Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Lizards of Nagrafki-Uri

A discussion on the blog of Mr. John Wright mentioned a stunning lack of space lizards in modern SF. Although this contention was quickly rebutted by others, it reminded TOF that back in high school, he had started writing a grand space opera involving Lizards, Spiders, Humans, protoplasmic blobs, and sundry other folk in a great cosmic game of conquest and revenge.

A brisk search of The Olde Files resurrected a folder containing several hundred carbons and originals of this primitive effort. The prose is somewhat prolix:
Great throbs of power surged through the vessel and even the mighty structure of the colossal ship shuddered slightly as the titanic engines mounted in the rear spewed shorn atoms into the endless void. 
Okay, so it's a big ship, right? Well, it was the Sixties and TOF was young. One sign of adolescent thought is the deification of great size, of bigness-as-such.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Advent of TOF

TOF's first paid publication was a collection of fillers and quotes, for which he was remunerated the princely sum of $60, but his first actual paid story had a more checkered career.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sometimes the Mask Doesn't Just Slip

It is tossed off entirely and dances and capers:
From Pro-Choice to Pro-Abortion
All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always.
-- Mary Elizabeth Williams, “So What If Abortion Ends a Human Life?” 
There may be a reason why such sentiments make one look like "death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers."

We can only wait and see what other lives will be deemed less than equal. Lebensunwertes Leben is making its long-awaited comeback.

Added in postscript: TOF spoke too soon, we are already designating such.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

First Way, Part I: A Moving Tale

OK, TOF has finished "In Panic Town, On the Backward Moon" and is ready to resume what he joshingly refers to as "real life."

Back to the Argument from Motion (See Preface)

Getting 'Motional

[T]he arguments require the appreciation of certain metaphysical principles that are unfamiliar or seem archaic to the contemporary philosophical mind...  In particular, the notion of causation employed by Aquinas in the arguments has a decidedly obscure ring to modern ears.
-Oderberg, ‘Whatever is Changing is Being Changed by Something Else’
Part of TOF's herculean effort here will be to translate, as much as he is able, those original items into more modern lingo. This is not always quite possible and not always well-advised, because words in different languages in different eras do not always divide thought into the same categories. But, Excelsior!¹
1. Excelsior. As all men know, this is a packing material used as dunnage.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


The TOFheim, dryer which for fourteen years had done its duty vis a vis wet laundry, gave up the ghost and joined the choir eternal. The several repairmen who had tinkered with it for a month agreed to refund most of the moneys paid; and so this past Saturday TOF and the Incomparable Marge visited a store of appliances and examined the possible replacements.  Sample conversation:
I/M: We'll take this one.
The manager of the store (who was also the owner, it being a small family-owned establishment) told us he could have it delivered next (now this) week. "Wednesday isn't looking good, so it'll probably be Thursday."
On the way to the register, the fellow remarked, "You've been in here before."
Yes, three years ago, to buy a new stove after the old one was struck by a meteor -- i.e., a hot casserole dish being pulled from the overhead microwave without adequate temperature buffers. Sample monologue:
Son of TOF: Ouch. Oops. Damn.
"Flynn," says the Incomparable.
"Flynns!" says the owner. "I can get it to you Monday afternoon. At 1:00. Plus-or-minus 15 minutes."

TOF is not making this up. Life is good, and the clothes are dry.

Friday, August 15, 2014

TOF, Covered

TOF is taking a break from his Achilles-like tortoise-chasing to finish "In Panic Town, on the Backward Moon" and amused himself by finding the covers of all the Analog issues that featured his story. In recent years, the mags have all found it cheaper to use generic covers rather than commission special covers for specific stories; but in Olden Tymes, this was not so. So here they are:

Oct. 1987. TOF's first cover was for part-1 of In the Country of the Blind, a 2-part serial that led to his first Novel. The cover it got was "high concept." The story is set in the Babbage Society milieu and is loosely connected to the Firestar series.

