Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Holiday 2: Denvention

My WorldCon schedule (preliminary and subject to change, obviously):

(NB: updated August 4.)

Tuesday August 5:
  • flight to Denver from Amsterdam via Detroit. Scheduled arrival at Denver airport at about 20.15 hrs. Hope to see Roy Gray at the same airport (arriving with a different flight), and also Pete Butler.
  • Then to the hotel and fight jetlag the Australian way(1);

Wednesday August 6:
  • 08.00 -- 11.00: set up the TTAPress/Interzone dealer's table with Roy and Pete (dealer's room opens at 12.00 hrs: our table is -- as far as I know right now -- 1106. Map here);
  • 11.00 -- ??.00: lunch and cultural exploration of Denver (evil minds might name these activities differently);
  • ??.00 -- ??.00: maybe return to dealer's table in time before it closes at 18.00 hrs. Then drinks-shower-dinner-party (sequence subject to change);

Thursday August 7:

  • 10.00: open up dealer's table;
  • 11.30 -- 12.30: Panel (program item 101 in room 501): "How do eBooks change writing - an eBook writing primer". With Darlene Marshall, (m) Dave Howell, Jetse de Vries, Traci Castleberry. I believe Pete Bullock is on that one, as well. (Update: no he isn't. He's on three other panels on ebooks, namely program item 155: "Choosing a ebook format: technological & economical considerations" on Thursday August 7 at 14.30 hrs, coinciding with my 'Aliens' panel, and program item 492: "eBook pitfalls: what are the publishing, sales & production traps?" on Saturday August 9 at 11.30 hrs, and also program item 547: "A Passion for Electronic Publishing" on Saturday at 16.00 hrs; Good!)
  • 12.30 -- 13.00 (or so): Business lunch;
  • 14.30 -- 15.30: Panel (program item 157 in room 503): "Aliens - Writing about what you don't know", for which I am the moderator. With (m) Jetse de Vries, Larry Niven, LE Modesitt;
  • 17.30 -- 18.30 Panel (program item 220 in room 503): "Life After Rocket Science". This is a last-minute add, so I'm not listed on the programming yet. With (m) David Summers, Ian Tregillis, Margaret Bonham, Mike Potter.
  • 18.30 -- onwards: evening activities as in Wednesday;

Friday August 8:

  • 10.00: open up dealer's table;
  • 13.30 -- 15.00: meet up with very good friend in preparation for very good event;
  • 13.45: Signing? Que? Scrolling through the program is see that program item 339, in Hall D, is a signing with Jetse de Vries, Lawrence M. Schoen, Michael Bellomo, Walter Hunt. To quote Manuel from Fawlty Towers: "I know nuttin'." This wasn't mentioned in any email sent to me, and I most certainly did not volunteer for it, as I really don't have anything -- like a collection or a novel -- to sign. And I don't see hordes of people with the anthologies or magazines in which I've appeared (with a short story) to be signed. Also, my meeting of 13.30 is *very* important (a commitment I made without knowing about this signing item), and I will give it priority. So I won't be there. Strange, nevertheless.
  • 15.00 -- 17.00: possibly back to dealer's room;
  • 17.30: Sidewise Awards (item 427: in the Sheraton, 2nd level, Tower Court D), where Chris Roberson's "Metal Dragon Year"(Interzone #213) is one of the short form nominees,
  • 17.00 -- 19.00 (or later): more preparatory activities;
  • 19.00 -- 20.00: quick dinner, liquid dinner, and a shower (first two optional...;-);
  • 20.00 -- 23.00: Pyr party! Don't miss this one, as I can tell you it will be great.
  • 23.30 -- 00.30: Panel (program item 411 in the Sheraton, Terrace Level, Capitol Room): "Lovers in the Slipstream", which I should be moderating. Yes, straight after the Pyr party. Like the "Sex and the Singularity" panel at EasterCon, this should be fun. Or a trainwreck. Or both.
  • 01.00 -- onwards: party. I believe Baen is holding a party that night, probably in the Presidential Suite;

Saturday August 9:

