Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Most Important Note in Music

The most important note in all of music is in Ludwig van Beethoven's 9th symphony, in the fourth movement - the Ode to Joy.

You've all heard this melody.  In case you need a refresher, it runs from 7:21 to 7:50 in this clip:




And from 0:24 to 0:52.  And 1:08 to 1:37.  And 1:52 to 2:22.  And 2:37 to 3:03...

(This isn't even the entirety of the fourth movement, let alone the whole symphony.  The fourth movement alone is usually about 25 minutes long.  And it's glorious.)

The melody's divided up into four phrases, and they're mostly plodding sequences of quarter notes:

One two three four / One two three four / One two three four / One.... and-three.
One two three four / One two three four / One two three four / One.... and-three.
One two three four / One two-and three four / One two-and three four / One two three.
One two three four / One two three four / One two three four / One... and-three.

Except... that's not it.  That's what you expect it to be, if you've absorbed the piece by osmosis but never really sat down to listen to it.  But it's not.

Take another listen.  Listen carefully to the end of that third phrase - the line that ends with just "One two three" -  and the beginning of the fourth.  Right at 7:43:




The initial "one" in the fourth line isn't there, is it?  It's back in the previous line.

Let me lay it out:

One two three four / One two three four / One two three four / One.... and-three.
One two three four / One two three four / One two three four / One.... and-three.
One two three four / One two-and three four / One two-and three four / One two three FOUR.
... Two three four / One two three four / One two three four / One... and-three.

That note - what should be the first note of the fourth line, to bookend the stanza - comes in early.  A full beat early.  It ends up back in the previous line.

It's too eager.

It can't wait.

It refuses to wait.

That is the most important note in all of music.

It's an ode to joy, people.  Who wants to wait for joy?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Hugo Ballot 2014

This year, for the first time, I voted in the Hugo awards.  The voting deadline was last Thursday.

Anyone with ~$40 to spare can do this.  (Or, at least, anyone this year could.  I assume the practice is standard.)  For that $40, you get the right to vote on the winners in all categories, and you get e-book copies of most of the finalists.

It's a preference vote.  In each category, you rank the finalists.  Anything that's left off your ballot is implicitly ranked below anything on your ballot.

I made heavy use of the No Award option.  I don't feel good about that.  The No Award option is for when a voter feels a work doesn't even belong on the ballot.  I'm keenly aware of how easy it is to rag on the hard work of talented people who only set out to create something wonderful.  But there were a lot of works on this ballot that most emphatically didn't work for me, and so what support they get, they'll have to get from other voters.

The finalists can be found here.  I didn't vote in every category - only those where I was able to see/read all the works in question before the deadline.

So, here's how I voted.

My Ballot

Best Novella

  1. The Butcher of Khardov by Dan Wells (Privateer Press)
  2. "The Chaplain's Legacy" by Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jul-Aug 2013)
  3. no award
Left off the ballot:
  • "Equoid" by Charles Stross (Tor.com, 09-2013)
  • "Wakulla Springs" by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages (Tor.com, 10-2013)
  • Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente (Subterranean Press)

Best Novelette

  1. "The Waiting Stars" by Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky, Candlemark & Gleam)
  2. "The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling" by Ted Chiang (Subterranean, Fall 2013)
  3. "The Exchange Officers" by Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jan-Feb 2013)
  4. no award
Left off the ballot:
  • "The Lady Astronaut of Mars" by Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com / Tor.com, 09-2013)
  • "Opera Vita Aeterna" by Vox Day (The Last Witchking, Marcher Lord Hinterlands)

Best Short Story

  1. "The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere" by John Chu (Tor.com, 02-2013)
  2. "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love" by Rachel Swirsky (Apex Magazine, Mar-2013)
  3. "Selkie Stories Are for Losers" by Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons, Jan-2013)
  4. "The Ink Readers of Doi Saket" by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Tor.com, 04-2013)

