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Friday Link Salad

Links of interest to me:

1) The nearly-abandoned town of Cairo Illinois. It's gone from 15,000 people to 2,000, and is fading fast. Soon, we'll have another ghost town in Illinois.

2) A very nice article by Raechel Acks on What's being done to fix the Hugo awards.

3) A fascinating story - A Hit Man Came to Kill Susan Kuhnhausen. She Survived. He Didn’t.

WTF, Trump?

Last night, for the second night in a row, the Trump campaign robocalled me. Both calls followed a very similar format. The call opened with a recording of Trump yelling one of his applause lines at a rally (audience background noise audible). Last night it was "law and order" and the night before it was "Hillary Rotten Clinton." Then, the recording switched to a man speaking with all the urgency of the guy on late-night TV selling Ginzu knives. He urged me to press one immediately to register my support and donate to help Trump.

WTF? Specifically:

1) I'm not a Republican. I've given money to Democrats, and anybody with any computer tech should have figured that out.

2) Illinois (my home state) is not in play. IIRC, last time we went for a Republican for President it was when Reagan was running.

3) Who exactly is this call supposed to persuade? I mean, couldn't Trump at least record a special message for me as opposed to recycled yelling in my ear?


MidameriCon II Thoughts

More thoughts on The Con That Was:

1) I drove to this con. It's an 8-hour drive, but driving is cheaper than flying, even when paying $24/day parking. Having said that, if I drive again, I'm definitely taking I-80 through Des Moines. Mapquest had routed me via I-72 and US-36. Those roads are fine, but desolate, with little in the way of services. That's not surprising, since I-72 in Illinois runs through Pike and Scott counties - the later being the 4th least-populated county in Illinois.

2) I was amazed at the number of Big Name Writers (Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle) who seem completely incapable of using a microphone. During a conversation with Mary Robinette Kowal, voice actor and writer, she stated that at the SFWA business meeting she took a moment of personal privilege and held a quick course on the use of a microphone.

3) Based on a glancing analysis of the Hugo Award stats (PDF), it appears that Wile E. Coyote's Vox Day's minion count is down - around 150 or so of his little buddies paid to vote. This is less than half ~400 who voted to nominate. Apparently paying $40 for two years running was a stretch.

4) The Sans won - San Juan for NASFIC and San Jose for Worldcon 2018. I'd like to go to San Juan (Tobias Buckell is Guest of Honor) but that will make 2017 a damned expensive travel year.

5) Not con-related, but a nice interview of me by Ellie Maloney. Worth a read, if I do say so myself.


1036 is the number of miles I put on my vehicle getting to and from Kansas City for Worldcon. I also did a bit of driving around town, but that amount is trivial to the total. Convention thoughts:

1) I spent an inordinate amount of time in the WSFS Business Meetings. Compared to last year's fun-fest (ha, I joke) this session was somewhat less tense and hostile. At Spokane we had a couple of Sad Puppies and several small-c conservative (i.e. "make no sudden changes"). This year with the exception of the singularly ineffective Kate Paulk they all stayed home or at least out of the business meeting. So after the usual hot-air-machines did their thing, stuff got passed quickly.

2) Speaking of the Business Meeting, my own 4 and 6 got amended to 5 and 6. I'm a bit ambivalent about that and EPH, which also passed, but the point of democracy is that you take as much of the pie as you can, which is rarely the whole thing. I do think that, after EPH does it's voodoo and Three Stage Voting gets in, we'll end up dropping EPH. It's too damn complicated and opaque.

3) I've been to KC often enough to hit some of the more well-known attractions. This didn't stop me from visiting Jack Stack's, of course. In the interest of getting away from the con for a bit, I drove to the River Market to visit the Steamship Arabia museum. Driving proved to be a bit problematic, as Sunday they have a flea market there, but the museum itself was a nice 90 minute diversion.

4) I ran into a number of friends and acquaintances, who I shall not list here. I will note I had dinner with new writer Adam Rakunas, who shares an agent with Tim Akers. Nice guy, and good dinner.

Now my dryer is buzzing, so enough with the Internet.


Dave Truesdale and Mary Robinette Kowal

Comes news at MidameriCon II they revoked the membership of Dave Truesdale over conduct at a panel. Specifically, he read a prepared speech that had nothing to do with the panel and unnecessarily pissed off a bunch of people. Also comes news today that the con issued a one-day suspension of Mary Robinette Kowal's badge for serving alcohol at a panel in the convention space. I didn't see either event, and I know Mary personally (and have not talked to her about this) but I have thoughts.

