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A public conversation about our worlds.

  • Monday: Morgan J. Locke
  • Tuesday: Madeleine E. Robins
  • Wednesday: Maureen F. McHugh
  • Thursday: Bradley Denton
  • Friday: Steven Gould
  • Saturday: Caroline Spector
  • Sunday: Rory Harper

Brain Activity



To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before

May 30th, 2008 by Steven Gould

Four minutes forty-five seconds. Really, it will change your life.

Posted in Art, Dammit!, Dance, Horror, Labor Relations, Music, Steve | 9 Comments »

Pwned

May 23rd, 2008 by Steven Gould

jumpergame.jpg

So, I watch with amusement as president of Brash Entertainment quits after spectacularly poor sales of its video game titles. They only had two. One of them, Alvin and the Chipmunks, didn’t do horrible. It sold a quarter million units but its only other title sold only 16,000 units.

That game was Jumper: Griffin’s Story which wasn’t, I’m afraid, very good. In fact, looking at all the Xbox 360 games ever made, it ranks 380 out of 381. That’s right, the second worst Xbox 360 game ever made.

So, why am I amused?

Any money I got from this was up front.

and

Despite the fact that they used dialog right out of my book of the same name and, of course, this game is based on the movie which is based on my books Jumper and Reflex, there is not a single attribution to me or the books in the game and associated materials.

Second worst game in Xbox 360 history. I’m happy my name isn’t on it.

Posted in Dammit!, JumperMovie, Steve | 5 Comments »

Down a Silent Alleyway

May 20th, 2008 by Madeleine Robins

Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins studio

I once wrote a book called The Stone War, about New York City, which is (as you know, Bob) my hometown, and about which I am a little crazy. Not the least of the fun I had writing the book was doing the research. If you tell people you’re writing a book they’ll tell you all sorts of things. They’ll let you in places you’d otherwise have no chance of entering (even if you don’t speak the language! I charmed myself into Malmaison outside Paris on a day when the museum wasn’t open because I said, in my execrable French, that I was a novelist doing research). Research is like wandering in a city you don’t know, finding yourself in alleys and back streets, wondering how the hell you get back to the main square, and yet unwilling to turn around because there might be something cool around the next corner.

And this, my friends, is how I came upon Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. Waterhouse was a British sculptor and naturalist who became a popularizer of dinosaurs in Victorian England and then the US. His dinosaurs–complete with period-appropriate frills and decorative ogees and such, are wonderful. I was immediately fascinated. The problem was that I saw Hawkins’s name and the information that interested me about him in an exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History–but it was a traveling exhibit, and after it left, and I wanted to get confirmation of my memory and some more information, if could find nothing. It was as if I’d imagined the whole thing. Now, why, without prompting, would I imagine pieces of smashed up dinosaur under Central Park?

Following his success with the Crystal Palace Exhibition, Hawkins came to New York City with the intent of recreating on one side of the Atlantic what had been so successful on the other. In the years following the Civil War, he set up a studio on what is now the site of the American Museum of Natural History on the upper West Side of Manhattan, and began to assemble a new menagerie of sculptured dinosaurs. The plan was to set them up in a “Paleozoic Museum” in Central Park, which was then being landscaped under the direction of Frederick Law Olmstead, an ex-engineer officer in the Union army.

However, in 1871, before either the park or the dinosaurs were finished, New York City politics intervened. The corrupt Tammany Hall-Boss Tweed machine took control of city politics, and Hawkins and his dinosaurs were out. Those models that had been made were broken up and buried in the south end of the park, and Hawkins left New York a greatly embittered man. Although Central Park has been modified in the years since its inception, including the construction of the 8th Ave subway line which runs up the west side of the park, the remains of Hawkins’ dinosaurs have never been found. They still rest somewhere under the sod of Central Park, probably not far from Umpire Rock and the Heckscher ballfields.

In the far off days when I was doing all this research, the internet was not the very cool and sometimes useful tool it now is; much of what you found, doing web-based research, was stuff put up by, um, enthusiasts with more enthusiasm than strict regard for the truth (for further elaboration on this point, find a copy of Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s excellent “What Woo-Woo Means to Me” in Making Book) . I combed through all the books I could find, went to the Museum of the City of New-York (always include the hyphen; they get finicky about it) and the AMNH itself. Nothin’. I really began to think I’d hallucinated it.And then one day at the St. Agnes branch of the NYPL, while Sarcasm Girl was looking at books, I found a kids’ picture book which had the whole damned story in it. And while that might seem like a slender reed on which to place my faith, at least it proved that I hadn’t dreamed it all up.

Two of the dinosaurs were all but finished; the other four which had been comissioned were in various stages of construction. All of them were broken up, and the pieces sewn into the ground somewhere around 60th Street, on the east side. I used Mr. Hawkins’s dinosaurs–they have a good-sized role in the denouement of The Stone War. And on those occasions when I’m in the city and wandering through Central Park, I like to walk around at 60th and 5th Avenue near the Plaza Hotel and imagine Eloise leaving the building one day to be confronted by a life-size granite Iguanadon. It’s the sentimentalist in me.