June 1989. This was another 2-parter, for part-1 of The Washer at the Ford. The story was part of The Nanotech Chronicles and gives us a look at Charlie Singer of Singerlabs. Stan Schmidt actually apologized for the cover; but I thought that if it were only a bit more wooden and stylized it might have worked.

April 1990. This was my first and only Kelly Freas cover, for the Hraani story, "The Common Goal of Nature." It appeared in a stolen German translation in Partners fuer Lebens. (A German agent had fallen into gambling debts and had started selling stories for his clients without either informing them or passing on the monies. It was collected in The Forest of Time and Other Stories.

Jan 1994. The cover for "Melodies of the Heart," which was a Hugo nominee. I can only imagine what readers thought they were getting when they saw this one. There is a bit of high concept here, too. "Melodies..." shows up in both The Forest of Time and Captive Dreams. 

Oct. 2009. After a long absence, TOF returns to the cover with "Where the Winds are All Asleep," one of the Irish Pub stories. The secret to cover-tude is to have weird-looking aliens or space-ships. Somehow or other, the text is on the intertubes, although the Greek text is garbled, and the sections in the Pub are not adequately indicated.

Feb 2010. This is a cover for a podcast called StarShip Sofa, an audio of "The Clapping Hands of God," appearing earlier in Analog. It's not a bad cover, and the story made it onto the Hugo ballot.


A couple of items, courtesy of Mark Shea, offered without comment:

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Brandon at Siris reminds us that today is the feast of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, of the Discalced Carmelites, martyred by the Nazis for the crime of being Jewish. She and her sister were rounded up along with other Dutch Jewish Catholics in revenge for the Dutch bishops' public letter denouncing Naziism. St. Teresa (born Edith Stein) was one of the greatest German philosophers of her time. Her successor as Husserl's research assistant had been Martin Heidegger, who was a full bore Nazi and therefore much praised.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Where Wolfe

The estimable Michael Swanwick provides a link to an MIT Q&A with master writer Gene Wolfe. Its reading is recommended.

Which writers have most influenced you?
It’s a difficult question. My first editor, Damon Knight, asked me the same thing when I was just starting out, and I told him my chief influences were G. K. Chesterton and Marks’ [Standard] Handbook for [Mechanical] Engineers. And that’s still about as good an answer as I can give. ....
What struck you about Chesterton?
His charm; his willingness to follow an argument wherever it led.
You left college, were drafted, fought in Korea. How does war figure in your writing? ....
What military service does is rub off a lot of the pretense and self-deception from a person. You have to keep going, knowing that there are people over there who are trying to kill you. You’re right: they are.
What self-deception did the war strip away from you?
Oh, that I was smarter than other people.
Well, I’m sure you were.
[Emphatically] No. I wasn’t.

I see you often called a Roman Catholic writer. Once, even, “a very subtle but also very emphatic Roman Catholic propagandist.”  Is this identification unfair?
I think it an oversimplification. I’m a writer who is Catholic, as a good many of us are. I do not write Catholic books intentionally. I’ve never been published by a religious publisher.
You once said that pain tends to prove God’s reality rather than the opposite; that pain was not a theological difficulty for you.
No, it isn’t. If you catch a dragonfly and bend the end of its body up, it will eat itself until it dies. When people have had their mouths numbed for dentistry, they must be warned not to chew their tongues. I think if we assume that pain is simply an evil we’re oversimplifying things.
[Thinks a moment.] You’re saying that pain may be a necessary design feature that the Divine Engineer—
Yes, absolutely.
—put into his animated machines.
If you had living things without pain, they would have a very rough time surviving.
If it’s not too personal a question, do you consider yourself a professing Catholic?
Certainly I am. I go to mass; I receive Communion; I pray.
You don’t put yourself forward as an expert. You understand other people who are in similar situations, and not only in religious matters. I once met Archbishop Fulton Sheen, who we’re trying to get made a saint now. He looked at you and you felt that he knew all about you, that he had taken your worth, both positive and negative, and had formed a correct opinion about you, and that was it.
Did Sheen feel saintly? He was canny by your account; he had an intelligent eye.
Sheen was a very intelligent man. He was smaller than I had expected. I suppose he was about five-five, five-six, or something like that.
John XXIII was a little man, too.
Well, size only counts with football players, really.
[S]uppose the lion was intelligent and the deer were also intelligent. It’s very hard to imagine. You have to have sympathy with both. The lion cannot eat grass no matter how much you would like him to. But the deer do not wish to be eaten, and who can blame them for it?
If you’ve ever listened to people giving testimony at a trial, they are almost incapable of distinguishing between what they have actually seen or heard and their opinions of what it means.
You could write a book about a landing on Mars in which a landing on Mars is a metaphor for something that is going on now. You could also write a book about a landing on Mars that’s a landing on Mars.

