Sunday, December 30, 2007

Looking Glass Reviewed in the Denver Post

Looking Glass got reviewed in the Denver Post today. This was certainly a nice surprise. :)


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Season's Greetings, and more bits of the future

Season's Greetings to all.

Just a quick post, kind of a loose update to the long discussion about energy and the lack thereof previously discussed here.

Cartridge nuclear reactors
"Home" nuclear reactors

It doesn't take too much imagination to put a reactor between these two sizes in a high speed rail locomotive. Which is funny, because when I came up with the T1s, my nonstop nuclear trains, it was the early 1990s, and the smallest nuclear reactors I knew about were in submarines. It just seemed like the logical extension.

In the battery world:
ten times the power and 5 minute recharges. Assuming, of course, that these two developments can coexist in the same battery. This is actually beyond I was picturing (though I'd not imagined the technology this explicitly) for the electric cars in Looking Glass. I assumed that electric cars would have the kind of limited ranges we see today, with the fast charging, thus making them primarily useful only for city driving. As an aside, electric cars came into the LookingGlass world much later than the trains. When I originally thought of the world back in the early '90s, people in cities used mass transportation and those in rural areas rode horses.

So how does all this fit in? Well, for one thing, I don't see anyone seriously selling individuals their own nuclear reactors for home use any time soon. I do think we'll see a transition to local nuclear power, instead of regional nuclear power. Big cities could get a cartridge nuke instead of buying power from the grid at all, although they'd probably stay connected so they could *sell* power. Having a backup is nice too.

The battery power is a surprise, frankly. Assuming both advances are marketable and compatible with each other, I think it could push decentralization of electrical power much further. (I didn't invent this idea - Heinlein posited it with his ShipStones in his book Friday.) If electrical power storage hits roughly the energy density and cost of petroleum fuels, it's reasonable to picture houses with a large battery array that are charged from a truck, much as propane and fuel oil are delivered today.

Interesting stuff.

Anyway. I hope this snowy Christmas day finds you all well.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Signed Copies

As you might expect, I shop at book stores. A lot. And as I mentioned earlier, my books have started showing up at them. When I find them, I usually offer to sign them, and thus far, I haven't had any bookstores say no (or even ask to see my ID, oddly enough. One might think...) So now, if you live in the Denver Metro Area or Colorado Springs, I have recently signed copies of Looking Glass at the following bookstores:

Barnes & Noble (Colorado Springs, CItadel Dr.)
Barnes & Noble (Lonetree)
Barnes & Noble (Littleton, Wadsworth)
The Tattered Cover (Highlands Ranch)
The Tattered Cover (Lodo)

There may still be signed copies at:

The Tattered Cover (Colfax)
Who Else! Books (Denver Book Mall)

[edit:] You can also get any copy signed by mailing it, along with a self addressed and stamped envelope to:

James R. Strickland
PO Box 631151
Littleton, CO., 80163-1151

Please include who you'd like the book signed to.

(Yeah, okay, it hasn't actually been an issue, but a guy can dream, right? :)

Season's Greetings to all, and a happy, healthy, and tranquil new year.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Democratization of Technology

On my livejournal some time ago, I wrote an article called Meta-Resources and the Democratization of Technology. I will probably crosspost that article here at some point, particularly with some of the off-line comments I got to it, but I was reminded of the matter by this article about a 3d printer. The article where this was brought to my attention correctly pointed out that the first laserprinters cost more than this. (I wish I could *find* the article again.) Anyway. Here it is. For $5000, you can pre-order the ability to print plastic gadgets straight out of your computer.


[edit: Ah. The desktop factory was brought to my attention on the Front Range Robotics Mailing List. ]

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

More site changes

If you're reading this page from the "News+Views" link on my website, you already know what's new. First, the link name changed to reflect the content. Second, thanks to Scot Hacker, the hosting service admin, and the fine folks who bring you Magpie RSS, I can now feed rss feeds onto my own pages.

It's not perfect yet. I'm aware that Magpie is barfing on some characters (the stray ? marks in things are this). I also definitely want to be able to see how many comments I've gotten on a page, and I know the data is in the feed, though at present, Magpie doesn't seem to make it available.

But it works, and it gives me more control, so here it is.

And as long as it works, why not add a second one? So I did. On the right hand column of the news+views page (you already know this if you're looking at it) I've added the feed from my goodreads bookshelf. Not all the books there have reviews yet (I am supposed to be working on Irreconcilable Differences, not writing reviews or coding), but some do, and clicking on the links *should* take you right there.

As always, do please contact me if things are broken.



(edit: The character problems seem to be fixed. I had to tell magpie to output in utf-8 instead of whatever its default is. define("MAGPIE_OUTPUT_ENCODING","UTF-8") does the trick. Still poking at the comments number problem.)

Monday, December 3, 2007

The hardest writing assignment ever.

For reasons which will become obvious, it took me over a month to write this. To reach the point where I could write it. To wade through four decades of memory and put down the facts, catch a little of the man's life, to reach some kind of understanding of who he was, now that this is a static target, and condense all of that down into the smallest space possible, as I was being charged by the column inch. It appeared in the Sheridan Press on Nov. 29, 2007.