 
   

Posted in City Life, Daily Life, Fantasy, Mad, research | 1 Comment »

Tintin, Mr. Spielberg. Mr. Spielberg–Tintin.

May 16th, 2008 by Steven Gould

Now, I was born long after the first Tintin comic was published. In fact, I believe my parents weren’t born yet (though they were about to be.) But Tintin was indomitable and I read his adventures in college, blessed with roommates who collected the English editions.

Read More »

Posted in Comics, Fantasy, Fiction, Movies, Science Fiction, Steve | 12 Comments »

Disillusionment No. 18,612

May 16th, 2008 by Bradley Denton

Blackburn (2007 edition) 

From Publishers Weekly online, May 12, 2008 (“Picador Works the Trade“): 

One way the imprint is getting sales reps excited about older titles is through an initiative called “The Best Books You’ve Never Read.” The idea, Farrell said, grew out of a conversation with Augusten Burroughs. Burroughs, who is published by Picador, was talking with staffers at the house last year about some of the gems on the imprint’s backlist. He sang the praises of one title in particular, Blackburn by Bradley Denton. . . .  With that endorsement, Picador republished the book in April 2007, with a glowing cover quote from Burroughs, and the Best Books program was born. (Though Farrell said the title “wasn’t a blockbuster,” it sold well enough to entice Picador to continue the program.)

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“wasn’t a blockbuster” ??

Dang.  My mother lied to me.

Again.

Posted in Brad, Education, Mom Is A Liar, Publishing | 4 Comments »

A Wild and Crazy Truth

May 15th, 2008 by Bradley Denton

Let's Get Small 

I usually dislike books labeled as “memoir” (though I occasionally read them), because I’ve always known they can’t be trusted.

In fact, when the whole Million-Little-Pieces debacle unfolded a few years ago, I was bemused by the “Shocked! Shocked!” reaction it provoked. Seriously, now: Were daytime-television bookclubbers really surprised to discover that “memoir” is French for “big fat self-serving lie”?

Besides, even if a memoirist endeavors to be as truthful as memory allows, he or she will still get something wrong. I myself, the earthly avatar of Honesty and Cub-Scoutiness, have discovered that I often just flat misremember things. Last year, for example, I wrote an essay for Eat Our Brains in which I described a childhood game that I said had no name, but that I would refer to as “Dizzy Idiots.” Then, a few months ago, my Baby Brother (who could now crush me ‘twixt his thumb and forefinger like an overripe grape) reminded me that the game I had described did have a name. It was called “Tornado.”

[Well, Baby Brother would have a better memory of that game than I would. He was the one who wound up in the Emergency Room because of it.]

Read More »

Posted in Art, Brad, Fun, Geniuses, History, People, Pop. Culture, reading, Writing | 4 Comments »

But Would You Want Your Daughter to Marry One, Pt. 2

May 15th, 2008 by Madeleine Robins

In a rare and wonderful moment of good sense, the California State Supreme Court has ruled that it is unconstitutional to deny gays and lesbians the right to marry. I particularly like the fact that the decision shuts the door on the “but what will that do to “normal” marriage?” wheeze:

“The California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples,” Chief Justice Ronald George wrote in the majority opinion.

Allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry “will not deprive opposite-sex couples of any rights and will not alter the legal framework of the institution of marriage,” George said.

In addition, he said, the current state law, enacted in 1977 and reaffirmed by the voters in 2000, discriminates against same-sex couples on the basis of their sexual orientation – discrimination that the court, for the first time, put in the same legal category as racial or gender bias.

I can think of all sorts of reasons for not loving the person my child wants to marry (Rory enumerated some of them–I’m less concerned about issues of a motorcycle nature, and more concerned with whether the person says “I could care less” when she/he means “I couldn’t care less,”) but gender just isn’t one of them. Love is its own reason; everything else is plumbing.

Posted in Daily Life | 2 Comments »

I Think Brad Has the Same Harp Rack

May 14th, 2008 by Steven Gould

Seen at BoingBoing.

Posted in Brad, Movies, Music, Science Fiction, Steve | 7 Comments »

But Would You Want Your Daughter To Marry One?

May 11th, 2008 by Rory Harper

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I think there’s a good chance that my entire post for tonight is NSFW, so you’ll have to go below the cut for it…

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Posted in Dammit!, People, Personal History, Politics, Rachael is Awesome, Rory, Science, Sex | 12 Comments »

Extreme Arcade

May 11th, 2008 by Rory Harper

I don’t normally post here about the tech deals that I so compulsively shop for, but I’m making an exception today.

It’s the Extreme Arcade Home Arcade Model 9900 on sale at Sears for $599 + $65 shipping.

It’s a stand-alone game machine that loads fifty of the classic arcade games from the Eighties. I have no idea how many quarters I wasted on these games during those years.

Certainly more than this unit costs. If only I’d known to wait…

Centipede!

Super Breakout!

Space Invaders!

It’s got Pong!

And Asteroids!

OMFG! It’s even got Tempest!

Get yours before they’re all gone!

