Saturday, March 28, 2009

The horse is not a motorcycle

Notes from a panel about using horses in fantasy literature:

No big horses before the 1800's

People should not run the horses hot and sweaty, then leave them.

Eight miles and hour is endurance speed

Eight miles the distance a buggy can go in a day

Horses are opinionated

People should not forget to lesson the saddle or take off when the horses stop

You can't Jump on totally unknown horses and then ride off on it

Horses need warm-ups

Horse bites do hurt

Muscling the horse aside is not possible. Horse push back.

Horse smarts depends on the horse

Harnesses are complicated, to put on and to train a horse too.

Harnesses must be sized to the horse. If it doesn't fit well, the horse will act up.

Different saddles will seat you differently.

Horse are not a TARDIS. They have maximum weight, and must be trained to carry stuff. Also, stuff must be carefully balanced on the horse.

The bigger the horse the less stamina it has

Mules are stronger then a horse and smarter, more endurance, and less delicate. They don't need protein, and survive on less. They are stubborn and have long memories.

Horses can be very stubborn

Older/more experienced horses that have been the rider will be more likely to do new things with these riders. Young horses are less likely.

Pay attention to the gender of the horse

Mares go into heat during the summer. Mare behaviors can change drastically. Stallions are easily distracted by mares. Stallions will compete for the mares with each other.

Stallions and geldings will get along.

Breed mares will not go into heat, but may act like their in heat.

Wild horses will act differently from domesticated horses

There is only a window of time for a domesticated horse to adopt a foal, but in a wild herd, parentage is less of an issue.

Body Language – face horse to aggression, turn shoulder to stop

Stallions want to herd others

Do not chase the horse, bribe the horse, and be friendly to the other horses to catch a horse.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Note to self

Do not opy directly from a word document and paste into blogger...

I apologize for the formatting issues in the following post.


Millennicon 23

So, what was Millennicon 23 like? Well, if you didn't go this year, you were in good company. It was quiet, in the way that is not particularly good for a con. The GOH, John Scalzi, was a fun guy, the programming was good – but the economy...

I opted to sleep at home this year, for a number of reasons. Money is part of it, but the biggest thing is that I thought I would sleep much better in my own bed and get more rest driving back and forth than battling the environment of the hotel. And indeed, I enjoyed this con much more than I have enjoyed a con in years. On the minus side, I did not have a hidey-hole to run off to when the crowds and the crush got to be too much, but I had much less need of that.

Cons are hard on introverts. Yes, I know that there are people here who would not consider me much of an introvert, because I tend to be very sociable in crowds. But I wear out from having people around me. Extroverts tend to feed on all the people and increase their energy.


I was later starting off for the con than I wanted to on Friday, and traffic on I-75 was horrible. I was glad when GLaDOS, my GPS, instructed us to get off and take surface roads to the hotel. The last thing I wanted to do was attempt the I75/I275 interchange at rush hour. off the interstate, we made good time – when one accounts for the stoplights, crossroads, and 86-car train. Fortunately, I like trains. We were able to grab supper at McDonald's, get to the hotel, register, and take a couple of deep breaths before my 7:00 panel started. The only odd thing about registering was that they seemed to have a pre-registration for Elizabeth, which was odd, since I knew that I had not pre-registered her. On the off chance that this was a different person, we left the pre-reg there.

My panel was on the possibility of immortality. No one seemed to want such a thing for themselves, and we talked instead about the pros and cons of having a long life. For my part I wondered what immortality would do to our psychology. We are a race of procrastinators. If we have all the time in the world, will we wait forever to do things? Others wondered what we would have to do to our birthrate if we became immortal or long-lived. What jobs would there be the younger people? How will we support ourselves if our retirement is longer than our working lives? I suspect that while none of us is too anxious to embrace immortality, that when it comes to the wire that we'll all want just a little more time.

The panel wasn't all that well attended, as we were up against the opening ceremonies.

Afterwards, I went to a panel on “Is the Short Story Dead?” The consensus of the panel was that it is not dead, but it's not a way to get fame or money. There are a lot of internet markets and some anthologies. I picked up a couple of authors to look at in terms of short stories, and news of a site,, where one can build a POD anthology from the available short stories on the site. The authors get a royalty for every short story included in an anthology, and the customers get an anthology of just the stories they want.

Then I talked to people in the huckster room, partied in the consuite, and headed home about 9:30.


Driving down Saturday morning was an improvement over Friday afternoon. This time I had both Janette and Elizabeth with me. I found that the pre-reg was indeed for my Elizabeth – she had won a free membership last year, apparently for turning in a survey on the con. I remembered that she had complained about the programming last year, so I told her to fill out a survey form and let her opinion be known. Apparently, hers was the survey drawn. Someone was supposed to tell me that she had won... Fortunately, I was able to transfer the membership to Janette.

