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Looking Backward Into the Future December 30, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in history, nostalgia, sense of wonder, writing.
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The year 2012 is about finished. Somehow the dark parts are remembered more than the upside, at least for me this year. Jim Young and Mike Montgomery both died unexpectedly, suddenly, both younger than me. Dave Locke’s death wasn’t as unexpected but still a shock.

I can’t help but think back on others who have meant so much to me and the friendship and utter resources of their great minds lost in prior years. Gwynne Spencer was a constant source of ideas and knew more about children’s books than, well, anyone. I was never quite sure how much of the Art Bell-esque stuff she believed or merely played with because of the imaginative challenges afforded in believing in such things. And I still find myself reaching for the phone to call Geo Proctor to get his take on…well, about everything. He never saw the ebook revolution. In a prior century we argued over so many of things that are commonplace today. His marketing expertise and artistic talents are lost–as is his friendship which I so highly valued.

But 2012 saw the deaths of others of note. N Jospeh Woodland, who invented bar codes (and who used to be a gangster). Martin Fleischmann of cold fusion infamy. Georges Lamour invented the paper chef’s hat. Jack Tramiel of Commodore 64 fame. George Rathmann founded Amgen. Jean Giraud (Moebius). There was also Ray Bradbury and Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride. And Airship Ventures, whose bankruptcy takes away a touch of wonder in our world.

The grains of sand run through 2012’s hour glass more like a river than a trickle. I doubt 2013 will be different, but then I am something of a pessimist. Will we see improvement in our lives next year? I think the opposite, but I am willing to be wrong. Entropy has set in to our society and the tides of prosperity ebb.

Leaving you with fond wishes for a better 2103 and this…

The Black Hole Passes September 8, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, conventions, death, hobby, movies & TV, New Mexico, nostalgia, science, sense of wonder.

No, that’s not a typo. I’m not referring to Campbell’s The Black Star Passes but to the Black Hole surplus store in Los Alamos. The Black Hole was a compendium of junk and history, useable tech equipment and stuff I’m not sure anyone knew what it did.

The owner, Ed Grothus, died some time ago and was mostly anti-nuke, pro who knows what, who bought lots of surplus equipment at the Los Alamos lab and sold them. On one trip there, Gordon Garb laughingly asked for a 50kw oil bath capacitor–they had 3 on the shelf. I had less luck hunting for keyboards with the function keys down the left side–all their IBM keyboards predated fn keys. Stacks of Beta tapes (including the entire Prisoner series!). Dual trace oscilloscopes, miles of wire and coax, gadgets nobody knew what they were good for other than asking, “What’s that thing? It looks awesome, but…”

Entropy sets in, even in such backwaters of New Mexico. Alas, Hawking was right and black holes do evaporate.

A bit of irony is the closing coincides with a mini-Maker Fair here in Abq. Gordon is maybe going to come for that, which is A Good Thing since he missed Bubonicon this year.

I have been busy tidying up a lot of writing chores. More on them later. Got a short story to do ASAP, then…lots more stuff. But some of it is actually seeing the light of day this year. (And there are still prizes for the trivia contest available…hurry hurry hurry, time’s almost up!)

I leave you with the establishing shot for The Black Hole.

The Black Hole

Boo…Boo…Bubonicon. 44 August 23, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in autographing, Billy the Kid, conventions, e-books, fantasy, Free, movies, movies & TV, New Mexico, nostalgia, science fiction, sense of wonder, VIPub, westerns, writing.
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This weekend. Starting tomorrow! Coming amazingly fast this year–and anticipated even more since I missed last year.

Brandon Sanderson is GoH and via reports from GenCon he will make one fantastic guest of honor. Michael Cassutt is the TM and Ursula Vernon artist GoH. Wow. And George RR Martin and dozens of other writers will be there, too. But you can read all about this at the convention web site.

Want more info? Great article in the UNM student paper about us.

My schedule is packed to the gunwales. First out of the chute on Friday (that’s tomorrow as I write this!) is the Crazy Buck Rogers panel. 4-5pm. Following that I have a reading or discussion or whatever you want for an hour, 7:30-8:30PM. I’ve got a trio of stories I can offer up. A horror story (Avian Evisceration Device) from Career Guide to Your Job in Hell,, a fantasy (Memory of Wind) or a mystery mashup with Sherlock Holmes and Sir Denis Nayland Smith (Adventure of the Greenwich First Light). I don’t like to read so I am quite willing to talk about writing in general, ebooks, e-making your own, what to e-expect and all that good stuff. After all, my ebooks are now available in India via the Kindle. I can even be paid in rupees. If they offered royalties in a hard currency (say, Canadian loonies) that would be better. But I’ll take it in soft currency, ie, USD.

