Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Book & Blog News

Whoa. Wrong book.

As good-hearted people who read the comments section may already know, I finally managed to trick someone into publishing one of my novels. All that time spent training with Tibetan masters in the shadow arts that cloud men's minds has really paid off. And people say FSU is just a party school.

The novel is titled The Guns Above, and it'll be available from Tor Books sometime next year. And yes, it's that Tor Books. I know, right?

I'll give you more details and excerpts and suchlike in the months to come. For now, let's call it an action-adventure gunpowder fantasy, and tease you with this pitch:

For years, Auxiliary Lieutenant Josette Dupre has served loyally in His Majesty's Royal Aerial Signal Corps, whose fragile airships are the army's eyes on the battlefield. When, by royal decree, she becomes the first woman to command an airship, Josette finds herself caught in a tempest of politics and prejudice. Her crew is skeptical of her abilities, her commander has taken a personal interest in destroying her career, her new airship is an untested deathtrap, and the army has sent an observer to catalog her every moment of weakness and indecision. At this point, she only hopes she can survive long enough to be killed by the enemy.

So it's kind of like Aubrey-Maturin on an airship, which is a book I'd buy in a heartbeat. So, insofar as I'm highly representative of the average American... Shit. Well, Tor has a great marketing department, anyway.

They also have the world's best editor, Diana Pho. This is not me sucking up, by the way. It's an objective fact. I did the math. She also moonlights as the founder of Beyond Victoriana, an award-winning multicultural steampunk blog that challenges the community to recognize a world which extends beyond the suburbs of London.

And of course I have to thank Paul Lucas of Janklow and Nesbit, who would be the world's best agent, except that Justin Beiber's agent must surely have signed a deal with Lucifer or something. Paul's definitely the world's best literary agent, though, and the most patient agent of any sort. Because really, he would have to be, wouldn't he?

That's the book side of things. But you ask, hat and/or heart in hand, (and in the latter case, ew,) what does this mean for the blog?

The blog will still exist, but it may not stay here. My tentative plan is to integrate it into a dedicated website geared towards publicity sometime in the next few months. The current blog just isn't well tuned for tricking you into buying my books. I mean, I'm looking over it now, and I can't even tell what my own name is. (Seriously, though, what the hell is my name? If you know, please send me an e-mail at... umm... Does anyone know my e-mail address?)

In the meantime, I'll be trimming the fat around here. That means, starting within the next few weeks, articles will begin to disappear due to issues of popularity, incongruous theme, relevance, or too-much-cursing-even-for-me-which-is-really-saying-something-let-me-tell-you. So, if your taste is bad enough to want to read a particular article of mine, but not quite so bad that you already have, you might want to go ahead and get that done, because it may disappear at any time.

Sometime in the summer to fall timeframe, I'll start doing regular articles again. They probably won't be weekly, as they were before, because a combination of book stuff, day jobs, and criminal activity doesn't leave me as much spare time as I once had. So we'll aim for monthly at first, with smaller updates in between, and see how that goes.

And finally, let me apologize for the paucity of substantial articles over the past few... [checks archives] holy shit, it's been, like, over a year. Why the hell is anyone still reading this? That's just an irrational level of dedication, right there. In other words: the best level of dedication. So leave a note in the comments, and on the day I finally rule this world, you will be rewarded with land and power.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Themes

Just went to see Birdman with my relatives. It's based on Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, a short story about trying to make your relatives understand the themes of the movie Birdman on the drive home from the theater.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Box Seats at the Security Theater

I'm at the airport and I accidentally walked through the pre-screened security line. The guy checking boarding passes just sent me through without even mentioning my mistake, much less stopping me. Either he truly doesn't give a shit or pre-screening is now on the honor system. I didn't even realize I was in the wrong line until I noticed there was no body scanner in my line.

This is scary. I mean, what if I'd been carrying four ounces of water with malicious intent?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ill-Advised Nuclear Testing, Part 3

So now we’ve nuked the surface, we’ve nuked the ocean depths, and we’ve even nuked outer space. And Alexander wept, for there were no more worlds to nuke. What’s a superpower to do?

Well, just make bigger nukes, obviously.

