Sunday, November 19, 2006

We've Moved Elsewhere

We've MOVED!

Please reset your bookmarks.

If you want to comment on existing posts,
they've been moved as well.
Please comment at the new site.

(We needed a few more features.
Thanks to Blogger Beta for getting us started.)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Why Aren't You Watching More TV?


We’re in a new golden age of television. I’m not kidding. So stop your sniggering, you over there.

Why am I making such a bold statement? ‘Cause it’s true.

Right now on almost every night of the week there is at least one outstanding program that you should be watching. Since I’m going to be going on a bit, I should give my background on my love of the idiot box.

You see, nobody knew I was fantastically nearsighted until I was eight. My mother used to say things when we were driving like, “Oooo, look at the cow in the field.” And my answer would be, “What cow?” With brilliant insight, instead of wondering if I could see the cow, she thought I was a moron. (This was a remarkable assumption on her part in light of the fact that I started reading when I was three.)

I am going somewhere with this . . . oh yeah, aside from books, the only thing I could see that wasn’t a blurry, blobby mass was the screen of our 12” portable black and white television.

Books and TV became my buddies. Both allowed me to escape from a world I couldn’t see clearly. And that leads me back to why you should be watching more TV.

Not to numb yourself out, but to see where some of the best writing is going on in the mainstream media. It ain’t in movies -- that’s for damn sure.

So let me give you my day-by-day program guide and you can decide for yourself:


Prison Break: Warren hates it. I love it. It’s nearing shark jumping territory in this, its sophomore, season, but I think the writers may be able to pull it off the water ski before it’s too late. If you haven’t been watching, rent the first season. It’s an over-the-top-willing-to-kill-primary-characters-and-doesn’t play-annoying-narrative-mind-games-like-Lost joyride.

How I Met Your Mother: Warren and I love it, so does Brad. (I think Brad has a thing for Alyson Hannigan which would explain his whimpering whenever she comes onscreen.) A must watch for Neil Patrick-Okay-Fine-I’m-Gay-Whatever-Harris alone. His horn-dog, skirt-chasing lawyer, Barney, is possibly the best thing on the show. And you can often see actors from Joss Whedon’s shows doing cameos.

Heroes: Holy Frijoles, Batman! It’s Wild Cards! Okay, not so much, but this sci-fi/comic book crossover has plenty going for it. You can go on-line and read graphic novels that cover parts of the story not present on the show. Masi Oka plays Hiro, a hero with the ability to bend time and space. He may very well be the most appealing actor to come on the small screen in a long time. Also, it has Adrian Pasdar, who was also on one of the weirdest short-lived TV shows ever, Profit.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: Oh dear, part of me feels guilty about recommending this, but Aaron Sorkin is writing it and had it not been for West Wing I doubt I would have made it through chunks of the last six years. Self-indulgent-smitten-with-its-own-cuteness-predicated-on-a-slightly-dated-premise, it is, nonetheless, well-written and has moments of wonderfulness.


Friday Night Lights: Yes, it’s about football in a small town in Texas. Yes, I know, you probably lived though something like it. And heaven knows the jumping hand-held camera action is enough to make me queasy, but it’s about so much more. This is not a valentine to football. It’s a valentine to growing up -- both hard and fast as well as hard and slow.

House: Perhaps I’m a sucker for procedurals. Or maybe it’s just that Hugh Laurie is so -- woof! -- sorry, I mean, exceptionally talented. The show is in its third season and starting to show signs of fatigue, but Laurie is always a joy to watch. If you’ve ever seen him in any of The Black Adder or Bertie and Wooster series, you will be stunned at his range as an actor.


Bones: Another procedural with a bit of a spin. Instead of being a criminologist, the main character is a forensic anthropologist working at a barely disguised Smithsonian Institute. She and her co-workers are smart. Really smart. And they are assisted by a stalwart FBI agent, played by David Boreanaz. Why do I like this? First, smart, really smart, people are the heroes of this show. How often do you see that on TV? It’s Real Genius with ookiness and corpses. Also, the chemistry between Boreanaz and his co-star, Emily Deschanel, is utterly charming. Charm goes a long way in my book.

