Monday, September 3, 2012

Theaterfestival de Boulevard, 2012

This year I revisited Theaterfestival de Boulevard in my home town. This year's motto was "LIFE IS WONDERFUL". I can certainly get behind that.

I don't visit it every year, although I do visit it most years (if that makes sense). Originally it was called "Boulevard of Broken Dreams": a theatre festival with all different kinds of acts and shows. In those days it was -- if I remember correctly -- only on De Parade (the square opposite the medieval gothic church St. Jan: see also my picture above). Nowadays, it's spread out all over Den Bosch in several locations: there was even a free bus taking visitors from De Parade to the other venues.

The main reason I felt it was 'special' this year was because my story "Solitude, Quietude, Vastitude" had just been published by Specutopia (Theaterfestival de Boulevard was from August 2 - 12, Specutopia's first issue was published July 1). This story takes place at Theaterfestival de Boulevard (albeit a very fictional one) and -- even more coincidentally -- this year's motto (Life is Wonderful) links, both laterally and directly -- to my story. One of the underlying themes (of my story) being that the unnamed female protagonist visits the festival in order to (temporarily) forget her problems -- only to find that they come back in twisted forms -- and that she can only make her life wonderful if she moves forward.

The story is based on the 'old' festival, when all performances took place on De Parade and the performances depicted therein were quite a bit more fanciful than the ones I witnessed this year. More about those in a few seconds.

What struck me this year was that indeed almost all the performances took place somewhere else, and that De Parade was reduced mainly to the central location where all kinds of food (five different food stalls: some close to actual restaurants) and drinks (several bars, terraces and even a wine bar, although the selection overall was a bit poor) could be had: one could go there, stay all night, and not see a single act (but have a good time nonetheless). Only on the last weekend there was street theatre, which was nice.

So indeed, the first performance I went to was nearby a local supermarket (C1000). Studio Orka performing "Mister More, Lady Less". This was an almost all ages (7+) show, and I quite liked it as such. It's a high-octane story where two shop detectives -- initially disguised as Mexicans promoting a trip to Mexico -- have to find the 'coupon thief' who is stealing coupons in order to gain that trip to Mexico. It was fun: the actors are Belgian, and to a lot of Dutchmen the Belgian version of Dutch sounds charming, funny and endearing. For another, they interacted well with the audience, and especially the kids were drawn well into the story. Only disadvantage that it was rather hot in the cabin where we were eventually led in, but apart from that I had a good time.

The next performance was "Suit", in de Muzerije/Fontys Theater. This was a mixed musical/theatre performance (for what *that* is worth, nowadays). It did include a support act, which was a band playing a kind of pop music that wasn't really to my taste. Nothing against the support act: their music just wasn't for me.

Then, after a pause, came "Suit": the performers (your basic drums-bass-guitar-singer foursome) dressed up in a body-covering 'suit', complemented by two women--also in body-covering suits, and both enclosed in a glass enclosure on either side of the stage. Before each song, a kind of 'explanation/declaration' about:

  • the state of the current music industry(*);
  • the intent of the play(*);
  • a semi-intellectual statement to add depth(*);
was displayed on the video screen in the back (*) = take your pick).

It was interesting, but -- for my money -- lacked something. It could either have nailed the lack of true originality in pop music much harder, but then the band needed to be of a higher calibre (OK: this is not fair, but I imagine a band like, say, Tool, doing this: they would have driven the point home so far it hurt, and Tool also like the combination between visual and aural arts).

As it is, if you wish to parody the music you love, you need to be about as good as the bands you satirise. See: Spinal Tap, Zimmer's Hole and even Rush (who are increasingly parodising themselves: during the last tour, while playing their perennial favourite "Tom Sawyer", on the video screens were Alex Lifeson playing bass, Neil Peart playing guitar and Geddy Lee playing drums, and each of them looking like: 'how the hell am I supposed to do this').

Hendrik (by Studio Gebroed)was the act that had, I think, the most remote location: at Fort Crevecoeur, a small military base very close to the similarly-named drainage sluice (lock weir?).[Note: compare LoTR and John Carter as regards the taking over of command.)

Even if Fredrik Hendrik's accent felt a bit unconvincing to me (who knows: he really might have had such an accent. But somehow I doubt it), more troublesome was his transformation from Mama's boy to inspiring commander. The whole performance hinged on that transformation: initially Frederik Hendrik lives in the shadow of his big half-brother Maurits and under his French mother's excessive care, but gradually develops to a competent leader mastering the siege and conquest of Den Bosch. I just didn't buy it.

By way of comparison, I had a similar problem with the third part of The Lord of Rings movies (The Return of the King) when Aragorn had to take over command (after Théoden died) and inspire his troops to march to Mordor. It's supposed to be a stirring speech but to me it fell rather flat. Conversely, when John Carter--in the same titled movie--defeats a pair of white apes in an arena, challenges and defeats Tal Hajus and then, with a rousing speech, compels the Tharks to march to Helium: well I thought that worked wonders. Difference of day and night.

Your Mileage May Vary (quite a bit).

On the last weekend there were street performers on de Parade: this was good, as it brought some action to the square had mostly been turned into a food & drinks plaza. Wish it had been like that all fortnight.

