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[links] Link salad wanders into summer

Some favorable reviews of the Polish edition of Trial of Flowers: [ QFant | Fantasta | Ksizki Polter ] — Courtesy of my Polish translator.

The Sun Is the Best Optometrist — So that’s why I drive a ragtop… (Via David Goldman.)

Robot Hand Design — This is cool.

Star Found Shooting Water “Bullets”Stellar sprinklers may help irrigate cosmos, study suggests. Huh? What?

A Feat of Engineering That Doubles as a Home — I’ve been on dates like that. (Thanks to Dad.)

Living the Good Lie — Therapists who help gay and lesbian clients stay in the closet. Hmm…

Shame Of America: Desperate Man Robs Store For One Dollar In Order To Go To Jail To Get Health Coverage — Best healthcare system in the world. Ask any Republican. (Via [info]willyumtx.)

Two more pundits who don’t count — More on the irrational and counterfactual pundit obsession with politicians and personal pronouns. Seriously. Yes, these comments are made by adults with ready access to objective information that disprove their assertions.

Tory MEPs defy David Cameron over greenhouse gas targets — Though this seems to be based on an issue of economic policy (ie, something that liberal-progressives and conservatives can and probably should disagree over), it’s worth noting that conservatives in the UK are also anti-science loons. What is it with you guys and reality?

For Press, Secession No Longer Campaign “Roadblock” For Gov. Rick Perry — Ah, yes. Conservatives and their deep reverence for the Constitution.

?otD: Do you remember the summer of ’69?

Writing time yesterday: 2.0 hours (Kalimpura revisions, WRPA)
Body movement: 30 minute stationary bike ride
Hours slept: 5.75 hours (solid)
Weight: 229.8
Currently (re)reading: A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

[links] Link salad goes back into the OR

A reader comments on Green and the Flowers books — I rather like this review.

Publishing — The Short Synopsis

[info]mlerules on my hair styling session of yesterday

Adventures in health insurance[info]cathshaffer with a summary of her experiences amid the reality of independent health insurance.

A Trip Around the Moon: Yours for $150 MillionSpace Adventures announces a tourist seat aboard a new moon mission. Damn it, I need to put out a tip jar or something.

Student discovers new virus in ancient cave mudAdventurous 20-year-old Purdue University student was exploring an ancient glacial cave, untouched since the last ice age, when she made the discovery.

4.5 billion-year-old meteorite yields new mineral

A Prophet Who Dares Admit the Limits of Prophecy — Interesting snippet on pundits and punditry.

Hasidic newspaper edits Hillary out of Situation Room photoA publication brushed both women present out of the iconic image. I really don’t understand how this isn’t both bigoted and flat stupid. Freedom of religion certainly includes the freedom to be flat wrong, but one of my biggest quarrels with faith is the editing of reality it seems to require from many believers.

Secret Pakistani Deal with US on Bin Laden

The Unwisdom of Elites — Paul Krugman on how we got into the current economic mess.

Falsehood? Or Mostly Accurate Prediction?Republicans want to gut the medical safety net, and old people will die prematurely as a result. That’s not a nice thing to say in polite company, but it’s the truth. Yep. Compassionate conservatism for the win.

GOP finding it hard to make progressRepublicans struggle to appease the right and appeal to the center, resulting in fits and starts in the party’s agenda. Their retreat on Medicare is a prime example. Really? But pandering to the base while sending psychotically mixed messages to the center has always worked so well for them in the past. (Sadly, I am not being sarcastic.)

Tea Party Leader: We’ll Take The Debt Ceiling Hike If You Put Gay Troops Back In The Closet — As my friends on the Right keep assuring me, the Tea Party is about ordinary Americans concerned with small government and fiscal responsibility. No social backlash or bigotry here, no sirree bob. That’s why the Tea Party was so vocal during the Bush administration, when government intrusiveness ballooned and the deficit spiraled out of control. Under a white president. Oops. Was that my outside voice?

?otD: When’s the last time you had surgery?

Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (busy with surgery prep, etc.)
Body movement: 0 minutes (surgery prep)
Hours slept: 5.5 hours (solid)
Weight: 241.4
Currently reading: Sasha 124 by Alex Tillson

[links] Link salad heads for the department of giant radioactive spiders

A Polish reviewer comments on the translation of Trial of Flowers, a/k/a Próba kwiatów — In Polish, but it seems to be favorable. And check out the cover!

