Pacific Rim Convention Footage in HD

Pacific Rim’s most recent video. Watch it on the biggest, loudest display system possible. If your pets survive, it wasn’t loud enough!

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Note to SF/F Writers: Random House’s Hydra Imprint Has Appallingly Bad Contract Terms

Dodged this bullet. What else need be said. Thanks for the tip. I have shared this with every group I know.

Whatever

Random House recently started Hydra, an electronic-only imprint for science fiction stories and short novels. But, as noted by Writer Beware here, the terms in a Hydra deal sheet shown to them are pretty damn awful:

* No advance.

* The author is charged “set-up costs” for editing, artwork, sale, marketing, publicity — i.e., all the costs a publisher is has been expected to bear. The “good news” is that the author is not charged up front for these; they’re taken out of the backend. If the book is ever published in paper, costs are deducted for those, too.

* The contract asks for primary and subsidiary rights for the term of copyright.

Writer Beware notes, appropriately, that this information comes from only one deal sheet it’s seen from Hydra. But, you know what: One attempt at this sort of appalling, rapacious behavior on the part of Random House is bad

View original post 1,854 more words

CISPA – When privacy is no longer private

This website is red and black against the passage of CISPA legislation.

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Anonymous has called for an Internet blackout to protest CISPA, the much maligned cybersecurity bill that threatens your privacy more than it protects it. But without the support of Reddit, which co-sponsored last year’s SOPA blackout, the Web isn’t listening.

About 200 hundred sites have joined the #CISPABlackout today in protest of CISPA, which last week passed the House of Representatives. That may sound like a big number, but the list mostly consists of small sites within the hacker community. That’s a big contrast to the last year’s SOPA protests, which drew support from huge organizations like Google and Wikipedia.

Exceptions include the nonprofit Fight for the Future, which has tweeted solidarity but has not blacked out its site. Another is Stan Lee’s Comikaze, the comic book convention backed by the former Marvel Comics head honcho, which has blacked out its site.

And as usual, everyone says, what does this have to do with me? Nothing. Not a thing, as long as you are completely willing to be able to have your work online, seized without warning, without recourse and often without explanation. This may happen through no fault of your own, your provider may have inadvertently found themselves mixed up in a government investigation having nothing to do with you. Worse, they won’t have to tell you anything. EVER. Your info is simply out of reach.

Your data, however, may be held until such time the government deems you not involved, or maybe never. And I have a problem with this very premise. With so much of our data now out there swirling among the data clouds being created at breakneck speeds with no consideration for whose data is mingling with whom, how can anyone be sure any action taken by the government against any single provide may not have repercussions for many innocent people caught in the cross-fire. CISPA like its evil cousin SOPA is wrong.

Don’t support it. Don’t allow it to be passed. Call your Congressional representative and let them know what you think. While you are still allowed to voice your opinion in public…

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References:

How capitalism is turning the internet against democracy, and how to turn it back

75th Anniversary of the Man of Steel – A Villain’s Salute

 

 

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In honor of the Last Son of Krypton’s 75 birthday, I have decided to give a nod to the beings who helped make him the worldwide icon he is today. They are often overlooked in the overall scheme of things, but without them to shape and define his character, would we even remember Superman the way we do today? In their own inimical styles each has contributed to the legend just as well as the Kents who raised him and Jor-El and Lara who gave him life. I present to you my top ten rogues gallery of Superman’s Greatest Villains. A group so scary, even seeing them together on a page is enough to give a Superman fan pause. Names to conjure by: Lex Luthor, Darkseid, Zod, Brainiac, Doomsday, Mxyzptlk, Metallo, Parasite, Imperiex, Mongul. You’ll remember why the Man of Steel sleeps with one eye open…

Superman’s Greatest Villains

1. Lex Luthor – He is the quintessential Superman villain. As intelligent as Superman is strong, as immoral as Superman is moral, a man with god-like aspirations versus a god with a desire for a kinship with humanity. There is no greater rivalry, no greater challenger, no more monsterous enemy than Lex Luthor, a man who carries within him the best that humanity has to offer, and fails to use it to further the goals of anyone but himself. A genius, arguably the smartest human being alive, his schemes defeat Superman because he uses strategems which rely on Superman’s innate goodness and chivalry turning them against him. Luthor has been known to employ technology, flunkies and even the occasional super-suit when he wants to get personal. Mostly he prefers to leave the heavy lifting to others and out-think his opponents. If you think a man in a business suit isn’t dangerous, it’s only because that’s what he wants you to think.

