Category Archives: technopeasant

Shhhh! I’m Working

I’ve got six graphic design projects going right now and most of them are paid work. I’m working on making way too many Christmas and birthday presents.

It is possible that in October I got a little overly ambitious about Christmas. I’ve made it so I’ll be working every night on hand crafts from now until Christmas Eve. It’s fun. I enjoy it. And truthfully I think I’m more productive all the way around when my plate is full. The downside is that I’m so busy I don’t have any stories to tell and I can’t show photos of what I’m working on because everyone I am making presents for reads this blog.

That’s what I’ve been doing. What about you?

The FrankenMac

This past May, Stephen asked me if I might want an older Mac laptop his company was retiring. I asked him how old the laptop was and what kind of prices they were asking. The price couldn’t be beat! It was missing the bottom cover but it was going for $2. He took the cover from another old laptop and did some Dremel work and suddenly I had a brand new (to me) 1 GHz G4 Powerbook.

It turns out that its biggest problem (besides the lost bottom cover) was that it needed a new battery. I found one for $60 on an Ebay store. Then I upgraded the memory since it only had 512 mb. It now has 1 Gig of Ram and a second new battery since the first one was a dud.

While Kat was here last week I was admiring her laptop. She has a pirate sticker on the cover of hers, which is nice because it’s distinctive and easily recognizable as hers. Not to be outdone, I started applying stickers to my laptop cover. If I had bought a brand new laptop I would have never put stickers all over it. It’s close to sacrilege to defile the pristine beauty of a new Apple product with anything. But since someone Stephen works with had already hauled it from one side of the country to the other, I felt I could decorate with impunity.

Last night I completed the upgrade with an install of OS Leopard so that it could get onto our home network wirelessly. ‘Cause, you know, what’s the point of having a laptop if you can’t sit on your couch and search the internet?

So now I present to you the FrankenMac:

I don’t know how much work I’ll actually do on the laptop but I sure will look cool doing it!

Hello Internet! Did You Miss Me?

Yesterday through a series of events brought on by my sheer stupidity, my keyboard drank some apple juice. The irony of my mac keyboard drinking apple juice isn’t lost on me.

The prospect of cannibalism caused my keyboard to turn up its toes and die.

Yesterday morning I was working with a keyboard that didn’t do spaces or makes Ns or Bs. Have you ever tried to type a sentence without an N? It’s hard, ok. Then last night, Stephen disassembled the keyboard to see if he could dry it out enough to make it work. Since last night I was just using a mouse. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be until I attempted to send an email. Oops!

I just returned from the local mac retailer with a spiffy new keyboard. It’s tiny and flat and likely to increase my carpel tunnel by about 900% but dang, it’s shiny, shiny.

Stephen will be posting on his attempts to resurrect the old keyboard (with photos!) sometime soon, I’m guessing. Meanwhile, I’m off to answer some emails.

“I could smell the ozone in the kitchen.”

Hello, all. It’s probably always a bit alarming when I’m posting instead of Stephen or Misty. I just got off the phone with them, and they were having me help them figure out a recovery plan after a lightning strike hit the house. No fire, everything’s okay, the kids are fine.

The quote in the title? That’s what Misty said to me. As you might expect, I think every breaker in the house tripped. What did go down: most everything cable-related. Looks like the lightning strike took out their TV, TiVo, cable modem, etc. We were strategizing how they’d go forward on getting things fixed; I think they’re gonna borrow one of my TVs for a while, and maybe one of my TiVos. It’s all good. But I just wanted to let everyone know about it in case you were trying to have electronic communication with Stephen or Misty for the next day or two—things aren’t gonna go real smooth.

Speculative Fiction Authors Considered As High School Students

Michael, thanks for coming. I wanted to give you a chance to see a number of our students before they know you are their new principal and have their guard up. You’re in luck: since it’s lunchtime, nearly all of our students are in the cafeteria.

