Open Topic

by wjw on October 31, 2013

Since I’m going to be flying a dozen time zones in the next couple days, I’m not going to be here much.  So I’m going to do as friend of the blog TRX suggested recently, and have an open topic.

If you have any questions, want to make any announcements, or have any good jokes, feel free to make use of this space.

Just be polite, and turn off the lights while you leave.

Arno October 31, 2013 at 8:05 am

Re Open Topic

I support warmly TRX’s splendid idea, and am glad that wjw is agreeing
to it. I would like to open, in advance, my own topic:

There has been an interesting comment to my war for WJW in Great SF&F. Please, everybody, go to view it in

Google>greatsfandf>Site Front Page>FORUMS>Author Suggestions.

If the number of viewers runs dry, the Webmaster there will use it as a reason to hide the whole topic, as he did earlier in 2008. He seems to
find both WJW and all things military utterly repugnant. I can’t understand why, but so it is.

And any comments from WJW’s friends would be very welcome too.


Sean Craven October 31, 2013 at 9:07 pm

I’m a Taos Toolbox alumnus, and in November, I have eight short stories coming out as part of an anthology on the theme of the seven deadly sins. You can subscribe for free here.

TRX November 1, 2013 at 1:19 am

Tap… tap… is this thing on?

Walter, when you blogged about The Rift you mentioning the potential market size difference between “mainstream” and “science fiction” novels. Your Dagmar Shaw novels are mainstream fiction. You went from historical novels to science fiction; do the Dagmar novels indicate a move from science fiction toward the mainstream market? Can you tell us what you’re planning for the next two or three years?

Ralf The Dog. November 4, 2013 at 6:10 am

Is this real? If it is, it is probably the most terrifying technology news in the history of news talking about technology. The author is a very respected researcher; All of the elements have had a proof of concept implementation in the past; All that said, why has he not given copies of it to other respected researchers?

Ralf The Dog. November 4, 2013 at 6:21 am

I probably should have said above, the coolest part of this virus, other than the fact, it flashes it’s self into the firmware of random components like drive controllers, sound cards and such to rebuild it’s self if formatted, is if disconnected from the internet, it sets up a local network with other infected systems by ultrasound from the speakers and microphone, letting it tunnel through to the internet and phone home. If part of the virus is destroyed, it connects (by ultrasound if needed) to it’s friends near by to rebuild it’s self. If your computer was infected by this virus (if it is real), the only way to get rid of it would be to trash your computer. They should call it zombie.

Note: I don’t like calling it a virus, (if it is real). It is more of a symbiotic colony of related viruses that move into a computer, find places to hide, then bring their friends back to life if any of them get wiped.

Brian Prince November 5, 2013 at 12:23 am

I suspect the person who “discovered” BadBIOS is having some kind of mental health event. There’s a critical response to the claims here:

John Appel November 6, 2013 at 4:12 pm

I’m finally getting a chance to dig into The Rift and enjoying it greatly, especially with the context Walter provided in his recent post. Comparing it to other experiences he didn’t mention (like the September 2011 earthquake in VA that damaged the National Cathedral and other structures) is adding to the experience.

I did have a brief “That’s quaint!” moment when I reached the passages about the protest at the video store – not so much about the protest but about the prominence of a video rental store among local businesses in small communities. I’m a suburban megalopolis boy but have friends in small towns and rural areas, and you nailed that, sir.

You also got some of the aspects of racism and white-on-white resentment in the southern US that few people seem to, and in ways I didn’t really start to grok until I came across them in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ writings at The Atlantic.

TRX November 6, 2013 at 9:21 pm

I didn’t even know there *was* a “National Cathedral” until recently, when I was doing a search for gargoyles (drain spouts), and one of the hits mentioned a drain spout shaped like Darth Vader’s helmet. Which turned out to be on the National Cathedral. Which is, by the way, Episcopalian. I’m not sure how the Episcopalians got the nod, and there doesn’t seem to be a National Synagogue or National Mosque to balance it out.

It turned out that lots of important events take place at the National Cathedral, but I’d never heard of it, or even anything that would have made me suspect such a thing existed.

It reminded me of high school. *After* I’d had a three-month course on “The Civil War”, I came across mention of someone named “Jeff Davis.” It was from my drafting instructor, who was a Civil War re-enactor. I was astounded to learn that the Confederacy had had a President, a Congress, and all the usual stuff; I’d just completed a course on the Civil War that had completely failed to mention the existence of such things. As presented in the course, the Confederate government might as well have been Robert E. Lee, who existed in some sort of historical vacuum. Later, I found that most of that class was propaganda anyway.