Thought #1 - Once Bitten Twice Shy

So, a few months back, Mark Oshiro broke the Internet over KC fandom's head regarding (in part) what happened at a panel. So, once bitten and thus twice shy, one would reasonably expect this con to have a lower tolerance for shenanigans. I'm told Truesdale has enough of an Internet presence to know this. So, in his case, it's rather like somebody making an elaborate sign saying "kick me" and taping it on their back, then getting upset at being kicked.

Thought #2 - New Sheriff in Town

Again as a reaction to past shenanigans, MidAmeriCon felt they needed to step up their enforcement game. They felt they needed a new sheriff, so they got one in the form of Mark Oshiro, deputy on the Incident Response Team. The whole point of getting a new sheriff is that all the stuff the old sheriff overlooked doesn't get overlooked any more. That cuts both ways.

Thought #3 - Response

As usual, Mary's response is thoughtful, classy and appropriate. She broke a rule she didn't know existed, apologized, took her punishment, and moved on. Frankly, were I in her shoes, I would not have been as gracious. I haven't seen a response from Truesdale, but I would be surprised if it were within a country mile of Mary's.


Reviews and Cons

I will be driving to KCMO (Kansas City, Missouri) tomorrow to attend MidAmericon 2, the 74th World Science Fiction Convention. Postings will be light and variable. Or maybe heavy, you never know.

In the meantime, my first novel The Mars Run got a very nice, detailed and well-thought-out review. In that review, Ellie Maloney notes However, it seemed to me that Janet was not fully in touch with her emotions, as if compartmentalizing her circumstances and relating the story to the reader in a somewhat removed manner.

Some of that "compartmentalizing" is frankly unintentional. This is a first novel, and I made several first novel errors. First person POV, for one, which is a lot harder than it looks. My other error was, I think, subjecting the POV character to too much trauma. For victims of abuse, the novel can be triggering, even though this version of the book was rewritten to reduce the amount of trauma.

Despite that, I personally like The Mars Run, and I think the right reader will like it too.


DragonCon Awards, Continued

I don't have a lot to say today, so here's the portion of the DragonCon Awards finalist list that I give a damn about with my vote in italics.

1. Best Science Fiction Novel
Somewhither: A Tale of the Unwitheriing Realm by John C. Wright
Raising Caine by Charles E. Gannon
Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
Agent of the Imperium by Marc Miller
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
The Life Engineered by J-F Dubeau

2. Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)
The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher
Asteroid Made of Dragons by G. Derek Adams
Son of the Black Sword by Larry Correia
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
Changeling’s Island by Dave Freer
Grave Measures by R.R. Virdi
Blood Hound by James Osiris Baldwin

3. Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel
Updraft by Fran Wilde
Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley
Trix and the Faerie Queen by Alethea Kontis
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett
Calamity by Brandon Sanderson
Changeling’s Island by Dave Freer
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

4. Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel
Allies and Enemies: Fallen by Amy J. Murphy
Hell’s Foundations Quiver by David Weber
The Price of Valor by Django Wexler
Wrath of an Angry God: A Military Space Opera by Gibson Michaels
Blood in the Water by Taylor Anderson
Chains of Command by Marko Kloos
The End of All Things by John Scalzi (note: If Scalzi hadn't withdrawn this would be my vote)

5. Best Alternate History Novel
1635: A Parcel of Rogues by Eric Flint & Andrew Dennis
League of Dragons by Naomi Novik
Deadlands: Ghostwalkers by Jonathan Maberry
Bombs Away: The Hot War by Harry Turtledove
Germanica by Robert Conroy
1636: The Cardinal Virtues by Eric Flint & Walter H. Hunt

6. Best Apocalyptic Novel
A Time to Die by Mark Wandrey
Chasing Freedom by Marina Fontaine
The Desert and the Blade by S.M. Stirling
Ctrl Alt Revolt! by Nick Cole
Dark Age by Felix O. Hartmann
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

7. Best Horror Novel
Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay
Chapelwood by Cherie Priest
Honor at Stake by Declan Finn
An Unattractive Vampire by Jim McDoniel
Souldancer by Brian Niemeier
Alice by Christina Henry

