Calling Utopia a Utopia

Writing about the death of J.G. Ballard for the New York Times (21 April 09), Bruce Weber spoke to Ballard’s American editor at Norton, Robert Weil. Mr Weil said of Ballard: “His fabulistic style led people to review his work as science fiction. But that’s like calling Brave New World science fiction, or 1984.”

Every time I read this sentence it suggests more parallels:

“But that’s like calling Don Quixote a novel.”
“But that’s like calling The Lord of the Rings a fantasy.”
“But that’s like calling Utopia a utopia… “

Continue reading


What If Obesity Isn’t a Huge Health Problem?

Rethinking ThinWhat if recent increases in average weight are caused by the same things that have given us increases in average height and lenthened the average life span: Better nutrition, vaccines and antibiotics, healthier pregnancies?

According to NY Times science reporter Gina Kolata in her recent book Rethinking Thin, some researchers speculate that “we may be a new, heavier human race and our weight may been set by events that took place very early in life, maybe even prenatally.”

Now there’s a challenge to conventional thinking. Here’s another: Being “overweight” by current standards might actually be healthy. Continue reading


Real-Life and Fictional Canine Heroes

USAFbombdog This is a picture of a real-life “Dynamutt,” a trained bomb-sniffing dog and member of the United States Air Force.  I first became familiar with these brave dogs’ training and work while writing Bomb Scares.  Bomb-sniffing dogs participate in hundreds, and often thousands of hours of training.  The best dogs can differentiate between hundreds of different scents, and are trained to identify two dozen or more specific odors that indicate the presence of explosive devices.

With such great dogs in the world, it’s truly hard to understand how cartoon canines could be so generally wretched.  In the 70’s, Scooby Doo (retarded detective dog – though smarter than his “master” Shaggy) had a spinoff called “Dynomutt.”

Continue reading


Modesty Blaise: A Very Short Review

You could call Modesty Blaise a comic strip, but the title is so much more.  It is a classic British adventure comic strip written by Peter O’Donnell, which ran from 1963 to 2001; these evolved into a series of novels, a movie, some attempts at TV, and even a rock band in Europe someplace. Although O’Donnell has retired, the strips are still being amalgamated in large-format trade paper and sold at comic book stores.

Continue reading


Report from Penguicon

img_0034Last weekend was Penguicon 7.0, Michigan’s science fiction and open-source programming convention.  It’s a media mix that has worked amazingly well, and this is, IMHO, the best convention in the state.

img_00481I did get a rocky start when I arrived Saturday morning.  Once I registered I found I didn’t have a separate list of the panels I was on, and due to a printer’s error the print in the actual program book was really, REALLY tiny.  So tiny, in fact, I had to have someone else read through it to find my name. Continue reading


Macrobiotics #6: 10 things you might not know about beans

1.) Did you know that you don’t need to soak beans? Macrobiotics teacher and cookbook author Christina Pirello was once challenged to a cook-off. The tiny Italian grandmother told her people would get indigestion eating soaked beans. When their cook-off was through, Gran’s beans tasted richer, and no one became “musical” after the meal. Since soaking also removes some flavor and enzymes, and starting with dry beans took only minutes longer to cook, Christina has stopped soaking beans before cooking them.

If you feel you must soak, Christina says an hour will do it – don’t waste time planning farther ahead. The traditional Quick Soak is boil water and beans 2-5 minutes, then cover, take off heat and let sit at room temperature four hours. The long soak is 8-9 hours at room temperature, I.E. overnight. For many people, a short soak gets rid of indigestible sugars that lead to Musical beans. The long soak doesn’t help the music side effect, but the beans hold shape better.

Continue reading


The Upside to Having a Day Job

Dr. Francis CollinsFor work on Tuesday, I got paid to go listen to Francis Collins, who headed the National Institutes of Health project on sequencing of the human genome, talk about “The Future of Genomics and Personalized Medicine.”

I was inspired. Sequencing the genome is not just the greatest thing since slice bread, it’s the greatest thing since the personal computer. If we follow through on Dr. Collins’s recommendations, we really will end up with the kind of health care that up to now has only appeared in optimistic science fiction.

And there’s all kinds of interesting research and projects going on.

For example, there’s the Human Microbiome Project. Continue reading


From our friend Peter S. Beagle, “A Personal Request to All My Fans”

Peter S. Beagle says:

Peter S. Beagle

If you’ve ever read and enjoyed one of my books or stories, or seen and enjoyed one of the films that I scripted, I’d like to ask a favor of you. It’s simple, really — if at all possible, within the next month please do one of the following things.

1) Go to and buy a subscription to my year-long 52/50 Project (more about which, below).

2) Go to and buy any single book or DVD of my work, either for you or as a gift for a friend.

3) If you can’t make a purchase yourself, try and get someone else interested enough to take the leap.

As for why I’m asking, that’s even simpler: you will change my life.

Continue reading


Armed and Dangerous


A couple of decades ago one of my room mates press-ganged me into taking a class with her.  She was already taking fencing, but her teacher had decided to offer stage combat, and needed more students.  “It’ll be great!  You can write it off as research!” Since I was then working on The Stone War, an urban fantasy that takes place in New York City, circa 2018, I didn’t see any present use for such research, but I love me a good swashbuckler, so I signed up.  And it was love at first swash.

Continue reading