Medieval Science Fiction

The collection of essays is supposed to come out this month from Oxford University Press. Meanwhile, themes are being presented at history conferences.

The motto of the blog Beoshewulf is Þæt wæs god blog!, a reference to a line from Beowulf (Þæt wæs god cyning!)

The TOFian contribution to the anthology begins thusly:

I have been asked to contribute a few words about how I came to write Eifelheim, a science fiction novel in which aliens are marooned in the Black Forest in the fourteenth century. Although I have always had an interest in history – I had the good fortune to take my freshman survey course from John Lukacs – my training was in mathematics and the sciences, and my professional practice has been in statistics. My interest in the Middle Ages, and specifically in the science of the Middle Ages, actually stems from my experience in writing Eifelheim and the paradoxical fact that it was easier to write about the alien Krenken than about the fourteenth century Germans.
Some people, it seems, are more alien than others.
One question in this volume is whether medieval culture and the SF genre intersect. At first glance, it would appear that they do not. First, the medieval world lies in the past and SF deals with the future. Second, SF (as distinct from fantasy) deals with the impact of speculative science on the lives of human beings and, according to conventional wisdom, there was no science in the Middle Ages. Third, when the medieval past does appear in SF, it provides only a cardboard stage set and caricatures the past without illuminating it. Therefore, SF and the medieval world do not properly intersect.
On the other hand, we find such novels as Poul Anderson’s The High Crusade (1960), Connie Willis’s The Doomsday Book (1993), Richard Garfinkle’s Celestial Matters (1996) and my own Eifelheim (2006), as well as short fiction like Sean McMullen’s ‘Tower of Wings’ (2001). So clearly there is an intersection.
My own response is... 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

TOF the Scrivener

TOF is busy finishing a short story that he should have finished two days ago for an anthology yclept Mission Tomorrow. He had started out writing a different story and then realized it was going nowhere, and not even going nowhere fast. So, like a circus performer, TOF leapt from one dead horse to another hopefully more lively. He is about three-quarters done with it. The title of the story is:
"In Panic Town, on the Backward Moon"
and it is set in the FIRESTAR universe in between Falling Stars and The Wreck of "The River of Stars".  Port Rosario is a going concern and Phobos, hollowed out and filled with warrens by the ancient Visitors, is its skyport. We shall see if it merits editorial approval.

      Mars was the happening place back then. Transit times were down to one month, thanks to magnetic sails, and costs had dropped with them, so the place was filling up with dreamers and scamps and scientists and dogs of all kinds, out to siphon a buck from the desert or from the pockets of those who did. It was a different time, more free-falling, more improv than today’s seal-zipping i-dotters. There were zeppelin pilots and miners, pipefitters, air-squeezers, gardeners and terraformers, hobie-drawers, and all what have you. Half the industry went to support the parasol-makers, but those needed construction and maintenance and food preparation and teamsters and rocket-jocks, and throughout history whenever there was a man and a dollar there was another man willing to separate them.

In The Belly of the Whale: Publisher's Weekly Review & Pre-Order Links

 Hello Fans of Michael Flynn. I am pleased to let you know that Dad's novel In the Belly of the Whale will be released by CAEZIK on July...