Enter, the H-bomb. The hydrogen or thermonuclear bomb is a much fancier lad than the a-bomb that preceded it. The A-bomb is purely a fission device, in which heavy elements are split, releasing colossal amounts of energy. But you can also fuse lighter elements to release energy. The problem is, it’s hard to compress and heat lighter elements enough to ignite fusion. Re-enter the A-bomb, which can provide more than enough heat and compression to ignite a fusion reaction. And then re-enter the A-bomb again, because we’re going to surround the fusion stage of the weapon with a massive amount of unenriched uranium, called the tamper. Unenriched uranium is stable under normal conditions, which is why we can cram so much of it into our thermonuclear device in the first place. But when exposed to the fusion reaction, unenriched uranium completely loses its shit. It kicks off a second round of fission, which in most thermonuclear devices provides the majority of the megaton-range yield.


It’s also much dirtier. While only increasing the yield by three- or four-fold, it multiplies the radioactive byproducts of the bomb by a thousand times. Behind closed doors, the military fucking loved that part, because a single bomb could effectively bring strategic targets to ruin even if strategic assets within those targets survived the initial blast and fireball. Oh and, by strategic targets, I mean cities, factories, and ports. And by strategic assets, I mean the people who live and work in them.

In public, the tone was very different. The official line in the U.S. was that radiation release did not scale with the increasing yield of nuclear weapons. Which, I guess, is technically true. It didn’t scale, because in the H-bomb, radiation growth exceeded yield by several orders of magnitude.

Which brings us back to Bikini Atoll, where we started this wild and wonderful journey. It was early 1954, about a year and a half after the first ever detonation of a thermonuclear device in the Ivy Mike test. The problem with the Ivy Mike H-bomb, however, was that it was literally the size of a building and thus completely impractical for military use. The Castle Bravo test sought to rectify that by detonating a thermonuclear bomb weighing about ten tons. That’s still pretty heavy, but it’s getting into the deliverable range.

The Castle Bravo bomb was expected to yield a blast in the 4 to 8 megaton range, but the designers made a critical error. They assumed that most of the mixture of fusion fuel in the second stage would prove functionally inert, unable to contribute to the nuclear reaction within the millisecond timeframe of the detonation sequence. This was due to the fact that they had never actually tested the fuel's response to high-energy particles, like those released by the first stage. If someone had stopped and said, “You know, maybe instead of assuming the mix will work a particular way, we should put it in a nuclear accelerator and actually test that shit,” then things might have gone differently.

But who has time for that? We’ve got stuff to nuke. Snap to it!

That very same “fuck it, let’s just light it off and see what happens” attitude was also operative on the day of the test, when it was decided they would go ahead with the detonation despite prevailing winds that were veering from north to east, where they could carry fallout over populated islands. The deciding factor, apparently, was that they’d done a lot of work setting up observation instruments around the blast site, and would have to do it all over again if the test was delayed.

Who needs that kind of hassle? Just blow the damn nuke already.

Which they did. And it was a fucking disaster.


Or a stunning success, depending on your perspective. Like, if you were an insane person, as seemed to be the case for many of our military and civilian leaders at the time, you’d call it a big win, because the yield was a full fifteen megatons. At the time, that made it the largest nuclear detonation in history, leaving a crater over a mile wide and 250 feet deep. The fireball was four miles wide and the resultant mushroom cloud seven miles wide. America, fuck yeah.

Even better, it spread a cloud of radiation over five thousand square miles of ocean. I mean, you can neutralize a lot hell of a lot of strategic assets that way.


The test was so successful that indigenous strategic assets had to be evacuated from islands which were rendered uninhabitable by fallout. Five strategic assets on the Japanese fishing boat Daigo Fukuryu Maru were exposed, resulting in the death of one of those strategic assets. Radioactive contamination from the test was carried by wind and ocean currents all around the Pacific Rim, from the west coast of America to Japan and Australia.

So, it was a rousing success, unless you happen to be afflicted by sanity.

Speaking of sanity and the lack thereof, you know what nuclear weapons would be great for? The construction business.


From that nugget of an idea came 1961’s Operation Plowshare, a proof-of-concept plan to demonstrate the myriad peaceful applications of multi-kiloton nuclear devices. The goal of Plowshare was to develop a toolbox of nuclear earth moving techniques—whose concepts ranged from merely frightening to utter, batshit insanity—and then hand them over to the private sector. Because, really, what damage can the private sector possibly do with nukes that the government hasn’t already?

