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Floaters

20140114-104242.jpgLast week I noticed that I was cleaning my glasses, and cleaning my glasses, and cleaning my glasses, and my vision wasn’t getting better. The problem was not in the glasses, but in my left eye. Floaters.

Anyone who has read my story “Floaters” will understand why I was a bit creeped out by this.

Now, I’ve had floaters for years, and they are usually nothing to worry about, but these were a lot worse than I’d had previously and they seemed to have come on suddenly, so I made an appointment to have the eye checked out.

Well, the good news is that there’s nothing unusual or seriously wrong, it’s just a common age-related complaint called posterior vitreous detachment. My retina is still firmly attached, but when you get to a certain age, especially if you are nearsighted, the jelly inside your eye kind of shrinks and separates from the eye wall, and that’s what I’m seeing. The process of detachment takes about 6 weeks, and “now would be a bad time to take up kickboxing.” I love my eye doctor (whose name is, as it happens, Dr. Love).

The bad news is that these floaters are not going to go away, and I can probably look forward to the same in the other eye one of these years. Oh, well.

On the other hand, with my new insurance I only had to pay a $15 co-pay for the visit (thank you, Obamacare) and with only one eye dilated I get to freak people out all day. So, all in all, it’s a win.

Anyone could predict the automobile; only a science fiction writer could predict the traffic jam

So I was Skyping with my friend Janna the other day (and when did that become a verb, anyway?) and I reflected upon the fact that video calling is something that had been part of “the future” so long that it kind of snuck up on us when it became the present.

Video calling has been possible, even practical, for over 50 years. AT&T’s video phone was a memorable part of the 1964 World’s Fair, and I’m sure there were prototypes much earlier. I remember when I was a kid that a variety of video phone technologies were introduced every year or so, every one promising to be The Wave of the Future. Yet, even though each of these was technically and economically feasible, every one failed to catch on in any meaningful way.

Many people, myself among them, thought that video calling never would catch on, not because it was technically infeasible but because it was socially undesirable. You might want to see the person you were talking to, we reasoned, but who wants to be seen wearing whatever it was you happened to be wearing when the phone rang?

Until… well, I’m not sure when. Some time ago — it feels like three to ten years — something changed. And now people are Skyping and FaceTiming and Google Hangouting all over the place. It’s practically normal.

When exactly did this happen? And what changed to make it possible?

Janna theorized that it was the widespread adoption of smart phones with front-facing cameras that made the difference, but my gut feel is that the normalization of video calling is a bit earlier than that. My guess is that the inflection point might be the 2003 Iraq war, which may have been the first major event that combined adequate and widespread technology infrastructure (laptops with Internet and video cameras) with long-term overseas deployment of large numbers of lower- and middle-income Americans. Because of this war, millions of average Americans have used this technology to communicate with loved ones who were otherwise inaccessible, and once they’ve started doing it (and bought the hardware, and climbed the technology learning curve) they will keep doing it with their friends.

Another alternative explanation is, as it has been for so many other technologies, pornography. But I think that ChatRoulette and Cam Girls postdate the widespread adoption of video calling rather than being an instigator.

When do you think video calling became mainstream, and why?

50%-off ebook sales end soon!

Levine SpaceMagic 133x200Kobo’s holiday sale ends today (January 5)! Use promo code 50COUPON for 50% off hundreds of indie ebooks, including my award-winning short story collection Space Magic. Use the “Add to Cart” drop-down rather than the “Buy Now” button to allow entering the promo code.

Book View Cafe’s holiday sale ends tomorrow (January 6)! Over 100 ebooks are half-price, including my novella Second Chance! Books are listed at full price but will be automatically discounted at checkout.

Happy new year!

For your consideration

I’m (still) working on a big retrospective post of all the cool stuff I did in 2013, but at the prompting of John Scalzi I thought I would put up a separate post with my award-eligible work from 2013.

  • “The Wreck of the Mars Adventure” (novelette) in Old Mars, anthology edited by Gardner Dozois and George R. R. Martin, October 2013 (buy it at powell’s | amazon | b&n). In 1701, Captain Kidd (yes, that Captain Kidd) becomes the first Englishman on Mars.
  • “Artist’s Retrospective” (short story) in Daily Science Fiction, website edited by Jonathan Laden and Michele Barasso, September 2013 (read it at daily sf). An artist “unpaints” a picture in a world where time runs backwards.
  • “Wavefronts of History and Memory” (short story) in Analog, magazine edited by Trevor Quachri, June 2013 (buy it at itunes | google play). A radioarchaeologist travels thousands of light-years to peer into Earth’s past, but her own history gets in the way.
  • “Letter to the Editor” (short story) in The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination, anthology edited by John Joseph Adams, February 2013 (buy it at powell’s | amazon | b&n; hear it at tales to terrify). Mad scientist Dr. Talon explains himself.
  • I also made “Letter to the Editor” into a 15-minute video, which is eligible for the Hugo Award in Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.

Of these, I’m proudest of “The Wreck of the Mars Adventure,” but it would be a real hoot to get Dr. Talon on the Best Dramatic Presentation ballot.

Travel Meme

As you may know, I retired from my day job in 2007. People often ask me if I retired to write full-time, but the fact is that I’m not really spending much more time writing than I did when I was employed. Instead, we spend a lot more time traveling.

