Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Another view of the post-United States

Friend Mike pointed me at this article, which recounts Igor Panarin's work on the possible fracturing of the United States. And Panarin seems to agree with the timeline I set for it in Looking Glass plus or minus a few years. Interestingly, though, Panarin is said to put the Eastern Seaboard states, the ones I assigned to the UCSA, as part of 'liberal Europe'. I think that ignores the great wealth of those areas, and the fact that there is a great deal of American military power centered in and around Washington DC. All the major wealth centers of the NorthEast are within a few days' drive or a couple weeks' march, and no nation which wished to survive would let them get away.

Also, hope y'all had a happy midwinter holiday of your preference, and have a happy New Year.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008


As you might have guessed from my lengthy silence, things got a bit hairy with Nano. I was two days behind for most of the campaign, only catching up the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, then taking Thanksgiving off. I finally finished Saturday, November 29, in the middle of the afternoon at the write-in at the Tattered Cover, Highlands Ranch.

And now, of course, I have the inevitable post-nano cold. It's getting better, but this is why I've been silent so long.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Interview with Simon Haynes and yours truly on IO9

I was just informed that my interview with Lauren Davis of io9 went live today, combined with a separate interview of Simon Haynes. It's interesting how what I said got distilled into the article. I'm still new to the interview thing, and they always seem to come when I'm only partially caffeinated. Anyway. It's a good interview, and it's Here, on io9.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Ovarian transplants: another victory for cyberpunk tech. :)

Played hooky from Nano last night, which felt good. Part of this whole thing is keeping nano from taking over your life completely. Now, of course, I'm once again two days behind schedule, but the ball is rolling well.

In other news, news related to the title, for example, it appears that ovarian transplants can result in fertility. There's now discussion of preserving an ovary for women who want children later in life, or who are about to undergo cancer treatment. I thought this was likely in some of the discussion in /Irreconcilable Differences/, although the discussion comes from Hari Kari, who is a bit of a nut. Apparently she is correct that ovaries can be transplanted, though, and since she's a tech ninja, it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that she knows her transplant/implant technology.


Monday, November 10, 2008

12,620 words

I'm now only one day behind. Knocked out something like 2200 words today and stopped, mid-scene. I know from long experience that after a big push like yesterday, it's a mistake to push for excessive word count a second day in a row.

One thing I've been struck by with all of my novel efforts is that each one seems to develop its own playlist on iTunes. Indeed, the playlists wind up named for the novel I listen to them in. This playlist may give some hint to the mood I'm reaching for in this novel. Why there's so much whitespace between this text and the table, I have no idea.

All You ZombiesThe Hooters
AmazingJohnette Napolitano
And We DancedThe Hooters
Blonde AmbitionFans of Jimmy Century
Blood On the StepsThe Yelling
Bringing Me DownJohnette Napolitano
French ConnectionSimon Stinger
The Future Will Blow Your MindFans of Jimmy Century
The Future Will Blow Your MindSimon Stinger
Going 2 HellFans of Jimmy Century
Going 2 hell rock mixSimon Stinger
Gothic GirlThe 69 Eyes
How Did U Know? Simon Stinger
The Last Girl in the WorldSimon Stinger
Let Me BurnSimon Stinger
Madame XSimon Stinger
Mr. HurricaneBeast
ParalyzerFinger Eleven
Where Do the Children GoThe Hooters
Wrote It Down And Burned ItJohn Hiatt

Sunday, November 9, 2008

NanoWrimo, Day 10

Okay, now I'm behind. 10,385 words total, and that only after a 4300 word push today. The good news is the magic has started to happen. I have characters and they're talking to each other, and weaving the plot for me. The bad news is they're not sticking to the road map of the plot very well. That's actually good news, too. I love it when characters do that to me.

If you've ever not ridden a bicycle for years and then climbed on one, wobbled a few times, and then found the sense of balance returned to you and you were swooping the curves just like you did when you were twelve after a few minutes, that's what yesterday and today were like writing. It just came back. Stop worrying so much, throw in some characters to talk to, and let them run with it.

A usual, secondary characters start becoming major supporting roles. And insist on having personalities and backgrounds. Today we met, out of thin air, a CUCS Shepherd (agent of the national church of the United Christian States of America by the name of Brother Blake Tanner. His motivations may turn out to be important, unless something else changes on me. :)

Anyway, 10k words, plus the ones on this page, so I'm going to keep this brief. My plan, to paraphrase Darth Vader, is to put myself /back/ on schedule as soon as possible. I have to say another 4300 word day or two would probably do it. However it happens, if I'm at 25,000 words by Friday night, I'll be on schedule.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008


In every political contest, someone must win, and someone else, possibly several someone elses must lose (or there is no contest.) Each of these losing candidates, in turn, has hundreds, or thousands, or tens of thousands of supporters who must now accept that their candidate did not win.

But let them not feel their labors were in vain.

If you supported a losing candidate, your candidates and your work tested the ultimate victor. Revealed his or her true face. Revealed how they respond to pressure by applying it to them, and yes, provided them experience they will need in the times to come. Because a person elected to a leadership position in this country must be able to lead, and they must lead under pressure. They must be able to inspire confidence and they must inspire trust, and they must be able to ask people to do things they don't actually want to do and get them to do them. You don't get far in the political world without that ability. The person who ultimately wins the election, in a free and fair election, is the one who is better at it.

So on this election day, this night while the results really are still up in the air, let me thank the ones who don't win, whoever they turn out to be, and their supporters. Hopefully you made the person who did win better.

And may the best one win.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

NanoWrimo, Day 1

So I'm doing National Novel Writing Month ( again. For the uninitiated, that's a 50,000 word novel blasted out in the month of November. Looking Glass started out that way, as did the space opera novel I've been working on lately.

