Archive for the 'Technology' Category

Comicon 2010 round-up and wrap-up, Saturday, Sunday

July 26th, 2010

Continuing the Comicon 2010 report from the previous post….

Saturday: I had some thoughts of seeing the Chuck panel, as I was there early enough, but early enough for the panel and early enough for the line are two different things and the line for Ballroom 20 was beyond insane, so I decided to go over to the Indigo Ballroom in the Hilton which is generally less impacted and see the program track there.  En route, I witnessed the line for Hall H, where the movie panels go on.  It had overflowed it’s already insane bounds and gone over across the street, wrapped around the park where the Clash of the Titans games promos were set up and extended into another dimension I think.  The games in the park were all nice: You could have your face painted and have a picture taken in cut-outs as one of Medusa’s victims, you could bounce on a giant trampoline (which did a number on my knee last year at con), you could play boffer wars in a bouncy arena, and you could even climb a rock wall with a cable safety harness.  Almost no one was playing the games, preferring to stand in line, so I decided I’d try the rock wall, which was free.  Unfortunately, I’d sprained my LCL a few months ago and about ten feet up the rock wall I felt it complain so I wussed out.  The guy who was supervising the wall looked more approving after I compared knee surgery scars with him.  In any case, I got a souvenir fan in place of a shield or a medusa headdress and went on to the line for the Indigo Ballroom, which was fortunately short.

I was there in time for the panel for Leverage, which I’d only vaguely heard of.  They had free MASTERMIND and GRIFTER T-shirts.  I took MASTERMIND, of course.  The room was packed and I had an extremely excited fifty-something fangirl next to me who was sqeeing with delight over seeing her favorite actors, one of whom I then noted was Christian Kane who I’d previously seen on Angel and who mentioned that he has a new music debut on iTunes of some song played on the show (explaining why his character Lindsay on Angel went off with a guitar at one point–they were incorporating a talent of the actor into the character) Wil Wheaton was also playing this seasons’ guest villain, Chaos. It looks like a great show, and has a nice simple premise: a gang of modern-day Robin Hoods pulling a heist each week against some bad guys who deserve to get ripped off and then have their money given to charity.  I now have to set my DVR for another show.

Next was the Venture Brothers panel.  It’s a fun cartoon I’ve watched some episodes of and I’ll probably watch a few more.  The actors on the panel were entertaining and generally gonzo, as one might expect.

Then came the Sanctuary panel.  I’ve enjoyed the show, and the panel was enjoyable as well.  They talked a good bit about the Bollywood dance that figured into the last season finale, and also mentioned how they’ve set up a charity which has been helping various groups around the world.  The guy next to me started recording the whole show on his camera, but it wasn’t going to be an unsteady shot, because he’d brought an actual tripod.  I looked around and he wasn’t the only one.

Then came the panel for The Guild, who could teach the rest of Hollywood something serious about work ethic and how to please your fans.  Aside from being at their booth throughout the con with all the actors present doing continuous signings from what I could see, they started the panel with the producer thanking all the fans and telling some production details that were genuinely interesting (as opposed to the twaddle from the guy for the Falling Skies panel, for example).  They then introduced the actors and segued neatly to showing the third episode the current season because they assumed everyone had watched the first two.  I hadn’t, but I can remedy that now, it was fun to see Wil Wheaton back as the villain Faux who had ended up as Codex’s love interest at the end of last season.  They then gave out buttons with the bodice ripper painting of Codex and Faux shown in the episode as a funny bit.  Then, when you wouldn’t think they could top that, they said they’d show the fourth episode, though the editing wasn’t quite done.  So we start into a nice seen with Codex and Zaboo in her bedroom which suddenly organically turns into a Bollywood extravaganza called “Game On.”

Wow.  That was some serious showmanship, and not just for the music video, which was amazing, but for the reveal to the fans.  Obviously they planned this well in advance and I’m pleased to see it such a success.

The guy with the tripod then packed up and left, but I then stayed around to watch a bit of the Community panel.  It was fun and whacky and basically what you’d expect for a comedy set in a community college with Chevy Chase as one of the professors, but after getting a free community college membership card with a discount for buying the DVD, I decided I was tired of sitting and so left too, going back to the convention center to see the art show, which was underwhelming, and more of the art on in the dealer’s room, which was not.

One artist I should point out to everyone is Echo Chernik.  She does some amazing art nouveau illustrations.  Another is Jeremy Bastain who does the Cursed Pirate Girl comics.