8. Best Comic Book
Ms. Marvel
DC Universe: Rebirth
Civil War II
Astro City

9. Best Graphic Novel

Sacred Heart by Liz Suburbia
The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman
Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine
Virgil by Steve Orlando
March: Book Two by John Lewis & Andrew Aydin
Chicago by Glenn Head

10. Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series
Jessica Jones – Netflix
The Flash – CW
Daredevil – Netflix
Game of Thrones – HBO
The Expanse – Syfy
Doctor Who – BBC
Outlander – Starz

11. Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie

Crimson Peak
Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens
Captain America: Civil War
The Martian

DragonCon Awards

The various factions of Puppies told us that Worldcon and the Hugo awards were "elitist" and "not what real fans read." We were assured that all sorts of stuff that "small f fans liked" weren't on the ballot. (Note, those are not scare quotes but actual, somebody-said-that quotes.) If only DragonCon or San Diego ComicCon would do an award, well, we'd see the real truth.

So, DragonCon just started an award. Anybody could vote, so I did. After a nomination period in which everybody could nominate one work per category, now we've got a final ballot. Here's part of the list:

Best Science Fiction Novel
The Life Engineered by J-F Dubeau
Agent of the Imperium by Marc Miller
Raising Caine by Charles E. Gannon
Somewhither: A Tale of the Unwitheriing Realm by John C. Wright
Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

Two of the works (Gannon and Leckie) were on the Nebula final list. Leckie's on the Hugo list, and Kim Stanley Robinson's no stranger to either list. The list is not without Puppie-dom, however. The first two works listed are self-published, and Somewhither is Castilia House.

Skimming down the rest of the list, the fiction categories seem to be reasonably well-salted with the same sort of stuff that we see in Hugo and Nebula voting. Now, since we can only vote for one per category, we'll see what gets the final nod. So far, color me unimpressed.

Volunteers Appreciated

Last night, the Rotary Club of Darien held a Volunteer Appreciation Night at Miskatonic Brewing in Darien IL. The Darien club's signature project is "Food for Kids" which is a program to provide supplemental nutrition to 195 grade school children in Darien and Burr Ridge.

In this program, the club buys kid-friendly food (such as individual cereal boxes) in bulk. The club, working with area volunteers, break down the bulk items into one child, one weekend packets, which are discreetly distributed to needy children by the school. The Darien club wanted to recognize volunteers who went above and beyond to assist.

The following volunteers were recognized:

(Not able to attend) Nick Schanker

(L to R) Maryann Kerrins, Tom Kerrins, Rotary club coordinator Joan Wayman

(L to R) Megan Dooley, Beth Dooley, Joan Wayman

The club also announced that Megan Dooley, an incoming freshman at Hinsdale South HS, will be attending Rotary Youth Leadership Activity.


$3500 for a shirt?

Found via the great system of "dinking around on the Internet" comes this article $3500 shirt. The gist of the article is that, prior to the invention of mechanical looms, cloth was frighteningly expensive. Spinsters (AKA, "women who spun cloth via hand looms") might work 500 hours (that's 62.5 8-hour days or 2 months) just to make the cloth for one shirt! As a result, clothing was expensive, people didn't have a lot of it (2 or 3 outfits) and it was worn until it disintegrated.

The Goode Olde Dayes were not so good after all.

The Day Got Away From Me

The day got away from me, largely due to a series of meetings. A good chunk of what time I did have got lost in phone-mail hell dealing with AT & T. My home phone has not worked since Thursday, and I finally got hold of a human today. She told me that a CO had flooded out, thus my lack of dial tone. I'm promised dial tone on Tuesday.

Over the weekend, I reviewed my vacation plans, and decided on the Redneck Riviera, namely Gulf Shores Plantation in lovely Gulf Shores Alabama. I'm going in early December, which should be warm but not hot, and flying in via Pensacola. There's historical stuff to see in both Pensacola and Mobile, so I should be okay for things to do.

Tomorrow, my Rotary club is having an evening meeting at Miskatonic Brewing, starting at 6:30 PM. Anybody who can read this is welcome to attend.

Vacation Questions

I told my staff to look at their vacation schedule for the rest of this year. Since we are in fact open both the day after Thanksgiving and the week between Christmas and New Years, I do in fact need people to be here to provide IT support. So, since I try to do what my staff does, I went to look at my vacation schedule.

