Twitterspawn for 2009-03-31

  • Much as I like Stephen Colbert, I really hope NASA goes with “Serenity”. #
  • Perhaps if I had stayed home today then our database wouldn’t have broken? #
  • Bad: Finding out that some idiot has messed up your mission critical code. Worse: Finding out that the idiot was you. #
  • Enjoying the comments on this article on /.: #
  • Sorry, I’m enjoying the comments on THIS article: #
  • I’m a one man development team in my unit. I wonder if I can claim a day at the beach as a team building exercise and thus get paid for it? #
  • I need a good hick name. I’ve got “Bubba Handy” right now, but it feels trite. I need something with a similar cadence. #
  • Is it just me, or is Glenn Beck’s and Chuck Norris’ glee at the notion of right-wing terrorist cells in the US kind of disgusting? #
  • OMG OMG OMG OMG Massive worm going to destroy every PC in the world tomorrow OMG!!! Oh wait, I run Linux. So I don’t care. #
  • Doing critiques for tomorrow night’s writers’ group. No more Mr. Nice Guy. #

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Twitterspawn for 2009-03-30

  • I resent my body for requiring sleep. I could get so much more writing done in those lost six to seven hours. #
  • Feck off, cup! #
  • Four motorcycle cops, three cop cars, and a guy face down on the ground in front of our building this morning. Happy Monday! #
  • Story of the Week No. 36, “Pet Ghosts”, is up: #
  • Zombies and pirates vs. Victorian literary greats. Who would win? #
  • My next Story of the Week is going to be a bit on the odd side, unlike anything else I’ve ever written. #
  • Last night I dreamed of old friends and whiskey. If there were poverty, war, and people dying everywhere, it’d be an Irish ballad. #
  • Sad that there were only three “Father Ted” series. And what’s the plural of series? #
  • I get the weirdest people following me. #
  • I *love* getting contributors’ copies in the mail! #
  • I, too, am so glad that the days of Rick Rolling are over: (I was getting really sick of it.) #
  • Dang it, where’d I put all my earlier drafts of “Padma”, with all the crit notes? #
  • Listening to “Lies of Jim” by Token Yoko. If you don’t know that album or that band then you are irredeemably uncool. #

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Twitterspawn for 2009-03-29

  • Another rejection for “Padma”, but one that came with honest and severe critique. Great ideas for improving the story. #
  • At Borders, working on a story about a rogue shithouse. #
  • Finished critiquing one novel, with two weeks to spare. Now on to the next one! #
  • Watching “From Beyond”. #
  • “Nothing says party like a plague.” –Dale Emery #
  • How many people can say they were fired by the President of the United States? #
  • Spread the word: Electronic version of Shimmer #10 (with my story “The Bride Price”) is up for free at Shimmer website: #

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Publication Alert!

Issue #10 of Shimmer, which includes my short story, “The Bride Price”, is now available. Because it’s the tenth issue, the publishers are celebrating by making the electronic version available for free on their website. Woo hoo! More exposure for my story! (And, I suppose, the other ones as well.) Download the electronic version here. Of course, you can also purchase the print edition from the same page.


Twitterspawn for 2009-03-28

  • Note: the Thai Ginger Bistro in downtown Petaluma has the best summer rolls on the planet. #
  • Off to lunch and Les Mis with the fam in San Jose. #
  • Unexpected resistance on I-680 S may delay our triumphant arrival into San Jose. #
  • Apparently everyone in Stockton is moving to Pleasanton today. #
  • At Archbishop Mitty High in SJ to see “Les Miserables.” #24601 #
  • Oooh! Flying ant season in East Sac! (and yes, they’re flying ants and not termite swarmers.) #
  • is it unmanly to tear up a little at the end of “Les Miserables”? #

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Twitterspawn for 2009-03-27

  • Oooh! Killer doppelgangers in this movie! #
  • Drinking Zin and watching a really awful horror movie. #
  • Slept in on my day off. Bleary eyed but up and drinking coffee now. #
  • How to spot a Twitter user with an “enhanced” follower count: #
  • Going to see Christopher Moore (who ought to get himself on Twitter) tonight in Petaluma. #
  • It’s after noon. I suppose I ought to eat something. #
  • Neat people I follow: @jennyjenjen @papabean @uriel1998 @mfeathers @queenkv @discorobot @upwithgravity @renoir_girl @jenipurr #followfriday #
  • Having fun constructing a psychosis that would explain events in a friend’s novel. #
  • Watching Christopher Moore speak. The man defines awesome. #
  • Christopher Moore time is over. Sigh. Time for Thai food with a buddy. #

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BSG – No Spoilers

A few quibbles here and there, but on the whole, I was very pleased with the ending of Battlestar Galactica. A few questions were not answered to my perfect satisfaction, but then I’m kind of dense sometimes anyway, so maybe I just missed the answers.

