Stone of Remembrance

March 29, 2008

Periodic Table of Dessert

Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 13:38

Now, this is insightful. It calls itself A Scientific and Rigorous approach to patisserie – in Full Color.


March 27, 2008

DortCon 2009 – First Promotions

Filed under: A Song In Stone, Commentary, Travel, Writing — admin @ 20:34

I’ve been chosen as International Guest of Honor at DortCon, a science-fiction convention held in Dortmund, Germany. It will take place on the third weekend of March, 2009, after the arrival of A Song In Stone. They’ve updated the website to reflect my attendance and, as I understand, will be promoting the convention at other events over the next year.

I’m very excited to be attending this convention, particularly since both my wife and I speak German. This came as a surprise to the convention chairman, who apparently invited me on the strength of my English-language work.

Should be fun. We haven’t been in Germany since 2003, and I’ll be interested to see what has changed.

March 18, 2008

Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, 1917-2008

Filed under: Commentary, Writing — admin @ 20:47

The Telegraph reports that Sir Arthur Charles Clarke has died at age 90. Clarke was one of the last of the classic science fiction writers (his first professional sale was in 1946). He is without doubt one of the greatest writers of our genre, and his works profoundly influenced me when I was first reading science fiction.

There will be many obituary and memorial articles about Sir Arthur on the web, in print and in other media, but like so many people, the sadness (though not suddenness) of his death will pass away. His lasting legacy, the Clarke Foundation, takes as its vision statement

For all involved at the beginning, and for all who have followed, the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation represents an endless opportunity to enhance Sir Arthur Clarke’s legacy, and to share that opportunity with like-minded institutions. With that principal [sic] in mind, the Foundation has formed alliances with respected groups in many nations. (Copyright © 2004-2008 The Arthur C. Clarke Foundation; from their website.)

A dozen years ago the last strands of Dr. Clarke’s hair were included in a deep space probe; it was his hope that the DNA might be recovered in some far future time and used by some advanced civilization to clone him. Now, finally, the rest of him will begin to return to the star-stuff of which we all are made.

Rest in peace, Sir Arthur. Another of my writer heroes I will not meet in this life.

March 17, 2008

Don’t Even Go There. No, Go There. I Mean It.

Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 17:26

A recent e-mail from one of our best friends, and L.’s and my Best Man back in ‘82, Mark Bloom, reads (in part) thus:

” . . .I’ve started a blog. I know, I know – it seems like everyone and his mother has a blog now. . . Well, my new blog has a purpose. It has content that will engender repeat visits. It’s not just a blog of personal opinions or political rants (although I’m sure those have a purpose too). My blog – I hope – will launch a book. My book. A book I’ve already written and am shopping around.”

And thus he beckons us onward to visit the blog, which he is apparently sharing with his buddy Jason, whom I once caused almost to snort cappuccino through his nose when I told the “penguin joke”. (Don’t ask.)

My guess is that it will be a great read, because Mark is a terrific writer. It’s in the blogroll already.

Welcome down the rabbit hole, Boomer. Glad to have you in ye Blogosphere™.

March 15, 2008

BayCon 2008

Filed under: Commentary, Walter\'s Schedule — admin @ 21:13

I will be at BayCon in Santa Clara, California. Tim Powers is the author GoH.

MarsCon 2008 Recap

Filed under: Commentary, Travel, Writing — admin @ 20:39

I’ve not had enough time to catch my breath in the last couple of weeks, what with my week of history teaching and various Masonic commitments. Still, I’m happy to report that I had a great time at MarsCon Ten, held during Leap Year Weekend at the Holiday Inn Select in Bloomington.

I spent a lot of the con weekend with Todd Hansen and his wife and beautiful daughter. As is so common based on my writing resume, I was scheduled to participate in military SF panels, including a drop-in at Todd’s Starship Troopers / Forever War panel. But I also was in almost all of the panels on the craft of writing, sharing the table with either GoH Naomi Kritzer or the talented Kelly McCullough or both. Some of the attendees were a little surprised when we told them how tough it can be to break in to the business and stay in the saddle.

I had a wonderful discussion Saturday night with Eleanor Arneson about just that. She asked the question – how is it that a writer in the mid list with some books on the shelf suddenly hits a wall? Why do so many of us get told that – despite the great reviews, despite the fan base, suddenly we’ve stopped being salable? There are no good explanations except that publishers don’t have really any sense of what will sell: whatever models they have are way out of date. I wish I had a good answer, but it’s part of why my next book is with Wizards and not with Tor.