Christmas and New Year's Day are both on Sundays, which means the holiday is observed on the following Monday. I actually don't mind working the week between the two holidays - it's usually quiet, and this year will be a 4-day week anyway. Windycon is on Veteran's Day, so even if I take a recovery day after I still end up with six vacation days to burn.

Earlier this year, when I had a desperate need to take some time off, I used my parent's Travel Advantage Network and booked a vacation condo for a week at Hilton Head. I note that, right now, several properties in Florida and Alabama are available. My question is, do I want to take another week of lazing around in a condo (in warm weather) or do something else?

Budget remains an issue - 2017 will soon be upon us, and that means (for me) a flight to Finland and back. That will also probably be a two-week trip, albeit in somewhat cheaper parts of Europe, and thanks to Brexit the Euro is weakening relative to the dollar.

Decisions, decisions.

The Trouble With Flying Cars: The Two T's

I wrote this as a follow-up to my original post where's my flying car? but the site decided they didn't want it. So, waste not, want not, you get it.

Flying Cars – The Two T’s

I recently had a chance to take a short flight over downtown Chicago in a small aircraft, an event that got me thinking some more about flying cars.

I flew on a very typical summer day in Chicago – mid 80s Fahrenheit (around 29 C), spotty fair-weather clouds at 2500 feet (760 meters) and a 10 knot (18 kph) wind. It would have been a beautiful day for a drive in a car.

The flight, at typical flying-car altitude of 1800 feet (550 meters) was bumpy. Really bumpy, as in I was twice offered an air-sickness bag, riding down washed-out dirt road at speed bumpy. This is the first “T” that challenges flying-car advocates, namely turbulence.

It’s not like turbulence is a new problem. The Lockheed Constellation, one of the first truly comfortable airliners, was designed specifically to fly at higher altitudes, avoiding the turbulence and weather of the lower atmosphere.

Although this low-altitude turbulence is worse in summertime, it can occur during any sunny day. What’s happening is that the sun is heating houses, parking lots, roads and lawns, all of which reflect heat back into the atmosphere differently. Thus the lower atmosphere is full of small columns of air rising and falling depending on what’s below them. During my flight, we were briefly over Lake Michigan, and I was told to expect more turbulence. I didn’t note any, but the bottom line is that any flying car will have a bumpy time.

My flight also exposed me to the second big issue with flying cars. The direct route from my pilot’s hanger to the downtown area is directly over Midway Airport, Chicago’s smaller (but still very busy) commercial jetliner airport. As it happened, we were allowed to fly directly over the middle of the airport, which yielded the memorable sight of 737s landing and taking off directly below us.

This was the second “T” of flying cars – traffic, as in air traffic control (ATC). Chicago, like most big cities, is full of restricted airspace, including two major airports, sports stadiums, and the President’s personal residence. If you want to fly in Chicago, you really need to talk to ATC. Unless of course you want to get ran over by a 737 or shot down by an F-16, in which case feel free to do as you please.

To a certain extent we had to cooperate with ATC for them to even see us. The plane I flew in was built in 1963, which made the mid-2000’s suite of radios stick out like a sore thumb from the old-school analog gauges. One of those radios was actually an IFF transponder - a device that, when pinged by radar, replies with information. As we approached Midway, one piece of information we were sending was the number “1200” which told ATC that we were flying under Visual Flight Rules. The first thing we were told to do was to change that to 5151 so that ATC could keep track of us.

For true flying cars, i.e. cars that anybody can use, ATC would have to develop new procedures. How would one handle a pilotless car? How would one handle traffic control for thousands of additional vehicles, pilotless or not? It’s a non-trivial problem.


Now It's Clear...

On another social media site, a friend and I were commenting on the train wreck that is the Trump campaign. My friend remarked that Trump's campaign appeared to be ran by a mutual acquaintance of ours. My friend is right, and these characteristics are seen in a certain class of people whom frequent the Internet. These characteristics are:

1) Absolute Certainty - they are right, you are wrong, and no set of facts exist that can change that. Any inconvenient facts are hoaxes, mistakes or lies.

2) Argument By Assertion - much like the ugly American who is convinced everybody can understand English if it is delivered loudly and slowly enough, these folks are convinced that if one says things enough times, the scales will fall off your eyes and you will see the truth.

3) Unwillingness to Compromise - most people understand that you can't get all that you want, as the song goes. These folks don't accept that. "We're heading for the cliff at 100 MPH! Slowing to 50 MPH won't help!" (Well, actually it will, by doubling the amount of time it takes to get to the cliff.) In any event, (see #4, below) politics is the art of compromise.