But wait, there’s more. There is the Cheesemagnet Panel at 9:30-11PM, if you don’t get enough cheesy movie talk in your workaday life.

Saturday the 25th? Why, yes, I have a panel 4-5PM on marketing sf via stuffing it into a teeny little niche. Instantly following that in the same room is the 5:20-6:30PM mass autographing, if your Higgs boson provides you enough mass to autograph. I don’t anticipate having much in the way of books to sell, so stock up from Nina and Ron Else in the huckster room (Who Else? Books), but I will have a copy or two of some titles (credit cards accepted). If you ask during the autographing, I will tell you how to get 44% off e-titles from my online store. Ebooks only, please, for this offer.

For most fans this would be enough. Not for yhos. Sunday.1:00-3:30PM auction. Super stuff. Super silly stuff, all auctioned off by the Bcon team of crazies (sans Gordon, alas–doctor things prevent him from attending this year)

This is coming up over the weekend. The past couple weeks have been filled. Finished 1.5 stories in a min-anthology I am doing before I speak at the 23rd Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium.

Also finished copyedits on China Jack, due out Dec 11 (you better read it quick–only 10 days from release date until the Mayan Apocalypse). And almost done on the edits for the final Star Frontier title, Black Nebula.

And work proceeds apace on the final touches for God of War 2.

Plus work on tax accounting stuff, student mss and generally goofing off. I leave you with this. My very first published book has been e-reprinted. This is it! Grab it at this low price while you can.

My first published book!


Looking Into the Future From the Past April 21, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in conventions, history, inventions, nostalgia, science, space.
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It’s hard for me to believe the Seattle World’s Fair opened on this day in 1962. My dad was a big fan of such fairs, for some reason, and one of the few family vacations that didn’t also touch on visiting relatives got us moving northward from El Paso.

For my part, I was in hog heaven. LBJ opened the NASA exhibit but who cared about petty politicians? Wernher von Braun was there, too. A real superstar in my eyes, but we couldn’t get in to see the talks. Doubt my dad would have been all that interested, since he didn’t share my enthusiasm for things outer spacial.

According to this article, JFK wasn’t at the closing ceremony because of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Who knew?

The article also goes on at great length about how the fair theme was overpopulation and how we were going to nuke ourselves into oblivion. I don’t remember a bit of that, though considering that JFK was trying to keep the Russkies from doing that very thing, perhaps I should have paid more attention.

I remember the weird vending machines that kicked out hamburgers in cellophane wrappers (gee, just like the ones I buy at Costco, only they come in big boxes and not from vending machines). Never a big one of trinkets, I still got a glass sculpture of the Space Needle. Alas, I have no idea where the 6″ glass structure is. Too many moves since then doomed it, I fear.

This is the first time I ever saw color TV. KOMO had a live broadcast, their afternoon guy and a basset hound. Comparing the TV picture with the real thing was a revelation. The basset hound really wasn’t purple. That was a little disappointing. Riding the monorail was fun but not the transportation system of the future they made it out to be. Last time I was in Seattle was 1989 and rode the monorail for old time’s sake. Wasn’t the future of transportation then, either.

I remember the cube buildings and, of course, the Space Needle. In ’62 didn’t eat there because of the cost, though we did ride to the observation deck and look around. In ’89 did eat there and the view was great and the food mediocre (unlike the Calgary Tower where both view and food were superb). And nowhere was there a hint of Jessica Alba sitting on the outside.

The AT&T/Bell Labs display. I got shunted aside when I was chosen to show how much faster touchtone phone dialing was compared to rotary. And yes, I was the perfect choice and was *much* faster on the buttons. But the guy pushing this innovation didn’t appreciate my comment that the central switching system still took the same length of time to put the call through since it was mechanical, especially since he shoved a microphone in my face when he asked what I thought and hundreds of people heard.

An excursion around town to the Archway Bookstore was a revelation. El Paso didn’t have bookstores, per se. Newsstands and department stores, but an entire store of nothing but books? In the basement of the Archway was about every Ace Double ever. Or so I thought. I must have spent close to $3 on books! (A princely sum for me then) Apparently this store is long gone.

The fairgrounds is undoubtedly far different from 1989 and vastly so from 1962, but memory of seeing von Braun, the bold architecture (which style burned itself by 1970) and the idea of the future all appealed. (Another World’s Fair I went to, this one in New Orleans, had the most depressing exhibits of massive water valves and pictures of hydro plants ever–their theme was “water.” That trip was fun for reasons other than the fair.)

Barsoom! March 7, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, fantasy, movies, movies & TV, nostalgia, science fiction, sense of wonder, space, Texas, Wild West.

