Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Cover Art Link

Here is a story or review or critique of some fantasy cover art. The author compares two book covers, one good and one bad. I happen to agree with the author's assessment of these particular covers.

This puts me in mind of book covers in general. Most covers I find simply neutral, they don't impress me, but they don't repulse me. Some covers I dislike, such as Enders Game and its sequels by Orson Scott Card. Something about the lettering bothers my senses. On the other hand, I like the cover to Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. It is dark and oddly evocative.

Here are two covers I like. The first is the Chinese edition of John Scalzi's Old Man's War (Amazon link here), and the second is Blood Debt by Sean Williams.

Now, I believe that the traditional space ship floating before a planet theme has been overdone in scifi, and this seems like a default scene for any science fiction book. It gives the impression that the artist and publisher didn't bother to read the book and find an interesting scene to depict or a captive mood to represent.

The default in fantasy is the colorful picture of characters standing. If you're not familiar with this one then check out these examples, here and here, and then you'll know what I'm talking about.

I think cover art is an area where publisher's could improve. Why? Because cover art is one of the four things that get readers attention in the book store. The four things are the 1) author, 2) the cover, 3) the blurb, and 4) the first five pages (and this list is in order of importance.) You may not always have number one. And, if you don't have number four then how did the book get published? The only variables are two and three, thus the need to make them intersting.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Secret? A Load of Bleep

Apparently, Ellen Degeneres and Oprah have both touted the book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. If you aren't familiar with The Secret, and I wasn't until I saw this article on, it is a self help book that is selling like it actually works (for the author.) The premise of the book sounds like the power of positive thinking. It claims, according to, that if you think good thoughts and avoid bad influences that these positive steps will 'attract' more positive results, specifically the ones you want.

This 'secret' is nothing new. The laws of attraction have been touted for years in various books, such as Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting by Lynn Grabhorn and others to numerous to mention. But, Rhonda Byrne, again according to, tries to dress the idea up in metaphysics. To this end she enlists the aid of a couple of Quantum Physicists, Fred Alan Wolf Phd. and John Hagelin Phd. Don't get impressed just yet. Both of these 'scientists' also appeared in the movie What the Bleep Do We Know, a movie that attempted to explain how quantum physics can lead to a deeper understanding of life and a better life. A little research on the net shows that this movie was funded and produced and features many people who are followers of a woman named JZ Knight. Knight gets her wisdom because she claims to channel some ancient being known as Ramtha. See where I'm going with this? These ideas are not new, and they are usually latched onto by people involved or willing to believe in New Age movements. The Secret does not propound a new idea, and it doesn't even seek out new people to promote the idea. It is a total rehash of an already questionable idea. Yet, Oprah and Ellen are among the millions who have bought this book, and made it one of the fastest selling self help books in history. Woe to us. Of course, this is a perfect example of the economy of the new millenia; take a tired idea, dress it up in pretty marketing, and sell it to a public reviled by the reality of hard work and patience. Today, people want their reality from others, in a one hour prime time show.

The trouble with books like this is that they taint the idea of holding a positive outlook on life. It seems like common sense that, despite our cynical view of the world, most of the time good things happen to good people and vice versa. If bad things happen to you are you a bad person? If good things happen to you are you a good person? I didn't say that. It is a question of probability, seized and missed opportunity. For a deeper and well researched look at this idea, I suggest you pick up Breaking Murphy's Law, by Suzanne C. Segerstrom. It is a well thought, well written, and statistically grounded look at the topic The Secret turns into mystic gobbledy gook.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Best Science Fiction Books Ever

I've often looked for a useful list of essential science fiction reading. Well, I found it. This list was compiled in 1996, I think. The author of the corresponding article compiled various best of scifi lists, and came up with this list of 162 books, each with an associated score, based on his criteria (you'll have to read the article to get the details on the scoring.)

I'm ashamed to admit how many of these books I haven't read, but now that I have the list, I intend to get busy.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Yet More Rejection

More rejection this morning, this time from a literary agent. I already doubted my writing, and this doesn't help. Will I stop writing and offering myself for sacrificial rejection? Of course not, but my may wallow in my self pity until the rest of the family wakes up.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


I stink when it comes to dilligence. I don't seem capable of maintaining focus over any length of time, thus no blog entries in more than a week. But, I'll continue to try.

If the tone of this entry feels depressing that's because I'm depressed. I received a rejection email today. If I haven't told you, I'm an unpublished writer, and that title will not change today. I submitted a story that I felt good about, but the editors didn't. So, I'm still just a veterinarian with a dream of becoming a published writer.