Robert Louis Strickland, 79, died October 8, 2007, at Westview Healthcare Center, of a stroke. His remains were donated to science. Strickland was a local writer, best known for his many articles and editorials in local newspapers, and for his series, “How to Enjoy Yourself at a Mental Hospital.” He was preceded in death by a daughter, Kay Olsen, and is survived by daughters Carolyn Manning and Joy Jennerette, and by a son, James, five grand children, many friends, and his cat, Dusty. Memorials may be made to the Brain Injury Association of America (, or to the Sheridan Dog and Cat Shelter ( The family wishes to thank the staff at Westview and the V.A. hospital for their care of Mr. Strickland, and their kindness.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Major site recombobulation

Ideally, nobody will even notice the changes I've made to the site. They're supposed to be completely invisible. But I'm changing things around to use much more PHP to make maintaining the thing easier. (Yes, I did have to edit the nav bar in every single page separately when I made changes to it, why?)

More changes coming, once I make sure what I've done hasn't broken anything.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Myspace. Woohoo!

Contains pretty much what this site contains, except with more ads. :) But hey, you can friend me. :)


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Recommendations from Racheline

On, Racheline Maltese gave me a very positive review (Thanks!) some months ago. Today, she recommends Looking Glass again on her Geeks for Gifts Holiday Shopping Guide. Thanks again! :)


Saturday, November 17, 2007


Ahem. If you're getting tired of me and my squeal-like-a-little-girl moments in this blog, I'm afraid there are more.

See, I just found copies of Looking Glass on shelves at Barnes & Noble. Barnes & Noble. Wow. :) My first national chain. Now granted, it's very possible the distribution is only regional, and my sales ranking on their website is nothing to write home over, but. Barnes & Noble. Wow. :)

I'm afraid the squealing really must start here.

Best to all.


Friday, November 16, 2007

New reviews

First, this one. More squealing like a little girl. Sorry about that. :) Also this one.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Welcome, Errant Story fans!

For those who didn't get here through my banner ad for Looking Glass on the Errant Story webcomic site, I've got an ad there. I've never done the advertising thing before, so I'm sure I drove Impy nuts with all my newbie questions, but it's up, and I'm happy with it. I've been reading Errant Story for some time, after getting hooked on Poe's previous comic, Exploitation Now before it. I don't get any kickbacks or anything to tell you that both are good webcomics. I follow Errant Story, and I bought one of the dead tree versions of Exploitation Now some time ago. They also have been pretty darn reasonable people to work with, and they sure sell an attractive advertising product. I think it looks pretty darn sharp. :)

In other news, yeah, a lot of the minor fiddling with the website was in preparation for the Errant Story ad, especially to make it easier for people clicking from there to here to, you know, buy my book.

Thanks for coming.


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Mile High Con, Updates, and Teasers

Made some site updates: cleanup mostly, plus I added a link to another nice review on the review page.

July 26, 27, and 28 were Mile High Con, in Denver, CO. I gave a reading from Looking Glass, as well as a sneak preview reading from my next book, tentatively titled Irreconcilable Differences. The Looking Glass readings are getting smoother. I found a site online that offered a number of good suggestions for them. Particularly useful were the suggestions to print a large-print version of the reading section, and to understand that readings are differently paced from reading the novel yourself, and it's a good idea to edit the reading to take out particularly description that, while important to the story in the long run, will tend to drag the reading down. Sound advice, all from Charles Stross's excellent site, which in turn was recommended on Wil Wheaton's blog. Thanks to Wil and Charles both.

So about this Irreconcilable Differences book.
The truth is, I'm not going to tell you much about it, because, despite having been originally set down last summer (2006), it's still in pretty primitive state, and a great deal is in flux in it. I can tell you that it is set in the same world as Looking Glass. I can tell you that the main characters are Micki Blake, a teenaged hacker girl, and the personality model of an Interpol agent named Rachel Santana. Rachel exists in hardware installed in Micki's body. She's also the narrator.

It's a bit of a different animal from Looking Glass. It's a deeper exploration into cyberpunk in the great plains, where I've lived almost my whole life, and how the waves of technology that pass through cultures effects these more rural places. Not everyone lives in Gibson's Sprawl, so the impact is very, very different. Differences is also a deeper exploration into how the world of Looking Glass works. It digs into the political angle more, and offers more hints on how the collapse of the United States happened.

Anyway. Happy All Hallows Eve, all. Enjoy the candy. :)


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Some days, guessing right is scary.

Ever wonder what an early induction rig might be like? See this article. When I wrote Looking Glass, I worried that my dates might be so close to the real calendar that it would be laughable when technologies didn't appear on schedule. Now I have to wonder if I didn't put the technology close enough.

Re: Marta Strickland being the poster of the article; as Babs and Buster Bunny so often said, "No relation."


Saturday, September 8, 2007


Another nice review on Amazon (U.S.).

Sunday, September 2, 2007

What one person can encrypt...

What one person can encrypt, another can decrypt, given time. Surplus electronics do make it faster.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Reviews, Readings, and Updates

I'm in the midst of moving to someplace in the Denver Metro area, so I have gotten a little behind in my updating. Okay. A lot behind. It's been a busy month.

New Reviews

I've gotten two more very good reviews, which is always nice. :) The first (by date) was this one, from an customer (who I do know personally). Second is this one. My wife would tell you I squeal like a schoolgirl when I get reviews like these. Try not to picture that. No sense scarring you for life.