Best Graphic Story

  1. Saga, Volume 2 written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
  2. Girl Genius, Volume 13: Agatha Heterodyne & The Sleeping City written by Phil and Kaja Foglio; art by Phil Foglio; colors by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)
  3. "Time" by Randall Munroe (XKCD)
  4. "The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who" written by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Jimmy Broxton (Doctor Who Special 2013, IDW)
  5. no award
Left off the ballot:
  • The Meathouse Man adapted from the story by George R.R. Martin and illustrated by Raya Golden (Jet City Comics)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

  1. Frozen screenplay by Jennifer Lee, directed by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee (Walt Disney Studios)
  2. Pacific Rim screenplay by Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro, directed by Guillermo del Toro (Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros., Disney Double Dare You)
  3. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire screenplay by Simon Beaufoy & Michael Arndt, directed by Francis Lawrence (Color Force; Lionsgate)
  4. Iron Man 3 screenplay by Drew Pearce & Shane Black, directed by Shane Black (Marvel Studios; DMG Entertainment; Paramount Pictures)
  5. Gravity written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Esperanto Filmoj; Heyday Films; Warner Bros.)

Best Professional Artist

  1. Julie Dillon
  2. Fiona Staples
  3. John Harris
  4. Daniel Dos Santos
  5. John Picacio
  6. Galen Dara

Best Fan Artist

  1. Sarah Webb
  2. Brad W. Foster
  3. Steve Stiles
Left off the ballot:
  • Mandie Manzano
  • Spring Schoenhuth

My Thinking

Best Novella

Honestly, The Butcher of Khardov and "The Chaplain's Legacy" were the only stories in this category I enjoyed.

"The Chaplain's Legacy" at least pretended to be about big themes, but didn't do anything revolutionary with them.  The characters aren't terribly deep, the situation not terribly complex.  But it's made out of things I enjoy - military sci fi tropes, tales of cultural exchange, wars between alien empires, etc..  I'm also a sucker for anything that calls back to Kirk, Spock, and McCoy philosophizing in the middle of a Situation.  (It's one of the many things I've really enjoyed about R. M. Meluch's Tour of the Merrimack series.)  The story was interesting and readable.

The Butcher of Khardov is a well-written character bio for its title character, one of the major characters in the Warmachine tabletop wargame.  It puts us in the head of a great warrior who doesn't yet know what he is, a monster who isn't yet a monster, and it walks us, step by step, through his transformation.  Along the way, we meet scoundrels, criminals, barbarians, antiquated steam-powered automata, and the young queen of crypto-Russia.  The characters are all sketched quickly, yet they all seem to have their own inner lives.  They're all interesting.

It's not a perfect story; its plot is built around a fridging, and - worst of all - we never actually find out what or where "Khardov" is, even though we do witness the titular Butchery.  But it's a great ripping read.

I didn't get far into "Equoid".  It's the second Charles Stross story I've attempted (the first being his novel Saturn's Children), and if these two works are any indication, he's not an author for me.  "Equoid" is about a troubleshooter for a shadowy organization.  It's narrated in first person, and the narrator's voice is utterly maddening.  It wants to be witty and snarky and sarcastic and for me it utterly failed.

"Wakulla Springs" is a tragic case.  There are some neat things going on in it - at times, it's a story about how a big movie production affects the routines of a tiny town.  Occasionally, it's about uncomfortable confrontations with racists.  In those respects, it's a great read.  But I'm very hit-or-miss on stories that are just vignettes of different points in characters' lives, without a plot per se.  The story is also not science fiction or fantasy; there's a hint of maybe-maybe-SFF kinda-sorta shoehorned in near the end, but it genuinely feels like it was sprinkled on just to make it eligible for an SFF market.

Worst of all: the story depicts Johnny Weissmuller as a statutory rapist, a claim for which I could find no precedent in real-world sources.  Johnny Weissmuller was a real person, whose eldest daughter is still alive today.  To invent such a stain on his name for the sake of this story is utterly tasteless.  I might feel differently if it were Errol Flynn, or anyone else from Golden Age Hollywood whom we know to have been a bit of a monster.  But I could find barely a negative word online about Weissmuller; his depiction here left an awful taste in my mouth.

