TBT: True Geek

Someone remembered for me, back in July 2008, when I posted this. We were talking about the station in Babylon 5.

Something seemed wrong.

We were at the Irish Well. The band was taking a break, but it was still loud. I wasn’t sure I’d heard him right. “How many tons of steel in the station?”

He told me again.

“How long?”

I was skeptical.

“And how fast does it rotate?”

“One full rotation a day. Earth gravity. Earth day.”

“That can’t be right, can it?” [Read more…]

Meeting Users Where They Work

When I told friends I was starting a new job automating data processing, they wanted to know what language I’d be using. When I told them I’d be working with Visual Basic for Excel, I received more than one funny look. When I told them what kinds of problems I’d be solving, several people told me that Access or an SQL database was designed for doing those things.

Yes, this is absolutely true. I’ve used databases extensively for just these sorts of things. However, that’s missing the point entirely.

Not everyone who has to work with data is a data person. [Read more…]

Put a Quarter In

One of the social hazards of being friends with a bunch of writers is that you’ll sometimes lose them. I don’t mean that they’ll stop being able to follow you. I mean that someone will say something, or the group of you will see something, and…they’re gone. Elsewhere. Seeing a different one than the world the rest of you are still living in.

We lost Kelly McCullough that way for two days or so once. We went to The Citadel in Halifax, an old harbor defense and fort where you’re up on hill but manage to feel mostly underground. He pointed at things, we took pictures, and he spent the next while of our trip staring into another world. I’m still waiting for someone to buy the book based on that proposal so I can find out just what he saw.

Something similar happened with him this New Year’s Day. We were sitting around with Thomases, editors of Apex Magazine. They wanted to know what kind of essay Kelly was going to send them. (No, he didn’t have a choice.) We were kicking around some topics and laughing over the various ways in which they would make the local corner of the internet explode.

Then I said, “Tell me why you still cosplay even as a professional author.”

Click. Stare.

Fast forward two months to today. Kelly’s essay, “I Married a Fake Geek Girl: A Defense of Casual Fandom” has just gone live at Apex.

Just for giggles, let’s start with bona fides. I’m going to be talking about fake geeks and casual fandom, after all, and I wouldn’t want anyone to take me too seriously on that front.

I am a professional science fiction and fantasy author, most notably of the WebMage and Fallen Blade series. I have twelve novels published or forthcoming in the field, all from big New York houses, as well as a heap of short stories and poems. This is my day job. I am also a Third Generation fan. I have a thank you note and picture from the cast of Star Trek: TOS for my mother and grandmother’s help in the letter writing campaign that kept them on the air. My wife is a physics professor, a Second Generation fan, and a hardcore console RPG gamer among other geek-girl pursuits. She recently wrote an essay for the Doctor Who book Chicks Unravel Time. Seriously, we bleed geek.

We also cosplay.

Go read the whole thing. If nothing else, you’ll want to know how someone who just had an invited essay published in a Doctor Who anthology manages to be a “fake geek girl”.

All the Real (Geek) Girls

Sometimes you “walk” into another part of the internet, look around, and relax just a little.

My friends Lynne and Michael Thomas would probably give me squinty looks if I said that about Apex Magazine in person. Lynne is the editor-in-chief and Michael the managing editor, and both consider it at least partly their jobs to poke the internet with a stick. If the work they’re publishing doesn’t challenge people in some way, they haven’t done what they want to do.

That’s a big part of the reason I feature as many stories from Apex in Saturday Storytime as I do. It isn’t just that Apex has a great track record of publishing new authors and authors new to the magazine. It isn’t just that I like dark fantasy that doesn’t rely on body horror for its darkness. The stories often make me a little uncomfortable in ways I think I should pay attention to.