All in all it was good: good to see some acts, good to see old friends and make a few new friends. Yet it seemed to miss the spunk it had a few decades ago: I'm getting old.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Partial Solar Eclipse of January 4, 2011

Unfortunately I wasn't able to see anything in neck of the woods (Den Bosch & Waalwijk, The Netherlands) because of cloud cover. Here's a somewhat shaky iPhone picture of how it looked like for me:
Luckily, a lot of other people across Europe, Africa and Asia did see it, and here are a few of their pictures:
First one of somebody in The Netherlands who did see it (via the Guardian):

In Barcelona, it was visible both above this great city (via de Volkskrant):

Or in the hand of an unnamed Spaniard (via de Volkskrant):

Here's a picture from a colleague in Sweden at the day job:

But the most spectacular one is from the Malaga, Spain: a seagull flying right in front of the eclipse (via the Guardian):

The next partial eclipse is on June 1, 2011: this one will be just before dusk (unlike the January 4 one which was just after dawn). Not visible in The Netherlands, and I won't be going to north Scandinavia to see it.

The next annular eclipse is on May 20, 2012: sweeps over Japan, continues over the Pacificjust below the Aleutian Islands before it enters Caifornia and Arizona. Yes, right over the Grand Canyon! My solar eclipse friends and I intend to be there, near Page.

The next total solar eclipse will be on November 13, 2012: flies over far north Queensland, then south of New Caledonia, norht of New Zealand over the Pacific. My solar eclipse friends and I have already booked accomodation in Port Douglas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Is Bruce Sterling Future-Shocked? Or: Michael Moore 1 -- Bruce Sterling 0

Sometimes the mighty do fall. And as they fall, they cause others to fall in their wake. Even people that used to be some of their main critics. For those, it's a fall from grace, even if it's a fall in style: shrouded in pithy observations, perpetrated with sharp similes and suffused with the air and eloquence of a grandmaster. Beautiful to watch, but still a gracious fall from grace.

I'm talking about "The Blast Shack": Bruce Sterling's recent piece about Wikileaks. I've read through it several times, and can't escape the following two conclusions:

1): Bruce Sterling is effectively arguing against more transparency.

Price quote:
For diplomats, a massive computer leak is not the kind of sunlight that chases away corrupt misbehavior; it’s more like some dreadful shift in the planetary atmosphere that causes ultraviolet light to peel their skin away. They’re not gonna die from being sunburned in public without their pants on; Bill Clinton survived that ordeal, Silvio Berlusconi just survived it (again). No scandal lasts forever; people do get bored. Generally, you can just brazen it out and wait for the public to find a fresher outrage. Except.

It’s the damage to the institutions that is spooky and disheartening; after the Lewinsky eruption, every American politician lives in permanent terror of a sex-outing. That’s “transparency,” too; it’s the kind of ghastly sex-transparency that Julian himself is stuck crotch-deep in. The politics of personal destruction hasn’t made the Americans into a frank and erotically cheerful people. On the contrary, the US today is like some creepy house of incest divided against itself in a civil cold war. “Transparency” can have nasty aspects; obvious, yet denied; spoken, but spoken in whispers. Very Edgar Allen Poe.

All right, so protecting politicians from possible scandals is more important than the information that the Wikileaks cables have provided (so far)? Even worse -- see the next price quote:
And I don’t much like that situation. It doesn’t make me feel better. I feel sorry for them and what it does to their values, to their self-esteem. If there’s one single watchword, one central virtue, of the diplomatic life, it’s “discretion.” Not “transparency.” Diplomatic discretion. Discretion is why diplomats do not say transparent things to foreigners. When diplomats tell foreigners what they really think, war results.

Diplomats are people who speak from nation to nation. They personify nations, and nations are brutal, savage, feral entities. Diplomats used to have something in the way of an international community, until the Americans decided to unilaterally abandon that in pursuit of Bradley Manning’s oil war. Now nations are so badly off that they can’t even get it together to coherently tackle heroin, hydrogen bombs, global warming and financial collapse. Not to mention the Internet.

The world has lousy diplomacy now. It’s dysfunctional. The world corps diplomatique are weak, really weak, and the US diplomatic corps, which used to be the senior and best-engineered outfit there, is rattling around bottled-up in blast-proofed bunkers. It’s scary how weak and useless they are.
Do I read that right? Global warming and financial collapse happened as the nation couldn't tackle it because there was too much transparency? Global warming and the next financial bubble can be stopped by more “discretion” (read secrecy)? Talk about having it backwards.

This appalls me. And thankfully not just me: cue, for example, to Mark at comment #61:
  • Saudi Arabia put pressure on the US to attack Iran. Other Arab allies also secretly agitated for military action against Tehran.

  • Washington is running a secret intelligence campaign targeted at the leadership of the United Nations, including the secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, and the permanent security council representatives from China, Russia, France and the UK.

  • Small teams of US special forces have been operating secretly inside Pakistan’s tribal areas, with Pakistani government approval. And the US concluded that Pakistani troops were responsible for a spate of extra-judicial killings in the Swat Valley and tribal belt, but decided not to comment publicly.

  • The US ambassador to Pakistan said the Pakistani army is covertly sponsoring four major militant groups, including the Afghan Taliban and the Mumbai attackers, Laskar-e-Taiba (LeT), and “no amount of money” will change the policy. Also, US diplomats discovered hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Pakistan earmarked for fighting Islamist militants was not used for that purpose.