Birthday wishes from Lex Luthor: “I would wish you a happy birthday Superman, but what’s the point? Until I kill you, you are liable to be immortal so what does one more year mean to you? I considered a gift but what do you get the man who has no use for anything? So I leave you this pleasant thought. I will find a way to destroy you. I have dedicated more than one life to this task, my commitment should not be in doubt. Get that microphone out of my face…”

2. Darkseid – One of the most powerful foes Superman has ever faced. In terms of raw physical power, Darkseid has, in certain incarnations of the Man of Steel, been far more powerful than Superman. Nearly completely invulnerable to all forms of harm, strength equal to or even greater than Superman’s, and armed with the Omega Force, a weapon capable of hitting a target across dimensional barriers, Darkseid is the complete ruler of his world, Apokalips. Hailing from a higher and older segment of reality, Darkseid’s people have millenia more experience, technology and ability than most sentients from our Universe. Only Superman’s efforts, again and again, against Darkseid, prevented a lasting incursion from the Fourth World. Truth be told, I would say Superman has never actually defeated Darkseid in a fair fight. But I did enjoy watching Kal-el lay the smackdown in the last episode of the Justice League Unlimited against Darkseid. It’s rare you see Supes going all out, and totally worth it too.

Birthday wishes from Darkseid: “Kal-El, our last skirmish over your young cousin was the most satisfying confrontation we have ever had. I trust the bruises were slow to heal. You almost released yourself against me. Stop holding back, Kryptonian. I will be back for your world, Kal-El. And unless you release your true power, collateral damage be damned, there will be nothing you can do to stop me.”

3. General Zod and the Phantom Zone villains – Fearsome and ruthless enemies from a Krypton long dead. Their ambitions thwarted, they were imprisoned in realm of reality where they could neither be seen or heard, forever immaterial but able to see and hunger for a world they were no longer a part of; a cruel prison, indeed. Once released and bathed in the light of a yellow sun, their powers could finally match their ambitions. They were the physical equal of Superman with a cruel streak he could never match. Recent iterations have painted them of a different, less monsterous cloth, but the older versions of these characters earned their place in Superman’s most villainous rogues gallery.

Birthday wishes from General Zod: “Kneel before Zod.”

4. Brainiac – No matter what iteration of the being, Brainiac should be counted among the most dangerous of Superman’s enemies because of his complete dispassion with which he seeks his goals. Logical, cold, calculating and easily the most intelligent by far of all of Superman’s enemies, Brainiac’s resources are nearly infinite, his technology almost beyond belief, his relentlessness unending. Brainiac has nearly achieved his goal of the destruction of Superman but a flaw in his logic or his arrogance has always led to his defeat. But if I were betting on a villain who could achieve the goal of destroying Superman permanently, I would bet on Brainac.

Birthday wishes from Brainiac: “Enjoy your last birthday Kryptonian. When next we meet, it will be no logic puzzle that defeats my intellect. There will be no random confluence of events which will come down in your favor. I have been gathering the resources of a world while I have been away. I calculate our next meeting will be your last with a 100% chance of my success. Savor your remaining days. I am coming.”

5. Doomsday – One of the few beings who can say (if he was big on conversation) he killed Superman in a straight up physical confrontation using brute force. He literally beat Superman to death, with his fists. Nuff said. Created by mad scientists, on a planet of Kryptonian mad scientists, this creature was developed and produced with one intent, to create an unstoppable superweapon, even by Krytonian standards. Equipped with an adaptable genetic structure, the creature evolves with every confrontation, so however you killed it last time will mean nothing the next time you meet. This creature beat the entire Justice League to a pulp and fought Superman to a match which ended in both of their apparent deaths. Yes, they both eventually got better. If you aren’t Superman, you never want to meet Doomsday, anywhere. And even if you are, you better have a new trick up your sleeve, that last one won’t work here.