There's a really awesome story buried deep under Six-Gun Snow White.  There's some neat world-building, and even some neat storytelling.  But it's a maddening read.  The story is festooned with enough Folksy to make Stephen King blush; the Folksy is 10% awesome and 90% padding.  I found myself grateful whenever there was a chapter break, because each chapter break was followed by a blank page.  At one point I stopped to annotate my PDF copy, and I just stared at the page indicator and thought There's sixty more pages of this?  Valente's another author whose work I've tried and bounced off of before; I'd attempted Palimpsest, and dropped off before the quarter mark.

Best Novelette

"The Waiting Stars" is great.  It's about a heist in a spaceship graveyard in the middle of enemy territory, and about an alien indoctrination system that remind me of the Canadian residential schools.  It's tense and exciting, with Big Ideas and tropes I enjoy, and characters who drew me all the way in within its short run time.  I wish there was more of it.  I will definitely be seeking out more of Aliette de Bodard's work.  My only criticism of this story is that whereas most of the angst in it is necessary, is well integrated into the work, and is generally well executed, there's one point where it's none of those things, and it mars an otherwise fantastic work.

"The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling" is another great read.  It's about language and information; its two main threads follow the introduction of writing to the Tiv people of West Africa, and the introduction of perfect-recall technology to a future society.  It chronicles how these parallel technologies affect the lives of its two protagonists.  I'm a sucker for stories about language and about information, and for me this story tickled all the right nerves.

"The Exchange Officers" isn't as good as "The Chaplain's Legacy", the other Torgersen story on the ballot, but it's still a good read.  There are political and historical assumptions in it that make me roll my eyes, and I have quibbles with the logistics of his Big Technological Idea.  But it's a great, a clever little military SF yarn, and I enjoyed it.

Almost no part of "The Lady Astronaut of Mars" worked for me.  The worldbuilding was full of logical holes, and the premise was tragic and depressing and - worst - wasn't fleshed out into a plot.  It was just a nearly-static portrait of a cruel Would You Rather scenario that went on for 31 pages.  Like Stross, Kowal is an author whose work I've attempted on other occasions, and not had work for me.  I would like to read a different story about the two main characters of "The Lady Astronaut of Mars", but probably not one by Kowal.

I started "Opera Vita Aeterna", but didn't get far.  It was interesting, but nothing special.  And I spent every moment I was reading it thinking "I can get this from a hundred other writers who aren't horrible people."  I gather it's about the religious implications of elves?  If that theme's of interest to you, I recommend Judith Tarr's The Hound and the Falcon trilogy.

Best Short Story

This was a damn frustrating category for me.  Every work in this category was at least good, even excellent, and if I'd encountered any of them "in the wild", I'd likely have fallen madly in love with them.  Reading them all together, though, was downright depressing.  They're all Sad And Poignant And Quietly Delightful.

"The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere" is wonderful, and the only story I'm impressed by, rather than being impressed-but-annoyed.  Its premise is simple: in a world where, for no reason, cold water falls on your head whenever you lie, a gay man tries to come out to his parents during a Christmas gathering.  This story had me grinning from end to end.

"If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love" is... sad and poignant and quietly delightful.  It's a flight of fancy that's fun and creative and whimsical, and angsty in a way that's necessary to the story, but not necessary to my reading experience.

"Selkie Stories Are for Losers" knows what it's about.  It's a series of selkie stories, told in fairy-tale form, stitched together by what's clearly a modern-day selkie story.  Selkie stories are inherently sad, and I enjoyed the rage at them that permeates the narrator's POV.

"The Ink Readers of Doi Saket" wants to be cute and clever, and it mostly succeeds at that.  It's another one that's only barely SFF - you could tell nearly the same story without the one tiny SFF element.  But it's at least about being SFF - it's about a village whose people collect wishes, and implement as many of them as possible.  I really enjoy sketches of small towns full of colourful characters (love James Herriot), and while this one almost tips over into cartoony in that regard, it's still a lot of fun.

