Thursday, 27 August 2015

Hugos Where?

And who says that Americans don't do irony?

Reflecting on the 2015 Hugo Awards over the course of the last week I see that my conclusion that ninety percent of what I'll read will never win a Hugo award remains true (that's meant to be a joke or at least like a joke, if not very funny).  While I sympathize with the Anti-Puppies slate, I do think such things are a very blunt tool, which may produce the desired results, but result in unintended consequences.  As an aside, what appears to be a serious analysis of the numbers can be found here.  My view remains pretty much the same, as I prefer de-escalation of conflicts rather than escalation.  Arguably research and history supports the former rather than the latter.

From my perspective I was disappointed that the Edge of Tomorrow aka Live. Die. Repeat didn't win the Hugo for best film.  I thought it was by far the best SF movie of the year, though I would acknowledge in my heart that Captain America: The Winter Soldier was more likely to win.  I was surprised to see Guardians of the Galaxy win, given it was a Sad Puppy slate nominee.  What this means is anyone's guess.  Mine would be that no one who is heavily invested in the Worldcon and the Hugos has any real interest in films, or people figure that the studios don't care if a film wins the Hugo.  Take your pick.

I was saddened to see my friend Ken Burnside's work The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF getting burnt by the Anti-Puppy slate.  Likewise the editors going down too, but recognize that YMMV, and probably does where this is concerned.

However, Orphan Black: By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried, winning a Hugo was nice.  I thought the series should have won a Hugo last year, so the unintended consequences of the Sad Puppies resulting in an award for this show was a welcome outcome.

The only other thing I have to say is that as a British person I find some of the things I'm reading in the aftermath rather puzzling.  For instance, the stuff being said about Terry Pratchett that only make sense if you think that the world revolves around America, which for me shows how much the Worldcon is at heart an American institution rather than something representing World SF.

The best thing I've read about what came out of this whole debacle is George R. R. Martin's Hugo Losers party.  Rock on George.  Him and Eric Flint, have impressed me throughout by just being plain professional.

Monday, 24 August 2015

A Week in Provence

We've just got back from our first holiday abroad in nine years.  We had a wonderful time paddling in the swimming pool, catching some rays and becoming acquainted with new friends – seen above.  Susan is still working on the other pictures she took, and I imagine will post them on Facebook in due course.

We traveled by Eurostar there and back, managing to avoid any unpleasantness with people waving Kalashnikov's around.  Despite having comfortable seats, and not doing much, apart from reading, eating and drinking, the journey was quite tiring.  As you can imagine I had a lot of emails to catch up with when we got back, having not logged onto a computer for ten days.

Provence, apart from the first day's thunderstorm, was sunny.   I even caught the sun a bit.   Since our return to London we've had unpredictable weather, with sun one day, rain the next.  Such is the joy of living in Britain.

Monday, 10 August 2015

In the Groove Five by Five

The title says it all; though hopefully I won't suffer the fate of the Colonial Marines.  I"m back from a sunny weekend in Brighton having caught the sun and everything to prove it.  We went down to celebrate my best friend Alix's birthday, which by good fortune or happenstance is the same day as my partner's.  So lots of celebrations and drinking all round – Pimm's was quaffed in large volumes.  Also got to see friends, and my godson and his sister.  So all good.

On the Sunday Alix gave me beta reader's feedback on my novel, which was most appreciated as she had put an awful lot of hard work into doing it.  Very critical, but managing to be also very constructive, leaving me feeling more confident in myself.  I've been having a lot of doubts about my ability to write an interesting story over recent months, and the discussion we had put things into perspective.

So, sitting next to me is a print out of Bad Dog with detail corrections, questions and annotations for me to work through.  I feel if this is not the end, then it must surely be the beginning of the end?

Currently I'm about halfway through redoing all the call signs and phonetic shorthand revisions, having edited 43,969 words this week.  My plan is to finish this round of edits first and then start working on incorporating Alix's edits afterwards.  So I'm going to be a very busy person indeed.

So yee-haw, and see you all on the other side.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Pluto & Reflections – WIP: 1st Aug 2015

If Pluto remained classified as a planet then these other eight worlds would have to be planets too, and there could be another thirty or forty worlds as yet undiscovered.

The last week has been one hell of a roller-coaster ride for me.  I started off at the bottom in the pit of despair (cue Mel Smith doing raspy voice) of facing another week of editing Strike Dog.  As I write this I record that I managed to edit 29,294 words, from eleven chapters, and managed to my usual couple of blogs that came to just under 700 words.  So the week ends on a high.  What a rush.  Could have done without the low though.

I did get a bit distracted by having some pieces of the puzzle of my fourth novel in the Bad Dog series click into place.  So I spent some time making notes and pulling information from my universe bible into what had been mostly a blank Scrivener document with the title Red Dogs.  As always I should add that these are working titles, who knows what the stories will be called when/if published?

Moving on I want to wade into the debate on whether Pluto is a planet or not.

I'm old, so for me Pluto has been a planet all my life and it therefore feels wrong to reclassify it as a dwarf-planet or Plutoid/Plutinoid.  However, when one looks at the evidence behind the decision to do so I can why it was done.  The first picture explains where we are and what we know about Trans-Neptunian worlds.

However, what I find most intriguing, and an order of magnitude more important than the arguments over Pluto's status as a planet is shown in the picture above.  Pluto form a a binary system with Charon.  Unlike the Earth and Luna, where the orbit that both rotate around lies within the diameter of our planet.  Whereas the Pluto and Charon orbit around a barycenter with the other moons making Pluto unique within our Solar system.