Reading at Who_Else Books

Between those two reviews, chronologically, I did my first actual reading at Who_Else Books, in the Denver Book Mall. My introduction went marginally better than the one I did at the Premier Party at Tattered Cover, but it becomes apparent from the photos that I need to /LOOK UP/ when doing these. There are a bunch of other bits of technique I've been reading about - things like, "print out a big print version of your reading" and "expurgate the reading so you don't lose the audience in descriptive passages" (these ideas and many more gotten from Charles Stross's very helpful webpage on the matter. )

Seriously though. Who_Else books is a wonderful place. Nina and Ron are very kind people, who run a great, comfortable, bookstore. The Denver Book Mall is a fine old building, filled with the old book scent that corporate bookstores just don't seem to have. The mall is an eclectic collection of small book stores, many of them trading in used and/or rare books. Who_Else is one of the few stores in the mall that also carries new books. It's a very nice venue to read at.

My wife and I liked the place so much, in fact, that we went back there to hear Emma Bull and Will Shetterly's readings about 3 days later. Those two are pros. Bull's reading style involves guitar playing and is very high energy. Unsurprising, really, since the last time I saw her at a public appearance, she was onstage at Minnecon playing with a band called Cats Laughing. Shetterly's reading style is more quiet. Their writing styles are very different as well, although I confess I'm much more familiar with her work than his. We bought both books, though. Haven't had time to read them either.


Updated (and slightly recombobulated the inner workings of) the press page to reflect the two new reviews.


Friday, July 27, 2007

Quick update

Just a quick update to add another UK book seller that's carrying Looking Glass. And, um. To fix the typo in the ISBN number I was listing. If you have tried to find my book by ISBN and failed, a thousand pardons please. The correct 13 digit ISBN number is: 978-09795889-0-7.


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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Technology in the LookingGlass World (pt 3 of 3)

Politico-cultural impacts on technology and vice versa.
Other factors that have limited the growth of computing technology in the LookingGlass world are the destruction of the American economy, both in terms of dollars for R&D and in terms of dollars to purchase the end-user products. The domination of nations by large corporations will also serve to stifle the growth of technology, as discussed in part 1. Companies in the world of Looking Glass work very hard to stifle smaller, hungrier companies’ access to the market, their ability to develop new technologies, and so forth. Small, hungry companies work very hard to push technology forward and beat the large companies. Corporate espionage is exceedingly common. Corporate life in the world of Looking Glass is an exaggeration of today. It’s paranoid, cannibalistic, short sighted, and destructive, and above all, wasteful of human resources.

One of the big questions I asked myself when I put the LookingGlass world together, both in 1991 when I originally came up with the bones of the world, and in 2004 when I wrote Looking Glass, was “What would the world look like after the fall of the United States?” This begged the question, “What would the world look like after going through the fall of the United States?” and of course, “What made the United States fall?” As with the fall of other great empires, Rome and the Soviet Union, there are no simple answers to any of these. Looking Glass presents one engineer’s impression of what happened, and her memories of passing through that time. Subsequent books in the story present a different view, rather like the old story of the blind men trying to describe an elephant. What the political changes that made our world into my world looked like depend a lot on what part of them impacted your life. And, like the fall of Rome and the fall of the Soviet Union, the average joe (or joanne) still had to earn a living, still had to put food on the table, and so on. By virtue of having survived that time, all the characters in the LookingGlass world found ways to do those things. Not everyone did.

From an economic perspective, as well as a cultural perspective, the great money-generating engine of the United States of America is gone. Only recently, in the history of the Looking Glass world, have the nations of the former United States emerged from the shadow of hunger, so the amount of capital available for luxuries is considerably lower than in the real world. Electronics are the most common, and in more depressed areas, one frequently sees equipment dating all the way back to the present (real world) day, if it still works, and if there’s been no need to upgrade. The pursuit of the shiny and new has slackened considerably, at least in the former United States. This becomes much more important in subsequent books, where the main characters are not corporate employees.

This, then, is the technological picture of the Looking Glass world. Start with the technology of today, add a couple quantum leaps in human-interface technology, and then de-capitalize the picture with the collapse of the United States. It’s a varied technological picture, a weird polyglot technological front where a given character may have technology spanning half a century on their person. This, too, is very much how it is in the real world.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Reading at Who_Else Books, Denver

I will be reading from Looking Glass at Who Else Books, in the Denver Book mall, Sunday, July 29, at 3:00PM I'm not entirely clear how long I'll be reading, so I'm going to prepare two readings from Looking Glass, and probably have one in reserve from a work in progress. I may also be asked to natter on about science fiction in general a little. Those who follow this weblog will probably be familiar with some of the material I'll cover in that case.

Joining me will be Gaddy Bergmann, author of Migration of the Kamishi. Migration of the Kamishi is the story of two young men, orphaned by the destruction of their tribe, as they make their way across a North America left wild, three thousand years after human society is destroyed by the impact of the asteroid Apophis. Migration of the Kamishi is a story of sweeping vistas and big sky, set against a landscape and wildlife freed from human influence. Gaddy is a fellow Flying Pen Press author, so if he looks familiar, you've seen his picture in this web log.

Also joining us will be Warren Hammond, author of Kop. Kop is a future-noir crime story, set in the cities of the dark jungle planet of Lagerto, a dead-end colony world caught in a downward spiral of economic ruin and crime. The story follows an aging cop as he and his new partner try to unravel an apparent serial killing, and disentangle themselves from the web of corruption they've lived in since their youth. If you catch me in his line to buy a copy and get it signed? You can see why. (No, I haven't read Kop yet. Yes, I cribbed from several reviews for this summary. I've been a bit busy. :)

The Denver Book Mall is located at 32 Broadway, between 1st Ave and Ellsworth, and the phone number is 303-733-3808.

Hope to see you all there!


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Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Another quick update

Bumper crop of reviews these last few days. They're much appreciated, especially since they're such *good* reviews. :) This one, from someone I don't know on, and that one, from an online friend. Thanks, all!