I'm realizing that it's been about two years since the last time I stared into the screaming abyss of a completely blank page and started to fill it in with words, with story that even I don't know yet. It's coming. Slowly, as it always does in the beginning. I got about 330 words out today, mostly at the Nano write-in at the Highlands Ranch Tattered Cover. Hopefully more tomorrow.

I'm not actually behind. I schedule my Nano efforts to write 2500 words a day, Monday through Friday, and then take weekends off, so any words I get out this weekend are gravy for Monday's effort. If I can hit Monday warmed up, maybe with 2500 words to show for the whole weekend, I'll be far, far further ahead in the game than I usually start Nano. :)

Nano drafts, being about half-length, are usually very rough. I come out of them with a strong sense of most of my characters and a general idea of the plotline and the progression of the story. With Looking Glass, in revision, I tore out close to half the body of the Nano draft and rewrote or replaced the scenes, as well as adding some scenes and fleshing out a great many scenes. The space opera novel is shaping up the same way, or will be when I can get back to it.

Irreconcilable Differences, by contrast, did not start out as a nanowrimo draft. It took 3 times the time to write the first draft, but it was a much more complete draft, requiring comparatively minor work such as adding the prologue and reworking the beginning, much sharpening and clarifying of its complicated beast of a plot, cleaning up scenes that ran too long, and in some cases, amputating scenes all together to make the book's pacing work better. I'd love to say it was a much more pleasant experience editing it down into the finished novel, but because my life was such a mess last fall, and because I had to get the book in to the publisher by the top of February, it was a hard press against a hard deadline. On the other hand, had it been a typical Nano draft, it wouldn't have been possible to get it out this year at all.

For those playing the home game:

Hull #0: In 1990 or 1991, while I was in grad school, I set out to write my first cyberpunk novel. The effort fell apart after 10 or 15 pages of story and probably an equal number of pages of notes on the world. Grad school and chasing girls took up too much of my time. In the late 1990s, I cannibalized the world to flesh out North America for a Ghost in the Shell RPG campaign I was trying to put together with friends, which never materialized. Ultimately I couldn't leave the world alone, though. With its fractured United States, its nuclear powered, non-stop trains, its bio-punk focus and its bent toward smaller cities and towns in the West, it became the LookingGlass world with Hull #2, some 12 years after I originally thought it up. I recently found and OCRed a hardcopy of the Hull #0 story itself, and I have a deep itch to write this one at some point. I haven't touched it yet, but there are ideas from it that I haven't used that I keep stumbling over in my head.

Hull #1: The Steampunk novel. My 2002 Nano novel, then the longest creative piece I'd ever written. It's unlikely to see the light of day in any recognizable form, although I do like some parts of it, and might have to revisit steampunk and some variant of its world at some point.

Hull #2: Looking Glass. My 2004 Nano novel, after much revision and expansion. After the misery of creating a new world (research!) and a novel at the same time with Hull #1, and after reading Richard K. Morgan's Altered Carbon, which re-vitalized my tastes for both cyberpunk and first person storytelling, I wrote a novel that I thought played to my strengths. I recycled the world from Hull #0 and found myself telling a story from the point of view of Catherine Farro, PHD. Four days into this effort was the 2004 election. One may imagine it had some impact on her world.

Hull #3: After months of revisions to Looking Glass came this original followup novel. My 2005 Nano novel. Unlikely to see the light of day in any recognizable form. In my quest to find a different story to tell than Looking Glass I took on religious subject matter. I lost. This novel was also my first attempt at the buddy movie genre, which I found I liked writing, which probably explains the form that the next novel ultimately took.

Hull #4: Irreconcilable Differences. I began writing this one in January of 2006 after being pretty disappointed in how Hull #3 came out, and being absolutely clobbered by a better idea while driving across Kansas with my wife to visit her sister. Micki Blake and her world hit me all at once, so I started work on Hull #4 and never went back to its predecessor. The original draft was finished in September of 2006. It went to the editor in Feburary of 2008.

Hull #5: The Space Opera novel. I finished the first draft of Irreconcilable Differences in September of 2006, took October off, and began Nano 2006 exhausted, feeling like I was scraping the bottom of the barrel, and desperate, after 3 cyberpunk novels in a row, to write something other than cyberpunk. What emerged - and is still emerging - is a story about interstellar space travel in a universe without FTL, and about people and music and history. Still working on this one, sorting out the plot, refining the characters, making the timeline make sense, and sorting out the galaxy it's set in, the technology, and all the other fun of creating a new world/universe. :)

Hull #6: Cyberpunk again. Postcyberpunk. Whatever. Very likely to be set in the LookingGlass universe, despite my intentions to the contrary. Changing the venue within the world seems to get me the change in texture I wanted without the headaches of creating yet another new universe and making sure my two cyberpunk universes were easily distinguishable. Very likely to, in the revision stages, cannibalize parts of hull #3. I don't know yet. It's all still in flux. I'm just meeting my narrator. :)

I'll try and post here from time to time about this year's Nano, but it's likely to be brief.


(crossposted to my livejournal.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I figure there are at least 5 of you reading this blog. :)


Monday, October 20, 2008

Me, at Mile Hi Con

I'll be at Mile Hi Con in Denver this coming weekend. I've got a busy panel schedule this time, but it's always a fun con. :)

Barring schedule changes, here's where I'll be:

Friday, Oct. 24
3:00pm Grand Mesa B-C: Dystopias or Utopias: Where is our future headed?
5:00pm Wind River B: Author Reading (I'll be reading from Irreconcilable Differences)

Saturday, Oct. 25
2:00pm Wind River B: Sympathy for the Hero (I'm moderating this one)
4:00pm Wind River B: Writing Strong Women without Ticking Off the Men
5:00pm Autograph Schedule

I'm looking forward to this con. It'll be my third this year, and my second as a participant since the publication of Irreconcilable Differences.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Yet another prediction in Irreconcilable Differences turns out to be

Hey, this one's even benign. In Irreconcilable Differences, I assert that wind generators, having been obsoleted by increased size by later models for utilities, will come into the hands of farmers. I figured they'd pass through the surplus market, after seeing that happen once or twice in the back of Home Power magazine, but now there appears to be a corporate initiative to do so. Neat. :)

I'm a city kid. So when, one spring break in college, I went home with a friend of mine to the family farm to be put to work instead of flying home, the experience is one I remember. Goedtke's farm (yes, I re-used their surname in Irreconcilable Differences was, and probably still is, a smallish corn farm in rural Minnesota. I remember the drive there, how there was at least half an hour of driving on private gravel roads among fields. I remember how very, very dark it was, and how the house came up out of the darkness almost as a shock. It was spring in Minnesota, coldish still. The house was warm and I remember smelling grain and humidity once we were inside.