Saw the 3D version of John Carter last night and enjoyed it a lot. There are few movies that need 3D, but ones with huge vistas and gaggles of cgi attacking armies nudge into that category. I’m not sure it’s exactly necessary, though, and if you saw only the 2D version you wouldn’t be disappointed. (I won’t even mention the truly deplorable Princess of Mars since John Carter is light years better)

The tharks are incredible. Wonderful thought behind how a 4-armed goober would act and move. They seemed skinnier than I pictured them but Barsoom, after all, has a lighter gravity and that’s why John Carter can leap tall buildings, etc. But, perish the thought, Dejah Thoris was well endowed and not the least bit undernourished looking. (The actress, Lynn Collins, had a weird accent, but IMDB said she was born in Texas, classically trained in NYC and lives in London). My one complaint about her role was that, unlike ERB’s description in the books, she didn’t go around nearly nekkid enough.

The voice talent for the tharks was a known quantity in Thomas Hayden Church and Willem Defoe while the onscreen live action actors were, to me at least since I don’t watch Friday Night Lights, unknown. Oddly, Taylor Kitsch (what an unfortunate name) who played John Carter is a Canadian who plays a Marfa high school football player on tv?

The dog critter Woola was fun and the airships definitely unusual, though Roy Krenkel sorta formed my images of them in the Ace editions back in the ’60s. The white apes are nothing like I envisioned them, but in a way this was a throwaway scene.

The plot is pure pulp but one great improvement over the books was how the Therns were pictured. The writers worked them into the story, indeed made them the driving evil force, and gave us something better than astral projection for John Carter to get to Barsoom. Very clever, very well done, especially for the payoff at the end.

A lot of interest in Barsoom-esque stuff out there now. Stephen D Sullivan has his Elf Princess of Mars and a book I did a cover blurb for is Nathan Long’s Jane Carver of Waar, a most enjoyable book..

If only we could read our pulp stories under the light from Barsoom’s twin moons…

Out With the Old December 31, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in End of the World, nostalgia.
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And tomorrow it will be in with the new. Pessimist that I am, I don’t think it will be better, but it will be interesting.

In grad school my adviser never gave tests. He presented “opportunity sessions.” He thought they gave us the chance to show what we knew (and I suspect he learned what I didn’t). It might all be in the nomenclature. Control the language and you control the debate. So, consider 2011 one giant opportunity session.

I leave you with this wonderful Lio cartoon. Happy new year.

Lio cartoon by Mark Tatulli

Twas the Day Before Christmas December 24, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in food, iPad, nostalgia, Tom Swift.
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And not even the cats are stirring. I should emulate them. But no, am going to a Christmas eve dinner prior to dinner tomorrow afternoon out of town. Such food! Such friends! Best of all, my son’s back in town until tomorrow evening.

My memories of Christmas are strange since my dad worked the midwatch as an air controller and wouldn’t get off until 8am on Christmas day. So we usually had present opening and the like on Christmas eve. Amazing how Santa knew that. We’d go out to dinner and come back, and sure enough, Santa had started his rounds early, too. I can’t say what presents impressed me the most over the years. I got a miniature printing press (with movable rubber type) one year. A robot that ran and steered with a crank handle fastened to a flexible metal cable. Always Tom Swift books and other titles. I was not impressed with the obligatory chemistry set (which might be why chemistry never appealed to me–nothing ever worked, and this was back in the day when chemistry sets had real chemicals). My #1 present was probably the Erector set. It was a hand-me-down from a distant cousin, lacked a lot of important parts and I spent hours putting together weird projects. Nothing in the instruction book looked cool. I built spaceports and rocket ships and a roller coaster and all manner of things that ran off an electric motor with exposed gears. Just getting within 10 ft of that motor today is probably a felony.

Somehow, though the years, it has never seemed like Christmas to me until I hear Silver Bells. Patty’s favorite was Carol of the Bells, but that wasn’t ever quite enough for me. This year I’m listening to Pandora but didn’t go the route of setting up a Christmas carol channel. And the radio is no help so I turned to YouTube. I considered posting the Twisted Sister version, but that’s not right. Johnny Mathias comes closer. Andy Williams? This isn’t the most inspired video but Anne Murray has the best voice.

Enjoy. Seasons greetings, merry Christmas, bah humbug. Whatever oils your sprockets.

Stepping Over the Digital Divide December 20, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, iPad, iPhone, movies, New Mexico, nostalgia, science, web & computers.
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I love this set of 5 predictions from IBM

The one that they kinda answer that I wonder about most is the biometric password. In spite of being a semi-comic movie, the scene with Wesley Snipes plucking out the warden’s eyeball in Demolition Man (1993) shows this was thought of a long time back. Problem there, of course, is maintaining the vitreous humor so the retina won’t be rippled. But how hard would it be to take a 3D picture and use that to break into biometric locks?

