Thursday, September 18, 2014

Daydreaming...

No volcano news this morning, to the relief of everyone. I am drinking coffee and bracing myself for exercise at the gym. After that comes all the work I didn't do yesterday. Mostly sunny today, with a high of 71. A good chance of rain Friday and Saturday, then slightly cooler temps. I am repeating the St. Paul forecast. Talk about boring. Maybe I need to do something insanely exciting, so I can report it. But I need to get the hwarhath collection done. Writing so often gets in the way of life.

If I got really energetic I could finish all my writing projects in about a year, then devote myself to something else. But I have ideas for new stories. So much for hang gliding.

As I have mentioned before, I don't like doing the final work on stories -- revising and proofing and producing a clean file. I do like the first draft, when the story is new and I'm not entirely sure what will happen next. Once I clear out the to-do list, I can get back to the fun part of writing.

I was reading Diana Wynne Jones and listening to a broadcast of Manon Lescaut last night. Which makes me start thinking I would like to write a YA fantasy. Something rich and melodic, like a Puccini opera. I'm going to see Puccini's Girl of the Golden West in a week or two. That opera has a happy ending. Girl of the Golden West done as a YA fantasy...

Well, that is all daydreaming. I have to finish three collections and a novel first -- and proof three more novels, so they can be reprinted as ebooks. Maybe I will write a story about an artist who spends her life daydreaming of the great work she could do...

Friday, September 12, 2014

Volcano News

I have spent the past couple of weeks focusing on the Icelandic volcano. The main crater of Bardarbunga is subsiding, and this is not good news. This can be a sign that the crater itself is going to blow.
Rifts to the north of the crater, which are not under glacial ice, continue to erupt. This is producing gas which is getting blown into inhabited areas in the East Fjords. Icelandic Civil Defense has warned vulnerable people -- children, the elderly, people with respiratory problems -- to stay inside with the windows closed.

That is where things stand now. There are three alternatives, according to the Icelandic Meteorological Service. (1) The activity could gradually slow down and end. (2) There could be an eruption under the glacial ice, but not in the Bardarbunga crater. This most likely would produce ash and flooding. (3) There could be an eruption in the crater itself, which would be likely to produce a lot of ash and flooding. This last could threaten hydroelectric dams which produce a lot of the country's power -- and maybe people as well.

If you look at the previous post, you will see that the alternatives are the same ones listed there. The situation has gotten worse -- grave, per the Icelandic National News Service -- because of the subsidence within the Bardarbunga crater. Other than that, we wait and see.

I am obviously concerned about Iceland. In addition, I am avoiding thinking about the American government's latest move into the Middle East and the behavior of the Republicans at home. I feel I am living in a collapsing empire, run by idiots, in a world at the edge of ruin. It's a science fictional plot, and I don't like it.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

The Eruption

The most recent report from the Icelandic Meteorological website, which covers weather, avalanches, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions:
It remains unclear how the situation will develop. Four scenarios are still considered most likely:

The migration of magma could stop, resulting in a gradual reduction in seismic activity and no further eruptions.

The dike could reach the Earth's surface causing another eruption, possibly on a new fissure. Lava flow and (or) explosive activity cannot be excluded.

The intrusion reaches the surface and another eruption occurs where either the fissure is partly or entirely beneath Dyngjujökull. This would most likely produce a flood in Jökulsá á Fjöllum and perhaps explosive, ash-producing activity.

An eruption in Bárðarbunga. The eruption could cause an outburst flood and possibly an explosive, ash-producing activity. In the event of a subglacial eruption, it is most likely that flooding would affect Jökulsá á Fjöllum. However it is not possible to exclude the following flood paths: Skjálfandafljót, Kaldakvísl, Skaftá and Grímsvötn.

Other scenarios cannot be excluded.

Labor Day (A Day Late)


A poster by the wonderful Ricardo Levins Morales for Labor Day. (I know I am a day late.) Here is a link to his website. His work is well worth having.

