Jun 18 2015

Chapter 8 of ‘Closing the Circuit’

Chapter 8, Remembrance: Sully.

If you aren’t already reading CtC, start with Chapter 1, First steps are the hardest.

Restarting my Clarion West Write-a-thon project for 2015! Please sponsor me.

I’m delivering this chapter one scene a day over the next week. I might miss a day, but I’ll try not to.

Nov 27 2014

It’s Turkey Day and I’m seriously pissed off!

So it’s Turkey Day and I am supposed to be thankful or something. And, yes, I do have things to be thankful for. But I can’t seem to shake the anger I feel over the number of friends and acquaintances who have passed away or become seriously ill over the last year.

Maybe I’ve simply reached ‘that age’ where you start attending more funerals than weddings. I dunno. I just don’t like it. Certainly it engenders a fear of my own mortality, but that isn’t my problem. My problem is the anger. I have nowhere to direct it and I can’t come to terms with it. I’ve lost dear friends this year, but even when it is someone who simply remembers my name and is polite to me it makes my blood boil.

I can’t seem to put it in perspective. I think about the children dying in war zones or at the hands of their own parents and I feel a deep sadness. Yet, whenever there is a personal connection I grit my teeth and want to hit something.

Yes, this is not really all about me. I know that. I’m not so self-absorbed I can’t see the disconnect. Each life lost leaves someone grieving and I’m neither the only one affected nor the one with the most right to be affected. In all truth I shouldn’t be as angry as I am about this.

Yet I am. If I could curb-stomp cancer and take a lead pipe to cerebrovascular insults blood would flow in the streets. I AM SERIOUSLY PISSED!

And I need to get over it. Accept that this is life, death is part of it, and each weighs in the balance no more than the next. The problem is, these are my people. My friends. I don’t have very many of them and I can’t afford to lose a single one.

I don’t know about you, but I am starting my day of thanks with a quiet moment of contemplation for those who cannot join me.

(Also on Ello here.)

Sep 27 2014

Supermoon over Geysir Park, Iceland

Supermoon over Geysir Park

I took this at Geysir Park in Iceland on the last day of the last Supermoon, but one. (Click on picture for full-size.) Here is a video of the same geyser, taken a few minutes later:

True story: I had my phone on shuffle, playing music through the rental car stero. Exactly as I drove through the park gates it started playing Led Zepplin’s ‘Immigrant Song‘. Since I do not believe in shit like that I said loudly (to myself), “I do not believe in shit like this!”

Then I parked and walked down the path towards the geysers. It was very early in the morning and an active geyser blew while I was still quite a ways from it. I zoomed in and took a picture and only afterwards noticed the moon was in the shot, so I zoomed in more and took more pictures. This is the second picture.

I do not believe in shit like that.

Aug 07 2014

My WorldCon Schedule (and some thoughts on the same)

This year the Science Fiction World Convention (the WorldCon) is in London: Loncon 3.

I am on programming again, including a reading I won’t be able to do (because I’ll still be in Iceland) and one last minute addition I will also miss because my plane arrives too late on Thursday. (A good thing, because I had some real concerns about that panel. More on that later.)

I’m excited about going to the convention and hope to see many of you there. (Out of the ten or so people who actually READ this blog, I think there are two or three who will make it. A high percentage, I know.)

What follows is my panel schedule, along with some thoughts about each.

Reading: Jack William Bell

Thursday 14:00 – 14:30, London Suite 1 (ExCeL)

Yes, I’m going to miss this. In fact I’ll be boarding a plane in Iceland right about then, tired from four days of camping and driving around and looking at geysers and stuff. So don’t go unless you want to find a quiet place to take a nap.

I’m not worried about missing this because I was thinking of cancelling it anyway. I mean, I’m currently writing a novel that I know won’t sell so I’m giving it away for free on the Intertubez. Imposter Syndrome much?

The Pleasures of a Good, Long Info-Dump

Friday 1:30 – 2:30, Capital Suite 7+12 (ExCeL) (or 11:00 – 12:00 if it didn’t get rescheduled.)

Arguably, the literature of ideas is not SF but the one emerging from the recent deluge of speculative nonfictional works. If we want to read about interesting ideas on the future of war, we don’t turn to SF with its rather pathetic, microwaved dystopic visions. We’re better off with books like John Mueller’s Capitalism, Democracy and Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery or Max van Crevald’s Art of War. These are extended info dumps, in which the traditional problems of SF – weak characterization, plot centricity etc – have been eliminated. They don’t describe probable, moral or desirable futures, but remain densely speculative in a way most modern SF simply isn’t. Is it time to get rid of fiction from science fiction and focus on what its geeky readers have always enjoyed, the ideas part — the Info dump?