Morning came early, and, after being outfitted with a set of the elder Mr. Goedke's coveralls, I went to work. I found out later the chores I was doing - mostly hauling corn out of the field behind a 1940s vintage John Deere A - were normally the jobs assigned to my friend's younger brother, who was probably 9 or 10 at the time. I went home with Dave several times. Attended a wedding with his family, at which I learned to polka (which I've subsequently forgotten). Just a little slice of their lives, but it stuck with me. Things like the people, the family, and also (nerd that I am) the family junk pile, a storage place for machines that are too broken to use, but which might be worth fixing later. And the fact that there were two or three other tractors on the property, apparently parked where they stopped or were towed out of the way, likewise being saved in case they or their parts were needed later. Then there was the equipment the family was using. The 1940s John Deere A, which was my personal soul mate, and whose diesel counterpart makes an appearance in Irreconcilable Differences, a pair of 1960s John Deere 4020s - more modern diesel tractors, and a 60s vintage 5 row (I think) corn combine. These folks were not ones to pursue the newest and flashiest equipment. It still worked, it was durable, and they had the skills to repair it, so they kept it, kept it up, and kept using it.

And yet (remember this was sometime between 1986 and 1990, so this was unusual) they also had a family computer, which they were using to plan crops, as I recall. The radio was always on (all polka all the time), but there was tv, a vcr (again, remember this was the 80s) and all the usual things you'd expect in a modern home. That collision of technologies, and the recycling and repurposing and improvisation of equipment, and the overall mindset on the use of technologies made a huge impression. A lot of that impression, I hope, made it into Irreconcilable Differences. And I'm happy that these refurbished wind turbines will find their way toward farmers. I think it's an excellent idea.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

This blog, Now on Myspace, too

After much fuss and feathers, this blog is now available on my MySpace page. Kudos to SpringWidgets for making it reasonable to do. Razzies to MySpace for making it so hard to do in the first place.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Copyrights, and in case y'all were wondering.

The James R. Strickland aka Ryan Strickland listed in this article as being sued by Activision for allegedly copying and distributing Call of Duty 3 is not me. To my knowledge, he's not related to me. I don't know who he is, but his chestnuts are clearly roasting.

As someone who makes a living from the copyright system, I'm kind of mixed on this kind of story. In this case, assuming they can prove both copying and distribution, I think they are acting reasonably to protect the intellectual property they've created at (undoubtedly) great expense. And on the other hand, it annoys me deeply that almost all of our culture today is copyrighted and owned by some enormous corporation that really doesn't care about the cultural value. People have asked - and indeed complained - about the number of Shakespeare quotes in Looking Glass. I'm going to come clean here and say that many of those were originally quotes from movies and TV shows, and I changed them to 400 year old quotes for safety's sake. It gets worse when you try to write a novel that involves music written in the last century, and the prices the RIAA charges to use lyrics (after vetting your presentation - naturally you're supposed to trust THEM with copyrighted, unpublished work) are exorbitant. The only saving grace is that you can't copyright titles, so I can at least name the songs.

Eternal copyright, which we are fast approaching courtesy of Disney et al, means that cultural artifacts *never* belong to the culture they were created for, in, and ultimately from. The culture is never enriched as a culture by the ability of subsequent creatives to build on the work of their forebears. Ultimately, eternal copyright dooms a creative work to irrelevance. What happens is that eventually, nobody can remember who exactly owns a given copyright, so the work then *cannot* be used until the copyright times out. People then either take the risk and violate the copyright (there's nothing like a successful derivative work to bring the true copyright owner(s) out of the woodwork to sue) or, more likely, the culture shrugs and moves on, and whatever gem was created is ultimately lost to the world, its contributions, its inspirations, its ability to affect people and give the creator's thoughts to a new generation of people are ultimately wasted in the name of filthy lucre.

And yet, I would like to be paid for my work. Preferably for as long as possible. Worse, I would like to have some say whether my work is made into snuff porn or not. (er no. Please.) Your work - and how it's used - reflects on you, whether you like it or not, whether it should or not, whether you had any say in how it was used or not. So I understand the impulse to keep the work controlled forever. Even worse: contrary to Doctorow, I'd rather not make my living by speaking engagements and such. Not everyone is equipped to create and maintain a cult of personality. (Not to say that his fiction isn't good - it very much is - and more power to him for his successful marketing strategy.)

Somewhere, there's a balance to be struck between these two points. Somewhere, the needs of the content creators to eat and the need for the society to be enriched by the content created within it need to be balanced. The Berne Convention, unfortunately, pretty much hamstrings the ability of signatory states to set reasonable copyright time limits - they require 50 years after the death of the author - but real progress can be made in abandoned copyrights, if we implement a system by which copyrights (or the ability to collect statutory damages for them, at least, as was the law in 1988 when the U.S. joined the convention) must be maintained. If someone, at minimum, had to go to a website or similar mechanism every 10 years and assert that they own the copyright, works where the copyright holders are unknown, at least, could fall into the public domain. This would be a start. It would be something.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Another nice review, What's in a Name, Redux, and The Future(tm)

First, the reviews keep coming in on Irreconcilable Differences. Picked up this nice one this morning from another old friend who dug the book. Again, much appreciated. :)

Also, the previous topic, Cyberpunk and Post-Cyberpunk - What's in a Name?" has generated some discussion, both in the contents and in other sources not easily visible from this webpage. I've gotten some great suggestions for genre names: cyberthriller, inforage, or just plain Hard SF. Now, my editor at Flying Pen Press is convinced that if you don't have a PHD, you're hard pressed to classify your sci fi as hard sci fi. I disagree, but... he IS my editor, so I try not to fly in the face of his advice too often. Cyberthriller and inforage certainly are evocative genre titles, with the former being somewhat more descriptive than the latter. As it stands, I've begun some mumbling acceptance of post-cyberpunk, too.

