Monthly Archives: November 2003

Twenty Oh

I heard a radio report (on NPR) a couple days ago that mentioned something scheduled to happen in “twenty twelve”. I’d begun to wonder if everyone in the world was going to go on pronouncing years in the 21st century as “two thousand and whatever”. Many decades ago, when I was a wee lad of the golden age of 12 (or close enough), people talked about the film “twenty oh one”, and I came to understand that that’s how those years in the wondrous future would be said. That it’s never happened has somehow ameliorated the disappointment at not surviving to the world of wheeled space stations and Pan Am orbital clippers, not to mention fuliginous monoliths.

I’ve reached the very bottom of my Inbox!!! I almost did this a couple times in the past month, but not quite, or with qualifications or reservations. As of this moment, however, I believe I’ve dealt with or responded to everything that’s been sent to me, even if only to status a later definitive reply.

Speaking of which, I have essays upcoming for Locus Online, tentatively/probably, about SF operas, and POD publishing. As well as Claude’s next column.

Don’t Blink Now

I tweaked the arrangement of the Homepage a little today in a sudden inspiration while compiling several newsy Blinks during my morning web browsing. It’s only a little tweak. News items previously listed as Blinks — because time or newsworthiness did not permit them onsite News pages of their own — are now given entries under the central News tab. This gives them the visibility of other news items. I adjusted the color of the text and links to enhance the distinction between on-site items and off-site links under the News tab. And I retrofitted the Blinks archive page to move news items from there onto the 2003 Archive page among the other news.

One reason I like doing this website is that I have such complete control over it. I don’t have to get anyone’s approval to tweak the design; I don’t have to coordinate among partners or staff about what to post. This may sound like vanity publishing — no editors! anything goes! — just like blogs!! — but you may be sure that the editors and publisher of Locus Magazine keep close watch of the website and provide occasional, ah, advice about what I’m up to here. And I very much appreciate those readers who email me about errors or omissions on the site. The beauty of web-publishing is that I can make such errors disappear.

Having my little website domain is a complete contrast to my day job (at a certain large aerospace firm), where I sit in a Dilbertesque cubicle when I am not sitting in meetings. In such an environment making even the smallest change to a released document requires submitting a change request, getting the request approved, drafting the change, peer reviewing the draft, implementing the reviewed change, and releasing the updated document, before the change goes into effect. It can take months. So you can understand why I appreciate the contrast.

Joys of Homeownership

The house my partner and I moved into 3 months ago is wonderful in many ways, but one major headache lingers: we can’t get our cars into the garage. It’s a 2-storey house on a downslope from the street. The garage is on the upper floor, which is not exactly at street level, but 2 or 3 feet above street level at the end where the garage is. Because of the hillside, the setback from the edge of the street is only a dozen feet or so; thus the driveway is short and steep, and only a vehicle with a high ground clearance can get into the garage without scraping the bottom going over the edge from the driveway to the garage floor.

We just had the driveway rebuilt. When we bought the house, it was worse. One side had settled over the years since first built, leaving a vertical gap of 6 inches or so that had been patched with a filler slope of concrete. The new driveway is even on both sides, and fills in most of the dip at the edge of the street where the gutter was. So it’s not as steep as it was, but it’s still too steep for an average sedan, let alone any car set lower to the ground. Given the geometry of the situation–the street can’t be moved, the house can’t be moved–the new driveway is about as best as one could expect.

Nevertheless, geometry is academic if it means the cars sit out on the street getting dusty or rained upon. This is California, where we’re obliged to take better care of our cars than that; it’s in the contract. Yes, I suppose we could replace our cars with SUVs. What a good idea. Any other ideas, clever skiffy fans? Hydraulics to raise the cars a few inches just while entering and exiting the garage, perhaps? Some sort of ramp inside the garage to extend the slope of the driveway, to avoid that scraping edge when transitioning from slope to flat garage floor? Send all ideas to Entrants who submit feasible ideas that we actually use that we haven’t already thought of will receive special prizes.