But the IBM prediction most fascinating to me is that within 5 years 80% of the entire world’s population will have a smartphone. The market! For my ebooks! 😎 But this would seem to me to mean that audio will be more important than ever since such a large proportion of the new users won’t be able to read.

One unanswered question on this is bandwidth. The idea of going faster isn’t to improve the user experience, it’s to cram more signal into the existing frequencies. The ATT/T-Mobile failed merger was more about bandwidth than anything else. ATT wanted it, T-Mobile wanted out of the US. Likely T-Mobile will look to the Russians for a sale. The possibility of a Sprint/T-Mobile merger might happen but that’s doubtful since the Germans want out entirely. So where is ATT going to get the bandwidth to deal with growth in iPhone, iPad and other tablet devices sucking up 3G? That’s a good question.

Is it possible for a smartphone to be put on a party line? Remember the old days when you shared your phone line with 2 or 4 (or more) people? No? I do. You had to listen to the phone ring to know if it was for you or the others on the party line.

But packet switching worked to speed up data transmission. Is there something that will buy us another yr or two of keeping the frequencies flowing? Or will we end up suing each other because the EM waves are irritating our “electromagnetic allergies?” (I wish this kind of idiocy was limited to NM, but alas, it isn’t.)

Day of Infamy, Day of Remembrance December 7, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in history, nostalgia.

This is the last year the Pearl Harbor survivors in Albuquerque will meet. 70 years has seen great attrition of numbers and those left are infirm and mostly unable to convene. How long will it be until PHD is entirely forgotten? In ten years it’ll be, huh? The number right now, in spite of our forever wars, is that less than 1% of the population has served in the military. The exact number of WWII vets dying will soon decelerate since there will be ever fewer left. And there won’t be vets to carry on those traditions.

My dad had been in the Navy 4 years on PHD and was stationed on an air scout as a radioman out of Pensacola. He never talked much about the war (like 2 of my other uncles who served in WWII–the third was too young. He became a Cold War spook and worked for the CIA and sadly was the first of my uncles to die) One thing my dad did mention once was being shot at by German subs surfacing just off the coast of Florida. His plane wasn’t armed so it got dicey most of the time, I suppose. And this was before war was declared.

During the war, he was stationed in the Aleutians on a picket ship (don’t know the name–but he was at Kiska, Attu and other spots, so the picture below is likely one he at least was familiar with). His ship was the only one with radar since he waded out into very icy water to rescue a radar unit off a sunken destroyer. He received a medical discharge at Treasure Island, lived in San Francisco for a while, then after the war started an electronics/radio repair shop with his next younger brother in Texas. While he never officially saw combat, he saw a bit of the aftermath (and, apparently not too odd for a sailor, he got violently seasick in heavy seas).

It’s been 20 yrs since he died. He would have been 91 this year. Every now and then something pops up, like an iPad or a cellphone or nifty digital camera or computer or satellite radio, and I find myself thinking, “Dad would get a kick out of this.” And he would have. He died just before the Internet became a part of our lives, and I can’t help but wonder where that would have taken him.

USS Rhodes picket ship at Attu and Kiska

Alms November 19, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, Chain story, e-books, movies & TV, nostalgia, science fiction, sense of wonder, serial fiction, VIPub, westerns, Wild West, writing.

Every now and then I put in this plea. I make my living as a writer, selling my work. To you, dear friends, and others who don’t know me at all. This past week has been hectic since I have been unable to work regularly because of jury duty (and I thought the plots on CSI were far-fetched!). This will run another couple weeks, taking me away from my most productive time at lithe keyboard.

So, humor me. Keep the cats from considering me as food since I couldn’t afford to feed them. Buy something from my store, from Kindle
or Nook or from the other fine venues peddling my stuff. It won’t cost you much and you will get lots of enjoyment in return. More than paying an exorbitant ticket price for a 3D movie.

If you can’t part with a buck or two right now, there is someone you can do to help out. It’ll take just a moment. Go to Amazon or B&N and leave a review. Goodreads is a fine place to mention my work, too. Others see reviews and rely on them. A Career Guide To Your Job in Hell has some fine reviews on it. Toss in a few more if you like the collection. Even put reviews up on my website. I might be inclined to run a contest offering a few dollars off coupons for the top reviews. Doesn’t have to be hyperbolic or even good, but give me a review. But if it is bad, I might turn lachrymose or even suicidal. And then the cats would starve after they finished picking the flesh from my bones.

Your call.

Hot Rail to Hell