Monday, December 31, 2007

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

A science fiction story is a story built around human beings, with a human problem and a human solution, which would not have happened at all without its scientific content.

Theodore Sturgeon

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

Man is never perfect, nor contented.

Jules Verne, The Mysterious Island (1875)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

William Gibson, opening line of Neuromancer

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Human Slinky

Another odd headline from the LA Times

Today's Los Angeles Times, on page A-7 has this headline over a small article: "Christians clash with Hindus"

Then the article explains that in India, 19 churches (most small, mud-and-thatch buildings) have been burned down by Hindu extremists since Christmas Eve. Meanwhile, the same extremists also burned down the house of Radhakant Nayak, a Christian and a member of India’s upper house of parliament. Some of the Christians retaliated by setting fire to several homes belonging to Hindus. There have been long-standing tensions between the Hindu majority and the small Christian community over conversions to Christianity.

Sort of like putting “Jews Clash with Germans” over a story about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, wasn’t it?

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

Etiquette tip: It's okay, more or less, to ask an author to sign your arm, but not good manners to then nip around to the tattoo parlor next door and return half an hour later to show them the inflamed result.

Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett, Good Omens

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

Actually, however, science fiction has but one overriding aim--an aim never diverted by its occasional sociological, technological, or philosophical implications in the realm of reality--and that is to entertain.

Groff Conklin

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

It is a fool's prerogative to utter truths that no one else will speak.

Neil Gaiman, Dream Country

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

It is a wise man that does know the contented man is never poor, whilst the discontented man is never rich....

Frank Herbert

Monday, December 24, 2007

Muslims Driving Christians from Bethlehem

Media's two-faced Christmas coverage
The Muslims running the Palestinian Authority have been driving Christians out of Bethlehem since they took over in 1995, but media outlets choose to blame Israel. I wonder why?

Ah, Christmas in Bethlehem. Manger Square is ablaze with colorful lights. The weather is usually a bit chilly. Aggressive merchants bombard passersby with “special sales” on all kinds of cedar wood statues and religious carvings.

And like clockwork, the mainstream media descend upon this city every year to ignore rampant Muslim intimidation of Christians and instead blast Israel - often with completely inaccurate information - for ruining Christmas and for the drastic decline of Christianity in one of the holiest cities for that religion.

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

I'd take the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance any day.

Douglas Adams

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Interview with J.K. Rowling in Time Magzine

Through it all, Rowling didn't really fight back. Talk too much about her faith, she feared, and it would become clear who would live and who would die and who might actually do both. After six books with no mention of God or Scripture, in the last book Harry discovers on his parents' graves a Bible verse that, Rowling says, is the theme for the entire series. It's a passage from I Corinthians in which Paul discusses Jesus' Resurrection: "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death."

Go ahead and read the whole article.

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

The secret of becoming a writer is that you have to write. You have to write a lot. You also have to finish what you write, even though no one wants it yet. If you don't learn to finish your work, no one will ever want to see it. The biggest mistake new writers make is carrying around copies of unfinished work to inflict on their friends.

I am sure it has been done with less, but you should be prepared to write and throw away a million words of finished material. By finished, I mean completed, done, ready to submit, and written as well as you know how at the time you wrote it. You may be ashamed of it later, but that's another story.

Jerry Pournelle, How To Get My Job

Saturday, December 22, 2007

New Date for Book Release

According to, my book, The Bible's Most Fascinating People, is now set for release on January 24 instead of January 10. That slow boat from China (the books were printed in Hong Kong) must have been slower than my publisher originally planned.

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

Fiction has to be plausible. All history has to do is happen.

Harry Turtledove, an author best known for his alternate history stories.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

What do you mean by faith? Is faith enough for Man? Should he be satisfied with faith alone? Is there no way of finding out the truth? Is the attitude of faith, of believing in something for which there can be no more than philosophic proof, the true mark of a Christian?

Clifford D. Simak, Time is the Simplest Thing

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

I would sum up my fear about the future in one word: boring. And that's my one fear: that everything has happened; nothing exciting or new or interesting is ever going to happen again ... the future is just going to be a vast, conforming suburb of the soul.

J.G. Ballard

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Peace in Our Time

From my article in this week's Ridge Rider News:

I worked on a kibbutz in Israel for a couple of summers while I was in college. On Saturdays, the Israelis would drive me and the other foreign workers to various parts of the country so we could see the sights. Once, we made trips into the occupied territories of the West Bank to visit the city of Ramallah, north of Jerusalem, intending to do a bit of sightseeing. I had visions of shops and buying souvenirs.

As we got off the bus, we noticed a group of perhaps twenty or thirty people gathering off to our right. Within minutes, they were pelting us with stones. The Israelis who had brought us to the city quickly herded us back into the bus and we left. According to the expectations that some pundits have, I suppose we had done something to “provoke” them. But I can’t recall any other cities I’ve visited—except Ramallah—that ever treated tourists like that. I should also point out that the Israelis who were with us—about six of them—were all heavily armed with Uzis and M-16 machine guns. Remarkably, no Palestinians were gunned down—in fact no shots were fired—despite the belief of many pundits that Israelis are bloodthirsty savages who delight in shooting unarmed Palestinian children.

The search for peace in the Middle East is a desirable thing, and occasionally peace actually happens there instead of war. One of the more spectacular examples of that occurred between Israel and Egypt in 1977, when Anwar Sadat, the president of Egypt, unexpectedly flew to Israel and addressed its parliament. Within a year, Israel and Egypt signed a peace agreement and normalized relations. In exchange, Israel gave up control of the Sinai Peninsula which it had acquired following the six day war with Egypt in 1967. It should be pointed out that the Sinai had the only oil wells that Israel had ever had access to.

Why did peace happen between Israel and Egypt, and later between Israel and Jordan in 1994—which also normalized diplomatic relations with Israel—while no peace has yet been achieved between Israel and the Palestinians or between Israel and Syria? Some try to argue that Israel is to blame, but that seems hard to demonstrate given Israel’s track record of repeatedly attempting to achieve peace with its neighbors, and a demonstrated willingness to give up territory captured in war in exchange for it.

Many seem to forget how the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai and Golan Heights happened to come into Israel's possession in the first place. Hint: several nations attacked Israel in 1967 but lost the war with them. Oddly, although the Arab states had controlled those regions from 1948 to 1967, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), formed in 1964 never attacked Jordan, Egypt or Syria. They only threatened Israel. No Arab state ever suggested, between 1948 and 1967, that Jordan, Egypt or Syria establish a Palestinian state, despite the fact that the original UN mandate that had created Israel as a Jewish state in 1948 had also created a Palestinian Arab state that Jordan, Egypt and Syria merely annexed for themselves in 1948.

In 2006 the terrorist organization Hamas took control of the Palestinian government after winning an election. Hamas’ attitude toward Israel and their thoughts about finding a peaceful solution to their problems are discussed in Article 13 of its charter:

Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement. Abusing any part of Palestine is abuse directed against part of religion. Nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its religion. Its members have been fed on that. For the sake of hoisting the banner of Allah over their homeland they fight. "Allah will be prominent, but most people do not know."

Now and then the call goes out for the convening of an international conference to look for ways of solving the (Palestinian) question. Some accept, others reject the idea, for this or other reason, with one stipulation or more for consent to convening the conference and participating in it. Knowing the parties constituting the conference, their past and present attitudes towards Moslem problems, the Islamic Resistance Movement does not consider these conferences capable of realising the demands, restoring the rights or doing justice to the oppressed. These conferences are only ways of setting the infidels in the land of the Moslems as arbitraters. When did the infidels do justice to the believers?....

There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors. The Palestinian people know better than to consent to having their future, rights and fate toyed with….