Initially, I felt down regarding the letter and then I tried to spin it in a positive light. 'All writers get rejected, this just makes me one of them. I'll come back strong.' This fabrication worked for about ten minutes, but then I went down again, quickly.

If there was anyone out there, how would you deal with repeated rejection?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Current Media Intake

I'm reading two books, 'Fire Upon the Deep' by Vernor Vinge and 'Starfish' by Peter Watts. (I mentioned FUD early, but I've gotten distracted and haven't finished it.) 'Fire Upon the Deep' won the Hugo in 1993, and 'Starfish' didnt, but at the halfway point the latter book seems much better to me. I love good ideas, but I want characters that compel me to continue reading. So far, Vinge has not produced those characters. Perhaps this part of the book will improve, or maybe there is a slam bang ending, but right now I'm a little dissappointed. (I'm a big believer that a good, or bad, ending can redeem, or kill, a book, but that is another post.) Starfish has some very interesting characters, but the plot hasn't progressed much, assuming a plot exists. Still, it's too early to decide on either book, but I was struggling for a topic today.

It's funny. I thought a blog would be easy, but there isn't as much going on in my noggin as I imagined. My mind constantly turns over thoughts, but many (most) of them seem unworthy of an entry. But, I think these ideas will begin to leak into the blog from sheer desperation.

So, I just watched 'Dune', the David Lynch version. This proves one of my guiltiest pleasures. Despite the bad reviews, I like this movie, always have. Oh the acting can be terrible, such as when Kyle MacLachlan repeats his girlfriend's words,

"Tell me of your home world" big pause "Usul."

Awful, but in a great eighties kind of way. Hell, I even thought Sting did a decent job.

My attention span is flagging, thus I'm off to watch 'Soylent Green'. I've never seen it, but I'll let you know. Goodnight.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Righteous Indignation

From the definition for righteous,
1.characterized by uprightness or morality: a righteous observance of the law.
2.morally right or justifiable: righteous indignation.
3.acting in an upright, moral way; virtuous: a righteous and godly person.

From the definition for indignant,

feeling, characterized by, or expressing strong displeasure at something considered unjust, offensive, insulting, or base: indignant remarks; an indignant expression on his face.

Now, to address righteous indignation. Get over yourself. I had this epiphany the other day in the car. Another driver cut me off, quite rudely. Normally, I would speed up and give the offensive driver the finger, but I didn't, and it felt good. This country is chock full of people swollen with righteous indignation. I'll give you two examples from the extremes, Bill O'reilly and Keith Olberman. Both of these blowhards need to stop taking themselves, and everyone else, so damn seriously. The world is a serious place, we don't need to wallow in it at every chance.

So, to all of you out there convinced of your moral superiority, or any superiority, bite me. If more people let go of their righteous indignation and tried to improve their lives, without worrying about everyone else, then the world would prove a happier place. Am I righteously indignant about all this? Damn right!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Family Tragedy

I haven't posted for several days, we had a tragedy in the family. I won't go into specifics, but it has proven a rough few days. During our time away, I began rereading 'Quantum Pshychology' by Robert Anton Wilson. The book walks a fine line between science and speculation, but Wilson does this admirably. For those of you who don't know, Wilson died recently. If you aren't familiar with him then you definitely need to read some of his books, and perhaps check out his wikipedia entry.

For beginners of Wilson, I suggest the 'Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy' if you prefer fiction or 'Quantum Pshychology' for those of you that prefer nonfiction. He's probably best known for
'The Illuminatus Trilogy' with Bob Shea.

Wilson has influenced writers from many fields, but perhaps most from science fiction. One example is Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing fame and author of 'Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom'. Doctorow, among others, has sighted Wilson as an influence. Also, podcast host and writer R.U. Sirius (another person to check out on the net) was influenced by RAW.

I find myself really attracted to the philosophy espoused by Wilson, and I'm unwilling to attemtp to distill it for easy consumption. I think someday he will be regarded as a visionary by more than a handful of admirers and readers, and you would do well to familiarize yourself with his work. So, here is to Robert Anton Wilson.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Kid Reading

My daughter is reading the fourth book in the 'Gregor the Overlander' series; she is an avid reader, and really seems taken with these books by Suzanne Collins. And, I just started reading my son 'Redwall.' He seems to identify with Matthias, and I like the book myself. It is taking him a little while to get into the book. Jacques uses language that is descriptive and beyond most five year olds,

"A curious thrush perching in a gnarled pear tree watched the two figures make their way at a sedate pace in the direction of the Great Hall, one clad in the dark greeny-brown of the order, the other garbed in the lighter green of a novice."