Another Photo of the Eruption


This is happening in a wasteland in the middle of nowhere and not under a glacier. Eruptions under ice produce ash and flooding, both of which worry the Icelanders. So far so good on this eruption. But the Icelandic Meteorological Service remains cautious.

Bartharbunga Eruption in Iceland


The current eruption in Iceland. Bartharbunga is a serious volcano and under a glacier, which makes it more dangerous. However, the magma has been migrating north. When it surfaced in this eruption, it was not under ice.

Autumn

Wild sunflowers are blooming along the freeway. A few leaves are starting to turn. There are apples and brussels sprouts in the Farmers Market. Yesterday was the last day of the State Fair.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Thor 1

We watched Thor 1 again, after a fair long while. It's a silly movie, but I still like it. Compared to the other Marvel movies the pace seemed stately. Yes, there were fights, but not an adrenaline crazed rush of violence. I like the images: golden Asgard, dark Jotenheim and small town New Mexico. I like Hiddleston a lot. How could one not? And I like the movie's double arc: Thor rising up to become a human being, so to speak, and Loki descending into a monster.

Hemsworth is okay. He's playing a simpler character. No one ever said Thor was complex. Loki, on the other hand, is a great role. Patrick says everyone did an okay to good job. It's not easy playing gods. Imagine the casting call. We need actors who look like gods and actors who look like rural New Mexicans.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Iceland Again


Another photo of Iceland. When in doubt, look at a photo of Iceland. Better yet, go to Iceland. I need to check the rates on Icelandair...

Police


And this is a photo is from the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul. The demonstrations at the convention were mostly middle aged women peace activists, as far as I know. There were some kids (see above). But nothing to require creating a security perimeter around downtown St. Paul and filling it with cops like the ones we see here. Let's face it. The people who run America are afraid of ordinary Americans

The police in Ferguson are far better equipped and look far worse. They look like an army of occupation.

Killing Young Black Men

A Guardian essay on the troubles in Ferguson, MO.

In so far as there is anything good about the situation in Ferguson, it's that people are demonstrating, and the world is learning the story.

Seals


Another photo, which is not about me. Seals in Iceland, courtesy of the Guide to Iceland facebook page. In color, I am pretty sure, but mostly black and white and gray.

Iceland


I decided my posts are too inward, too much about me. Here is something that is not about me, courtesy of the Guide to Iceland facebook page, which is here. The page has lot of lovely photos of Iceland, always cheering, I find.

A Good Mood

More from facebook:

Another sunny day. I have exercise and an hour+ of dental work today. However, when the work is done, I will be free of dentistry for half a year, except for flossing and paying the bill. I have decided to try gratitude practice again. Three things that make me happy: 1) The weather, which is bright and not too hot. 2) Toasted muffins, marmalade and coffee. 3) Being a writer, which is not a bad thing to be. Bonus cause for happiness: The Riverdell group is discussing the Moomin books on Saturday. I am reading them for the first time. They are gentle fun.

I knew I wanted to be a writer in junior high, and I actually did it. I've never been able to make a living at writing, which has meant I've had a lot of low-prestige jobs, most of them low-paying. I liked many of them. (I stayed away from food and retail.) But I actually did manage to do the writing and get it published and get some good reviews, though wealth and have eluded me. Well, I never made a serious try at wealth and fame. Mostly I wanted to write and be published and have some people like what I wrote. I told John Douglas 30 years ago that I wanted to be respected by the people in the field I respected. He made a polite, dubious, Canadian noise. Ha, ha, John. I did it.

Boy, I wrote something that is triumphant. That makes me nervous. We don't do triumph here in Minnesota. Let me rephrase the above. "It could be worse."

