Reviews

A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Bedab!

Judy Curry's website Climate Etc. has comm box posts by someone named Mike Flynn.  Be advised that this is not TOF.  About a week or so ago, our local paper featured a letter to the editor signed by "Mike Flynn" that was likewide non-TOFian.  What is going on here?  A plethora of Mike Flynns?  Or did the Michael Flynn Manufacturing Company put out one last shipment?  An entire company for producing Michael Flynns?  No wonder they went into liquidation.  Lack of demand.

Not as high-power as Kress or as widespread as Resnick, nor so wheeler-dealer as Haldeman.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Retroview: The Wreck of "The River of Stars" -- Dritte Teil

THE REMAINDER OF THE FIRST CHAPTER, now on the Excerpts page, introduces several characters, one by one:
  • Fransziska Wong, MD, the ship's doctor
  • Ramakrishnan Bhatterjee, chief engineer
  • Mikoyan Hidei, engineer's mate
  • 'abd al-Aziz Corrigan, the second officer, soon to be acting first
  • Timothy "Moth" Ratline, cargo master
  • Nkieruke Okoye, first wrangler
  • Ivar Akhaturian, least wrangler
  • Eugenie Satterwaithe, third officer and sailing master
  • The Lotus Jewel, sysop
The POV dips into the heads of or close-focuses on the bold-faced characters. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

An Interview with David Berlinski


 



Found upon the Web and reprinted here without comment, but with some formatting. Berlinski is a mathematician and well-known gadfly and works with the infamous Discovery Institute. However, he also has a wicked sense of humor, very much like the late C. Hitchens. TOF does not know when this interview was written or for what outlet. He is not, for all that, a supporter of "intelligent design." He's better described, says Jonathan Witt, as a skeptic toward Darwinism and a friendly critic of Intelligent Design.

An Interview with David Berlinski

Jonathan Witt


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Apotemnophiliac Rights Now!

From The Atlantic a sign perhaps of the happy future:
Even wannabes who describe their wish for amputations as a wish for completeness will often admit that there is a sexual undertone to the desire. "For me having one leg improves my own sexual image," one of my correspondents wrote. "It feels 'right,' the way I should always have been and for some reason in line with what I think my body ought to have been like." When I asked one prominent wannabe who also happens to be a psychologist if he experiences the wish to lose a limb as a matter of sex or a matter of identity, he disputed the very premise of the question. "You live sexuality," he told me. "I am a sexual being twenty-four hours a day." Even ordinary sexual desire is bound up with identity, as I was reminded by Michael First, a psychiatrist at Columbia University, who was the editor of the fourth edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. First is undertaking a study that will help determine whether apotemnophilia should be included in the fifth edition of the DSM. "Think of the fact that, in general, people tend to be more sexually attracted to members of their own racial group," he pointed out. What you are attracted to (or not attracted to) is part of who you are.

It is clear that for many wannabes, the sexual aspect of the desire is much less ambiguous than many wannabes and clinicians have publicly admitted. A man described seventeen years ago in the American Journal of Psychotherapy said that he first became aware of his attraction to amputees when he was eight years old. That was in the 1920s, when the fashion was for children to wear short pants. He remembered several boys who had wooden legs. "I became extremely aroused by it," he said. "Because such boys were not troubled by their mutilation and cheerfully, and with a certain ease, took part in all the street games, including football, I never felt any pity towards them." At first he nourished his desire by seeking out people with wooden legs, but as he grew older, the desire became self-sustaining. "It has been precisely in these last years that the desire has gotten stronger, so strong that I can no longer control it but am completely controlled by it." By the time he finally saw a psychotherapist, he was consumed by the desire. Isolated and lonely, he spent some of his time hobbling around his house on crutches, pretending to be an amputee, fantasizing about photographs of war victims. He was convinced that his happiness depended on getting an amputation. He desperately wanted his body to match his self-image: "Just as a transsexual is not happy with his own body but longs to have the body of another sex, in the same way I am not happy with my present body, but long for a peg-leg."

How dare we interpose ourselves between apotemnophiliacs and their right -- their right, TOF says -- to a body that conforms to their desires!   Also, one hopes, for a more user-friendly name for their polysyllabic blessing.  Perhaps, translimbers. 