I'm still wrestling with this question on the side, because after I get the current space-opera-y noir-ish novel done, I've got more cyberpunkishness planned, possibly in a different cyberpunkish world. I don't know yet, and I probably won't know until the top of December is done, and the November NaNoWriMo madness fades and I can actually look at what comes out. I missed doing NaNo last year, and I've got material lined up in my head (and my notes) for this year. I'm also looking forward to meeting the Denver NaNo crowd. :)



Monday, September 15, 2008


Two great reviews for Irreconcilable Differences!

In chronological order, first, Jeff Duntemann summarized his review with "In short, highly recommended.". Much appreciated. I'm a fan of Jeff's work as well, as you may see from my review of his Souls in Silicon. I honestly thought I'd mentioned that review before now in this weblog.

Most recently, Michael S. Sargent called Irreconcilable Differences A First-Rate Story & A Glimpse Into The Future Of A Genre Yow. High praise indeed. :) Mike's an old and dear friend, and the review is much appreciated. :)


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Video Interview from Pacific Fen Spotlight

Pacific Fen Spotlight did a neat little interview with me as well as one with David Boop, one of my fellow Flying Pen Press authors at WorldCon. They videotaped it, and the edited version just hit youtube. Without further ado, here's me, on my fifth day of WorldCon, only partially caffeinated, being interviewed for the first two minutes and twenty-four seconds of this video, and David Boop right after me.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Cyberpunk and Post Cyberpunk - What's in a Name?

I've always had some ambivalence about catagoriizing my work. I call Looking Glass and Irreconcilable Differences cyberpunk for my own convenience more than anything else. It saves me explaining to absolutely everyone what kind of books I have written so far. In fairness, however, I've had to explain to more people than not what cyberpunk IS. Lo, how the mighty have been subsumed in popular culture. :) I usually wind up saying something like, "You know The Matrix? That's cyberpunk. Which The Matrix is, though it's vaguely turned inside out - the focus being on the fabric of the virtual life emulating the real world in the current era - rather than on the fabric of the technological future.

But on reflection, particularly after reading this article, it probably would be much more accurate to describe my work as post-cyberpunk. Certainly the "punk" aspect is largely missing from my work. Punks, as they existed in the mid 1970s, and as they inspired Gibson et al, were - to grossly oversimplify - a bunch of alienated, black leather clad kids trying to find their way in a society that largely didn't give a crap about them, and which they considered corrupt and unsalvageable. Without them, post-cyberpunk probably is closest to the mark. But it's not a label I'm fond of, frankly. Not many people know what it is, the post-(fill in major category here) construction looks really, really stupid when the next big thing rolls along.

For example, post-modernism is a bastard construction on top of a poor choice of names in the first place. "Modernism" was a movement rejecting the traditions and embracing the change and modernizations occurring in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It fell out of fashion after world war 2, and what came after was post-modernism. All well and good, except that the word "modern" is intrinsically linked to the present. So post-modernism was the rejection of the whole idea, as I understand it, having skimmed the wikipedia articles on modernism and postmodernism, that progress is intrinsically good. The problem is, the literal construction of the term means "whatever happens after what's happening today. Modernism and post-modernism are interesting cultural movements, but for pete's sake, they needed better names.

Likewise post-cyberpunk. Yes. As a cultural movement in science fiction, it's undeniable that the alienated criminals of classic cyberpunk usually wind up on a slab early in the story, and the protagonists are frequently the ones forced to put them there. Yes, post-cyberpunk protagonists usually are part of their societies, and their societies are far less bleak and diseased than their classic cyberpunk counterparts. Yes, in fact, what I write would best be called post-cyberpunk. But calling it "whatever comes after cyberpunk" still seems dumb to me.

So what to call it?

A friend of mine, Jeff Duntemann jokingly called it "cyberbilly". I kind of like that. It describes what I do. (see my previous rant about cyberpunk in wide open spaces and big square states). Richard K. Morgan calls his work, which is in a somewhat similar vein, generally, "future noir." I like that too, although Morgan's work tends to be a lot darker and, well, more noir-ish than mine does. Chris Moriarty writes a very interesting essay on what cyberpunk is, and from that perspective, my published output thus far certainly fits. I don't know. Cyberlife? Ugh. If Apple, Inc doesn't own that term as a trademark, they undoubtedly soon will.

For now, for the sake of marketing, I guess I'll stick with cyberpunk. You know and I know that it's not, quite, but it's convenient.

Anyway, the next book I'm working on is space opera.
Except that it's not quite.
Oh bother.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Irreconcilable Differences Premier party speech/reading

For those who were at Flying Pen Press's Summer of Science Fiction event, you've heard all this before. What follows is a transcript (more or less) of the speech and reading I delivered at that event.

Irreconcilable Differences is about a woman named Rachel Santana. She is an agent of Interpol Covert Services. She’s thirty-six years old, married, soon to be divorced, and an experienced undercover operator. They’ve taken a digital copy of her mind and personality, and implanted it in Micki Blake, a 16 year old hacker girl from rural Kansas.The mission: Locate the dangerous new player who is prowling the rural hacker ecology. Destroy him. Take no prisoners. Leave no trace. Use Micki Blake and her life as a cover.

