Author Archive

Compact Fluorescent bulbs

In my experience, compact fluorescent bulbs generally have a five to ten year guarantee and generally do not last nearly that long. I always save the package (or at least the guarantee and anything it calls for, typically the UPC) and the receipt, and write the installation date on the base of the bulb when I install it. Whenever one burns out, I check the date against the guarantee; if it’s less than the guaranteed lifetime I put the receipt and UPC in an envelope and send them to the manufacturer, who usually sends me one or more coupons for free light bulbs. They cost as much as twelve bucks a package, so it’s worth the effort for me.

FOGcon program

Word count: 12620 | Since last entry: 503

Heading off later today to the Bay Area for FOGcon. I’ll be on the following program items:

Friday 4:30 PM, Salon B/C: Designing Alien Bodies. Aliens are probably going to have very different biology than humans do. How do bodies evolve from their surrounding environments? What might be different if an alien evolved in a waterless wasteland, or a chlorine swamp, or in the goo-powered city we designed at FOGcon 1? Ann Wilkes (Moderator), Carol Dorf, M. Christian, David Levine.

Friday 9:30 PM, Sacramento: Mars Wants Our Genitals. Humanity has often been described as exogamous — if it’s strange, and new, we want to have sex with it. This was simple enough when it was the people from the group down the river who spoke strangely — but what will it mean as we move out into the universe? Writers have already gone there — James Tiptree Jr.’s “And I Awoke And Found Me Here By The Cold Hill’s Side”, for example. How will we relate to a universe whose expectations of sex (if they exist at all) may be very, very different from ours? Shannon Prickett (Moderator), Mary Anne Mohanraj, Steven Schwartz, David Levine, Jean Marie Stine.

Saturday 8:00 PM, Salon B/C: Ask a Pro. Ask a professional writer anything you like about craft, business, or whatever you want to know. David Levine (Moderator), Nalo Hopkinson, Rachel Swirsky, Jean Marie Stine, Nick Mamatas.

Sunday 1:00 PM, Santa Rosa: Reading 11. Daniel Marcus, David Levine, Chaz Brenchley.

Armored! Now available!

Word count: 12117 | Since last entry: 7043

Some of you have heard me read from my story “The Last Days of the Kelly Gang,” AKA the Steampunk Ned Kelly Power Armor Story. It’s longish, so I’ve never had the opportunity to read the whole thing and I always end on a massive cliffhanger.

This had a purpose. The purpose is to make you salivate to buy the story on the day it comes out. And that day is here!

Armored, a big fat anthology of power-armor stories edited by John Joseph Adams and published by Baen, is now available “wherever fine books are sold,” as they say. (Also, presumably, where crappy books are sold, but please don’t hold that against it.) I recommend that you buy it from Powell’s. You can also buy the ebook directly from Baen in a wide variety of DRM-free formats.

In addition to my story, Armored includes stories by Tobias Buckell, Genevieve Valentine, Jack McDevitt, Simon R. Green, David Barr Kirtley (I love that one), Michael A. Stackpole, Alastair Reynolds, Tanya Huff, Carrie Vaughn, Daniel H. Wilson, and others. And if that isn’t enough to convince you to buy it, you can check out the editor’s website for the book which includes several sample stories, interviews with the authors, and more.

Ding! Ding! Salivate, little readers, salivate! And buy!

For your Hugo consideration

Word count: 5074 | Since last entry: 4274

The deadline for Hugo Award nominations is March 11, and I hope that you will consider my stories “The Tides of the Heart” (fantasy short story, from Realms of Fantasy) and “Citizen-Astronaut” (SF novelette, from Analog).

You can read them for free here:

The HTML files are plain old web pages that you can read in any browser. The EPUB files are ebooks that you can download and read on your computer, phone, tablet, or ebook reader; they are completely free and unencumbered by DRM. The MOBI files are ebooks for the Kindle ebook reader; they are also completely free and unencumbered by DRM.

This is the first time I’ve done an ebook conversion, so if you have any feedback on the formatting, appearance, navigability, readability, or other quality of the ebook, please email me.



Over on a mailing list I’m on, there’s been a discussion about how wrong the movies and TV often are about guns (e.g. how easy it is to hit a target while jumping, running, etc.), which led to a discussion of how wrong fiction often is about other things, like horses and computers.

I’ve learned that the more you know about anything (computers, horses, guns, medicine), the more you realize that fiction and the popular press get them completely wrong. It’s really not a good idea to believe anything you read.

