Another Fine Review

by wjw on September 26, 2020

Fleet-Elements-by-Walter-Jon-Williams-ReviewThe Nerd Daily posted a fine review of Fleet Elements.

With a pace that is faster than light, Walter Jon Williams’s fifth book in the Dread Empire’s Fall series, Fleet Elements is a space opera that doesn’t disappoint . . .  great soap opera science fiction, full of gung ho rebels trying to save themselves, with a side of power hungry aliens, and some witty banter.


Back on the Keyboard

by wjw on September 24, 2020

I haven’t been visible on social media in the last week because my MacBook Pro was off in the shop.  The keyboard had (mostly) held together through the completion of Lord Quillifer, but was clearly on its last legs, so off to the Genius Bar I went.

Fortunately the butterfly-switch keyboard on my machine had generated such outrage in the Apple community that Apple announced they will fix the problem for free.

When I asked how long the repair would take, the Genius said “Usually three to five days, but they’re telling us to say two weeks because of the situation with the Post Office.”

So Trump’s attempt to sabotage the elections is interfering with business deliveries.  Great.  I wonder if I’ll be getting my prescriptions.

So for five days I worked on my iPad with a portable keyboard.  I liked this portable keyboard.  If I could figure out a way to make it work with my MacBook I would, but currently that seems highly unlikely.

Apple cleverly did an end run around the Trump PO by using FedEx, and my machine was returned to me on Wednesday morning, after only five days away from home.  Kudos for fast work.

When I opened the box I thought, “Whee!  Shiny!  They sent me a new computer!”  Because it really looked shiny spanking new.  But when I booted it up, it had my name on it and everything, and so I figured they just cleaned the heck out of my machine, and buffed out the scars on the case.

But my happiness did not go very far, because I soon realized that none of my data was on the machine.  And none of my programs, including my word processor.  The drive had been wiped clean.

Of course I’m not an idiot.  I had backed up everything.  But still.

So I prepared to upload everything from my backup drive, and behold!  My MacBook could not even find the backup file.  That would be eight years of work, email, etc., which could not be accessed, plus a whole lot of my old Windows files.

I called Apple Support and spend a couple hours on the phone with a helpful gentleman down in Cupertino, who taught me all sorts of tricks for accessing remote disk files, none of which worked.  So he kicked me upstairs to a software specialist, and he also taught me some tricks that didn’t work.

“What OS is your computer running?” he asked finally.

I checked.  “Sierra,” I said.

“And when you backed it up last week, what OS did you use?”


“Well there you go.  Sierra won’t read Catalina files.”

Because Sierra is a 32-bit program and Catalina is a 64-bit program, FYI.

“Why did they wipe my drive and install an old operating system?”

“They always wipe the drive.  Then they install a stable program to determine whether your problem was a hardware problem or a software problem.”

You’d think the fact that the keyboard was spitting keys might have been a clue that I had a hardware problem, but bear in mind that if it turned out to be software after all, they could charge me for the repair, whereas a keyboard repair is free.

“So what I need to do is upgrade to Catalina?” asked I.

“No.  You need to upgrade to the final iteration of Sierra, and then upgrade to Catalina.”

Which I did, though it took hours.

Then— guess what?— Catalina had no more success at reading the backup file than Sierra had!  But then I employed some of the tricks that my first customer support guy had taught me, and— success!— I was able to start the upload.

The computer informed me that the upload would take 56 hours, 38 minutes.  Which in the event turned out to be around 12 hours.

So far everything’s working.

But here’s the capper.  I felt the need to vent about all this, so I called Daniel, who used to work Customer Service himself, and I figured he could fake the empathy even if he wasn’t feeling it.  When I gave him the story about how they had to wipe my drive and load Sierra, he started laughing.

“They totally lied to you, dude!” he said. “It was too much trouble to fix your keyboard, so they sent you a new computer!”

Which is what I had thought when I first opened the box.  And if the new computer had been on the shelf for a while, it would have been running Sierra.

So the cost of getting a spanking new computer was about 12 hours of screaming anxiety, in which I contemplated eight years of work gone up in smoke and cursed out everyone at Apple, beginning with Steve Jobs.  “It was your obsession with aesthetics that produced this fucking awful keyboard!” I shrieked, in a voice that should reach him in the afterlife.

Next time this happens, I’m checking the serial number on the computer before and after, just so I can know what’s going on.


A Few Good Things

by wjw on September 17, 2020


First, I finished Lord Quillifer in the early hours of the morning, and sent it on to my editor and my agent.  I was so afraid that the project would be Dance with Dragons-sized that I’d stopped doing word counts for the last ten chapters or so, but when I finally added them up, the book turned out to be shorter than Quillifer the Knight.  So hurrah!

My MacBook’s keyboard managed to avoid complete disintegration before I wrote THE END to the project, and I’ll be taking it to the local Genius Bar tomorrow, where I’m sure they’ll deny the problem exists, then not have the parts to fix it, and then hang onto my computer for weeks, while I try to work in my iPad and a portable Bluetooth keyboard.