The Skokie Public Library blog comments on Mainspring — They seem to like it.

Where bad writing advice comes from[info]robin_d_laws on aspiring writers and the opinions of others. (Via [info]biomekanic.)

The usually interesting Freakonomics with a somewhat fatuous discussion of the Google Books Settlement — In which I fight the good fight in comments.

Beyond the Red EdgeCentauri Dreams on the atmospheric signatures of plant life.

The Science of Why We Don’t Believe ScienceHow our brains fool us on climate, creationism, and the vaccine-autism link.

GOP official who sent Obama chimpanzee email: ‘I am not a racist’ — Also, in Conservativeland, water is not wet and the sun does not rise in the east.

Former Senator Alan Simpson on GOP homophobes and misogyny

?otD: Ever done a PET scan? Did you acquire superpowers as a result?

Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (cancer follies, SFWA Pacific Northwest Reading Series)
Body movement: n/a (PET scan today requires no exercise prior)
Hours slept: 5.75 hours (solid)
Weight: 247.2
Currently reading: Nifft the Lean by Michael Shea

[links] Link salad has the frost heaves

I’m still taking interview questions from readers: [ | LiveJournal ] — Thanks to those who have posted already. Will probably answer them tomorrow or over the weekend and post next Monday. This is fun.

A reader reacts to Green — Definitely not with the liking of the book. My favorite bit: Green is a bog-standard fantasy with pretensions to be more. I have achieved mediocrity!

A Hungarian commentary on Trial of Flowers

A reader reacts to my collection Dogs In the Moonlight — Not so much with the liking of the book.

A reader reacts to my Sunspin short “A Long Walk Home”

A partial review of Love and Rockets — Including some commentary on my short story, “The Women Who Ate Stone Squid”, a pastiche of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Joanna Russ. Because, yes, I could.

Non Sequitur on editors

Wind and Mr. Ug — Quite a sweet video with a mathematical inclination. (Via willyumtx.)

A Bracing Look at the Unseen UniverseCentauri Dreams on dark energy. Interesting read.

Alabama Governor Insults All Seven or So Non-Christian Alabamans — The snark, she burns us. (Thanks to lt260.)

Rush Limbaugh Rips Fox News Panel For ‘Slobbering’ Over Obama Speech, Panel Responds (VIDEO) — Limbaugh’s comments as quoted in this piece pretty much capture everything that’s so very wrong with conservative America. Personally, I don’t want to live in a society where having a smart, articulate, oratorical leader is a bad thing. C.f. Sarah Palin.

George Lucas Destroyed Modernity — Conservative commentator Daniel Larison compares Star Trek and Star Wars in discussing a rather odd thesis advanced by Michael Lind. Science fiction meets politics.

?otD: How cold does it have to be before you say ‘enough already’?

Writing time yesterday: 2.0 hours (4,000 words on Calamity of So Long a Life, Sunspin book one)
Body movement: n/a (still too damned cold to walk from hotel to gym)
Hours slept: 7.25 hours (interrupted)
Weight: n/a (no scale here)
Currently reading: Dancing With Bears by Michael Swanwick

[links] Link salad never forgets

I’m still taking interview questions from readers: [ | LiveJournal ]

A reader reacts to The Specific Gravity of Grief — I never realized how prophetic that book would be.

Fantasy Literature reviews, among other things, my Sunspin short, “A Long Walk Home”

A Czech blog discusses my book Trial of Flowers — In Czech. Still, cool.

The Guaranteed Results Writing Advice You’ve Been Waiting For — Yep, magic bullet, right here. (Ganked from Steve Buchheit.)

Stoked: 1897Shorpy with the boiler room of the U.S.S. Massachusetts. This is about as steampunk as it gets.

Gay slur in lyrics disqualifies Dire Straits hit from Canadian radio play — Umm… (Via Scrivener’s Error.)

Debunking common myths about health-care reform — Your Liberal Media actually manages to notice a few of the persistent GOP lies about HCR.

Stuff Happens — Paul Krugman on the socialist plot that is public sewer systems.

David Frum Reacts To Hannity’s Palin Interview: “She Should Stop Talking Now” — I don’t know whether to laugh or weep.