Right through here, please. Sorry about the color scheme. I suspect the orange walls with blue hexagons looked very futuristic in the 1970s. Perhaps next year will be the year the school board decides we can afford new paint.

I suppose it is very loud. Our students certainly like to talk, though I don’t know how many of them truly listen to each other.

Yes, they do tend to divide themselves up like this. Lunchtime is an especially good time to see the cliques as the students congregate into groups.

Of course. I’d be happy to discuss the students’ groupings with you. Let’s start with the fellows in the camouflage. They’re very interested in military science fiction. It’s all guns and dropships and the like with them. The student who’s holding forth very loudly is John Ringo, and that’s David Weber next to him. The quieter fellow holding the Bob Heinlein mask is John Scalzi. He’s one of our newer students. I’m not sure he’s going to stay at that table, to be honest. The MilSF crowd has been asking to stage mock battles during the lunch break, complete with imitation guns and blood packs. You can imagine how that request has gone over given the political climate. They’ll be in your office the first day you’re principal, mark my words.

Besides, if we let them bring imitation guns to school, the multi-book series fantasy students would want peace-bonded swords and rapiers. Just the other day Robert Jordan was telling me that we catered too much to the MilSF students. I reminded him that these days the only history classes we offer are on medieval Europe, but he was not mollified. They’re on the opposite side of the cafeteria from the MilSF students — look for the students wearing cloaks and carrying staves. I see Steven Erikson over there, and the nervous-looking girl standing near their table is Jacqueline Carey. The other high fantasy students aren’t sure what to make of her yet, I don’t think. One of our teachers, Mr. Tolkien, is of the opinion that she is far too interested in sexual matters for a proper high fantasist.

Ah, Mr. Martin. Your teacher says that you’re late on your term paper again, and that your last draft was above the allowed page count. Mmm? Yes, I see that Mr. Erickson is waiting for you at your usual table. Do try to be more prompt on finishing your assignments, George.

Michael, duck! Mr. Egan! Be careful where you clank! I apologize. Greg Egan’s robot body is a little hard to get used to, but either we let him wear it to school or he will simply upload a copy of himself into the school’s computer network. If we let him get away with that, that entire set of tables would be mostly empty, especially with the large number of Singularity students at that table. Kim Stanley Robinson would still show up in person, I expect, as would Robert Charles Wilson. Not planning on spinning up the school again, are you, Mr. Wilson? Once he accidentally encased our school in a bubble for two seconds and we missed most of the 1990s.

Oh, you’re unfamiliar with the Singularity? It’s all the rage among some students. It’s all computronium and s-curves that never turn over and uploading minds into silicon. Young Charlie Stross is the one with the interface glasses and all of that computer equipment, though his friend Ken Macleod runs a close second in terms of number of gadgets. The boy in the red cape and goggles is Cory Doctorow. He’s something of a Singularity student, though he uses more tag clouds than is usual. And Vernor Vinge is next to him. He could be sitting at the seniors’ table, but he stays at this one instead.

That’s the seniors’ table over there. They’re done with their exams. Many, though not all, of them are just marking time until they graduate. Generally they stay quiet, though you’ll have to watch Harlan Ellison. Mr. Ellison! I see you preparing to throw that food. We’ve had enough of that this year, thank you.

The mostly-empty table next to the hard SF students is where the cyberpunk students used to eat lunch in their leather dusters and mirrorshades. We haven’t had many new students join that group since Richard K. Morgan.

Mr. Ryman, I’ve asked you and the other Mundane SF students not to linger by the lockers during lunch. You can sit at a table like the other students. Yes, I know you have leaflets you want to hand out. That doesn’t permit or excuse your behavior.

I have to admit being puzzled by Geoff Ryman and the other Mundane SF students. Rumor has it they own no rocketpants underwear, which is unusual among our students.

Ms. Bujold, Ms. Asaro, good morning. I see you chose the chili. Brave of you both.

Lois McMaster Bujold and Catherine Asaro are among the students who are interested in science fiction that approaches romance novels. Some of the other students give them grief over that interest, though I enjoy seeing students who are interested in non-mainstream subjects. When you are principal, you may want to investigate an exchange program with a more romance-oriented high school.