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Posted in Dammit!, History, Pop. Culture, Rory, Technology, Toys | 7 Comments »

Struggling With Short Fiction

May 9th, 2008 by Steven Gould

So, the last piece of published short fiction I had out was the short story, “The Session” in Terri Windling’s anthology, The Armless Maiden and Other Tales for Childhood’s Survivors back in 1995. This doesn’t count a piece Rory and I co-wrote back in the early 90′s but which appeared in Revolution SF back in 2005. I’ve been (slowly) writing novels instead.

I had a short fiction career at one point (if one can call a career something that amounted to a)nothing even close to a living wage and b) averaging less than one published story a year.) It wasn’t totally unremarkable. I made it onto the final Hugo Ballot twice and the final Nebula Ballot once. I was (at least in my own mind) a hot young turk. All of my sales were to markets considered “professional” by SFWA. I got the odd fan letter. And I got to meet a lot of cool writers and editors.

But now I’m back at it again and I’m having a rough time. I’m not completely hopeless, I think. I sold a story to the new Tor website which helped my self-esteem a bit. But now I’m working on my latest novel and I’m writing it in chunks that I hope to market as short fiction.

And this is a tricky proposition.

Here is the start of one such tale:

Read More »

Posted in Science Fiction, Writing | 3 Comments »

Paradise

May 8th, 2008 by Madeleine Robins

Meatloaf

To the happy list of celebrities who are not afraid to make fun of themselves (William Shatner anyone?) I am delighted to add Meat Loaf. Mr. Loaf not only does an ad for the Cingular Go-Phone, but a full music video of “Paradise by the Go-Phone Light.”

My question: why does Mom enter carrying a leg of lamb?

Posted in Daily Life | 6 Comments »

Breathe

May 7th, 2008 by Morgan J. Locke

Our pseudonymous friend at Wonderoom is up to her old tricks, posting one of her fabulous posts. This one is about breathing, banded iron, clocks, and time:

And so I contemplate a hunk of banded iron formation. Glimpsing a world before conscious thought, before much of anything. A too large moon and a mass of algae. Pre-Eden. A world full of so much possibility that it is empty of almost everything. Recorded in bands of alternating hematite and chert. Red and black, formed because the oxygen released by these primeval algae was bonding with iron dissolved in the oceans and forming layers of hematite all over the world. Oscillations of rock, billions of years old.

She posts fairly infrequently, but her posts are always worth reading. If you haven’t put Wonderoom on your RSS feed/ bookmarks page yet, you should.

Posted in Daily Life | Comments Off

Unca Scott Makes A Movie!

May 7th, 2008 by Rory Harper

Scott McCullar was the rhythm guitarist, frequent lead singer, and often song-writer for the late, somewhat- lamented Los Blues Guys. His song ‘The Element of Fire‘, based on the classic Martha Wells novel of the same name, is one of my favorites, though ‘Elvis is Alive‘ was always a huge crowd pleaser.

After tiring of the madness, the groupies, and the endless, hazy parties of the rock ‘n roll lifestyle, he became a librarian in Houston. But the spotlight called to him, as it does to us all. Here’s his new movie:

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Posted in Daily Life, Geniuses, Music, reading, Rory, Science Fiction | Comments Off

Sticker Patches

May 7th, 2008 by Morgan J. Locke

I grew up in New Mexico, and spent all my time outdoors. Furthermore, I hated shoes, and eschewed them whenever I could. Especially in the summer. I learned early to deal with all manner of barefoot-related issues: how to cross pavement so hot it melted tar; hot to avoid being bitten by red ants; how to deal with goatheads.

Goatheads (also known as puncturevine) are prevalent in New Mexico. They are the red ants of the plant kingdom–they grow swiftly after rains, and are as painful to remove as they are to step on (their thorns are so bad they can puncture bike and even some car tires, I’m told). You quickly learn how to recognize their characteristic leaf and flower pattern.

With practice, you can even pick your way lightly through a sticker patch without too much damage, if you are good at it, by moving from bare spot to bare spot, and stopping occasionally to pull out the one or two thorns that have punctured the soles of your feet. I prided myself on this ability.

Once, though, I wasn’t looking far enough ahead. Somehow, I wandered into a goathead demilitarized zone. One minute I was light-footing through like a sailboat cutting through water, and the next I was stalled: surrounded by a field of green and yellow, filled with goatheads as far as the eye could see (OK, I’m exaggerating. But not much). Worse, the soles of my feet were already caked with stickers.

I stood there, on my tiptoes, trying not to stand on the stickers already in my feet, and yelled, “Help!” till my throat and lungs were raw. Then I cried. Finally, I carefully pulled out as many as I could get without losing my balance and falling over (into thousands more stickers). Then I picked my way through the sticker patch. Because that was the only way I was going to get out of that fix.

I think of that experience sometimes. What it tells me is this: you can make what seem at the time to be all the right choices, and despite that, sometimes, you get stuck in a really awful situation. And in that case, there is no getting around it. It doesn’t matter whose fault it was or what you could have done differently: the only way out is through, and on the way out, you’re going to bleed. So just get it over with.

(But it’s OK to shed tears — friends, it fuckin’ hurts.)

Posted in Daily Life, Morgan | 6 Comments »

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