Update from Iain Banks

He’s still dying of cancer, but it’s good to see a godless heathen like him still finding happiness in his life.

Discovering the sheer extent and depth of the feelings people have expressed on the message board over the past two weeks has been truly astounding.

I feel treasured, I feel loved, I feel I’ve done more than just pursue the craft I adore and make a living from it, and more than just fulfil the only real ambition I’ve ever had – of becoming a professional writer. I am deeply flattered and touched, and I can’t deny I’ve been made to feel very special indeed. At the same time, though, I’d like to think that it’s like this for every author, to a greater or lesser degree; we’ve each engendered more love out there than we think we have, and it’s only the fact that I’ve been able to pre-announce my own demise that has allowed me to realise my portion of that love in full while I’m still around to appreciate it.

Now I’m thinking…I’ve never met him and I guess I never will now, but I should send him a note of appreciation. We’re all alone in this world except when we’re not, so making the effort to touch another human being is rarely wasted.

(Also…cancer sucks.)

Hey! Hangout?

If I impulsively set up a Google+ hangout at 8pm my time (in about an hour), would anyone join it? I might try it anyway, just because. To talk about whatever.


Absolutely nothing of any significance was said. We just had a pleasant evening of social chit-chat.

No fools here

I am officially declaring this an April Fools-Free Zone. No foolin’.

My grumpiness might contribute to that, too. I ended up with an utterly miserable redeye flight from Seattle to Minneapolis — I landed at 5am. I’m still traveling to get home (I’m on a stimulant break right this instant), and as soon as I get there, I’m going in to work. Expect surly snarliness, world, until my labs are all over, I’m truly home, and I’m crashed into unconsciousness on my bed.

We’ve got a ways to go

I hear that the big American Atheists conference in Austin had an attendance of about 900, which is a good number, and of course, let’s not judge the quality of an event by the number of attendees. By all accounts, it was an excellent conference (I keep seeing these gushing comments on twitter about AC Grayling’s talk, making me very envious.)

But…perspective. I’m at a middling-to-good-sized SF convention, which is one of the larger regional events.

Attendance, I’m told, was about 3000 people. Costs for the two events were roughly comparable to attendees. There’s absolutely no comparison with the big national events like Comic-con and Dragon*Con.

I’m sorry, but I think secularism, humanism, and atheism are of greater relevance to people than comic-books. What can we do to grow our audience?

Reddit: working hard to bury their reputation ever deeper in the slime

A new tasteless meme is spreading across Reddit: good girl college liberal. As usual, I think you can guess what makes someone a “good” girl: it’s the willingness to do anything the guy with a copy of photoshop wants her to do. And what makes her a “college liberal”?

She’s topless.

I’ve never known that to be a common characteristic of women in college, liberal or otherwise, but as we all know, reality never interferes with a misogynist’s fantasies about how women should behave.

I’ve included an example below the fold. Breasts are blurred out, but you might still want to be careful about flashing the picture around the workspace.

[Read more...]

Still alive

At this stage of my life, I must get out and walk at least a mile every day, or my tendons start to calcify and lock up, and every step turns into an agonizing process in which a little homunculus scurries about in my blood vessels and uses a pointy hammer to shatter the crystallized pulleys and levers and get the joints moving again. It’s not fun. It’s better if I make a daily effort to keep the limbs supple and well-oiled, and then everything runs smoothly all the time.

My next life-stage? I’ll either be constantly moving, restlessly shark-like, or I’ll be frozen stonily, a kind of Morris Giant. In the latter event, at least my wife will be able to sell me to a freak show, or even charge admission to see the terrifying antediluvian hominid.

Anyway, so I have to take a lubricating constitutional every single day. One catch today is that we’re in the waning phases of a blizzard…but that does not stop me. I don my layered apparel and brave the fierce assault of the frozen north lest I face the dreaded tendon-freeze. External frigidity is better than internal rigidity.

So I wandered through the drifting snow, waded over roads empty of all but snow-clearing vehicles, fought against chilling wind-blasts, felt the ice build up in my beard, was occasionally blinded by flurries stirred up by the fitful gusts, to end up here, in a coffee shop, thawing. Also typing as an act of procrastination — when I finish this, I have to swaddle, zip, and button up and stagger out again to fight my way home again. Right now I’m alive and limber and warm, but that could change. Everything could change. Nothing ever stays the same and it’s always bracing to do battle with one thing or another.

The alternative is that career as freak-show statue, I suppose, which at least sounds restful.