Obviously, such sentiments as Hamas expresses would seem to make the achievement of peace much more difficult. Given that the majority of Palestinians currently agree with such sentiments (based on their vote in 2006) makes the prospect of achieving peace anytime soon between Israel and the Palestinians improbable. Just because we in the United States want peace and just because the Israelis want peace, does not mean that peace will happen if the Palestinians don’t want it. If one side is not actually interested in solving the problem, is it possible then to solve it? And how then is it Israel’s fault if peace cannot be achieved?

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

All we have to believe with is our senses, the tools we use to perceive the world: our sight, our touch, our memory. If they lie to us, then nothing can be trusted. And even if we do not believe, then still we cannot travel in any other way than the road our senses show us; and we must walk that road to the end.

Neil Gaiman, American Gods

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

If you try to save wisdom until the world is wise, Father, the world will never have it.

Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz

Monday, December 17, 2007

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

Why do so many people dislike science fiction? The answer goes like this: You have to think of science fiction in contrast to its nearest competitor, heroic fantasy. In heroic fantasy, by and large, things are pretty stable, and then some terrible evil comes along that's going to take over the world. People have to fight it. In the end they win, of course, so the earth is restored to what it was. The status quo comes back. Science fiction's quite different. With science fiction, the world's in some sort of a state, and something awful happens. It may not be evil, it may be good or neutral, just an accident. Whatever they do in the novel, at the end the world is changed forever. That's the difference between the two genres — and it's an almighty difference! And the truth is science fiction, because we all live in a world that's changed forever. It's never going to go back to what it was in the '60s or the '70s or the '30s, or whatever. It's changed.

Brian W. Aldiss, in a Locus interview in 2000.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Happy 60th Birthday to the Transistor

From an article in yesterday's Los Angeles Times, The tiny, mighty transistor:

A little electronic device that triggered one of the most dramatic technological explosions in history turns 60 on Sunday. The humble transistor and its descendant, the semiconductor chip, which made the digital revolution possible, today touch nearly every facet of our lives.

All around us, billions upon billions of transistors are quietly at work in computers, cellphones, radios, TVs, printers, copiers, CD players, cars -- in anything with electronics in it. Transistors enabled space exploration and the personal computer revolution. (In the words of Bill Gates, "Without the invention of the transistor, I'm quite sure that the PC would not exist as we know it today.") Without transistors there would be no iPod or hand-held cellphone. No Internet. There would be no multibillion-dollar semiconductor industry, no Intel, Nokia, Microsoft or Google. No Silicon Valley.

Today, the most complex silicon chips can carry more than 1 billion transistors each -- and we manufacture billions of new chips each year. It's nearly impossible to comprehend the numbers. Each year we manufacture about 10 million times as many transistors as there are estimated stars in the Milky Way.

There are about 200 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy. If you do the math, the resulting number is even more difficult to hold in one's mind--and to realize that happens every year, and will probably be rising, the numbers are not only astronomical, they may ultimately become more than astronomical. Perhaps we'll need a new word for really big numbers: cyberical.


Of course, at current production rates, it will take 10,000 years for the number of transisters to equal the number of stars in the visible universe (assuming 100 billion galaxies, each with the same number of stars as the Milky Way). The universe is a big place: there are more stars in the sky than grains of sand on the seashore. So perhaps we'll beat grains of sand with transisters a bit sooner than we beat the number of stars.

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

Today is Arthur C. Clarke's 90th birthday. So today's quote comes from him:

If we have learned one thing from the history of invention and discovery, it is that, in the long run — and often in the short one — the most daring prophecies seem laughably conservative.

Arthur C. ClarkeThe Exploration of Space (1951), p. 111

Friday, December 14, 2007

Sleepwalking Into a Nightmare

Apparently Newsweek agrees with Columbia University, that giving anti-Semitic, anti-democratic, misogynistic, authoritarian dictators a forum is a good thing. The current issue has a "Special Guest Commentary" by the thug running Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I suppose they will allow the Grand Dragon or whatever he's called of the KKK to write an op-ed next. Perhaps they'll follow that up with the rantings of some other terrorists, too. If Hitler or Stalin were alive, they'd doubtless beg them to publish their latest insanity for our enlightenment in their rag while they stared up at them in rapt attention.

It appears that the editors of Newsweek are among those who have taken leave of their senses. But it's nothing new.

I've always thought time travel would be interesting. I just wouldn't have picked the 1930's however. And I wouldn't want to take the whole world with me. But here we are anyhow. Organizations such as Newsweek and Columbia have had the same attitude and same mindset with every totalitarian movement they've ever faced, whether it was the Nazis or the Communists. Now they seem to have fallen in love with the new boy, Islamo-fascism.

In contrast, read an interesting speech given by a former Speaker of the House, by way of Jerry Pournelle's website today, Sleepwalking Into a Nightmare:

I gave a speech at the American Enterprise Institute Sept. 10th at which I gave an alternative history of the last six years, because the more I thought about how much we're failing, the more I concluded you couldn't just nitpick individual places and talk about individual changes because it didn't capture the scale of the disaster. And I had been particularly impressed by a new book that came out called Troublesome Young Men, which is a study of the younger Conservatives who opposed appeasement in the 1930s and who took on Chamberlain. It's a very revealing book and a very powerful book because we tend to look backwards and we tend to overstate Churchill's role in that period. And we tend to understate what a serious and conscientious and thoughtful effort appeasement was and that it was the direct and deliberate policy of very powerful and very willful people. We tend to think of it as a psychological weakness, as though Chamberlain was somehow craven. He wasn't craven. Chamberlain had a very clear vision of the world, and he was very ruthless domestically. And they believed so deeply in avoiding war with Germany that as late as the spring of 1940, when they are six months or seven months into they war, they are dropping leaflets instead of bombs on the Rohr, and they are urging the British news media not to publish anti-German stories because they don't want to offend the German people. And you read this book, and it makes you want to weep because, interestingly, the younger Tories who were most opposed to appeasement were the combat veterans of World War I, who had lost all of their friends in the war but who understood that the failure of appeasement would result in a worse war and that the longer you lied about reality, the greater the disaster.

And they were severely punished and isolated by Chamberlain and the Conservative machine, and as I read that, I realized that that's really where we are today. Our current problem is tragic. You have an administration whose policy is inadequate being opposed by a political Left whose policy is worse, and you have nobody prepared to talk about the policy we need. Because we are told if you are for a strong America, you should back the Bush policy even if it's inadequate, and so you end up making an argument in favor of something that can't work. So your choice is to defend something which isn't working or to oppose it by being for an even weaker policy. So this is a catastrophe for this country and a catastrophe for freedom around the world. Because we have refused to be honest about the scale of the problem....

....What truly bothers me is the shallowness and the sophistry of the Western governments, starting with our own. When a person says to you, "I don't recognize that you exist," you don't start a negotiation. The person says, "I literally do not recognize" and then lies to you. I mean the first thing you say to this guy is "Terrific. Let's go visit Mecca. Since clearly there's no other state except Israel that is based on religion, the fact that I happen to be Christian won't bother anybody." And then he'll say, "Well, that's different."

We tolerate this. We have created our own nightmare because we refuse to tell the truth. We refuse to tell the truth to our politicians. Our State Department refuses to tell the truth to the country. If the president of the United States, and again, we're now so bitterly partisan, we're so committed to red vs. blue hostility, that George W. Bush doesn't have the capacity to give an address from the Oval Office that has any meaning for half the country. And the anti-war Left is so strong in the Democratic primary that I think it's almost impossible for any Democratic presidential candidate to tell the truth about the situation.

