Shandification

by wjw on May 26, 2017

So what does the classic but gonzo 18th Century novel Tristram Shandy have to do with video and console games?

Quite a lot, according to this video, which also offers some fairly astute ideas about narrative and structure.  Plus a newly-coined term with which the more pretentious among us can annoy our friends.  Win/win!

 

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Today we breathlessly awaited the launch of New Zealand’s first rocket, which finally happened after bad weather forced several delays.  Check the video to see the Electron two-stage vehicle leaping into orbit on its fiery kerosene/LOX tail.  (I advise going to full screen.)

The Electron is a small, low-cost vehicle, designed to hurl aloft small satellites and/or cubesats (which Autocorrect keeps insisting really means “cubists,” some of whom definitely deserve to be flung into space).  The Electron is a product of Rocket Lab, which is actually funded by someone named [Mark] Rocket, and is run by New Zealander Peter Beck.

New Zealand is known for its spectacular geology, its friendly and welcoming people, its distinctive native wildlife, and its hobbits.  But why not aerospace?  Electron’s design is unique, being built around the Rutherford engine, which is the first to use an electric pump design, which means that big heavy pressure tanks are unnecessary.

But what’s really striking about the Electron is that its engines are made through additive manufacturing.

The Electron’s engine, named for the New Zealand-born nuclear physicist Ernest Rutherford, is the first of its type to be primarily 3D-printed. Each Rutherford engine, including its engine chamber, injector, pumps and main propellant valves, can be printed in 24 hours.

Nine Rutherford engines drive the Electron’s first stage, producing around 34,500 pounds of thrust at liftoff, and powering up to 41,500 pounds of thrust later in the flight. A single Rutherford engine is on the Electron’s second stage.

Printing your rocket ship?  That means you can carry your rocket design around on a thumb drive.  That means you can print all ten engines for the Electron in ten days, and you can do it anywhere you’ve got an electron beam printer and some metal feed stock.

Presumably you still need to assemble your rocket in more conventional ways, but it could be done by robots, the design of which could also be on your thumb drive.

And it doesn’t stop with rockets.  Imagine printing and assembling your moon base before the astronauts even arrive, all because your printed rockets have been designed to deliver printers, not people.

And at what point do we graduate to printing the astronauts themselves?

The New Zealand Space Corps is showing us the way.

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Whereat I Have Been

by wjw on May 24, 2017

IMG_4096So I’ve been very, very busy.

First, last week was the Rio Hondo workshop, hosted by Michaela Roessner and myself.  This was the 20th Anniversary Rio Hondo, which oddly enough did not make me feel old, but young, young, young!  It was the most trouble-free workshop experience I can remember, and everyone pitched in and worked to make the manuscripts and the food and the fun better.

Left to right, we see: Walter Jon Williams, Sally Gwylan, Isabel Whiston, Barbara Ferrer, Maureen McHugh, Diana Rowland, Alex Jablokov, Kim Jollow Zimring, Rick Wilber, Jen Volant, Michaela Roessner, and Barbara Webb.  The speckles you see in the photo aren’t a flaw in the emulsion, but falling snow.  (The weather was extremely variable.)

Four of us were veterans of the very first Rio Hondo twenty years ago, and three were survivors of Taos Toolbox, which made for an interesting mix of enthusiasm and battlefield-induced PTSD.

The food was, as usual, amazing, and I’m still working on finishing off the Cuban pork roast that Barb Ferrer cooked last week.

As if all that didn’t make me busy enough, at the beginning of the week I got the copy-edit for Quillifer, nearly 600 pages which I finished just last night.  The Rio Hondo attendees were very good about giving me a couple quiet hours every day so that I could work on it.

I get to do that all over again in a month, with the page proofs.  Yay?

But for now it’s time to concentrate on Taos Toolbox, which starts in less than a month.  It’s the Tenth Anniversary Toolbox, so the year of anniversaries continues.

More anniversaries!  More editing!  More oxygen deprivation!  On we march, but it’s for history to decide if this snow-filled event is Hannibal charging over the Alps, or Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow.

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I Am Cover’d

by wjw on May 12, 2017

Quillifer_comp_medBehold!  The Gregory Manchess cover for Quillifer, my next book, complete with blurb from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Diaz!  How cool is that!

The protagonist’s expression turned out to be key for this, and according to my editor went through several versions.  “It was a goldilocks scenario of just too old, too war weary, not enough snark, way too much snark, then, oh no, now you’re embarrassing drunk uncle . . . “

But what they really needed was this guy.  Part Flashman, part James Bond.

The book’s just become available for pre-order, and can be in your hands the first week in October.

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I Just Won’t Shut Up

by wjw on May 12, 2017

Carl Slaughter interviews me for File 770.  I talk about Quillifer, so if the cover in the post just above intrigues you, feel free to check this out.

And also, File 770‘s appreciation of the Praxis series.

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For the Folks Abroad

May 10, 2017

This is an announcement for my readers outside of North America.  The Praxis, the first in my Dread Empire sequence, is on sale for 99 cents, or 99 cent-equivalents in whatever your currency happens to be.  You can find the book at Amazon.co.uk, iBooks, Kobo, and Google. This is the revised and slightly expanded Praxis, guaranteed to be even better […]

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Up and Live

May 8, 2017

My tale of Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla is now available on Apple, Amazon, Smashwords, Google, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble.  For a mere $2.99! Click here for an essay about this labor of love.  

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Interview, Part II

May 7, 2017

Behold!  It is Part II of my interview by Devin Fields on the Flyover Fandom blog.

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Clews

May 6, 2017

I saw this guy tonight.  Safe to say I was amazed. Except the fellow’s name is Colin Cloud.  And having practically majored in the Elizabethans, I keep thinking of him as “Colin Clout.” But if you don’t know Spenser, it won’t matter.

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Spas of the Jedi

May 4, 2017

Ever since the trailer for Star Wars: the Last Jedi was released, there has been a mighty buzz over Luke’s proclamation that “It’s time for the Jedi to end.” Charlie Jane Anders, on wired.com, suggests that what the Jedi need is not extinction, but Workers’ Comp. This is clearly a job with a high attrition rate. […]

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