I live in (the rural Oort Cloud-ish outer reaches of) one of the planet’s coolest cities for authors. Just sayin’…

The Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature humans are awesome humans when it comes to being the kinda humans that authors appreciate. Also: I need to get into town and pick up one of those t-shirts. That is all.

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About your order of robots to go… you want mad ambulatory skills with that?

I grew up with robots that (who?) got around like humans. Or ostriches. From C-3p0 to Robby in Forbidden Planet and Lost in Space, my robots… had legs (cue ZZ Top). OK, Robby was more breadboxes with wheels, but you get the idea. Anyway, tech moneybags-with-geek-glasses Softbank just bought Boston Dynamics – maker of, yes, leggy bots. Do they see the future of bots as human-environment-friendly? “Spiral staircase? No problem-o! Allow me to carry you to your super-villain observatory on the roof, Dr. Nothankyou.” Well, maybe. Or MAYBE… it’s just the Japanese obsession with robots as plasti-flesh-wrapped humanoids. Yes. That’s a thing. You hadn’t noticed?

 

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U always figure ETs would be wierder than anything on Earth? This little guy begs to differ.


Meet Melibe Viridis. Tiny but terrifying. Envelops its prey in its H.R. Giger-esque extendable “mouth-part” – a bit of anatomy tagged with the disturbing but poetic descriptor: “oral veil.” Sorta like a rootless Venus flytrap but with multiple legs. And made out of Ghostbuster slime. Life on earth: always able to ambush us humans with dang-near unimaginable evolutionary marvels.
http://www.seaslugforum.net/showall/meliviri
Here’s the scoop from the unimpeachable savants at the Sea Slug Forum: “There are a number of benthic species of Melibe in the tropical Indo-West Pacific. Melibe viridis can grow to over 120mm in length. Their most unique attribute is their method of feeding. They have lost their radular teeth and have developed the oral veil into a large veil or “fish net” which they use to constantly scan the substrate as they crawl along. When the sensitive papillae on the inner edge of the oral veil touch a small crab or crustacean the edge of the veil is rapidly contracted, trapping the prey, which is then ingested. Some species of Melibe, but not this species, harbour zooxanthellae in their bodies.”

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Thanks for sharing, facebook-Dana.

Well, isn’t this special? (Yes. Yes it is. Never gets old.) FB pal Dana snapped these retro-tree-fiber-pulp specimens hanging out in ye local shoppe somewhere. Note that they’re trying to be cool-by-association with cool-kid Scalzi in the upstairs apartment….

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How do ya find a literary agent? Sometimes, they find you…

Kismet and the search for an agent…

At cons or workshops where I’ve been on panels, I’m usually asked “Dude, how did you land an agent?”   (or maybe it was “Dude, how did YOU land an agent?!” but let’s not quibble). Well, there’s a site-page for that. Back when my first novel, Zenn Scarlett, was about to be published, editor/author Chuck Sambuchino over at Writers Digest interviewed me. (Thanks again, Chuck!) It’s mostly me shootin’ off my mouth about the basic flaming hoops any writer needs to jump through when looking for representation, plus of course, the usual “write on, kids!” admonitions. But my experience did come with an unexpected (and welcome) twist. So if you’re in agent-hunting mode, or just interested in the eccentric ways the process can play out, here ya go:  Writers Digest rambling author interview.  So, good luck and… write on, kids!

Posted in Authors & Their Books, Authors Aspiring to Have Books, Books, Publishing, Writing stuff with words.... | Leave a comment

A big ‘scope gets a power-boost, turns mirror-gaze to Alpha/Proxima Centauri system

The big-ass Very Large Telescope down in Chile gets a new pair of exo-goggles. Then, as part of the $100 million Breakthrough initiative searching for off-world life, it’ll zoom in on the could-be rocky-earth-like planet we think is orbiting Proxima Centauri, our nearest stellar neighbor. Will this give us our first look at actual extraterrestrial life? Could happen. If we luck out on a cosmic scale. Stay tuned….

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Passengers in this film get their wake-up call just a tad early…

The groggy, suspiciously attractive Passengers of this SFX extravaganza take us on a sort-of-world-ship, half-light-speed journey to a nearby stapassenger-shipr system with a habitable planet. Stasis for the travelers is the key, but things go pear-shaped when two of the ticket-holders wake up  prematurely. Like 90 years too early. Complications and void-luv ensue. But we’re all encouraged to note that the film takes its physics seriously. For the most part… Like tears. They don’t just float off from your face in zero-g. Liquid surface tension keeps ’em stuck on your skin, and this principle is adhered to in the film (see what I did there?) Then there’s “tether physics.” The infamous scene in Gravity got this badly wrong and took some serious verbal abuse for it from SF geekdom and actual physics-knowing types worldwide.  In Passengers, two floaters pulling on a shared line act the way they’re ‘sposed to, and that means we’ll all feel better about Newtonian law being strictly obeyed. At least where space-crying and tugging are concerned. But all science aside, the ship itself is gorgeous. The technical term is swoopy, I believe. Very swoopy.  Can’t vouch for the quality of the human performances. It IS an off-world kinda movie we have here, however, and it pays attention to the more pedestrian science-y bits. (Which is more than we could say for Gravity or Interstellar). So, there’s that. Here’s the arty at space.com that goes into more deets on it all:   http://www.space.com/35104-passengers-scifi-movie-nails-space-physics.html

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All aboard.

Next stop: the Valles Marineris. Mind the gap.

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Even once it gets started, exo-life has a tough row to hoe….

chartToo hot. Too cold. Or juuuuust right? Young planets aren’t so comfy for young life forms. But hey, there’s the Earth. So, score one for biology…. Turns out young planets go through all kinds of spasms and hiccups on their way to stability. So, even if say bacterial level life manages to get itself established, things can go seriously sideways at any point after that. On Earth, bacteria ruled as sole monarchs of the place for two billion years, and only then managed to gear up into complex cells and then animal-caliber creatures. So, while we may find delightful slimey bio-film-inhabited planets aplenty, it may be hard to locate anyone able to play chess with, etc. More from the pessimists here.

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Nearest exoplanet (possibly) ID’d. Yay! Do I pack my exo-bags pronto? Sci Am sez chill out ’cause: insufficient data; may not be life-friendly; red dwarf stars throw more hissy-fit tantrums than Donald Trump; and finally, P-b may not really like… exist.

Still, Proxima b COULD be all kinds of exciting, providing a comfy habitable-zone home for all your fave off-world evo-devo fantasies. But we won’t know for a goodly while, so no need to send off your order for celebratory Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters quite yet. Cold-shower arty here.

 

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