Getting Out There

Race to Alaska

I have been toying with an idea for a while now, since before my appearance at DetCon1 last July actually. Human powered endurance sports tend to exist on the bleeding edge of materials science and efficient design. I like to use this in my science fiction writing because it is not much of a stretch to imagine pushing these two contributing factors just a little bit further in the pursuit of glories we already seek.

Today I realize that when I was much younger and had far fewer responsibilities I was living an optimal science fiction life style. Working on the White River National Forest as a back country wilderness guard was the beginning of my pursuit of an ultralight backpack. That first summer I showed up with a huge haul ruck for mountaineering and enough extra stuff that I walked out on my first patrol loaded down with fifty or more pounds strapped to my back. I was young and stupid, but equally motivated by avoiding pain. As soon as that first trip came to a close I realized that I needed to shed weight and bulk rapidly. It was easy enough to repurpose lighter gear from the back of my Subaru hatchback and soon I was skipping down trails thirty-five miles a day. My consistent experimentation was rewarded with easier travels and more miles.

The rest of the family is down for some sleep, and I just got back from a run around the block. Now age is a governing factor in that equation. But I still envy those guys that do amazing distances under their own power.

Gavin McClurg and Will Gadd just flew the length of the Canadian Rockies vol-bivy style in thirty-five days. Heather Anderson powered out a sixty day Pacific Crest Trail thru hike. And the venerable Jefe Branham bike-packed the Divide in sixteen days and change. When people at Geek Fan Expo asked me what are my favorite sports this weekend my reply was “anything single-stage, self-supported.”

My problem is that, while I enjoy watching others do amazing things, doing so fills my pants with ants. Tour the Divide has been an itching welt on my conscious for quite some time. So too each and every PCT segment and thru hike record on the books. Writing about these kinds of things only helps for a little while.

And when I get a bug for long distance races they are very difficult to squish. Right now I’m thinking about how I might enter Race to Alaska. From my seat at this desk I’ve got less than a year to get back into long distance shape for a crossing I should have attempted twenty years ago. Tomorrow the roof top tent goes on the block to generate some seed money and right now I’m trying to calculate my realistic exercise speed given calm conditions.

Ten days. Can I afford that time? Can I afford the hours of training and the gear costs that would put me in a position to compete? Good grief I love and hate it when a mania like this takes hold.

After Action Geek Fan Expo

It’s over, but wow what can I say? I got to spend some extra special time with Jim C. Hines, Rob Paulsen and Timothy Zahn. In addition to all the panel time and and three readings there was Guests Against Humanity, a dirty little game of epic proportions. I laughed myself silly along with the rest of you. Add to that the VIP dinner and martini and you may see why I had such a great time. Finally, I got an opportunity to participate in what I think will turn out to be a really fine podcast interview with all the folks over at The Rack.

I’ll end this with a quick thank you to all the guests that showed up. You guys made this event and my visit to Detroit super awesome. Your love of all things fiction was palpable and it felt wonderful to be embedded within your loving ranks. Thanks, from me, for showing up and tuning in. I am pleased and blessed to have met you all. Next year bring a friend.

I will write a more detailed account of my time at GFX, but I wanted to say thank you before I jump on the plan and make bee-line back home. You guys rock!

HLD Allegheny

Zane, something like this but bigger. Things dangling off the bottom. There could be two levels of balloon too. Perspective is off here too, it needs to be wider almost panoramic.

Now that that is out of the way, you’re looking at one of the very many reasons I’m not an artists. My friend Zane, who is a very talented artists, knows this and helps me out because he’s good people.

Dispatches from the Future (B-list)

Rock Landing

Three days and nearly no sleep. The solo crossing from Makah Bay to Ucluete had turned out to be much more of a challenge than Paul had expected. He had stuck with it, dodging the huge cargo craft entering and exiting the Straight of Juan de Fuca. Avoiding La Migración where they had staked out safe bays and inlets on the south side of the US border waiting in ambush for the unpapered.  And in sticking to the open water he had even landed a pair of salmon that would fill his larder for weeks. If only he could make it to shore and smoke them before they spoiled.

Now Paul was reaching as hard and as fast as Brosings’ Necklace could cut the current. He needed a beach, one with a high waterline, because a very low pressure hyper-dynamic Rossby circulation was headed his direction. The Navicom had raised an alarm that morning, but thankfully the broadcast described a storm front moving at an average and predictable speed. That he had even bothered to re-check the device had more to do with the wind-driven waves he had spent the afternoon negotiating, big haystacks with plenty of foam crashing down one after the other on the cramped deck house of the single handed sloop. Fortunately he had taken the time to sort through all the new information that had been disseminated by the weather service. The storm front had picked up energy and speed as the day had progressed and now it was rolling into the coast like a train without breaks.

Paul was tired and wet, but most of all he was worried. He was having a difficult time making out the lighthouse beacon that stood on the end of the little peninsula which would protect him and his tiny boat. The wind driven waves were threatened to capsize his boat and they were now driving snow and icy spray into the little craft.