Also, look for part 3 of the article on Technology in the LookingGlass world sometime this week. That will probably wrap that topic up, and I'll have to, you know, think of other content to post here.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Quick update

Just a quick update. Very nice review of Looking Glass on The Speculist. Full disclosure: I've known Mike, the author, for the majority of my life. - JRS

Friday, June 15, 2007

Technology in the LookingGlass World (#2)

Biotechnology is actually a stronger player in the LookingGlass world, although you don't see much of it in Looking Glass. You do see a little of it in shots, which make you immune to all forms of sexually transmitted diseases and also are almost perfectly effective birth control. Admittedly, shots began as a plot convenience, but as the world has evolved, particularly in the later novels in the series, they've had interesting ramifications socially. Remember for a moment that the sexual revolution in the 1960s occurred in no small part, because the most common forms of VD were now treatable with antibiotics, and because birth control pills, along with condoms and other barrier methods, were developed, made legal, became cheap, were readily available, and were reasonably effective. This, combined with a population explosion of young, horny people who'd grown up with these factors in place, changed our society significantly. The LookingGlass world is much less conservative about matters of sexuality, and shots (along with the segregation of most religious extremists to the UCSA) are the reason. As Shroud says, "I've had my shots, how bad could it be?"

Biotech in the LookingGlass world respects reality a little more than classic cyberpunk. One of the hallmarks of cyberpunk as a genre is treating human bodies like cars - there are chop shops and scrap yards, and having other people’s body parts grafted into your own body is no big deal. Well, in the LookingGlass world there’s some of that, but transplants are still a big deal. Your immune system is not to be trifled with. Besides, transplants are largely being supplanted by clone tissue auto-plants anyway, which I think is the future of transplant science. Technology marches on.

Biotechnology in the LookingGlass worlds shares a rather fuzzy border with nanotechnology, to be honest. Neurofibers live on that border. They have a metabolism, of sorts,. They conduct electricity, rather than passing an electric charge by moving salt ions through their membranes. They clearly have some processing capability of their own, much like neurons do. If I had to pin down exactly how they work, I’d say they’re cyborgs - nanomachines and biological components freely intermingled. This idea goes back to the earliest thoughts I had on the LookingGlass world, so it fits. Even Drexler says that the first active nanomachines will likely be engineered cells.

Computer Technology in the LookingGlass world is where I’ve actually gotten the most heat. One of my friends especially, found the deck/ice model hard to swallow. The short version, for those who haven’t read Looking Glass yet, is that your deck is a shell. It provides resources, such as the interface to your brain, interface to the network, wifi, and so forth. They provide these resources to ice, via an optical connection. (Virtual Reality tanks do the same things, they just do them better.) An OS deck, the smallest you’ll encounter in Looking Glass, is the size of a regular iPod ™, which was the form factor I had in mind when I wrote the story. Other decks are larger, with the average being about the size of a PlayStation II ™ . Tanks are, obviously, much larger. Why these sizes? Because they’re well established form factors, easy to use with your hands, easy to carry. This is why your standard iPod ™ is very similar in size and shape to the transistor radios of the 1970s, why your Playstation II ™ is pretty similar in size to the Atari 2600 ™ that I grew up with, and so forth and so on.

All your applications are in ice, which are slabs of plastic containing all the electronics of a processor, memory, and everything needed by a given program to run. They also contain the program itself. Ice tend to be transparent or translucent, save for the circuitry inside, which is where the name comes from. An ice stick is about the size of a stick of gum. And yes, if this bears a strong resemblance to how classic video games worked, with a cartridge containing software in ROM, and any extra circuitry the game needed, that’s intentional. We got away from that model because the software expanded beyond what ROMs could hold, and because more and more electronics got packed in the game console itself. I see this trend reversing as integrated circuits get cheaper and cheaper, and the complexities and vulnerabilities of centralized operating systems and computers become less and less manageable. You plug the ice in, and it just works. And even if it doesn’t just work, even if it crashes, only that ice is inconvenienced. By adding what amounts to redundant hardware - multiple CPUs doing one job each and sharing resources, rather than trying to make all these pieces of software play nice together in a monolithic computer, the complexity of the computing system is reduced dramatically. Doing so also removes the need for selling software on media which can be read by your computer, but not by someone else’s. If you’re selling software, you burn it into rom on an ice, make sure the software is encrypted and that your ice can decrypt it as needed, and it’s much, much harder to copy. Remember that intellectual property law varies greatly from country to country in the Looking Glass world, and that some countries have no intellectual property law at all. Copy protection becomes much more important.

I didn’t make the idea of separating the application and computing from the user interface resources up. Xwindows works exactly that way. In Xwindows, you have an xserver running somewhere. Applications call that server and ask it to draw a window. Set the background. And so forth and so on. My impression is that most GUI based computing works that way, to be honest. The difference with Xwindows is that it can reach across a TCP-IP network to send display info to a completely different computer, or a dedicated xterminal, or whatever.

Plan 9 from Bell Labs extended this model to all the computing resources needed by an application. In Plan 9, an app might run on one processing resource, hand threads or subprocesses out to a bunch of others, use storage resources in another building, and display in another country. The box on your desk that looks like a desktop computer is really just a gateway to the network and a collection of resources offered to a given list of others.