  • The British government promised to protect US interests during the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war.

  • Russia is a “virtual mafia state” with rampant corruption and scant separation between the activities of the government and organised crime. Vladimir Putin is accused of amassing “illicit proceeds” from his time in office, which various sources allege are hidden overseas. And he was likely to have known about the operation in London to murder the Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko, Washington’s top diplomat in Europe alleged.

  • British and US officials colluded to manoeuvre around a proposed ban on cluster bombs, allowing the US to keep the munitions on British territory, regardless of whether a treaty forbidding their use was implemented. Parliament was kept in the dark about the secret agreement, approved by then-foreign secretary David Miliband.

  • One of the biggest objectives at the US embassy in Madrid over the past seven years has been trying to get the criminal case dropped against three US soldiers accused of the killing of a Spanish television cameraman in Baghdad.

  • The British military was criticised for failing to establish security in Sangin by the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, and the US commander of Nato troops, according to diplomatic cables.

  • Rampant government corruption in Afghanistan is revealed by the cables, including an incident last year when the then vice-president, Ahmad Zia Massoud, was stopped and questioned in Dubai when he flew into the emirate with $52m in cash.

  • The British Foreign Office misled parliament over the plight of thousands of islanders who were expelled from their Indian Ocean homeland – the British colony of Diego Garcia – to make way for a large US military base.

  • The US military has been charging its allies a 15% handling fee on hundreds of millions of dollars being raised internationally to build up the Afghan army.

  • Conservative party politicians promised before the election that they would run a “pro-American regime” and buy more arms from the US if they came to power.

  • The president of Yemen secretly offered US forces unrestricted access to his territory to conduct unilateral strikes against al-Qaida terrorist targets.
  • A potential “environmental disaster” was kept secret by the US last year when a large consignment of highly enriched uranium in Libya came close to cracking open and leaking radioactive material into the atmosphere.

  • Libya threatened UK with “dire reprisals” if the convicted Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, died in a Scottish prison.

  • Ann Pickard, Shell’s VP for sub-Saharan Africa, claimed in Oct 2009 that the oil giant had infiltrated all the main ministries of the Nigerian government.

  • Two British civil servants, Dr Richard Freer and Judith Gough, contradicted Gordon Brown’s statement on reduction of the Trident fleet in conversations with US embassy officials in London.

  • The US ambassador in Kampala sought assurances from the Ugandan government in December 2010 that it would consult the US before using American intelligence to commit war crimes in the conflict against the LRA.

  • The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer paid investigators to unearth corruption links to Nigeria’s attorney general in an attempt to persuade him to stop his legal action against a controversial drug trial involving children with meningitis.

  • The pope intervened personally to ensure the Vatican’s increased hostility towards Turkey joining the EU.

  • The Vatican refused to allow its officials to testify at Irish inquiry into clerical child abuse and was angered when they were summoned from Rome.

  • BP suffered a giant gas leak in Azerbaijan 18 months before the Gulf of Mexico disaster.

  • Azerbaijan accused BP of stealing $10bn of oil and using “mild blackmail” to secure rights to develop gas reserves in the Caspian Sea.

  • US energy company Chevron negotiated with Tehran about developing an oilfield despite tight US sanctions.

  • Speculation that Omar al-Bashir siphoned $9bn in oil money and deposited it in foreign accounts could fuel calls for his arrest

    Do you honestly think that US taxpayers should not know this information?
(Emphasis of last sentence mine.)

Indeed, as a concerned, tax-paying citizen (in my case of The Netherlands)(and I'm certainly no 'naturally sociopathic hacker' ) I also want to know if, for example:
  • our goverment let themselves be coerced into the war with Iraq;

  • our goverment let themselves be coerced into the war with Afghanistan: our previous coalition fell over the question of withdrawing our troops from Afghanistan;

  • Trafigura did indeed play some very dirty games in getting rid of chemical waste in Ivory Coast;

  • Shell does indeed play dirty games in Nigeria;

  • And more things I'm probably not aware of;

If that kind of transparency gives headaches to diplomats and politicians alike: then so be it. They should learn to deal with it, and--especially the politicians, but also big corporations--it should help prevent more outright lies, deceptions and skullduggery.

If Bruce Sterling is against that kind of transparency, then I greatly prefer documentary maker Michael Moore, who campaigns to free Bradly Manning:

"To suggest that lives were put in danger by the release of the WikiLeaks documents is the most cynical of statements," Moore said.

"Lives were put in danger the night we invaded the sovereign nation of Iraq, an act that had nothing to do with what the Bradley Mannings of this country signed up for: to defend our people from attack. It was a war based on a complete lie and lives were not only put in danger, hundreds of thousands of them were exterminated.

"For those who organised this massacre to point a finger at Bradley Manning is the ultimate example of Orwellian hypocrisy."

Amen to that. Or, in other words: Michael Moore 1 -- Bruce Sterling 0.

2): Bruce Sterling is failing as a futurist.

A large part of Bruce Sterling (professor of internet studies and science fiction)'s reputation hinges on his ability to explore the near-future: this is what Beyond the Beyond is majorly about. In that light, I find it quite disappointing that he does pinpoint the 'real issue':

That’s the real issue, that’s the big modern problem; national governments and global computer networks don’t mix any more.