Best Graphic Story

Oh but this was a hard one.  I went back and forth many times on Girl Genius or Saga for first place, and "Time" and "The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who" for third.

Saga is a fantastic ongoing comic series, a space opera full of humour, danger, sex, and wonder.  It's about a pair of star-crossed lovers from opposite sides of an interstellar war, fleeing across the galaxy from those on both sides who want to capture or kill them and their newborn daughter.  There is no element of this series that's not creative, not clever, not some kind of wonder.  For the last year or so, any time anyone's expressed an interest in comic book recommendations, Saga has been the first name on my lips.

Saga, Volume 2 doesn't stick out in my memory from the rest of the run; I had to go back and re-read the issues just to see which bits of plot are covered by this volume.  As a reading recommendation, I'd suggest starting with volume 1; as a Hugo finalist, it has my vote.

Girl Genius, Volume 13: Agatha Heterodyne & The Sleeping City is a delight from end to end.  I'd fallen off Girl Genius a few volumes back; this work has me wondering if I should go back and check out what I've missed.  Girl Genius is the story of Agatha Heterodyne, a heroic mad genius in a world of mad geniuses.  This volume has her defending her city from an invading army, then having to fight a counter-coup action from within.  At every step, problems are solved with an exhilarating blend of clever invention and cartoon violence, of which I heartily approve.

"Time" is a brilliant experiment masterfully executed.  It's theoretically one "panel" of the webcomic XKCD.  What it actually is is a very slow animation - a new frame every half hour (later every hour), for 3101 frames.  You can watch the whole thing at your own pace here, or at a fairly rapid pace here (along with explanation and a full transcript).  The actual story is about a village having to deal with rising sea levels, some time in a low-tech far future, and it's told with a lot of long silence and vast space.  Confession: I've never finished the whole thing, but I'm always glad to be reminded it exists, and to read a few hundred frames in a sitting.

I don't have much to say about "The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who"; it's a fun, clever Doctor Who story.

The Meathouse Man has a really clever sci fi premise, about human bodies with flatlined brains, used as remote-control puppets for tasks that are hazardous or distasteful.  Unfortunately, this premise is saddled to a meandering and unpleasant story about an uninteresting protagonist and his barely-adolescent relationship women (in general and in particular), and art that didn't work at all for me.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

This was another hard one.  I loved so many of the works in this category, and didn't dislike any of them; I rearranged my ballot half a dozen times.

At this point, in August 2014, what's left to say about Frozen?  It's the highest-grossing animated film in history, and has spawned a showtune that's been ubiquitous ever since.  It's a clever story that subverts and critiques all of the fairy tale tropes on which Disney has built its canon, and features an obnoxious comedic sidekick who ought to be Jar Jar reborn, but is somehow utterly delightful.

I adored Pacific Rim.  It knows exactly how stupid its premise is, and doesn't for a moment try to justify it to us - it just runs with it.  It's smart where it can be, and audacious where it can't.  Would you like giant robots fighting giant monsters, and brief-but-memorable characters with subtle, complex relationships, colourfully portrayed by talented actors?  Here, have Pacific Rim.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Iron Man 3 are both sequels that are better than their predecessors.

Iron Man 3 continues the growth of the series's characters, and never for a moment forgets what's come before.  We get to see Tony Stark dealing with PTSD without ever ceasing to be an impressive and admirable hero.  We get to see Pepper Potts step up.  We get to see a depiction of the Mandarin that neatly and brilliantly sidesteps the character's roots as a racist caricature.  After the awkward mess that was Iron Man 2, this film brings the series back on track.

I don't have as much to say about The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, for all my enjoyment.

Gravity is good, very good; it definitely belongs on this ballot.  I didn't have the same exuberant response to it that a lot of people did, but it's a clever, thoughtful thriller about a realistic calamity in space.  The only place where it falls down for me is the science (one of the two foundations on which this film builds its house - the other being Sandra Bullock's performance) doesn't quite hold up in a lot of places.