Retrospective: The Wreck of "The River of Stars" (INTJ)




From the notes compiled for The Wreck of "The River of Stars" lo these many years hence.  All were copied from various M/B sources with "Gorgas" replacing "INTJ." 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Retroview: The Wreck of "The River of Stars" -- Part Dieux


LAST WEEK, YOU MAY RECALL, TOF began his rumination on the recursively-titled The Wreck of The River of Stars.  Recusive, because there is a title (the ship's name) within the title (the book's name), throwing down the gauntlet for typographers everywhere.  How much and which portions are to be italicized?  Great minds must ponder this. 

Meanwhile, we shall occupy ourselves otherwise.  






Previously, we discussed the title, which derived its ancestry from such as "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" and the desire to write a story of a tragic shipwreck.  Since TOF writes in the genre SF, the ship wrecked would be ipso facto a space ship.   


We also discussed Where do you get your ideas, and saw the idea for The Wreck came from a confluence of several things:
  • The aforesaid desire to write of a tragic shipwreck.
  • The desire to use Mayer-Briggs personality classifications to define sixteen distinct characters, just to see if I could pull it off.  
  • The notion in William Trevor's The Boarding House of a landlord who deliberately sought out misfits to rent rooms to. 

Kick-Off

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

This Should Get Your Goat. Or Not.

Some of you may remember the woman who married the Eiffel Tower, or perhaps the one who married the roller coaster.  (What marriage does not have its ups and downs?)  Or the fellow who married his Laborador retriever.  (The bride was very fetching.)  Perhaps even the woman who married herself, or the woman who married a warehouse; though those last two may have been stunts.  (Only the last two?  Oh, the humanity!) 

Well, fans of the untergang, another blow has been struck in the demolition of the West, albeit in a more remote corner of the West. 

A Brazilian man is to wed his pet goat – but has promised not to consummate the marriage.
Former stonecutter Aparecido Castaldo, 74, has decided to end his days as a single man to marry his beloved Carmelita.
The happy couple will walk, or trot, down the aisle on October 13 in Igreja do Diabo, or Devil’s Church, in the city of Jundiai, Brazil.
Aparecido has been in love with the pet for two years and says a goat has advantages over a human companion.
‘She doesn’t speak and doesn’t want money,’ says the father of eight children – four women and four men from four different marriages.
 Of course, there are multiple problems, as there always are when one contravenes the natural order.  If he does not consummate the marriage, is there a marriage?  Lack of consummation has been grounds for dissolution since the Code of Khammurapi, and in many cultures the rule has been "the act makes the marriage."  Which is why it's called "the marriage act."  So the lovely bride already has grounds for an annulment in the groom's prior stated intent. 

Pagan Rome and Christendom added another requirement: "consent makes the marriage" and it is unclear whether Senhorita Carmelita has given her consent to this union, or even whether she is competent to do so.

It may be that for Sr. Castaldo, a goat does have advantages over a human companion, especially if, as one suspects, he may have troubles attracting the latter.  And when one realizes that he regards normal conversation and the support of his spouse as disadvantages.  We will pass over in silence the name of the "church." though we may roll our eyes a bit as we do so.  At least, Sr. Castaldo should have no problem finding a nanny. 

But come, let us celebrate their love for each other.  To do otherwise would be capraphobic.  

Friday, October 11, 2013

Political Book Reviews

ON OF THOSE THINGS that TOF finds ever perplexing is the tendency of some politically committed readers to commit politics on books they read.  TOF knew such folks in the 60s.  They would wool over pop songs, examining their lyrics closely for heterodox opinions, whether of satanic influences or of less-than-leftward sentiments.  The story is that at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, Pete Seeger almost took an axe to the cable when Dylan came on, not because of the electronic backup, but because Dylan was no longer doing political songs. 

Well, it's a New Age, Faithful Reader.  While browsing through customer reviews of On the Razor's Edge on Amazon.com TOF discovered the following nugget by Gregory N. Hullender:

In the Stone House

TOF is pleased to announce that his novelette "The Journeyman: In the Stone House" has been accepted at Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, in honor of which, the following teaser:


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Retroview: The Wreck of "The River of Stars"


Apologia pro blogpost sua: An earlier, incomplete draft of this may have posted temporarily before the gods of BlogSpot obliterated it by freezing up the Insert Picture tool.  This is a re-draft from scratch. 