And so the Republicans are isolated and trying to defend incompetence. The Democrats are isolated and trying to find a way to say, "I'm really for strength as long as I can have peace, but I'd really like to have peace, except I don't want to recognize these people who aren't very peaceful."

I just want to share with you, as a grandfather, as a citizen, as a historian, as somebody who was once speaker of the House, this is a serious national crisis. This is 1935 or 1936, and it's getting worse every year.

None of our enemies are confused. Our enemies don't get up each morning and go, "Oh, gosh, I think I'll have an existential crisis of identity in which I will try to think through whether or not we can be friends while you're killing me." Our enemies get up every morning and say, "We hate the West. We hate freedom." They would not allow a meeting with women in the room.

Read the whole thing.

Weapons Suitable for the USS Enterprise

According to, Boeing has been busy creating invisible directed energy weapons:

The Advanced Tactical Laser can place a 10-centimeter-wide beam with the heating power of a blowtorch on distant targets for up to 100 shots. The Advanced Tactical Laser can produce a four-inch-diameter beam of energy that can slice through metal from a distance of 9 miles....

...The ATL is not subject to direct attack by small arms or shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles. In fact, it can be far enough away that its action is almost covert. The laser beam makes no sound and is not visible. The effect of the beam may not be easily associated with a presence of an aircraft several miles away!

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

Sir Arthur C. Clarke turns 90 years old on Sunday, December 16. He has given a video message:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Games People Play in Politics

As I listen to certain pundits and politicians commenting upon other pundits and politicians that they don't like, some of their criticisms remind me of a certain quote:

If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.

Cardinal Richelou, French Minister and Cardinal, 1585-1642

Xcor Aerospace News

Xcor Aerospace in Mojave, California has been busy:

XCOR Aerospace and Alliant Techsystems (NYSE: ATK) completed tests on a methane-burning rocket engine for NASA. This engine could help return America to the Moon and allow astronauts to tap extra-terrestrial sources of fuel. The engine work was funded by NASA's Exploration Technology Development Program at Langley, as part of the Propulsion and Cryogenics Advanced Development Project based at Glenn Research Center.

The 7,500 lbf thrust liquid oxygen (LOX)/liquid methane (LCH4) Workhorse Engine is being used to develop and refine methane rocket technology for possible use on lunar expeditions. Methane offers higher performance relative to other storable propellants, is less expensive to handle because of its lower toxicity, and is easier to store long-term than liquid hydrogen.

An additional factor that makes this propellant combination unique is the possibility that Oxygen and Methane can be obtained or manufactured from In-Situ Resources on the moon and other planets.

What if Von Braun Had Gotten Everything He Wanted

At Man Conqueres Space, some space enthusiasts have imagined what things could have been had Von Braun's visions, as they were shown in the Collier's Magazine articles from 1952-1954, had actually happened.

A longer and better quality trailer is available if you find such things intriguing.
Man Conqueres Space Teaser Trailer III (This is a QuickTime movie and will take a few moments to download).

Geminid Meteor Shower

The Geminid Meteor Shower peaks tonight. Just look East when the sky is dark. Mars is in Gemini, so the constellation is easy to find. The meteors will seem to radiate from that constellation (hence the name). Up to 120 meteors an hour will be visible, though the best rates will probably not happen until after midnight. The Geminids are noted for producing a lot of bright meteors and fireballs.

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

A man is a fool not to put everything he has, at any given moment, into what he is creating. You're there now doing the thing on paper. You're not killing the goose, you're just producing an egg. So I don't worry about inspiration, or anything like that. It's a matter of just sitting down and working. I have never had the problem of a writing block. I've heard about it. I've felt reluctant to write on some days, for whole weeks, or sometimes even longer. I'd much rather go fishing. for example. or go sharpen pencils, or go swimming, or what not. But, later, coming back and reading what I have produced, I am unable to detect the difference between what came easily and when I had to sit down and say, 'Well, now it's writing time and now I'll write.' There's no difference on paper between the two.

Frank Herbert

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

"Trying to learn about the future from science fiction is like trying to learn about love from romance novels."

Cory Doctorow

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Another Book Update

My trip to see the manager at Walden Books today was about as frustrating as my trip to Christian Family Bookstores yesterday, and no more successful. Perhaps I just naturally rub people the wrong way so that they don't want to help me? More likely, bookstores are simply not interested in authors that are just starting out, local or not, even if they are published by Reader's Digest (the manager told me that her bookstore doesn't usually carry books published by Reader's Digest, kept asking me who the distributor was and was fixated on Ingram's and Baker and Taylor; that the Penguin Group USA was the distributor made no impact on her, as if she'd never heard of them or Putnam; if it wasn't Ingram's or B&T then it didn't count--and she was equally unfazed by the information that Barnes & Noble would be carrying my book). Perhaps book signings simply don't generate any added business or income for bookstores. I simply don't know; I'm new at all of this, after all. But at this point, I doubt that I will continue trying to arrange for any booksignings.

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

The world always seems brighter when you've just made something that wasn't there before.

Neil Gaiman

Monday, December 10, 2007

Book Update

I visited the local Barnes & Noble today to see if I could set up a book signing. The manager, Diana, was still not available. She's still supposed to call me. I think I may try calling her. I did discover that the local Barnes & Noble store will be carrying my book. They have ordered ONE copy.

I went next to the local Walden Bookstore, which is run by Borders; the woman there was very friendly and helpful and gave me her manager's card and told me I could come by tomorrow to meet with her. So I will do that. Perhaps something will come with Waldens.

Then I went to the local Family Christian Bookstore, which years ago was called Sign of the Fish before it was bought out by the national chain. The person I talked to there was completely unhelpful, except to let me know that it didn't look like they were ordering the book (after she looked on her computer). She told me that ordering stuff for the bookstore was all done from the corporate offices in Michigan and so there wasn't much she or the manager could do (so she claimed). She gave me a sheet of paper and told me I could go to "that website there" and see if I could get the corporation to order it. I visited it when I got home and discovered it was for vendors, so that was completely useless to me. Matched my experience with their employee.

I find it hard to believe that a local manager has no control over the inventory of her store, though I suppose that is possible. Might explain a lot. Certainly the company as a whole is apparently not planning on carrying my book since a search on their website does not bring up my book at all--in contrast to all the other online booksellers who are carrying it. Their loss. After January 10 I should send people over there to ask for my book and then when they tell them that they don't have it, my friends can so, "Oh, well then I'll just go over to Barnes & Nobel (or Walden)--I know they have it but I thought I'd check with you first." Maybe enough people do that they will rethink how they treat local authors. continues to offer the best price on my book, incidentally.

One Month and Counting

According to the online booksellers, my book, The Bible's Most Fascinating People, will become available on January 10. Today is December 10. So only one month to wait...

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

It was just like some ancient electricity-powered computer; it didn't matter how fast, error-free, and tireless it was, it didn't matter how great a labour-saving boon it was, it didn't matter what it could do our how many different ways it could amaze; if you pulled its plug out, or just hit the Off button, all it became was a lump of matter; all its programs became just settings, dead instructions, and all its computations vanished as quickly as they'd moved.

It was, also, like the dependency of the human-basic brain on the human-basic body; no matter how intelligent, perceptive and gifted you were, no matter how entirely you lived for the ascetic rewards of the intellect and eschewed the material world and the ignobility of the flesh, if you heart just gave out...

That was the Dependency Principle; that you could never forget where your Off switches were located, even if it was somewhere tiresome.

Iain M. Banks, Excession

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Shuttle Launch Delayed Until January

The continuing pesky fuel sensor problem has forced the delay of the Shuttle Launch until January.

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

The importance of information is directly proportional to its improbability.

Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven, Lucifer's Hammer

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day

I just found out about this. So I'm late. But perhaps there's an irony or joke in there somewhere. In any case, from Wired Magazine, a list of special things to do on this day:

- Walk up to random people and say "WHAT YEAR IS THIS?" and when they tell you, get quiet and then say "Then there's still time!" and run off.

- Stand in front of a statue (any statue, really), fall to your knees, and yell "NOOOOOOOOO"

- Stare at newspaper headlines and look astonished.

There are more, of course. Read the whole thing. It made me laugh.

More Shuttle Delays

The Space Shuttle is now scheduled to lift off on Sunday at 12:20 PM PST at the earliest.

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

I can't not write. I'm obsessive-compulsive, and I know it.

Harry Turtledove

Friday, December 07, 2007

Space Shuttle Launch Delayed

The launch of NASA's space shuttle Atlantis will take place no earlier than Saturday, Dec. 8, at 12:43 p.m. PST.

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

Space isn't remote at all. It's only an hour's drive away if your car could go straight upwards.

Sir Fred Hoyle "Sayings of the Week", Observer, 9 September 1979

Sir Fred Hoyle was an astronomer, as well as a science fiction author. He coined "big bang" as a derogatory term for the theory that he didn't like at all.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

On Science Fiction

Interesting article in the Times of London, Why don't we love science fiction?, by Bryan Appleyard:

In the 1970s, Kingsley Amis, Arthur C Clarke and Brian Aldiss were judging a contest for the best science-fiction novel of the year. They were going to give the prize to Grimus, Salman Rushdie’s first novel. At the last minute, however, the publishers withdrew the book from the award. They didn’t want Grimus on the SF shelves. “Had it won,” Aldiss, the wry, 82-year-old godfather of British SF, observes, “he would have been labelled a science-fiction writer, and nobody would have heard of him again.”

If you like science fiction, you might want to read the whole article.

No Shuttle Launch Today

A fuel tank sensor glitch for the space shuttle Atlantis prompted mission managers to scrub today’s planned 4:31 p.m. EST (2131 GMT) attempt. They'll try again tomorrow.

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

Here is what I wrote about SF. If it has a familiar ring, my publishers liked it well enough to make it into a postcard for publicity purposes. 'I love SF for its surrealist verve, its loony non-reality, its piercing truths, its wit, its masked melancholy, its nose for damnation, its bunkum, its contempt for home comforts, its slewed astronomy, its xenophilia, its hip, its classlessness, its mysterious machines, its gaudy backdrops, its tragic insecurity.'

Science fiction has always seemed to me such a polyglot, an exotic mistress, a parasite, a kind of new language coined for the purpose of giving tongue to the demented twentieth century.

Brian W. Aldiss, The Glass Forest

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

Science fiction, outside of poetry, is the only literary field which has no limits, no parameters whatsoever. You can go not only into the future, but into that wonderful place called "other", which is simply another universe, another planet, another species.

Theodore Sturgeon

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


It is about a month until my book, The Bible’s Most Fascinating People , is due to arrive on store shelves. One of the things that publshers expect of authors is that they do a bit of self-promotion and marketing. For me, thus far, that has meant mostly talking to people about my book, one way or another. I set up a website for myself, an “official author’s webpage” largely because I’ve noticed most authors have such things and secondly because my author friends have told me that it’s something I should do. So, back in July, I registered and created a simple site about my books.

A month or so ago I was asked to speak at the High Desert Baptist Association’s annual meeting, where a few hundred pastors, deacons and other church leaders and staff got together. In addition to my standard seminar, I talked a bit about my forthcoming book and handed out bookmarks and flyers about it.

Today, I made a pilgrimage to the local Barnes & Noble and approached the customer service desk. The young man standing there went from smiling to a nervous wreck as soon as I let him know I have a book coming out next month and was wondering about setting up a booksigning. I handed him a flyer and explained that Reader’s Digest was publishing it. He became even more nervous.

He looked around for his manager, paged her, and then ran about the store for several minutes looking for her. I spent my time looking at a few books. The young man eventually returned and babbled that she was in a meeting and apologized profusely. Then he took my card and promised me that she would call me back.

I must admit to finding it a bit weird to know that I had made someone nervous. But I suppose they don’t get the authors of the books they sell showing up in the flesh all that often. Of course, I can’t help wondering if I’ll really get a call back. The manager might not be so impressed by me as he was. If not, then of course I’ll make another trip to the store. I want to make sure they order my book, besides arranging for the booksigning.

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.

Isaac Asimov, Foundation

Monday, December 03, 2007

Cover Illustration For My Book

The cover illustration for my book, The Bible's Most Fascinating People has now appeared on the Barnes & Noble website, catching up with which put it up last week. still has the best price, however. Moreover, Barnes & Noble still lists Penguin Group (USA) as the publisher, even though it obviously says Reader's Digest on the cover. I think that's because Putnam, one of Penguin's imprints, is acting as a distributor for my book. It does, after all, appear in Putnam Praise, their Winter, 2008 catalogue. Look on page 11 of the PDF, or page 8 of the dead tree version. You'll notice, too, that both the Putnam Praise catalogue and the Barnes & Noble website have my full name listed (though the B&N website actually lists it with both my normal byline and my full name, as if the book was written by two people with remarkably similar names.)

I get the feeling trying to get everything fixed and right on all the various booksellers' websites would wind up like trying to nail Jello(TM) to a tree. I'm not sure it would be worth the effort and I doubt it would be effective; after all, I already emailed B&N to get my name corrected once. And it didn't last. And of course, once again in the cover image, my name is spelled wrong. It won't surprise me if it winds up being wrong on the actual book, too. Odd, given that the proofs had it all right. Why would it have been changed at the last minute? Who would have authorized it?

Another interesting and odd error. In the Putnam Praise catalogue, if you look at it in detail, you'll notice that it lists the hometowns of the authors. It tells you that my hometown is Washington DC. Odd, given that I've never even visited Washington DC in my whole life. I was born in Ohio, moved a lot, and settled in California to go to college. I now live in Lancaster, California and teach in nearby Quartz Hill, where I also go to church. Oh well. I gave Reader's Digest all this information in the author's questionaire.

I shouldn't complain. My editor was very nice, I was paid well, and I have a book being published by a major New York publisher. If you're in the World Series and the program doesn't spell your name right, why focus on that? Be thankful you're in the World Series. Not many people get to be there, after all.

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done. One could write a history of science in reverse by assembling the solemn pronouncements of highest authority about what could not be done and could never happen.

Robert A. Heinlein, The Rolling Stones

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

The science fiction approach doesn't mean it's always about the future; it's an awareness that this is different.

Neal Stephenson

Saturday, December 01, 2007


I watched the last episode of the first season of Torchwood tonight. Now I have to wait until January 26 for the second season to begin. I intend to get the DVD set for the first season; maybe I can talk someone into getting it for me for Christmas (though, since the DVDs won't be released until the end of January, that's probably not practical). In the US, Torchwood is broadcast on BBC-America. A description, from Wikipedia:

Torchwood is a science fiction drama television programme, created by Russell T Davies and starring John Barrowman and Eve Myles. It deals with the machinations and activities of the Cardiff branch of the fictional Torchwood Institute, who deal with supernatural occurrences. An initial 13-part series was commissioned by the BBC as a spin-off from the long-running science fiction programme Doctor Who with which it is closely interlinked. ...

The series is set in Cardiff and follows the Wales branch of a covert agency called the Torchwood Institute which investigates extraterrestrial incidents on Earth and scavenges alien technology for its own use. To paraphrase Torchwood Three's commander-in-chief, Captain Jack Harkness, the organisation is separate from the government, outside the police, and beyond the United Nations. Their public perception is as merely a 'special ops' group.