This is a little more extreme than I really use in Looking Glass. I’m not a Plan 9 expert, and I’ve never even run it, but it seems to me that there’d be a lot of problems with latency and overhead spreading your computing out like that. And in my world, at least, it’s not necessary. Very few computing tasks that we wouldn’t think of as supercomputing tasks today are beyond what a single ice processor can do, and even some lower end supercomputing tasks are in the reach of clusters of ice. (More on clusters in a minute.). If you’re running big environment servers - Omnimart’s online shopping environment, for example - you’re in a different hardware world. I picture servers being as they are today, racks and racks of electronics dedicated to a specific task. But I don’t really nail it down. They could as easily be racks and racks of ice, basically. It’s not that important to the story, so I don’t spend a lot of time on the server side of things. They exist, and they’re managed, and that’s all that’s important.

Overall, the computing world of Looking Glass is an expression of the end of Moore’s Law. Moore’s law states that every 18 months, the computing power of a microprocessor will double for the same price. I believe that in time, this law will hit physical limitations. You can only make a transistor so small. You can only make conductors so small. I asked myself what would happen to the world of computing when the exponential growth of processing power finally ground to a halt? The computers in the LookingGlass world are the result.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Technology in the LookingGlass world (#1 of several)

Nailing down the technology level in a science fiction world is a tricky thing. Because Looking Glass is set a little less than 20 years in the future, a lot of the technology is like today's, only smaller, faster, and cheaper. Not really rocket science to predict that. They're probably more recyclable, too, though some of Shroud's comments suggest otherwise, and given the shortsightedness of corporations in my world, as in the real one, maybe they're not. Looking Glass doesn't spend all that much time on the matter. Nor does the next book, thus far.

There are, however, some quantum leaps of technology in Looking Glass. Direct neural interfacing is on its second generation technology by 2025. A variety of power technologies have replaced petroleum energy, as petroleum has become to expensive to burn. Deep virtual realities have become commonplace. It might seem that at least some of these technologies are arbitrarily selected because this is a cyberpunk story.

There's some truth to that, actually. You need virtual reality for cyberpunk, pure and simple. However, in 2004 when I was writing LookingGlass, this was in the news: a new technology for directly interfacing neurons with silicon. If the NSF jack I mention in the story sounds like that technology, it should. The next generation of direct neural interfaces, which I mention at some length, are the product of the nanotech revolution, and are among the only active nanomachines I use in the novel. Effective neuro-interfaces do represent a quantum leap, it's true. But these leaps happen, and they ripple through conventional technologies in strange ways, making those conventional technologies re-express themselves in new, but familiar ways.

Look at your cell phone for a moment. What you have there is a state of the art, wireless digital data network node. What was the quantum leap that made it possible? Microprocessors. Transmitters? 19th century tech, incrementally improved. Batteries? 18th century tech, incrementally improved. Touchtone? Came out in the early 1960s. Micro-electronics outside the CPU? Incremental improvements on electronics that began in the early 20th century. The one quantum leap, microprocessors, rippled out through those related technologies and produced a product which would have been impossible before it, and yet, it's still a telephone. You dial a number, and someone answers on the other end. This is how technology evolves. The electronic revolution and digital revolutions followed this classic pattern, as did steam power before them, and there's no reason to believe that bio-technology and nanotechnology won't go the same way.

Speaking of nanotech, Why aren't there more active nanomachines in the LookingGlass world? In recent science fiction, it's become common to see nanotechnology used as magic, essentially. A technology without constraints, that is the universal solution to AI, androids, immortality, weapons, and pretty much anything else the writer in question wants to assign to them. No wonder. This is how nanotech has been hyped by the likes of Drexler.

Here's the thing. Nanomachines will have constraints on what the technology can do now, what the technology can do in the future, what it can ever do, and, most important, how much the nanotech will cost. All these factors will sharply affect how much nanotech we actually see on the streets. There are a great many technologies today that we never see simply because they're not economically feasible to manufacture things people will buy with. A great example is that there have been better choices than transistors for electronics for several decades now, and yet if you look inside the chips that make our world work today, you will find millions and millions of transistors. Why? Because the silicon industry has an enormous investment in time, equipment, and expertise to deal with transistors, and none of the "better" technologies offer fiscal advantages large enough for manufacturers to change.

This has happened before. In America after World War II, the American consumer electronics world virtually ignored transistors altogether. They were expensive to make, had some serious limitations, but most of all, the American electronics industry had just invested millions if not billions of dollars miniaturizing vacuum tubes, and they were tooled up to manufacture those in great quantity. Transistors only took off because the Japanese, whose electronics industry had been pretty much destroyed by bombing in the war, were starting from scratch and elected to license the transistor technology and run with it rather than wade back into tubes. The first inexpensive Japanese transistor sets hit American shores in 1956, and by the 1970s, the American consumer electronics industry was all but destroyed.

Anyway. The upshot is that I think nanomaterials will be all the rage in 2025. The machines that make them will be confined to factories, but the resulting products will be available, and if you need the extraordinary properties of a given nanomaterial, you'll pay for them. Active nanomachines are much, much harder to make, harder to sustain, and so on, and self-reproducing nanomachines… my feeling is that while they will quite likely be possible in 2025, they'll be so hard to make, so dangerous to have around, and thus, so expensive that you wouldn't use them if you had any alternatives at all. Neurofibers are active nanomachines, yes. Sort of. (More on that in the next installment.) They most emphatically do not reproduce, however. And even so, it bears noting that a neurofiber jack is usually purchased with a mortgage, like a house. Figure a quarter of a million dollars and up in today's money. They're hard to make, harder to make in quantity, and thus, they're expensive.