Maybe I Think Too Much

Saw “Love Actually” last night with Yeong; it’s exactly the kind of movie he most enjoys; such a romantic. I liked bits and pieces. There are too many pieces, perhaps; by comparison, I think “Four Weddings and a Funeral” (by the same writer/director) is something of a classic, the romantic sweetness tamed by the funeral, by the Auden poem (He was my North, my South…). In “Love Always” most of the pieces, that is of the many intertwined subplots, are obviously predictable–you know they will unite in the end, despite all odds. I appreciated that a couple of the subplots were knowing parodies of the romantic protocol: the hotshot who finds babes in Wisconsin; the 10-year-old who’s so serious about his passion. But I was frustrated that the one story I was most interested in–perhaps because Laura Linney has been one of my favorite actresses ever since the TV version of “Tales of the City”–was unsatisfactorily resolved. Not because it didn’t work out happily, but because it didn’t explore what would have actually happened to those characters in their common setting; would she really not have tried again, tried to explain about her brother? The same practical consequences were not explored in several other subplots. But maybe that’s not what movies are about. The audience ate it up. I just think too much about these things, perhaps.

A Moonlit Reflection of a Boat in the Distance

Ideally, a few words every day, but practically, not always possible.

Compiled more data today for New in Paperback, and Classic Reprints, listings, to finish up tomorrow.

Even in LA the seasons do appear; the past week has been noticeably chilly at nights, mild in the daytime, with puffy white clouds calming the skies and dew on the windshields every morning.

Heading out for a movie tonight. Will listen for the dodgy bits.

It seems I need an updated video card for Uru. Maybe tomorrow, after the website updates.

Out of Time

Went to the bookstore yesterday, for the first time in almost 3 weeks! It’s mid-November so all the holiday gift books are displayed on tables near the entrance, pushing new books to read–and there are plenty of those this time of year–into the corners. Trying to catch up on new-in-paperback titles, cribbing from the Books Received lists compiled by Locus magazine for use as a spotter’s guide. A page should be posted this weekend.

The ‘freak’ rainstorms in LA reported in the press were 20 miles or so south of me, near LAX. Didn’t rain a drop here, but my contractor delayed the pouring of my new driveway a day for fear of precipitation. It was done today.

Here is a confession: though as a literary type I generally have little interest in computer games (or comic books), I was sufficiently compelled by the game Myst, many years ago, to have enthusiastically pursued its several sequels. The latest, Uru, was released this week, and I checked several stores both Tuesday and Wednesday until finding a copy. (Thus the links at right, posted in anticipation.) Then last night spent an ill-advised 3 hours trying to install and run it. The problem with computer games, for anyone not a fanatic, is that the newest ones depend on having the very latest hardware components and software drivers, and my 20-month old Sony VAIO does not seem up to the task. Perhaps I will find time to troubleshoot the installation in the next few days, but as my personal life hardly permits time to read books, much less play computer games, you ought not to expect any further updates here on this matter any time soon. Maybe someday.


Updated website indexes today — i.e. those to book reviews and interviews in Locus Magazine, and those to contributors to Locus Online — and posted a couple slightly stale market reports, received in late October. Every time I go on a trip for a week, as I did to World Fantasy Con, it takes me two weeks to catch up on the website.

One consequence of Amazon’s super-duper new search feature is that it can be more difficult to find book listings by title — especially when trying to confirm that such a listing doesn’t exist. Null search results are now replaced by hundreds of secondary results from searches of texts.

Spent the weekend shopping for furniture for the new (August) house and fighting a cold. An expected busy week at work failed to materialize when a planned CMMI assessment was derailed by the assessor’s illness and failure to arrive. (I don’t expect more than 1 or 2 of my potential audience to know what CMMI means; everyone else, don’t worry about it.) And I learned that an uncle of mine died last week; we were once quite close, though had fallen out of touch in recent years. Will be attending his memorial service tomorrow mid-day, then returning home to work on more book listings for the website.

Too Many Books

Just finished posting to Locus Online a page of new book descriptions — though only about half of all those I’ve seen or received or have purchased in the last month; as many as I have time to do today. I recently rejected an essay submitted for the website whose thesis was that the current state of SF publishing is moribund, that SF is in a slump, drowned by media tie-ins, no inspiring ideas anymore, etc etc. Spider Robinson’s toastmaster speech at the Toronto Worldcon is only the most prominent recent example of this charge; it’s a recurring theme. (Gabe Chouinard’s rants against fat fantasy novels are another variation.) On this matter I’m on Gardner Dozois’ side; there are plenty of good books published of every variety, more than any one reader can possibly keep up with, unless their criteria for acceptable fiction are so specific as to be impossibly restrictive. Sure you may have to wade past the bestsellers and the media ties to find the books worth reading, but that’s not difficult to do — that (ahem) is what Locus’ and Locus Online’s reviews and listings are designed to help with! All these complainers just aren’t trying.

