Thursday, June 09, 2005

June 4th to June 9th entries HERE

Thanks to the lovely and talented Robin at Blogger Support for resurrecting my blog. I wish there were a prettier way to merge the pre- and post-epocalypse blog, but hey, this is the best I can do. Cheers, y'all.

D. PS: I'm not sure why I should save this, but Shatter2 (the sequel that flopped) contains the last six days' of posts in their natural environment. Aside from posting a little note on Shatter2 to explain its existence, I won't be adding to it after today. Yeah, I really can't think why I should save Shatter2, but I'm loathe to hit that delete button again any time soon. By the way, if you feel the need to comment on this post, you'll have to scroll way, way down, to just below the Oops! entry.

Hiccups (June 8, 2005)

Surgery day at St. Mammon Coast Hospital, flagship of the Mammon Health Corporation, the nation's most expensive non-profit medical provider (or, as I like to think of St. Mammon, 'provideer'). No, I don't know for a fact they're the most expensive; jeez. Some people have no tolerance for hyperbole. Ten hours of surgery. Ten hours of cutting things out of people to make 'em all better. Today was cancer day, which means I had to sit on my butt a lot while our pathologist did his thing. For once, I wised up, and brought a book -- Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep. And if I have to hear another nurse say, "Oh, science fiction. My twelve-year-old reads science fiction," I am going to bust my kishkes.
- o -
The good folks at Blogger Support might bail my ass out yet. Here's the response I got to my whiny plea:
Hi Doug,

Thanks for writing in. We're sorry to hear about the frustration that
you've been experiencing with the deletion of the incorrect blog. Please
send me the URL of your old, accidently deleted blog, as well as the
username and email address associated with this account, and I'll see what
I can do about restoring it for you.



Blogger Support
And if that fails, Amanda has shown me how to find my cached files on Google. I wonder how long I should give Robin?
- o -
Speaking of 'how long should I give', I'm still strung out about Continuum Science Fiction. Bill Rupp, Continuum's editor, accepted two of my stories earlier this year ("All Change" and "Heaven on Earth"). Continuum is a print magazine, so these would be my first stories to be published outside ezine-space. Unfortunately, no word from Mr. Rupp as to when my stories are going to run. No contract, either. After our initial exchange of letters -- his acceptance, my "Yippee!" -- I waited six weeks before writing again. I sent him an email and waited another four weeks. Nothing. I pinged him again on June 1, and still haven't heard a thing. I'm finding this a lot harder to take than rejections.
- o -
New purchase: Norman Spinrad's 1972 novel, The Iron Dream. Premise: imagine an alternate universe in which Adolf Hitler came to New York in 1919, became a comic book illustrator, and later, a science fiction author. The Iron Dream is, in fact, a more palatable title than the book's real title: LORD OF THE SWASTIKA, a science-fiction novel by Adolf Hitler. Yup! Spinrad has put himself into Hitler's mindset and written about an ubermensch who must battle against genetic degenerates. Here's how he introduces the main character, Feric Jaggar: Finally, there emerged from the cabin of the steamer a figure of startling and unexpected nobility: a tall, powerfully built true human in the prime of manhood. His hair was yellow, his skin was fair, his eyes were blue and brilliant. His musculature, skeletal structure, and carriage were letter-perfect, and his trim blue tunic was clean and in good repair. The first few pages are rippingly good satire (my wife would say, "Who cares? It's an easy target.") I'm 23 pages into it, and I am beginning to wonder if it's a one-note joke. I'll let you know.
- o -
And now I'm off to help Bare Rump with her diary. Lest you think this is all fun and games, I do have a bit of method behind all this. I have in mind a bona fide blogged novel with a beginning, middle, and end, but one that will also respond to the times. In other words, I don't know what will happen when Ms. Rump finally meets W., since much will depend on what's in the news at the time. Meanwhile, I'm having fun thinking up new jokes & making funky photos with Paint Shop Pro. Exhaustedly yours, D.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

An antediluvian tale

Stations of the Tide Michael Swanwick Avon Books, 1992 I first encountered Michael Swanwick not through his fiction, but through his website, Michael Swanwick Online, and in particular, his site's lovably churlish unca mike's advice column. If you're not familiar with unca mike, his modus operandi is to encourage questioners to do the worst thing possible for their writing careers, thereby winnowing his competition. Yeah, like he has tsuris competing with other writers. Here's an exchange he recently shared with his readers:

Dear Gardner: An rtf file of "The Word That Sings the Scythe" is attached, as requested. I note that you've had my story for over an hour and you haven't bought it yet. GET OFF THE POT, DOZOIS! Cordially, Michael

That evening he wrote back:

Dear Michael, I like "The Word That Sings the Scythe," and I'll take it. Sorry for the delay, but I had to have dinner first. --Gardner

For my non-SF audience, Swanwick is writing to Gardner Dozois, editor of Asimov's Science Fiction (one of the primo bitchin' markets) since 1985.