It was far more closure than I was expecting. And for the first time, I really, really wished for a 72-inch widescreen HD television.


I’m sure I’m not the first person to come up with this term. I like to think that I am, though, so I’m going to claim that I am. “NaNoCruft”. It’s the term I use to refer to the bits of prose that you used to fatten up your word count when writing your National Novel Writing Month (or, NaNoWriMo) novel. It’s the stuff that, even two revisions later, causes one of the members of your writers’ group to say, “Huh. You wrote this during NaNoWriMo, didn’t you?”

NaNoWriMo is, for the uninitiated, all about writing a novel in one month. For the purposes of the project, a novel is defined as a work of fiction 50,000 words or more in length. It’s a pretty arbitrary target, but it seems to work for many thousands of people worldwide every November. The number of participants worldwide has been steadily increasing since it was started by Chris Baty in 1999; and the number of “winners” — people who actually make it to the 50,000 word mark and beyond — has also increased. A few published novels, including the bestselling Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, started out life as NaNoWriMo novels, and I think that the majority of the participants in NaNoWriMo share the dream of publishing their novel, having it become a bestseller, be optioned for a film, and so on. It’s why so many of us go on after November to either finish up the novel (it’s common for participants to complain that even though they reached the 50,000 word mark, their story is still far from complete), or to edit it. Some have even gone on to designate every February as NaNoEdMo, and there are usually at least a couple thousands participants in that as well.

Because the emphasis of NaNoWriMo is on quantity and not quality, there are a number of tricks that participants use to pad out their word count, and it’s this padding that ends up being “NaNoCruft” when it isn’t removed during subsequent edits. In my own novel, The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster, which started out as my 2005 NaNoWriMo novel (and I’m still working on it nearly four years novel? Ouch), readers in my novelists’ group have identified several habits that count as “NaNoCruft”. Excessive ruminating, for example; my characters frequently ruminate on events that have already transpired. This ends up with the same events being told two or more times. An attack by monsters is not just shown, but the characters involved talk about it amongst themselves, think about it, and whenever a point of view is shifted, the characters ruminate about it again. And again. And again. I’ve tried to eliminate most of this rumination, but some still remains, and that’s NaNoCruft. Characters of mine also make long speeches about irrelevant topics. This, too, is NaNoCruft. Extraneous characters show up and do things that aren’t relevant to the action of the novel. More NaNoCruft.

NaNoCruft is difficult to eliminate. Plenty of writers fall deeply in love with their own words, with their own clever turns of phrases, with their own characters, and so on; so to eliminate any of them can feel like amputation without any sort of anesthesia. It hurts, so they try to avoid it. And because writers are so deeply entrenched in their work, they have blind spots to their own faults. I certainly do, and that makes it hard for me to track down and eliminate my own NaNoCruft. I’m always surprised when a member of my novelists’ group points out a passage in a draft of STSM and say, “This shows me you wrote it during NaNoWriMo.”

Thus, with its focus on just getting 50,000 words written, regardless of whether or not they’re good words, NaNoWriMo can encourage bad habits for writers that are difficult for the writer to see, much less get rid of. This is not to say that NaNoWriMo is a bad idea. I’ve participated every year since 2001 (skipping 2002), and each year I’ve hit that 50,000 word mark. I fully intend to participate this year. For the last two years I’ve served as the co-municipal liaison for our area, and I plan on doing it again.

NaNoWriMo is great for writers who need a boost getting their project started, or who just want to get some words down. Or who just want to say, “Hey! I wrote a book!” But finding and eliminating the NaNoCruft that creeps into my own novels can more difficult than imagined. So I think that for 2009, the main challenge I’ll set for myself in NaNoWriMo is to avoid as much NaNoCruft as possible during the actual writing, so that when I set to the task of editing the project later on, there will be that much less work for me to do.

Doommonger of the Week #1: Igor Panarin

This post begins what I hope will be a more or less regular series in my blog, the “Doommonger of the Week”. Each week (more or less), I’ll be highlighting some scholar, public figure, or non-public figure, who has predicted that some sort of doom or disaster will fall upon the United States or the world, or who has promised to enact such a doom themselves.

I’ve never been impressed by doommongering. I think that this started when I was a kid in the 70s and I heard three different news stories in different venues in one week predicting that California would experience a devastating earthquake and fall into the ocean by the end of the week. Each prediction had a different source, and each contradicted each other. One was a seismologist, who should have known better; one was a psychic, who was probably hoping to simply make a buck; and one was a fundamentalist Christian who said California simply deserved it. So generally, when I hear that someone has predicted doom, I usually just mock it, or simply ignore it. But in these tough times, I think it’s more important to expose these folks and demonstrate that they are most likely wrong. As the old saying goes, “During times like these, it helps to remember that there have always been times like these”. Not only is this true, we’ve always managed to get through them (okay, Rome didn’t, but that’s a different story).