So saying I relaxed there is a little funny. Saying I relaxed on reading an essay about the “fake geek girl” stupidity is even funnier. Still, it’s all true. [Read more…]

Geeking for Good

Starting tomorrow at noon Central time, Jason and JT are starting a marathon gaming session for fundraising. Half the proceeds will go to Camp Quest and half will go to the Women in Secularism conference. The whole thing will be streamed and captured for your viewing pleasure (see Jason’s blog tomorrow for the stream link). Also so you can taunt people later over being trounced in the games.

Now, if you listen to JT, you’d think these guys were doing old school gaming:

I’ve spent some time seeing if we can run some of the arcade games from my youth which I never got to beat because it cost too many damn quarters.  Old school arcades will be playing include:

  • NBA Jam/NBA Hangtime
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Street Fighter II
  • Aliens vs. Predator
  • Battle Circuit
  • Smash TV
  • R-Type LEO
  • Cyberbots
  • Ninja Baseball Batman
  • Altered Beast
  • Contra
  • The Simpsons
  • Turtles in Time
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara
  • Ninja Commando

It’s not new. I’ll give them that. But oy, these kids, thinking that’s old. If you want to talk old, you’ll want to tune in when I join the guys at 8 a.m. CDT Sunday morning.

That’s also when I’ll announce a funding challenge. Only my challenge won’t be for JT and Jason. It will be for the viewers. I’ve been trying to track down a long-lost game for a while. As far the official lists go, it seems to have never existed. Only I know I played it (and I know others who played it), and I want to play it again if I can.

So if you think your Google-fu is better than mine, up for the challenge of finding a game that is well-hidden, watch Sunday morning. For that matter, tune in whenever you can. Give the guys and their guests challenges, either now or in the chatroom they’ll have set up. Or even just make a donation and watch the fun bits later on the recording.

However you do it, everybody wins, even when one of them is losing.

Whatever Google Image Search You Did

By now you’ve probably heard of Tony Harris, sexist asshole artist.

Before now, there was a good chance you admired his work without knowing who he was. The comic book industry can be thankless that way. Lots of people like what they like without paying close attention to who produced it for them. This is extra true for artists, weirdly. A comic book writer creates a story for you, but the artist brings it to life. Still, plenty of people don’t know who draws what they read.

We’ll just pretend, because it is an actual unfair thing that happens, that Tony Harris was tapping into a well of bitterness over that when he went off on a sexist tirade about why “real” geeks don’t like women cosplaying at cons. It doesn’t make it the tiniest bit better, but we’ll pretend anyway. After all, the original rant has been fisked, countered with cosplay love, and put in its appropriate social context.

There’s still one thing about it though, something I really only noticed reading PZ’s post on the rant:

And here it is, THE REASON WHY ALL THAT, sickens us: BECAUSE YOU DONT KNOW SH-T ABOUT COMICS, BEYOND WHATEVER GOOGLE IMAGE SEARCH YOU DID TO GET REF ON THE MOST MAINSTREAM CHARACTER WITH THE MOST REVEALING COSTUME EVER.

I read that, and my only thought is: Dude, you know squat about Google, and I can prove it. [Read more…]

We Need Max Headroom

This week is full of commitments and deadlines. Rather than try to meet all my blogging commitments with new work and failing, I’m pulling out some old posts. Given how my audience has grown, most of you won’t have read them at the time. This post was originally published here.

A couple of days ago, President Obama did a YouTube “press conference.” User questions were submitted to Google and answered by the president in a Google+ hangout. The press conference continues Obama’s trend of preferentially speaking directly to the public instead of the press (which is a vast improvement over his predecessor’s practice of speaking to neither).

This didn’t go over well with some White House reporters. In particular, Josh Gerstein of Politico took the opportunity to sneer:

Max HeadroomThe White House’s drive to embrace new media and technology will achieve nirvana next week as President Barack Obama participates in what his aides are proudly billing as the “first completely-virtual interview from the White House.”

Yes, that’s right. We journalists are now entirely superfluous and irrelevant. The White House can solicit questions directly from the public and no third-party involvement is required. Max Headroom would be proud.