4) Inability to Count Votes - Many Republican politicians promised to repeal Obamacare, yet to overturn a Presidential veto takes 2/3 majorities in both houses. No such majority equals no repeal.

5) Lack of Good Faith - rather than assuming people who disagree with them are merely coming to a different conclusion, disagreement is taken as stupidity, lying or duplicity. This is part and parcel of point #1, above.

In any event, the above traits may allow one to "win" an Internet comment thread, for values of "win" that equal "people stomping off in disgust" but it's hard to see it winning a general election. There's also a chicken-vs-egg question as to whether 30 years of talk radio created these behaviors or merely monetized an existing tendency.

Houston, Countdown is holding at 11...

The Mars Run remains free, and is currently #11 in Hard SF and #15 in Colonization. Please share and let's see if we can get it in the top 10!



Free Stuff!

Amazon has gotten around to making The Mars Run free.



Three Link Thursday

Let's get right to it.

1) On July 28, 1932, the U.S. Army 12th Infantry regiment commanded by Douglas MacArthur and the 3rd Calvary Regiment, supported by six battle tanks commanded by Major George Patton violently evicted the Bonus Army from their Washington, D.C. encampment. The Bonus Army, composed of unemployed and desperate WWI vets, wanted payment of around $600. It's a reminder that we got the New Deal because it was that or Fascism.

2) The Russians Are Bullying Our Diplomats Too. Remember that when Trump asks his friend Putin for help.

3) Calling American breakfasts what it often is: dessert. Much of American breakfasts, from yogurt to muffins, has the same sugar content as equivalent amounts of ice cream or cake. Please note, South Beach Diet followers, that traditional bacon-and-eggs breakfasts don't have that problem.

A Bit of Snark, Publishing Edition

Over the past 24 hours, comes news that Patrick Nielsen Hayden, long-time editor at Tor Books, is now Associate Publisher. Also comes news that John Scalzi, he of the $3.4 million contract, was involved in developing yet another video game. Note that this money is in addition to his Tor contract.

Wile E. Coyote Vox Day, Supergenius At Large (tm) (just ask him, he'll tell you how smart he is) is crowing on his site about the inevitable victory. I'm reminded of how Baghdad Bob would crow about great Iraqi victories while failing to note each victory occurred closer to the capital than the last one.

Speaking of this blog's favorite Supergenius, I note that the hood was removed the mask is off regarding white supremacy. Now we're being told that white nationalism was the founding principle of the USA and all true conservatives recognize that.

Books, Two Thoughts On

Two thoughts on The Mars Run, my first novel, recently re-released.

Thought #1 - this week, the book is free. We've started with Google Play, but the free-ness should percolate out to Your Preferred Seller of Ebooks soon.

Thought #2 - I did a Goodreads giveaway earlier this month, which ended up with me mailing four (4) books to Canada at for a non-trivial sum of cash. Well, one of the winners published her review. She didn't like it at all. As Mike Resnick, said, you win some and you lose some.


Star Trek Beyond

It was too hot this weekend to do anything outside except melt, so I decided to head on down to my local drink-and-watch multiplex and take in Star Trek Beyond, the latest edition in the rebooted series. I also took in a couple of bottles of Angry Orchard hard cider, which proved refreshing in the heat.

I found the movie entertaining enough. Simon Pegg, co-writer, decided not to recycle any of the old movie villains, which gave the whole thing an original gloss. What I thought from the previews to be Earth proved to be a beyond-belief-sized space station with highly unrealistic architecture. It was cool, though.

There were a few nods to the old series, including a part where Kirk in his log says things have gotten "episodic." Since the movie starts three years into Enterprise's five-year voyage, there's plenty of room to slot in the rebooted series. I also like that, unlike the previous movie, the opening sequence has some relevance and resonance with the rest of the movie as opposed to being a tacked-on set-piece.

I don't think Beyond will win a Hugo or an Academy Award, but it's a perfectly nice summer movie.


Comment Policy

This is the personal blog of Chris Gerrib, and all opinions expressed here are solely his own. Commenters are welcome; however please be polite to me and my other readers. I reserve the right to delete comments that are rude, inappropriate or otherwise objectionable at my sole discretion. The opinions expressed in a comment are not necessarily mine, and if I do not delete a comment that should not be construed as my agreement with the commenter.

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