There are a couple of groups and individuals that I probably won’t bother with. I won’t bother with the news media in general, since doommongering is what they do, and much of how they do it is simply misreporting or exaggerating. I also probably won’t bother with Pat Robertson, whose regular predictions of God’s wrath descending upon some part of the United States borders on the pathological (this touches on my theory that Pat Robertson probably fulfills the diagnostic criteria for being a psychopath, but I won’t speak of that here).

So this week I’m happy to inaugurate my little series with Russian scholar Igor Panarin. According to an article in MSNBC, Panarin has predicted the following:

  • President Obama will declare martial law in the United States this year;
  • The United States will break apart into six smaller states by the year 2011; and,
  • China and Russia will become the backbone of a new world order.

Panarin’s predictions are not particularly new; Russian Prime Minister Vladimir “Vlad” Putin was making a similar prediction just a few weeks ago, though with a different timeline (Putin predicted the collapse of the United States by the year 2010, not 2011), and I suspect that Panarin probably took his cue from Putin. Putin has long made his feelings toward the United States perfectly clear. He has compared us to the Third Reich, an utterly absurd comparison even to me, a good liberal who cringed during the worst of the Bush Administration (for the record: I never thought Bush would actually fulfill the worst predictions about him).

Those of us who are amused by such things will certainly recognize some of the features of Putin’s and Panarin’s predictions. In Friday, Robert Heinlein predicted the breakup of the United States into six major states (the only thing I remember of any of them was that California was such a fanatical democracy that the rule of thumb was that if you were tall enough to reach the voting booth, then you could vote, no matter your age). Predictions of the United States imposing martial law have been a regular boogeyman for decades, and reached a recent peak in 1999, when everyone was panicking about Y2K. Rumors even spread that WalMart was involved with the government in planning to impose martial law. During the 90s, when the Waco fiasco and the Minutemen group of Montana were making waves, people were similarly worried about martial law; and yet, despite the most hysterical predictions, particularly from right-wing militia groups, it never happened.

Of course, the United States has come dangerously close to falling apart. When the Articles of the Federation was enacted shortly after the Revolution, the United States was so loosely organized that each state had its own currency, its own militia and so on; this loose conglomeration of independent states led to the need for a stronger federal government, so the Constitution was written and enacted in the 1780s (yes, I’m oversimplifying the situation quite a bit). In 1861, issues of states’ right versus federal authority became so heated that the Civil War erupted. Every now and then, especially during economic crises such as the Great Depression, the issue rises up again, and a couple of states, like New Hampshire and Texas, have enacted legislation — or at least considered legislation — to reassert their authority as states; such legislation is largely symbolic, if not simply pointless, because it is redundant. In many areas, especially in the areas that the states are concerning themselves with, the states already have their independent authority.

And, of course, notions of a second Civil War have been popular in popular science fiction; recent examples include Emire by Orson Scott Card, and the popular Internet persona John Titor who, among other predictions, predicted a civil war in the United States following the election of 2004, a civil war that would erupt fully in 2008. Now, Orson Scott Card is a brilliant science fiction writer, although I find his politics dubious to say the least; and John Titor’s predicted Second American Civil War has obviously not occurred, although I knew a few people who were hysterical over the predictions.

So because of stale predictions that are probably driven more by politics and anti-American feelings in Russia, I proclaim that Igor Panarin is Doommonger of the Week. I hope he recognizes this as the honor it is.

Daleks everywhere

Another thing I’ve never made a secret of is my fondness for the British science fiction show Doctor Who. It’s a cheesy show, filled with great villains and monsters and aliens; and the Doctor himself is just so much fun (especially as portrayed by David Tennant).

One of my favorite villainous races in Doctor Who are the Daleks. Created thousands of years ago by a mad scientist (or possibly they evolved — there are two distinct origin stories for the Daleks in the Doctor Who universe), the Daleks swarm the Universe, destroying everything in their path so that they one day become the only life form in existence. Not afraid to think big, these Daleks.

Of course, because the budget for building sets for science fiction shows in the BBC in the 20th century was pretty much nil, a lot of the Dalek stories took place on Earth, and were filmed… Well, here on Earth. Apparently at one point during the 1980’s, some of the Dalek props were just tossed into a local pond after the filming of the episode, and were recently uncovered. And here’s a photograph of a recent removal of one of these props:

Dalek in Pond
Dalek in Pond

(Click for full size image.)

To anyone at all familiar with the series, this is a dramatically eerie picture.

Of course to a guy like me, who is a twelve-year-old boy stuck in a grown-up body, this is every kind of awesome there is.

(HT to )