Lost: Though I’m still watching this like one might pick at a scab, it really has jumped the shark for me. The only good thing I’ll say for it is that I suspect Heroes might not have gotten a green-light had Lost not done so well for ABC. I don’t think the writers have a single clue where the story is going and I hate the post-modern snottiness of it.


Survivor: You, in the back, stop the cat-calls. The granddaddy of reality shows, it is still the best. I will not apologize for watching and enjoying it. The game itself is exceptionally well-designed and the challenges within the game are also outstanding. As for the stunt this year of dividing the groups into ethnicities, well, let’s just say it was less and more than it appeared. A lot of reality programming is crap. Survivor is not.

C.S.I.: Mmmmmm, William Peterson. Mmmmmmmmm. Mmmmmmm. What? Oh yeah. C.S.I. -- the Big Dog of procedural shows. Perhaps it hit its finest hour when it did an episode about a murder at a “Plushy” convention. Yiffing is now in my vocabulary because of it. How many other TV shows could do that kind of episode and not have every religious group in the country boycotting it? And then there’s William Peterson. Mmmmmmmm. William Peterson.

Supernatural: Yeah, it could be better. But as I am a complete whore for “alternative” programming, I gotta give this show some love. It’s Buffy with boys. Sorta. I think the show could be more ambitious, but it has had some moments of real scariness.

Scrubs: Oh please, don’t tell me you haven’t been watching Scrubs. No, I don’t even want to hear it. You just broke the Chocolate Bear’s heart.

30 Rock: Tina Fey’s show, except Alec Baldwin just ripped it out of her well-manicured hands. Happily, 30 Rock has gotten better since its pilot episode. But the real greatness of this show is Baldwin’s hysterically funny network executive. Vain, misogynistic, shallow, clueless, and oddly appealing, Baldwin is so wonderful it’s a revelation.


Or, as I like to think of it, The Best Night of TV.

If any of you remember the debut of the Sci-Fi channel, you will see just how wacky the following statement sounds:

The Sci-Fi channel’s Friday night lineup is the best TV around right now. And it has achieved that with the following programming: Heroes, Doctor Who, and Battlestar Galactica.
Take a moment to recover from the cognitive dissonance.

The Sci-fi channel re-broadcasts NBC’s Monday night Heroes episode on Friday. And then it follows it with:

Doctor Who: It’s new. It has an effects budget. And it has good writers. In fact, one of last season’s episodes was nominated for a Hugo. It lost out to Serenity, and it shouldn’t have. This is another show I would suggest starting by watching the first season on rental. The second episode of the first season is dark, haunting, funny, and wonderful.

And . . .

Battlestar Galactica: I’m getting tired of trying to convince people that Battlestar Galactica is fantastic. You watched Buffy. You watched Angel. You watched X-files. Stop being so snooty.

Battlestar Galactic is hunting big game. This is not a fluffy show. This is a show about real stuff: politics, terrorism, religion, faith, betrayal, humanity, madness and love. There are no easy answers in the BG universe. The people here do wonderful and terrible things -- sometimes all at once.

And, once again, I highly recommend watching from the beginning. Start with the mini-series, then work your way through the first two seasons.

You can thank me later.


It’s the black hole of programming. Which works at the Spector house because we have all this stuff TiVoed and usually haven’t worked our way through it.


Sunday is a big floating smorgasbord of programming. This is the night that the cable channels like to trot out their original series such as: The Sopranos, Entourage, Rome, Dexter, and Deadwood. (Yes, I know Deadwood is no longer on, sniff).

And I didn’t mention The 4400 which has its moments. Or The Daily Show, The Simpsons, and South Park.

What I do find interesting about my listing is the dominance of “alternate” programming. Sci-fi used to be outrĂ© and only the provence of geeks and nerds. But we’re mainstream now, baby.

