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Below are the 8 most recent journal entries recorded in rec.arts.sf.written's LiveJournal:

Thursday, July 31st, 2008
7:52 pm
Something's wrong with Usenet today (or maybe my computer). I'm using Netscape Communicator 4.8 (running under WinXP), and all afternoon it has been quitting unexpectedly. No warning, no error, no "Do you want to send an error report?" (which it always used to give me), it just suddenly wouldn't be there. I was able to check my email and most newsgroups in fits and starts, but when I started to work through rasfw, my newsserver (news.motzarella.org) started lagging, and then shut down completely (it's been timing out trying to connect for hours now).

Anyone else been having trouble today? I eventually tried Thunderbird (though I never got it to install properly), but that was after the newsserver stopped responding. Hmm, maybe I should try a traceroute too... okay, it's getting lost somewhere in Germany?!?

Tracing route to news.motzarella.org []
over a maximum of 30 hops:

1 * * * Request timed out.
2 11 ms * 11 ms gig2-24.dllatxrch-rtr1.tx.rr.com []
3 12 ms 11 ms 11 ms gig5-0-0.dllatxchn-rtr6.tx.rr.com []
4 14 ms 11 ms 20 ms gig2-0-0.dllatxl3-rtr1.texas.rr.com []
5 46 ms 50 ms 18 ms ae-4-0.cr0.dfw10.tbone.rr.com []
6 81 ms 15 ms 21 ms ae-1-0.pr0.dfw10.tbone.rr.com []
7 27 ms 16 ms 15 ms
8 148 ms 149 ms 148 ms MOBILCOM.GigabitEthernet3-24.ar1.FRA4.gblx.net []
9 158 ms 156 ms 159 ms ge-2-0-0-0.lpz2-j2.mcbone.net []
10 165 ms 162 ms 161 ms strato-crs2.fdknet.de []
11 155 ms 156 ms 157 ms
12 * * * Request timed out.
13 * * * Request timed out.
14 * * * Request timed out.
15 * * * Request timed out.
16 * * * Request timed out.
17 * * * Request timed out.
18 * * * Request timed out.
19 * * * Request timed out.
20 * * * Request timed out.
21 * * * Request timed out.
22 * * * Request timed out.
23 * * * Request timed out.
24 * * * Request timed out.
25 * * * Request timed out.
26 * * * Request timed out.
27 * * * Request timed out.
28 * * * Request timed out.
29 * * * Request timed out.
30 * * * Request timed out.

Trace complete.
Thursday, November 30th, 2006
3:34 pm
Best of Fantasy, A Draft
Back in the middle of November there was a top 50 list that was making its way around LJ. I didn't like the very premise of it, importance meaning the most influential books of the last 50 years. So I got busy writing a list of fantasy works that I think are both enjoyable and very well written.

Now for some definitions. By fantasy I mean the whole range of all science fiction, sci-fi, epic fantasy, magic realism, horror, and any other fantastic sub genre. Enjoyability is a factor in the selection because I want this to be a list that people look forward to trying the works on it rather than a dreaded after school slog through very important, but boring, works of literature. On the other hand I don't want this to be all light fluffy reads so I have left off some of my favorite fun reads and tried to just select those works that are well written, well plotted, with good characterization, and effective use of ideas.

This isn't finished and I hope that it spurs some debate over what is or is not deserving of going on such a list.

In no particular order:
The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
Cordelia's Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
Dune by Frank Herbert
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
The Night Inside by Nancy Baker
Fudoki by Kij Johnson
The Dragon Waiting by John M. Ford
Finder by Emma Bull
The House With a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs
The Annotated Alice by Lewis Carrol & Martin Gardner
Vampire Tapestry by Suzy McKee Charnas
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
Seven Peaches by Donna Barr
Magic Kingdom for Sale, Sold by Terry Brooks
The Past Through Tomorrow by Robert A. Heinlein
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Watership Down by Richard Adams
2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
Astro City Vol. 4: The Tarnished Angel by Kurt Busiek
From hell : being a melodrama in sixteen parts by Alan Moore
The princess bride : S. Morgenstern's classic tale of true love and high adventure by William Goldman
Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie

Things recommended to me that I have to read:
Blood music by Greg Bear
Tam Lin by Pamela Dean
God Stalk by P. C. Hodgell

Series with a solid first book that the rest aren't quite up to snuff:
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Chung Kuo/The Middle Kingdom by David Wingrove
Thursday, October 5th, 2006
3:36 am
Spiders, Wasps, Ants, and Cockroaches
So here I am thinking about biology on space stations. I know that NASA and all are really terribly careful about what they send into space, but it seems to me at some point there will be unwanted biological invaders of the International Space Station or one of its successors. Or we have some right now if you consider dust mites to count as unwanted pests. They're almost undoubtedly there feeding on skin particles just as they do on earth along with a population of bacteria, viruses, and molds.

To keep the ISS clean the air is filtered intensely and every surface that can be reached is regularly wiped down with antibacterial rags. But humans, like all other animals, are constantly producing stuff that can be a food source. Skin, skin oils, proteins in sweat, etc... So there is all this "stuff" about that can be food and some things take advantage of it. On Mir there were a lot of varieties of mold and bacteria that made the place smell like a particularly stinky gym locker room.