+ + +

Ain't TOF cute?
Taking a break from the heavy Ptolemaic lifting, TOF has decided to ruminate on his "critically-praised" but commercially orphaned novel, The Wreck of "The River of Stars," the title of which is the despair of orthographers everywhere.  To do so, he will abandon his cute affectation of referring to himself in the third person.  This does not mean he will cease being cute, however.  

The Wreck, if we may call it by its nicktitle, was called by one reviewer "the best hard-SF tragic novel of character yet written," adding "though this is an uncrowded niche."  Uncrowded, indeed.  Run out and buy a copy.  I'll wait.  

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Mean Streets of Old Alexandria

For those who might be interested, here are the links to an earlier chronicle dealing with the murder of Hypatia of Alexandria and the earlier destruction of the Serapeum.  In keeping with the 300-year rolling horizon, these events would have become mythic by the eighth century, if they were remembered at all outside of Egypt.  In the Latin West, there were at the time Other Concerns, like Alaric's Sack of Rome.  Contextual history has a way of breaking into any self-contained narrative. 

The posts were on the old Live Journal blog, yclept "The Auld Blogge"

The Mean Streets of Old Alexandria
Part II: When Hypatia Was a Little Girl
Part III: The Deconstruction of the Serapeum
Part IV: The Teachings of Hypatia
Part V: After Graduation: The Calm Before the Storm
Part VI: The Feud of Cyril and Orestes
Part VII: Murder Most Foul
Part VIII: The Aftermath
Part IX: The Sources

The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown

2. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: Down for the Count

3. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown:
The Great Galileo-Scheiner Flame War of 1611-13


4. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown:
The Down 'n Dirty Mud Wrassle


5. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: Here's Mud in Yer Eye

6. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: Comet Chameleon

7. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: Time and Tides Wait Not

8. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: Trial and Error

9. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: From Plausible to Proven   

Saturday, October 5, 2013

9. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: From Plausible to Proven


Previously: Part 8, Trial and Error

From Plausible to Proven

 
The great dishonesty of Galileo’s Dialogue was to present a contest between the Copernican and Ptolemaic models.  By that time, both had been smacked down and the real contest was between the Tychonic/Ursine models and Kepler’s model, with the Ursine model being “ahead on points.”  Galileo did not mention either one. He regarded the Tychonic/Ursine models as unaesthetic and klunky.  He seems to have regarded Kepler's model, which came annexed to a physics in which the Sun put out a mysterious force that chivvied the planets about, as occultism.  Besides, he was committed to perfect Platonic circles, and Kepler had ellipticated them.  Boo. 

Galileo’s book “proved popular amongst literati who were not astronomers [and] who enjoyed his very obvious polemic writing skills; but contrary to popular opinion it didn’t play a significant role in the contemporary scientific discussion.”  (Christie, Galileo’s great bluff 2010)  One could even make an argument that Galileo managed to delay acceptance, although TOF does not do so.

What it came down to is that the issue would not be settled by astronomical mathematics, but by a new physics.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

8. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: Trial and Error

Previously on the Smackdown

Galileo has just published his Magnum Opus


Several things have combined to create the perfect sh*tstorm.
  • The best minds from the time of Aristotle to the then-present had held the earth is stationary for sound empirical reasons.  
  • Because it was "settled science," the early Church Fathers had taken it for granted in their reading of the Scriptures, and so Patristic writings are full of rhetorical invocations of the stationary earth.  
  • While there is no dogmatic bar to reinterpreting scripture when some literal reading was known to be wrong, no one is about to do so for a merely plausible hypothesis.  Hence, heliocentrism must be proved beyond doubt.  
  • The Pope thinks that scientific theories can never be proved with certainty.  They are either useful as instruments for prediction or not.  (This is called instrumentalism.)  In particular, he does not think that the motion of the Earth can ever be proved contrary to plain experience.  In this, he is way ahead of Popper.  
  • The Pope had been an old friend of Galileo and had helped him out on several occasions.   
  • Galileo has taken the Pope's instrumentalist argument and placed it in the mouth of Simplicio, in the Conclusion, apparently assuming that having done so and having his characters nod in agreement to it, he has touched the right bases in satisfying the requirements.  
  • But when read after the entire rest of the Dialogue, it comes across as a fatuous objection made by a simpleton and the nodding agreement a patronizing pat on "the Simpleton's" head.  
  • Prince Cesi, who had the street smarts (and connections and lived in Rome) could have headed off the collision, but Cesi died before the manuscript was ready for publication.  
  • The plague has shut down travel and the post, so Galileo cannot either send or take the ms. to Rome and wants to publish it in Florence.  
  • Galileo has used Medici political muscle to force an imprimatur from Riccardi (or, more precisely, forced Riccardi to pass the buck to Egidi, the Florentine Inquisitor.)  
  • Father Riccardi (aka Fr. Monster), the master of the palace, has read only the Preface before passing the buck.  He tries to brief the Inquisitor on the Pope's concerns, but the Inquisitor does not have the Preface and Conclusion, only the body of the manuscript.  It is not clear whether anyone -- Riccardi, Egidi, Stefani (Galileo's hand-picked reviewer in Florence), or the Grand Duke's secular book reviewers -- has read the Conclusion in conjunction with the Dialogue.  
  • Given the international situation -- and a fistfight in his own consistory between Bourbon and Hapsburg cardinals! -- Urban has no time or patience for an argument on astronomical mathematics.  But an ingrate must be shown his place.  
Once the book comes out, someone "helpfully" points out to Urban the apparent slap in the face contained in the Conclusion.  In the Renaissance lexicon, there is little that is worse than ingratitude.  Friendship betrayed turns rancid hate.  The problem is that Galileo is vain and impatient of opposition while Urban is... exactly the same kind of personality.

The Sideshow

These posts started out to be a chronology of how the geostationary models gave way to a geomobile model; but TOF has gotten sucked into the black hole of Galileo.  Suffice it to say that the Dialogue did nothing to establish geomobility as fact.  The arguments were plausible; though the main argument -- the tides -- was simply wrong.  And the main objection to Copernicanism -- the lack of stellar parallax -- was dismissed by adding an epicycle, that is, a second unproven hypothesis: that the stars were much farther away than currently believed.  (That would indeed account for the lack of visible parallax; but there were sound observational reason for supposing the stars to be closer: the visible discs they showed to Tycho's eyes and Galileo's telescopes.  They couldn't be too far off and show such discs without being absurdly enormous, bigger than the solar system.)  Galileo proposed looking for parallax in close optical doubles; but he himself had done so with Mizar and failed to find any angular change.  Theoretically, this falsified his theory, but the fact (much later) turned out to be that Mizar is a binary star, not an optical double and really would not have shown parallax due to the Earth's motion.

So let's finish the trial briskly and get back on track.  

Whoa, What's This?

adam amateur theology Aquinas argument from motion Aristotelianism art atheism autumn of the modern ages books brains breaking news captive dreams cartoon charts chieftain clannafhloinn comix commentary counterattack crusades culcha dogheads easton stuff economics eifelheim evolution factoids on parade fake news fallen angels Feeders fir trees in lungs firestar flicks floods flynncestry flynnstuff forecasts forest of time fun facts gandersauce gimlet eye global warming glvwg headlines henchmen high frontier history home front how to lie with statistics humor hush-hush hypatia in the house of submission irish Iron Shirts irrationalism january dancer jihad journeyman kabuki kool letter lion's mouth lunacon maps mayerling medieval metrology miscellany modern mythology moose zombies music new years nexus odds odds and ends paleofuture passing of the modern age philosophy philosophy math poetry politics psyched out! public service quality quiet sun quote of the day razor's edge redefinition of marriage religio reviews river of stars scandal science science marches on scientism scrivening shipwrecks of time shroud skiffy skiffy in the news skools slipping masks some people will believe anything stats stories stranger things the auld curmudgeon the madness continues the new fascism the spiral arm the writing life thomism thread o' years tofspot topology untergang des abendlandes untergang des morgenlandes up jim river video clips vignettes war on science we get letters we're all gonna die whimsy words at play xmas you can't make this stuff up