What this means for the copy of Rachel Santana is that she’s spending time as a sixteen year old again. She’s in high school again. Above all, she has to face some hard questions. Who am I? How did I get to be this person/ Where do I go from here? These questions and their answers are a matter of life and death.

When I tell people about Irreconcilable Differences, the question I get the most is,Why Kansas?

My wife and I used to drive a lot between Colorado Springs and Sheridan Wyoming. It’s a long, dull drive. You wind up playing games like Road Kill Bingo just to pass the time. We stopped in Douglas Wyoming. It’s a town of about 5000 people, mostly support for farming and ranching, mostly retail and medical. It’s also the home of the Wyoming State Fair.

So anyway, we stopped there at the combination gas station, convenience store, and Subway Sandwich shop, and we’re sitting there, eating our sandwiches, listening to the country music, when these two goth-punks walk in. And they were in full uniform: Leather jackets, piercings, tattoos, chains, makeup, hair, the works.

No-one batted an eyelash. Except us. We talked about them for some time once we were back on the road. They were more interesting than road kill bingo. You don’t expect to see that kind of big city culture in Douglas Wyoming. But clearly, it’s there.

That idea rattled around in my head a while, and it really took off during another long drive, to the other end of Kansas. You want to talk long, dull drives? There’s not much interesting scenery. Not even much carrion on the road. I’d been working on a followup book for Looking Glass, I was thinking about cyberpunk and thinking about how yes, cyberpunk culture and technology would penetrate even here.

I knew this. I’m from these big square states. I knew it’d be different, going more rural with it, but Cyberpunk doesn’t have to be about big urban sprawls slowly being made over in the image of Tokyo. I’ve set it in normal cities before. What hit me at that point was that cyberpunk doesn’t have to be in cities at all.

By the time I got home, I had a rough idea of Micki Blake and her life going in my head, so I scrapped the novel I was working on and wrote this one instead.

I can go on about this at some length, but rather than talk about the book, I’d rather read you some of it. So.

Our scene is in Kansas, on a school bus ride home, after Micki and the copy of Rachel’s first day together in high school. They’re in the process of hashing out their working relationship, and things have been a little rocky in that regard. Micki is calling Rachel by her high school nickname, Rae. Trust is still a touchy issue, and they’ve butted heads a few times. They’ve also run afoul of Robert Neil, Rachel’s soon-to-be ex-husband and boss at Interpol Covert.

One other thing. The dialog between Micki and Rae, takes place inside Micki’s head, where no-one else can hear. Rae, the copy of Rachel Santana, is narrating.

Stare out the window on the bus, as soon as we sit down. Reverie of tiredness. Mental fatigue. The neurofiber net may be depleting Mick’s blood sugar too fast. Have to ask Mom … Mrs. Blake for a bigger lunch, probably. Micki’s a growing girl. I’m tired of defending myself, and what I’ve done. Tired of explaining. Tired of living Micki Blake’s life with her, already. What was Robert thinking? I keep asking that, but no answers.

Look around the bus, from the stringy, long-limbed thirteen-year-old boys and their rather more developed female counterparts to the pregnant girl sitting in the back of the bus. They all look so young. Look at one boy. Young man. Thin mustache, as only a late teenager can grow. Blonde. Blue eyes like the sky. Talking to one of his friends. Impish flash of a smile. Look away. Close my eyes.

“Would you quit that?” she demands. ”I can’t see when you do that.” Give her back control.

“What? That’s just Bobby Freyr. What’s the big deal? I mean, yeah, he’s hot, but…”

“I just feel old, Micki. That’s all.”

“Well, you are old. But don’t get any ideas about Bobby. He’s dating the senior class president. Bobby’s graduating this year, too. He wouldn’t notice me if I painted myself blue and came to school naked.”

“You might be surprised.” I’m taking far too much joy out of teasing Micki. This is getting out of hand. But. But.

“Oh, please,” Micki says. “He doesn’t even know my name.” Defiance. Challenge. I feel it from her. I feel it as though it’s my own, too. Okay. We can go that way. “Make a bet?”

“Oh, yeah? What?” she asks.

“I’ll bet I can make him notice you. Extra points if he already knows your name.”

“Um,” she blanches a little. Smile a bit at her, in the gestalt. “Um,” she starts again, “You know I was kidding about painting myself blue and going to school naked.”

Chuckle at her. “Trust me. Nothing like that, Mick. Nothing indecent, or immoral, even.”

“Yeah, right. Okay, what do you get if you win?”

“A nice, long soak in the tub. Quality time.”

“And if you lose, how about you do my homework?”

“You’d get better grades if I didn’t.”


“I never was a great student, Micki. I wasn’t anything special. Just one of the other kids on this bus. Nobody you noticed. Unless you were on the volleyball team. Sang in choir. That kind of thing.”

“So how do you think you’re going to get him to notice me?”

“I’ve learned a few things.”

She nods slowly. “Okay. Homework verses tub. I got a history paper due tomorrow. Pretty much any topic from the turn of the century. I figure you could write on the war in the Middle East.”

That. Wouldn’t be my first choice, but…“Fine. You’re on.”

She grins inwardly. “Snap. You’re so going to lose.”

Assert control. Micki doesn’t resist. I could use the practice. When the bus stops at its next stop, I get up. Move to Bobby’s row. “Hey Bobby.” Smile.

He looks up, as though a little startled. “Hi. Um. Micki, right?”

Nod at him. “Yup. That’s me. Congratulations. You know. The whole graduation thing.” Try to get the patter right. Try to let Micki’s speech sound like Micki.

“Thanks, Micki. Looking forward to it.” He chuckles. He goes on. “Are you going to the end-of-year party on Saturday?”

“I dunno. I’m kind of grounded.” Roll my eyes. Micki’s gestures. Body language.


Smile at him. “You gonna be there?”