This promises to be a great panel for writers and readers alike. Not because I’m on it, I’m moderating so I won’t be saying much. But because it has some real stellar talent behind the table. You won’t want to miss this.

Music as (Universal) Communication

Sunday 11:00 – 12:00, Capital Suite 5 (ExCeL)

Panellists discuss music and communication. Could it be the basis for a universal language, given its mathematical basis, centrality to most human cultures and psychology and use by many other species? Why first contact might be via music (Close Encounters). Music on space-probes…

I’m going to be the ‘balance weight’ on this one, I’m afraid. I mean, sure, you could use the mathematical underpinnings of music as a communications medium; but such is true of any self-referential numeric series. Considering we humans never use music as a way of communicating facts and figures between ourselves, where is the value in doing so with an alien species?

That said, I do think music has some value as a way of communicating emotions. Feelings. But these emotions and the external triggers for them are dependent on both sides of the conversation having the capability to feel the same things and respond to the same triggers; something I don’t think we can take as a given.

Certainly among humans ‘the responses to music are partly cultural, but I can think of cases where a song in a tradition I had never heard before ‘spoke’ to me. Even other mammals and some avian species seem to respond to music in similar ways. But the emotional baggage music carries so well may not be fungible if you don’t share the appropriate neurological structures.

And now we come to the panel I was added to at the last minute, but am glad I won’t be able to sit on for schedule reasons. I thought long and hard before agreeing and only afterwards realized the timing wouldn’t work. I’m kind of glad really, because this one has the potential of being the kind of clusterfuck the ‘Socialists in Kilts: Revolutionary Scottish SF’ panel at the San Jose WorldCon turned into. I was there for that, and reminisce about it here. Yes, it’s a true story involving China Miéville, Charles Stross, and Eric Raymond.

Hard Right (Thursday 20:00)

Hard science fiction is at its core dependent not on science, but on a world with inviolate rules. These rules can manifest as scientific realities or social constructs, but either way, these kinds of stories are often predicated on solving problems, or not, in the face of tradition. Science fiction critic Paul Kincaid has argued this idea is very similar to the worldview of conservative ideologies. While hard sf is not solely the domain of right wing authors, is there a link between the two? Is that link historical or fundamental?

So, yeah. The only thing I can do on a panel like that is be the counterweight arguing that the premise of the panel is wrong, wrong, WRONG!

Seriously. When asked to be on the panel I sent them the following response and they still wanted me there. WTF?

. . . if you are looking for someone bringing a conservative or even a ‘big L’ Libertarian viewpoint I’m not your guy. If you want someone who understands the point, but disagrees with the idea that Hard SF is fundamentally conservative, then you want me for balance. (Or if you just want someone willing to argue that Heinlein WAS NOT a political conservative; at least not as we use the term today. I can go on about that if you like.)

Politically I’m an independent with views corresponding to what is sometimes referred to as a ‘classic liberal’; in other words I’m pretty close to what ‘libertarian with a small l’ used to mean. (And sometimes still does if you hold your nose against the smell of the Koch’s when you read Reason magazine.) The last few years I have voted Democrat as a protest against the Tea Party and other extreme right groups poisoning the Republican party. I DO NOT vote Libertarian anymore; I’d rather vote for real loony toon characters like Bugs Bunny.

My political heroes are Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison; in other words a mix of democratic ideals and pragmatism in the face of human nature. I’m a firm believer that married gay couples should have closets full of assault rifles, if that is what they want. I believe in the self-organizing power of the free market, but think market capture by giant corporations is the one of the great evils of our times. (Racism being another.) I would like to see all the oligarchs taxed into obscurity and their money used to send people to school and rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. I would argue that anyone living, as I do, in a great country founded by immigrants would be advised to think very hard about the consequences before staunching the flow of talent and aspiration across our borders.

That help you decide?

Jul 26 2014

Chapter 7 of ‘Closing the Circuit’

Chapter 7, The coldest of us.

If you aren’t already reading CtC, start with Chapter 1, First steps are the hardest.

And that makes another 2400 words of my Clarion West Write-a-thon project! Please sponsor me

I also made a bunch of updates to the CtC title page, including a blurb and a writer’s preface.

Jul 14 2014

Chapter 6 of ‘Closing the Circuit’

Chapter 6, Meditation: Beauty.

If you aren’t already reading CtC, start with Chapter 1, First steps are the hardest.