Here are all the cities where I spent at least one night away from home in 2013:

Las Vegas, NV
Redmond, WA
Lake Quinault, WA
Walnut Creek, CA
Bend, OR
Taos Ski Valley, NM
Kennewick, WA (x2)
Minneapolis, MN
Milwaukee, WI
San Francisco, CA
San Antonio, TX
La Grange, TX
Lincoln City, OR
Barcelona, Spain
Greenwich, UK
Brighton, UK
Orlando, FL

Plus numerous visits to Seattle to hang out with Janna and other friends.

David’s Index for 2013


Novel words written: 46,303
Short fiction words written: 12,316
Notes, outline, and synopsis words written: 41,088
Blog words written: 26,878
Total words written: 126,585

New stories written: 2

Short fiction submissions sent: 26
Responses received: 24
Rejections: 18
Acceptances: 6 (1 pro, 3 semi-pro, 2 audio)
Other sales: 1 (audio)
Non-responses: 1 (project collapsed)
Awaiting response: 4

Short stories published: 14 (4 pro, 1 semi-pro, 5 reprint, 4 audio)

Novels completed: 1
Novel submissions: 5
Rejections: 3
Acceptances: 0
Awaiting response: 7

Agent submissions: 10
Rejections: 4
Acceptances: 0
Awaiting response: 6

Happy New Year!

SFWA Pacific Northwest Reading Series: Seattle area 1/14, Portland 1/15

This is just a quick reminder that SFWA’s Pacific Northwest Reading Series is having our next events in Seattle and Portland soon!

On Tuesday, January 14 in the Seattle area, we’ll have Nicola Griffith, Kelley Eskridge, and Janet Freeman-Daily. The University Bookstore will be on hand again selling books and all the authors will be available to sign.

When: Tuesday, January 14, 2014, 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Where: Wilde Rover Irish Pub & Restaurant, 111 Central Way, Kirkland, WA 98033

On Wednesday, January 15 in Portland, we’ll have Mary Rosenblum, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, and Rick Lovett. Wrigley-Cross Books will be selling books and all the authors will be available to sign.

When: Wednesday, January 15, 2014, 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Where: McMenamins Kennedy School, 5736 N.E. 33rd Ave. Portland, OR 97211

See http://www.sfwa.org/for-readers/sfwa-northwest-reading-series/ for more information on both readings. Tell your friends!

I hope you can join us! It should be a lot of fun.

Two different half-price ebook sales!

Did you get a shiny new e-reader or tablet for Christmas?

Book View Cafe is having a holiday sale! Through January 6, over 100 ebooks are half-price, including my novella Second Chance! Books are listed at full price but will be automatically discounted at checkout.

Kobo is also having a holiday sale! Through January 5, use promo code 50COUPON for 50% off hundreds of indie ebooks, including my award-winning short story collection Space Magic! Use the “Add to Cart” drop-down rather than the “Buy Now” button to allow entering the promo code.

Enjoy, and spread the word!

“Bards & Brews” this Friday 11/29

You don’t really want to get into that whole “Black Friday” BUY BUY BUY thing, do you? Why don’t you come out to Hillsboro and hear readings from five local authors (including me!) while enjoying food and/or drink from the world’s largest collection of Oregon wines and beers instead?

What: Bards & Brews Author Reading Series
When: Friday November 29, 7:00-9:00 pm
Where: Primrose & Tumbleweeds, 248 E Main St., Hillsboro, OR
Who:
    Damien Macalino, What If an Alligator Ate an Avalanche?
    Eddie Regory, Wallace Park: A Memoir
    David D. Levine, Old Mars
    Jo Barney, Graffiti Grandma
    Christopher Lord, The Christmas Carol Murders

See http://www.niwawriters.com/bards–brews.html for more information. Hope to see you there!

OryCon

OryCon was fun, as usual, with friends and silliness and many fine meals. I was on a lot of programming, also as usual, to the extent that I don’t think I saw any program items other than the ones I was on. But those all went well and were generally pretty well attended. However, with all that programming, plus continuing jet lag from our recently-concluded European trip, the convention was over before I knew it. And once the con was over I came down with a mild cold — not con crud, I think, just exhaustion after what was, in effect, a month of travel including four cities and two conventions — and I’m only just beginning to get over it now.

A highlight of the con for me is that I was invited to read excepts from the five Endeavour Award nominees, which was an honor and a treat and very well received. But then, immediately after the Endeavour ceremony, I was surprised to be called back on stage to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from OSFCI (Oregon Science Fiction Conventions, Inc., the non-profit corporation that puts on OryCon and other Portland cons).

The award usually consists of a bottle of Scotch, but the organizers realized that would be wasted on me, so they consulted with Kate (who kept it a complete secret from me) and selected this lovely steampunky robot sculpture.

OSFCI Life Achievement Award trophy

I’ll be perfectly honest… when my name was called out as the recipient of the award, my first thought was that they must have already given one to everyone who really deserved it if they’d gotten all the way down to me. But, upon reflection, I realized that I’ve been doing something for OSFCI every year — including chairing OryCon, serving a couple of stints on the Board of Directors, and setting up and maintaining the corporate web page and email lists — pretty much continuously since I moved to Portland in 1983… and that’s thirty years. How the heck did that happen?

One thing about this award, though… I refuse to accept that a Lifetime Achievement Award means I have to stop now.