?otD: Did you ever ride an elephant?

Writing time yesterday: 0.75 hours (further revisions to the Sunspin outline)
Body movement: n/a (3 degrees F outside, did not want to walk from hotel to gym)
Hours slept: 6.75 hours (interrupted)
Weight: n/a (no scale here)
Currently reading: Dancing With Bears by Michael Swanwick

[process] Writing the novel a different way

I realized yesterday afternoon that one reason Calamity of So Long a Life is hitting the page more slowly than my usual pace a first draft is a new phenomenon I’ve never really encountered in my own writing process before.

Exclusive of the actual plot synopsis, I have 50 pages (literally) of continuity notes, backgrounders, a cast list, a places list, and so forth. As I write, I keep stopping to check things which I generally know are there but want to get right. Or I stop to update the cast list because new named characters just walked onto the page, otherwise four months from now I’m going to either wonder who the heck Halle Wirkkala is, or I’m going to name another minor character Hailey Wirkkala by mistake. Or I stop to check the description of a planetary setting. Or I stop to…

You get the drift.

Every world I’ve built up til now, I’ve largely built on the fly as I wrote. That’s a short story writer’s technique, and I’ve made it work even across multivolume series. Not utterly so — many notes were made on the clockwork Earth before I ever started drafting Mainspring, but that amounted to five or ten pages of cosmology and weird pseudophysics. But by and large, I simply sorted things as I went along.

This led to, among other things, the memorable and annoying problem in the first draft of Trial of Flowers wherein I rotated the Burgess’ palace 90 degrees about halfway through the book. An enormous amount of directional information, setting detail, character action, even things like the angle of shadows, had to be reworked with excruciating care to repair that.

On a project as monstrous as Sunspin, I can’t afford to make errors that basic, that require so much retooling. The simple fact of the matter is I’m going to do it anyway. This stop-and-start drafting is a way of minimizing the frequency, scope and impact of those errors.

It also has the odd and possibly desirable side effect of riding my brake a bit as I write. I’m thinking more at the line level in first draft. We shall see over time if this approach pays off or not, but I suspect I’m fairly committed to it.

Interesting stuff, challenging my own span of control and revising my process in motion. Feels a bit like changing the oil and rotating the tires on my car whilst driving down the highway.

Do you write with a lot of background detail pre-planned? How big an issue is this continuity process for you, at short lengths or long?

[process] It gets easier, it gets harder

As most of you reading this know, I have been working on Kalimpura lately. 21,900 words of first draft in the last three days, thanks to a bunch of time hanging around on airplanes. So far the prose is flowing well and the story is holding together nicely. Fred has introduced several interesting elements that were not in the outline, but generally, I am hewing to plan.

I have several process observations that arise from this experience.

1. Outlines have become more important to me. I wrote Rocket Science without any outline at all. I wrote Trial of Flowers from a five paragraph outline. Mainspring had an outline about twelve pages long. And so forth. Kalimpura‘s outline from which I am working right now is close to thirty pages. (And to note for future use, Sunspin‘s outline, which is nowhere near finished, is about seventy pages.)

I used to hate outlining because it seemed to take all the fun out of writing. For me, writing has always been about the joy of discovery. It’s like a specialized form of reading, except I’m channeling the story through my fingers instead of my eyes on a page. In the time that I’ve matured (or at least developed) as a writer, the outline has gone from a hated, mythical beast, to a necessary chore, to an invaluable tool.

Really, who knew? Besides everyone else, I mean.

2. This is the second time I’ve written a third book in series. (Pinion being the other, of course.) As I believe I observed while writing Pinion, it’s a rather different experience that writing a standalone or initial book. So much of the worldbuilding, characterization and discovery is in place. I have to touch on bits of it so a reader who’s starting with this book won’t be lost, but I have it internalized. That means that writing this book is a different experience for me. I am far more focused on plot and inter-character dynamics because that other stuff is already in place and not crying for attention. And much as I had this experience with Pinion, I think it’s likely to make a somewhat different kind of book.

Now if I could only figure out how to deliberately leverage this phenomenon in future projects.