Stupid DSL Tricks

My DSL service from SBC went down last night. It was down when I got home from work, but came up when I refreshed it, for half an hour or so, long enough to download the day’s hundred emails. Then after a few minutes it went down again, and remained so as I edited and formatted the Cynthia Ward review for the site, and would have been posting a blog entry. Finally resorted to a dial-up connection to post the review. This afternoon phoned SBC DSL service, and after 20 minutes of them running background tests and me cycling power to the PC and the modem (things I’d already done), the best the technician could suggest was that I go purchase a new Ethernet cable for connecting the modem to my PC. (I’ve only had the service, and the present cable, for less than 3 months.) Dialed up again, to download the 300 emails, mostly spam, since last night. Posted a couple blinks. Disconnected the dial-up to make a phone call, tried refreshing the DSL connection again — and it worked! Why now? Who knows.

Two items I’d intended to address in more detail than perhaps I have patience for this evening, but will at least mention. First, in the category of Stupid Reviewer Tricks, to respond to the response to a review on SFcrowsnest that attracted the attention of The Alien Online editor Ariel, and in turn was commented upon by the Fantastica Daily staff (see Nov 1st entry). The review is hardly worth linking to–an unknown reviewer apparently incapable of responding to a collection by Ramsey Campbell–but does serve to illustrate several examples of how not to write a review. A review should say more about the work being reviewed than about the reviewer. Even well-known, expert reviewers get taken to task for this sin, and this reviewer has no reputation, or expertise, to speak from; nevertheless, we’re told about another story (not by Campbell) the reviewer liked, that the reviewer couldn’t remember much about these stories, etc. Next, the work must be evaluated independently of its format, price, or cover illustration, which are not under the control of the author. And it’s hard to take any review seriously that isn’t written to some basic standard of comprehensible English. (From that review: “I’ll concede that maybe his writing style isn’t my taste but I really don’t think that that is the case.”) All of this is reminds me that I once thought of compiling a list of stupid reviewer tricks, along the lines of that Clarion (?) list of stupid SF writer tricks, of which my favorite was the presumption of the uniformity of planetary ecologies, e.g. “It was raining on Mongo IV that afternoon”… but I never did.

Second, a disturbing report from David Langford’s Infinite Matrix column two weeks ago that the Omni Online website (, for many years an archive of stories posted there even though not updated for years, has recently disappeared (presumably a consequence of upheavals at the corporation that owned the site). It’s a reminder that all of our electronic publications are only a missed payment or two away from oblivion. When brush fires threaten, I worry not so much that my house might burn down, as that my library might go up in smoke — the house is far easier to replace than the books — but at least other copies of the books and magazines are out there somewhere to be found, however long it might take. Electrons? Theoretically so easy to copy and reproduce, but in practice, they require a frail infrastructure in which to live.

Secret Masters

Today’s bonus link for those of you checking my blog is this link with photos from a certain “Discredited Diseases Convention.”

Everyone experiences a different convention, of course. The one I was at last week included the annual Locus Foundation Board Meeting, at which the publisher and editors of Locus Magazine and other designated board members convene to review the financial state of the empire, brainstorm ideas for expansion, make decisions about whose careers to make or break, and so on. Well, I exaggerate a bit. We talk a lot, but don’t actually reach very many decisions.

One idea we’ve tossed around for a year or two now is launching a regular email newsletter, to which anyone could sign up for, with links to the latest features on the website, previews of what’s in work for the magazine, and so on. The mechanisms are in place; getting it going is just a matter of figuring out who will do the work to compile each issue and deciding exactly what content each will contain. The Locus magazine staff is already overworked, and the Locus Online staff is, well, they never seem to be around when I need them. But we’ll work it out eventually, someday, maybe. After that, we’ll start designing the Locus tote bags, t-shirts, and umbrellas…