Birthday greetings from Doomsday: “Die.”

6. Mr. Mxyztptlk – A being so powerful it could erase Superman from reality; with the proverbial snap of its fingers. A creature from a higher reality of existence, Mr. Mxyztptlk comes to Earth to slum it in the third dimension. Superman is little more than an interactive entertainment for the creature. It handicaps the game by telling Superman if he can trick him into saying his name backward, Mr. Mxyztptlk will then retire to the Fifth dimension for 90 days. He is not, technically, dangerous, but since he does not understand how fragile our reality is, he can damage us without even realizing it. During the Silver Age, a visit from Mr. Mxyztptlk was generally a light-hearted romp with Superman proving he could be quite the trickster himself. Never confuse the lightness of the character with the idea he isn’t dangerous. He is as dangerous as any enemy of the Man of Steel. Pray he never decides to forget to play fair…

Birthday greetings from Mxyztptlk: “You know Supes, we haven’t gotten together in quite some time. I know you’ve been missing our antics together. Love the new look by the way, it really was time to put your underwear on the right way. Remember Blue Boy, next time we hang out, the stakes will be a whole lot higher than me going home for three months for R&R. Next time is going to be killer…”

7. Metallo – Imagine Superman’s worst fear, Kryptonite. Give it legs, a rabid hatred of Superman and the physical power to match him blow for blow and you have Metallo. No genius, no incredible technology, just the one thing that saps Superman’s powers and makes him susceptible to being beaten to death as a human in a brightly-colored costume. Once an ordinary con-man, John Corbin was nearly killed in a accident. A morally-challenged robotics scientist places Corbin’s brain into a metallic frame, essentially creating a cyborg. Needing a power source, the body uses the radiation of Kryptonite to give it greater than human strength and durability. Historically, Metallo has killed other Kryptonians and with the help of Lex Luthor was tailored to use various forms of Kryptonite against Superman as well. Personally, I despise Metallo and while I admire Superman’s restraint, I recommend using heat vision to turn him into an immobile glowing brain in a jar. I think the people of Metropolis would understand.

Birthday wishes from Metallo: “I know you don’t consider me a threat these days, but I promise you I have been working on getting a new tailor. My next body is being made by a master of the robotic flesh. Perhaps you remember his name. A Professor Ivo… of Amazo fame. He tells me my new body will not only be powered by Kryptonite, but will be able to emulate it, at will. You won’t even be able to lay a hand on me…”

8. Parasite – A villain you love to hate, the Parasite’s power allowed him to absorb Superman’s superhuman abilities just by touching the Last Son of Krypton. The longer the fight, the more likely the Parasite was to come out on top. There were four Parasites over the years, but the most well known was Rudy Jones. Rudy also starred in Superman, the Animated Series during the 90s. The Parasite, despite his fearsome power was handicapped by his lack of ambition and fairly ordinary intelligence. He was more often a tool than a leader, used and disposed of as soon as possible.

Birthday wishes from the Parasite: “So hungry.” <lost my second sound man this week>

9. Imperiex – A force of nature more than an entity, this creature was set on destroying the entire galaxy. A threat so great the entire planet Earth was enlisted to fight against it. Superman’s power was no match for even an Imperiex Probe until he trained himself to use his powers at their highest output. A robot whose strength, superhuman speed and near-invulnerability equaled Superman’s, Imperiex Probes were the most powerful threat to ever face the human race. Led by Superman, Lex Luthor and a host of heroes, Imperiex was deterred from its plan of galactic conquest. These battles against this unstoppable foe was one of the Man of Steel’s finest hours in the previous Post-Crisis DCU continuum.

Birthday wishes from Imperiex: Imperiex refused to be interviewed on camera, saying something about ruining his brand…

10. Mongul – A physical titan, a potentially powerful intellect, but linked to a shriveled petty soul would adequately describe Mongul. He has the power to destroy Superman, the capability to match him in combat and the ruthlessness to win a conflict between them, and has done so numerous times. This is what makes him a great villain. But Mongul is both lazy and overconfident, he reads his own press releases and believes them. He was the undisputed ruler of Warworld and had long crushed anyone capable of defeating him. Though he never grew physically fat, his metaphoric fat was his undoing. He underestimated Superman and has done so in nearly every encounter.

