Back to the Future

And so, home from PhilCon 2014. After a night’s sleep and a shower, I am back at the keyboard and back in Tolari space.

The con was wonderful, and kudos to the PhilCon concomm. A great time was had by most, as far as I could tell. (Of course it had its blips. Every con does.) I arrived already signed up for 2 panels and! A reading! and ended up on 5 panels total. Jon McGoran was my partner in crime for the reading (his horror is seriously creepy and seriously funny), and there were actually TWO people present who weren’t related to the readers by blood or marriage.

Don’t laugh. That was progress!

I read from the beginning of The Fall until my time was up.

The most fun I had, I think, was telling a physicist who asked me with genuine puzzlement how I as a non-scientist can write science fiction, that I don’t need to understand how an internal combustion engine works in order to drive a car. I mean, I’ve had that line waiting for a suitable opportunity to use for forever. So, neither do my characters need to know how a Kline-Thompson-Nishida engine works to take an interstellar voyage on a ship equipped with one. I just need to be careful not to hold forth on how the thing works. Therefore, I’m unlikely to write a story from the chief engineer’s point of view. (Apologies to those for whom this comes as a disappointment!)

Although, it occurs to me to note that while I’m not a trained scientist, I am science-aware enough to know when I’m breaking the laws of physics. Which you can get away with as long as you’re consistent about it and don’t go too far into the ridiculous.

But okay, if that’s my idea of fun, perhaps I need to get out a bit more. So! Let’s just say the con was fun.

Back to the future, I sit poised on the brink of writing the thrilling climax of Farryn’s War. And ‘sit’ is the operative term. Having set everything up and gotten my characters where they need to be, I’m sitting on the edge, dangling my heels, wondering why in the wide world of sports I’m hesitating.

Just gotta dive in, I guess. <takes a deep breath> See you later!

Philcon Schedule

I’m going to Philcon, yes I am!

And here’s my schedule:

Sat 4:00 PM in Plaza III (Three) (1 hour)
When technology makes changing one’s appearance as easy as changing one’s clothes or hair color, will our perception of what it means to be beautiful change? Will it make personality more important or less?

Sat 6:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Two (1 hour)
Balonium might not fit into the periodic table, but is it legitimate to predicate a story on its existence? Does it detract from a story’s enjoyability when the premise is something you know just ain’t so?

Sun 1:00 PM in Executive Suite 623 (1 hour)

Of course, (1 hour) actually means (50 minutes), but you get the idea.

See you there!

ConFusion 2014

Pretty much a relaxicon for us — I wasn’t on the programming. They’d had a glut of authors volunteering this year, so they were full up by the time I volunteered (months ago, in what would have been plenty of time any other year, even).

So, we pretty much went to panels and partied.

The weather didn’t cooperate with the astronomy programming. Michigan in January? That might have been a long shot to begin with, but I have no idea, really. I’ve never lived in Michigan, so I don’t know if they had a real shot at it, or if it was wishful thinking.

The most fun panel, to me, was the one dubbed “Stump the Microbiologist,” in which the audience was to name an environment on Earth, and he was to inform them what could live there–exclusive of active volcanoes. Life really *doesn’t* thrive in places where everything is reduced to carbon in under a second, but anywhere else is fair game.

Packs of feral hockey children thundered about the hotel, and their parents crashed the room parties. Before the parties set bouncers at their doors, feral hockey parents managed to cadge some free booze, make passes at the more scantily costumed women, AND insult con-goers as freaks.


I happened to be in the hallway when the Friends of the Detroit Public Library showed up with boxes of free books. In the ensuing feeding frenzy, I scored some nice finds, including some Norton, some Bujold, a Heinlein my husband has never read, and a signed copy of Lee & Miller’s Partners in Necessity.

I discovered Chocolate-Covered Bacon.

My husband bought a marshmallow catapult.

I bought a pocket watch.

And now, I’m safely home again, working on Farryn’s War and researching organized crime.

The First SF Book I Ever Read


It was 1973. I checked out a book from my junior high school library because it had an interesting cover and took it home to get sucked into a story about a female character who had some kind of adventure taking a ride in the past in someone else’s memories. I’ve always remembered that there was some kind of headpiece or tiara involved, with two green stones imbued with some sort of psychometric powers, one stone of which was missing. Time was, perhaps, an issue. At the end of the story, the main character has recovered the second green stone, and she needs it to… do something important. I think.

I went on to check out and read every single science fiction book in that library (not a huge number, but the Heinlein juveniles were among them, I remember that distinctly). At some point, I finagled my parents into letting me join the Science Fiction Book Club, and I spent the rest of the 70’s reading the likes of Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Silverberg, et al.

