My interview with James Gunn, recipient of the Damon Knight Grand Master of Science Fiction award, was posted on the Hugo award winning SFSignal. It was also picked up by io9 where a nice discussion has ensued.
LARRY: Your novel THE LISTENERS (1972) is an excellent example of that feeling you describe as “unity of goal and effort, and mutual sacrifice, and a feeling that we were all in this great enterprise together.” Robert MacDonald, the protagonist, keeps the band of searchers together for several decades in spite of political and religious opposition to their “great enterprise”, with the goal of finding evidence of alien life. The SETI Institute parallels (and was no doubt inspired by) your novel; founded in 1984, nearly three decades later they are still searching, and others have been searching longer. There have been scientists modifying the Drake equation to make it more optimistic (including this interesting one from Sara Seager at MIT that revamps it from radio aware life to focusing on the presence of alien life), and some that make it more pessimistic (as I was getting a Physics degree one of my professors was Dr. Michael Hart, who co-edited Extra-Terrestrials, Where Are They? In 1982). That is a long-winded way of asking: are you optimistic? Pessimistic? Are they out there? Or are we alone?
JAMES GUNN: Story premises require different states of mind. When I read Walter Sullivan’s WE ARE NOT ALONE in the last 1960s (I think I got it from the Science Book Club), the thought that inspired THE LISTENERS was how humanity could sustain an effort for a century without results, and for that purpose it was necessary to assume that the only contact with aliens that was possible was through messages propagated by something like radio waves. But I do believe–and have been convinced by powerful voices like Carl Sagan’s–that there are intelligent aliens out there and maybe even intelligent aliens with technology, but that the difficulties and costs and lack of compensation for interstellar travel are such that we are unlikely to ever come into contact. But we can still share the intelligent beings burden of understanding the universe and our place in it by means of some such means as I describe inTHE LISTENERS, and that would be a shattering accomplishment that would change us and our world-view, and would be quite enough.
But that doesn’t keep me from writing about interstellar travel as I have in GIFT FROM THE STARS and TRANSCENDENTAL, in the furtherance of larger goals.
So, in spite of everything, I’m an optimist. I believe in what William Faulkner said in his Nobel acceptance speech, that humanity not only will survive but will prevail.
And I hope science fiction will be a tool in that.
LARRY: It would be interesting to see a timeline of waves of optimism, pessimism and other historical movements, juxtaposed with science fiction novels from those times…a project for another day.
JAMES GUNN: It was hard for optimism to survive the brutality of two world wars.
I only had a half-a-con, spending the mornings at the conference and the afternoons/evenings with family in San Antonio. But even a half-a-con was full
As always, THANK YOU SAN ANTONIO!
Finally, the Packers are back. Sure, it’s only preseason. But offensive line injuries, new running backs, 1st round draft pick Datone Jones and new pickup Vince Young peaked Pack fans’ curiosity.
But calling around to our favorite watching spots, the Pack was nowhere to be viewed.
Rob, the great bartender at our normal spot, Kilburn’s, tells me that the Pack is not showing on NFL Ticket. A few more calls echoed that, with the gent from the BrickHouse Tavern stating that NFL Ticket showed a random set of preseason games.
Enter a bit of technology, and NFL Preseason Live.
For a mere $19.99 (which is more than I would spend on beer at Kilburn’s) you get access to all of the preseason games that are not blacked out (we could not watch the Texans game, but it was on regular local broadcast TV).
The broadcast comes on tablets or smartphones (iOS or Android) or browsers, in nice HD. And, using an Apple TV, I was able to display the game on our HDTV. For some reason, this only worked using AirPlay on a Mac. When we tried AirPlay from an iPad, it would not display.
There was a few times with a bit of lag. But it was in HD and, even better, the commercials were few and low volume. And the picture in picture worked well, so we could watch a second game.
It is doubtful that we would subscribe for the entire season, as the games are quite available…but for 20 bucks and some tech, the Packers preseason is taking care of. Now we just need the team to execute.
Tad Williams is one of my “read-everything-he-puts-out” authors…except for the cat book. No cat books.
My review of the first book in his latest series, The Dirty Streets of Heaven, is up on the Hugo award winning and 2013 Hugo nominated SFSignal.