I then picked up with Albert and a couple of his friends and we went to Dick’s Last Resort which was a good deal of fun, especially since they were into the Comicon spirit and the waiters were in costume.  Ours was dressed as a white Mr. T with a Brooklyn accent, which was entertaining, and the food was good.  Pete, who’d joined us for dinner late, told us about the really cool Tron set-up they’d had off-site from the convention center.  I wish I’d been able to see it, but there’s always too much stuff to see, but what he showed me on his camera was pretty amazing.  We ate and ordered too much, which in hindsight we shouldn’t have because the next stop was the House of Blues where one of my publishers, SmartPop, had invited us to a party.  There was a buffet with too much delicious food, and also copies of their latest essay anthology A Taste of True Blood which the editor, Leah Wilson, was signing for all the guests.  There was fun talk about anthologies and the usual convention party fun.

Sunday: The last day of the con, I decided to catch Ann and Jeff Vandermeer‘s panel where they talked about upcoming projects, including steam punk anthologies and various curious and whimsical things.  I then did the dealers room floor, snagging up various things that caught my eye as purchases for the final day sales and also getting the final day swag.

The most interesting/fun bit of swag came in the WETA Workshop booth where a guy got up on a chair and announced that in partnership with were doing a trivia contest based on The Hobbit. Now, I pride myself on having a semi-eidetic memory, so I thought my chances of winning something with trivia from a book I’d read over thirty years ago were not half bad if I played my cards right.  After flubbing one question, I got called on for another, wanting the names of two of the swords Bilbo found in the troll’s hoard.  Now, if I racked my brains I might have been able to recall the fancy elven names, but they just asked for names, so I immediately gave the orcish ones: “Biter and Beater!”  The Weta guy looked at me as if I’d gone slightly mad since he was reading the card and those were not the names he was looking at but I just grinned and nodded to the OneRing guy for arbitration, and he admitted that those indeed were two of the names for the swords.  Not the names they were looking for, but names from the book.  I was asked if I knew the elven name, which I didn’t, but a guy next to me did: “Glamdring and Orcrist!”  The OneRing guy decided that that question was sufficient to advance us both to the finals after we’d answered a couple other questions.

The final round was me, a woman, the elven scholar guy, and a kid who I expected had read the book recently.  The elven scholar won the first question, selecting a miniature shield as his prize, the kid then correctly said that Gandalf had asked for red wine in Bilbo’s house and got the map of New Zealand as Middle Earth, and I then answered the next question correctly and got my choice of fancy rubber Hobbit ears or a red T-shirt for with the slogon “Talk Nerdy to Me.”  I’m not much of a cosplayer, but a T-shirt in my size?  Excellent.

After that, Albert gave me a ride to the airport and my friend Michael picked me up.  All in all an excellent Comicon.

Giving it Away for Free

April 7th, 2009

Witch Way to the Mall

Witch Way to the Mall

This was going to be a small announcement that I’ve got a story coming out in Esther Friesner’s Witch Way to the Mall this next June, and Baen is offering five of the stories early, including mine (you have to click all the way to the end to find it, since it’s not linked in the contents), but, well, it’s sort of morphed into a rumination on copyrights and giving it away for free.

This was prompted by a short letter I got last night from Paizo, a gaming company I’ve bought from before and who has given me some very nice PDFs of their other games as free samples:

Dear Kevin,

Wizards of the Coast has notified us that we may no longer sell or distribute their PDF products. Accordingly, after April 6 at 11:59 PM Pacific time, Wizards of the Coast PDFs will no longer be available for purchase on; after noon on April 7, you will no longer be able to download Wizards of the Coast PDFs that you have already purchased, so please make sure you have downloaded all purchased PDFs by that time.

We thank you for your patronage of Please check out our other downloads at

Sincerely yours,
The Paizo Customer Service Team

This has prompted a great deal of talk on the Paizo and Wizards boards and elsewhere, with a press announcement from Wizards saying they were shocked shocked! to find that people were violating their copyrights on the internet, and they’re now suing people as far away as Poland and the Philipines — this particularly ironic since a number of years ago, they themselves violated the copyrights of a number of authors, myself included, with the publication of the Dragon Magazine compilation CD.  But the fact that my very first professional sale (if not publication credit), which was reprinted by Wizards without my permission, was then pirated around the globe without Wizards’ permission?  I suppose I could fall into a fit of apoplexy that my words my precious words! were no longer under my control.  But since I’ve been giving that article away for free on my website for years, the mental chain is more: sauce, gander, world’s tiniest violin.