Perhaps your advanced five year old knows what gnarled and novice mean, but mine doesn't, yet. We're going slow, a few pages a night, but we'll finish it eventually. Goodnight, I'm off to the world of Redwall.

Smartphone Review

I have a Treo 700w. I've been using it for almost five months, and I'm not that excited by it. First, the keyboard is almost too small to be useful. You can pop of a quick text message, but anything remotely involved is out of the question. Web surfing on a cell phone is a useless experience, I don't care what browser you use. The screen is too small to provide any kind of positive user experience, not to mention the poor speed of the connection (I'm hooked up with Verizon.) It can be useful occasionally, to find a phone number (so you don't have to pay the completely damned ridiculous $1.50 for information), but not much more. Email? Forget about it. In today's world where tech from different companies don't play nice, unless your email account, smartphone operating system, and mobile provider are all on the same page then your screwed, and mine aren't. I can use my phone to check my email, but it isn't push, despite what I was led to believe at the Verizon store where I purchased the phone. Actually, several things I was told by my sales person did not prove true, but pushy lying sales people is another post entirely. Let me just say the email experience is less than ideal. I have enjoyed text messaging, but this is a function available on almost every phone now, and you don't need an expensive smartphone. Camera? Yeah, it has one, but I've never understood the allure of that feature anyway. I have some blurry pictures of my wife and kids on there, but nothing more. I'm not a high powered businessman, so I can't give you any low down on things like Excel. My smartphone has a version of Word on it, but for what? Hell, you can't type anything on it. I suppose I could use it to ferry documents around, but I don't.

I do like my calendar and notepad. For this purpose I use Pocket Informant and Phat pad, yeah, I had to pay extra for those, but they're nice.

I've heard you could connect to your Sling media player, but why?

I may not be the best person to review a smartphone, I'm neither a power computer guy or businessman. The best I can say about the phone is that I can use it to make calls, expensive calls, and I'm addicted to Bubble Breaker.

My advice, for alot less money get a simple phone and a really nice notepad and pen.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Political and Media Punditry

I love this move pulled by several of the cable news media giants. They pick an unworthy news topic, let's call it the XYZ Affair. Then one of their cable news shows dissects why the 'media' insists on reporting this non news, and in doing so they give an extraordinarily detailed report on the XYZ affair. Somehow, we're supposed to by that this news media network is not part of the 'media', and their reporting on the XYZ affair is just an expose' on the other media networks. If you've ever watched any of the cable news channels, then you've seen this tactic in action. The sad part? Loyal followers of these channels buy the crap, and point the finger at the 'media', but not their beloved Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, etc...

We are sheep.

Monday, February 5, 2007


The post dated for Saturday, while written Saturday, wasn't published until Monday morning. I guess the posting date is the date it was saved as a draft. Seems a bit daft to me, but I'm just a humble veterinarian.

Yeah, I have a day job, and it isn't as a rich blogger or a world famous scifi author, much to my chagrin..

Well, I posted this morning, but it appears as though I posted Saturday. How to alleviate the guilt I feel over missing this morning? Oh yeah, I avoid guilt, but I may have popcorn anyway and watch 'Soylent Green'.


Sunday, February 4, 2007

Day Off

It's Superbowl Sunday people. Take the day off.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Procrastination or Addicted to Potential

How many people start a diet, but never follow through? How many people start writing a book, but never follow through? How many people start projects of a regular basis, but never follow through?

Yep, almost everybody, and most of them bemoan their lack of focus, dilligence, and will power. My new theory is that people fail and then restart for a completely different reason, we are addicted to the potential of a new beginning.

Relationship books and articles abound discussing the intense emotions found early in relationships and how this fades over time. Well, the same is true of any project. Start a new book and burn through the first few chapters, but then the novelty (pardon the impartial pun) wears off. Those original embers of creative passion are gone, and you find yourself slogging through the book (the real work of real writers.) The antidote? For some, we call them successful people, the push on with the chose project. The rest of us? We crave the fire of a newborn volcano, and we begin a new project (or book or diet or choose your passion.)

Unfortunately, I have no answer to this affliction, but isn't knowing about it supposed to help?


Magicians use misdirection to help them trick people. The place where you are looking is usually not where the real action is taking place. I bring this up with regard to politics, and the example I'll use is the 'civil war' vs. 'not civil war' in Iraq debate. The answer? Who really gives a shit. The people involved, politicians (all of whom are criminals and should be jailed), have managed to distract the public with frivolous discussions. Here is an example of how they work.

