Tuesday, September 29, 2015

On Not Seeing the Lunar Eclipse

Like many others, astronomy buffs or ordinary folks, I looked forward eagerly to seeing Sunday's lunar eclipse. We can't see the eastern horizon from our property because it's surrounded by redwood trees (and then hills -- can't really call 'em mountains, although they feel like it). We can see directly overhead just fine, and there's relatively little light pollution compared to our nearest city, Santa Cruz. So after some research, we decided the best viewing location would be East Field at UCSC. Elevated, and with a spectacular view of Monterey Bay and eastward.

Alas, the atmosphere failed to cooperate. Even before we began the trek to USCS, clouds thickened across the east. The west, however, was not yet occluded. Lots of clear sky showed between the clouds. Armed with blanket and binoculars, we scaled the heights. On the field, we found groups of students and others, some with cameras set up on tripods.

The entire eastern horizon was, as they say, "socked in."We could just make out the lights on the Moss Landing power plant, which is further to the south. The gathering waited, hoping that the layers of eastern clouds would part -- or thin out -- just enough to catch a glimpse of the Moon. Was that reddish tinge the Moon or the riot of color to the west?

I was struck by how easy it was to get caught up in the gloom and disappointed hopes in one direction and miss the spectacular sunset in the other.

I didn't get to see the eclipse, although I can easily watch it on video online. I did, however, get to watch one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen, sitting on a hilltop with my husband and my older daughter, who has just moved in with us so that she can go back to college. All in all, I'd pick the evening I got instead of the one I planned.

(My daughter took the photo.)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Cover Reveal: Realms of Darkover

Realms of Darkover, an anthology of short fiction including stories by Diana L. Paxson, Robin Wayne Bailey, Shariann Lewitt, Barb Caffrey and other wonderful authors, is set for a May 2016 release. In case you can't wait that long, here is a "sneak peak" at the cover by Dave Smeds.

In the future, I'll be posting a Table of Contents and interviews with the authors. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Gossip and Controversy

I have refrained from any commentary on the Hugo Awards and all the events that led up to them. This does not mean I have not had opinions. Excuse me, Opinions. Only that I saw no point in adding gasoline to the burgeoning wildfires. Now various voices are urging everyone to play nice, to not harbor grudges. To get on with the business of writing (and reading) the best stories we can. Here's a post I composed a few years ago on the subject of gossip. I should add that I am not entirely innocent, and I have been on the receiving end of some vile accusations, as have folks I care about. It is helpful to me to consider my own behavior (both passing on gossip and being appalled by it) in a larger -- and hopefully, more compassionate -- context:

The internet is practically an engraved invitation to indulge in gossip and rumor. It's so easy to blurt
out whatever thoughts come to mind. Once posted, these thoughts take on the authority of print (particularly if they appear in some book-typeface-like font). Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to question something when it appears in Courier than when it's in Times New Roman? For the poster of the thoughts comes the thrill of instant publication. Only in the aftermath, when untold number have read our blurtings and others have linked to them, not to mention all the comments and comments-on-comments, do we draw back and realize that we may not have acted with either wisdom or kindness.

To make matters worse, we participate in conversations solely in print, without the vocal qualities and body language that give emotional context to the statements. I know a number of people who are generous and sensitive in person, but come off as abrasive and mean-spirited on the 'net. I think the very ease of posting calls for a heightened degree of consideration of our words because misunderstanding is so easy.

I've been speaking of well-meaning statements that inadvertently communicate something other than what the creator intended. I've been guilty of my share of these, even in conversations with people with whom I have no difficulty communicating in person. What has this to do with gossip?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Monday Link Delights

Some delicious things to begin your week:

First, a wonderful story by Rachel Swirsky, to read free online. If you don't know her work, this is a great introduction. Portrait of Lisane da Patagnia on Tor.com. The line between art and magic is a treacherous thing.

Next, another question and answer session on writing with Ursula K. LeGuin at Book View Cafe's blog. To a young writer asking about success, she responds:

I think the word success confuses people. They get recognition mixed up with achievement, and celebrity mixed up with excellence. I rarely use the word – it confuses me. I didn’t want to be a success, I wanted to be a writer. I didn’t set out to write successful books. I tried to write good ones. 
Receiving recognition is very important to a young artist, but you may have to settle for achievement with very little recognition for a long time. You ask about me. I wrote and submitted my work to editors for six or seven years without getting anything published except a few poems in poetry magazines – as near invisibility as you can get in print. It kept me going, though. Then I got two short stories accepted within a week, one by a literary quarterly, the other by a commercial genre magazine. From then on I had some sense of where to send the next story, and began to publish more regularly, and finally placed a novel. Each publication added to my self-confidence. Growing recognition added more. But the truth is, I always had confidence in myself as a writer – I had arrogance, even. Yet I had endless times of self-doubt. I think what carried me through was simply commitment to the job. I wanted to do it. 
Talent is no good without commitment. I’ve had students who wrote very well, but weren’t willing to commit to write, to go on writing, and to go on writing better. But that’s what it takes. 
“Feeling successful” – well, that’s something you have to work out for yourself, what it means to you, how important it is. You’re quite right that very good and highly celebrated writers may not feel “successful.” Maybe they have unhappy natures, and the Nobel Prize would just depress them. Or maybe they aren’t fully satisfied with what they’ve done so far, don’t feel they’ve yet written the best book they could write. But they have the commitment that keeps them trying to do it. 
Hang in there. And don’t push it. No hurry! Writing is a lifetime job.
What is a day without a beautiful galaxy to admire?