Best Professional Artist and Best Fan Artist

I don't really have the tools to critique the works in this category the way I can with the others.  I liked all the works I saw.  The only reason two artists got left off the ballot for Best Fan Artist is their work wasn't included in the voters' packet, and I couldn't find any galleries online that showcased their work with clear timestamps (which is necessary, to determine which works are eligible).

Friday, May 9, 2014

DC's Past and Future

[There's a minor correction, noted at the bottom.]

The first Saturday in May is traditionally Free Comic Book Day.  Comics publishers produce special issues of their series for stores to give away for free.  The idea is to get comics into the hands of people who wouldn't normally pick up a comic book.  Free Comic Book Day has become something of an Event - a lot of comics creators will make appearances at their local comic shops, and a lot of people show up in cosplay.

This year, DC Comics has chosen "Future's End" #0 as one of their FCBD offerings.  "Future's End" #0 is the kickoff of their big crossover event for this year.

Dayna Abel, host of the Made of Fail podcast, is deeply, justifiably, gloriously Unimpressed with DC about Future's End, and its selection as DC's FCBD offering.

Go read her editorial.  It's awesome.  It's built entirely of savage truths that need trumpeting in DC's ear.

My two cents: this fiasco is emblematic of DC's strange and fascinating role in comics history.

DC has long been known as the company of idealism, of optimism.  Its stars are traditionally paragons of heroism and morality.  DC is naturally contrasted with its biggest competitor, Marvel.

For most of its history, DC, as a whole, has been emblemized by Superman.  Superman, with his reputation as the Big Blue Boy Scout, as an uncomplicated paragon.  Marvel, by contrast, is traditionally emblemized by Spider-Man.  Superman is a successful adult with a steady job, and a mostly-uncomplicated civilian life.  Spider-Man is a teenager from a poor family who grew up in a bad neighbourhood, who's riddled with angst, and who struggles as much with his civilian life as he does with costumed supervillains.  Spider-Man sometimes struggles to do the right thing, to know what the right thing was; Superman rarely does. (These are all gross oversimplifications of course, but I believe they illustrate the contrast between the two companies fairly.)

In the 1970s, we started to see the first hints of change at DC.  DC started experimenting with "grittier" lines of comics.  Not the sort of masturbatory GRIMDARK we see now, but they did start to bring their heroes down from the heavens to deal with more street-level problems.  Probably most famously, there was a run of "Green Lantern", where the Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) was paired Green Arrow.  That series focused heavily on social justice issues.  That was the sort of storytelling that would be an obvious fit for Marvel, but which was something of an innovation for DC.

Then, in the 1980s, Everything Changed.

In rapid succession, the comics scene was hit with "The Dark Knight Returns" (1985), "Crisis on Infinite Earths" ('85-'86), and "Watchmen" ('86-'87).  All three were published by DC.

"Watchmen" was a thoughtful deconstruction of standard superhero tropes - a cynical meditation that laughed fairly directly at the idea of superheroics.  "The Dark Knight Returns" was a raw, vicious, dark interpretation of Batman, at a time when Batman was still labouring under the shadow of Adam West.  "Crisis on Infinite Earths" was a giant status-quo-shaking marketing-friendly event.

The comics industry took two lessons from these three titles: "dark and violent sells better than bright and heroic", and "huge crossover events sell better than anything".  And so everybody lost their damn minds.

Over the course of the next decade we had the death of Robin (DC '88-'89); the release of Tim Burton's two Batman movies (DC '89 and '92), the introduction of Cable (Marvel '90), a mutant whose primary power seems to have been "lots of guns"; the death of Superman (DC '92), the villain Venom getting his own series (Marvel '93), Batman being paralyzed and then replaced by a violent psychopath (DC '93), Spawn and the rise of Image Comics (Image '93), and the premiere of Warren Ellis's "superheroes who kill" super-team series "The Authority" (DC '99).  We had crossover event after crossover event after crossover event after crossover event - crossovers that disrupted individual series' storylines, and dragged them into whatever morass their publisher had dreamed up that they could advertise with a cover banner this year, culminating in DC's "Flashpoint" ('11), which led to the reboot of DC's entire line, under the marketing banner "The New 52".