But then, while he admitted he didn't quite see it (Wikileaks) coming:

But who cared about that wild notion? Why would that amateurish effort ever matter to real-life people? It’s like comparing a mighty IBM mainframe to some cranky Apple computer made inside a California garage. Yes, it’s almost that hard to imagine.

So Wikileaks is a manifestation of something that has been growing all around us, for decades, with volcanic inexorability. The NSA is the world’s most public unknown secret agency. And for four years now, its twisted sister Wikileaks has been the world’s most blatant, most publicly praised, encrypted underground site.

He doesn't see any solution to this problem, or fails to see the positive sides and effects of it:

The data held by states is gonna get easier to steal, not harder to steal; the Chinese are all over Indian computers, the Indians are all over Pakistani computers, and the Russian cybermafia is brazenly hosting because that’s where the underground goes to the mattresses. It is a godawful mess. This is gonna get worse before it gets better, and it’s gonna get worse for a long time. Like leaks in a house where the pipes froze.

This is (intentionally?) missing the point: Wikileaks is, as Sterling mentions at length in his piece, *not* a sovereign state spying on another state: Wikileaks are showing the hidden data to the public at large.

So spying becomes easier for nations: well, they've been spying on each other since time immemorial. This is just business as usual. What has changed is that it is much more difficult for nations (and corporations) to hide their schemes from the public at large. And thus they try, desperately, to put the ghost back in the bottle. I hope they fail. I hope that nations--*any* nation--will be less able to wage wars based on disinformation, lies and deceit.

More openness, more abilities for concerned citizens to make informed choices. It seems that Bruce Sterling sees this as a bad thing, but he can't put the cat back into the bag, either.

What's the matter, Bruce? Future-Shocked?

UPDATE: Gabrielle Coleman on The Atlantic more or less makes the same point:

There is no denying that there is tremendous support for WikiLeaks among geeks -- although much of it came after the backlash against WikiLeaks; there is no denying that hackers will attempt to impact politics through technological means; there is no denying that WikiLeaks and Julian Assange deserve some critical scrutiny, which is what Sterling dished out. But I am less sold on the idea that the form of exposure so powerfully provided by WikiLeaks does not have some merit.

Personally I find myself sympathetic toward the purported mission behind OpenLeaks. They are seeking to do something similar to WikiLeaks but transforming it by injecting a dose of much needed transparency and accountability. And yet, due to the obsessive media spotlight on Julian Assange and WikiLeaks (including Sterling's piece) the public may be led to believe that there is only one way to spread leaks, when in fact WikiLeaks helped to usher a paradigm that can be tweaked and hacked to better serve democratic goals.

Excellent: like the age-old question -- "Who's watching the watchers?" -- Coleman points to OpenLeaks as the next step in transparency: keep the organisation that strives for more transparency transparent itself. Practice what you preach, and by doing so better serve democratic goals.

Now you can shoot me, but the 'old' Bruce Sterling -- say, the writer of Islands in the Net, Holy Fire and Distraction -- used to come up with such forward-looking visions himself.

The king is dead: long live the king!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Various & Sundry: Patrick Farley's Electric Sheep

I pledged $50 to Patrick Farley's Electric Sheep:

And this purely because I love the 'Dicebox Aside: Don't Look Back' Comic he's doing (haven't checked out Electric Sheep yet).

So call me crazy. But I do like Kickstarter, and Patrick Farley.

NOTE: via BoingBoing.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Story Published in The Tangled Bank

A quick mention of personal news:

Almost two weeks ago--February 12--THE TANGLED BANK: Love, Wonder & Evolution was released, electronicall only, so far, by editor/publisher Chris Lynch's The Tangled Bank Press.

It features stories by such writers as Sophy Adani, Anil Menon, Carlos Hernandez (and many others) plus my own "The Frog Pool". Complemented with poems, illustrations and an essay by Russell Blackford. Check out the Table of Contents.

Apropos Carlos Hernandez: he's on a roll. His story in Interfictions 2 (“The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria”) is a doozy, and online you can check out "Homeostasis" (at Futurismic) and "Fembot" (at my own DayBreak Magazine).

Apropos Anil Menon: he's co-editing (with Vandana Singh) an anthology called "The Speculative Ramayana Anthology". Check it out, and if it inspires you, do send in a story!

Apropos Sophy Adani: Destination: Future--the anthology she co-edited with Eric T, Reynolds--has just been released (at least at Amazon) through Hadley Rille Books.

Apropos my own silence: I am (and will continue to be, at least until Summer) extremely busy, both in the day job and the SF editing in my spare time. Most of the action is now at DayBreak Magazine, where you can check out excerpts for the SHINE anthology, and upbeat SF stories, of which the latest is by my compatriot Paul Evanby: "A Thousand Trains Out of Here". A razor-sharp reversal of current Dutch sociological and political trends set in a sunnier future. Enjoy!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Should SF Die?

(Cross-posted from the Shine website.)