After finishing the book I over-celebrated a bit, which resulted in my sleeping badly, which meant that I had to take a lovely, lovely nap in the late afternoon, and am now as fit as the fiddle section of the Philadelphia Philharmonic.

When I rose from my nap a box awaited me on the front porch, with copies of the bound, uncorrected proofs of The Best of Walter Jon Williams.  This is the copy being sent to reviewers, so if you happen to be a reviewer and want to review it, you might try contacting Subterranean Press.

Unless you’re a reviewer, you’ll have to wait till December for your proper bound hardback copy.  But it’ll be worth the wait.

Here’s the TOC:

  • Introduction by Daniel Abraham

  • Daddy’s World

  • The Golden Age

  • Dinosaurs

  • Surfacing

  • Video Star

  • The Millennium Party

  • The Bad Twin

  • The Green Leopard Plague

  • Diamonds from Tequila

  • Margaux

  • Prayers on the Wind

  • Wall, Stone, Craft

  • Story Notes by Me

I’d like to quote from Daniel’s introduction: ” . . . the job of being a writer is a fine balance between, on the one hand, cultivating a deep and empathetic understanding of the human heart and, on the other, not giving a shit what anyone else thinks.”

It’s something to aspire to, right?


Final Sprint

by wjw on September 11, 2020

I feel as if I’ve been sprinting to the finish of Lord Quillifer forever.  Up till now, with every page I added, the finale seemed to have receded farther out of sight, but now I think I’ve got a handle on it.  I’ve written the last big action scene, I’ve written the last big revelation scene, and now all I’ve got is the denouement, which is a collection of short scenes and shouldn’t take long.

But I’m still in a race, this time with my three-year-old MacBook Pro.  It’s a dreadful machine, with a very annoying (and very cheap) keyboard, an enormous touchscreen that I’m always hitting by mistake, or dragging a sleeve across, which causes the cursor to leap about, and Spotlight Search, some kind of search window that’s always popping up when I don’t want it, and which I then have to take the time to make go away.  (It just popped up as I was typing this.  It’s malevolent, I tell you, malevolent.)

The butterfly switch keyboard is by now infamous, and mine has reached the stage where keys are leaping off the machine like popcorn.  I fish around, find them, then stick them back on. So far that’s working.

Despite being called “Pro,” the machine is not for serious work.  It’s for gaming, or editing cute cat videos, or posting your latest selfie to Facebook.  It’s certainly not intended for someone who has to write millions of words during the lifetime of the machine.

And yes, I know I could plug in a keyboard, but then with a second keyboard added it wouldn’t be a laptop anymore, would it?  I’d have to put the thing on a table or a desk, and quite frankly I’ve got used to working with a machine on my lap while I sit in a semi-reclined position on my easy chair.

So who will win the race?  Will I finish the book, or will my laptop fall apart before I can write “The End.”

Any bets, either way?


And Now . . . Winter!

by wjw on September 9, 2020

The big storm struck as predicted, and the temperature dropped nearly 50 degrees overnight, complete with hours of heavy freezing rain.  We didn’t get any snow, but Colorado got quite a bit.

Yesterday the high was in the 90s and the air conditioner was going all day.  Today I had to light the boiler so we could stay warm.

By next week we’ll be back in summer with the AC on again.

Autumn is usually my favorite time of year, but so far it’s not working out for me.


After A Quarter Century

September 7, 2020

The Wild Cards anthology Dealer’s Choice is back in print after 25 years.  Normally I’d say “I have a story in it,” but Dealer’s Choice is a braided novel, a single narrative written by several authors, and one of the braids is mine.

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Gang Agley

August 30, 2020

Last night’s edition of “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me,” the NPR news quiz, featured a story that I wasn’t prepared to believe, involving the Scots Wikipedia, in which I wasn’t prepared to believe either.  It seems there is an attempt to render the contents of Wikipedia in the Scots language (as opposed to Scots Gaelic, which […]

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Fleet Elements Gets a Star

August 28, 2020

Fleet Elements, the next book in my Praxis series, got a starred review from Publishers Weekly. So don’t just take my word for it, we have independent testimony that this book is solid. It still won’t be available till December, unfortunately.  But you can pre-order at your favorite bookstore.  Fleet Elements Walter Jon Williams. Harper Voyager, $16.99 […]

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Bubonicon Online

August 26, 2020

Our local SF convention, Bubonicon 52, was scheduled for this coming weekend, but was canceled on account of the pandemic.  But this Saturday, August 29, there will be a virtual Bubonicon complete with guest of honor Keith R.A. Decandidio, toastmaster A. Lee Martinez, artist guest Chaz Kemp, and many many more, including yours truly. UPDATE: […]

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California Burning (Again)

August 20, 2020

Here’s tonight’s sunset, as viewed through a smoky murk blown all the way from California’s wildfires.  We’ve been breathing the stuff for weeks, but this is the worst it’s been.

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