Mr. Miéville! Mr. VanderMeer! That is enough! If you want to argue about what is and isn’t New Weird, you can do it after school. Thank you. And you as well, Mr. Duncan; all three of you can move along.

Do you have a handkerchief, Michael? I appear to have nicked my hand on China Miéville’s remade body.

Ah, yes, the urban fantasists. They’ve complained about our history classes focusing on the Middle Ages, and I expect them to bring those complaints to you. Neil Gaiman’s recent term paper on American legends was quite good. Across the table from him is Robin Hobb, and next to her is Jim Butcher, though I see Jim is going back to the high fantasy table to talk to the students there.

I saw that, Mr. Ringo! No, it does not matter that the gun fires Nerf bullets. You’ll turn it in to me right this instant. Thank you.

That very large group of students near the middle of the cafeteria are the short fiction students. They look so underfed because they are. This group contains our poorest students. One of our teachers has called them the “government cheese brigade,” though I discourage such language from our staff. Ted Chiang is the best-fed among them. Also at that table are Yoon Ha Lee, and Eugie Foster off to one side, and I see K. Tempest Bradford and Nisi Shawl as well.

My apologies, Mr. Chiang. I did not mean to point this Nerf gun in your direction.

Mmm? Yes, it’s true that the nec-romance students’ clothing skirts near the line of propriety, but they’re careful not to exceed the bounds of our school dress policy. Laurell K. Hamilton is the de facto leader of that group these days, though Kelley Armstrong has her followers among the group.

Sorry about the glare. The space opera students’ sliver jumpsuits and bubble helmets have an unfortunate tendency to reflect the sun into your eyes. Here, I’ve been carrying this extra pair of mirrorshades around for years and not worn them. Perhaps you will get more use out of them. We’ve spoken to students like Alistair Reynolds, Karl Schroeder and Wil McCarthy about their jumpsuits, but they too are within the bounds of our dress code.

That nearly empty table is where our minority students often sit. I remember when Octavia Butler and Samuel R. Delany attended this school and sat at that very table. Of course, Butler has graduated, and Chip Delany transfered to another school. What? Who are our current minority students? I mentioned Butler and Delany, did I not? Well, there is Nalo Hopkinson and Steven Barnes. Really, a lot of our minority students these days sit at the short fiction table.

The other nearly empty table is for exchange students. Ms. Atwood, I see you are eating by yourself again, and that you chose the pizza for lunch.

No, I’ve never seen her speak to any of the other students, either.

Mr. Turtledove, Ms. Novik, I see you two are holding forth on historical matters again. Yes, I’m aware of your complaints regarding our history department. I trust you are aware that your teachers are tired of essays and term papers about historical events that did not happen and that include bibliographies filled with books that are not in our school library?

Some of our students are interested in fiction for younger audiences. You can see them over near the food line. Philip Pullman is on the side next to the wall, and Diane Duane is opposite him. Jane Yolen is the one carrying the tiny stuffed dinosaur dressed in pajamas. It’s dark because of the shadow cast by you-know-who — unavoidable in this case.

The new freshmen tend to stay together when they first arrive, no matter what group they might better fit with. Toby Buckell, Elizabeth Bear, and Jay Lake are among our freshman crowd, as is the aforementioned John Scalzi.

Ah, so you’ve heard about a number of our students transfering to other schools. I hear good things from other school administrators about William Gibson and Neal Stephenson, and of course Jonathan Lethem, one of our most recent students to transfer from here, is making quite the name for himself.

Don’t concern yourself about the students surreptitiously smoking under the bleachers and setting off firecrackers. Those are the infernokrusher students. They’ll either tire of blowing things up really good or take off some fingers, after which they’ll no longer be our problem.

Now, you should not think that these are set in stone. Many of our students wander from group to group as the mood strikes them and the groups will have them. Why, Charles Stross is so peripatetic that he’s lunched with the space opera students, the mundane SF students, and even hosted a lunch with the urban fantasists and the high fantasists.

