Saturday, May 23, 2009

On the road again: Balticon, day 2

It's been a long day. I got a modest amount of sleep but on a day when I was counting on sleeping a great deal, the hours I spent asleep didn't leave me feeling refreshed. I ended up having to work until the wee hours last night and again this morning, so after exercising, I was already behind schedule.

We dashed to the Hampton area of Baltimore for a pleasant lunch at Dangerously Delicious Pies. With both savory (I had a slice of steak and chili pie) and sweet (I had apple) pies, this place is worth trying simply because nothing else is quite like it.

Another dash--well, to be accurate, a mix of dashing and crawling due to traffic--and I was at the hotel barely in time for two panels in a row. Both went well, with good panelists, interested audiences, and conversations that ranged far and wide and even occasionally touched on the official topics of the panels.

At the opening ceremonies, I presented the Compton Crook award to Paul Melko for his novel, Singularity's Ring. Though we only got to spend a little time together, Paul seemed like a nice guy, and I look forward to doing tomorrow's Crooks panel with him.

Dinner tonight was at Charleston, a perennial favorite. I enjoyed the meal quite a bit, but I have to say the quality has slipped a tad; no way in the past would the center of a slice of foie gras have been cold.

With so much going on this weekend, I'm going to keep these entries short. If you're in the Baltimore area, check out Balticon. It's a nice con from nice folks.

Friday, May 22, 2009

On the road again: Balticon, day 1

The con doesn't start until tomorrow, but we drove up today so I'd be available for programming then without having to leave at oh-dark-thirty in the morning. The drive was hellish much of the time, with a large percentage of the drivers around me convinced that their vehicles and mine could occupy the same space at the same time. Getting around DC and then Baltimore took about two and a half hours, with more and worse traffic stop-and-crawl times than I've experienced in years and years.

I finally got to meet my handler, Ticia, who was as charming in person as in email. She joined us tonight for a delicious dinner at Pazo. We all ate way too many tasty small plates; I strongly recommend this place if you're in the area.

After dinner, we went to a late show of Terminator: Salvation. I enjoyed it well enough, but it was definitely nowhere near everything I had hoped it would be. I like action scenes and special effects as much as the next guy, maybe more than most people, but I really would love to see them coupled to a plot that makes internal sense and editing that doesn't leave you regularly asking, "Huh? How'd we get here?"

The answer to this SF movie problem is obvious: some studio should buy (for enormous sums) the movie rights to my Jon & Lobo books and make a series of films from them. Starring Will Smith, of course.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Want to learn a little about gaming and me?

Then head on over to Randolph Carter's blog, Grinding to Valhalla, where he just posted a short interview with me. I enjoyed (electronically) chatting with him and applaud the work he's put into learning about gaming and gamers.

Like most people over thirty, I suck at gaming compared to millions and millions of casual gamer teenagers, to say nothing of the serious gamers. Among the many people who are way better than I am at any game I play are Sarah and Scott. Kyle, who is over thirty, is also way, way better than I am at games in general and at Halo 3 in particular, Halo 3 being the game we four play together most often, so I can't hide entirely behind age. All that said, and even though I lose far more often than I win, I greatly enjoy some first-person shooters.

I leave tomorrow morning early (at least, it'll be early for me) for Balticon, so I'm going to keep this brief. By the time of my next post, I hope to be safely in Baltimore, have eaten a great dinner, met Ticia, watched Terminator: Salvation, and be settled into a typical con hotel room. Lucky me!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Science Magic Sex tour shirts are in

and they look pretty spiffy, courtesy of a nifty design Jennie did. Check out the back:
Pretty nice, eh? And that's a high-quality, heavyweight, Lands End t-shirt. We're talking a shirt you can wear to freak out your friends for quite some time without worrying that it will shrink to a size your cat couldn't cram into or spontaneously combust and leave you without eyelashes.

The front is pretty nice, too, with a slightly different and smaller version of the design.
The shirts are also a limited edition of 72, of which a dozen or so are already taken. If the SMS show plays at other venues, as I hope it will, and if we run out of shirts, as I hope we do, then we'll print new ones--but we'll do at least one small thing differently on them, so those of you who own first-edition shirts will be the only people with them. Yes, we will make sure these shirts stay collectible.

So, you may reasonably ask, why am I selling these so hard? The answer is simple: to raise money for a good charity, Balticon's favorite, Reading Is Fundamental (RIF). We're selling the shirts for $15, and we're donating all the profits to RIF.

We'll be hawking the shirts at Balticon, but you can also email me and work out a purchase that way. I'd set up some sophisticated online purchasing system, but frankly that's too much trouble for this size deal. Maybe in the future.

By the way, when I say "we" will be hawking the t-shirts, I'm being a bit free with language. I'll do a little talking, but Jennie and Ticia, my Balticon-appointed handler and now friend I've never met in person, will actually be doing the work of taking money, staffing the table, and so on.

So, if you want a shirt, act now, or grab us at the con, and get a limited-edition, collectible garment while also helping a good cause.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Come chat at Balticon

This coming weekend, I'm going to be a guest at Balticon 43, a fine SF convention that I've been attending for longer than I want to admit. Last year, the fine folks of Balticon and its parent organization, the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, presented me with the Compton Crook Award for the best first SF/fantasy novel for One Jump Ahead. That award included many nifty things, including being a guest last year and again this year--though this time I get to give the Compton Crook to the new winner.

Though the Web Weasel has posted a list of my con activities on my site's appearances page, I thought it might be useful to run through them here and tell you a bit more about each of them. As you can tell, I'm going to be busy!

I Shot the Sheriff on the First Page, Friday, 4:00, Salon B

We're going to talk about openings for books and short stories, how to hook readers, and very possibly about murders none of us will officially be admitting. My fellow panelists will be Gail Z. Martin, Joshua Palmatier, Jeri Smith-Ready, and Elaine Stiles.

