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)