The whole period of violent insanity since the mid '80s became known as the Dark Age, which is arguably ongoing even now.  DC started it, and DC has clung desperately to it.

At the same time, DC was at the forefront of the Reconstruction movement.  The Reconstruction movement was and is an ethos of comics creation that says "Great, we've taken these heroes apart to see how they work.  Now let's remember what we liked about superheroes in the first place, and then build them back up, using what we've learned to make them better."  Famous works of this wave include "Kingdom Come" (DC '96), which very directly addresses the state that our superhero mythoi had reached, and "DC: The New Frontier" (DC '06), which gleefully and boldly ignores Dark Age tropes, and celebrates the Golden Age ethos of idealism.  Other notable Reconstruction comics that come to mind are "Astro City" (Image '95-'98) and "Tom Strong" (ABC '99).

(This whole arc is interestingly played out across the history of the classic DCAU, but that's another essay.)

So DC's been instrumental in both the darkening and the reaction to it.

It's starting to look like the Reconstruction movement is losing badly, at least at DC.  There's still a puerile obsession with GRIMDARK, and a lack of confidence in the ability of laudable, admirable heroes to drive stories and sell comics.

Which brings us to "Future's End", DC's ultra-violent grimdark mega-crossover for this year.  DC has chosen to offer "Future's End" #0 as a Free Comic Book Day giveaway.  This is the choice they've made to draw new readers in.

DC clearly believes that clinging to the Dark Age is the way forward for them.

[Edit: I initially had Dayna Abel listed as "founder of the Made of Fail network".  Ms. Abel herself tells me that Kevin O'Shea was the founder.]

Monday, April 7, 2014

Stars in a Young Universe

Episode 4 of the new “Cosmos” was titled “A Sky Full of Ghosts”.

In it, Neil deGrasse Tyson showed a map of the galaxy, then showed a small circle around our solar system and said (more or less) “If the universe were only 6,000 years old, this is the farthest we'd be able to see.”  The light from farther bodies wouldn't have reached us yet.  

And I thought But how cool would that be?  If the world were only 6,000 years old?  To be constantly spotting new stars? Stars we've never gotten to see before?

Because, in such a universe, the light from more and more distant stars would reach us each year.  We would see new stars all the time.

Someone pointed out to me that our nearest neighbour is something like four light-years away. So really, you'd be getting only a handful of new stars over the course of your lifetime.

So I threw some math at it.

Some Assumptions

Assume that the universe snapped into existence, as it is now, in 4004 BC.  This is the figure provided by the Ussher chronology, and is a figure I usually see cited by young-earth Creationists.  This universe contains an Earth, and this Earth contains humans who are cognizant of the night sky.

Assume that the Milky Way galaxy is a sphere (which it isn't) and that stars are uniformly distributed (which they aren't). These are purely to make the math simpler.  Assume also that our solar system within the galaxy is at least 6,018 light-years from its edge (so that the horizon of visibility doesn’t reach the galaxy’s edge before the present day).

Assume the Milky Way galaxy has a volume of about 39 trillion cubic light-years.

Assume the Milky Way galaxy has about 400 billion stars.

That gives us one star for every 97.5 cubic light-years.

The History of the World

From this math, a narrative starts to emerge.

For the first three years, we expect to see no stars. The only lights in the sky are the Sun, the Moon, and the five planets that are visible to the naked eye.

Then, somewhere between year 3 and 4, a new light appears! Another night-time pinprick light, like the few we already see!  What does this mean?  Has the Sun had new children?  Are new gods being born?  Is Creation ongoing?

Somewhere between year 4 and 5, three more stars appear. Because guess what? The process accelerates.

The distance to our visible horizon increases linearly with time, but the visible volume increases with the cube of time.

By the end of year 7, we can see 13 stars, along with the Sun, Moon, and classical planets. By the end of year 10, we can see 42.