(To be continued…)

Friday, June 1, 2007

Quick update

Looking Glass was officially released as of today, and the store at Flying Pen Press is open and taking orders. Yay! -JRS

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

First review of Looking Glass

Short post. Two things: first, check out the "Buy Books" page on the website. And second, check this out. Niki follows up her nice writeup of the Flying Pen Grand Premier party with a review of Looking Glass. My first outside review, and it's positive. Cool! :)


Monday, May 28, 2007

Flying Pen Press Rocks the Tattered Cover

7:00pm, May 25, 2007

At the Tattered Cover, a well known regional independent book store, there is a back room where big name authors come to give signings and readings. Big name authors fill the space. So did we. There were over a hundred people in the room, and we sold out all the copies of the books we had with us. I'm still astonished at how many people were there for our little press's premier.

For the first time, I saw hardcopies of Looking Glass, the book. If you've looked at the about the author page on my website, you've seen what I look like, so keep that image in your mind's eye when I tell you I had to work very hard not to squeal like a little girl when I saw it. It's one thing to see the page proofs and the cover proof, it's quite enough to hold the book in hand, flip through the pages, and realize that yeah, the words in there really are the ones I wrote. It still makes the hair on the back of my neck prickle a little, even though we sold through. Even though I don't have a copy my own at the moment. This is my first time doing this. It's a feeling to remember, one that will carry me through the process of revising the next book, and the next one after that, and writing the ones to follow.

Having that moment as nearly a hundred people were filing into the room was a little surreal.

Having that moment with friends and family, some of whom I've not seen in decades, was wonderful. Am I gushing too much? Probably.


So. Events. Well, I got there at about 6:30pm, after a nice dinner with Marcia at Dixon's Downtown Grill, right next door to the Tattered Cover. Good food there, especially the chocolate bread pudding. When we got to the Tattered Cover, the Flying Pen Press gang was already there, setting up banners, putting out the cover-art cakes, setting up chairs, and of course taking pictures. Then the people started to arrive. And arrive. And arrive. Me, I worked the crowd as much as I could, talking to people, shaking hands, making sure my friends and family got welcomed. Marcia was a godsend for this, and she did more of it than I did.

Then, it was time, and David Rozansky, the publisher, got up to speak. I learned some new things about Flying Pen Press. Things like we have a bedtime stories imprint for stories to read to children. Not picture books, stories. Things like we have an imprint to give a voice to those who wouldn't have one, and the profits from those books go to charity. Who knew? The company's been changing so fast since I signed on that I certainly didn't know.

After that, it was Gaddy Bergman's turn to speak on Migration of the Kamishi, his novel. Then, it was my turn. Through the miracle of cut and paste, this is the speech:

Thank you all for coming, it’s great to see you all.

I’m here to introduce my book, Looking Glass, to the world. Looking Glass, World, World, Looking Glass.

Looking Glass is the story of Dr. Catherine Farro. She’s a network security specialist, and her team has just been murdered through the internet. The company she works for doesn’t seem to care. Cath Farro cares, and finding out what really happened takes her into the fuzzy space between the virtual and the real.

Looking Glass began life in the frantic November ritual of National Novel Writing month. 50,000 words, one month. Support group. Go. It’s evolved a lot since then. Doubled in length, added events, added characters, revised characters, changed characters. Looking Glass is all about the characters. They drive the story. They make the story. In some cases they took the story places I didn’t expect.
Take Brian. When I started writing the novel, he was just the boyfriend of one of the supporting characters. He didn’t even have a name. By the time I finished, Brian not only had a name, but he’d become one of the major supporting characters, and my main character, Catherine, had a thing for him. I was like, “Wait, what, what are you doing?” But you don’t argue with characters when they start making their own decisions like that. You run with it. He turned out to be a very important part of the story.
So when all was said and done, it was time to find a publisher. I went the usual route, got the Writer’s Market, made up a list of agents and publishers, and started sending this thing out. I don’t know if you’ve ever mailed a three hundred page, single sided document before, but it’s an awkward beast, especially when you add self addressed return packing, cover letters, and so forth and so on. If you’re lucky, you get a photocopied form letter that says “Sorry, not interested.” You read about new writers getting hundreds of these. Fortunately I didn’t have to send it that many times.

I went to a science fiction convention last year, here in Denver. Went to a panel. One of the topics was “How to get published.” There was one guy over on the end who pointed out that when you ask a published author how they found their publisher, what you get usually starts out, “You know, that’s a funny story.” Well, as of today, I am a published author. You know, it is a funny story. The guy who was speaking at that panel also had a sign in his hat that said, “I’m a publisher looking for manuscripts.” His name was David Rozansky, and the press was Flying Pen Press.

The rest, as they say, is history. Pitched the novel at a table outside the hotel bar. This led to a contract. Got an editor, and an art director, and a cover artist, an absolutely kick-butt cover, pricing, typesetting, ISBN number, advertising, distribution, printing (always important), a release party, and, well I guess that pretty much brings you folks up to speed.

So this is it. A book called Looking Glass. Available at fine bookstores like The Tattered Cover, although most of them have to wait until June first. This book is the result of all that work. To the good folks at Flying Pen Press, Thank you. To Marcia, my wife, for her support and enthusiasm, a heart-felt thank you. Thank you all very much. And to all of you folks, friends, family, strangers alike, who came to our premier party, thank you, too.



Well, that's the speech I set out to give. It came out something like that. It's pretty hard to remember. I find I'm very, very out of practice speaking in public. Must work on that. It's in my job description these days, I guess.

