In Nantes

by wjw on October 31, 2014

I am in lovely Nantes, the hometown of Jules Verne, for Utopiales, France’s largest SF convention.

I’m heavily programmed, but then I got a free trip to France so I can hardly complain.  In any case, I’ll either be working or having fun, and unlikely to be composing any thoughtful essays in this space.

Have a Happy Halloween, and carry on.

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City of Corsairs

by wjw on October 28, 2014

stmaloWe are in Saint-Malo, a Breton walled city completely rebuilt after being destroyed by George Patton in 1944.  (They named a street after him anyway.)

Saint-Malo was famous for Duguay-Trouin and other privateers who made fortunes by plundering the British merchant marine, and also as the home of Jacques Cartier, who left here to “discover” Canada (when he wasn’t designing expensive jewelry).  The modern city is picturesque and has more restaurants per inhabitant than anyplace else in France.  (Unfortunately most serve galettes, which are the local buckwheat crepe, nothing wrong with them except you don’t want them three times per day.)

We couldn’t get into the town center yesterday, because of traffic and an absolute lack of parking, so we backed out to our hotel, which was on the outskirts of town, and learned to use the bus.  The reason for the madness was the Route du Rhum, which (alas) isn’t a trail from one grog shop to the next, but rather a yacht race from St.-Malo to Guadeloupe in the West Indies.  The race doesn’t actually start till Sunday, but the town is already packed and the marinas are full.  The harbor is absolutely stacked with state-of-the-art trimarans, each a custom triumph of modern marine engineering, featuring Nomex honeycomb sandwich hulls, canting bowsprits and keels, D4 process sails, lightweight Kevlar interiors, Carbontech masts, and little cockpits that look as if they belong on fighter jets.

trimaranSeveral classes of boats are in the race: the “Classe 40,” the “Multi50,” and the “Classe HOLY FUCKING SHIT YOU PEOPLE ARE BATSHIT CRAZY!” which includes the Spindrift, the 40-meter world’s largest racing trimaran, which is so big it won’t fit through the lock into the yacht basin.  Thanks to the miracles of modern engineering, these boats can sail twice as fast as the wind.

These craft look a lot more advanced than anything I’ve seen from NASA, possibly because the people who own the boats have more money.  Sponsors include banks, the Sultanate of Oman, and Edmond de Rothschild.

Insane designs, insane amounts of money, and insane skippers: this is mostly a singlehanded race, in which lonely, starved, sleep-deprived skippers will have to scream along on a single hull for a week at a time, which is about the time it will take the fastest boats to reach Guadaloupe.  Even the Spindrift will have but a single crew.  I think of one of these boats pitchpoling in the middle of the Atlantic at night and I shiver.

Tomorrow I’m heading for Utopiales, which is the convention that brought me here in the first place, and I suspect they’d be a little upset if I took Sunday off and told them I was now their yachting correspondent.  So I’ll just have to follow the race online, and maybe drink a little rhum myself.

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So Here It Is

by wjw on October 26, 2014

stmichel

 

You really can’t take a bad picture of it.  No bad angles at all.

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Load Up For All Saints’ Day

by wjw on October 26, 2014

HardwiredCover4Part Four of the Hardwired serial released on November 1, which happens to be All Saints’ Day, but you can pre-order it via iBooks, Amazon, Kobo, and Smashwords!  It will be available via Barnes & Noble as well, but they won’t give me a link to it until the day of release, because . . . because they’re Barnes & Noble, I guess.

If you preorder now, Part Four will show up on your favorite reading device just after midnight, so that you can sit down and read it while munching your Halloween treats!

In Part Four, Cowboy and Sarah begin their counterattack against Tempel now that they know their enemy’s identity. Their own desperation forces them into an alliance with Tempel’s former CEO, the psychotic sexual predator Roon. It’s a situation ripe for violence, treachery, and betrayal, especially after Tempel attacks Sarah through her greatest weakness, her love for her brother Daud . . .

So check it out!

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Calling the Fire Brigade

by wjw on October 24, 2014

johnsteelI see that Private John Steel is still hanging from the church steeple at Ste.-Mère-Église.  Can someone please cut him down?

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Aristotle

October 23, 2014

From the St.-Pierre church in Caen: a carving of Aristotle being ridden and flogged by Campaspe, the mistress of Alexander the Great. Perhaps the moral lesson intended by this carving is best left to the medieval imagination.

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On the Beach

October 22, 2014

Seventy years and several months ago, my dad was bouncing around in a small boat just off this inoffensive-looking beach, which was then covered with obstacles, burning ships and tanks, and a lot of dead soldiers.  My dad was ready to join Eisenhower’s great crusade, and though he didn’t land until three days after the […]

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After Monet

October 21, 2014

And the best thing was . . .  the public toilet was named after Marcel Duchamp. How perfect was that?

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Reflexes

October 20, 2014

The sad fact is, Henry spoiled us.  After ten days of Henry planning our travel, our meals, and arranging our public appearances, our travelers’ instincts had faded.  Thus, when catastrophe struck, we found ourselves with small resource. Yesterday we flew from Tel Aviv to Paris.  The plan was simple: we’d arrive at 11pm, clear customs, […]

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Jazzar

October 18, 2014

Henry and Daniela took us to Acco today, the ancient city known in Crusader times as St Jean d’Acre.  The old city is still surrounded by massive (mostly Ottoman) fortifications, and the huge stone headquarters of the Knights Hospitaller, with its vast echoing gothic halls and conspiratorial underground tunnels, still survives (mostly because it was […]

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