Wishful Thinking Won’t Land a Man on the Moon

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Wishful thinking won’t land a man on the moon, but it might get us all killed – fortunately, though, we have people who know how to nail a good landing.

All we have to do now is preserve the fruits of their labors.

Now that a climate denier is barreling towards the presidency, other climate deniers are coming out of the woodwork, but fortunately, NASA has a great site telling the story of climate change. For those who haven’t been keeping score at home, the too-simple story is that humans have pumped vast amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in the past few decades, amounts that in the geological record resulted in disastrous temperature changes – and it’s really convenient for a lot of people to deny that.

Now, don’t worry: NASA results are in the public record, so even though Trump’s team has threatened to blind NASA’s earth sciences program and looks poised to conduct a witch hunt of climate change workers in the Department of Energy, even though climate deniers are wringing their hands in glee at the thought of a politicized EPA attacking climate science, scientists are working to save this climate data. If you want to get involved, check out climatemirror.org.

Now, I said it’s a too-simple story, and there are a lot of good references on climate change, like Henson’s The Rough Guide to Climate Change. But, technically, that could be considered a polemic, and if you want to really dig deep, you need to go for a textbook instead, one presenting a broad overview of the science without pushing an agenda. For example, Understanding Weather and Climate has a great chapter (Chapter 16 in the 4th edition) that breaks down some of the science behind global climate change (human and not) and why anthropogenic climate change is both very tricky to study – and still very worrisome.

And because I am a scientist, and I am not afraid to consider warranted arguments on both sides of any scientific question, I also want to call out Human Impacts on Weather and Climate 2/e by Cotton and Pielke, which in Chapter 8 and the Epilogue take a more skeptical view of our predictive power. In their view, well-argued in my opinion, current climate models are sensitivity studies, not forecasts; they merely establish the vulnerability of our systems to forcing factors like excess carbon, and don’t take into account areas of natural variability which might seriously alter the outcomes. And, yes, they are worried about climate groupthink.

Yes, they’re climate skeptics. But no-one is burning them at the stake. No-one is shunning them at conferences. People like me who believe in climate change read their papers with interest (especially Pielke’s work, which while it in some ways makes CO2 less of an issue and in some ways makes other human impacts seem worse). Still, Cotton and Pielke think the right approach is “sustained, stable national funding at a high level” and decry the politicization of science in either direction.

Still, do worry. Earth’s climate looks intransitive – it can get shoved from one regime to another, like the rapid-cooling Heinrich events and rapid-warming Dansgaard Oeschger events in the geological record, possibly triggered by large-scale ice sheet breakdowns and ocean circulation changes. Yes, global warming can cause global cooling by shutting down the existing pattern of global ocean circulation – and we’re pumping enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to simulate past triggers for such events.

Do you see why people who study climate change in enough depth to see where the science is really not settled end up walking away more unsettled about the future of our planet, not less? And why we stand up and say NO when someone else comes forward saying the “science is not settled” while acting like the science has already been settled in their favor?

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Have fun warming the planet!” Just hope it doesn’t inundate Florida. I’d love to tell you that the projected 1M sea rise discussed in the Florida resource isn’t as bad as the Geology.com map’s default 6m projections, but unfortunately, sea level seems to be rising in Florida faster than the IPCC projections, and if the science isn’t really settled, we could have a sea level rise of … jeez. After reviewing some of the research I don’t even want to tell you. The “good” news is, hey, the seas might fall too.

“Have fun rolling the dice!”

-the Centaur

Sandi’s Latest Art Show is Today!

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Saudi’s latest art show is today in downtown San Jose at 6pm! She’ll have 25+ pieces on display highlighting all aspects of her amazing creativity. The full details:

https://www.facebook.com/events/262434390823115/

PRESENTING THE ARTWORK OF SANDI BILLINGSLEY

Please join us for an evening of Art and Wine on Friday, November 4th, 2016 from 6 to 9 p.m.

1 Almaden Blvd, Suite 800 on the 8th floor

Please RSVP with Emilie at 408.287.6500 or emilie.slawinski@ampf.com

The site is the offices of Ameriprise Financial Services, but as far as I know, this is just an art opening – a series of events hosted by them for over a decade to support the arts in San Jose. Come check it out!

-the Centaur

Con Crud!

So, I had all sorts of plans to post on my upcoming panels and the ambience of Dragon Con, but I overslept. Not by, like, an hour, or two hours, but more like eight hours. Sure, I got up and killed my alarms, a few times, but what really happened as I kept trying to get up and kept crashing out was that I realized I had caught a case of con crud.

Science fiction conventions gather an enormous amount of people, and hence, their diseases, and hence: con crud, that mysterious illness that hits you a day or two after you get to a con. I know a lot of people who have been knocked out by it, but it’s hit me hard only two or three times.

This time, I ended up sleeping on and off for twelve hours out of sixteen. Fortunately I didn’t get the cough or sniffles, though I felt them starting. But I rested up, and got up when I felt rested, and even though I missed hitting the dealer’s room today, I had a lot of fun at my two panels.