It’s sort of like Cheney talking about “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns.” It’s those danged double-unknowns that rise up to bite you…

Arno November 7, 2013 at 6:11 am

Dear TRX, When I was at school *Anno Dazumal*, in late ‘forties and
early ‘fifties, history was the only course I really loved — I was a hopeless
student, generally. But I had a very good history teacher, and the books
we read weren’t too bad, either, excepting their then current trend to
present Germany as the *only* source of culture, science, philosophy
and so on. (We were fighting alongside the Germans against the
Russians, you know.)

Things are better, these days, but I am sorry to say the youngsters
seem to have no historical interests — except for the history of
rock’n roll and such disgusting things.

Yours, Arno

TRX November 8, 2013 at 3:58 pm

“History” as we had it in high school was basically propaganda and rote memorization of names and dates to be repeated on tests. Very little context, just odd bits of history, and much of that was political.

I was so thoroughly turned off the whole subject that it wasn’t until I was in mid mid-30s that I got interested. I had picked up a copy of William Manchester’s “Guns of Krupp”, which I thought would be about firearms, but turned out to be a history of the Krupp family. Some of the stuff in there explained questions I’d had after reading some of the mainstream military histories; some of the odd fits and starts of the Third Reich’s early attacks on nearby nations were, according to Manchester, due to Krupp being the source of most of the Wehrmacht’s armored vehicles and heavy weapons. Tanks left for the Sudetenland directly from Krupp’s factories, picking up supplies at depots along the way. Suddenly, a lot of those questions were answered.

Then, somewhere along the way, I got my hands on Winston Churchill’s history of WWII. Much of the first volume was British politics which I found incomprehensible, and I suspect it wouldn’t be much clearer to a 21st-century Briton, but after that, it was almost all… logistics, and the vast support pyramid that it took to get a soldier and his weapon to a specific place at a specific time. I had no idea. Again, a lot of things made sense…

Arno Ahonius November 8, 2013 at 5:41 pm

TRX, have you tried Barbara Tuchman? Her *Guns of August*, of the
beginning of WWI, is very excellent, *Distant Mirror*, about the
Middle Ages, is simply magnificent. Read these, and I shall tell you

Of course, Winnie is in his own class altogether . . .

Arno Ahonius November 8, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Dear wjw, somewhere I heard an aphorism: “A paranoid is a person
who has discovered what really happens in the world.” Now I am
feeling quite paranoid, myself.

I sent to your site a desperate cry of help, concerning problems I had
met trying to order a book of a certain net bookshop. As usual the text
appeared immediately. Satisfied, I closed my laptop. But when, after
a few hours, I reopened it THE TEXT HAD DISAPPEARED!

Two explanations come to my mind:
a) you have a dishonest helper who filters out unpleasant topics or
b) you yourself sit on the beach, with a lei on your neck, doing the

You have my e-mail address in your files. Would you, please, write
to me an explanation. Otherwise I turn to total cynicism.

Arno Ahonius

DensityDuck November 8, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Germane to the earlier discussion, Blockbuster is dead.

TRX November 9, 2013 at 12:09 pm

I read “Guns of August” some years ago and was very impressed. I got stalled about halfway through “A Distant Mirror”; the first part about how the weather got colder and how it changed European society was extremely interesting, but I got bogged down in the political part. I need to make another run at the book, and re-read “A Distant Mirror” as well.

A book that turned out to be a surprise was ‘Dungeon, Fire, and Sword” by John Robinson. A friend gave me a copy. It sat on a shelf for years, until one day I was off work with pneumonia, and it was the closest book I hadn’t read yet. It had sat on the shelf because it was about the Knights Templar in the middle ages, a subject and part of history I had no interest in; I found up riveted. The book reads more like one of those mystery-chaser thrillers than a history, and in several places Robinson apologizes for his brevity in covering some things since the book is already quite long. History is largely a matter of interpretation, and some people have objections to Robinson’s take on things, but that’s true of almost any history book.

wjw November 10, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Arno, the problem with paranoiacs is that they think all the horrible stuff is about =them,= whereas in fact it’s not. I support the idea of “rational paranoia,” where you realize it’s not about just you, they do it to =everybody.=

I read your post and didn’t comment on it, because I had no idea how to help you. I didn’t delete it, and neither did my (nonexistent) assistant.

Just chalk it up to something weird from WordPress. Seems to happen all the time.

As for my future publishing plans, they’re in flux at the moment, in part because my agent quit his job a couple weeks go.

I think of the Dagmar books as “mainstream written by an author with a science fiction sensibility.” And which the publisher marketed as SF anyway, so I wonder why I bother.

TRX November 10, 2013 at 10:15 pm

Walter, have you considered a new career writing country-western songs?