Apparently my speaking wasn't so bad as to drive away the audience, though. All the copies of the book, some twelve in all, sold, except for one that was reserved for someone who didn't show up. That became my copy, at least for a little while.

I actually enjoyed signing the books a great deal. Asking people their names, what they did, coming up with something amusing to put on the fly leaf of each copy. That was fun. There were moments I sure missed my spell checker during that process, though. My apologies to anyone who got egregious misspellings in the signing.

The next day, Saturday, we had a second, much more quiet premier party at the Opus Fantasy Arts Festival. The contrast couldn't have been more striking. Where Friday was all about working the crowd and giving speeches, Saturday was about talking to individuals, handing out the postcards, and more normal con stuff. I'm a lot more comfortable working a con, I find. Gaddy and I also wound up on a couple panels. Mine were on cross-genre fiction, and the sophomore slump - you've written/published your first novel, now what? I think I did okay for my first panels ever. Commentary is always welcome. Marcia and I even had a chance to actually do the con. We'd never been to that particular con before, even though it's in Denver like our usual con, Mile High con is. We had fun, bought some art, and generally had a good time. It was a good con, but we were completely exhausted by the time we went home.

So. It's been two days since then. Now what?

Now what? Now it's sell the books, over and over again. But there's been some motion in that department, even though the book's not yet released. I just got done updating my website to include links to places where you can pre-order my book. Places like Amazon and Barnes&Noble. After June 1, I expect that list will grow quite a bit.


ps: more pics from the Grand Premier below.

Gp-Lgcake Gp-Mkcake Gp-Bothcakes
Let them eat cake.

One of the cover art banners.

Gaddy and me at the Sophomore Slump panel.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Back from the Grand Premier Party

Just got home from Denver from the Flying Pen Press Grand Premier party and follow up party and panels at Opus Fantasy Arts Festival. Sleep deprived, brain fried, trying not to squeal like a little girl at seeing my own book in print. At least, not too much. ;) I'll post about all this after I've slept, but for now, check out, where Niki gave us a great writeup. [edit] Another great writeup, with pictures, here: [/edit]

Thanks to everyone who made it to the party. The turnout was nothing short of astonishing. Thanks also to the The Tattered Cover Bookstore for hosting our Grand Premier party. Wonderful. Wonderful.


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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Thoughts on the LookingGlass world.

(The publisher wanted the title of the book to beLooking Glass, two words, because it would be easier to look up on book store computers, but because LookingGlass is … well, I can’t tell you that. Anyway, inside the book, the word LookingGlass is spelled as one word, and the world the book is set in is named by that word as well.)

Genesis, Urban vs Rural.

The LookingGlass world is old. I first thought up a lot of the original ideas for it back in 1991-1992 for the very first novel I ever tried to write (and failed.) That’s where the trains came from. That’s where the post-petroleum, post United States world came from. Even then, I had this idea that you could set cyberpunk in the Great Plains states, like the one I grew up in. That somehow the juxtaposition of wide open spaces with the digital dystopia would work. I also saw that the United States, while it has one overarching culture, has several strong subcultures that, given the vacuum created by the demise of the United States, would become functional separate cultures. Mostly, though, I wanted to put cyberpunk on horseback. I was strongly enamored of the idea that, given virtual reality, you can get the brains together for that unique synergy called civilization, without having to pile people in the high-stress, high-density, pollution-heavy environment of a big city.

Cities, though, are humans’ natural environment, as much as termite mounds are the natural environment for termites. Cities are more than communication. Culture breeds there. Drive happens there. The extreme specialization that the advance of technology requires can exist in few other places than a large urban environment. Think about it. If you’re not farming or ranching, you’re like the queen bee in a bee hive. You have your specialized job, but you’re dependent on that job’s value to others for your food. Without cities, chances are, you’d starve. So would I. In a world where the ready, cheap energy of petroleum is not around anymore, cities become all the more vital, because some things take more than a bunch of brains. They take hands. That’s sort of whatLooking Glassis about.

The Energy Crisis

So. Big cities. Direct neural interface virtual realities. Why add an energy crisis? Here’s the thing. Science fiction has, historically, been based on the idea that as science advances, individuals control more and more energy, and in less and less space. Nuclear hand-grenades and flying cars seemed right around the corner, as did power “too cheap to meter.” Unfortunately, nuclear fusion proved more difficult to harness than anyone imagined, and fission, thanks to some incredibly bad engineering, has maintained a poor, dangerous, and complicated reputation. So here we are, at the top of the twenty-first century, still using the same energy sources we used at the bottom of the nineteenth. That’s why we don’t live in a science fiction world. Well, that, and nobody wants the kind of people we drive with on the road flying over our houses.
We do, however, control more data than classic science fiction could have imagined. When they thought advanced computers, they thought AI, and the computers became characters. The real world has proven different. The amount of information you and I command, literally at our fingertips, is mindboggling. Verne imagined it first, and Heinlein did a pretty good job imagining it in Friday. (which, IMHO, is pretty much Heinlein doing his take on cyberpunk) But by and large, the net eluded everyone before Gibson and company gave us cyberpunk.

Computerized offices were supposed to reduce our working days, and maybe make it possible for us to work four day weeks instead of five. It hasn’t worked that way. What’s happened instead, is that companies have cut the number of people and increased the amount of data they deal with each day. In the LookingGlass world, the level of data each individual has access to - and in theory, controls - has risen proportionally to today. The net has gotten easier to use and better at abstracting data, and so now there is more to do, more to manage, more to secure. And somehow, big companies still manage to see their IT departments as overhead.