So what I’m saying is, be good to yourself. It’s easy, when you’re at a con on a mission, to get caught up on all the things you could do. Well, do the things you should do, take care of yourself, and relax: cons will roll around again, and you want to be healthy enough to survive them.

Up tomorrow, 10AM: You’ve sold your first book, now what? A bunch of people much more experienced than me tell you what to do when you’re facing book two. Oh, and I’ll be there. At 2:30PM, I’ll be talking about synopses that will sell – or not sell – your book. And at 10PM, I’ll be talking about fun ways to kill your character. Oh, hell, here’s the whole list:

  • You’ve Sold the First Book, Now What?
    Saturday 10am, Embassy CD – Hyatt
    What happens next? Publishing professionals offer information about the industry–what they’re going to do, and what you need to do for yourself.
  • Writing a Synopsis That Will Sell Your Book – MODERATOR
    Saturday 2:30pm, Embassy CD – Hyatt
    Writing a great synopsis may be harder than writing a book. These outliners and pantsers will offer suggestions to make the process easier.
  • 101 Fascinating Ways to Kill off a Character
    Saturday 10pm, Embassy CD – Hyatt
    Description: Our favorite writers recount some of the more interesting ways they’ve eliminated characters–or tried to.

Also, THIRTY DAYS LATER is still on sale for $0.99! Onward!

-the Centaur

THIRTY DAYS LATER on sale!

Hey gang, I’ll be at Dragon Con’s Avoiding Historical Mistakes tomorrow at 7pm, but if you’re interested in a lot of good steamy stories, go visit your favorite e-bookstore, where THIRTY DAYS LATER is on sale for $0.99! Thirty tales of alternate history for a buck – you can’t beat that! And it has the two latest Jeremiah Willstone stories in there – “Fall of the Falcon” and “Rise of the Dragonfly”, so go check it out!

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-the Centaur

Dragon Con! 2016! I’ll be there!

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So, Labor Day is rolling around again, and once again, I’ll be at Dragon Con! I’m actually on a boatload of panels this year, but the most important one is my book reading, Sunday at 1PM at the Hyatt! Come on by and help me make this room:

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look like this room:

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I’ll be reading from THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE, from the Dakota Frost series including both the published trilogy and the forthcoming books, and also I’ll likely read some of my flash fiction pieces! Come and enjoy!

If panels are more of your bag, however, I’ve got plenty for you:

  • Friday

    • Avoiding Historical Mistakes
      Friday, 7pm, 204 J Mart 2
      Our panelists will not debate whether science fiction/fantasy, even steampunk fiction, NEEDS to be as historically accurate as possible within the limits of its alternative universe. Our interest in this discussion will be in writing historically convincing fiction and sharing resources.
  • Saturday

    • You’ve Sold the First Book, Now What?
      Saturday 10am, Embassy CD – Hyatt
      What happens next? Publishing professionals offer information about the industry–what they’re going to do, and what you need to do for yourself.
    • Writing a Synopsis That Will Sell Your Book – MODERATOR
      Saturday 2:30pm, Embassy CD – Hyatt
      Writing a great synopsis may be harder than writing a book. These outliners and pantsers will offer suggestions to make the process easier.
    • 101 Fascinating Ways to Kill off a Character
      Saturday 10pm, Embassy CD – Hyatt
      Description: Our favorite writers recount some of the more interesting ways they’ve eliminated characters–or tried to.
  • Sunday

    • Reading: Anthony Francis
      Sunday 1pm, Edgewood – Hyatt
      Anthony Francis reads from the Skindancer series, from THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE, from his flash fiction work, and answers your questions!
    • Steampunk/Alternate History Is Here to Stay
      Sunday 8:30pm, Embassy CD – Hyatt
      Is the Steampunk market soft? Writers discuss keeping the genre alive and kicking. How to infuse your Steampunk/Alt History novels and stories with new life.
  • Monday

    • The Good, the Bad, and the Scary: Witches in UF
      Monday 11:30am, Chastain DE – Westin
      Witches in Urban Fantasy run the gamut from helpful to extremely dangerous and self-serving. Our authors discuss their characters as reflections of the category they fall into.
    • Secret History: Bet You Didn’t Know It Happened That Way!
      Monday 1pm, 204 J – Mart2
      Our alternate history authors and experts describe that variety of tales where the public and world at large have no idea what really happened behind the scenes. Many authors have written in the subgenre. Classic short stories and novels will be discussed.

Oh! Hey! I’m moderating one of them panels. Good to know! (Seriously, a year or two back I found out I was moderating a panel when I sat down, and I’d only found out about the panel ten minutes before). Regardless, come on down to Dragon Con and have fun!

