Latin America Ruled The World. Of these, Crystal Rain was by far my favorite, and you should read it.


Broken Shores Updates and New Fiction

February 21st, 2012  |  Published in Uncategorized

OK, I promised a new book cover design article today. That may still happen. Other stuff has happened, however. First, I’ve gone through and done some more work on the Broken Shores site, so that now the stories page is the page that loads when you first head over there. In addition, I’ve created a logo and changed the intro text to hopefully make it more interesting (if you have suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments):

The world was once a place of plenty and wonders: famine and disease were largely unheard of, cities floated through the sky, everything appeared to be perfect. But it could not last. When the magic called Ve collapsed, society collapsed along with it: millions starved and the floating cities crashed to the ground. In the wreckage the byproducts of Ve use, magical beings called Amekt, went feral. This along with the ensuing wars rendered the mainland uninhabitable.

In the last days of the old empire, as things began to fall apart, a small group split off an island-sized piece of rock and seeded it with a plant that would allow it to float. For nearly 500 years, the island of Ansau has drifted in isolation on the ocean currents. Life is more difficult than it was, but the Island’s inhabitants have learned to use the trickle of Ve and stability has been the rule. But things are about to change again.

Second, I have finally posted my attempt at a Machine of Death story, Supervillain, which was rejected. I like it though, and you might, too. Keep in mind that it is in no way official. Here’s the first bit:

Silvia resented many things. She resented the job that made her feel like the Red Queen, running ever faster only to find herself stationary. She resented that her crippling student loan debt had paid for an education but not prospects of employment. She resented the economic necessity that forced her to share her too-small apartment with a roommate. But she loathed none of those things. Loathing was reserved for Adam. Her roommate.

Even worse, he was oblivious to her feelings towards him, and continued to do aggravating things. Like talking to her.

“Look at this,“ he said, handing her a slip of paper that could have come out of a fortune cookie save for the block lettering that was the hallmark of the Machine. It said SUPERVILLAIN. “What does it mean?“ That was the other hallmark of the Machine, it was annoyingly vague.

“It means that you‘re going to be killed, somehow, by a supervillain,“ she said. “I‘m thinking comic convention.“ After all, there were no super-powered people running around.

Adam didn’t look convinced, but he didn’t say anything else, which was good enough for her. She took one look at the common area, which appeared to have a nasty infestation of a fungus composed entirely of Adam’s things, and headed for her room, which was almost it’s own apartment within an apartment. If not for the bathroom and the exit being on the other side of No-Man’s-Land, she would never have to leave.

[read the rest]

In any case, a post about cover design might still show up this afternoon, time permitting, but if I were a betting man I would place my money on Friday.

The system is down . . .

December 22nd, 2011  |  Published in Uncategorized

. . . but should be back sometime tonight. What happened is that my old hosting provider went down and I had to switch, which takes some time. I did back up a few weeks ago, and have the missing stuff in hard digital copies. Even after I restore the site, it might not be until sometime next week that I get everything else back. Thanks for your patience.

Broken Shores is in a slightly more advanced state of repair, so you can read stuff over there, although things like images aren’t up yet.


Happy NaNoWriMo!

November 1st, 2011  |  Published in Uncategorized

As you probably already know, it is November now. You may also have heard that November is National Novel Writing Month. If you are participating, good luck. As for me, I won’t be joining you. Nothing against it, it’s just not my thing. I will be doing something fun, however. This month I plan on finally finishing Caldera.

I know, I know, you’ve heard this before. I’ve been working on Caldera on and off since 2007. It was one of the first stories that I wanted to tell. I can still remember trying to fall asleep when I had the first kernel of an idea for it. I wrote a good chunk, only to realize that I was violating Rule #1 of writing: If it isn’t interesting, it had better be both important and damned short. I dropped the project (although it is still available in the archives, no promises about quality). I restarted the project after a while, keeping the first chapter and writing Those Who Stay Behind, which was an improvement. Somewhere around the same time I wrote and sold Betrayal at Waylan, which was incredibly fun. After that, I started working on Broken Shores, which is still active (indeed, I have a rough draft that needs some revision and will be published later this month).

Finally, I started working on what is hopefully the final incarnation of Caldera earlier this year. I changed a lot of things, and I think that I’m ready to just get to it and write this thing. So that is my goal for the month. I imagine that the final product will run somewhere from 15,000 to 30,000 words, but time and writing will tell. I’ll try to keep you appraised of my progress as the month wears on.

I Heart May

May 10th, 2011  |  Published in Uncategorized

This has been an extraordinarily productive month. First, I wrote a short story for ShoStoWriMo. Then, yesterday and today, I wrote a short story that I’m going to try and sell. Next week, maybe I will write the next Broken Shores story. I have pretty much finished this month’s story for Broken Shores and hope to post it later today. In any case, I should probably get some stuff done in the real world. Hope everyone else is have as good of a May as I am.

Changes are on the way . . .

January 13th, 2011  |  Published in Uncategorized

After spending some quality time with Broken Shores, I have decided that it is time for me to move this website over to wordpress.  Not just the blog, the whole thing.  It will probably take some time, but I imagine that I should get it done within the month.  What does this mean for you?  Hopefully nothing except for some improvements in aesthetics and me being able to spend more time writing.  We’ll see.