I very much enjoy the series and I'm looking forward to the start of season two. If you like good science fiction, then you will probably like this series. But a warning: it is a dark and disturbing program. There is sex, of all sorts (though nothing is shown); the characters are damaged people. The issues it covers are intense, the emotions are intense. Language is rough. It is NOT, under any circumstances, something children should see.

Here are the first nine minutes or so of the first episode from YouTube; they give a good introduction to the nature of the series. If you like it, you might like seeing more episodes. BBC-America is doing a marathon next weekend of past episodes.

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

Our fellow passenger was Major Grogan, who thirty years before had been the first white man to go from the Cape to Cairo. It took him three years, one whole year in the marshes of the Sudd; his two companions died. It is said he ate them; I think so. He looked like a sensible man.

- letter quoted in James Tiptree Jr: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon by Julie Phillips (2006)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Next Shuttle Flight

The Space Shuttle Atlantis is scheduled for launch on Thursday at 1:31 PM Pacific Standard Time. It will be the 152nd human crewed US space flight and the 121st time a space shuttle has been launched. Besides hauling up the Columbus Module for the International Space Station, it will also be taking up a spare part for the grinding solar panel joint. The Columbus Module is 23 feet long and 15 feet in diameter. It will add 2648 cubic feet of living space to the station. It has a mass of more than 22,700 pounds.

Currently the International Space Station has more living space than an average 3 bedroom house; when it is completed in 2010, it will be larger than a 5 bedroom house.

Cover Illustration on Amazon is the first of the online booksellers to display the cover image of my forthcoming book:

Oddly, my name is mispelled on the cover image. It was not mispelled on the color proofs I recieved. I do hope the actual books don't have my name mispelled on the cover. That would be annoying.

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

Shared pain is lessened; shared joy, increased — thus do we refute entropy.

Spider Robinson, "Callahan's Law"

Thursday, November 29, 2007


By way of Jerry Pournelle's website I found this video. It is interesting. Here is the description of it:

In this bracingly honest and funny talk, international security strategist Thomas P.M. Barnett outlines a post-Cold War solution for the foundering US military: Break it in two. He suggests the military re-form into two groups: a Leviathan force, a small group of young and fierce soldiers capable of swift and immediate victories; and an internationally supported network of System Administrators, an older, wiser, more diverse organization that actually has the diplomacy and power it takes to build and maintain peace.

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

Nothing can astound an American...In America, all is easy, all is simple; and as for mechanical difficulties, they are overcome before they arise. Between Barbicane's proposition and its realization no true Yankee would have allowed even the semblance of a difficulty to be possible. A thing with them is no sooner said than done.

Jules Verne, From the Earth to the Moon (1865)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

We are always living in the final days. What have you got? A hundred years or much, much less until the end of your world.

Neil Gaiman, Signal to Noise

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Robotic Exoskeleton

Like something from Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers :

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

My duty is not affected by what others may or may not do to discharge their own.

David Weber, quote from Honor Harrington in On Basilisk Station (1993)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

I write as clearly as I am able to. I sometimes tackle ideas and notions that are relatively complex, and it is very difficult to be sure that I am conveying them in the best way. Anyone who goes beyond cliche phrases and cliche ideas will have this trouble.

Alien Critic, August, 1973

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

Some people like my advice so much that they frame it upon the wall instead of using it.

Gordon R. Dickson

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

To think that realistic fiction is by definition superior to imaginative fiction is to think imitation is superior to invention.

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination (2004)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Why Peace is Hard to Come By in the Middle East

In exchange for peace with Egypt, Israel gave back the entire Sinai peninsula, including the only oil wells that Israel had. Israel wants peace more than just about anything and is willing to do just about anything in order to get it.

People seem to forget how the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai and Golan Heights happened to come into Israel's possession. Hint: several nations attacked Israel but lost the war with them. Oddly, although the Arab states had controlled those regions from 1948-1967, the PLO, formed in 1964 never attacked Jordan, Egypt or Syria; they only threatened Israel; and no one suggested, between 1948-1967, that Jordan, Egypt or Syria establish a Palestinian state, despite the fact that the original UN mandate that created Israel as a Jewish state also created a Palestinian Arab state that Jordan, Egypt and Syria merely annexed for themselves.

And yet Israel is commonly criticized as somehow being intransigent and the cause of all conflict. Of course, such critics of Israel seem unaware--and unwilling to become aware--of what the Palestinians believe and say. The Palestinians voted Hamas into power in Gaza. What does Hamas believe? What are their goals? What do they want?

Hamas has a charter. You can read it in translation.Here is an interesting passage from the Hamas charter:

Peaceful Solutions, Initiatives and International Conferences:

Article Thirteen:

Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement. Abusing any part of Palestine is abuse directed against part of religion. Nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its religion. Its members have been fed on that. For the sake of hoisting the banner of Allah over their homeland they fight. "Allah will be prominent, but most people do not know."

Now and then the call goes out for the convening of an international conference to look for ways of solving the (Palestinian) question. Some accept, others reject the idea, for this or other reason, with one stipulation or more for consent to convening the conference and participating in it. Knowing the parties constituting the conference, their past and present attitudes towards Moslem problems, the Islamic Resistance Movement does not consider these conferences capable of realising the demands, restoring the rights or doing justice to the oppressed. These conferences are only ways of setting the infidels in the land of the Moslems as arbitraters. When did the infidels do justice to the believers?

"But the Jews will not be pleased with thee, neither the Christians, until thou follow their religion; say, The direction of Allah is the true direction. And verily if thou follow their desires, after the knowledge which hath been given thee, thou shalt find no patron or protector against Allah." (The Cow - verse 120).

There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors. The Palestinian people know better than to consent to having their future, rights and fate toyed with. As in said in the honourable Hadith:

"The people of Syria are Allah's lash in His land. He wreaks His vengeance through them against whomsoever He wishes among His slaves It is unthinkable that those who are double-faced among them should prosper over the faithful. They will certainly die out of grief and desperation."

So tell me again, who is it that's setting roadblocks in the way of peace? And how, realistically, do we fix this sort of problem? And some people wonder why Hamas is considered a terrorist organization.

Delusions of Grandeur

According to the American Heritage Dictionary:

Paranoia, noun, A psychotic disorder characterized by delusions of persecution with or without grandeur, often strenuously defended with apparent logic and reason.

The British newspaper The Telegraph reports (via New Scientist):

Forget about the threat that mankind poses to the Earth: our activities may be shortening the life of the universe too.

The startling claim is made by a pair of American cosmologists investigating the consequences for the cosmos of quantum theory, the most successful theory we have. Over the past few years, cosmologists have taken this powerful theory of what happens at the level of subatomic particles and tried to extend it to understand the universe, since it began in the subatomic realm during the Big Bang.

Cosmologists claim by observing dark energy the universe has been nudged closer to its death.

But there is an odd feature of the theory that philosophers and scientists still argue about. In a nutshell, the theory suggests that we change things simply by looking at them and theorists have puzzled over the implications for years.

They often illustrate their concerns about what the theory means with mind-boggling experiments, notably Schrodinger's cat in which, thanks to a fancy experimental set up, the moggy is both alive and dead until someone decides to look, when it either carries on living, or dies. That is, by one interpretation (by another, the universe splits into two, one with a live cat and one with a dead one.)

New Scientist reports a worrying new variant as the cosmologists claim that astronomers may have accidentally nudged the universe closer to its death by observing dark energy, a mysterious anti gravity force which is thought to be speeding up the expansion of the cosmos.