  • 10.00 -- 11.00: Reading (program item 464, at the Hyatt in Agata A). Indeed, at 10 am, after what promises to be a very intense Friday. Could be fun, or a disaster. At my first reading ever at Interaction, I was scheduled at the same time as Terry Pratchett, which amused my brother no end. Still, 6 people showed up, about 5.5 more than I expected. It remains to be seen if I can top that number...
  • 12.00 -- 18.00: predominantly dealer's room presence (to make up for the previous days when I'm mostly not there);
  • 18.00 -- 20.00 Hugo pre-party;
  • 20.00 -- 22.00 (or thereabouts): Hugo Awards Ceremony;
  • 22.30 -- ??.00 Hugo losers party;
  • ??.00 onwards: more parties;

Sunday August 10:

Monday August 11: recover.

Tuesday August 12: Fly home.

Wednesday August 13: Arrive home. Fight jetlag the Australian way(1).

(1): Way back in December 2000 I arrived in Fremantle at about 17.00 after a very long flight. Taped to my hotel room door was a message: "We're in this-and-this [name forgotten] pub. Hurry!"

That was from the Australian superintendent and his boss, for whom I was doing the dry-dock job. I took a quick shower, and went to the pub. Where I was greeted with a cold beer, and my remark that I was very tired and jetlagged was met with the following response:

"Mate, just get drunk"

"?" *slight bewilderment*

"I mean it: jetlag can last longer than a week. A hangover only lasts one day. Just get drunk."

I complied.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Holiday 1: Solar Eclipse

Or: a short dip into Russia.

Sunday July 27 I will -- together with two friends -- fly to Moscow. Two other friends will travel by train (they want to do the whole coast-to-coast thing by train, so go all the way from Amsterdam -- not strictly at the coast -- to Beijng -- also not strictly on the coast. It’s the thought that counts...;-). From Moscow the five of us will be taking the Trans-Siberia Express to Novosibirsk, arriving there on Thursday July 31. The next day we hope to witness the solar eclipse as the line of totality crosses over Novosibirsk and lake Novosibirskoye.

On August 2 I’ll be flying from Novosobirsk to Moscow, and after a lengthy stopover continue onwards to Amsterdam. Then it's back home for two days, then back to Schiphol on Tuesday August 5 to fly to Denver for Denvention. Fly back from Denver on Tuesday August 12, arriving at Amsterdam Schiphol on Wednesday August 13, then back to work the Monday after.

They say some people use holidays to rest...

We had a pre-eclipse meeting in Amsterdam last Saturday, where -- amongst many other things -- I found out that, as nerdism goes, I’m small beans. To wit:

Me (after the discussion was about all the far-off places the recent eclipses take place -- Zambia, Australia, Libya, now Siberia, next year China, the Pacific [French Polynesia or Easter island] in 2010): “Why can’t an eclipse take place somewhere nearer by, like Texel(1).”
Friend 1: “Well, the 1715 eclipse went over Texel.”
Me (incredulous): “You’ve got to be kidding me! For the record: I was joking.”
Friend 1: “It’s true(2): I just remember those things.”
Me: “You are the Übernerd: I bow my head in deference.”
Friend 2: “One doesn’t talk to [friend 1], one consults him.”

Through Futurismic, I am aware of the geek hierarchy. Now I wonder if there is a similar nerd hierarchy(3). As solar eclipse nerdism goes, my friend should be in the very top, possibly only being overclassed by Fred Espanak. But even of that I am not certain.

As it is, my fascination with solar eclipses began in 1999, although it always simmered below the surface as one of the phenomena that you should see at least once in your life (like polar light: I once commissioned a shrimp freezing plant on a Russian fishing vessel when they were fishing for shrimps in January just below Spitsbergen. Air temperature was about -19°C, it was dark all day, and on top of that there was no warm water for the first five days. But I’ve witnessed several displays of spectacular Aurora Borealis, which made it all more than worthwile). Back then, my friend Peter left our holiday in Western Australia a week early to witness the solar eclipse in France. I thought he was crazy.

Peter had some bad luck in France, though: it was completely cloud-covered. Still, he wanted to experience a solar eclipse in clear skies, and the next chance was June 21, 2001: on his birthday. He asked if I was interested to come along, and I did.