“If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all…”

Arno Ahonius November 12, 2013 at 4:57 am

Walter, thank you for your answer. What ever happened, seemed to

The world is a mysterious place — but wonderful!

Arno Ahonius, a grumpy old Finn

Brian Renninger November 15, 2013 at 4:38 pm

WJW, I remember reading something you wrote that the term and concept behind the Panzerboys in Hardwired was based on cross border smuggling in WWII (netherlands, I think)?

I have been wanting to learn more about this for years and never found much discussion. Do you have reference for that? I’d be much obliged.

–Brian Renninger

wjw November 16, 2013 at 2:16 pm

The term “panzerboy” did come from the Netherlands, but not from World War II, but in (I think) the Sixties, when there was a huge difference in butter prices between Belgium and the Netherlands, because one country had a duty and the other didn’t, and smuggling was very profitable. Some smugglers took to armoring their cars and crashing the border.

I learned about this from one of Nicholas Freeling’s mystery novels about Inspecter Van der Valk. I don’t remember the title, but he =did= use the term “panzerboy.”

Arno Ahonius November 17, 2013 at 7:40 am

Hello, everybody! Much has happened to me during the latest four
weeks. I have had two surgical operations, the first one went badly,
the second was complete success. Now I am feeling great.

Meanwhile, my laptop broke down. No wonder, it had lasted a year
over the garanty. Now I have a new beauty: ASUS A73B — IF I only
learn to use its keyboard which is *very* different than that of my
old Acer Aspire.


wjw November 17, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Arno, I’m glad at least =one= of the operations was a success. Good luck with the new keyboard.

Arno Ahonius November 17, 2013 at 6:49 pm

wjw, it is a funny coincidense that I had a colonoscopy just like you
but the polyp, originally erroneously diagnosed as haemorrhoid,
was too great to be cut out during the colonoscopy (the surgeon
fearing of excessive blood-flow. ) But all’s well now.

Arno Ahonius November 23, 2013 at 10:07 am

Dear wjw-fans, I have posted the following text on the FORUMS of
Great SF&F, and copy it here. I hope you find it interesting.

Damon Knight, in his book In Search of Wonder, discussing the several definitions of Science-Fiction, offers his own:
“Science-Fiction”, he writes, “is what we point to when we say it.” Thus, for example, Neal Stephenson has stated that both
Cryptonomicon and Baroque Cycle are Science-Fiction — and I think that we must respect the authors own opinion.

Both near future thrillers and catastrophe novels have traditionally been considered legitimate subgenres of SF.

Then, on the other hand, we have the opinion of Dan Simmons about his novel PHASES OF GRAVITY — in my opinion the
only one of his books I have deemed worth re-reading. In his “Author’s Afterword” he writes “PHASES OF GRAVITY is not Science Fiction,
speculative fiction, SF, or any variation on that honorable theme. It’s a novel. Just a novel.”

OK. Again we must respect the author’s own opinion. I will reread the book just as a fine novel, and ignore Simmons’ other books as
horrorstories which I detest.

Do you catch my meaning, brianr? Science Fiction is a matter of taste. It is like beauty, in the eye of beholder.

Arno Ahonius November 27, 2013 at 8:59 am

I have a valuable book: *The Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction* by
David Pringle, (Pharos Books 1990). The cover text says:
BOOKS!!!!!”, and for once it doesn’t lie. If you can find a copy, catch
it, bearing in mind that you don’t have to agree with Mr. Pringle’s
ratings, which have a strong bias for British “New Wave” of 1960’s.

The books listed run from Classics like Verne and Wells up to late
1989. Leafing through the book you can see what a wide selection
was in classic times accepted as legitimate subgenres of SF

Arno Ahonius November 29, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Dear wjw,

I got a quite science-fictional jolt of the above mentioned book when
I noticed that Mr. Pringle calls Vance’s novel *Servants of the Wankh*
“unfortunately named”. I understand that you have lived in Britain as
a young man. Could you explain delicately to your young and innocent
fans . . . ah, some facts of life?

Yours, Arno

wjw December 1, 2013 at 11:01 pm

British slang. I sometimes wonder if Vance used the term deliberately, as a joke.

Arno Ahonius December 4, 2013 at 6:18 am

Dear wjw, I have a suspicion that you are right!

Dear TRX, to continue our discussion about historical literature, I would
recommend *The Proud Tower* by Barbara Tuchman — mostly about
*politics* in Victorian times in USA and Europe, but very interesting and
witty. And a magnificent view of upper class life in Britain from 1914 to
‘seventies: Anthony Powell’s series *A Dance to the Music of Time*,
especially the three wartime novels *Valley of Bones*, *The Soldier’s
Art*, and *Military Philosophers*. For wit and irony only Jack Vance
could be compared with Powell.

Your’s, Arno

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