The damaging allegations are made by Profs Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and James Dent of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, who suggest that by making this observation in 1998 we may have caused the cosmos to revert to an earlier state when it was more likely to end. "Incredible as it seems, our detection of the dark energy may have reduced the life-expectancy of the universe," Prof Krauss tells New Scientist.

As if some people didn't already harbor exalted notions about the power of the human race to destroy its environment...

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

The sun was setting, throwing a fog-like dusk across the stream and trees, and there was a coolness in the air. It was time, I knew, to be getting back to camp. But I did not want to move. For I had the feeling that this was a place, once seen, that could not be seen again. If I left and then came back, it would not be the same; no matter how many times I might return to this particular spot the place and feeling would never be the same, something would be lost or something would be added, and there never would exist again, through all eternity, all the integrated factors that made it what it was in this magic moment.

Clifford D. Simak, Cemetary World

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Future Space

Assuming NASA's budgets remain at current levels, this should happen.

If not, it will still happen in some fashion, since folks like Rutan, Bigelow, and Musk (among others) are on the task privately.

Future Space

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

The capacity of the human mind for swallowing nonsense and spewing it forth in violent and repressive action has never yet been plumbed.

Robert A. Heinlein, Revolt in 2100 (1953), postscript

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Future Space

The Ares V, which should go into operation around 2015 (with the Ares I, which will launch the Orion) is a heavy lift vehicle with the same lift capacity as a Saturn V. It is designed primarily for the new Lunar program (and ultimately the Mars program). It will be possible to use it for other things too...

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

There was always a minority afraid of something, and a great majority afraid of the dark, afraid of the future, afraid of the past, afraid of the present, afraid of themselves and shadows of themselves.

Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

Writing is one of the few professions in which you can psychoanalyse yourself, get rid of hostilities and frustrations in public, and get paid for it.

Octavia Butler

Monday, November 19, 2007

Amazon's Kindle

Amazon has just released a new ebook reader which sounds really interesting to me:

Utilizing a new high-resolution display technology called electronic paper, Kindle provides a crisp black-and-white screen that resembles the appearance and readability of printed paper. The screen works using ink, just like books and newspapers, but displays the ink particles electronically. It reflects light like ordinary paper and uses no backlighting, eliminating the glare associated with other electronic displays. As a result, Kindle can be read as easily in bright sunlight as in your living room.The screen never gets hot so you can comfortably read as long as you like.

We wanted Kindle to be completely mobile and simple to use for everyone, so we made it wireless. No PC and no syncing needed. Using the same 3G network as advanced cell phones, we deliver your content using our own wireless delivery system, Amazon Whispernet. Unlike WiFi, you’ll never need to locate a hotspot. There are no confusing service plans, yearly contracts, or monthly wireless bills—we take care of the hassles so you can just read....

With Whispernet, you can be anywhere, think of a book, and get it in one minute. Similarly, your content automatically comes to you, wherever you are. Newspaper subscriptions are delivered wirelessly each morning. Most magazines arrive before they hit newsstands. Haven’t read the book for tomorrow night’s book club? Get it in a minute. Finished your book in the airport? Download the sequel while you board the plane. Whether you’re in the mood for something serious or hilarious, lighthearted or studious, Kindle delivers your spontaneous reading choices on demand.

And because we know you can't judge a book by its cover, Kindle lets you download and read the beginning of books for free. This way, you can try it out—if you like it, simply buy and download with 1-Click, right from your Kindle, and continue reading. Want to try a newspaper as well? All newspaper subscriptions start with a risk-free two-week trial.

Kindle’s paperback size and expandable memory let you travel light with your library. With the freedom to download what you want, when you want, we hope you’ll never again find yourself stuck without a great read.

We're very proud to introduce Amazon Kindle and we hope you like it as much as we do.

Check the Amazon website, and watch the video demonstration and what several very well known authors have to say about it: Amazon Kindle

Now, if I can only come up with the money for it. I doubt I can sell my children. The Kindle reminds me of those pads they used for reading in Star Trek.

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

Welcome to the human race. Nobody controls his own life, Ender. The best you can do is choose to be controlled by good people, by people who love you.

Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game

According to Wikipedia, several schools around the world have adopted Ender's Game as required reading, some for its psychological aspects, others for its science fiction background, including the Marine Corps University at Quantico, where it is used as a textbook on the psychology of leadership. The book won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for best science fiction novel.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

The void in his mind athrob for the soothing pressure of knowledge.

Jack Vance, The Dying Earth

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

The future is already here - it is just unevenly distributed.

William Gibson, author of Neuromancer. Wikipedia points out:

The word "cyberspace" (from cybernetics and space) was coined by science fiction novelist and seminal cyberpunk author William Gibson in his 1982 story "Burning Chrome" and popularized by his 1984 novel Neuromancer. The portion of Neuromancer cited in this respect is usually the following:

Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts... A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding...

Gibson later commented on the origin of the term in the 1996 documentary No Maps for These Territories:

All I knew about the word "cyberspace" when I coined it, was that it seemed like an effective buzzword. It seemed evocative and essentially meaningless. It was suggestive of something, but had no real semantic meaning, even for me, as I saw it emerge on the page.

Gibson also coined the phrase "meatspace" for the physical world contrasted with Cyberspace.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Private Space Flight

Armadillo Aerospace attempted to win the Northrop-Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge this year at the X-Prize Cup but was not successful.

According to Wikipedia:

Armadillo Aerospace is an aerospace startup company based in Mesquite, Texas. Its initial goal is to build a manned suborbital spacecraft capable of space tourism, but it has stated long-term ambitions of orbital spaceflight. The company was founded in the year 2000, and was incorporated on January 1, 2001....

Armadillo is headed and has been largely funded by John Carmack, a developer of computer games including the Doom and Quake series. All of its employees (including Carmack) have other, full-time jobs and contribute their efforts twice weekly to Armadillo on a voluntary basis. Armadillo has a relatively small budget and is not supported by aerospace companies or agencies like NASA, ESA, or Boeing. Armadillo Aerospace has publicly declared itself fully self-funded.

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

Memories and possibilities are ever more hideous than realities.

H.P. Lovecraft, "Herbert West: Re-Animator" in "Home Brew" Vol. 1, No. 1 (February 1922)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Life Aboard the International Space Station

The station has the interior volume of a three bedroom house. It is the largest spacecraft ever constructed--and it's still being built.

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

History does not always repeat itself. Sometimes it just yells, 'Can't you remember anything I told you?' and lets fly with a club.

John W. Campbell, Jr., late editor of Analog Science Fiction Magazine

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

The importance of information is directly proportional to its improbability.

Jerry Pournelle, Lucifer's Hammer, with Larry Niven

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Private Space Flight

Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX) reports that it has completed development of its Merlin 1C next generation liquid fueled rocket booster engine. It is among the highest performing gas generator cycle kerosene engines ever built, exceeding the performance of the Boeing Delta II main engine and the Lockheed Atlas II main engine. It's performance is about the same as that of the Saturn V F-1 engine.

The Merlin 1C in its Falcon 9 first stage configuration has a thrust at sea level of 95,000 pounds. The Merlin 1C will power SpaceX's next Falcon 1 mission, scheduled to lift off in early 2008 from the SpaceX launch complex in the Central Pacific atoll of Kwajalein. SpaceX's far larger Falcon 9 rocket, scheduled for its first launch in late 2008, will employ nine Merlin engines on its first stage, and one on the second stage. The Falcon 9 will produce over a million pounds of thrust: about four times the thrust of a Boeing 747. The Falcon 9, besides launching unmanned satellites, is designed to eventually loft the six passenger Dragon spaceship, currently being developed by SpaceX and planned for a test flight as early as late 2008.