Looking Glass focuses on high tech corporate culture and net culture. And they’re very different animals. Corporate culture revolves around money and power, and a great deal around pecking order. This tends to produce an orderly company that can get things done, but there are downsides to this. Biggest among these is that management and engineering, particularly, are widely disparate skill sets. Promoting engineers to management is a dicey prospect. They’re frequently not good at dealing with people. Not good at playing politics sensibly. Engineers frequently know they’re “right” and simply won’t entertain any other ideas of “right.” Professional managers, by contrast, have good people and organizational skills, but are frequently incapable of understanding the needs of engineering, the need, for example, to fix underlying problems rather than just continue to fight fires, and so on. And that disconnect frustrates the technical people.

This division hasn’t healed in the LookingGlass world. If anything, it’s gotten worse, and you have what amounts to a class system between techies and management at most companies, and neither side is very good at listening to the other.

Net culture in Looking Glass is an expression of how I see the culture of today’s Internet evolving. There are many, many references to today’s Net, some thinly veiled behind my made-up corporate names, some blatant. The LookingGlass world net culture is older, deeper, and stranger, but many of the elements from my future world are already in place. The gothic influence, the furry influence, the enormous science fiction influence, the breadth and depth of alternative sexual practices available on the net, that’s all there today. As the net becomes its own reality, I don’t see these things going away. The net, in the LookingGlass world as now, has an underlying sense of humor, the delight in obscure trivia and humor, the vague sense that all this is, on some level, absurd. No website ever knows what context the viewer has come to it in. If you’ve been linked to some serious web page from a joke site, or someone’s weblog, or whatever, the most elegant, serious website becomes somewhat absurd. This is the underlying joke of the net, I think. Maybe it’s just being around all that porn.

Reality and Virtual Reality
I have to confess that I wrote Looking Glass based only on the experience of text based virtual realities. I have since seen one or two, and it’s been gratifying to discover that they are evolving the way I predicted. The big push for today’s virtual realities business, exactly the way I expected they would when I wrote Looking Glass. Why send people to a conference when you can throw the conference in a virtual environment cheaper, more safely, and (at least in the LookingGlass world) provide a better experience than you can in the real world? And virtual realities are a dream come true for advertising. The world is the media there, for better or worse.

As the LookingGlass world evolves, and as the next novels in the series explore more of it, the origins of the “modern” virtual reality network will be revealed to come from the virtual reality games of today. Why? Because the late-adolescent VR gamers of today will be the executives in the timeframe of the LookingGlass world. They grew up with this stuff. They are utterly comfortable with it. Bear in mind that Cath Farro, the heroine of Looking Glass, would be 22 years old today. She’s probably still in grad school.

As for people, they spend more and more time in virtual reality. Given the political and economic realities of the day, virtual reality is cleaner, neater, less painful. The escape has become the destination, and the resolution has gotten good enough that it’s sometimes hard to tell which reality you’re in.

And that, of course, is why this story exists, and why it is a novel, and why it is a book. And of course, one should remember that a book, itself, is an escape. A virtual reality, if you like. So we blur the line again. Telescope reality one more level.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

quick update

You've probably noticed the website looks a little different. Other than containing my email address on the About the Author page, and the link to Timothy Lantz's website on the Press Info page, it doesn't contain any new content. Lots of fiddly little changes about how things line up, titles on pages, the banner, and so on, nothing exciting.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Looking Glass Goes to Publication

If you've somehow gotten here from somewhere other than my website, here's the short version. My first novel, Looking Glass, is being published by Flying Pen Press LLC.

I call Looking Glass cyberpunk. That's probably taking a certain risk. Cyberpunk is that bastard child of 1940s and 1950s film noir and early 1980s punk nihilism, all in an amphetamine fueled, corporate controlled, polluted, compromised dystopia. Best known cyberpunk authors from the day? Gibson. Sterling. Stephenson. Williams. They're the ones you think of. Neuromancer. Snow Crash. Mirrorshades. Hardwired. Flashy. High style. Youth culture. Remember how everything in the early 1990s was cyber-this and cyber-that? This is where it came from.

Wasn't that genre done to death? Yes and no. The punk thing seems to have burned out, likely as the trailing edge of the baby boom finally outgrew it. But cyberpunk is still with us. Mainstream sci fi has picked up some of the trappings. Anime' embraced it. The classic voices in the genre are still around, still producing, and there've been some superb new voices as well. Richard K. Morgan. Chris Moriarty. Neil Asher. The books - Altered Carbon, Spin State, and Gridlinked - are a little different. Times have changed, and we're in a position to see what a cyberpunk world might really look like. And it's not like it was on MTV.

So Looking Glass. Right. It's mostly cyberpunk. It's got direct neural interfaces. Virtual reality. The corporations and the U.N. do run things, in the wake of the collapse of the United States. All hallmarks of cyberpunk. Yes, but. But Catherine "Shroud" Farro, my main character, is 40. But she works for a corp, and makes her living frying cyberpunks when they try to break into the network she'd guarding. She has an apartment. A retirement fund. A clean record. All that. She's a professional. She has a life. Not much of one, it's true, but she has it.

One Friday morning, someone breaks in and kills her whole team, except for her and one other person. The company moves to cover it up immediately. These people were real. Even though she never met most of them. They were her team. Her coworkers. Her friends. And she's not one to let them be swept under the rug and ignored. And then there's the matter of the hacker, who's still out there, and still hunting her.

So Looking Glass? It's cyberpunk, with a strong vein of noir mystery. And I'm stoked beyond belief that it's going to press.

And there's more where that came from.

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