Basically, though, I still felt a bit like one of our guides -- Nico -- in Zambia: not an enthusiast, but more to check out what all the fuss was about (and see a place you don’t normally go to in the bargain). It was incredible, and I’ll quote Nico: “I thought all those solar eclipse freaks were crazy. Now I am one of the crazy people.”

So if you wish to remain sane, do not go there.

(1) Texel is a small island just north of Noord-Holland.

(2) Indeed, it’s true. See this link, for example.

(3) And not the Geek→Nerd→Dork hierarchy about cool stuff that goes either like:
  1. Geeks design it;

  2. Nerds buy it;

  3. Dorks break it;


  • Geek: Understands, creates & fixes really cool stuff;

  • Nerd: Understands & collects really cool stuff;

  • Dork: Confused by really cool stuff.

Monday, July 21, 2008

It's Alive!

The three or four people that might still check in here once in a while have noted that it’s been awfully quiet in May and June. So a quick update near the end of July.

First of all: the training centre of the company where I work has moved house in June and July, while at the same time the already planned training sessions (and they're planned a year in advance) had to continue. Hence a very hectic period in which less urgent (read: not directly income generating) diversions like writing and blogging fell by the wayside. This is also the reason I decided not to run an email reading period (in May) for Interzone, as I had no time to read submissions, and response times would have gone through the roof.

I'm going on holiday by the end of the week (more about that in the next two posts), and then we have settled in our new working home. Now a quick update of things that happened in the past couple of months:


  • My story “The Third Scholar” has appeared in the “SF Waxes Philosophical” anthology edited by Ahmed A. Kahn, released by ZC Books. The anthology has been reviewed at Andromeda Spaceways (where the ‘cosmological virtuosity’ is admired, but the ‘occasional flippancy of tone’ and the ‘lack of descriptive detail’ diminish ‘the feeling of reality necessary to properly engage the reader’. I am now whipping my frivolous self with realistic descriptions), and mentioned on Ted Kosmatka’s blog.

    • My story “City Beneath the Surface” has appeared in Postscripts #14. Postscripts #14 has been reviewed in The Fix (which states I avoid ‘going down the obvious routes’: for instance my humour is ‘something subtler’, although the reviewer ‘did groan at one joke’), and to my surprise I received a couple of emails where people were very complimentary about the story.

    • My story “Cultural Clashes in Cádiz” (which originally appeared in Creative Guy Publishing’s Amityville House of Pancakes vol. 1, which is not available anymore) is slated to appear in “A Mosque Among the Stars”: an anthology featuring SF and fantasy stories that portray Islam and/or Muslims in a positive light.

    • “Transcendence Express” (originally in Hub #2 -- the last print version -- reprinted online in Hub #44, and available as a podcast on Escape Pod #122) is longlisted on the British Fantasy Award for short story, together with 45 other stories (with some very good IZ stories among them). Nice, although it probably won't make the shortlist. Possibly more news on the story later (like 2009), which I can’t discuss yet.

    • Apparently “Qubit Conflicts” received an honourable mention in the Dozois Year’s Best SF #25, and Dozois even mentioned me -- however shortly -- as a writer to watch in an SF Signal Mind Meld. Maybe Gardner needs to check his prescriptions?

    • My interview with Greg Egan -- flippantly titled ‘Beyond the Veil of Reality’ -- was published in Interzone #216 (indeed: a Greg Egan interview in the ‘mundane SF’ special. Life is full of frivolous ironies). Eamonn Murphy on SFCrowsnest called it ‘quite interesting’, while Blue Tyson called it ‘excellent’.

            • My usual column about writing in the BSFA’s Focus (for Focus #52) was about ‘writing about what you don’t know’, and got mixed up with Dev Agarwal’s piece. Martin McGrath is mortified about this misattribution, while I am merely amused (only those who do nothing make no mistakes). Should be good for a beer and a laugh at a Con near you.

            Apart from that, my fiction writing has slowed to a trickle, and the very few (two) stories that I have doing the rounds consistently keep getting rejected.

            Next week I’m travelling to Novosibirsk for the August 1 solar eclipse, and the week after that I’m going to Denver to attend Denvention. More about that in the next two posts.