Person 1: "You killed that man."

Person 2: "Did not."

Person 1: "Yes, you did. Look there is his dead body. I saw you plunge a knife into his back."

Person 2: "That is not murder."

Person 1: "What the hell do you mean? That is not murder? How could that not be murder?"

Person 2: "Using the definition of murder from, murder is 'the killing of another human being under conditions specifically covered in law. In the U.S., special statutory definitions include murder committed with malice aforethought, characterized by deliberation or premeditation or occurring during the commission of another serious crime, as robbery or arson (first-degree murder), and murder by intent but without deliberation or premeditation (second-degree murder).' By that definition, I did not murder this man.

Person 1: "This is outrageous. You murdered him. You stuck a knife in his back, that took some forethought, if even a couple of seconds worth."

Person 2: "How many seconds worth of forethought is required to consider an act murder."

Person 1: "Let me consult the experts."

Off screen, Person 1 is gathering his pundits to make his case, and Person 2 is moving on to bigger and better things, because everyone is going to wast time discussing what constitutes 'murder'. Meanwhile, the feckless media has taken up the debate ad nauseum, producing polls and pundits in vomit inducing quantities. The sad part? Everyone knows it was fucking murder, yet the debate will rage on until something else newsworth pushes the murder story out of the headlines. Misdirection.

I hate politicians. Once you decide to run for office you automatically become a criminal to me. You may have honorable intentions, but it wont salvage your soul.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Tech Island Nation

The idea of starting your own country on a tropical island for the sole purpose of abolishing laws related to technology, the wired world, copyrights, etc... has been in the news lately. I think the idea started with the Pirate Bay guys. You can read what Ars Technica has to say on the subject here.

But, I first came across the idea in Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. I know this is the second time I've discussed Stephenson, but I swear I'm not a fanboy.

Boston 'Situation' Redux

Here is a link to Will Wheaton's blog where he gives the media the middle finger for their role in the Boston 'Terrorist Hoax'. Amen.

Thursday, February 1, 2007


I just finished reading Eight Million Ways to Die by Lawrence Block. It was good, but not great. I've read such good things about Block that perhaps my expectations were too high. Before I pick up another of his books, I'll do some research into which books are his best.

I also read Deep Blue Good-By by John D. MacDonald. It is a very entertaining book. MacDonald is one of the early writers, if not the earliest, to feature South Florida as his prime backdrop. Since then other writers such as Hiaasen and Leonard have mined this apparently rich landscape. Speaking of Florida and writing, I like Laurence Shames. Check out his book Scavenger Reef, which is set in Key West.

Now, I've picked up A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge. I just started, but the man seems to have a brawny imagination.

Boston 'Terrorist' Hoax

The whole uproar over the Boston 'Terrorist Hoax' proves that everyone in government is a moron. And, these morons all take themselves way too seriously. The whole world is reaching a point where everything is overanalyzed to the point of absurdity. Take for example the discussion on Fox's O'reilly Report where they discussed the comedy of John Stewart and Stephen Colbert. One of the commentors, in response to 'why are these guys so popular?', said roughly, 'because they are making fun of people, bringing them down, and everybody in our mean society likes to see people taken down a little.' WRONG. They are funny because the point out the patently absurd behaviour that people such as yourselves take too seriously and pundit into the ground. Come on America, you don't have to get your sense of humor back, but at least loosen up a little.

Snow Day

It snowed last night, or it pretended to snow. If you go outside there is snow on the grass in the shade of a tree. And for this small amount of snow, every school system within 100 miles is closed. It's almost as if the people running the school don't want to go to work. Almost as if they want a day off as much as the kids. Actually, they cancelled school last night, hours before the first snow flakes fell. They have much more faith in the predictive abilities of the weather channel than I do.

I guess this jibes with the local attitude toward snow inclement weather in general. Everytime the weather channel predicts snow, there is a mad rush to get to the grocery to buy milk and bread. You can't live without milk and bread, and god forbid it really did snow, then you'd have to wait until the afternoon sun melted the snow to go to the snow. Or, gasp, you may even have to go 24 hours with out fresh milk and a loaf of bread. Someone please tell me, how much milk do people drink? A gallon lasts 4 days in my house, and we go through a loaf of bread in 10 days.

By the way, I live in Tennessee, just so you'll know. I like snow. Hell, I love snow, but the whole city doesn't need to shut down over a 1/2 inch of the stuff. Enough complaining, I'm going outside to play in the leftover snow with my kids.