Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Kilgore Trout

A couple of weeks ago, I ran across a copy of Venus on the Half Shell by Kilgore Trout. Trout is, of course, the fictional SF writer who appears in the stories of Kurt Vonnegut. Venus on a Half-Shell was, in reality, written by Philip Jose Farmer, with the (mixed) blessings of Vonnegut.

Farmer is one of the most under-recognized writers of the genre. I haven't read much of the book yet, but it reads much like Vonnegut at his best. This should be a fun excursion from all the serious fiction I've read lately.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Still Singin' the DSL Blues

As the disasterous conversion to the Quest package continues, I await my second appointment with the Direct TV guy, who wrecked three cars and wasted 4 hours of my precious vacation time when his ladder flew off his truck on the freeway. Another 4 hours thiscoming friday and hopefully I'll have that installed.

With help from my ISP, we finally got the DSL line connected to internet, but for some reason, I can't see any web sites hosted at my ISP. Well, little victories, anyway.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

DSL Blues

Turn around and suddenly it'd been 4 days since my last post. We went out today to get power of attorney taken care of for Grandma. It's something that's long over-due and would have saved us a lot of trouble had we done it before the broken hip. Still, it feels better to have it done now.

No real news on the writing front. A couple of stories back, and sent out again. the big issue now is the disasterous conversion from dial-up to DSL/Qwest long distance/Direct TV.

I won't go into the whole headache, but today's adventure was my first attempt to connect to DSL. No signal. This is on the same line that had a broken wire the first time we tried to change. Sigh, tomorrow afternoon at the earliest.

The pool is turning green yet again. I can't seem to kill that algea even after the second chemical attack. It's looking more and more like a complete draining over the winter. I don't like buying an extra 17,500 gallons, but it will probably be cheaper than constantly killing algea.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

CopperCon 27

We woke up early this morning to the dog barking, and found Grandma on the floor by the front door. "I just arrived," she said. I'll probably never know how she got to the front door without her walker, but there she was. Senility with convelescence and incontinence is not a pretty thing.

I attended CopperCon 27 this past weeekend. The guests of honor were Charlene Harris and Michael A. Stackpole. I had opportunity to chat with both.

Saturday marked my first experience as a panelist. I had three: "Humor in the Genre" with Bennie Grezlik and David Brown, "Big Ideas Were Our Mainstay," with Michael Contos and Bennie Grezlik, and "Publishing Short Stories," with Jack Mangan and David Lee Summers.

The first panel was a disaster. One of them decided to read an essay he wrote about humor rather than use if for notes to spur impromptu discussion, the other wanted to read one of his own stories. Not good. I was getting bored and I sat at the table in front. Making it even more painful, Charlene Harris was in the audience. I mentioned this to Michael Stackpole and he agreed with me, never read your own work at a panal.

The second one was a little better. Nobody read, at least. It turned out to be a fairly good discussion that covered a lot of ground.

The third panal was the most fun, and it drew, by far, the largest audience. We had almost 20 people show up, compared to the average panal attendence of about 6. Jack, David, and I all know each other. David is editor of "Tales of the Talisman," and both Jack and I have appeared in that magazine, so we had that in common, as well. Any writer with a track record would have sat in the back nodding to everything we said--it's all common knowledge to people who have been writing for a while. New writers, however, don't know these things, and have to hear them somewhere. It went over pretty well, and all three of us were pleased with the result. After the panal, I signed my first story. It was the story that appears in this month's "Tales of the Talisman" for a woman who bought the issue from David right after the panal. My first official autograph!

Later on Saturday, I watched the masquerade, where the costume people compete. I'm not really into that aspect, but everyone else was there. While the costume judges went to deliberate, they brought out the instruments for filk (singing songs written about works of fiction). I'm not into costumes, but I'm even less into filk.