He chuckles a little. “‘Course. It’s my last chance to go. Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Lean forward just a little. Invade his space a bit. He glances down the neck of Micki’s tank top. “Well, then,” I say, “I’ll have to try, won’t I? Maybe see you there?” Give him another smile. He chuckles, looking a little shy.

“Maybe,” he says, and smiles back.

“Blake, get back to your seat and sit down!” the bus driver yells. “We’re moving.”

I sit Micki down in her seat. Give her control back. Try not to smirk. Too much.

“Oh. My. God,” she says.


“He’s like, the most popular guy in the school, and a senior, and graduating, and you just flirted with him. With my body.”

“Yeah, and?”

“He… ” she squirms.

I can feel the flush rising to her cheeks. “Say it.” Definitely smirking now.

“He noticed me. He even knew my name.”

“Yup.” Chuckle at her a little.

“How did you know? That he’d notice, I mean.” I should not, as a rational adult, feel such a sense of victory from this as I do. But I’ll take it. I could use it. I might even get to like it.

“It’s the kind of thing you talk about at reunions, Micki. ‘Hey, I remember you. You were the star football player. Voted most desirable guy in the yearbook.’ And he says, ‘Yeah, I remember you, too. You were the yearbook photographer. The quiet one. I always wanted to ask you out.’ And you both laugh, but in the back of your mind, you think, ‘Aw, shit, I wish I’d known before you were married.’ Well. Now you know.”


That’s just a little taste of Irreconcilable Differences. I’m pleased to announce that the book is available today, right here at The Tattered Cover. Thank you.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Stealth Suits and how they work

Irreconcilable Differences makes extensive use of stealth suits, and I've already gotten questions on how they work. Before I go on at length about what chameleopoly is and how it works, there's this video I found on youtube that shows what it *does*.

(If you can't see the video, it's of a laptop rigged with a camera looking out the back of the screen being displayed on the front of the screen. If you can't see the video, you'll have to trust me that it's an effective illusion that the screen is transparent.)

From the glossary of Irreconcilable Differences:
Chameleopoly: Short for chameleopolymer, a family of polymer products whose color, pattern, and reflectivity is variable. The most common types are passive matrix, which requires no external power, and which gradually assumes the pattern on its darker side, and active matrix, which will digitally generate and display anything that would have been in the environment, were the chameleopolymer not there. One can, for example, watch TV through someone wearing a chameleopolymer suit, and in fact, most modern roll-up TVs are made of chameleopolymer.

I envision a layer of video sensors and some active processing that ensures that what is on the front of the suit looks just like what's on the back of the suit, and vice versa. Obviously this works better the less there is to see of the suit, which is why people wearing them tend to hug the walls. (Hugging the walls also reduces your chances of being walked into whilst invisible, and gives you some natural cover as well.)

It bears noting that the idea isn't original to me, particularly. Gibson's mimetic polycarbon suits did approximately the same thing, as does thermoptic camouflage in Ghost in the Shell. It's a common meme. My addition was to deal with the problem of body heat, by adding (in later versions of the suit) what amounts to a sponge layer saturated in liquid nitrogen, which is insulated from the body. Body heat is transfered to the liquid nitrogen layer and absorbed by the state change of some of the nitrogen from a liquid to a gas. The gas emerges from vents in the suit at ambient temperature. Given that nitrogen makes up 78% of Earth's atmosphere, this small amount of extra nitrogen would be devilishly hard to detect in the air space of a building. And yes, I did calculate how much heat the body produces, and how much heat a given volume of liquid nitrogen requires at sea level to vaporize and rise to room temperature, and those factors were all considered.

The result is a suit which is reasonably invisible to the naked eye, and exactly the same temperature as ambient air, making it invisible to infrared sensors.

I would have loved to see the Mythbusters try the liquid nitrogen idea in their Mega Movie Myths episode, and they did try hosing the wetsuit down with a fire extinguisher, which worked until it warmed up. The idea of carrying liquid nitrogen in the suit would have been interesting to see them explore, but the possibility of freezing Tori solid probably would have made it impractical. It was, in any case, gratifying to see that the basic premise of the suit's thermal control was workable in the real world. :)


Friday, August 15, 2008

Sometimes it's scary being right.

I'm certainly not the first person to talk, as I do in Irreconcilable Differences, about information warfare as a force multiplier in a real war. Gibson did it in Neuromancer, and I lifted the term from Ghost in the Shell: SACC. And yet I didn't expect to see infowar being a force so soon. Even if the Russians didn't coordinate the DDOS attack on the Georgan web infrastructure, as THIS article suggests, if there is any strategic or tactical advantage that results from doing so, someone will next time.

The advantage here would be compromising the ability of a government to address its people. A savvy operator could probably extend that to disrupt net-based telephony fairly easily. It seems like so very little, and yet if my government can't keep me informed, and I can't phone THEM and tell them "Say, there are tanks coming up my street," that seems like a tactical/stratiegic advantage.

More concerning is the fact that particularly American forces command and control is increasingly dependent on net based communication. Admittedly, this is a different kettle of fish entirely - hardened and encrypted network, satellite communications, etc etc. I certainly hope it's secure. Severing command and control is a huge tactical/stratiegic advantage.

The response to the Russian/Georgan cyberwar will be interesting, too. It's going to be an interesting few years while worst and sloppiest (and most widely distributed worst and sloppiest) operating systems become strategic liabilities and (maybe) are systematically expunged from the net. They make DDOS attacks possible. It will also be interesting to see the extent of liability for the corporations that made these operating systems.

It's scary being right, sometimes. When you write semi-dystopian cyberpunk, sometimes the things you predict are the last things you actually want.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Irreconcilable Differences Premiers during Denvention 3

A week ago tonight, August 7, 2008, Flying Pen Press premiered their Summer of Science Fiction lineup of books. I'm pleased to say that Irreconcilable Differences was among them.