There’s been a lot of musing about the fate of science fiction, lately. To be clear, I’ll be discussing *written SF* here (predominantly), not SF in movies, comics, video games or other media. To summarise (and this is far from complete, but I hope it touches upon the main points):

  • According to Ashok Banker, SF is morally and ethically bankrupt (to put it mildly: his interview at the World SF News Blog has been deleted on his request, because some idiot stalker is now threatening not only him, but his family and friends, as well);
My viewpoint is that SF is becoming increasingly irrelevant, and that lack of relevance can be attributed to developments and trends already mentioned in the points above, and SF’s unwillingness to really engage with the here-and-now. That doesn’t mean that SF needs to die (actually, a slow marginalisation into an increasingly neglected and despised niche-cum-ghetto is probably a fate worse than death), but it does mean that SF needs to change, and that it needs to become much more inclusive of the alien (and I mean alien in ‘humans-can-be-aliens-to-each-other’ sense) and proactive, meaning it should not just shout ‘FIRE! FIRE!’ (and do almost nothing but), but both man the fire trucks *and* think of ways to prevent more fires.

That’s the short version: allow me to expand on it below the cut.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Apologies — to the two or three people still follwoing this blog — for the lack of updates: the Shine anthology and other projects are eating up all my time. All the action (well, as far as I am concerned) is over there.

So a short recap:

In my ongoing efforts to promote Shine, an anthology of near-future, optimistic SF (to be released by Solaris Books in April 2010), I have started a competition. Goal of this competition: guess the end sentence of 16 fragments of the stories appearing in Shine, plus the authors: SHINE COMPETITION!

Prizes: too good to be true!

Rules: short and straightforward!

It's a fun way of experiencing parts of the stories, and get into the writers' minds.

Also, in order to promote Shine and optimistic SF in general, I have started a webzine called Daybreak Magazine. DayBreak Magazine will feature an new story every two weeks. So far four have already been published:

Finally, for those who like their fiction *extremely* short, my Twitterzine @outshine containing optimistic SF tweets (and music reviews by Paul Graham Raven, movie reviews by Lucius Shephard, and comics reviews by David Alexander MacDonald) has been running from January 2009 onwards.

These three venues -- the Shine blog, Daybreak Magazine and @outshine -- are updated, very frequently and often.

(Shine cover art by Vincent Chong)

The moment I have more time I hope to post some more personal stuff over here, such as Con reports from both Anticipation and World Fantasy in San José.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Travel Schedule, Part 2

In week 32, I will be attending Anticipation, the Montréal WorldCon.

My travel plans and preliminary schedule are as follows:

Flight to Montréal:Departure: Tuesday August 4 @ 15.20 hrs. with flight KL 0671;
  • Arrival: Tuesday August 4 @ 16.35 hrs (flying time approx. 7.15 hrs.)

After clearing customs & immigration I'll be heading to the Best Western Europa for a full week (there was a CAN$ 80 per night special if I booked a full week, so why not...;-).

This gives me the Tuesday night and the Wednesday daytime for preparations, especially -- I hope -- to do some shopping for a special event.

Also, an 'unofficial' event: Pubcrawling with the Pros.

Last year, Jim Minz had the luminous idea to do a Microbrew Pubcrawl in Denver (actually two: one on the Wednesday before, and one on the Sunday afternoon). As it happened, only two people showed up on the Wednesday (Jim and me), but we had a great time, and tasted some great beers. Sunday we redid it with a nice group (Jim Minz, Jeremy Lassen, John Picacio, Chris Roberson, Allison Baker, John Picacio, Diana Rowland, Christian Dunn, George Mann, Mark Newton and a few others whom I can't recall right now) to great acclaim.

Montreal supposedly has Belgian type beers, so I think a repeat is in order.

So, the way things look right now, there will be two pubcrawls:

  1. Wednesday evening August 5 from 8 PM onwards: where I will be waiting in the bar of the Hotel Delta Centre-Ville for the estimable Mr. Jim Minz to arrive, after which we set off;

  2. Monday afternoon August 10 from 1 PM onwards: we gather in Le Fourquet Fourchette restaurant (which is located right in the Palais des Congrés), and from there we will set off;

Since we expect that the group on the Monday will be much larger, the Monday pubcrawl will be less extensive (we'll concentrate on a group of brewpubs which are within crawling distance) than the Wednesday evening one.

Anybody who wishes to join us, feel free to drop me an email at .

At Thursday the WordCon takes off, and -- so far -- I have the following items scheduled:--> Thursday August 6:

When: Thu 2:00 PM

Location: P-511A

Session ID: 345

Title: Translation Challenges

Description: What are the artistic and professional challenges faced by translators? How do they tackle translating between languages whosegrammars are incompatible?

Language: English

Track: Literature in English

Moderator: Kari Sperring

Duration: 1:30 hrs:min

All Participants: Jetse de Vries, Kari Sperring, Rani Graff, TomClegg, Fabio Fernandes, Eileen Gunn.

NB: Fábio Fernandes is still listed as a participant, but unfortunately he will not make it. Too bad: I was looking forward to meeting him, as well.


When: Thu 5:00 PM

Location: P-518A

Session ID: 549

Title: Putting the World into Worldcon

Description: Our information about SF outside the English language isoften provided by (mediated by) Anglophone experts who have been tothe foreign land in question and brought back what interests them.Here, instead, we gather experts from SF/fantasy traditions outsideEnglish to tell us what we should look out for.