This discovery I think more than makes up for any sentimental reasons for calling Pluto a planet.  Instead it is its own dwarf-binary system.  How awesome is that?

Monday, 27 July 2015

Fool Moon

I finished reading Fool Moon, the second book in the Dresden Files, a series that I have gotten into recently.  I started reading it last weekend, and while I was enjoying it I put it down and only finished it this week.  I think that the first half of the book sets out a lot of stuff that rounds out the world of the Dresden Files, but was mostly exposition, and while stuff got interesting the first half of the book didn't grab me.  However, the second half of the story the shit starts to get serious, and things go down hill for our hero and his friends.  What Butcher was then able to do was ramp the action up to eleven.  From that point on the book became unputdownable.

So yes I finished it, and yes I plan to go out soon and get the next one in the series.  I was really impressed with the writing.  The first book is good, but this is even better.  At this rate I'll be hooked, and a fully paid up member of the Jim Butcher fan club.  If I were a member of this years Worldcon I'd seriously be thinking about voting for his Hugo nominated book Skin Game.  And I tell you why.  I'm a fairly hardcore hard SF fan who likes a bit of Space Opera, and Cthulhu, but urban fantasy has to be really good for me to want to read it.  The fact that I want to go out and buy more books in this series is evidence that Jim Butcher can write interesting and engrossing stories that are outside of my usual taste.  For me that says volumes about him as a writer.

We also rewatched Mad Max 2 aka The Road Warrior, and Jurassic Park this week.  I bought Blu-ray copies cheap off Amazon.  I though with the new sequels/reboots we ought to watch the originals first.  Both films stood up remarkably well.  Mad Max is thirty-four years old and still sets the benchmark for post apocalypse car mayhem.  Some of the CGI is a little dated in Jurassic Park, but ickle pooh dinosaurs FTW.  Then sharp teeth and claw action from less cute velociraptors, and of course the star – Tyrannosaurus Rex saving the day.

We have just finished watching season four of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.  At times the stories crossed the line from silly into cringe inducingly bad, but somehow the show managed to stay true to its core values, which were the relationship between Lois and Clark.  After a considerable break we have also restarted watching Xena Warrior Princess.  Season three and the first three episode of season four were what I'd call hard work.  However, as we move more into season four the stories have gone back to the basics that make the show work; the relationship and adventures of Xena and Gabrielle.

A lesson to be learnt.  Stories are all about the characters.

Writing last week went well.  I managed to edit 9,803 words of Strike Dog, which is five chapters further along to my goal of finishing it.  At the same time I worked on radio call signs and other stuff, to make sure I'd used military phonetic shorthand correctly.  So all-in-all not a bad week.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Interstellar Lucy

I've wanted to get around to talking about seeing Interstellar and Lucy, which we watched over the course of a weekend a little while back.

Let me start with Interstellar.  I was so disappointed.  I'd heard so much good stuff about the science behind the movies, and I would unequivocally agree that the scene with the spherical wormhole, and the rendering the of the giant rotating black hole were stupendous.  However, with regards to the plot, acting, dialogue and story Interstellar just fell flat.  I'm not going to go into the details of each, because I really don't like being so negative about something, but as Interstellar was being sold as the spiritual successor to 2001: A Space Odyssey I just want to say no, not really.

While I can see the themes that made people make the comparison the the technical execution of world was let down by a number of things that were quite frankly outrageous.  The first example was the need to launch the Ranger, a single-stage-to-orbit shuttle, on top of a conventional booster to get into space.  Please explain to me how the Ranger can complete the mission to explore the worlds on the other side of the wormhole if it can't get into Earth orbit by itself? (rhetorical question).

The second blooper is the spaceship Endurance waiting for them in orbit.  Where are the heat radiators?  I admit that Discovery One in 2001: A Space Odyssey omitted them, but here's the thing the Discovery looked like it could carry the reaction mass needed for its mission, whereas the Endurance appears to have some Star Trek style handwavium impulse drive, which in my books doesn't make it hard science.  And then there is the problem of precession while accelerating with   the grav ring rotating, which really is another don't get me started thing.

You know what, Avatar had a more realistic looking interstellar spaceship.

Next we watched Lucy.  There were times during this movie when Morgan Freeman's character was talking about the potential of the brain, and how we only use five percent brain where I went oh really that hoary old chestnust again, but the plot, acting, dialogue and story swept me away.  The special effects were slick, and Scarlett Johansson showed that she could lead a movie as well as any man.

So where's our Black Widow movie?

Last week started slow for me as my wrist was still playing me up, so I went and had coffee with a friend, and talked about writing and stuff.  It made a change from sitting in front of my computer editing.  Then the next day I found I needed to go and do a shop at our big Tesco, and by the time I got back I was sodden from the heat.  So treated myself to a long soak in the bath.

However, despite such dalliances I managed to edit another 4,601 words of Strike Dog, added another 666 words bringing the running total up to 102,443 words, and managing to pass the halfway point of the novel in the process.  I also wrote a new scene, and rewrote a segment that involved using phonetic shorthand over the radio.  A big thank you to David Barrow for his input.  In addition  I wrote 910 words for words for my blogs.  So it felt like a fairly productive week, even if at times I feel frustrated by the pace of the progress I'm making.

Catch you all later.