Get Ready for GenCon

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It’s that time of year again! In five days, sixty-thousand plus gamers, cosplayers, aspiring writers, and nerds of all stripes will descend upon downtown Indianapolis like a swarm of geeky grasshoppers for GenCon, the best four days in gaming.

And once again, one of the best kept secrets in the publishing industry will be happening right across the street. Taking up brand-new digs at the Westin just a short skywalk away from the convention center, the GenCon Writer’s Symposium is running almost 200 hours of programing from Thursday to Sunday, featuring more than 70 guests. With everything from panels with professional authors, to readings and signings, to pitch sessions with actual literary agents, the Writer’s Symposium has grown to be a con-within-a-con.

Whether you’re an aspiring writer looking to polish your skills, or have a finished manuscript looking for a home, this is the place for you.

I’ll be on several panels this year. Here’s my schedule:

Friday, 9:00am: Business of Writing: Social Media 101

Friday, 3:00pm: Writing Novels: Ending it Right

Friday, 4:00pm: Signing

Saturday, Noon: Writer’s Craft: Fun Story, Smart Message

When I’m not speaking on panels, you’re almost sure to find me at the Angry Robot Books booth, #3044, in the main dealer hall, where I will be selling my books, and defacing copies of Adam Rakunas novels.

Check out the rest of the schedule. Sign up for some panels. You won’t regret it. And don’t forget to swing by and say hello. I’d love to sell you books meet you!

 

 

Moving Up and Moving Out

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Good afternoon, readers. I have an exciting announcement to make regarding the future of the blog portion of the website. After many years shouting into the void, a series of fortuitous accidents has ended with me accepting an offer to become a political contributor to “The Hill,” where I will still be shouting into the void, but from a much larger platform. You can see my first two posts, and some of their inevitable fallout, here, and here.

As a result, the flavor of my personal blog will be changing. Going forward, political or socially-themed posts will largely be directed towards my contributions to The Hill, where the audience is specifically looking for political content. If you’re one of the masochists who liked those posts, and there are a lot of you, I know, I watched the analytics, then please sign up for email updates and follow us on twitter @TheHill.

For the rest of you, this space is shifting gears. Instead of the previous blend, posts here will cover my thoughts and experiences on writing, the publishing industry, performing comedy, musings on genre issues, reviews of books, movies, games, and other pop culture, as well as news and announcements on projects I have coming down the pipeline.

Tonight, I’ll be heading out to watch Star Trek: Beyond, which I am super excited for. The first post of the revamped blog will most likely be a spoiler-free review of the movie after I’ve had a little time to digest it and punch something up on Saturday.

Stay tuned!

 

Europa or Bust

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This is the first image from Juno, NASA’s new probe to Jupiter. In it, you can see the solar system’s largest planet (Jupiter, obvs), the solar system’s most volcanically active body (Io, first spec to the right), and arguably the solar system’s best patch of real-estate to search for extraterrestrial life (Europa).

I say the best patch to search for ET around our star for several reasons. First of all, Europa has an ENORMOUS subsurface ocean, totaling as much as twice the volume of Earth’s oceans of liquid water and, even more encouragingly, resembling them in chemical composition as well. And unlike Mars, the potential biosphere beneath Europa’s ice has been actively stewing for billions of years.

Also unlike Mars, the odds of cross contamination from another body into Europa’s oceans are slim. Any ancient bacteria hitching a ride on a meteorite knocked loose from Mars or Earth would have to contend with not only the intense radiation belts surrounding Jupiter (Jupiter actually puts out MORE energy in radiation than it receives as light from the Sun), but it would have to have penetrated many kilometers of rock-hard, solid ice.

Which, for my money, makes Europa the best candidate for a true, second genesis of life in our solar system that arose independently of any life forms found on Earth. Thanks to pioneering work done by NASA’s Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity rovers, we know with a high degree of certainty that long ago, Mars had a warm, wet environment with a thick atmosphere many tens or hundreds on millions of years ahead of the point Earth reached habitability.

I would not be surprised at all to learn the life started there and then an asteroid impact made Earth and Mars into kissing cousins, swapping spit and mouth bacteria back and forth for millions of years. which means there’s a good chance that no mater which one life actually started on was the single point of origin. Which would be an amazing discovery, but would tell us nothing concrete about the prevalence of life in the rest of the universe.

Europa probably watched on in envy as the action between Earth and Mars heated up, but couldn’t join in. Which means (probably) that if there IS life in the dark waters under Europa’s ice, it was entirely home brewed. And THAT would mean life developed independently, twice, in the same solar system, within a few billion years, likely far fewer. And THAT would mean that the universe is absolutely lousy with life. As saturated with it as a teenaged boy’s crumpled sock.

Amazingly, initial funding for a Europa mission has gotten through Congress. And since it’s well after 2010 and we haven’t gotten any  cryptic “All these worlds are yours except Europa. Attempt no landings there,” messages, I for one can hardly fucking wait for it to launch. And for the love of God, can we stop letting the robots do all the cool exploration jobs? Let’s get alien dirt under our fingernails, people.

Oh, and if you want a masterful fictional exploration into the sorts of things that might be swimming around in Europa’s oceans, go buy A DARKLING SEA by James L. Cambias. It has not one, but two of the most expertly crafted alien societies I have ever read.

I’m Done Apologizing for Star Trek

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“You were one of those Star Trek nerds in high school.”

So, as one or two of you might know, I get into little scraps on the internet from time to time. Usually it’s because someone is being a douche about one or more social or political issues important to me.