Thank you again for coming, Michael, and I hope this has been instructive. If you have time before you go, I’d like you to stop by our writing classes. Our writing-in-longhand instructors are among the best in the school system.

[tags]science fiction, fantasy, sff, writing, authors as schoolchildren, longhand instruction[/tags]

Happy International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day

A while back, Howard V. Hendrix sounded off about people posting works for free online, calling people who do so “webscabs” and “Pixel-stained Technopeasant Wretch[es]”. Given that he’s the current VP of the SFWA, the organization for professional writers of science fiction and fantasy, and so many SFWA members have posted works for free online, it caused quite a bit of uproar. In response, Jo Walton, who is up for a Nebula this year, decided to turn this into something good and declared April 23rd to be International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day.

On this day, everyone who wants to should give away professional quality work online. It doesn’t matter if it’s a novel, a story or a poem, it doesn’t matter if it’s already been published or if it hasn’t, the point is it should be disseminated online to celebrate our technopeasanthood.

Whatever you’re posting should go on your own site. I’ll make a post here on the day and people can post links in comments to whatever they’re putting up on. If you are a member of SFWA, or SFWA qualified but not a member (like me) you get extra pixel-spattered points for doing this. If other people want to collect the links too, that would be really cool. Please disseminate this information widely.

I’m taking part, though my contribution is not a novel, story or poem. It’s a tutorial I sold to PC Plus UK last year on how to write a text adventure using the programming language Inform 7.

In the spirit of the day, here are some of my picks for what you might enjoy reading.

  • April 29th, by Nick Mamatas. The aliens have arrived on Earth, and Jeremy is coming to grips with them.
  • Bury the Dead, by Ann Leckie. A family’s Thanksgiving dinner, complete with family secrets.
  • The Famous Ape, by Chris Roberson. Apes and elephants and the tensions between them.
  • Missile Gap, by Charles Stross. Charlie’s alternate-history novella involving the Cold War. Currently on the Locus award shortlist for best novella.
  • Parting Gifts, by Diane Duane. One of the few short works set in her Middle Kingdoms universe.
  • Redemption, Drawing Near, by Michael Jasper. The aliens have landed, and they want a priest.
  • Think of a Pink Ship, by Chris Roberson. Caution: contains adult content. The aliens have landed right next to Clay and Molly.

I’ll update this as the day goes on and as I have time to look through other submissions. If you want to see them all yourself, take a look at Jo Walton’s list or the IPSTP Livejournal community.

UPDATE as promised:

  • Bad Medicine, by Martha Wells. A wielder of magic and something from the world beyond.
  • Domovoi, by M.K. Hobson. The main character is a murder, a rapist, and a real-estate developer.
  • Dragon Offerings, by Janni Lee Simner. Do dragons really like Oreos?
  • Glass: A Love Story, by Jay Lake. Love and loss in an unusual urban fantasy.
  • Immortal Sin, by Jennifer Pelland. A tutorial on how to outrun God.
  • New Hope for the Dead, by David Langford. The approaching singularity can be tough on posthumans as well.
  • The Queen’s Mirror, by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald. I’m a sucker for stories that play off of fairy tales.
  • The Seventh Letter, by Sean Williams. Georges Perec would be pleased.
  • Signs of Life, by Barbara Krasnoff. Drug use and deafness in space.
  • A Terror in Flesh, by Andrew Plotkin. Zombies, plus something else I shan’t say for fear of spoiling the story.
  • Thorns, by Martha Wells. Did I mention that I’m a sucker for stories that play off of fairy tales?
  • Wellsprings of Genius, by Robert Reed. One of the more interesting choices for the day, given its topic of intellectual property.
  • When Jabberwocks Attack, by Kelly Mccullough. What happens to classics majors who need jobs.
  • Words Written in Fire, by Yoon Ha Lee. A very short story about a young firebug.