When writing popular fiction, you will never be able to satisfy 100% of your readers with the accuracy of your portrayals (the TV show ER had several doctors on staff as technical advisers, and they often disagreed even with each other), so there’s no point in researching too much or worrying too much about getting it 100% right. Furthermore, even completely accurate facts, backed up with research and personal experience, may bounce the reader out of the story if they conflict too much with the reader’s expectations. But if you rely only on what you remember from reading fiction, not only will your facts be wrong but the story will be lazy, flabby, and unsurprising.

It’s a balancing act. The trick is to do just enough research that you can surprise your readers (the average reader) with unexpected details that make the work feel fresh and realistic.

Often the only way to get to that point is to do too much research and then, reluctantly, leave a lot of the really cool stuff out.

Potlatch and Clarion West

I have received my programming schedule for Potlatch (February 24-26 in Seattle):

Saturday 10:00 AM: Walter Miller Reading
Saturday 4:00 PM: The Author as Reader
Sunday 1:00 PM: E-Publishing Panel

The complete Potlatch program is available online.

I will also be leading a section of the Writers’ Workshop on Friday afternoon (sign-ups for which are already closed). Potlatch is one of my favorite small conventions and I’m looking forward to this year’s edition with great eagertudinosity.

On a related note: as you may know, Potlatch is closely associated with the Clarion West writers’ workshop, of which I am a proud alumnus and supporter. Applications for this year’s workshop, with seven fabulous instructors including Mary Rosenblum, George R. R. Martin, and Chuck Palahniuk, are now open, but the deadline is March 1. Apply now!

Portland International Film Festival, part 1

Word count: 24965 | Since last entry: 13070

Our films in this year’s Portland International Film Festival will be crammed into just a few days due to lots of travel in February. We’re seeing one or two films a day for a week, and that’s it.

So far we have seen…

Target (Russia) reminded me a lot of Kubrick, especially A Clockwork Orange. Stately in its pace, full of intriguing ideas, with gorgeous cinematography and subtle but effective touches to convey the near-future Russia of 2020, it’s beautifully made. But it drove us out of the theatre with its relentless violence, appalling misogyny, numerous scenes of ugly joyless sex, and complete lack of any admirable qualities in its characters. It takes a lot to make me walk out of a movie, but this film managed it. this review is pretty much the one I would write if I wanted to spend any more time thinking about this film, which I don’t.

A Cat in Paris (France) was a delight. An animated film with a colorful, energetic visual style that reminded me of Lynda Barry, it was full of adventure, humor, and fun. Tightly plotted, with serious tension, great moments of humor, and some genuine human emotion, this film works at multiple levels. The villain manages to be ludicrous and seriously threatening at the same time, there are some delightfully unexpected visual tricks, and the score is fabulous. Also, the cat (although smarter than the average cat) is a cat, and manages to be the film’s central character without talking, fetching things (other than a dead lizard), or doing anything else impossible for a cat in the real world. Highly recommended for adults and kids.

Hello! How Are You? (Romania), an Eastern European You’ve Got Mail!, was a bit of a mixed bag. A romantic comedy about a long-married couple who each begin an online flirtation with a stranger, the best thing about this film is the subsidiary characters, especially their horndog son whose self-aggrandizing audio diary provides unconscious insight into the lives of his parents. This is a movie about sex and romance, and how sometimes getting what you thought you wanted is the worst thing that can happen. And, although I describe it as a romantic comedy and I laughed out loud on many occasions, the overall impression I came away with is sweetly sad. A reminder, as many romantic comedies are, of how important it is to communicate with one’s partner.

SFWA Northwest Reading Series now featuring ME! This week!

As you may know, the Science Fiction Writers of America have been holding a quarterly reading series at the Kennedy School in Portland. They are also inaugurating a reading series in the Seattle area. See for more information.

Ted Kosmatka, one of the scheduled readers for this week’s readings, has had to drop out due to a death in the family, and I’ve been asked to step in. So if you’d like to hear me read from my upcoming story “The Last Days of the Kelly Gang” (a steampunk power-armor story set in the Australian Outback in 1880), along with John A. Pitts (Portland and Seattle), Ken Scholes (Portland), and possibly a special guest star (Seattle), you can come to the readings as follows:

Tuesday, January 31
7:00 PM – 8:30 PM
McMenamins Kennedy School, 5736 N.E. 33rd Ave. Portland, OR 97211
RSVP (optional) at

Wednesday, February 1
7:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Wild Rover Restaurant and Pub, 111 Central Way, Kirkland, WA 98033
RSVP (optional) at

Both events are free and open to the public. Beer, wine, and other typical bar fare will be available for purchase. Dancing is optional, but not discouraged. Hope to see you there!

P.S. Because of the extremely late notice, I hope that you will help me out by mentioning this reading in your blog, Twitter, Facebook, or Sub-Etha Mental Communicator Stream. Thanks!