Brosings’ Necklace had become the cradle of Paul’s life. He had traded in his on shore past months before, imagining that life at sea might prove more liberating than the existence he had inherited within the dense confines of the city. So far, the little boat had exceeded all his expectations. Coasting up and down the Puget Sound had been enjoyable and sometimes profitable. He had been scared once or twice. Belligerent immigration agents rounding up illegals near Anacortes had passed over Brosings’ Necklace twice despite Paul’s lack of a valid visa or a boat registration. He was a very small fry swimming in the same sea as Los Tiburones. Paul was just another undocumented barnacle with nothing of value and no one to ransom him from the clink, and he liked that about this lifestyle. No one cared about him, he had no one to care about.

And then Vera had sailed into his life. Late on a a sunny August  afternoon she had slid into Mail Bay. Paul had been fishing, or, depending on how you looked at it, patiently waiting for the sunset. Her long-distance rig had rounded the shallow inlet on the east side of Waldron Island. He had flagged her down before she made landfall. Paul had been lucky enough to catch a PirateNet broadcast earlier that day about the county sheriff nabbing “boat people” who made landfall anywhere on the San Juans. Vera had seen him waving her down and had dropped her traction kite. She had paddled the rest of the way to Brosings’ Necklace on the polymorphic hydroplane she called home.

Vera’s companionship had been a wonderful break from the lonely existence to which Paul had escaped. They had remained mostly autonomous since their chance meeting at Mail Bay, but, perhaps more so when they were apart, Paul felt his growing connection to this strange woman. Their instant attraction, perhaps a byproduct of their shared nomadic lifestyle, had seen Brosings’ Necklace rafted next to her polymorphic hydroplane in pod form night after night. Night after night they shared their food and conversations around a tiny fire brazier on the pilot house of Brosings’ Necklace.

One morning, he had woken to the tide slapping the side of her hull and wondered if all this was sustainable. Vera was as undocumented as they came. Paul wondered what he might do when La Migración caught up to her, how he might feel when they carted her off. Deportation for him meant transport back to Hansen-Seattle Arcology number 12 with the possibility of indenture. Paul lay there attempting to justify leaving; for Vera, a citizen of the Mayori Nation, capture was a fate he was unwilling to contemplate.

When he had worked up the courage to talk to her about his feelings she had proposed that they move up the coast separately. Spend some time on their own and the regroup. “Maybe we could meet up near Port Hardy”, she had suggested. Paul’s sloop had never been wetted in open water and so he decided that he’d take the outside passage. Vera had been talking up an open water crossing, plus all that space was sure to give Paul some isolation to think things over. Terrified of his growing attachment to this woman, Paul had set sail into the Pacific.

Since then Paul had weathered two lows always running to shelter from the open before these storms made landfall. The hyper-dynamic Rossby circulations were now acknowledged as a permanent climate feature of the North Pacific. Very large, slow-moving high-pressure fronts pushed up into the fast melting arctic followed by very large, lows dipping down from the pole creeping across the middle latitudes. The destructive capacity of each cyclical system had become the norm. Sailors knew to find shelter before a low crashed into the coast. This was Paul’s third Rossby wave and he had not stayed ahead of it.

Now Paul was cranking on the rudder hoping that the light off his port was the right one. A big windblown wave crashed into the left gunnel of the Brosings’ Necklace, threatening again to capsize the sloop. Paul scrambled up the deck and leaned over the side, trying to bring the keel under her. Another wave smashed into his back and water obstructed his breathing for a moment. The boat’s heel lessened and he dropped down into the pilot’s well able to breath in the calmer air. A beam of light, still to his left, cut across his bow this time definite and sure. Checking his Navicom mounted on the backside of the deck house, Paul saw that he had slid into the channel south of Ucluete. Wind poured over the rocky spit of land that now separated Paul from the raging storm front and the rigging of Brosings’ Necklace rattled above his head, but he was safe behind the wall of sand and riprap. Paul sailed up the narrow channel enjoying the calm. On the starboard light from the little settlement of Ucluete slit the salty spray rolling over the storm wall. There in the harbor, before his prow, lay Vera’s polymorphic hydroplane.

Tomorrow GFX, and Other Things

I’m sorting my bag, getting ready to leave, and I thought it might be a good idea to remind you all that I’ll be leaving tomorrow for GeekFanExpo near Detroit, MI. Jim C. Hines and Timothy Zahn are joining me there and we’ve got some excellent things planned. Come join us!

In other news John Scalzi will be visiting here in the Pacific North West this evening. I’m planning on going to the reading. His latest LOCK IN is really excellent; and does not include any semicolons. I finished reading the Will Wheaton narrated version with my ears this weekend and it was mucho entertaining. Sort of a crime thriller with C3P0’s running around everywhere. Oh, and Diné. You may dig this book too, but I’m not going to tell you anything else about it because … spoilers.

Finally, yes that was me that you saw ripping off the front end of his brand new Prius V in the parking lot of Issaquah Coffee Company yesterday. And yes, I have been beating myself up for this mistake since then. It has made writing a bit of an effort, which is why I’ve been focused on cleaning and playing with Aral more than collecting words or running. And I agree with you, whole heartedly, it could have been much, much worse; a tiny fender bender in a parking lot with a parked truck is, relative to a catastrophic collision with a moving train, easily categorized as minor. Still I feel bummed out about the whole incident; justifiably at least for the moment. Fortunately, I can spare you the incident report and remind you to drive with care.