What Western Civilization Expected from Science, Friday, 5:00, Salon B

Your guess is as good as mine about what this panel will cover, but I'm sure at least one of us will gripe about the fact that we still don't have personal aircars (actually a bad idea). Or we might turn serious and wax philosophical about the lack of soul in science and how the path of knowledge has led us away from the deep spiritual understanding of the world we might otherwise have possessed.

Or maybe we'll just tell fart jokes.

Join me and panelists Elaine Corvidae, Caroline Cox, and Jeff Lyman to find out.

Opening Ceremonies and Compton Crook Award, Friday, 8:00, Valley Ballroom

Come watch great Master of Ceremonies and long-time friend, Marty Gear, open a con in style. Gasp as I present the next Compton Crook winner with the award. Recoil in horror at what happened to the hamsters; no, wait, that's later. Anyway, it'll be short and funny, so drop by.

A Cheat of Crooks, Saturday, 1:00, Garden

Five Compton Crook Award winners--Patricia Bray, Hal Haag, Maria V. Snyder, the 2009 recipient, and I--will sit at a table and entertain you. I honestly have no idea what we'll discuss, but between whatever we make up and answers to audience questions, I'm sure we'll amuse. Last year's panel kept a large crowd interested for the whole hour, so you can bet we can do the same this year.

Liar's Panel, Saturday, 2:00, Garden

I guaran-damn-tee you that this panel will be fun--and it's for a good cause, Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), Balticon's favorite charity. At last year's Bouchercon, I saw some mystery writers do the same basic panel and keep several hundred attendees howling with laughter, and I'm betting we can do the same.

Here's how it's going to work: Patricia Bray, Jonathan Maberry, Guest of Honor Charles Stross, and I, your moderator, are going to answer a set of questions that I have prepared. All answers must be the truth—except three. No one other than the answering panelist will know if each answer is the truth or a lie. After each answer, anyone in the audience (or on the panel) can challenge the answering panelist. Multiple people can challenge; the more, the better. After there are no more challengers, the panelist will tell whether the answer was true or a lie. If it was true, each challenger must put a buck in a bucket that runners will pass. If it was a lie, the panelist has to toss in ten bucks. All proceeds go to Reading is Fundamental.

Join us, have a great time, and see if you can spot the lies.

Baen News, Sunday, 12:00, Garden

If you haven't been to one of these panels before and if you're a fan of Baen Books, SF art, or both, you need to come to this ninety-minute funfest. Jennie Faries, who designs the covers of many Baen Books, including all of mine, and I will present a slide show of current and upcoming Baen Books. We'll show you both original paintings and finished covers, discuss upcoming books, let Artist Guest of Honor, Kurt Miller, tell you about many of his covers--and give away stuff! That's right: free stuff! We're talking books, Advance Reading Copies, and strange Baen marketing goodies.

Science Magic Sex, Sunday 2:30, Valley Ballroom

I've mentioned this one in past blog entries, and I'm going to talk more about it again in the next day or two, but if you like comedy or spoken word, you won't want to miss this one. Hell, if you just want to see if I can do it, come on by. I'll be in the con's main tent, with several hundred seats in front of me, alone on stage with a mic and a bright light on me. I'm going to tell a lot of stories and, if all goes as planned, make you laugh until you hurt. If you're in Baltimore on Sunday afternoon, you won't find a better entertainment value for your dollar. (Of course, it is free to con members, but you get the point.)

This is also the place to find out what happened to the hamsters. Seriously.

Kaffeeklatch, Monday 11:00, McCormick Suite

Everyone who shows up will get the chance to bombard me with questions in a far more personal and intimate setting than any panel. Come on by, and we'll talk about whatever's on your mind.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Lessons from my spam

(WARNING: Adult language and topics ahead. Kids, stop reading.)

I receive an enormous amount of spam email, particularly at my work address. Most of it is due to the fact that the spambots trolling the Web find an email address that is a list that includes me, and then eventually my out-of-office message bounces and gives me away. Though I run a reasonably effective spam filter, I still scan through the list of messages it flags, because sometimes a legitimate request for information ends up there. From these scans, I've learned a great many lessons, a few of which I thought I'd share with you.

Many people are concerned with the size of my genitalia.

I honestly wouldn't have known. Until the era of spam, I'd always assumed (and sometimes bemoaned) that only a very small number of people would ever care about how I was built. It's flattering to instead learn that all over the world, people are interested in how I'm constructed.

My genitalia don't measure up.

The dark side of all of these discussions is that a consensus has emerged, and it's not good for me: I'm too small. Apparently, the smallest acceptable size is huge, the norm is gargantuan, and really, most men are bigger than that. I'm a sad panda.

I can fix this problem for a very low price.

Miracle drugs can grow me from the Lilliputian to the giant. All those discussions can and will turn flattering if I'll just buy any of multiple available medications, each of which is conveniently on sale for a low, low price that will be going up--like my size--any time now. Lucky me.

Many women will want me once I fix this problem.

As the spam assures me, women don't want men who aren't so enormous that sex causes screams of pain. Fortunately, once I buy the medications, I will meet that standard--and many women will want me. To be fair, the spam assures me that some women want me now--but only via the phone, at numbers the messages conveniently supply, and also at low, low prices that are going up, like my size, any time now. Again, lucky me.

Russian women really want to meet me.

Well, to be accurate, they will once I fix my size problem. Apparently, a great many of the discussions about my size have occurred in Russia, where I am, to my surprise, quite the hit with the ladies. That's good to know.

Enough for now. I need to order some pills and brush up on my Russian, which I haven't used since college.


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