This MarsCon also featured a visit from a number of British soldiers on layover on their way to Afghanistan. I’m not sure of the exact sequence, but not long after they started wandering in to parties MarsCon Security intervened and then did exactly the right thing: all these fine young men in uniform were given con badges. MarsCon is very much a drinking con: there are lots of open parties with adult beverages, something that happens much less frequently back east, so it was important to bring their conduct under the control of the convention.

These Klingons sure can drink. (Todd is the right-hand forehead.)

Fortunately, there was also a liaison of some sort on hand to keep the lads in line – in full regimental kilt, as you see below – and he was an exceeding gentleman, thanking each party group for its courtesies.

Nice Kilt. (Thanks to Todd for the pic.)

They participated in a fine toast to the late William F. Buckley at midnight, with the libation provided by Mr. Hansen – some 16-year-old single malt that grows hair where you’d never expect it to grow. After the first drink we taken we did a fine old Klingon howl. The Klingons are polite in Minnesota, but they keep to some of the old ways . . .

The next morning they boarded buses and headed off to the airport. I hope that they take care of themselves in harm’s way, but they understand that it’s part of the job description . . . and that a few of these lads will not be around at this time next year.

As always I had a great time. Here’s one more picture – me with Sgt. Fluffy (the tall bearded fellow in the middle), Blair, and Capt. John (face pixelized per request) in the Bog, a party room that is made to look like something from M*A*S*H – a MarsCon tradition. Fluffy is a fan of the book series and a great guy. He served his country as well and deserves respect for that.

A drink in the Bog. (Thanks to Todd for the pic.)

I’m looking forward to being there next year; because of the history class I had my plane fare paid, and if that gets reprised next year I’ll definitely be on hand.

For much more commentary, and lots more pictures, check Kowabunga and the photo pages.

March 10, 2008

Loss of a Brother

Filed under: Commentary, Freemasonry — admin @ 12:43

Over the weekend there were a number of posts on the death of E. Gary Gygax, the co-creator of the roleplaying game and certainly one of the best-known figures in the gaming industry. I was going to post about him – I met him several years ago and had some thoughts about his life and impact; but I’ve been very busy, and events caught up with me.

While I was in Minnesota last week I received a call from the wife of a friend, the man who served as Master of Mount Hollis Lodge for two years before my last term. The man’s – the Brother’s – name was Scott Daniel Chalfin. You can read his brief obituary here.

It was so sudden. Scott was 39, personable, friendly to a fault, generous beyond measure, gave time and energy to things even when he didn’t have the time or energy to spare. He lived fully and died far, far too soon. I visited his wife at home yesterday – they “sit shiva”, receiving visitors and honoring Scott’s memory. I couldn’t come back for the memorial service on Friday – I had to hand it off to our mutual friend Wor. John, who served before my first Mt. Hollis term and directly after my second.

Losing friends who have lived a full life is difficult enough: losing my parents, L.’s parents, older members of our lodge, uncles and aunts . . . but losing people younger than you is harder to take. Children are the hardest of all. I came back from Minnesota Friday night and found myself listening to my wife’s breathing beside me: I’d spent a week 1000 miles away and now I was three feet away and worrying. Dumb.

I don’t know what to make of his death, or of his absence. There are so many things unfinished there. I am stunned, saddened. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye, and maybe I haven’t yet. I’m the Chaplain of both of my lodges, and even the words

We have met upon the Level and been tried upon the Square

seem to ring a little bit hollow. He needed to reach a ripe old age so that he could “enjoy the happy reflection consequent on a life well spent.” Thirty-nine years is ten less than I’ve lived on this earth and simply isn’t enough.

I miss my parents and L.’s parents. I miss my aunts and uncles, grandparents, and friends inside and outside the fraternity. And now I have one more person whom, with a heavy heart, I will miss. This is part of the Great Architect’s plan, but it was never a plan of mine. Godspeed, Scott, and know – if you can know – that we are all grieved by your absence.

March 4, 2008


Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 11:14

I’m in Minnesota teaching a class – more details to come on that – and spent a great weekend at Marscon – more details to come on that.

One of my favorite people from that convention writes a terrific blog that I have in my blogroll, and he recently linked to this:

I endorse this position without hesitation. Whether or not you oppose this government’s foreign policy, military position, or political stance, it is an affront to serving men and women to not only insult and seek to degrade them, but to show cowardice and lack of character to refuse to apologize for such behavior after the fact.

Thanks to my buddy Todd for the link. Read his comments on this subject.

The petition is here. Sign or do not sign as you wish. From where I’m sitting, there seem to be a lot of Americans who – regardless of their political position – would have a tough time sympathizing with Berkeley, California. Huh. Funny thing. Wow. Who would have expected it.

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