Birthday wishes from Mongul: “Overconfident, under-developed, under-ambitious? Did you think when I was training you, I did not learn the true limits of your power? I have been training now, Kryptonian. I have acquired new technologies from a half a dozen galaxies far and wide. When next you and I meet, you will learn the limits of your powers, first hand. I won’t even have to warm up the Warworld. I’ll have it taking pictures…”

Yes, there are many others. These were the ones I think cause Superman to consider changing careers more than once and I am certain remind him why he needs to keep a fresh cape handy, just in case. Happy birthday, Superman, you are still the greatest superhero of all time. (And your next movie better have you punching someone in the face. No, seriously. Don’t do that airplane thing again, either.)

Thaddeus Howze

superman-unchained

JLA

Not Dead Yet

Short Story Wordle

In my LinkedIn account a member of our writing group asks the question: Is the short story a viable medium today or should people just write novels?

My Answer: The Short Story is very much alive today. (Now, perhaps, more than ever.)

Not only is it alive but it must continue to thrive. There are far too many writers out there who believe that telling stories is about stretching out a tale. They have learned the greatest tricks for embellishing and creating tangents which don’t add to the story, only extend it. The short story forces you to choose. To chose something, anything, and get to the heart of the matter. Telling the story.

Is the medium for stories harder to fit into? Maybe, but I don’t think so. We are living in an age where the issue is not finding someplace that will take our work, but competing against an entire planet of people who have the capacity to place their work into the arena with yours. A battle-royal of literary significance takes place whenever we write now.

Believe it or not this is a good thing. Pretenders will fall by the wayside, even as books such as Twilight get their moment in the sun, that time will pass. Only writers who stay the course, master the craft and connect with reputable distribution methods (whether that be through self publishing, small press, or the Big Six (er…Five)) opportunity waits around every corner.

There are 300 channels on television waiting to have something to be seen there. Internet television is growing at an exponential rate as well. Thousands of magazines, online and print pop into and out of existence each year, like the quantum foam underlying the universe. Blogs, news services, radio programs, movies, all sit waiting for that vital resource that short story writers have: crazed imagination willing to delve into the darkest corners of human experience to find the light (or more darkness, if that is your thing). We live in an age where, if we do our jobs right, force companies to acknowledge the value of the CREATIVE engine, we could conceivably change our world.

Doubt it? Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Ridley Scott thought so. He based his career of off that very short, very strange story. He and Phillip K. Dick altered the consciousness of a society, asking questions we didn’t know we would ever have. There is a future out there for writers, short stories or novels, but only if we are willing to seize the opportunity before another movie producer or television hack decides we should have another variation on Sleeping Beauty or Hansel and Gretel.

Find your niche and fill it.

Create your world, your view of it, populate it with beauty and dysfunction, reflect the world in all of its glory. Then release them again and again until they blot out the sun.

Make your place in the shade.

Veni, Scribo, Vici (“I came, I wrote, I conquered” from the Latin)

Thaddeus Howze @ Hub City Blues

Science Fiction and Social Awareness

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Can science fiction function as a means of creating social awareness around technology and its future developments?

In advance of my interview on #SCIFICHAT on Friday, April 12, 2013, I thought I would write a quick article about my interests in science fiction, fantasy and how I use my love of the genre to promote and pursue ideas around science, scientific achievement, technology, social development under the guise of science fiction (and occasionally fantasy). I happen to agree with Ray Bradbury and believe a little fantasy hiding underneath one’s science fiction never hurt anyone.

I am a writer of all kinds of genre fiction including hard science fiction, social fiction, space opera, fantasy, urban fantasy, sword and sorcery, epic fantasy, and a bit of pulp and horror when no one is looking. I grew up reading the required classics from Asimov to Zelazney: Dune, Foundation, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, The Chronicles of Amber, The Eternal Champion Sagas, Xenogenesis, Lord of Light and The Hyperion Cantos.