Okay. So we've established that Michael Swanwick either (A) has an ego the size of Uzbekistan, or (B) has a sadistic sense of humor. I'm leaning towards (B), given some of the other content on his unca mike column.

I bet you're thinking this is going to be a negative review. Not entirely.

Actually, it depresses the hell out of me that Stations of the Tide is out of print. It won a Nebula Award, for cryin' out loud. What do you have to do in this business to stay in print? Here I am thinking, "If only I can manage to get my book published, I'll have a steady flow of income to tide me over into my old age," and then I find out that even if you win a Nebula you STILL don't have it made.

Yes, that's my retirement plan. Write a bestseller and live off the residuals. I play Super Lotto, too.

On to the review.


The polar caps of the planet Miranda are about to melt, inundating nearly all land. (We never find out why this happens, or with what periodicity, since Swanwick is a show-don't-tell-if-it-kills-me kind of guy. But that's okay; I read SF, so I can take a lot on faith.) While Miranda's flora and fauna have evolved to cope with this regular deluge, the planet's human inhabitants must be evacuated. Self-styled magician Gregorian has another way out: for a price, he'll transform you into a creature capable of thriving post-deluge.

Our protagonist, the unnamed bureaucrat, comes to Miranda as the representative of a shadowy interplanetary governing body that, through the power of embargo, controls the technology level of individual planets. The bureaucrat's bosses suspect that Gregorian is using stolen, proscribed tech to deliver on his promises. The bureaucrat's job: find Gregorian (before the Jubilee Tides swallow all, naturally) and persuade him to give back the stolen technology.

We see numerous metamorphoses throughout the book; some are tricks, some are not. Early on, we're told (shown, actually -- excuse me!) that Gregorian could have such technology -- i.e., it really exists -- but he could easily be pulling a nasty con on these people, too. Dead marks tell no tales. It's a given that in a story such as this, the protagonist is going to change. Otherwise, what's the point? Carping on that would be like bitching that a novel is formulaic because it has a plot, and, oh God, why do these novels always have to have plots? (Yes, yes, I know there are exceptions to that rule, too.) I'd like to mention one interesting counter-example: J. M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians, in which (spoilers!) the protagonist goes through hell and back, yet insists to himself that he has learned nothing at all. So, yes, the bureaucrat is going to change. What matters, what really matters, is that we buy that change every step of the way. Is the transformation believable, and is it inevitable? I have to tread carefully to avoid spoilers. Yes, spoilers count, since I think you ought to read this book, if for no other reason than the sex is that good, and Swanwick's writing is, at times, beautiful. (I love the title, Stations of the Tide, merging as it does the stations of the cross with the idea of a natural cycle; and I love the first line, too: The bureaucrat fell from the sky.) I'm also interested in hearing from other readers on this point. (Hey. Pat. You out there?) But here's my gripe: There comes a time rather late in the story when the bureaucrat must choose between love and duty. His choice will be a clear indication of the changes wrought by the novel's preceding 200 pages. If he chooses one, the story might grind to a halt. If he chooses the other, the plot is advanced. Trouble is, the believable, inevitable choice is the one that stops the plot dead in its tracks -- so, guess what: the bureaucrat does what he needs to do to advance the plot. Some 40 pages later, he's faced with another choice. At this point, his choice swings the other way. It's believable this time, it has the feeling of inevitability, and yet this critical moment is undercut by the fact that I, the reader, am saying, "HEY! WAIT A MINUTE! DIDN'T YOU JUST . . . ?" It's difficult criticizing a book that promises to teach me things that will make my orgasms last longer. But, there you have it: Stations of the Tide falls short of classic status, in my opinion, because it fails the inevitability test. In a book about magic and illusion, I could see the puppeteer's strings. Inevitability is on my mind a lot lately. As I wrap up my novel, I find myself fretting over whether I have frogwalked my characters to the finish line, or whether they've done what they really really truly would have done. D. PS: Have you been checking out Bare Rump's Diary? Give the ol' girl some feedback when you get the chance. She has read a great many romance novels, by the way, so if you need to ask her for advice on love, I'm sure she'll be all legs.