Tad Williams in known for his LARGE (door stoppingly LARGE), genre-jumping, hard to categorize series:Shadowmarch; Otherland; Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. (And apparently he’s known for a cat book, which, since I’m a dawg guy, I probably won’t read.) One characteristic that runs through all of these is that Williams not only follows the “show don’t tell” writers’ philosophy, he also follows “show, but don’t show everything.” Both Otherland and Shadowmarch possessed some pieces that were never quite explained, which made me wonder about them even long after I’d finished. (And sometimes tempt me to re-read…but re-reading is a no-no…there are too many books in this world!)
I appreciate Williams thoughtfulness for those of us who can’t remember the last book…as he always adds in a Here’s-What-Happened-Before synopsis to the front of books that come later in his series. I’ve also read his short story collection A Stark and Wormy Night (no synopsis needed, they were short enough that they didn’t test my old memory). But Williams’ new Bobby Dollar series is different from all of the rest. It is, again, a hard to categorize tome — some call it urban fantasy, but that label reminds me retchingly of Twilight — but it differs from his previous works in several aspects:
With Bobby Dollar, an advocate angel, Williams explores the people and beings that populate Heaven, Hell and Earth and the rules that keep Armageddon from a’comin’. There is a mystery to be solved, and there is more than a bit of crime noir bent to the telling. But rules that Dollar tells the readers in the beginning and what actually happens to Dollar turn the rules upside down. And while some of the rules follow the norm of the Western cultural definitions of Heaven and Hell, this is the unknown fringe that Williams enjoys playing in, and he definitely seems to enjoy himself.
Quotes and spoilers from here down, so turn back now if you haven’t read the book and are planning on it.
Read the rest here.
If you haven’t heard of or used the app known as Untappd, you may not be a beer drinker. But the rise in Craft Beer brewing and drinking in America (see a good infographic here) has pushed many Americans out of their lager drinking malaise and into enjoying the multitude of tastes that are presented by the craft beer industry.
If they treated introductions like a MLM scheme, I’d own part of UnTappd by now :). And that is the beauty of the mixture of social media, location, goals/badges and history/statistics that UnTappd succeeds at: it is an app that you want to share, and after sharing, you encourage your friends to use. That psychology is what all social media type apps should strive for.
The app is simple: you have a beer, you log that beer in UnTappd. If you desire, you can include a ranking (one to five bottle caps), a location (from Foursquare’s massive location database), a picture (which, like all social media photo sharing can come back to haunt you) and a comment.
This app is free, and that, plus making it available on as many platforms as possible, is a genius move by the developers. By simply giving users the means to track their beers, they are building a huge data warehouse of likes, dislikes and drinking characteristics (when, where, what type, with whom) that any brewery or pub/bar would be mad not to take advantage of. Breweries can register to manage their brand on the site here.
This is the opposite approach of the app which is leading in profits in May 2013 on the iOS App Store, Candy Crush Saga. Candy Crush is also free but makes revenue based on in-app purchases that help get through levels users are stuck on (note that one does not have to purchase anything to get through the levels, a user just needs patience…the fact that Candy Crush Saga is leading in revenues is a clear indicator that US app users want instant gratification and are willing to pay for it).
The appeal and staying power of the app is revealed in this chart from App Annie: since its release in October 2011, the app has stayed in the top 250 for Free iOS App Downloads and usually in the top 100. (chart after the break) (more…)
I’ve had a mid-2011 11 inch Mac Air for two years. This was my first Mac laptop, and the size (perfect for traveling), the instant on and several other features sold me on it. I had Compaq laptops for my duration at Compaq (of course) and had meandered from Sony VAIO’s (good product) to ASUS netbooks before deciding that paying four times the cost of a Windows laptop might actually be worth it. It would be difficult at this point to convince me to go back to Windows (though I do keep a Windows desktop for some apps).
But I upgrade to the just announced Mac Air 13 inch for several reasons:
My local Apple store, who I have a good relationship with, had the fully loaded 13″ (8 GB RAM, 512 Flash storage and the upgraded processor) in stock. My son’s big ole Windows laptop was giving him fits so he was the designated hand-me-down recipient of the 11″ Mac Air.
This lead me to try Apple’s Migration Assistant.
I have never been a big fan of automated migration programs. They either seem to miss a configuration (or several), don’t move all your files, or just plain don’t work.
In addition, I had three types of XCODE development profiles and certificates on my Mac: one set for Media Sourcery, one set for JoSara MeDia (our publishing company) and one customer’s (an Enterprise License that we develop under for them). Having just been through the un-documented gyrations of renewing and reissuing the one Apple Enterprise cert/profile, I was not optimistic.