Much can be done by limiting spaces that are inaccessible and wiping things down, but that probably isn't a long term solution. What happens when something good at hiding behind and inside things gets into a large space station? Like silverfish or small cockroaches? The nuclear option in space would be to close off the section and pump out and filter all the air. After and hour or so pretty much everything will be dead. Don't want to expose things to a vacuum? How about displacing the air with a relatively inert gas like nitrogen?

Thinking SF-wise though I wonder if in a space station the right thing to do to prevent cockroaches might not be to import ants on purpose. Or something like that. Some creature that would take up the available food supply, kill off any invaders that did get on board, and had instincts that kept them out of the way of the humans. It would take selective breeding and/or genetic engineering.

I also thought of having a strategic strike force, like a large number of spiders that could be released to kill off the cockroaches and then die out themselves. Then I realized that would probably be more of a pain than just using an insecticide in bait or something.

Though right now the space station isn't nearly large enough or inhabited enough to make vacuum fumigation impractical and it seems to work pretty well.
Sunday, September 3rd, 2006
10:20 pm
Huh, That's Funny
Would any of the people here happen to know if the use of the name Howard DeVore in Chung Kuo by David Wingrove is a Tuckerization? The character is nothing like the fan Howard DeVore, but it was a curious coincidence of names.
Monday, March 6th, 2006
2:17 pm
Wednesday, February 1st, 2006
12:02 pm
The Structure of a Fantasy Republic
An American style republic, at least from the early days of the nation, would probably work fairly effectively in a fantasy setting. Most fantasy nations already have a literacy rate that would be comparable to that of early America and mostly the people voting were the land owners and men of means rather than everyone, so it would not be totally out of step with a middle to late fantasy age.

But how would such a state of affairs have come about? That is the hard part because there is no obvious parallel from the medieval world from where fantasy authors crib their history. Except that there is in semi-forgotten nations like Venice, the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania, Switzerland, and various merchant and aristocratic republics. In one sense they were not anything like the early United States because part of what caused the US to come into being was the work of provocateurs that wanted to overthrow the class system. So though republics these places were not terribly egalitarian relative to either present day societies or even early America.

What if, just what if, there were a number of aristocratic republics that were ruled by a king who had conquered them some decades before. Like if the French had been successful in conquering a large portion of Italy. And then there was a revolution that was one part idealism and one part nationalism. It might be possible to conceive of a way in which the fractious merchant republics might come together into a federation not totally unlike the early United States. There would still be titles and such, but they would mean landowner, voter, or merchant rather than being a title of blood.

Alternatively researching the golden years or troubled times of the Swiss Confederation might prove a rich new vein for fantasy stories that are not about the inevitable good heir vs. the bad heirs of the kingdom or the noble and good family of aristocratic linage.

(Note: I am going to refine this and eventually post a more detailed version in storyguypress.)
Monday, January 30th, 2006
6:22 pm
Drugged to Sleep
Reading is my drug of choice. It is fortunate, or perhaps unfortunate, for me that reading is perceived to be intellectual and healthy so no one tries to stop me indulging my addition. I love to escape from the here and now by reading about other places, other times, and grand visions. From this statement a reader might assume that I only read purely escapist stories without a hint of the 'deep meaning', but this is not the case. I read a pretty balanced mix, and I read a great deal about history and social problems beside. Not because I am politically active, but because they are just as escapist as the other sort of story I read.

Novels and histories are almost never written at the every day level of an individual, but at the level of the great and mighty. People who matter and can change things for the better or worse. They allow ordinary people like me to fantasize about mattering, about having an opinion that was important beyond maybe moving the vote one way or the other by less than a millionth of a percent. The few that do not exist on this higher level seem to be universally about fears of what might happen to an ordinary person "like me", should things go wrong. They fulfill a human need to feel persecuted and set upon unfairly, even if right now things are not objectively bad. (See also christian novels about the coming persecutions of the christians under the antichrist.)

The reason that a few didactic novels break through and become mainstream is not because they touch a nerve that no one wishes to touch, it is because they are expressing fears or hopes that large numbers of people have already internalized. As Sinclair Lewis said of The Jungle, "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach." It was the concerns that touched everyone's lives that made it a big work, not because it made people suddenly concerned to what happened to people usually out of sight and mind. Didactic novels are read by people who already agree with the premises being expressed by the author. Who do you think reads all those crap libertarian tracts disguised as novels, socialists?

In my opinion there is no difference, except that perhaps people who write novels with real life concerns in them might more easily succeed in building tension. When a person loudly proclaims that a novel is too preachy or something similar (I do not exclude myself, I make very human mistakes) it usually can be read into the line, "Expresses opinions I do not agree with." These novels are not about making a difference, they are about drugging people. And now I'm jonseing for another hit, I need a fix of a future or past where gay men aren't persecuted.
Sunday, January 29th, 2006
6:20 pm
The Thin Fame of SF Authors
In response to an assertion that Orson Scott Card would be the most famous living SF writer once Arthur C. Clark died I did a random survey of officer workers (well not really, I just asked everyone I could).

In this tiny and non-scientific sample I found the only ones they could think of were Jules Vern, HG Wells, Isaac Asimov, and Huxley. When told the names of a few more Ray Bradbury was recognized while Authur C. Clark, Ben Bova, and William Gibson were familiar to some of them and when their works were named they went, "Oh, yeah him." Orson Scott Card on the other hand was a total unknown even when naming his most famous works.

If feeling particularly crazy I might actually randomly ask people on the bus tonight.
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