I’m not sure Gerstein ever watched Max Headroom, despite being exactly the right age for it. Maybe he was too busy learning to be a serious reporter to catch anything but the Coke ads. They ran on the news, right? Heck, he probably even missed the music video.

Okay, the music video isn’t required cultural knowledge, but Max Headroom itself should be required viewing for anyone in media–particularly for reporters. Don’t be fooled by the goofiness. Don’t be fooled by the ancient computer graphics. Max Headroom is every bit as socially and politically relevant today as it was when it came out to high critical praise.

[Read more…]

Batman: Everything Old Is New Again

The only thing wrong with this remade trailer for The Dark Knight Rises is that, by using footage from Batman: The Animated Series, it tells me what the movies have been lacking.

For some people, Batman will always be Adam West. For others, maybe George Clooney. For me, it’s Kevin Conroy the whole way. Batman shouldn’t have to whisper to sound like a badass.

[Read more…]

We See a Different Frontier

Many of the themes of classic science fiction were colonial. Some were explicitly so, with new planets being settled by human pioneers and the kinks of first contact with sentient aliens being worked out–or not. Others were less straightforward, with minds and bodies falling under the control of…well, just about anything.

What was generally missing in these depictions, however:

Much widely distributed science fiction and fantasy is written by American and other Anglophone authors, and treats subjects close to the hearts of straight, white, English-speaking men. There’s nothing wrong with this sci-fi itself—we love lots of it—but there’s clearly something missing. Having white Anglo cis/hetero/males as (the only) role models is not an option any more. We aim to redress this balance, not only by publishing speculative stories by people with different viewpoints and addressing concerns from outside of the usual area (see World SF), but also by explicitly including fiction that addresses the profound socio-political issues around colonisation and colonialism (see Race in SF). We want to see political stories: not partisan-political, but writing that recognizes the implications for real people and cultures of the events and actions that make up science fictional or fantastic histories, as well as our own history.

For this anthology we will be looking for stories from the perspective of people and places that are colonized under regimes not of their choosing (in the past, present or even future). We are not primarily interested in war stories, although don’t completely rule them out. We are not interested in stories about a White Man learning the error of his ways; nor parables about alien contact in which the Humans are white anglos, and the Aliens are an analogue for other races. We want stories told from the viewpoint of colonized peoples, with characters who do not necessarily speak English, from authors who have experience of the world outside the First World.

This is a Peerbackers project, run by an experienced editing team. See an interview with one of the editors here.

This sort of project isn’t easy to sell to a publisher, but part of the point of Peerbackers is to take some of the risk out of what is generally considered a risky project. Considering that this project is nearly half covered a third of the way into its funding period, it probably isn’t as risky as the powers that be think. (This is true for a lot of projects that never get made because their target audience isn’t 18- to 34-year-old, white, etc. and on males.)

Some of my favorite science fiction from my childhood explored this point of view, so I’ve already ordered my copy. Go do the same if this appeals to you.

Bring Your Goggles and Top Hat

Next weekend, the Minnesota History Museum is hosting an event for geeky teens–or for geeky families with teens.

What If? Alternate History Teen & Family Day

Saturday, April 21, 12-4 p.m.
Included with museum admission.
$6 admission for anyone who brings their public library card!

Travel back in time and imagine a new future. Explore Minnesota through the eyes of science fiction and steampunk authors, artisans, and alternate historians. And by all means, don’t forget your goggles and top hat.

Activities will include: Interactive Steampunk Mystery with Red Ribbon Society; Music by Bad September; Ask a Writer with Minnesota science fiction authors Kelly Barnhill, Lyda Morehouse and Kelly McCullough; Fashion Art Activity with Leonardo’s Basement; fashion models styled by Blasphemenia’s Closet; and Steampunk artisans selling fashion accessories to create a more fantastic you.

It sounds like a great time, whether you’re into history, alternate history, or just dressing up. If I know those authors (and I know two of them personally and one online), that will be a very entertaining Ask a Writer session. Grab some teenagers and go have some fun!