Along with the romance novels my mother thought she’d hidden all over the house, of course.

In those early years, I devoured books the way a teenager devours food, indiscriminately and in large quantities. Being bad with names to begin with, I failed to take note of titles and authors. But the stories stuck out in my mind. And while those memories eventually degraded as well, I’ve spent the last 40 years trying to remember what the heck The Book, the first SF book I ever read, was. It was a juvenile of some sort, definitely. I didn’t think it was Heinlein — the memory didn’t have that feel. Andre Norton, perhaps, but I’ve never been sure.

Recently, my husband found a book he’d been trying to remember, and I stepped up my game, actively seeking out The Book. Googling plot elements didn’t work. I began to focus on Andre Norton’s works, hoping that my vague feeling was correct. I found 14 Norton books free on Kindle and downloaded them–it wasn’t any of those. I was stumped. I asked around if anyone remembered an Andre Norton novel involving, perhaps, a female protagonist who experiences someone else’s life through a headpiece with two green stones. No luck.

Yesterday, I was sitting in the green room at Philcon, between panels, chatting with a couple of people, when my husband walked in and plopped a book in my lap. I recognized the cover instantly.

It was The Book.

On a table just outside the dealers room, near the door where Filthy Pierre’s rack of con brochures was set up, my husband saw a stack of “somebody please give me a home” books which included titles by Andre Norton. Mindful of my search, he began to read the dust jackets, and that one mentioned a missing stone, being transported into other identities, and a race against time. He snagged it. And brought it to me.

And I am now the ecstatic owner of the very first SF novel I ever read.

My husband is amazing.

PhilCon 2013: Day 3 – Back to the Present

Nothing like talking about sex at 10am on Sunday morning. Wearing Purple: Female Writers of a Certain Age was a blast. My own conclusion is that having your kids leave home is the ultimate aphrodisiac, and who said sex after 50 isn’t hot, anyhow?

The Future of Privacy at 2pm didn’t so much discuss the future of privacy as the outrage of the listeners at the NSA’s latest exploits.

We are back home and very, very tired in spite of all the fun we had. The heat went out in our room again in the wee hours of this morning, and we were awakened by cold air blowing over us from the heating vent. Oh joy. The husband immediately marched down to the desk and Had A Talk With Them. They sent up 2 blankets and a handyman, and there was heat after that, but no sleep. We were too angry.

The husband repeated The Talk with the day manager first thing this morning got one entire night knocked off our bill. We’re grateful for that, at least.

PhilCon 2013: Day Two – Time Warp the Other Way

My Saturday morning panel, They Aren’t Out There After All, was loads of fun. The rest of Day 2 was spent trying to convince the hotel that the heat in my room was out again.

Day 1 actually turned out pretty much like I predicted, except for fighting with the hotel all day about the [lack of] heat in my room. It took all day to convince the hotel staff that No, I’m Really Not So Stupid That I Can’t Work A Thermostat And The Room Is Really Cold.

They sent up a guy who opened the ceiling and discovered that Gee, The Heat Really Is Turned Off and turned it back on.

Friday night was, at least, warmer, although I had nightmares about how badly I slept in the cold Thursday night.

Honestly, I’ve had better nights of sleep in a Motel 6. I told them that, too.

Time Warp: PhilCon Day 1

I’ve got a panel at 11pm this evening, so I thought I’d write up my Day 1 summary ahead of time, cuz I’m probably going to be too tired after midnight. Unless I’m at a party. Does PhilCon have parties? (We’ll find out!)

Around 3 or 4 this afternoon, I picked up my registration with the con. I probably ran into various folks that I’ve seen before: hopefully Sharon Lee & Steve Miller (whom I got to meet in person last night at the end of their Trade Secret Book Tour), maybe Lawrence M. Schoen, and others. Much joking and hellos and hilarity ensued, and then the husband and I wandered off to check out the panels we’re interested in listening to, such as possibly Good Science Fiction Spoiled By Bad Science at 8pm, or “Wool” and the Future of SF Publishing, also at 8pm, or The Effect of Mass Media Science Fiction on Literature, also also at 8pm, or “Meet The Pros” & Art Show Reception, also also also at 8pm (see a pattern here? yeah, it’s going to be one of those cons, way too many good things going on at the same time).

After much ignoring of tummy rumbles, I ducked up to my room to snack on the fruit and yogurt I brought, then went back downstairs and hung around the con suite until it was time for my panel, “They said WHAT about my book!?” Misleading or Embarrassing Blurbs. After that, I checked my notes from the party board (does PhilCon have a party board? We’ll find out!) and if there was anything promising, I schmoozed and had a great time until I couldn’t keep my eyes open and toddled off to bed.