3. My process evolves as well. This is profoundly unsurprising, of course, as a matter of principle, but still jolts me a bit when I encounter it. For example, one of my very firm guidelines for years has been not to revise while I’m drafting. I have seen many writers come to grief on the need to perfect a sentence/paragraph/scene before they can move on to the next, and thus never get to the other end of the project. My view has always been that it’s much easier to revise something already finished at least once on the page than it is to revise something still in your head. And frankly, if you want to be a commercially successful writer, I think this is probably close to essential.

Obviously at my production rates on this draft I have not gone into a revision spin cycle. But almost every day when I sit down to write, I find myself going into the previous day’s work for changes and clarifications, and in at least one case so far, major redirection.

Other things are changing, too. It’s fascinating to observe.

4. Per the above items, some things have become easier with time, others have become harder. My facility for laying down sentences is quite well-tuned. The act of writing, as it were, has developed into something nearly autonomous. Unless I choose to focus on line level style issues (as sometimes I do), I can rely on my skills there without having to consciously monitor them and adjust course.

On the other hand, my sense of point-of-view continues to ramify and develop. The more I learn about that subject, the less I understand it. This makes me question basic techniques in my writing, as well as try new ones in an attempt to address that unease. For whatever it’s worth, my two most complex pieces ever for point-of-view purposes are “America, Such as She Is”, and The Baby Killers. I couldn’t even begin to describe to you in any real detail what I did in those two novellas. In the case of Kalimpura, point-of-view choices I made in Green provide me with some very tight constraints that I need to continue to respect. Still, there are ways to work within and around those constraints to do things I didn’t used to be able to do as a writer.

That sense of having at least occasional access to a capability that remains mysterious to me is both challenging and fascinating. At least in part, this sense of always having a new learning curve to climb as a writer is part of why it keeps working for me. My sense of discovery has broadened.

Just some rambles, but it’s been so long since my life has been calm enough for me to reflect on and talk about process that I’m damned pleased to be able to make them.

What have you learned about your own writing lately?

[links] Link salad wakes up at home

A reader reacts to Trial of Flowers — They liked it.

Transracial Adoption Leads to Stares: How One Mother Deals — We really haven’t had much of this in my family. (Via .)

Bodyworld: the Artography of Fernando Vicente — A cool piece from Strange Maps.

Being Suicidal: What it feels like to want to kill yourself — Fascinating (and lengthy) article. (Via David Goldman.)

GMOs and Mother Nature? Closer Than You Think — Interesting but unsurprising.

The One-Way Speed of Light ConundrumThere’s no dispute over the constancy of the speed of light when measured over a round trip. But what of its speed over a one-way trip?

Airports cash in on terror checks — My, isn’t this special. (Via danjite.)

Energy Committee Chairman Candidate Says God Promised no More Catastrophic Climate Change after Noah — Mmm, more conservative thought leadership. Just because you believe it doesn’t mean it’s true.

?otD: What would you eat today if you could have anything?

Writing time yesterday: 5.0 hours (8,800 new words, to 43,000 words on Kalimpura, plus WRPA)
Body movement: 30 minute stationary bike ride
Hours slept: 8.0 hours (interrupted)
This morning’s weigh-in: 246.0
Yesterday’s chemo/post-op stress index: 2/10 (fatigue, peripheral neuropathy, emotional distress)
Currently reading: Between books

[links] Link salad gets tooled up for chemo

asks for an SF/F reading list [ | LiveJournal ] — The response in comments has been fantastic. Worth perusing.

A reader reacts to Trial of Flowers — Objects (accurately) to the lack of female characters.

Don’t Ask Me Where I Get My Ideas — Howard Tayler explains it all for you as cogently as I’ve ever seen it done. Plus he’s the Schlock Mercenary guy, which makes him doubly cool. Some of the best long-form SF out there. Buy the books, or hit the Web archives from strip number one. Absolutely worth your time.

I want to see you fly your airship — A challenge from Steampunk Flugtag Flying Olympics.

Watch Man-Controlled Bacteria Build a Nanoscale Pyramid — They buried the lede: [I]n the future, they’ll use that same technique to create a bacterial propulsion system for larger nanobots. Booyah!

Conservatives reject Frum-ismWhat you’re seeing here is the tension between being a conservative and being a Republican. It’s not that you can’t be both at the same time, but that you have to know which wins when ideological push comes to electoral shove

Is There A Majority for Health Care Repeal? Not Really — Conservative commentator Daniel Larison on the wishful thinking of Republic rhetoric about HCR repeal. Also, could we just put a bullet in the “America is a center-right nation” meme, please? It’s grown damned silly, not to mention as deeply counterfactual as most cherished Republican memes.