However, after a false start or two, Migration Assistant blew my incredibly low expectations away.
It not only moved all my files, it:
Except for the Microsoft Office license (yes I run Office for Mac, and will as long as my customers use it).
My main hiccup was when I first set it up, Migration Assistant projected a nice 75 hours for copying files over. That issue was attributed because Larry has too many WiFi networks at home, including a new one from an AirPort Time Capsule (more on that in another post). When I made certain that both laptops were on the same WiFi network, Migration Assistant projected a more reasonable 4-5 hours to copy everything over.
I let it run over night, and started getting used to a bigger screen (which isn’t easy…the 11″ is nice…the things we do for our customers). But, just for precautions, I asked my son not to delete anything on the old Mac for a while.
More and more craft breweries are popping up in Texas and in the Houston area. We are privileged to have two of the best: Karbach and Saint Arnolds. According to my UnTappd stats (and if you don’t know what UnTappd is, you should!) these are the top two breweries that I have sampled – 19 from Saint Arnold and 15 from Karbach (when Firestone Walker comes to Texas, they may shoot to first!).
The New Yorker’s “Mapping the Rise of Craft Beer” has Karbach as the 2nd fastest growing brewery in the nation (over 8,000 barrels in 2012), with Saint Arnold’s the 44th largest (just over 49,000 barrels in 2012).
Below are some notes and pictures on “touring” each of these two fine breweries. Karbach is closer and they serve more darker beers which my wife and I enjoy, so we’ll continue to visit them more frequently…but not in the hot Texas summer; the A/C at Saint Arnold’s is a requirement during those months! (more…)
The 2013 Hugos are awards for excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy. The Hugos are awarded each year by the World Science Fiction Society, at the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon). This year that convention is LoneStar Con 3 in my hometown of San Antonio, Texas August 29 – September 2.
Voting is only open to members of LoneStar Con 3 (71st Worldcon).
To be a supporting member is 50 bucks. And not only does this allow you to vote, but you also get the “Hugo Voter Packet“.
…which contains the five nominated novels (in various formats), all of the graphic novels and several other of the nominated works for novella, novelette, short story, works from those authors nominated for the Campbell award….
As with my post for last year, i have two major points:
The Hugo group should be applauded for this most excellent bribery to get people to read the nominated works and voted from the experience of reading, not from the reputations of the authors. This is done with a lot of trust (a fact that is pointed out, as it should be, in several places in the packet and on the website) and with the suggestion that readers support the authors who have contributed their works.
I do not normally follow or worry about the awards given out, as many of them are popularity contests (only 1,343 valid ballots were cast for the 2013 Hugo nominees). But this is an excellent investment, and a great way to participate.
I’ve included some simple math in a table below. Fifty bucks is a lot of money, but there is a ton of material in here.
The big question, as always, is: how much will get read before the voting deadline of July 31st?
TITLE AUTHOR KINDLE PRICE PAPERBACK PRICE PUBLISHER
2312 Kim Stanley Robinson 9.99 9.00 Orbit
Blackout Mira Grant 7.59 8.99 Orbit
Captain Vorpatril's Alliance Lois McMaster Bujold 9.99 10.58 Baen
Redshirts John Scalzi 7.99 11.47 Tor
Throne of the Crescent Moon Salidin Ahmed 9.99 10.87 DAW
It’s been a little more than a week since my friends and I came out of the Grand Canyon. But I still wake up at night looking for the stars.
Many of us wake up in the middle of the night worrying about life, and trying hard to go back to sleep.
For five nights in May, when something woke me on my blue cot on some sandy beach beside the Colorado River, I tried very hard to stay awake…to look at the stars and the Universe in all its glory.
I live outside of Houston, and look up at Orion’s Belt, faint in the sky. But in the Canyon, the stars of the constellations are brighter than streetlights in a neighborhood. The Little Dipper was our constant nighttime companion, but it was not alone, surrounded by more stars than I can see anywhere else I’ve been in the world.
When I’m in the Canyon, I miss my wife…I dislike the sand…I long for beer other than Coors (!).
When I’m out…I miss the stars and waking up in the middle of the night to see the galaxy above me.
The 2013 Grand Canyon Star Party is on the South Rim June 8-15.
United HAS gotten better. But flight delays are a frequent problem. According to the US Government’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (click here, select United, look at the table on the bottom right), United’s OnTime percentage for Departures from March 2012 – February 2013 was 76%, ranking them 15th of the carriers with revenues over $20 million…that’s close to the bottom.