At ten o'clock I had a an autograph session alongside Kaza Kingsley. Unfortunately, no one knew we where there, as the autograph sessions were not advertised. She sold one book – to me. I gave one away. At least Kaza is pleasant company to talk to. the third book of her Erec Rex series will be out in June.

At twelve I collected up the troops and we hit Kentucky Fried for lunch. I had a reading session at 1:00, and paniced when I looked at my watch and saw that it was 12:55. I yanked everyone back to the hotel, and discovered that my watch was almost half and hour fast. This did allow me to collect myself before the reading, and to run into the huckster room to pick by a book by Paul Melko. Ten Sigmas and Other Unlikelihoods is an anthology of short stories. I later got it autographed, and Paul kindly pointed out which stories were his favorites. I should have asked him to mark them for me.

Thanks to Elizabeth's free membership, I could splurge on books.

My reading went well. There were three of us, with about fifteen minutes each. Fortunately, I won at rock-paper-scissors and could go first – since the other two people were Nebula nominees. I read A Flower-Eat-World, and was rewarded with the reaction of one particular person who got the point of the story at the appropriate time. It was a good warm-up for the other two authors. Alas, again, the names of the readers were not advertised, and so the crowd was smaller than it should have been.

The rest of the afternoon I spent with panels and a couple of trips to the Huckster room, with a few discussions sprinkled in. i made it, for the first time, to an entire panel on The Real Horse. I started taking notes on my toy computer – then Elizabeth took it over and collected the rest of the notes. (To be published separately.) She's good.

In the late afternoon, I caught Kaza Kingsley as she was going off for a cup of tea, and went along for a coffee. We talked about things, nothing really important, but it was a nice way to spend a hour. She's mainly a children's author, and not a big-time fan – I just kept remembering how C.J. Cherryh told us that she didn't discover fandom until after her third Sf book was published.

Right after that, I gathered my troops and we had dinner at Max and Erma's, which is the hotel restaurant. The service was a little slow, and we had to be moved once – but at least it was because the place was busy. There was a party of eleven, a party of fifteen, and a party of fifty. To make up for moving us, the manager gave us free cookies.

Janette was starting to feel poorly, so we skipped the masquerade and went home for the night.

Sunday we got down there in time for me to check out the huckster room, where I talked to Joshua Done, a self-published author who was hawking his book, The Exile Empire. I bought one. He used X-libris, and now believes that it is not one of the better deals out there. It's a nice product, but the books themselves are way overpriced, and apparently the add-on services were expensive, too. He claimed that he was not given galleys to proof, even though he bought one of the higher-priced services. I recommended iUniverse for a better deal -- and for complete control.

My last panel was at eleven, and I went into the room early, thus catching the last few minutes of a panel about the Blogoverse. In the closing comments, it was said that authors are now being requested to keep up active blogs and Twitters. Wow. I mean, if I have something to say, I'll say it, but just how exciting is a blog that starts, “Dear Diary. Today I woke up.”

My third panel was on world building, and we had the GOH, John Scalzi on it. Sadly, it was not so much on how to build a world as on the experience of writing in a shared, or pre-built world.

Then we had lunch at McDonald's, and returned in time for me to catch Kaza Kingsley's reading. After that was the closing ceremonies, where we learned that the Klingon jail took in $400 this year. The con chair's seven-year-old son accounted for over $100 of the funds.

All in all,it was a good con, and the mood was hopeful.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Anteater of Death, by Betty Webb.

Poisoned Pen Press, 2008.

When Grayson Harril’s clawed corpse is found in Lucy the Anteater’s zoo enclosure, it is assumed that she killed him – but soon several questions arise. What was doing in the zoo exhibits in the middle of the night? Why did such a timid man enter the enclosure of a dangerous animal? And how could Lucy have fired the bullet found in his abdomen? Lucy is soon off the hook, but one of the zookeepers is on it – and it is up to Teddy Bently, another keeper at the zoo, to find the real murderer.

As a murder mystery, this book is not strong. As a story about Teddy, living in the dual world of zookeeping and the socialites of coastal California, it’s priceless. There is Teddy’s socialite mother, nice enough to visit but who could stay sane living with her? Teddy’s father is running from the federal authorities, mobsters, and the local sheriff, Teddy’s new boyfriend. Teddy’s neighbors all live on boats in the marina, and are distressed by new ordinances that the boats must prove that they are capable of sailing. And at the zoo, mothers become indignant that the animals there act like, well, animals!

This is a way fun read, filled with delightful characters, but the best is far and away the one in the title, Lucy herself.