On sunday, I attended only to see Stackpole's discussion "21 Days to a Novel." Very good stuff. Realize that at this stage of my writing career, I already have established methods and habits, so I always look at these things with the attitude of take what you will work for me and ignore the rest. Not everything he said will help me, but he did present a lot of ideas for generating a story that I can use, and I took away more than average. I'll be working with Stackpole again this coming February at the 2008 ASU Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference.

All-in-all, a good experience for a minor con.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Interesting Statistics

The current issue of Locus has the results of their annual survey. In the reading section, they asked about what types of SF and fantasy their respondants liked. The speculative genre seems to be doing better across the board.

Under the Do you like... question,
SF hit 90% for the first time, up 3% over last year.
Fantasy hit 77%, up 2% over last year.
Horror hit 50%, up 3%.
Other at 18%, up 4%.

Type of SF:
Adventure 63%, up 1%.
Social Science 63%, up 6%
Hard science, 57%, up 2% possibly a reversal from years past.

Interestingly enough, fantasy doesn't show the 2% increase when categorized.
High/Heroic 52% down 2%
Humorous 47%, up 1%
Romantic 21%, down 1%.

Is this anything on which to draw a conclusion? Perhaps, but I suspect the responses are all within the (unreported) margin of error, with the possible exception of social science fiction. Consider, also, that the yes answer to "Does SF form the major part of your reading pleasure?" dropped by a percent to 80%.

It's difficult to draw any conclusion from a survey by a magazine that is effectively the spec fic writers trade magazine, where mostly writers respond (though not as many as you might think--only 54% of responders listed writing/editing as a primary or secondary occupation). Still, I like the trend. Fantasy has had its way with readers for long enough.

Time for an SF revival!

Monday, September 03, 2007

End of Drought

I finally made another sale after a 3-month drought. Tales of the Talisman purchased my story The Great Basilisk Race. This is the first time I intentionally wrote a fantasy story, though frankly, it could have been set in any genre. It is slated to appear in the June 2008 issue. This will be my second story to appear in TOTT, the first appearing this month. The editor promised my contributor copy personally delivered at Coppercon this coming weekend.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

It's Not Easy Being Green

I decided to tackle the green pool today. For those not following along, in July of 2006 my pump broke. I was told 2 days to repair it, but the two days turned into ten. You don't leave a pool uncirculating for 10 days in Phoenix during the summer. A bad case of algea developed that I have been battling ever since.

Last winter, I thought I had it licked. This summer being particularly hot, it came back with a vengeance. I spent weeks trying to kill it with chlorine to no avail. Come July, I went nuclear, bombing the pool with algecide. It killed the algea off, and the pool was blue again. Come August, the algea was back. With all the extremely hot days at 110 degrees or hotter, it got to the point I couldn't see the bottom of the deep end.

Today, I nuked the pool again, with different chemistry. If this doesn't work, I'll have to drain the thing this winter.

On the fiction front, story and world building continue on the collaboration project. I've been lazy about putting down words for the Halloween contest story. I made the mistake of leaving it on the laptop, and that makes it difficult to get started except at night.

Last night, I managed to get the last of my stagnant stories out the door, so I have all 36 deployed right now. A few subs are getting out there, including one that's coming up on a year. Patience, patience.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Imperfect Beasts

Sometimes, I just don't know what I was thinking when we had kids. You spend at work the friday before Labor Day dealing with a customer representitive who is not at all pleasant to work with, then come home to kids that fight. They can't help with the laundry without getting into a fight--today it was a fistfight. My hair would be turning gray if it wasn't already turning gray.

After fixing the sprinklers in the front yard last weekend, I ran them excessively all week. Some of the grass is starting to fill in, but I suspect teh front won't look decent until after I overseed with rye grass once the temperature drops enough. Yesterday was 111 again, so we're up to 31 days over 110 degrees. Fun, fun.

The collaboration with my assigned partner is coming along fine. We have a premise and the idea is beginning to solidify. This will be a fun story.