In year 100 - not by year 100 but in year 100 - we get 1,276 new stars.

That's 3.5 new stars a day.

In year 1,000 we get 128,757 new stars.

Creation is Complete

Now, though the process accelerates, there's a point where it rather suddenly peters out.  The visible horizon reaches the point where the “new” stars are too distant to see with the naked eye.  I’m talking individual stars; brighter objects, like galaxies, are visible much farther away.

I’ve found different answers as to how far away that would be.  This forum post provides a broken link, and a claim that it indicates about 4,075 light-years.  This site claims 16,300 light-years.

I’m going to pick a nice round 4,000.  4,000 years is the upper bound on this accelerating increase in visible stars.  After about the year 4,000, we mostly stop seeing new stars with the naked eye.

But in the year 4,000... we get 2 million new stars.

That’s 3.9 new stars becoming visible each second.  3.9 new stars every second, and then nothing more.

I want to world-build with this.  I mentioned it to some friends, and several said they want to poach it for their own writing.  (They’re welcome to it; I can’t be the first person to have thought of this.)

Having a long period where new stars are appearing - faster and faster - would be awesome for delimiting the Ancient Days - you know, that period where The Rules Were Different, and The Gods Routinely Meddled On Earth.

I don’t believe any of this is true, of course.  We have detailed astronomical records going back millennia, and we have all sorts of evidence that the universe is, y’know, not just 6,000 years old.  And I’ve made all kinds of simplifying assumptions that kind of sink it (the “uniform distribution” assumption in particular).

But.  This is neat.  I want to worldbuild with it.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Haiku Reviews: Muppets * 2, Grizzly Park, Ancillary Justice, Gigli


“Muppets Most Wanted” (2014 film) in haiku:
Fucked up and funny.
A lesser film than the last.
I hope there are more.

“The Muppets” (2011 film) in haiku:
Wonderful fix-fic
And love letter to fandom.
The Muppets are back!

“Grizzly Park” (2008 film) in haiku:

The right person lives;
The rest are et by a bear.
Hope you like boob jokes.

“Ancillary Justice” (novel by Ann Leckie) in haiku:

Vast collective selves,
Space empire with no genders;
Slow burn, but big fire.

“Gigli” (2003 film) in haiku:

J-Lo and Affleck
And child-like hostage makes three.
Terrible sitcom.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Movies in Haiku: Robocop, 300, Lego, Hyenas, Nazis!

"Robocop" (2014) in haiku:


Less fun than before;
Surprising thoughtful sci fi.
So close to Bechdel.


"300: Rise of an Empire" (2014) in haiku:


Eva Green is win,
But few bright lights in the cast.
Go rent the first one.


“The Lego Movie” (2014) in haiku:


Fandom and whimsy,
Then sudden punch to the feels.
Now I want Lego.


"Hyenas" (2010) in haiku:


Ludicrously fun,
Like bad Anita Blake fic.
No budget in sight.


“Nazis at the Center of the Earth” (2012) in haiku:


Jake Busey in snow,
Transforming Mecha-Hitler -
What more do you need?


Monday, February 11, 2013

Better to Light a Candle - Orson Scott Card and DC Entertainment


Arright.  So.  DC hired Orson Scott Card to write "Adventures of Superman", a weekly digital series.

Mr. Card sits on the board of the National Organization for Marriage, an advocacy group that seeks to prevent marriage equality from ever becoming a reality in the United States.  He also has a history of writing homophobic screeds of various flavours.

Inspired by John Scalzi's recent initiative, I've made a decision:

For every issue of this series that comes out, I'm sticking $5 in a pot.  Every few weeks (or when the series ends), I'm going to empty the pot out, and donate half to Human Rights Campaign, and half to the Lambda Foundation.

Human Rights Campaign donation page

Lambda Foundation donation page

Now, Scalzi has the attention of the slug he's trying to counteract, so there's at least a nominal chance that this measure will actually curtail said slug's behaviour.  That's not the case here - Card has no idea who I am.

This does, however, channel my rage in a constructive direction.

Who's with me?