The Merlin engine is the first new American booster engine developed in the last ten years. In 2008, SpaceX expects to manufacture about 50 Merlin 1C engines, a number that exceeds the booster engine output of any country except Russia.

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.

Philip K. Dick

Monday, November 12, 2007

Delta IV First Launch (2004)

Saturday night's first operational launch of the Delta IV Heavy was in the dark. Here's the first ever launch of the vehicle, but during daylight.

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

The best time to write a story is yesterday. The next best time is today.

R. A. Lafferty, It's Down the Slippery Cellar Stairs

First Operational Launch of the Delta IV Heavy

United Launch Alliance successfully launched the first operational Delta IV Heavy expendable launch vehicle for the U.S. Air Force on Saturday, November 10, at 8;50 PM EST from Space Launch Complex-37. It was carrying the service's Defense Support Program-23 satellite.

The Delta IV Heavy (Delta 9250H) uses two strap-on boosters which are separated earlier in the flight than the center booster. The capacity (separated spacecraft mass) of the Delta IV Heavy:

geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) 13,130 kg (28,950 lb), more than any other currently available launch vehicle

geosynchronous orbit (GEO) 6,275 kg

escape orbit 9,306 kg

It stands 253.2 feet tall at launch, compared to a Space Shuttle which stands 149.6 feet tall at launch, or compared to the Saturn V that stood 363 feet tall. The Delta IV Heavy's total mass at launch is approximately 733,000 kg, much less than that of the Space Shuttle (2,040,000 kg).

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Kaguya in Orbit Around the Moon

The Japanese satellite Kaguya is now in orbit around the moon. It recently sent back the first High Definition TV views of the lunar surface from about 100 kilometers up.

The YouTube video version is obviously not high definition quality, but it is still interesting.

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

It is said that power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.

Attributed to David Brin, author of The Uplift War, which won the 1988 Hugo Award.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

I repeat Sturgeon's Revelation, which was wrung out of me after twenty years of wearying defense of science fiction against attacks of people who used the worst examples of the field for ammunition, and whose conclusion was that ninety percent of it is crud.

The Revelation: Ninety percent of everything is crud.

Corollary 1: The existence of immense quantities of trash in science fiction is admitted and it is regrettable; but it is no more unnatural than the existence of trash anywhere.

Corollary 2: The best science fiction is as good as the best fiction in any field.

Theodore Sturgeon

Private Space Flight

Memories of SpaceShipOne:

SpaceShipTwo is coming...

Friday, November 09, 2007

Strange Indie Band for a Friday Night

If you're bothered by bad language don't watch this video, We Are All Going to Hell:

On the other hand, it's funny.

I don't know anything about the Bastard Fairies, but their songs made me laugh. If you enjoyed We Are All Going to Hell, be sure to check Whatever:

Also funny. I think. But then I am sort of warped.

Unusual Book Title of the Day

Eleven years a drunkard, or, The life of Thomas Doner: Having lost both arms through intemperance, he wrote his book with his teeth as a warning to others, by Thomas Doner. Forty-two pages long, it was published in 1880. Amazon lists it as "currently unavailable."

Friday Morning Zombie Attack has an interesting (and amusing) article entitled Zombie Attack at Hierakonpolis, by Renée Friedman:

On the other hand, in support of the earlier date, some have claimed that the famous Palette of Narmer (ca. 3000 B.C.), also from Hierakonpolis, far from recording a victory in the war of unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, is instead a celebration of the successful repulse of a zombie attack. Although we tend to focus on the verso where the king is shown smiting a kneeling enemy, it is the other side that is actually the front. It is the side with the depression for mixing the cosmetics for adorning the cult statue, and so it would seem that the scene of the king marching in procession to view a pile of decapitated bodies is the really important message. Nevertheless, while this scene may be evidence for zombie activity, reliance solely on pictorial records for such claims is scientifically questionable at best. There may be more to this in that Narmer's name means catfish-chisel, which sounds strange, and a catfish and chisel appear on the palette. But this could make sense if the palette refers to a victory over zombie forces. Perhaps Narmer wielded a large Nile catfish, Clarias?, grasping the tail and using it as a sort of black jack to stun the zombies, then removed their heads with a chisel. While it is an attractive idea, no serious archaeologist would hang their fedora on it without further evidence.

Read the whole thing.

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

For it is a mad world and it will get madder if we allow the minorities, be they dwarf or giant, orangutan or dolphin, nuclear-head or water-conversationalist, pro-computerologist or Neo-Luddite, simpleton or sage, to interfere with aesthetics. The real world is the playing ground for each and every group, to make or unmake laws. But the tip of the nose of my book or stories or poems is where their rights and my territorial imperatives begin, run and rule. If Mormons do not like my plays, let them write their own. If the Irish hate my Dublin stories, let them rent typewriters. If teachers and grammar school editors find my jawbreaker sentences shatter their mushmilk teeth, let them eat stale cake dunked in weak tea of their own ungodly manufacture.

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, Coda 1979

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

People who put principles before people are people who hate people. They don’t much care about how well it works, just about how right it is . . . they may even like it better if it inflicts enough pain.

John Barnes, A Million Open Doors

Space Highlights

The Space Shuttle Discovery landed on time Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Space Shuttle Atlantis moves toward the launchpad for a December 6 launch which will place the European laboratory module, Columbus, in orbit. Columbus is the next major piece of the space station.

Meanwhile, the crew of the space station will conduct three space walks this month to get ready for Columbus. The biggest job will be moving the Harmony node from the spot where Discovery just put it, to the place where it needs to be for Columbus.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had. Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus. There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus. Period.

"Aliens Cause Global Warming" - A lecture at the California Institute of Technology (17 January 2003)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Bots are Back

Mystery Science Theater 3000 has launched a new website; it includes new animated content as well as clips from the old TV show. Check it out if you enjoyed MST3K.

Science Fiction Quote of the Day

Always listen to experts. They'll tell you what can't be done, and why. Then do it.

Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough For Love

Monday, November 05, 2007

Private Space Flight

SpaceX is another privately funded space company. Their goal is to develope orbital launch vehicles, including sending human crewed vehicles to the International Space Station. They have attempted twice to launch the Falcon 1; the first attempt failed shortly after launch. The second attempt, last March nearly made it to orbit:

Additional details can be found on their website, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation. The company is profitable, just broke ground on a new launch pad at Cape Canaveral, and intends to launch their first heavy lift vehicle, Falcon 9, in the fourth quarter of 2008. Their third attempt to send a Falcon 1 into orbit is scheduled for the first quarter of 2008.

Science Fiction Quote of the Day

I don't know how you perceive my mission as a writer, but for me it is not a responsibility to reaffirm your concretized myths and provincial prejudices. It is not my job to lull you with a false sense of the rightness of the universe. This wonderful and terrible occupation of recreating the world in a different way, each time fresh and strange, is an act of revolutionary guerrilla warfare. I stir the soup. I inconvenience you. I make your nose run and your eyeballs water.

Harlan Ellison

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Private Space Flight

Bigelow Aerospace, headquartered in Las Vegas, has placed two inflatable space station prototypes in orbit, Genesis I and II. They are both functioning normally. Their first human rated station is scheduled for launch by 2010. Images from Genesis II:

For more information, visit Bigelow Aerospace.

Science Fiction Quote of the Day

You are disoriented. Blackness swims toward you like a school of eels who have just seen something that eels like a lot.

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy text adventure, published by Infocom.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Science Fiction Quote of the Day

When a wise man does not understand, he says: "I do not understand." The fool and the uncultured are ashamed of their ignorance. They remain silent when a question could bring them wisdom.