And that makes another 1300 words of my Clarion West Write-a-thon project! Please sponsor me!

Jul 07 2014

Chapter 5 of ‘Closing the Circuit’

Chapter 5, To walk among the fallen.

If you aren’t already reading CtC, start with Chapter 1, First steps are the hardest.

And that makes another 1700 words of my Clarion West Write-a-thon project! Please sponsor me!

Jul 01 2014

Chapter 4 of ‘Closing the Circuit’

Chapter 4, Remembrance: Battle.

If you aren’t already reading CtC, start with Chapter 1, First steps are the hardest.

And that makes another 1500 words of my Clarion West Write-a-thon project! Please sponsor me!

Jun 29 2014

It’s Clarion West Write-a-thon time again

Hey all.

Yeah, I know. I haven’t been posting much lately. In fact it’s been more than six months since I last cluttered up your RSS feed. (For those of you still following me, that is.)

What can I say? I’ve been busy. Work and family stuff mostly, but I’ve also started renovating my old house in the mountains. (Something that is going to eat up a lot of my time for a long while, I think.)

So, yeah. I need to get get caught up here. I have a few new essays I want to clean up and post. And then there is the ‘Simulation Hypothesis and Religion’ series to finish. (Almost done there.) But first I need to call your attention to something else. And, in related news, to a new creative project of my own.

I’m talking about the Clarion West Write-a-thon. This is a major fund raiser for Clarion West every year; where writers set goals and you help to support Clarion West by sponsoring those writers. The list of participating writers is long, but in it you will find some famous names and more than a few not so famous.

Clarion West has an important mission: helping to train the next generation of Science Fiction writers by putting them through an intensive six week ‘boot camp’, designed to give them the tools they need to blow us all away with their creativity and passion. These are writers who are already good, the goal is to make them great. And it is a process that works, just take a look at some of the things Clarion West alumni are up to!

So, if you like to read Science Fiction, support Clarion West by sponsoring a writer or three. I will be.

This leads me to my related news: Among the lesser known in the list of participating writers you will find my own moniker. Yes, once again I am participating as a writer to help raise money. Only I feel like last year was a personal failure in this regard. I didn’t finish the story I started during the Write-a-thon and I failed to market it after I did. In other words, I didn’t raise much money and I basically wrote into a vacuum, never to be read by human eyes.

This year I am doing something different. Instead I am posting my writing as a serial novel to this website as I go under a Creative Commons license. I will continue working on the novel after the Write-a-thon and commit to eventually finishing it, free for everyone to read.

If you choose to support me, I would like you to pledge on a per-episode basis. You are also free to make a single one-time pledge, but to really motivate me you should pledge some significant amount based on how many episodes are posted during the Write-a-thon. (Including those already posted.)

I will endeavor to post at least one chapter a week during the Write-a-thon. You can read along as I go and even act as my copyeditor! (Yeah, how exciting.) This means you will get immediate feedback for your pledge and the more people who pledge the more motivated I will be to maintain steady posting.

So what is it I am writing? I call it ‘Closing the Circuit‘ and it is a rather quirky Science Fiction novel. Here are the first three chapters, to get you started:

So, please sponsor me in the Clarion West Write-a-thon. Let’s make this the best fund raiser for Clarion West ever!

Nov 30 2013

The Simulation Hypothesis and Religion: Part 4 – The Nature of God

In Part 1 (Animism) of my series on the Simulation Hypotheses and Religion I explored some means by which a simulated world, containing Artificial Intelligences called ‘humans’, might exhibit the characteristics of Animist belief; including ‘spirits’ and ‘supernatural connections’ between things. In Part 2 (The God Module) I looked at the role of and enabling factors for faith, especially faith when reality provides no explicit reinforcing factors for the underlying belief. In Part 3 (The Spirit and the Soul) I explored how the dual concepts of ‘spirit’ and ‘soul’ might be enabled by the same simulation mechanisms underlying animism.

(If you haven’t read part 1, part 2, or part 3 yet, go and read them now. If you haven’t also read my essay ‘The Consequences of The Simulation Hypothesis‘ you might want to start there.)

Here in part 4 I am going into deeper and more dangerous waters; I am going to examine the very nature of god (or god(s) or God, if you prefer) in the context of a computer simulation. The thing is, there are a lot of ways you can look at godhood and the divine in that context and some, none, or all of them could be valid. Not to mention the fact many people of strong religious belief might find this discussion a bit dodgy (at best), so I must tread lightly. (Out of politeness if nothing else.)

Read the rest of this entry »

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