My recent experience is much worse than that. Of my last four flights (all between IAH and TPA), the on-time percentage is 25%. Yes, only one out of my last four flights was on time. And, yes, when United sends me those surveys after each flight, I tell them this is the best way to keep customers: on-time flights. Nothing else is more important.
Curiously, on my last flight out of Houston, it appears that United was “gaming” the on-time statistics. Via United’s nice little mobile app, you can see my flight delay.
As you can see from the screenshot, the flight was about 50 minutes delayed. Further, it helpfully says it was delayed because the plane was late coming from the previous hop. The app has a great feature that allows you to check on the previous flight (“Where is this plane coming from?”). It is helpful, as it lets you know if the plane is truly delayed (you can tell if the previous flight is in the air) or if it is indeed in danger of being cancelled (the plane hasn’t left yet and is quite delayed).
I followed that link, and to my surprise, it stated that not only was the in-bound flight that my “delayed” flight was waiting on “on-time” but it was slated to arrive early.
How exactly does this work? The inbound flight is scheduled to land at 8pm, which is 19 minutes after my flights schedule departure.
Perhaps they cancelled the inbound flight and redirected a different flight to re-use the aircraft? Uncertain. I was at the airport earlier than usual due to concerns with the air traffic controller layoff, and all I saw was a gate change…and these very strange statistics.
I’m assuming that United counted this as one delayed flight and one on-time, but it still begs the question about how the previous flight was scheduled to arrive later than my flight was to depart.
With the impending release of JOHN CARTER on DVD, and THE AVENGERS breaking records at the box office, it is past time to compare and contrast these two latest Disney/Buena Vista movies.
|Loki already had his butt kicked once, why bring him back as a villain when the Marvel world has so many other villains to play with? They both have cool toys/weapons and a unpredictable ability to travel between worlds. Hiddleston was in Warhorse; Mark Strong was Sinestro in Green Lantern, if that counts.|
|Cute Animal Sidekick||Seriously, who would want to be licked by the Hulk?|
|Dejah has a sword and is a scientist.
Natasha has two pistols and an awesome roundhouse.
Both ladies are welcomed to come to our house to compare and contrast these movies in a purely intellectual setting (heh).
|It ain't easy being Green|
|Tars is taller, has more arms and tusks.
Hulk is Hulk.
Green is the new Black.
|Prequel Movies||Zero (Tarzan doesn't count)|
For background on Barsoom and John Carter, see my John Carter Primer on You Tube
- Iron Man
- Iron Man 2
- Captain America
(the two crappy Hulk movies don't count)
|John Carter is the first in the series.
The Avengers was setup by Iron Man (1 and 2), Thor and Captain America, and it survived the first two Hulk movies (though Ed Norton was not bad, Ruffalo OWNED the HULK).
|Director's Previous Movies||WALL-E, Finding Nemo, Toy Story 2 and 3 (Andrew Stanton)||Thor, Serenity (Josh Whedon)||Interestingly, Whedon and Stanton were both writers on Toy Story 1. Knew there was a connection somewhere.|
(Samuel L. Jackson)
|Spy Kids vs. Pulp Fiction.
Would like to have seen more ERB, enjoyed Sabara's characterization of him.
Will see LOTS more of Fury, Samuel L. has signed on to play him forever, even on coffee mugs.
|Viewer Age Demographic||50-100||0-50||With The Princess of Mars debuting 100 years ago, and its two sequels just after, the John Carter story and its supporters have been around the block a time or two.
The Avengers come out in monthly fashion, either in their own comic books or together, and some cartoon replays, catering to a much younger generation.
|Current Box Office (as of June 1, 2012)||$282 million Worldwide|
$72 million Domestic (26%)
$210 million Overseas (74%)
|$1,312 million Worldwide|
$530 million Domestic (40%)
$782 million Overseas (60%)
|With a ratio of six Avengers heroes to one John Cater, this revenue mix seems about right.|
|Probability of Sequel||Currently sacrificing chickens to ensure a sequel||100%|
Once more, my John Carter video primer! Not long until the DVD is available! To help push for a sequel, visit the BackToBarsoom website.
A little bit of science fiction, running, travel, beer drinking, reviews, and....well...a little bit of everything. Look around, buy a few books, check out the Grand Canyon app...stay a while.