My guilty pleasures included the hard science styling of Ben Bova and Larry Niven, the wild space romps of Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat, Steve Perry’s The Man Who Never Missed and Jack L. Chalker’s space operas, The Well of Souls Saga and the Four Lords of the Diamond series and so many others…

The failures and the cowardice of modern science fiction

Though I missed the conversation a few years ago on the internet which talked about the failings of science fiction in recent years, I could completely relate to the idea that science fiction wasn’t taking the risks it once did. Its protagonists were mostly white, mostly male and moving further away from being accessible to the readers. Some of those failings included:

  • social/racial inequalities in the writing the marginalizing other social groups.
  • the rewarding of primarily white men as the best writers of the genre and as the main protagonists
  • A failure to acknowledge writers from minority groups who may have different views of the future
  • a failure of the genre to address near-future issues due to potential scientific complexity
  • science fiction becoming more like fantasy or westerns in space
  • losing the exploration of scientific ideas 
  • the increasing marginalization of the genre due to lackluster efforts of writers to explore more risky ideas
  • the increasingly doom-centric orientation of the genre and the preponderance of dystopian fiction
  • the lack of ideas of working toward a positive future
  • The lack of scientific interest in the potential audience which reduces the potential quality of stories

As a long time reader of the genre, I am aware of how science fiction has been used to address a variety of social ills. Many such works exist. A quick sampling include:

  • The Left Hand of Darkness – deals with a world where gender is almost non-existent except for periods of reproduction. Considered a work of feminist fiction, it addresses a world where many of our planet’s polar extremes of behavior simply don’t exist.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale – a tale where the rights of women are completely removed when a neo-Christian movement takes over the government and uses religion to brutally subjugate women.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four – a world of perpetual warfare, psychological manipulation, mind control and the creation of a surveillance society.
  • Brave New World – promotes a society which at first glance resembles a utopia, where want has been eliminated along with a segment of free will. Population is regulated, children born in artificial wombs, a caste society is instituted with regimented behavior, drug use and recreational sex being the norm of the society.

While I don’t as yet consider myself in such august company, I have tried to use science fiction to address a variety of social ills and challenges facing humanity today in my collection of short stories called Hayward’s Reach:

  • Genetically Modified Organisms –  in my story of the same name, I posit the idea of our constant experimentation with GMOs without a real understanding of how such interactions might affect each other over time. Reinforcing of genetic traits could lead to an alteration of human consciousness.
  • Suicide Seed – In a similar vein, I posit the idea of transgenetic mutation of plants by corporate entities using transform viruses. These viruses while originally designed to affect plants cross over into human populations, potentially rendering the human race sterile in the same fashion as large agro-corporations want to do to control seed development and food production.
  • The Great White Spot – a story in which I posit an Earth whose runaway greenhouse effect cause by global warming creates a storm similar to the Great Red Spot on the surface of Jupiter. A storm of immense size, ferocity and because of the inability to cool off, eventually erases all life on Earth.
  • Pax Cyridian – a tale where genetic engineering of insect-like lifeforms results in new forms of life able to work and live with humanity in relative peace. Instead of an industrial age, the people of Cyridia use organic life to perform the work of machines until a military leader decides to create new lifeforms adapted for war and conquest.
  • Paper – a world where the internet has become infected with self-replicating virus programs, information held in books is now more important than ever. A young man in Mexico finds a cache of old magazines and has been selling them to bidders anonymously. His brother’s selfish greed puts them both at risk when he reveals the cache of reading materials and tries to sell them to a criminal enterprise.
  • Hub City Blues – in one of my largest projects I am experimenting with creating a positive near-future world where humanity is trying to put off the future of impending global warming by creating a variety of new world arcologies. These super-cities use the most advance sciences known to man in an effort to create a new way of life utilizing a variety of alternative energies. Much of the technology used in Hub City is based from technology being created daily such as programmable matter, diverse solar and wind technologies, new underground building and waste management technologies.
  • The Last Divide – I am not above using a variety of different memes to address ideas around our modern world such as the proliferation of social media and its complete invasion of all levels of our society. This piece plays with the idea of social media after death; who maintains our social profiles, could we pre-program our responses after our passing? Could programs be written to approximate our social media habits and continue them, extending our social media existence?