Now I’ve got to go worship at the altar of my great God, TiVo. He may not be Zeus, but when I ask him for something -- record every movie with Norma Shearer in it -- he provides.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Remedial Zombification, 101

In honor of our zombie-themed blog, for your amusement, I offer this entertaining little undead nugget.

Separate link here.

(I wonder if buzzards would go after zombies...? Seems like they should.)

Guest Post: Laura J. Mixon on Jack Williamson's Memorial Service

Steve and I went to Jack Williamson's memorial in Portales yesterday. There are supposed to be two Locus issues coming that will be devoted to remembrances of him, and there have been tributes in the NY Times, LA Times, the Chicago Tribune, and elsewhere. Letters have flooded in from all over the world. In addition to his influence and vision, which molded the field of SF, he was just an amazingly kind, decent, modest, and loving man. He touched so many lives, including mine.

I've always thought it was so cool that he was a native New Mexican, too (Well, he moved here when he was eight or so, but given that he's still got almost twice as many years here as I do, I figure he more than qualifies...) In the booklet prepared for his memorial, they printed some words of his, including what it felt like to grow up in a small New Mexican town. I could see my own childhood in his words, and in the slide show they gave, of him and his family and friends, who stood on front porches a lot like my own.

He grew up in Portales. I spent the first couple years of my life only a stone's throw away in Roswell, and the rest in Albuquerque, a few hours to the west. Like me, he ran barefoot in summer among honeysuckle blossoms, goatheads, ants, and desert brush. At night, he too watched the meteors (and in more recent years, the satellites) track across the huge starry sky. Like me, he could always look across the hilly desert plains at the mountains on the horizon, with their thunderstorms and their verga, or he could lie back in the grass and stare up into that startling indigo-blue sky. Like me, he lived near space and military research centers and ancient Indian villages, with green chili stew and Hispanic music and churches -- amid teachers and shop owners and artists and ranchers and other people eeking out a living in a poor state.

Our childhoods were separated in time, but not so very far in space, and he fell in love with the vast array of possibilities that science and technology promised, too. Not a blind love -- he was concerned about its abuses -- but he also saw its potential.

About ten years ago, a group of us NM (and formerly of NM) writers and SF folks started a little mailing list, and Jack joined, too. I always treasured his posts. He was a regular guest at our local SF convention, Bubonicon (which btw is a really lovely, literary-oriented con; y'all should come). Once or twice, we had the opportunity to talk about SF stories we loved. I remember once we talked about Roger Zelazny's Nine Princes in Amber. Another time, we shared our experiences of how much therapy had benefited us. We discussed evolution and meteors.

We did not have opportunities to connect often, but whenever we did, he was present with his whole self -- his rational mind, his loving heart. I was only one of many people whose lives he touched. I doubt if he even knew how much our occasional conversations and contacts meant to me. It was a great gift he gave me, of his time and attention, and I will always treasure that memory.

SF writer Connie Willis, Patrice Caldwell, who taught with him at ENMU, and his niece, Betty Williamson spoke at his service. Craig Chrissinger was there, as were Ed Bryant, Walter Jon Williams, and others from the SF community.

Nearly every piece written about his life mentions that he came to New Mexico in a covered wagon. That fact is mentioned so often because it is so striking. He was an honest-to-God American pioneer, a denizen of the old west. His family almost certainly knew people who had known Jesse James, who lived in that area, too. They also mention all the terms he coined: terraforming, anti-matter, genetic engineering, to name a few. He was as much a pioneer in the field of SF as he was a pioneer in the west.

Here lived a man who was born at the start of the 20th century and who lived several years into the 21st: a man educated in the humanities and widely read in the sciences. He not only saw all the wonders, dangers, and terrors that have unfolded in the past century; he even predicted some of them, in that peculiar, watercolor-soaked way SF is known for.