Like other flocculent galaxies, this spectacular galaxy lacks the clearly defined, arcing structure to its spiral arms that shows up in galaxies such as Messier 101, which are called grand design spirals. ... In flocculent spirals, fluffy patches of stars and dust show up here and there throughout their discs. ... Sometimes the tufts of stars are arranged in a generally spiraling form, as with this galaxy, but illuminated star-filled regions can also appear as short or discontinuous spiral arms.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Thunderlord news

Today I clicked the Send key and Thunderlord is off to my agent and thence to DAW!

The publication date is tentatively set at August 2016.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Cataract Journey: Post-Op #2

By the time of my second cataract surgery, I was readier-than-ready. I was so tired of not being able to see clearly out of both eyes, which made depth perception – necessary for driving, pouring water from a pitcher, etc. -- impossible. I was excited rather than anxious, an interesting way to approach eye surgery. My first surgery had been quick, painless, and even a little bit fun, especially the psychedelic lights during the femtolaser portion. The gap was only two weeks, so all the surgery prep was still fresh in my mind. By prep, I mean chatting with the anesthesiologist, starting antibiotic and steroid eye drops several days before, fasting the night before. I strongly dislike sedation and had asked to not be sedated the first time. In the past, it’s taken me a solid week to feel really clear-headed after receiving the drug they use. This time, I was able to tell the second anesthesiologist (a different one) how well it had gone and to reiterate my preference. Very often, patients don’t realize their opinions and prior experiences matter, especially when it comes to medication. Just because the “usual” protocol includes a specific drug doesn’t mean it is required. Often, there are alternatives with fewer of the obnoxious side effects.

The second surgery went just as smoothly as the first and I was soon home, sleeping it off. I was struck, as I have many times in the past, at how powerful sleep is in recovery, whether it’s from surgery, an injury, or an illness. Lying quietly is more effective than sitting up, but there is something about sleeping that is even more potent a restorative.

Friday, September 11, 2015

9/11/2015 - A Personal Grief

At this time of year, I often feel out of step with the rest of the country, at least as portrayed by the media and demonstrated by election results. Like just about everyone else I know who's old enough to remember the events of 9/11, I have a vivid memory of how I learned about them. I was driving my younger daughter to high school and we were listening to the news on the car radio. We heard the announcer cry, "The second Tower is down!" and the rest of the story tumbled out. The way the events unfolded reminded me poignantly of John F. Kennedy's assassination. I was in high school in 1963, just about the same age my daughter was on September 11. Listening to the news broadcast with her, I experienced a parallel of my own youthful experience. Once again, the world became to be a dangerous and unpredictable place, but for me it was not the first time. I too responded with a feeling that the world has changed forever, but I also had the memory of having walked through this before -- and not just the Presidential assassination.

For me, Septembers will never be solely about 9/11. Twenty-nine years ago this month, my mother was raped and beaten to death by a neighbor kid on drugs. It was a spectacularly brutal, headline-banner crime, but only part of a larger tragedy, for his own family had suffered the murder of his older brother by a serial killer some years before. My body knows when the anniversary is approaching, even when my thoughts are distracted. The shift in the quality of the light at summer's end reaches deep into my nervous system. The scar tissue on my heart aches. The ghosts of things that once held the power to drive me crazy stir in the darkness. My sleep becomes fragile, even though I no longer have nightmares. It's a hard time, an intensely personal time.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

River Dolphins and Other Amazing Things

Smithsonian scientists have discovered the fossils of a new species of river dolphin that lived more than 5.8 million years ago."While whales and dolphins long ago evolved from terrestrial ancestors to fully marine mammals, river dolphins represent a reverse movement by returning inland to freshwater ecosystems," said study co-author Aaron O'Dea in a statement. "As such, fossil specimens may tell stories not just of the evolution [of] these aquatic animals, but also of the changing geographies and ecosystems of the past."

The light-colored heart-shaped Tombaugh Regio on the lower right is clearly shown here to be divisible into two regions that are geologically different, with the leftmost lobe Sputnik Planum also appearing unusually smooth.

Nebulae have a lot of funny names. Here's the Prawn Nebula:
A large portion of the ionization in the nebula is done by two O-type stars, which are hot blue-white stars, also known as blue giants. This type of star is very rare as the very large mass of blue giants means that they do not live for long. After only roughly a million years these stars will collapse in on themselves and end their lives as supernovae, as will many of the other massive stars within the nebula.