This isn’t to say that I don’t think Wizards has the right to pull those works they do hold copyright to from publication, but giving customers who’ve already paid for the work less than twelve hours notice is rather bad form.  Moreover, I think it’s inane to cut off electronic reprints of out-of-print books, especially when there’s a demand for them and the fans will have to chose between pirate networks and the absurd prices of antiquarian booksellers.  And when I say absurd, I mean absurd: Last night I went on to to get a book I wanted, and while I was there, the engine (which had remembered my previous searches) told me I could get a copy of  Wild Cards Card Sharks, which has my first professional fiction publication, for only $1.37.  This seemed absurdly reasonable, and since I’d heard they were going for much more (and I only have two copies myself) I decided to snatch it up, only to find that the price had jumped to $53 once I clicked on the link and it was absurd the other way.

I’m not going to pay $53 for a paperback.  Moreover, I don’t expect any fan to.  And it’s not like I’d see any of that money from the antiquarians in any case.  I’d rather the fans download it from Polish pirates, then buy something current (such as, for example, Busted Flush or Witch Way to the Mall).

Which I suppose brings us full circle: There are free stories–regardless of how they got there–and if you like them, you can buy more stories.

Introducing Book View Café

November 19th, 2008

I’m formulating my thoughts on this whole politics/class/fantasy thing–an issue which fascinates me as a writer and a human.  But (as with many fascinating topics) every time I write something I realize I need to think a little more.  So pardon me while I think, and I’ll be back to the topic in a day or so.

Meanwhile, I want to let you know about a new venture started by a group of women writing in SF, fantasy, horror, mystery, and romance: the Book View Café.  Writers such as Ursula LeGuin, Vonda McIntyre, Irene Radford, Katherine Elisska Kimbriel, Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, Sarah Zettel, and, well, <i>me</i>, are putting up screenplays, stories, poetry and even whole novels.  Right now it’s all read for free, while we’re in the shakeout period.  Thereafter some of it will be free, some will be free if read online, some available for download for a nominal fee. 

The idea is to make a place where we can get our work before readers in a new way–stories that are out of print, experimental, or otherwise unavailable.  There’s also a blog with posts by the site’s various authors–updated daily, and as diverse as we are.

Looking for something good to read?  Want to check out a writer you haven’t tried before?  Check out the Book View Cafe.

Why paperbooks still matter

June 2nd, 2008

Digital texts are not necessarily the way to go, nor will they utterly replace paper books — I’ve long found this statement true. Now here’s an essay by noted historian Robert Darnton, who explains why it’s true better than I can. :-)

Too many people think that everything digital is “the future” and thus somehow good. You know, the future could turn out kind of crummy. It has in the past.

Wild Cards: American Hero & other interactive web fiction

February 2nd, 2008

Tor’s new Wild Cards website has been spiffed up and updated, with information on the mass signing in Albuquerque today with most of the Inside Straight authors. Moreover, Tor has just launched the American Hero website, the fully in-character blog and promotional website for American Hero, the superhero reality television show taking place in the Wild Cards universe and a central part of the plot of Inside Straight.

There are twenty eight characters on the show and we’ve got illustrations for all of them from the amazing Mike Miller. More, all of the authors have been writing confessionals from the standpoints of their characters. Up now for Week 1 are Joe Twitch (created and written by Walton Simons), Spasm (created and written by Daniel Abraham), Drummer Boy (created and written by S.L. Farrell), and Rosa Loteria (created and written by yours truly).

Rosa Loteria portraitGo over and take a look. Ask the characters questions. Of course, the contestants are all busy with challenges on the show, but who knows, some of them might answer. (Mine are Rosa Loteria and The Maharajah.)

This is also kind of exciting as an author since it’s a new publishing venue. I’ve seen website expansions to the content from movies, most notably the rather amazing Donnie Darko site which had some neat fiction which expanded the movie, and likewise the (now long defunct) website for the Point Pleasant tv show. But this is the first time I’ve seen extra web fiction content being done for a series of novels and anthologies, especially author created and owned.

Anyway, please take a look and see what you think, and also, let’s talk about the web as a venue for new fiction in general.

New Wild Cards website live

December 16th, 2007

I’ve been mentioning it earlier about the new book coming out, but Tor has just launched the new website for Wild Cards,

There will be more added in the coming weeks, including bio with yours truly, but the preliminary launch is focusing on Inside Straight, which is coming out next month and as with all things publishing, may have early copies in some stores now.

There’s also a newsletter to sign up for and a story from Walter Jon Williams which is sort of the proto-Wild Cards tale.

The End of Science Fiction

July 13th, 2007

I’ve seen various theories put forward as to when the first science fiction stories were written. Depending on your definition of science fiction — and that exact definition can be quite contentious, especially on this blog — the first proper science fiction tale might be Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) or William Shakespeare’s The Tempest (c. 1610) or maybe Lucian of Samosata’s A True Story (c. the 2nd century AD). Personally, I’d argue that you need to have the scientific method before you have science fiction, which disqualifies Lucian of Samosata and Shakespeare (depending on your definition of the scientific method).