His own words about his life, from the booklet handed out at the service:

"We lived close to nature. ... I recall the look and feel and smell and taste of whatever grew in the sand: the wonder of sleek green acorns swelling in their ornamental cups on the low-growing oak brush we called shinnery; the magic promise of a tiny tender watermelon growing out of its dying bloom; the mystery of the sensitive plants that shut their leaves when you touched them. There was sweet nectar to be sucked from one white, deep-necked bloom. Grassburrs and goatheads had to be avoided in the summer, when we were happily barefoot.

"I enjoyed them all [my classes], but one I loved was called 'Literary Figures.' A wonderful way of self-education, it let me pick one or two inviting writers and explore them with a little group of curious students. ... Best of all, I was allowed to teach science fiction. When a newspaper described the pioneer course that Mark Hillegas taught at Colgate in 1962, I proposed one of my own. Though some of my colleagues considered it 'fluff,' the department approved it, and I taught it for a dozen years, from 1964 until I retired.

"Though writing is another social thing, it's lonely, the responses long delayed. In the classroom, what you say and do gets instant feedback. And you belong. You're accepted, commonly respected, sometimes even loved.

"Science fiction remade my life when I found it long ago in those early pulp magazines where it was being invented. Its name was strange at first to nearly everybody. Not that many cared to know. Not then, because the magazines looked like trash. They were cheaply printed "pulps: with queer machines and horrid monsters on their cover, but for the few of us who dug them, even their names were drenched and dripping with wonder. Amazing Stories, Astounding Stories, Astonishing and Startling and Marvel; even Wonder Stories. ... Most of these once-beloved magazines are gone now, and all of us have changed. Yet I think we need wonder more than ever now ..."

It's not surprising to me that Jack embodied this uniquely Southwestern blend: a love of the humanities, of scientific and intellectual reach, of nature, technology, culture, a mix of down-to-earth friendliness, and a deep, thoughtful intellect. In Jack, it was all rolled up into a single, lovely person.

He had a long and fulfilled life, and he was prepared to die. He was surrounded by people who loved him. He retained his mental faculties pretty much right up till the end, and enjoyed good health well into his last years. I'm very grateful for all of that, and for the great gift of all those years we had with him.

But damn. I will miss him sorely. Good-bye, Jack.

Added by Steve: NPR story with quotes from Ray Bradbury, Jim Frenkel, and Patrice Caldwell.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Childe Buzzard to the Dark Tower Came

Barb and I go for a walk with our three dogs every morning before sunrise. As we leave our driveway in the gray light and head toward the end of our street, our view is dominated by an enormous cell-phone tower.

I hated the thing when it was erected a few years ago, because it destroyed my illusion of rural seclusion. It's at least three hundred feet high. I mean, it must be. It's huge. It could be the base of a space elevator. It's as stark and metallic as Gort the Robot in The Day the Earth Stood Still. Only a lot bigger. It wounds my blue sky and casts a shadow over my green yard.

Yet it serves a purpose, and I know it has to be somewhere. We postmodern humans, we gots to have us our cell phones.

Soon after the tower's appearance, however, I was reminded that other residents of the world will find their own uses for man's devices.

You see, our cell-phone tower is now the permanent nighttime home of over a hundred black-headed buzzards. Big, ugly buzzards. The kind you see playing tug-of-war with whole deer carcasses.

Every morning when Barb and I begin our walk, there they are . . . just waking up, clacking their talons on the reverberant steel and stretching their great dark wings as they prepare to leap away and soar in search of the dead.

Once, I counted a hundred and twenty of them before I decided I didn't want to know how many there were. Sometimes the tower is black-feathered from top to bottom. Other days, there aren't so many. But I can't recall a morning when there were none. And those who are there always watch us as we walk by.

This must be a metaphor for something.

Barb and I always glance at each other and say the same thing:

"Look alive," we say.

Thirty minutes later, when we return, the buzzards are leaving for their daily rounds.

They're beautiful when they fly.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Tuesday: Desktop Management

Mea culpa. The Dog ate my Homework. I will be right on time next Tuesday, scout's honor.