A link to some of the lost blog entries.

Thanks to the lovely and talented Amanda for retrieving some of my lost blog entries! I've posted them at my website, You'll find: Because Maureen asked for really bad angst-ridden poetry (Confessions of a Teenage Angstwolf) Violet survived her squeezing (Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: where are they now?) I think I can, I think I can (My student dream; memories of Carmela) If I can figure out how Amanda did it, I'll post more, and update the list here. Thank you, Amanda! D.

Monday, June 06, 2005

An SF market you won't see listed on

Long ago, back when I could call myself a scientist without blushing, I dreamed of publishing in Nature. Science? Too stuffy. Cell? Too serious. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences? Oh, come on. Does anyone read PNAS? No, all the cool scientists' papers showed up in Nature. In 1998, after a series of epiphanies which would make dishwater dull reading, I gave up basic research, left Texas*, and entered private practice. I also had to leave behind my dream of getting published in Nature. Or so I thought. In 1999, with the millenium approaching, Nature began running a weekly feature called Futures. Come 2001, Nature stopped publishing new stories, but they recently started up again. They're all one-page offerings, tasty bites from an assemblage of authors whose names read like the SF equivalent of Ultimate Baseball: Arthur C. Clarke, Bruce Sterling, Joe Haldeman, Norman Spinrad, Gregory Benford, Vonda McIntyre . . . Hey, I never said it would be easy for me to get published in Nature. Here are a few recent stories that you won't regret reading. Last Man Standing by Xaviera Young (17 March 2005) After the Y virus eliminates half of the world's population, we are left with "A planet with no more moonlight strolls, not really." Poignant contemplation of a world without men. Heartwired by Joe Haldeman (24 March 2005) Designer psychopharmaceuticals for the perfect 25th wedding anniversary. (Does anyone do the future of love as well as Haldeman?) New Hope for the Dead by David Langford (26 May 2005) Electronic afterlifes (afterlives?) aren't all they're cracked up to be. This one is funny as hell. Come to think of it, Langford has come up with a mighty interesting take on hell. Meat by Paul McAuley (5 May 2005) Disgruntled tissue culture biologists have become meatleggers in this creepily believable tale of the future perversions of fame. "These days, you aren't a hardcore tru-fan unless you've partaken of the flesh of your hero." Ivory Tower by Bruce Sterling (7 April 2005) Who needs college? Blogging self-educated physicists band together to form their own academy.
Now for the bad news: 1. If you're not a Nature subscriber, you'll have to become one to read Futures. (If you're fortunate, your local library subscribes to Nature.) It ain't cheap. 2. I've tried and failed to find submission guidelines for Futures. I suspect this gig is by invitation only. #2 merely pushes the dream back one step. First, I need to become the kind of author who rubs shoulders with the likes of Haldeman or Sterling . . . D. PS: Only four more votes on BlogHop and I'll get listed with the big boys. If you haven't already experienced the pleasure of clicking (it helps if you let your finger circle ever so slowly on the mouse button a few hundred times before clicking -- and a little Astroglide helps, too), go over to the right margin and look for the colorful BlogHop icon. Click on the GREEN SMILEY-FACED BUTTON. I don't want to have to threaten you with my Virgin Mary matzoh square. You know I'll do it.
*Hmm. Hard to call leaving Texas an epiphany.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