But the question I’m interested in at the moment is when will science fiction end? I’m not asking this from a commercial standpoint so much as from an epistemological standpoint. Will there always be new science fiction? Or will the genre just wither up at some point and go away?

Here’s something I’ve noticed about futuristic science fiction stories: the characters in them never tell futuristic science fiction stories. Think about it. Can you think of a single example of a character in a futuristic science fiction story reading (or watching) a story that’s science fiction from their point of view?

Of course, you could argue that few characters in stories are actually shown telling stories at all, which is true. We tried that kind of metafiction in the ’60s, and that gave us John Barth and Robert Coover and writers of that ilk. Still, I can think of plenty of examples of SF characters reading nonfiction or history or contemporary literature (by which I mean contemporary from the characters’ point of view).

Vernor Vinge's 'A Deepness in the Sky'It seems to me that most of the counterexamples I can think of involve some primitive civilization telling stories about something that’s already proven to be true in the scope of the story. The spider creatures of Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky speculate about space travel and life on other planets, while we the humans watch them from orbit. The people in Edwin Abbott’s Flatland discuss the possibility of a three-dimensional world. And of course, there’s the old trope of the cut-off space colony that reverts back to its primitive roots while its SFnal history becomes the stuff of legends.

Then you’ve got the case of futuristic characters reaching for some even-more-futuristic contraption that simply extrapolates their current technology to the next level. We’ve got the Mega Giga Ultra Hyperdrive that allows us to travel at six times the speed of light! Wouldn’t it be great if we could invent the Super Mega Giga Ultra Hyperdrive that would let us travel sixty times the speed of light? (Impossible! say the doubting scientists. And then, of course, at some point in the story somebody goes and invents the damn thing.)

But where are the examples of people in a futuristic story themselves looking off into a fictional and theoretical future of wonder? I can’t really think of any. Maybe I’m not framing the question right, or disqualifying things out of hand.

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Fonts & Typography

November 2nd, 2006

I have to admit I have a big love for fonts and typography. The way the different typefaces look, they way they help to set the mood of a book before you even read a single word on the page. I’ve noticed them ever since I saw my first illustrated capital in a book of fairytales before I even could read.

Consequently interesting typefaces have always caught my eye, and while I dearly love some of the fonts that came out of the 90s revolution of computer typography, most of them looked just awkward/grungy with far too much attitude and far too little readability.

So I set about making a few fonts of my own, or rather I should say, digitizing, cleaning up and generally twiddling with typefaces from old books that weren’t available from any of the modern font foundries. I put them out on one of my websites, and apart from a guy in Italy who loved one of the fonts until it crashed his computer (very complex fonts will do that), I didn’t hear anything more until last year when I was contacted by Bonnier Publications A/S of Denmark, who wanted to use my WitchHunt font for their history magazine. Of course, they also wanted a few extra Danish characters (and Swedish ones as well, for the Swedish edition), along with open type format and a few other whistles and bells.

WitchHunt font sampleUnfortunately, I’d packed up my fontography programs a few years and two computers before. Fortunately, however, I knew Dave Nalle who runs Fontcraft, about the top historic typeface company out there, and he not only agreed to make the extra characters for Bonnier, but asked me to join Fontcraft as one of their designers. So now WitchHunt is available from Fontcraft, in its newly prettified and gussied up form (thanks, Dave), as part of the Halloween 2006 promotion. Even better, it’s soon to be followed by some of my other typefaces and ornaments.

Currently rockin’ the William Morris vibe here. It’s very fun to have both fiction and typefaces of yours being out there.

Mission Eternity Sarcophagus, latest etoy project

August 14th, 2006

Mission Eternity Sarcaphagous Interior with etoy docent










Well, I managed to catch this just before it left San Jose.  What is it, you may ask?  Well, it’s the latest project from etoy, the Zurich-based artists who’ve done various avante-garde tech-savvy art projects over the years, including the ToyWar some years back, where I signed on as one of their “toy soldiers” to help drive the internet toy company “Etoys” (no relation) bankrupt for having sued them because it wanted their domain name.

Anyway, their latest project came to my home town and I managed to catch it before they packed up and left.

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Read the book? No, but I loved the trailer

July 16th, 2006

The days of judging a book by its cover are drawing to a close. Publishers have finally tapped into the MTV generation, and now it is possible to make your literary choices in advance online by watching a sequence of rapid-fire images accompanied by a thumping score, big flashing words and, if you’re lucky, a deep-voiced American talking about ‘one man’ and ‘his quest to find meaning in a world gone mad’. Yes: there are now trailers for books and soon, according to Steve Osgoode, director of online marketing at HarperCollins Canada, they will be everywhere.”

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