This ties in with Nick Mamatas's essay on success and failure. You are more likely to succeed if you set goals you can achieve. Most of us set huge goals when we are young. I wanted to be a writer, a space cadet and someone who changed the world and helped create a better society. As I have aged, I have moved the goals in. Now, I am relatively happy to write science fiction, to critique the old society and create images of a better world. But I am in a really good mood this morning, in spite of the impending dentistry. Later this afternoon, my mouth sore and my face numb, I may have a darker vision.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Failure

This link goes to a brief essay by Nick Mamatas on success and failure for a writer.

Once again I am mining my facebook comments for the blog. Here are a couple of thing I said about Nick's essay:
I used to do a panel at Minicon titled "Psychological Survival for SF Writers," which was about ways to deal with failure. (Exercise, eat well, be moderate in your use of alcohol and drugs, drink tea, find other things to care about... The usual...) I had to give the panel up, because people left the room in tears. They did not want to think about the possibility of failure.

What Nick is talking about is not failure leading to success, but failure leading to more failure. There is a novel by Halldor Laxness about an Icelandic peasant who devotes his life to poetry, suffering poverty, misery and failure. It's titled Heimljos, which means Light of the World. The guy is a bad poet. He is never going to have success of any kind. My sister-in-law gave the book to me, because she found it unbearably depressing. I thought it sounded funny, though I haven't read it yet. Some day when I am up for a really grim joke.
I can't speak to the novel, since I haven't read it. But one of the things Laxness admires about his characters is how indomitable they are, as the same time that they are often absurd. Absurd is not the right word. They have big ideas. They see themselves in terms of the saga heroes, even though they may be peasants just barely scraping by. The hero of Heimljos makes the same sacrifices (it seems to me) as van Gogh did, but he is not a great artist.

Laxness's characters are always (or often) trying to pull themselves free from dire poverty and misery, to live great lives, though they are not -- in fact -- saga heroes or great artists. Not having read the novel, I cannot say if Laxness thinks this particular character is admirable or pathetic.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Hard SF

This is a neat essay on women and science fiction by Vandana Singh. She writes in specific about women and hard SF, the manly stories about physics and engineering, which women writers tend to avoid, because they can't do the math. Singh is a physicist and can do the math, and she is concerned that women become more comfortable with hard SF.

As far as I can tell, she is absolutely right about everything she says, but I added a comment anyway. And because I like to use what I write more than once, if I can, here is what I wrote:
A couple of comments on hard science fiction. For the most part, it has been based on engineering and physics, also (I suppose) chemistry and materials science. (I am not entirely sure what materials science is, but I run across it in New Scientist, mostly in articles on research on the properties of materials.) Hard SF can include biology, though SF based on biology and evolutionary theory begins to look a bit soft. SF based on the "human sciences" -- history, anthropology, sociology, political science, psychology and maybe economics, though I'm not sure economics is any kind of science -- is completely soft and squishy. Hard SF writers mostly ignore the squishy sciences. As a result, they create far-future societies that are exactly like current American society, populated with people whose names are "Bob Smith" and "Joe Jones." They appear to have no idea that societies change and evolve, and that new technologies change societies. If you have FTL, then you have far different physics. What else is changed, besides space travel? How has the society changed?

So that is one point. I find most hard SF contains really bad soft science and that makes it unconvincing.

Second, what about paradigm shifts? One technique I use is to figure out how far into the future my society is, then look back a comparable distance into the past. If the story is set 200 years in the future, how much has science changed since 1814? How much of our current science could have been predicted in 1814? What this means is -- a current hard SF story that is set in the future is going to be using way out of date science, unless it is set in the near future or assumes a static or regressing society, that has produced no new science. The better -- the truer -- the current science is, the more out of date it will be in a story set far-out. I think there's an argument for far-distant stories using the science we have now. What else do we have, after all? And Newton still works when dealing with large bodies. But hard SF writers who get all self-righteous about how scientific their work is are silly.

None of this is a reason to give up on hard SF. We need to build a new kind of hard SF, that recognizes the soft sciences and the history of science. I think I'm saying pretty much what you have said above. So I will stop.