Language: English

Track: Literature in English

Moderator: Jetse de Vries

Duration: 1:30 hrs:min

All Participants: Aliza Ben Moha, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, Jetse de Vries, Stefan Krzywicki, Tara Oakes, Tore A. Hřie

NB: a handy map for the locations (which is available on the Anticipation website):

Furthermore, on Thursday evening -- as things stand now -- I will be having dinner with a few very good friends: Adam Rakunas and Daryl Gregory and his family in Au Pied de Cochon.

--> Friday August 7:

When: Fri 3:30 PM

Location: P-523A

Session ID: 1008

Title: Anatomy for Writers, Heroes and Tavern Brawlers.

Description: Author, karate instructor, fencer and first aid officerSean McMullen provides a tour of how the human body can and cannot bedamaged. Want to know where a hero can be punched without any effect?Worried about his vascular dilation? Curious about the real-lifeversion of Mr Spock's nerve pinch? Not sure whether a really longsword fight is three hours or seven seconds? Wondering why readers arelaughing because your hero has microsecond reactions? Come along andfind out in complete safety.
Language: English

Track: The Light Programme

Moderator: Sean McMullen

Duration: 1:30 hrs:min
All Participants: Jetse de Vries, Sean McMullen, Darlene Marshall, Kirsten Britain

NOTE: this should be great fun: I will be the wild barbarian who gets his arse kicked by the Master. Or maybe, maybe the unwashed barbarian can pull a quick one...


When: Friday 7.00 PM

Location: Room 2231, Party Level, Hotel Delta Centre-Ville

Session ID: C2H5OH

Title: Angry Robot Launch Party.

Description: Launch party for new HarperCollins imprint Angry Robot. With introduction speech by Neil Gaiman. Drinks, drinks, drinks & snacks arranged by your Moderator who has a reputation (Interzone party, LACon IV; Pyr party, Denvention) to uphold. Wine aficionados will be attended to by connoissuer Adam Rakunas; beer lovers will be helped by The Flying Dutchman; there will even be soft drinks and mineral water for teetotallers. This is the party to be on the Friday night: don't miss it!

Language: English/Français/others/

Track: The Party Floor

Moderators: Jetse de Vries, Adam Rakunas (wine master)

Hosts: Marc Gasoigne & Lee Harris (Publishers/Editors)

Duration: ??:?? hrs:min (depending on when your 'Moderator' decides to call it quits, or when the booze runs out, or when the suite needs to be vacated: whichever comes first...;-)

Special Guests: Neil Gaiman & Mystery Guest, various Angry Robot authors

Note that Neil Gaiman, as Guest of Honour, has a very full schedule, so will make an appearance at 7 PM and give a short speech. If you want to see him, be early!

All Participants: everybody is invited!

Be often, drink early! (Or was it the other way around?)

--> Saturday August 8:

When: Sat 12:30 PM

Location: P-521A

Session ID: 1625

Title: Jetse de Vries--Kaffeeklatsch

Description: A chance to ask those burning questions.

Language: English

Track: Kaffeeklatsch

Moderator: (I'll be there: don't worry)

Duration: 1:00 hrs:min

All Participants: Jetse de Vries & all who wish to show up. Come by & ask anything you want!


When: Sat 3:30 PM

Location: P-516AB

Session ID: 586

Title: How to Pitch Your Novel ... And How Not to

Description: You're an aspiring writer, you've run into an editor oragent in a bar. After buying them a drink, what's the next thing to do? Talk about your just-completed novel? Thrust the printout into their hands? Or ... something else? Some advice from those who know.

Language: English

Track: Literature in English

Moderator: Cathy Petrini

Duration: 1:30 hrs:min

All Participants: Cathy Petrini, Jetse de Vries, Mike Resnick, Sean Wallace, Ginjer Buchanan

--> Sunday August 9:

When: Sun 10:00 AM

Location: P-511CF

Session ID: 87

Title: When the Oil Runs Out

Description: Oil is a limited resource but is the basis of much ofour energy usage. What are we going to do as it becomes more expensiveand eventually runs out? Turn your bicycle into a dynamo to power yourphone or laptop?

Language: English

Track: Science and Space

Moderator: Jetse de Vries

Duration: 1:00 hrs:min

All Participants: Chuck Cady, Jetse de Vries, Paul Kincaid, MichčleLaframboise, Richard Lynch, Paolo Bacigalupi.


When: Sun 12:00 PM

Location: Other

Session ID: 1527

Title: Jetse de Vries Signing

Description: Jetse de Vries Signing ehrm ... something.

Language: English

Track: Autographs


Duration: 12:30 hrs:min (this is what it literally says in the email I received from programming: I'll just assume that it's a typo and it'll take 00.30 hrs:min. Or they've mistaken me for J.K. Rowling...;-)

All Participants: Jetse de Vries

NOTE: from 8.00 PM onwards you have the Hugo Awards Ceremony, followed by the Hugo Losers Party (actually Hugo Nominees Party, but as a four-time loser 'Losers Party' just sounds better) and various other parties.

NB: I understand from Jim Minz that the Baen party will also be on the Sunday night. There will be -- as ever -- no lack of booze.


-->Monday August 10:

The second pubcrawl.