Day 1 accomplished. Day 2 will be even more fun!

PhilCon 2013

I'm going to PhilCon this coming weekend, and here's my schedule as of 10/31/13:

Fri 11:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Three (1 hour)

    [Panelists: Stephanie Burke (mod), D.L. Carter, Christie Meierz]

    Authors describe irritating, frustrating, or humorous blurbs that
    distorted what the book was about, gave away the ending or otherwise
    wreaked havoc with the book (or, at least, the reader's first

Sat 11:00 AM in Plaza IV (Four) (1 hour)

    [Panelists: Nathan Lilly (mod), Earl Bennett, John Monahan, Peter
    Prellwitz, Christie Meierz]

    In recent decades more and more space opera has shied away from
    featuring sentient aliens, populating their worlds with factions of
    humanity instead.  Perhaps this reflects a growing pessimism over
    our own attempts to find  life out there.  How does the paucity of
    aliens affect space opera

Sun 10:00 AM in Crystal Ballroom Three (1 hour)

    [Panelists: Oz Drummond (mod), Brenda W. Clough, Barbara Krasnoff,
    Dina Leacock, Christie Meierz]

    A look at the process of aging as a Female Speculative Fiction
    author. Is it a concern? At what point do you cough when mentioning
    the date of your first sale? Do you find writing love scenes after
    menopause a bit dull? Or does it help liven things up

Sun 2:00 PM in Plaza II (Two) (1 hour)

    [Panelists: Michael A. Ventrella (mod), Ellen Asher, Christie

    Will the modern concept of privacy be considered anachronistic in
    the future?  And if not, what will "privacy" mean

Star Trek: Into Improbability

Last night, we had a family movie night upstairs and finally watched the latest Star Trek movie, Into Darkness.

First, I was a little confused, when the final credits rolled, as to what darkness we were talking about.

Second, well, spoilers. Click on the thingie below.

Well heck, the thingie to hide this unless you click on it isn’t working. Sorry.


right, I was willing to suspend disbelief right up to the point where
the Enterprise falls out of warp, 20 minutes by shuttle from Kronos, and
they weren’t greeted by flotillas of bloodthirsty Klingons.

Let me say that again: the Enterprise fell out of warp 20 minutes at impulse speed from Kronos and the Klingons didn’t notice.

What’s wrong with this picture? The movie made a point of telling us
that the Klingon Empire and the Federation were on the verge of war.
Everyone was on a hair trigger. And the Klingons didn’t notice when a
Federation ship randomly dropped out of warp 20 minutes away from their

Puh-lease. Do you really think we humans would fail to notice a Klingon Warbird drop out of warp 20 minutes from Earth?

Oh wait. Scottie just hops right up to the Super Sekrit Supership Dock near Jupiter and no one notices. Not only do they not notice there’s this shuttle hanging around where it shouldn’t be, but they don’t notice when he joins in with the line of shuttles that are supposed to be there. Or that he snuck on board.

By this time, I was really blown out of my bubble of willful disbelief. I had been willing to give the Klingon thing a pass for the sake of plot. But then
whoever wrote this thing did it again. There’s a space battle going on inside our moon’s orbit,
and no one came over to investigate. Which begs the question: if the
Federation is on the eve of war with the Klingon Empire, where were the
ships guarding Earth? How could two ships, even Federation ships, slug
it out between the Earth and the moon and no one popped over to see what was going on? Seriously?

By this time, I’m laughing. They get Khan’s ship to stop firing. Yay! But then it fires again, and suddenly — suddenly — the Enterprise can’t maintain its position 237,000 km up and starts falling. Straight down. Like a stone.

Um, no.

wait, there’s more. Enterprise loses its gravity control, and every
time it spins, people go falling all over the place. Hello? 200,000+
kilometers up? MICROGRAVITY. You lose your artificial gravity, you’re going to float. Hello? They’re falling, fast. Even IF they were near the Earth’s surface, they’d be in freefall, not hanging from the catwalks and falling out of holes in the ship.

I’ve been a Star Trek fan since I was
a child. I watched the original airings of the original series. Captain
Kirk was my hero when I was a little girl. But that was a simpler time. We’re past that now. This — this is painful.
It’s like Galaxy Quest, except it’s pretending to be serious. Was it
really so hard to pick up a phone and run some of this stuff past an
aerospace engineer? I’m willing to bet that a huge percentage of the
folks who work at NASA are Star Trek fans who would have been delighted
to tell them anything they wanted to know about how things really work in orbit.