September 13, 1975

I posted this yesterday. But we all know what happened yesterday, hmm? My apologies if you have already read this one. I'll try to mix it up a bit for funsies. Jake and I stopped by our house in Harbor to look for a few of his Battlebots videotapes. (The house is unlivable, thanks to our brilliant remodeling plans, which have left us seventy thousand dollars over budget. But enough of that -- I'm depressed enough as it is.) I had to keep Jake in the garage because the other cache of Battlebots tapes is mixed in with our porn, and even though we have a progressive father-son relationship, I do not want to have to explain Chica-boom-boom to him. See? Told you I'd mix it up. Anyway, he didn't want just any Battlebots tapes. Season Two, it had to be Season Two. Naturally, the Season Two tapes were at the bottom of the bottom-most box labeled Jake's Toys (at least the labeling was correct!) Meanwhile, I snuffled around in the dust until I found my old diaries, all six volumes of them. I'm going to reprint the first page of the first volume here, because it's funny, in the hopeless pathetic way anything written by a thirteen-year-0ld boy is funny. Here goes. *** DATA: BOUGHT SATURDAY, SEP. 13, 1975 52 cents VOLUME I First Quarter, First Semester, 9th Grade Sept. 13: I bought this notebook with the grand hope of keeping a day-by-day account of my high school years, and perhaps college as well. (That day-by-day thing got dumped mighty quick. The next two entries are from September 16 and September 19. Good God, what kept me busy back then? Nowadays, I work a full time job as a doc, and I still manage to blog daily. What was I doing back then?) I admit that I have future fame in mind which will make these 'diaries' valuable, but the reason that I prefer is that I can show this to my kid(s). (Even then I had the grace to feel at least a little bit sheepish about my lust for fame. Thank heavens I'm not screwed up like that anymore -- so egocentric, so, so hungry for power and adulation. By the way, it has come to my attention that some of you have not yet voted on my blog. All you need to do is click on the green smiley-faced cube at the far left of the icon. That's over in the right margin -- see it? Yesssss. Remember, this blog is essential to my plans for world domination. Click on the green smiley-face. Click now. Get your friends to click, too -- tell them how much fun it is to click. Goooood.) But first, a brief autobiography. (When and where I was born, what schools I attended, who my favorite teachers were, yatta yatta yatta.) I won't give any crap about my family because I don't think I'll forget that too fast. (Ain't that the truth. Okay . . . more stuff about school . . . then:) That, I hope, will be the only line of crap in this whole bit. Why do I say that? Because I feel that such an oration is insincere, and thus is crap. (But hey, I just edited out all the crap, so all that comes through is the sincere stuff. And a thirteen-year-old boy is nothing if not sincere. Especially when he's jerking off.) *** Oh, that's right. That's what I was doing in my spare time. D.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Hope the ol' gal is worth it.

See, this is what I get doing favors for a friend. It's Bare Rump's fault this all happened. Oh, well; she's a sweetheart, so I shouldn't begrudge her a minor mishap like this. Be a dear and visit her blog, Bare Rump's Diary. She's new to our land, so we should all do our best to make her feel welcome. D.

Guess it could have been worse.

Guess I could have been a-bloggin' for months, years even, before I hit the kill button. A common motif in science fiction stories is the electronic backup personality -- slotted, as needed, into a force-grown clone (as in Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom) or slipped at will into electronic avatars (e.g., Michael Swanwick's Stations of the Tide). And then there's Robert Silverberg's To Live Again -- a corker, well worth searching out, but undoubtedly not the earliest incarnation of this theme. Point is, I don't remember ever reading a story where such an electronic persona could be deleted by a single keystroke. It might make a fun short. It does make a sickening firsthand experience. Here's how it happened. (I will always share my stupidity with you, my loyal readers, because I have no pride. Or is it, I have no shame? I always get those two mixed up.) I wanted to start a second blog. Never mind what; you'll find that out soon enough. I set it up on the same account as this one, and discovered too late that my pic & 'about me' info gets carried over to every new blog I create. Well, I didn't want that. My new blog would represent a whole new identity. New pic, new 'about me'. I mean, that was the whole point. So I decided to delete the new blog, hop over to a different internet account profile, and start a new blog from there. The problem came at the 'delete the new blog' step. I had the wrong blog selected. Don't try this at home. This looks permanent. If any of you know this to be otherwise, please let me know. For now, I'll content myself with thinking about the massive volume of written material -- PUBLISHED written material -- which disappears every day. Books go out of print; old pages turn to dust. It was a blog, Hoffman, not the Library of Alexandria. I'm still here. I ain't going anywhere. Drop me a note so I can start building up my blog links again. D.


If any of you had any doubts as to my . . . erm . . . lack of facility with computers, you need only look at this bare blog and imagine what happened ten minutes ago. Oh, well. Blogs are ephemera anyway, right? D.
posted by Douglas Hoffman at 8:50 PM 0 comments


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