This Should Be a Thing

I’m plum tuckered out. Today I have been more or less consistently disappointed by humanity. Disappointed in general, as well as in particular. Pretty much everyone I’ve encountered in the last twelve to sixteen hours has figured out a new and sometimes interesting way to let me down. For example, the long line of college aged kids on the trail to Lake Serene who were speaking so loudly I could make them out over the din of the forest and a 200 foot cascade crashing into boulders. Guys, hiking should be a lot like visiting the library. Then there is pretty much everyone on social media for, well, saying dumb shit.

After our hike we picked up some passable fried fish and an okay beer. Expectations thereafter lowered, the Fam and I returned to our castle on the hill and played frisbee at the park for a while. Mostly good, but I caught a disc, thrown at close range by my three year old, with my ear. It’s still throbbing. Eventually, we made our way back to the house and I thought, “Hey, I need a pick-me-up. I should see what my friends are up to,” and then clicked through to Facebook because I’m a glutton for punishment, or disappointment. Take your pick. At the top of my feed the fine folks at Facebook thought I’d appreciate this.

Got a request from a new author to read his book. These always set me on edge.

I love helping out new authors. But I’m super busy, so I can’t really take the time to pour myself into that kind of critical reading. And whenever I tell someone this, it’s always a crapshoot whether I’ll get a “thanks for your time” or a raging screed about arrogant writers.

I will not name the author that wrote this. He’s a good guy, and I suspect that this was probably written out of frustration. The amount of reading anybody associated with this gig is constantly asked to undertake can be daunting. At some point we all have to draw lines and declare “None shall pass.” Also noteworthy, I am not the author making said request. This guy writes fantasy, I write science fiction; I’m uncertain he would understand my works any more than I get his. Add to this he’s just an acquaintance I’ve made, not a bosom buddy or a connection to an agent or an imprint. Just some dude I was friendly with over beers at a convention. I’d be really surprised if he reads this blog post. Ever.

But this very public comment struck me as particularly off-putting for a couple of reasons. First, it is a public declaration characterized by indirect refusal to the request of another. He’s not refusing to help by telling the requesting author, he is refusing by telling his fans. While this avenue of response avoids direct confrontation, it also creates more drama than it solves. While at the same time, the comment itself appears to be a lightly veiled attempt to raise one author above another. The Cliff notes for this post? “I’ve got mine, don’t bother asking.”

Add to the above that I’ve found this attitude somewhat widespread. At conventions I’ve sat next to people, other authors, who spend an inordinate amount of time bitching about the unwashed masses with whom they’re too good to consort. To further the misattribution of a phrase “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche.” This seems to me the genre specific contemporary version of Marie Antoinette’s contempt. Funnily it is not the people with swimming pools of book revenue that tend to do this. Go figure.

If you “love helping out new authors” than give it your best shot. Do what you can, no one expects any more. Be more than a self-promoter, be an advocate for your favorite stories. Tell others about all the really fine works that will improve their appreciation of your canon. You’ve worked hard to find your audience, and you may have had help along the way. If not, it cannot hurt to pay it forward. If you really don’t have the time to read someone else’s work than, at the very least, be honest and mature. Tell them upfront.

In an attempt to reconstruct my attitude I turned this nugget on its head because I’m not into maintaining a never ending streak of disappointment. I seriously had to let this one go or risk staying up all night thinking about it, thus, this is a little bit of therapy. I probably need to turn this into a policy statement, but in the mean time consider my public declaration an invitation. Feel free to change out the pronouns as you see fit.

Got a request from a new author to read his book. These always get me excited.

I love helping out new authors because I might have just been given an early opportunity to find my next favorite wordsmith. This is why I will create time in my busy schedule to read his book instead of concocting a series of excuses designed to passive-aggressively justify my own narcissism and surreptitiously segregate him from my social crowd. Besides, I should spend less time playing video games. Whenever I tell someone that I will read their book I am reasonably confident I’ll receive a sincere “thank you” for my time, perhaps some quid pro quo. This is far preferable to the anxiety of waiting on their reply which can range from polite dismissal to an arrogant, raging screed.

It is the last day of August. Today I can officially say I’ve been doing this professionally for a year. Writing, or making shit up for living as I love to call it, is an excellent way to make a living.

One of the most important things I’ve learned over the last year is that it’s a group effort. No one makes it alone. The idea of an “independent author” is a myth, a complete and utter fabrication. For each and every one of us who takes this chance, who writes something down and then sends it out into the world, there must necessarily be a collection of people to read that wager. If you’ve got your’s, I say, “Great! Good on ya.” But I’d also remind you that you did not find your level of success on your own. Someone read what you had to write and loved it enough to tell a friend, to write a blurb, put it in front of your agent or your publisher, or just leave a review on Amazon.

Don’t crap on your fans. Don’t crap on your peers. Pay it forward when ever you can. And always, ALWAYS play nice.