Emissaries From The Dead, by Adam-Troy Castro.

Eos Books, 2008.

Andrea Cort, a cyncial, anti-social woman with a traumatic background, is sent to the human outpost in the Habitat world of One-One-One to investigate the apparent murder of Christina Santiago, a cynical, anti-social woman with a traumatic background. Her investigation leads her into contact with a number of people with traumatic backgrounds, most of whom are anti-social to one degree or another. Just before she arrives, there is a another murder, this time of a woman who emphatic, open, and eager to share with everyone else – and therefore a definite irritant to all the cynical, anti-social people with traumatic backgrounds.

Andrea also meets Gibbs, the mediocre bureaucrat who runs the human outpost with a middle-managing fist, the enigmatic Peyrin Lastogne with no background, Skye and Oscin Porrinyard, a physically and mentally perfect duo despite their traumatic childhoods, and the great AISource, a nation of artificial intelligences who created the world of One-One-One and the multitude of lifeforms within.

The book has received many positive reviews and is a nominee for the Phillip K. Dick award, but it didn’t work for me. I found it superficially complex but shallow beneath the surface, much like the stage set for a theatrical play. The habitat for One-One-One has several biosystems within it, layered like an onion, but the story is confined to the only one suitable for human life, the uppermost layer. There is one kind of plant, one kind of sentient animal, and one kind of pollinating fly – and none of the intertwined complexities which make up ecologies on earth. A large team of human scientists study this biosphere – but what do they study? This question is never answered by the researchers who, unlike their counterparts elsewhere in the world, seem rather reluctant to chatter on about their work.

Nor do they chatter on about the lives of each other. No rumors, no gossip, so speculation, no fantasies. The man who seems to have no background brings out no curiosity in the others. This is not a normal research team.

But as I said, many people have found this book to be wonderful. I didn’t, but that’s just me. If you like heavily cynical people and aren’t into Ecology, you may find this the best book you’ve ever read. It’s definitely a YMMV book.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Another bit from the WIP

This is Dutch's betrothal scene. It goes before the scene I posted previously, the one where he is seven years old.

In the Free Spacer nation, betrothal is a pretty serious step. Fiances with benefits. So why are young people signed up for it, pretty much without their consent? Because compatibility is much less important than genetics. I tossed the data dump which explained all this in detail, though I hope there are enough hints left for people to understand.


"Dutch!" Mary Estalina was at his side, and then she was on him with a full-body embrace – her hips, breast, and lips pushed hard against his body. They stayed that way until the crowd began to cheer. Then she turned and held his hand high. "Dutch Parseman."

There were comments, mutters, and the sound of spoons hitting glasses. Mary Estalina turned and stunned Dutch with another full kiss.

"Hey, hey, let’s have the ceremony first," Scalia stepped forward and pulled them apart, then pushed them toward a raised platform in the center of the room. A priest stood there, dressed not only in dark blue robes, but also a short white tunic and colorful stole. A matronly woman stood there as well, holding a bouquet of flowers.

Mary Estalina hopped up and accepted the bouquet. Scalia followed her, then reached back to help Dutch up. He was aware that Lucan came up behind him. Another thing Dutch did not wish for – but no one was giving him a choice today.

The priest smiled and held out the book in his hands. "We are gathered today to witness the promises given, between this man and this woman, to join each to the other in the sight of God and man. From this day forth, each is to forsake all others and hold himself or herself chaste for the other. On this day we shall witness a commitment to the union of flesh and souls of these two children of God. Do you, Dutch Parseman, vow before God and witnesses that you will take this woman to be your wife, in the fullness of time, to give her children and comfort to the end of your days?"

"Er," said Dutch.

Lucan leaned forward and whispered in his ear. "Say, I do."

Was a vow made under duress binding? Dutch swallowed hard. "I do."

"And do you, Mary Estalina, vow before God and witnesses that you will take this man to be your husband, in the fullness of time, to be the father of your children and comfort to the end of your days?"

"I do!"

"Then, as a sign of this commitment, each of you is to add your family’s pin to the other tag."

Dutch felt Lucan press a green pin into his hand. Mary Estalina took a brown pin from the woman. She thrust her chest forward, inviting Dutch to attach his pin to her tag first. He did so, his fingers brushing her breast. Her smile made him blush.

Then she reached over and fastened her pin to his tag, and her fingers deliberately stroked his chest.

The priest cleared his throat and turned the page. "Kneel before God, and prepare to receive his blessings. The parents may now lay their hands upon their children."

As Dutch felt Lucan’s head on his crown, he wondered about this man who had vowed himself to one woman, given himself to another, then left them both to join the church. Not an example of fidelity, was he? So why was she the harlot?