Here's me, giving the speech and short reading at the Tattered Cover. Unlike last time, this speech and reading went pretty well. I figure when I can get the audience to laugh, I've got their attention. :) Oh, the pictures are all clickable, if you want them big enough to actually see. :)

Here's fellow FPP author Gaddy Bergman, giving his speech and a short reading from his upcoming Riders of the Mapinguari.

As I mentioned, the premier was on the second day of Denvention 3, aka Worldcon. For those of you who've never been, Worldcon is the World Science Fiction Convention. It's held in a different location every year, anywhere in the world where Science Fiction is read. Last year's was in Yokohama, Japan. This year? Denver. Mighty convenient, that. :) It's the first time I've been able to go to a worldcon and then sleep in my own bed at night. Although we did rent a hotel room Friday and Saturday nights, so we could go to bid parties. (A bid party is where cities who would like to host a worldcon 2-3 years hence throw a party at the current one. Much fun. :)

I knew I was on a panel at Worldcon. Our topic was "The Successful Misfit in Science Fiction." I figured that, given it was fairly early Sunday morning, at the tail end of the con, it would be populated by lesser known writers like myself.

I found out a week beforehand that my assumption was wrong.

This is a picture of that panel. That fellow on the far (house) left there? That's Larry Niven. Continuing to (house) right is Richard Dutcher, the moderator; me; and George R. R. Martin. Intimidated? Me? You bet. :) As it turned out, Mr. Niven had some very good examples of the successful misfit from his own work, and Mr. Martin and I had quite a bit to say on the broader implications and technical uses for misfits. Turns out that on close reflection, misfits abound in Sci-Fi and fantasy. A good panel. At least I had fun. I hope they did.

I had a signing, too. This picture is of me signing some kind of who's who in sci-fi, my only customer. But it was still fun. The well dressed gentleman to the (house) left of me is James Morrow, who had a lot of interesting things to say once his line of fans had been taken care of. Watching him sign was probably more educational than doing it myself. The man takes good care of his fans.

A good con. A fun con. But I have to say that the last time I went to Worldcon was 6 years ago, and I really *felt* the difference those 6 years made. In tiredness. Still. Looking forward to Bubonicon (where I'm just going as a fan) and Mile Hi Con (where I will hopefully be contributing). I'd somehow lost sight of how much fun sci fi cons can be. And I think I'm getting used to being a contributor, too. And I like it. :)


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Flying Pen Press Summer of Science Fiction at the Tattered Cover, Lodo

Something I've been meaning to post about and have consistently forgotten.

I’m pleased to announce that on August 7, 2008 at 7:00pm, Flying Pen Press will be having its second premier party, once again at the Tattered Cover Lodo. My new novel, Irreconcilable Differences will be one of several books premiering at the party. I’ll be giving a (short) speech, probably doing a short reading, and of course, we’ll all be signing. The Tattered Cover will have books on hand, but you're attending, you may wish to call ahead and reserve a copy.

Having announced all that, I’d like to invite you to the party. It’s taking place during World Con, and the Tattered Cover is within walking distance (or a short, free ride on the 16th street mall shuttle bus) from most of the con hotels. Please note that while the party is taking place during World Con, it is not part of the con, is open to the public, and no con membership is required.

Past experience suggests that these things run long, so I’d advise coming on a full stomach. Fortunately, the 16th street mall is literally awash in great restaurant choices. :)

More info here on The Tattered Cover Lodo


I have a Book!

If you follow lolcats, ( you've undoubtedly seen the picture of a happy looking walrus holding a beach pail while his keeper is washing him. It has the caption, "I has a bukket!" and it is from this that the whole "bukket" meme flows.

Well. I has a book. That would have been the title of this post, too, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. :)

It's funny. I've seen this book. I mean, I wrote this book, obviously. I've seen it all dressed up in typesetting, with the cover and everything. And still, like the first time around, it's a lot like standing in the living room of your prom date's parents' house and all of a sudden that girl you've known in school for who knows how long is all dressed up, and you and your sweaty palms have to pin a corsage on her without stabbing her. Holding the first copy out of the carton was like that, minus the stress of trying not to stab someone - or wind up with a hand in her cleavage in her parents' livingroom.

Yeah. Second book. Was like that. I hope that doesn't ever change. It's one of the things that makes writing fun.

Oh, and word to the wise. The prom dress effect described above? Wedding dresses have the same effect, only an order of magnitude stronger. Gentlemen, if you're getting married, make sure to see the dress beforehand. Bad luck? I dunno, I think it's worse luck to pass out at the altar. :)


Friday, August 1, 2008

Irreconcilable Differences Released!

Finally! Irreconcilable Differences is released and on sale. Any bookstore should be able to order it by the ISBN13 number (978-0-9818957-1-0), and quite a few online stores are carrying it in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and Germany, of all places. No coverage for Irreconcilable Differences in Australia yet, but I'm keeping my eye out for them. :)

Much more info on my website, (Hint: click the BUY button.)

If you're reading this on my Amazon author blog, obviously buying at Amazon is easy. You can look the book up, or just click HERE to go directly to the amazon product page.

There is also a very nice press release from Flying Pen Press about my new book HERE.


It's kind of rewarding to surf the web looking for sites carrying a book I wrote. It's also becoming apparent that in the very near future, I'm going to have to change the way my buy page works. Right now, it's all hand coded HTML, and it's getting far too large.

This is a good thing. :)

The fact that Irreconcilable Differences is on sale in Germany was startling, and amusing. More puzzling was that the same seller is not also carrying Looking Glass.

Anyway. It's here! It's here! Enjoy!


Thursday, July 31, 2008

7 More Questions with me.

Yow, those FPP folks are really cranking. They uploaded 7 MORE questions with me, mostly about Irreconcilable Differences, but with stuff about creative process and what I'm working on now.

Second part of the interview here. First part of the interview here. FPP Myspace blog here. More info about Irreconcilable Differences here.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

7 questions with, uh, me.