I have to admit I was a bit embarrassed to be writing stories such as these because they are so far removed from much of the science fiction I see being written today.I’m not disparaging such science fiction because it is both popular and from a writer’s perspective quite profitable. I keep hearing the litany of the writers everywhere: Readers don’t want challenge, they want escapism. So if you make them work too hard, they will put your book down. I just don’t happen to agree with it. Eventually, I believe they will want more. So I write and wait.

Can we as science fiction writers make any changes in our society through our work?

Once upon a time science fiction propelled engineers and scientists to create ideas and technologies which are only now becoming a reality.  Look at our cell phones, submarines, computer monitors, space craft, and wireless technologies, many of these started in the minds of early writers of the genre fiction. For a time, successful science fiction television inspired an entire generation of scientists, astronauts and engineers. We see far less of that today, with science fiction instead promoting a fear of technology or a return to superstition rather than embracing scientific curiosity.

Can science fiction tell potential stories about the human condition and potentially guide policies toward the effective use of science in society?

Some of our science fiction has lent itself to predicting trends in human behavior such as Nineteen Eighty-Four prediction of a surveillance state, similar to the one we find ourselves approaching in 2014. There does not seem to be quite as much of that kind of writing today. I believe part of the reason is the breakneck pace of scientific advancement. It is hard to write a novel about a piece of technology or a technological idea because by the time you finish the novel the idea has been superseded by a more advanced piece of technology in two years it took for you to finish your tale. I think it is a risk few writers are willing to risk their careers on.

After reading Should Science Fiction Die, and other such screeds on the failure of science fiction writers to innovate, to solve problems, take risks, ask questions, challenge the status quo and include complex themes within their body of work, I feel much less like I am on the wrong track and instead just working on a different kind of story-telling.

I’m done being embarrassed about asking questions or trying to find answers with my science fiction. I’m quoting one of my favorite space westerns, Firefly’s Captain Malcolm Reynolds: “So no more runnin’. I aim to misbehave.”

Other related articles: 

Science Fiction Goes McDonald’s: Less Taste, More Gristle; Huffington Post, 2013, 

Should Scifi Die?: In the plane of the ecliptic, 2009, 

Racism and Science Fiction; The New York Review of Science Fiction, Samuel R. Delany

Where is the World in the World Fantasy Awards?: World SF Blog, 2009, Lavie Tidhar

Superficial Darkness and Luminous Ink: World SF Blog, 2013, Athena Andreadisoriginally posted at Starship Reckless

Stranger and Happier: A Positive Science Fiction Platform; Strange and Happy, Jason Stoddard

What is Human Wave Science Fiction?: According to Hoyt, Sarah A. Hoyt

Barbarian Confessions; Asimov’s Science Fiction, Thought Experiments, 2006, Kristine Kathyrn Rusch

Mundane Science Fiction; founded by Geoff Ryman

Megastructures: Artwork by Steve Burg © 2012-2013

ScreenHunter_314 Mar. 28 14.56

E-waste Explosion Continues…

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Having talked about E-waste in past articles on Open Salon (Forget About Saving the Earth… and on the Good Men Project in Gadgets: A Perfect Storm of Wrong) this recent info-graphic embodies more up to date information from the EPA reinforcing the idea we are not handling the development of technology in a responsible manner for the simplest of reasons: No one is being held economically culpable for the development of new devices without concern for the disposal of the old technology.

What should happen from the development of any portable technology is a disposal fee built right into the cost of the device. The provider pays a part and the customer pays a part. When it’s time to dispose of the tech it is sent to a facility to maximize its safe disposal rather than shipping it overseas and allowing the lowest paid labor to handle the disposal in the most toxic method possible, usually by burning it, releasing long-lived and deadly dioxins into the atmosphere.

Remember, this info-graphic only discusses e-waste produced in the United States. As other countries ramp up their production, these numbers will continue to skyrocket. The only thing we know about e-waste for sure is eventually it will be coming to a landfill or garbage disposal facility near you. You won’t have a choice unless we start handling this problem today.