-Anthony

This pays for that

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I’m not dead, I’m just playing a game of this pays for that. The above is this – reinforcement learning for robotics. The below is that – writing. I want to be doing more writing, but I need to keep working to pay for the writing. That is all for now …

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-the Centaur

Finished a rough draft of PHANTOM SILVER

I just finished a rough draft of Book 5 in the Dakota Frost, Skindancer series. I’d love to sit back and reflect on all the novels I’ve finished (3 published, one at the editor, 3 more drafts finished, 3 more beyond that partially finished, one in the sock drawer, and one half-finished novel that got away from me) but I have contracts to edit. So, for now, I’ll just leave this here…

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Viiictory the Fifteenth

Print

Once again, I’ve completed the challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month as part of the National Novel Writing Month challenges – this time, the July 2016 Camp Nanowrimo, and the next 50,000 words of Dakota Frost #5, PHANTOM SILVER!

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This is the reason that I’ve been so far behind on posting on my blog – I simultaneously was working on four projects: edits on THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE, writing PHANTOM SILVER, doing publishing work for Thinking Ink Press, and doing my part at work-work to help bring about the robot apocalypse (it’s busy work, let me tell you). So busy that I didn’t even blog successfully getting TCTM back to the editor. Add to that a much needed old-friends recharge trip to Tahoe kicking off the month, and I ended up more behind than I’ve ever been … at least, as far as I’ve been behind, and still won:

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What did I learn this time? Well, I can write over 9,000 words a day, though the text often contains more outline than story; I will frequently stop and do GMC (Goal Motivation Conflict) breakdowns of all the characters in the scene and just leave it in the document as paragraphs of italicized notes, because Nano – I can take it out later, its word count now now now! That’s how you get five times a normal word count in a day, or 500+ times the least productive day in which I actually wrote something.

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Also, I get really really really sloppy – normally I wordsmith what I write as I write, even in Nano – but that’s when I have the luxury of writing 1000-2000 words a day. When I have to write 9000, I write things like “I want someoent bo elive this whnen ai Mideone” and just keep going, knowing that I can correct the text later to “I want someone to believe this when I am done,” and, more importantly, can use the idea behind that text to craft a better scene on the next draft (in this case, Dakota’s cameraman Ron is filming a bizarre event in which someone’s life is at stake, and when challenged by a bystander he challenges back, saying that he doesn’t have any useful role to fill, but he can at least document what’s happening so they’ll all be believed later).

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The other thing is, what I am starting to call The Process actually seems to work. I put characters in situations. I think through how they would react, using Goal Motivation Conflict to pull out what they want, why they want it, and why they can’t get it (a method recommended by my editor Debra Dixon in her GMC book). But the critical part of my Process is, when I have to go write something that I don’t know, I look it up – in a lot of detail. Yes, Virginia, even when I was writing 9,000+ words a day, I still went on Wikipedia – and I don’t regret it. Why? Because when I’m spewing around trying to make characters react like they’re in a play, the characters are just emoting, and the beats, no matter how well motivated, could get replaced by something else.

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But when it strikes me that the place my characters area about visit looks like a basilica, I can do more than just write “basilica.” I can ask myself why I chose that word. I can look up the word “basilica” on Apple’s Dictionary app. I can drill through to famous basilicas like the Basilica of Saint Peter. I can think about how this place will be different from that, and start pulling out telling details. I can start to craft a space, to create staging, to create an environment that my characters can react to. Because emotions aren’t just inside us, or between us; they’re for something, for navigating this complex world with other humans at our side. If a group of people argues, no matter how charged, it’s just a soap opera. Put them in their own Germanic/Appalachian heritage family kitchen in the Dark Corner of South Carolina, on on the meditation path near an onsen run continuously by the same family for 42 generations, and the same argument can have a completely different ambiance – and completely different reactions.

The text I wrote using my characters reacting to the past plot, or even with GMC, may likely need a lot of tweaking: the point was to get them to a particular emotional, conceptual or plot space. The text I wrote with the characters reacting to things that were real, even if it needs tweaking, often crackles off the page, even in very rough form. It’s material I won’t want to lose – more importantly, material I wouldn’t have produced, if I hadn’t pushed myself to do National Novel Writing Month.

Up next, finishing a few notes and ideas – the book is very close to done – and then diving into contracts for Thinking Ink Press, and reinforcement learning policy gradients for the robot apocalypse, all while waiting for the shoe to drop on TCTM. Keep your fingers crossed that the book is indeed on its way out!

-the Centaur

To think, I could be in epic crowds right now!

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And instead, I’m eating veggie quesadillas with salmon, reading about neural networks and reinforcement learning, and waiting to find if my jury number is going to be called. In truth, I miss Comic-Con this year, but I only have myself to blame for not renewing my professional registration, and in truth I need the time to work on PHANTOM SILVER.

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As you can see, I’m way behind, in part because of my Tahoe trip, in part because I’m also trying to finish THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE, and in part because work is cuh-RAY-zee. But I’m making progress; I just cracked 20,000 added words..

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Back to work. Comic-Con, next year.

-the Centaur