Gasthering time: 1.00 PM

Gathering spot: Le Fourquet Fourchette restaurant (which is located right in the Palais des Congrés).

As Jim has something scheduled at 6.00 PM, we intend to return before that time.

It's also much better to do this before the Dead Dog party, as then you can actually taste the great beers Montréal has to offer. After that it's Dead Dog time, and all will be well...;-)

Then I'll be flying back home on Tuesday August 11:

Flight from Montréal:

  • Departure: Tuesday August 11 @ 18.25 hrs. with flight KL 0671;
  • Arrival: Wednesday August 12 @ 07.05 hrs (flying time approx. 6.40 hrs.)

No rest for the wicked, as then I need to finalise the Shine ToC, and reminisce about SF plans for the future. Next Con will be World Fantasy in San Jose.

A Travel Schedule, part 1

In week 30, I will be visiting China in order to witness the July 22 total solar eclipse (which is the longest of this century!).

My itinerary is as follows:

Flight to Shanghai:
  • Departure: Saturday July 18 @ 18.20 hrs. with flight KL 0895
  • Arrival: Sunday July 18 @ 10.55 hrs. (flying time approx. 10.35 hrs.)
As I understand from one of my colleagues at work, China is taking the swine flu (or Mexican flu) pandemic very seriously, and people will be scanned -- on the forehead -- with an infrared scanner in the plane, after it has landed (obviously) and before it is allowed to go to the gate. See the picture.

So I'm mentally preparing for an extra two hours on the ground before we can disembark.

Then it's off to the Crowne Plaza Century Park Hotel, where I will stay for two nights. I'll probably visit our company's Shanghai local headquarters on Monday.

Then on Tuesday, I'm travelling onward to Wuhan's Hangkou station by train (and a bullet train at that):

  • July 21 -- Shanghai to Hangkou -- D3006 -- depart 14.06 hrs. -- arrive 18.59 hrs.

In Wuhan I've booked the Yushang Business Hotel, as my fellow eclipse enthusiasts will be staying there, as well.

My eclipse friends have booked an organised trip through the geology department of the University of Utrecht, which lasts three weeks. I didn't book that trip because I will be going to Anticipation -- the Montréal WorldCon -- a week later, and I only have so many days off, and my budget only goes so far.

Anyway, reunion with friends on the Tuesday night, and then the next morning, on July 22, I hope to join the group when they set off, on 6 a.m., for a good location about 25 kilometres north of Wuhan. Climatologically speaking, this should be one of the best spots (with the lowest chance of cloud cover, which is still 61%, so it's going to be ) to observe the total solar eclipse.

(NB: this is the one from last year in Novosibirsk.)

Here's the interactive map of the July 22, 2009 solar eclipse (courtesy of NASA). The centre line of totality goes straight over the Wuhan Tianhe Airport, and the place where we will -- probably, as I don't know the exact location -- be has the following data re. the total eclipse:

Lat.: 30.7837° N; Long.: 114.3165° E

Total Solar Eclipse; Duration of Totality: 5m29.1s Magnitude: 1.037

Event ----------------------- Date ------- Time (UT) - Alt -- Azi

Partial eclipse start(C1) : 2009/07/22 00:15:01.4 032.4° 084.3°

Total eclipse start (C2) : -2009/07/22 01:24:02.4 047.2° 092.9°

Maximum eclipse : --------2009/07/22 01:26:46.4 047.8° 093.3°

Total eclipse end (C3) : --2009/07/22 01:29:31.5 048.4° 093.7°

Partial eclipse end (C4) : 2009/07/22 02:46:17.5 064.6° 108.3°

Since this is all in UT (Universal Time, then -- according to the Time Zone Converter -- we need to add 8 hours for CHina time, so totality will start at 09.24.02 hrs local time, and end at 09.29.31 local time.

Or, in solar eclipse geek parlance: First Contact @ 08.15.01 local time; Second Contact @ 09.24.02; Third Contact @ 09.29.31; and Fourth Contact @ 10.46.17.

After which we will return to Wuhan and then either celebrate a successful observation, or drown our sorrows if the event was obscured by clouds. There will be beer, nevertheless.

Then the Uni of Utrecht groep will fly onwards to Guilin in the evening: I will stay one more night in Wuhan. The enxt day I'll be going back to Shanghai:

  • July 23 -- Hangkou to Shanghai -- D3016 -- depart 11.23 hrs. -- arrive 16.16 hrs.

Of course, I could have taken a flight from Shanghai to Wuhan and back, but I hope to see a bit more of China in the train, and a five hour train trip is just about the right length. Another, although unplanned, advantage is that the Yushang Business Hotel in Wuhan is literally a stone's throw away from the Hangkou railway station. This is a lucky coincidence (I would've booked the same hotel as where my eclips friends would be staying, irrespective of location in Wuhan).

Then, on Thursday late afternoon I'm back in Shanghai.

The Friday morning and afternoon are free for sightseeing: in the evening the plan is to have dinner and drinks (plenty of drinks) with a couple of Dutch expatriates, who know the good places in Shanghai.

Then Saturday -- with or without hangover -- is the trip back home:

Flight from Shanghai:

  • Departure: Saturday July 25 @ 12.50 hrs. with flight KL 0896
  • Arrival: Saturday July 25 @ 18.55 hrs. (flying time approx. 11.45 hrs.)