An Open Letter to Conservatives — Oh, yeah. (Thanks to .)

Big Fucking Deal — Hahahah. And because you know, dropping the F-bomb on live mic is every bit as bad as death threats, which aren’t the GOP’s fault anyway. (Thanks to .)

?otD: Do you know how the needle feels sliding into your chest?

Writing time yesterday: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Body movement: 30 minutes on stationary bike
Hours slept: 7.0 (interrupted)
This morning’s weigh-in: n/a
Yesterday’s chemo stress index: 2/10
Currently reading: [between books]

[links] Link salad wakes up grumpy and tired

A reader reacts to Trial of Flowers

19th-century industrial spy stole No. 1 drink — Huh. I want to read this. (Via @mattstaggs.)

is snarky about PowerPoint

Black Holes, Starships and the Cosmos — A Big Idea post from Centauri Dreams. Though my favorite bit was this triviatum: To produce as much energy as a 100 watt light-bulb a black hole needs to mass 1.9 trillion tons.

A sweet problem: Princeton researchers find that high-fructose corn syrup prompts considerably more weight gain — Duh. I’m astonished that ADM didn’t have this study quashed.

The Final Health Care Vote and What it Really Means — Robert Reich on the political heritage of HCR.

Fear Strikes Out on One side, the closing argument was an appeal to our better angels, urging politicians to do what is right, even if it hurts their careers; on the other side, callous cynicism. The GOP never opposed HCR on the merits, that I can tell, despite lip service to the contrary.

The Misinformed Tea Party MovementFor an antitax group, they don’t know much about taxes. Um, yeah.

The GOP’s newfound love of public opinionI’m not making an argument about whether public opinion should or should not dictate outcomes; the point is about those who are wildly inconsistent in their advocacy on that issue. Inconsistent? The GOP, standard bearers of principled consistency and keepers of America’s moral compass? No!

McCain Comments Confirm That Republicans Plan To Stand On The Sidelines And Do Nothing — I love this response from Senate Majority Leader Reid. For someone who campaigned on ‘Country First’ and claims to take great pride in bipartisanship, it’s absolutely bizarre for Senator McCain to tell the American people he is going to take his ball and go home until the next election,

Wondermark reviews conservatie logic on healthcare — Hahahahah.

The constituency for repeal — Daniel Larison on Republican promises to repeal HCR, and the myth of a public opposition.

Stepping off the narrow path of reality — How adopting counterfactuals leads to further idiocy. This exactly why I rail so much against Creationism and Intelligent Design in schools. Oddly, This Modern World takes on the very same question this week. Just because you believe it doesn’t mean it’s true.

?otD: Where oh where has my little dog gone?

Writing time yesterday: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Body movement: 30 minutes
Hours slept: 6.0 (lousy)
This morning’s weigh-in: n/a (forgot)
Yesterday’s chemo stress index: 4/10 (but still sick)
Currently reading: [between books]

[links] Link salad pops another lactase tab

A reader reacts to Trial of Flowers Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Nobles | Borders ] — Loved the book, not so sure she recommends it. I take her point. Heh.

Fairwood Press announces The Specific Gravity of Grief — A cancer novella, coming out in a limited edition.

Avatar: Film making and human destiny Part I and Part IICentauri Dreams with some interesting analysis from a scientific and cultural perspective.

Saab and Saab — A J21 aircraft and a Model 92 auto.

Ghost Depot: 1905Shorpy with an interesting piece of railroad photography.

“I Don’t Believe in Global Warming” — Hahaha.

SMBC on faith and reason — Heh. Not unlike some of my own comments, except in handy comic form.

Christianity’s role in history of U.S. at issue — More on the Christianist Texas textbook selection nonsense. John Fea, a history professor at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, a Christian institution [said], “They are not experts on social studies and history. Neither of them are trained in history. They are preachers who use the past and history as a means of promoting a political agenda in the present.” Huh. Good for Professor Fea.

?otD: Milk or cheese?

Body movement: 60 minute suburban walk
Hours slept: 6.0
This morning’s weigh-in: n/a
Currently reading: Bangkok 8 by John Burdett