Frank Herbert, The Godmakers

Friday, November 02, 2007

Private Space Flight

Scaled Composites is not the only private space program. The owner of has put a lot of time, money and effort into a vertical take off and landing vehicle.

About Books Today

As an undergraduate, I majored in history. I'm also a big fan of the science fiction subgenre, "alternate history." Therefore, I very much enjoyed the book What If and its sequel What If? 2, both filled with essays written by historians who ask that question about several pivotal points in history. What if things had gone the other way, what if the losers had somehow won? How would history of gone then?

CNN has a review of the first book, "Book asks what might have been"

Science Fiction Quote of the Day

The plans and schemes of tyrants are broken by many things. They shatter against cliffs of heroic struggle. They rupture on reefs of open resistance. And they are slowly eroded, bit by little bit, on the very beaches where they measure triumph, by countless grains of sand. By the stubborn little decencies of humble little men.

In the Heart of Darkness, by Eric Flint and David Drake

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Bible's Most Fascinating People

I got a nice email from my editor today; the dust jacket received final approval last week and so it is being "finished off" now. The books should be shipped from the printer around the middle of this month. I had wondered why the cover image hadn't shown up on any of the online bookseller sites yet. Now I know.

And remember, the book is already available for pre-order from all the online sites. The list price for the book is $24.95. So far, Amazon has the best deal that I've seen: $16.47, plus another five percent off if you pre-order now.

About Books Today

An interesting review of the new book The Year of Living Biblically in Books and Culture, It Is Written: Literalism ad absurdum, by Jana Riess:

We've all seen the email: a letter to a fundamentalist pastor thanking him for his helpful insights on how vital it is to live all the laws of the Bible. But, the letter-writer continues, this uncompromising stance does raise some sticky questions. How and when should you stone adulterers and Sabbath-breakers? What is the best way to inform your first wife that you'll be adding to the family by taking a second and third? How many human slaves should you strive to own, and where can they be purchased nowadays?

The point of the email, of course, is to sardonically highlight just how far we have come from the culture of biblical times, and how impossible it is to speak of living the Bible literally when our own world is so different. And yet many of us try, out of devotion, to arrive at an unspoiled, untainted biblical meaning—discovering how ancient ways of pleasing God might be relevant for our times.

Such is the agenda of A. J. Jacobs' achingly funny memoir The Year of Living Biblically. Jacobs, the author of The Know-It All, begins by describing himself as a secular Jew. ("I'm Jewish in the same way the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant. Which is to say: Not very.") In spite of his own detachment from religion, he is increasingly curious about the ways it influences 21st-century American life. Rather than standing on the sidelines or casting himself as an aloof pundit, he dives in head first and decides to spend a year living all the commandments of the Bible—that's right, all of them.

Read it all.

Science Fiction Quote of the Day

From Robert A. Heinlein:

Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.

Stranger in a Strange Land

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Darth Vader

When the King of Saudi Arabia, the ruler of a brutal totalitarian dictatorship, visited England this week, he was greeted with an interesting choice in music by the British.

The news and discussion forum following that is interesting to watch, as well.

Immortality Research

An interesting article in the Washington Post on speculations about ending the aging process.
Halloween quote of the day from Stephen King:

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.

On Writing
On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg. He hadn't intended to start a revolution. He thought he was just going to argue a bit of theology with some academics. His list was written in Latin, after all.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

After I got done teaching my theology class tonight, I took a look at Comet Holmes; it was very easy to find. It looks like a small dandilion puff, especially through a telescope (I took a look through a small three and a half inch Meade Maksutov-Cassegrain when I got home, using a 26 mm Ploessl eyepiece). My wife Ruth enjoyed looking at it too.

Sky and Telsecope magazine has sky charts that help locate it. It is easy to see all night long.
Comet Holmes is now a naked eye object, about magnitude 2 or 3. For details, see the article on
Science Fiction quote of the day:

That's the thing about people who think they hate computers... What they really hate are lousy programmers.

Oath of Fealty , Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ray Bradbury, Science Fiction quote of the day:

There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist/Unitarian, Irish/Italian/Octogenarian/Zen Buddhist, Zionist/Seventh-day Adventist, Women's Lib/Republican, Mattachine/FourSquareGospel feels it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse. Every dimwit editor who sees himself as the source of all dreary blanc-mange plain porridge unleavened literature, licks his guillotine and eyes the neck of any author who dares to speak above a whisper or write above a nursery rhyme.

Fahrenheit 451, Coda 1979

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Science Fiction quote for the day from Robert A. Heinlein:

The whole principle is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak.

On censorship, in The Man Who Sold the Moon (1949)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Science Fiction quote of the day from Isaac Asimov:

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!', but 'That's funny ...'

The same thing works in theology. I know from my own experience that the parts of the Bible or life that are hardest to understand, or those things that don't seem to quite fit, or that really bother me, will often lead me to the most exciting ideas.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Science Fiction quote of the day from Ray Bradbury:

Science fiction is the most important literature in the history of the world, because it's the history of ideas, the history of our civilization birthing itself. ...Science fiction is central to everything we've ever done, and people who make fun of science fiction writers don't know what they're talking about.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Today's Science Fiction quote is from Stephen R. Donaldson:

This you have to understand. There's only one way to hurt a man who's lost everything. Give him back something broken.

The Wounded Land (1980)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Space Shuttle Discovery launched on time and is now safely in orbit. It should dock with the International Space Station on Thursday. Discovery is scheduled to return to Earth in two weeks.
Science Fiction quote of the day from Joe Haldeman:

"Bad books on writing and thoughtless English professors solemnly tell beginners to 'Write What You Know', which explains why so many mediocre novels are about English professors contemplating adultery."

And then the opening lines from his best known book, The Forever War:

"Tonight we're going to show you eight silent ways to kill a man." The guy who said that was a sergeant who didn't look five years older than me. So if he'd ever killed a man in combat, silently or otherwise, he'd done it as an infant.

I already knew eighty ways to kill people, but most of them were pretty noisy. I sat up straight in my chair and assumed a look of polite attention and fell asleep with my eyes open.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Assuming the weather cooperates, the Space Shuttle Discovery is scheduled to launch at 8:38 AM on Tuesday morning. Its goal is to deliver another piece to the International Space Station, specifically the Harmony module, which is one of the two connecting nodes. This one will allow the delivery of the Columbus Laboratory, built by the European Space Agency come December.

This mission will also be rearanging the solar arrays. There will be 5 space walks, the most ever on a shuttle mission to the space station.
Science Fiction quote of the day from Robert Heinlein:

One can judge from experiment, or one can blindly accept authority. To the scientific mind, experimental proof is all important and theory is merely a convenience in description, to be junked when it no longer fits. To the academic mind, authority is everything and facts are junked when they do not fit theory laid down by authority.

"Doctor Pinero" in Life Line (1939)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

On Saturday mornings here in the Antelope Valley, a free newspaper appears on our driveways called the Antelope Valley Press Express; it's mostly advertising, but there are a few articles. I noticed one by Don Mayhew entitled "Making e-mends: Fixing a faux pas when communicating via e-mail." It began with the following story:

Author Bonnie Hearn Hill was exchanging ideas via e-mail this summer with a friend writing a psychological thriller. The story involved a character’s murder.

“I think you need to kill him sooner, right off the bat,” Hill, of Fresno, Calif., wrote. The friend didn’t reply.

She wrote again, supplying details about where and when the murder might take place. No response.

She tried again: “Let’s discuss this murder of yours over coffee.” Still nothing.

Finally, Hill called her friend, who said he hadn’t received any of her e-mails—and by the way, uses his middle initial in his e-mail address. She’d been sending her homicidal messages to a stranger with a similar name.

One of those little occupational hazards that writers need to be careful about.