Despite my children's opinions, I am not a neurotic neat freak. Any normal person coming to my house would realize this. I was brought up in a house that was, essentially, my parents' shared artistic project, and when I left anything lying around the family rooms, I heard about it. Thus, my room--up a ladder from the other living areas, and rarely visited by my parents--was messy. My first college room-mate found me annoyingly untidy. It really wasn't until I got my own room at college that I started practicing a certain amount of order, because I had no other space that represented me.

As I got older and the jobs I did became more complex, I found that I needed to keep my environment at least minimally tidy, not so much because it was easier to find things, but because I found it easier to focus in an environment that was not too chaotic. I'm fine with a fair amount of disorder, but go over the line and I start to feel oppressed by it. I know where the line between acceptable and oppressive lies--but I don't live alone. I live with three people (and a dog) who have different setpoints than mine for organizational squalor.

I was thinking about this because of my husband's computer desktop. The desktop of my laptop has maybe four files sitting on it, and the icon for my hard drive. The desktop of his computer has two or three dozen files on it, in no particular order. This seems to work for him; he can find what he's looking for, whereas I look at his desktop and my life passes before my eyes. It's his desktop, not mine. So I have to wrestle with my impulse to put things away, or at least organize the files in a way that makes sense to me. It's the same thing in the girls' rooms; I have a hard time going in to clean up and reorganize, because I feel strongly that the way things make sense to me is not necessarily the way things make sense to someone else. But if I don't get things tidied up, I do start to feel a little crazy, which spills over onto my ability to remember who has what activities that day and whether we have milk and butter or not.

So what are my options? I rarely go on the husband's computer, so I don't have to be offended by his desktop. I could, I suppose, refuse to go into my daughters' rooms. But what of the dining room table, which accretes mail, homework assignments, spare socks, bills and other nonsense with frightening speed? What of the kitchen counters, where half-used BART tickets and notes home from school and Scouts vie with dirty dishes? I am left with one of two conclusions/options: 1) no one else in the house sees these things, and thus it is for me to clean them up; or 2) everyone sees them, but hopes that someone else, which would be me, will clean them up. You notice that in the end, it all falls on me. Someday I will burst this bud of calm and blossom...

Mystic Ninjas Podcast About Jumper

The kind folks over at The Kick-Ass Mystic Ninjas PodCast have done a podcast on my first novel Jumper (Tor 1992). Their mission is the discussion of "Old School" Science Fiction and Fantasy, both good and bad. It's a weird thing that 1992 qualifies as "old" SF nowadays.

I just listened to it and had to blog about it. It's like one of those (rare) times when you're about to walk around a corner and you hear people talking about you so instead of scuffing your feet and clearing your throat, you stop, lean nonchalantly against the wall, and shamelessly evesdrop.

Of course when you do this in the real world, the next line is, "Too bad he's such an asshole." Fortunately, they mostly loved it.

I did know this was coming up as one of the 'casters, Summer Brooks, introduced herself to my editor at World Fantasy (and then Beth dragged her over to me) and talked about it. Sometime later, we may do an interview.

They also discuss the upcoming movie staring Samuel Jackson, Hayden Christensen, Rachel Bilson, Jamie Bell, and Diane Lane, though you can learn a lot more about that here.

WARNING: Lots of spoilers in the podcast so if you haven't read the book yet, wait until you have. OTHER WARNING: It's 30 minutes long.


We live, historically speaking, very private lives. The first world may be the first place where, for example, almost all children sleep in different rooms than their parents. Before, say, 1700, most extended families slept in the same room. (In some cultures, along with some of the livestock.) In the 100,000 years since, as a species, we walked out of Africa, we have lived most of our intimate lives in each other's presence. But now, one's closest friends do not really know things about us that everyone would have known three hundred years ago, and that in rural India or Central Africa, everyone knows about each other now.