Techniques developed by Plowshare were to be used to excavate rock and to fracture fossil fuel deposits for collection of their now-radioactive natural gas. If that sounds familiar, it’s basically just frakking, except instead of fracturing the rock with water, you use a nuclear warhead. What could be less controversial?


Similar methods were proposed for leached copper recovery and steam generation. And hey, wouldn’t nuclear devices make strip mining that much more wonderful?

If you’re already floored by this nuclear hubris, you may want to take a moment, because it gets worse from there. A Plowshare subproject codenamed Carryall planned to use twenty-two nuclear bombs to cut through the Bristol Mountains in California. Then a highway and rail line could be constructed across them. Complete, I imagine, with signs instructing motorists to please keep their windows rolled up.


And if you did happen to ride the crazy train through Carryall mountain pass, the next stop would be a nuclear-blasted sea-level link connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, to be called the “Pan-Atomic Canal.”


Once those ships transit Central America, though, they’ll need a harbor to dock at. And won’t it be easier to find that harbor if it glows in the dark? Enter project Chariot, which would chain several nuclear bombs to blow open an artificial harbor.


Now that you’ve docked your cargo ship, though, you have to get your goods out to the people. You’d like to use a river barge, but the only river nearby doesn’t connect to the river you need to send your product up. Well shit, man, with nuclear bombs we can make rivers into whatever shape we want. Project Tombigee/Tennessee River would have done just that, combining the aforementioned little rivers into one big river.


But, you ask, what if blowing up all those rivers creates a water shortage? Well, my friend, nuclear bombs have you covered there, too. Plowshare proposed to use nuclear bombs to connect two aquifers for easier water access. In another proposal, Plowshare would create a rubble chimney above porous rock, which would allow rainwater to seep through the rubble and collect in an artificial aquifer. Think of it as a value-add proposition, because your drinking water would be suffused with expensive radioisotopes.


Thankfully, someone finally came to their sense and cancelled the program in 1977, before it could do any major harm. But for the decade and a half in between, someone thought all of this was a good idea.

If I may come back to the present day for a moment before I wrap this up, I’m reminded of a bit of common wisdom that’s become popular over the last decade: "we have to keep nuclear weapons out of the wrong hands." On its face, the statement is indisputable, more a truism than a proposition, but something about it has always bothered me. It wasn’t until I was doing research for this series of articles that I finally realized what it was.

The problem is that it rests upon an unfounded, unspoken premise: that there’s such a thing as the right hands.

I leave you now with a song.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Reminder...

The final (for now) installment of Ill-Advised Nuclear Testing will be going up on Wednesday as normal, but after that it'll be light blogging for the foreseeable future.

So make sure you hold that article close and read the shit out of it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Perspectives Differ: The Goa'uld Reconsider Jaffa

Stargate Jaffa

The following is a Tok'ra transcript of a speech made by the minor Goa’uld Wepwawet to an assembly of concerned Goa’uld.

Transcript begins.

People, it’s time to face facts: our entire mode of reproduction just isn't working. Sure, we're well-served by it once we mature and take control of a host and learn the glowing eye trick, but before that is just awful. I don’t know about the rest of you, but the years I spent in the abdominal pouch of a Jaffa were the worst of my life. Those belly pouches are disgusting.

I don’t know if any of your Jaffa ever cleaned the Goa’uld poo out of their belly pouches, but my Jaffa didn’t. Hell, he barely ever cleaned the outside of himself, let alone the inside. Do you know what it’s like, living in a belly pouch along with three years of your own collected excrement? Of course you do, because you all had to go through it too. But what a lot of you don’t know is the hell-in-a pouch experienced when your Jaffa doesn’t even clean out the mess from the previous symbiote.

Tok'ra File Photo: Goa'uld larva emerges from Jaffa belly pouch.
Tok'ra File Photo: Goa'uld larva emerges from disgusting Jaffa belly pouch.

Oh yeah. I was like the fourteenth symbiote to mature in my Jaffa’s pouch and I don’t think that motherfucker so much as scooped the place out in between. I had to live in there with fossilized poo that was older than me. And let me tell you, that stuff doesn’t get any less gross with age. The day I left my Jaffa’s belly pouch and melded with a human host was the best damn day of my life.

