Well, it’s the end of a long March, either way you want to see it, and finally we’re starting to get a little weather I’d consider springish. Old Dan Beard had this at the start of the kites chapter in his Outdoor Handy Book (1900):
Though marble time can’t always last,
Though time for spinning tops is past,
The winds of March blow kite time here,
And April Fool’s Day, too, draw near.
The winds of March were way too strong for any kite I have in the house–they were shoving my 200-pound gas grill all over the back deck and making my fireplace vent pipe sing like Lady Gaga–so here’s hoping April calms down a little and I can get something in the air again.
And on the air, too: For the first time in six or seven years I’ve been seeing daily sunspot counts (not smoothed sunspot numbers) greater than 100. Here and there midafternoon I’ve actually heard human voices on 15 and even 10 meters. Time to get the inverted vee off the shelf and set it up off the back deck again.
The long march this March was getting a new book produced in cooperation with Jim Strickland. I haven’t said much about it because I want it to be available before I start talking it up too much, but we’re finalizing the cover art and getting the ebook versions prepared, looking toward a launch on or about April 15. We read from the book (which consists of two short novels) at Anomaly Con last weekend. I hadn’t read publicly from my own fiction since the mid-80s, specifically at a 1984 SF event at SUNY Brockport where I read one of my stories (“Marlowe”) between Nancy Kress and Norman Spinrad. (No pressure!) I need to work on my presentation skills, which were honed in eighth grade, when I was chosen to be one of the readers for the daily morning masses at Immaculate Conception grade school. Carol critiqued me prior to the con, and suggested that I strive to make Drumlin Circus sound a little less like Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians.
If I didn’t intend to make all of my work available in ebook form before, I certainly did yesterday, after finally getting a little hands-on time with the Motorola Xoom at the Verizon kiosk at Chapel Hills Mall. Unlike the Galaxy Tab (which I briefly groped a few months ago) the Xoom has an ebook reader demo, and I spent a minute reading Jane Austen on its very crisp display. I would like to have loaded a technical PDF, but the Xoom’s XD card slot isn’t (yet) recognized by the OS, and that will keep me from pulling the trigger right now. My former collaborator Joli Ballew (Degunking Windows) is much of the way through a Xoom book, and she thinks that the XD slot issue (and a few other loose ends) will be corrected by summer. Let us pray.
And triggers, yeah. One of the most popular events at Anomaly was a do-it-yourself maker session for building steampunk ray guns. Pete Albrecht sent me a note about a whole category of real-world firearms that has a certain steampunk whiff about it: free pistols, which are highly evolved single-shot .22 caliber handguns designed and often hand-crafted to excel at target accuracy. They must be held in one hand only, and aimed using purely mechanical (i.e., metal) sights. The outlandish-looking wooden grips are designed to enclosed the entire hand for maximum stability, and are often sculpted specifically for a single competitor’s hand. The idea is to sink 60 rounds into the two-inch center of a target at fifty meters, each round loaded by hand and all within two hours. The sport is very old and was practiced in the Victorian era, so it has a steampunk pedigree, at least, even if the machinery is inescapably high-tech.
Much remains to be done here. The SF portions of my Web presence haven’t been touched since the release of The Cunning Blood in 2005, and need to be completely rewritten. The goal is to mount something useful on hardsf.com, a domain I’ve owned for over ten years without ever quite deciding what to do with it. I’m sure I’ll think of something.