Flying Pen Press has posted an interview with yours truly about Irreconcilable Differences. The interview is on FPP's Myspace page. Interview here. FPP Myspace blog here. More info about Irreconcilable Differences here.

Lots of interesting facts about how Irreconcilable Differences got written, and where the ideas came from, for those who are curious. :)


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Irreconcilable Differences Preorders

Don't look now, but there are at least two bookstores on the planet taking pre-orders for Irreconcilable Differences :) You can get the full skinny on it here on the buy page of

Also, I'm now syndicating this blog to my Amazon profile. So if you came here from there, welcome! Web log syndication. It's a wonderful thing. :)


Friday, July 18, 2008

Irreconcilable Differences goes to the printer

Irreconcilable Differences has been typeset and sent to Lightning Source for manufacture. We should see the prototype hard copy sometime in the coming week, and the book should be available for purchase on August 1. So I'm in that 'nervous waiting room' mode at the moment. A million things to do for the release of the new book, and yet I can't wait to see what it looks like. I'm still new enough to this that having my books in hand is a strange and wonderful experience. Looking forward to it the second time around. The PDF sure looks sharp. Holding my breath.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

My first U.K. review!

On checking my RSS feed this morning, I discovered that Looking Glass got another great review, this time in the U.K., by Stephen Yeardley, of The review itself is posted here on

It's funny how much a shock another good review is, but I've been so focused on Irreconcilable Differences, particularly the Amazon Kindle edition, that I haven't given Looking Glass much brain-space. But it's a good shock. Thanks, Steve, whoever you are. :)


[edit] ZapContent seems to be having some problems, so here's another link to the same review.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Irreconcilable Differences Site Goes Live

Those of you coming in through the front page may have noticed that the site looks different. :) For those of you on the RSS feed, has a new look in support of my new book, Irreconcilable Differences. Come one! Come all!

The big news - obviously - is the new front page, books page, and book page about Irreconcilable Differences, my second novel in the Looking Glass world. Irreconcilable Differences is about Interpol agent Rachel Santana, who has been digitally copied and implanted in Micki Blake, a sixteen year old farm-girl hacker from rural Kansas. Their undercover mission is to dive into the local hacker ecology and find a new, big player who’s unraveling everything there. And kill him.

Irreconcilable Differences delves deeper into the Looking Glass world, exposing secrets about the last days of the United States, the final pyrrhic war, and matters abroad, because Rachel Santana was there.

Be sure to check out the About page - it's got a new blob of text and a new picture of me, taken as always by my charming wife, for the new book. Also be sure to check out the News+Bookshelf page. I spent a lot of time and effort making that work better, and added some new features. There are also a lot of changes under the hood, so hopefully everything will be smoother, more compatible, and faster.

I've also gone to much greater lengths in this site to be standards compliant. All the pages verify with the current W3C html validator, and the CSS file checks out with their CSS validator. The only exceptions to this are URLs to other people's pages, which I've not bothered changing.

As always, if you hit any bugs, large or small, contact me. I'm not just the author, I'm also the webmaster. :)


Monday, June 16, 2008

Comment Numbers, At last.

Just a quick code update from the ooo-spiffy massive site update I'm still working on. If you look in the news and views page, you'll notice that the blogspot blog now lists numbers of comments. If you comment, your comment will need to be approved by me, and then it needs to be picked up by magpie, which, if the cache is working right, happens a maximum of once every fifteen minutes, so there are some delays in there, but dang. It works. :)


Monday, June 2, 2008

Irreconcilable Differences comes out of editing

Irreconcilable Differences came out of the editing process today. It's kind of like seeing someone you've been cleaning the garage with, and frankly gotten a little tired of, turn up a while later in a skirt and blouse. It's up to the publisher to give the book the ball gown, but still. It made me smile. That's a good thing. :)


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Another nice review

Another nice review of Looking Glass, this time from Shawn Granger, author of Family Bones, and Innocent.. I've sampled Family Bones, and Shawn knows his stuff writing comic book/graphic novels. :)


Shawn also posted his review here: on the KingTractorPress website . Thanks!


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

RIP Arthur C. Clarke

A moment of silence for Arthur C. Clark, who began his final odyssey today. The last of the Big Three (Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke) is no longer with us. He was 90 years old.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Irreconcilable Differences

As of today, Irreconcilable Differences is under contract for publication late this summer. I'm pleased to be working with the great folks at Flying Pen Press again. Scott Humphries is once again doing the editing, and the cover design will be by Laura Givens. And that's all I know about it so far. More late breaking info as I get it.

Woohoo! I sold another book! (Insert happy-author-dance here. :)


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Quick Update - Map of Bookstores

Just a quick update to the site, on the Buy Books page, I've added a Google Map of Brick and Mortar Stores with My Books. As you can see, they're all in Colorado, and mostly in the Denver Metro area. If you're not in one of those areas, your local book stores should still be able to order the Looking Glass TPB (the only book I've got in print right now - watch this space) by the ISBN number. ISBN: 978-09795889-0-7


Saturday, February 2, 2008

Looking Glass on Amazon Kindle

Got an Amazon Kindle? Me too. My dear wife got me one for Christmas, and it's still my favorite new toy. :) So of course, I got with the fine folks from Flying Pen Press to get Looking Glass into a Kindle edition. I formatted it myself, and I think it looks pretty sharp. It's also slightly cheaper than the discount Amazon is currently offering for the trade-paperback version. Yay! I'm very stoked about having an electronic version of Looking Glass out there, as I've already discovered just how handy the Kindle is for traveling and such.

By the way, yes, I'm aware that there's no cover art image on the Kindle Store entry. Yes, I am aware that the TPB version does not list the Kindle edition. I'll work on the former, but the latter, Amazon has acknowledged as a problem. Nobody ever said the bleeding edge of publishing was easy.

Click here for the Amazon Kindle version of Looking Glass.


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