Which then gives me the Sunday to recover as I am expected back on the day job on the Monday. Then one week of work, and onwards to Montréal (of which more in the next post). Last year, I had only two days between returning from Novosibirsk and travelling onwards to Denvention. Now, it's ten days, so maybe I'll be more coherent on the first day in Canada...;-).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Miscellaneous Writing Updatery

With all the things I'm doing for the Shine anthology, my own SF writing gets buried under (much in the same manner as it did when I was still part of the Interzone team).

I do have two new stories ready, but I either run them through the critiquing gamut, or let them age a bit (like wine or cheese), before I send them out. So this update is about reprints.

For one, “Cultural Clashes in Cádiz” – originally in The Amityville House of Pancakes, vol. 1 (officially out of print, although you can snag up a hardcopy [used and even a ‘new’ one] at Amazon US – I notice that the ‘new’ one goes for $36.99 and the used from $6.52 and up – Amazon UK – where one ‘new’ one goes for £8.95 [the other for £51.94, which is insane] and the used for £40.71, what the heck? – Amazon Canada – ‘new’ one for C$62.24, used ones from C$25.95 through C$66.56 , which is also madness – while Clarkesworld Books discounts it to $9.00 [the shop's only temporarily re-opened, and you have to buy for $35 minimum], Shocklines has it for $13.95, and the Genremall has it for $13.35. Finally, an electronic version at Fictionwise) – and now reprinted in A Mosque Among the Stars (hardcopy via ZC Books, kindle edition via Amazon US), is getting some decidedly good reviews:

  • Annie at Annieworld was somewhat confused by it at first, thrown off by the name Leonard, but eventually “So the real reason for the actions of Leonard caught me by surprise and I loved it. It is probably one of the best stories.” (of the anthology);
  • Berrien C Henderson, the self avowed geek, wrote in his LJ review of A Mosque Among the Stars: “My hands-down favorite was the time-travel adventure, “Cultural Clashes in Cadiz,” by Jetse de Vries. He handles multiple settings and points of view quite well and weaves them together for a satisfying conclusion with a bit of a twist I thought I would’ve seen coming and didn’t, so my hat’s off to Jetse for the pleasant surprise.”;
  • And Francesca Forrest – on LJ as Asakiyume Mita – was also very complinetary (while pointing out errors-cum-characteristics: “The language in this one is over the top, sometimes hilariously anachronistic”) in her LJ review: “The story is full of heart. It’s exuberant, hilarious, and underneath it all, moving.”;

However, before my head swells to dangerous proportions, there are also reviews that either don’t mention it (SF Gospel’s Gabriel McKee’s review [maybe it was one of the problematic ones: “There’s a thread running through the anthology, and it’s tough to tell how problematic it is. Many of the stories deal with terrorism, war, and the clash of civilizations.”, however “The important thing, and what the editors have striven for, is that these stories address the questions of terrorism and war without demonizing the innocent along with the guilty. It’s an important message, and this anthology delivers it well. ”], or Susie Hawes at Ghostposts [“The rest of the stories are wonderfully written, with tight plotting, sympathetic characterization and close attention to internal logic. The settings are descriptive. The suspense is chilling.”], or ‘ilm al-insaan’s review [where it was probably one of the problematic ones, as well: “My problems with the volume included a definite sense that readers are still encountering the “Islamic” aspects from the position of outsiders, Western, non-Muslim outsiders. The authors are primarily non-Muslim, and there was a tendency in some of the stories to exoticize the Muslim Other.”), or that don’t like it (I honestly couldn't find one in the A Mosque Among the Stars reviews, although there were a few in the Amityville House of Pancakes, vol 1 reviews).

While “Cultural Clashes in Cádiz” is enjoying its second wind, “Random Acts of Cosmic Whimsy” has just had its third publication, albeit as a translation in the latest issue of Galaxies magazine. The story's first appearance was in DeathGrip: Exit Laughing under the title “The Ultimate Coincidence” (after which Hellbound Books, the publishers, immediately called it a day. The anthology is for sale at Shocklines for $3, though), back in November, 2005.

Then a rewritten and retitled version called “Random Acts of Cosmic Whimsy” appeared in FLURB #6 in September 2008. The translated version of that version has just appeared in Galaxies (according to the Table of Contents it’s French title is “Exemples aléatoires de fantaisie cosmique”, which is something like “Random Examples of Cosmic Imagination”, if Babelfish is on the money). And my name’s on the cover, so I’m quite chuffed.

And there’s another appearance in the works – at least, I hope that’s still the case – on which more if and when it appears.

Finally, “Transcendence Express” is heading for its fourth appearance (first as lead story in HUB #2, the last print version of the magazine: there’s a dangerous pattern appearing here; then as an electronic incarantion in HUB #44 [no direct link yet as content is moved over from the old HUB website]; and Escape Pod podcast EP #122) in The Apex Book of World SF, edited by Lavie Tidhar, and planned for a September 1 2009, but already available as a pre-order.

Also in this case there was a fifth appearance planned, but since it’s been very quiet about that one, I suspect it fell through. Anyway, so far I can’t complain.

(Note: edited to correct that Berrien Henderson is a he, not a she)