Anyway, long story short, at some point in all of this the target usually gets mad, frustrated, and completely abandons any pretext of trying to defend their position and instead start digging through my public profile looking for things they believe will embarrass or discredit me. And something almost every brototype or ex-quarterback with blown-out knees eventually settles on is my Star Trek fandom.

“You were one of those Star Trek nerds in High School!” They shout, convinced it’s going to be the silver bullet that will finally slay their nemesis and send me scurrying for cover. Trouble is, that doesn’t work anymore, because I’m done apologizing for Star Trek.

Let’s set aside the fact these man-children continue to retain an unhealthy fixation on the social hierarchies that defined them as teenagers and focus on the accusation itself. Star Trek fandom was supposed to be a mark of shame, proof of status as a social pariah.

And you know what? They’re right. I was one of those Star Trek nerds in High School. I was one of those nerds in Grade School. And now at thirty-six, I’m still one of those nerds. And I couldn’t be more proud of it.

I’ve seen every episode, of every series (including the animated series), and every movie. I’ve been building kits and even scratch-building ships for twenty-five years. And not only that, but I’ve met several of the actors. I’ve become friends with people who have written episodes for Star Trek, novels for Star Trek, done graphic design for Star Trek, built filming miniatures for Star Trek. The voice talent who records my own novels for Audible.com was a character actor on both Next Gen and Voyager. I’ve built relationships with people who have helped create and shape one of the most enduring, popular, and prolific television and movie properties in the entire history of those mediums.

Yeah, you can say I’m a fan. Why in the hell should I be expected to be embarrassed for it? Star Trek has been one of the most consistent voices for tolerance, moderation, inclusiveness, empathy, and basic human decency throughout my life.

Captain Kirk taught me that real men don’t throw the first punch, but they sure as hell throw the last one. Commander Spock taught me the value of patience, logic, and controlling one’s passions.

I watched Next Gen week after week as new episodes aired. And over the course of those seven seasons, I watched an implacable Klingon warrior become a loving father without giving up what made him strong. I watched a blind African American and an albino android become the closest of friends and confidants. I saw a bald Frenchman talk through crisis after crisis with sworn enemies without a shot fired or loss of life to either side, saving people who only hours before wouldn’t have spit on him if he were on fire, and I never once questioned his masculinity for finding a peaceful solution instead of rushing into a fight.

I saw humans, aliens, and androids coming together, embracing their differences, growing to respect and trust one another as compatriots, then friends, and eventually family. And becoming unstoppable somewhere along the way.

And now I’ve learned that one of my favorite starship captains, Sulu, is in a same-sex relationship and raising a family with his partner, and I couldn’t be happier for them.

Those examples have never left me. They are the foundation of my values and morality, and my unshakable belief that we are stronger together. That our differences are superficial and illusionary. That infinite diversity in infinite combinations is a noble goal. And that those that seek to separate and divide us are holding us back from our ultimate destiny out among the stars.

These beliefs shape my politics, my comedy, and especially my writing. As angry as I may seem at times, as cynical and short-tempered, it’s all due to impatience. Because I’m in a rush. A hurry to see my world, our world, reach out to the future I know humanity has waiting for it once we put away all this bullshit and embrace our shared, collective potential.

Yeah, I’m a Star Trek fan. And I’m done apologizing for it, because there’s absolutely nothing to apologize for. Here’s to fifty more years.

We miss you, Spock, Scotty, and Bones.

THE ARK, TRIDENT’S FORGE and The Canopus Awards

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Hey everybody. Sooo… last year the folks over at the 100 Starship Project launched their own Sci-Fi Award called the Canopus to recognize both short and long fiction that expands the conversation and cause of interstellar travel. Well, nominations are open now, and both THE ARK and TRIDENT’S FORGE are eligible works for this year’s award.

So, if you read and enjoyed either, and honestly believe they’re worthy of award consideration, I would really appreciate it if you could head over to their site and fill out the nomination form. THE ARK was published in 2015, while TRIDENT’S FORGE was published in 2016. Both are classified as long form works over 40,000 words.

Oh, and to see what one of the members of the 100 Year Starship Project thought of THE ARK, go here and read his review.

The number of nominations each work gets matters, and it would be immensely helpful for the future success of the series just to wind up on the short list. That’s all for now. I’ll keep you posted about how it goes. Love you guys!

UPDATE: The nomination period has been extended to October 15th! Hurry up and nominate your favorite books!

Too Soon!

“Too soon!”

It’s a phrase I hear a lot as a comedian and blogger, usually shouted from the back of a darkened club, or posted in a comment thread. I hear it after topical jokes, or posts about current events. It’s been repeated so often that it’s become a joke in and of itself.

Whenever a tragedy occurs, be it a terrorist attack, a school shooting, or another example of police brutality, there are always people who come out of the woodwork to say it’s too soon to talk about this, too soon to joke about it, too soon to politicize it.

Sometimes the people saying it are well-meaning, trying to take the feelings of victims or their families into consideration. Other times they’re opponents of change who just want to shut down an uncomfortable conversation that runs counter to their interests.

What they’re actually saying is it’s too soon to publicly acknowledge that there’s a problem. Too soon to start taking the steps necessary to fix it. Too soon to do anything about it.

But it’s when public emotions and attention are at their height can they most effectively be leveraged to affect lasting change. Waiting strips social movements of the critical energy they need to overcome the indifference and institutional momentum inherent to the status quo of any society. Waiting means risking yet another atrocity happening the next day, or the next week, resetting the clock once more and leaving real change eternally waiting for a lull long enough for critics of conversation to deem it respectful to open dialogue once more.

Too soon kicks the can down the road. Too soon defends the status quo. Too soon ensures it will always be too late.