But it’s not just living in a Jaffa that’s annoying, it’s living with a Jaffa. They never do anything fun. They never go to movies or bars. I can't think of a more boring organism to mature inside of. Even a cow might stroll through some scenic hills from time to time. And the music the Jaffa listen to is awful. It’s all war chants and marching beats and morons shouting “kree!” at the top of their lungs. Nothing with a rhythm. Nothing you could dance to. Not that you’re ever in the mood to dance, living in the poop-filled belly of a Jaffa.

 Tok'ra File Photo: Mature Goa'uld preparing to take over a human host.  Presumably wishes it could forget the past several years inside a Jaffa.
 Tok'ra File Photo: Mature Goa'uld preparing to take over a human host.
Presumably wishes it could forget the past several years spent inside a Jaffa.

These, however, are pale complaints in comparison to the fact that my Jaffa was repeatedly sent into battles while I was inside him. What the hell is the reason for that? What insane bioengineer decided to make the Jaffa into a combination of baby incubator and berserker warrior? Because that sounds like a pretty weird combination to me. I would seriously like to meet the dumb motherfucker who was asked to design a fearless frontline warrior to be used primarily as cannon fodder, and when his system lord asked him what the weird little pouch in the belly was for, he answered, “Oh, you put your own children in there for safe keeping.”

Furthermore, I’d like to meet the system lord that approved that insane idea and ask him what the hell he was thinking. If I was a system lord and one of my bioengineers came to me with that shit, I would have him chained to the underside of a Death Glider and flown into space. You do not want to keep someone around when they have so much bioengineering talent and so little common sense. Seriously, what would he do if you asked him to make an actual baby incubator? Fill it with flaming naquadah?

Yet somehow, the Jaffa idea spread through the entire galaxy. Now every system lord has huge armies of the Jaffa and every Goa’uld destined for a host is incubated inside one. I ask you, is this such a good idea, putting the next generation of Goa’uld inside members of a slave race? Sure, the Jaffa think we're Gods, but what if they ever wise up and rebel? I imagine the parley going something like this:

“Give up this rebellion and return to your posts, or we will destroy you!”

“Okay, do it.”

“What?!”

“Go ahead and do it. We have all your fucking children inside us. So go ahead and blow us up.”

“Well, uhhh...”

“Also, we’re your army, so how were you planning on blowing us up?”

“I am your God made flesh! You will be consumed by flames!”

“Go tell it to the Replicators.”

And can someone help me with the math here? There are something like ten thousand Goa’uld in the galaxy, right? And something like a million Jaffa. And every Jaffa has a baby Goa’uld inside his belly that takes a few years to mature. So answer me this: how many adult Goa’uld will there be a few years from now?

I mean, I know we eat our own young from time to time, at special ceremonies, but we’d have enjoy a baby Goa'uld at every meal to keep the population from exploding out of control. I know I don’t eat a baby Goa’uld at every meal, and I don’t think any of you are eating a baby Goa’uld at every meal, and I don’t know anyone in my family who’s eating a baby Goa’uld at every meal, so just what the hell is keeping our population in check?

I sure don’t know where all those extra Goa’uld are going, but they better keep going there, because if they all mature and take hosts, the rest of us are screwed. And don’t think your Jaffa are going to protect you, because you’ll be dealing with exactly as many new Goa’uld as you have Jaffa. Can you imagine that? A million power-hungry, devious young Goa’uld gunning for your lands and riches. Small consolation that they’ll turn on each other once they’ve killed all of us.

So what’s the solution? It’s easy. We just use the same bioengineering technology we used to make Jaffa, and use it to put incubation pouches into the belly of something like, I don’t know, maybe an orangutan. Or, here’s a crazy thought, what about engineering incubation pouches into the bellies of our own human hosts? I mean, that seems to work pretty well for the humans themselves. And it would free up the orangutans to replace Jaffa as our frontline soldiers.

Transcript ends.

Tok’ra agent’s comments: This minor Goa’uld appears to have discovered our long term “Plan Jaffa” to destroy the Goa’uld from within. Recommend he be eliminated by assassination as soon as possible.