I came to understand a little more about the Asian concept of face when I began to see it as linked to privacy. My Chinese students lived eight to a dorm room and so had, as most of their families did, very little privacy. Which means that there is a lot of etiquette of eye-averting. When everyone lives together, there are things you look away from. 'Privacy' is a Western concept. Chinese history is about 6000 years old, but they had no word for privacy until is was introduced from the West about 100 years ago. I asked a student one time where one could be private. After a long moment wrestling with the idea, she pointed to her forehead. In her head. So when someone loses face, it often resembles the feeling we get when someone inadvertently walks into the bathroom on you.

With all our bedrooms and separate house, we're oddly free to have secrets and we also fetishize those secrets. That's a great deal of what realty programs like The Real World pretend to provide, the private person. (Although I think that if someone cleans your house for you, you have no real secrets.)

Moving into a house where someone else has lived, I have found myself forced to consider their lives because in our case they left us a lot. Since all we have of these people is our brief history of negotiation and what we find of them in what used to be their house, we get a skewed view of them, I know. But they left a lot of stuff. Enough to fill up the back of my Subaru Outback (I'm taking a lot of it to Goodwill.) This includes a very dirty toddler's basketball hoop, a toddler's big wheel, a framed charcoal sketch of three vaguely Renaissance nudes, a poster of a baby giraffe, some broken stuff, a bunch of trash, two picture collage frames, two pillows, a bunch of baking stuff (a cookie sheet, a couple of aluminium muffin pans, a clay roaster, some glass jars, one with three rolls of life savers in it and bunch of other miscellany) a couple of pillows and, as pictured above, a container of toddler bath toys, used. (After we had closed on the house, we did see that they had come back in and gotten some towels and a clock they had left. Which, frankly, felt a little creepy. We changed the locks.)

So my entire understanding of the people who had this house before us is based on the fact that they left us used and dirty toys. I suspect it's not a fair understanding. But as I clean up after them, it's hard not to assign some meaning to all of this. It's my own, personal little reality show.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Free stream of new Clapton / JJ Cale Album

'The Road to Escondido' is a collaboration between Eric Clapton and JJ Cale that came out last week.

I'm listening to it as I type, and liking it a lot.

Go to:

Clapton's Official Site

Click on the pic of the Victrola at the top, labelled 'New Music'.

I haven't been listening to much Clapton for the past few years, because he just started sounding... tired, I guess, to me.

On this one, he sounds relaxed, an entirely different thing. He and JJ Cale together have made some extremley enjoyable, laid-back grooves on this album.

Incidentally, when the stream window opened for the first time last night, it started a process named 'vsnpt13.exe', which seriously messed up my keyboard. Killed keys, made others open commands instead of typing letters. When I dumped the process, all went back to normal, so no big deal. When I re-opened at work today, no such problems, so it might have just been my home system.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Ethics, Nanotech, and SF?

NSMS 550

ST: Societal Implications of Nanotechnology

Albuquerque/Main Campus
Topics Schedule Type
3.000 Credits

Laura and I went back to college today, sitting in on a talk by a visiting ethicist, Rosalyn W. Berne, speaking to the above graduate level class (taught by Dr. Kirsty Mills).

Berne is currently focused directly on nanoscience and nanotechnology investigators, to understand the formulation of their personal motivations, beliefs, aspirations and goals, as well as the development of individual ethical frameworks, as these are connected to their research in nanotechnology.

What was really fascinating, is that Ros is using Science Fiction, big time, both to examine potential problems for nanotech, but also to get scientists and engineers to examine thi
ngs they are not willing to talk about openly. She actually gets them to write fiction and uses the issues that emerge in the fiction itself, to engage them about things they wouldn't ever discuss in a straight forward conversation. (This is by no means a new interest in SF--one of her published articles is “Robosapiens, Transhumanism and the Kurzweilian Utopia: Why the Trans in Transhumanism."

Steve Smith, a physicist and virtual reality guru from Los Alamos National Laboratories roped us in on this, and the discussions in the classroom and later, at lunch were riveting.

Dr. Berne would be the first person to say she doesn't have the answers--but she sure has the questions and she's all about getting people to ask them.

Maybe we won't all dissolve into gray goo after all.