News and updates

Hi guys. Okay, so the blog has been languishing for a while, the good news is that I’ve been busy writing, and a few new titles should be coming out in the next few weeks. Another thing I’ll probably be doing is redesigning the site as a whole. This blog is not going anywhere, and the same goes for the legacy aspects of the site, but for the most part I’ll probably be changing the way in which things are organized by moving some things to a different site where I don’t have to worry about exceeding GreenGeek’s ridiculously limited ‘unlimited’ service (if you’ve been following this site for a while, you are probably aware that that’s been an ongoing issue for some time, as I’m fed up with the fact that traffic spikes are routinely penalized).

For a while there I considered of opening a facebook page. That would have been the logical thing, but I admit that by now my refusal to have a facebook account is pretty much a matter of principle (I don’t like the fact that having such an account seems to have become almost a requirement, especially considering their rather cavalier approach to privacy). Anyway, that’s where things stand, so watch this space!

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A nightmarish utopia

Okay, so I just finished Michio Kaku’s Physics of the Future. At first glance the premise —a book on the future of science that was actually written by a scientist— sounded appealing enough… unfortunately I have to admit that I wound up being appalled instead.

Oh, I can understand where the man is coming from, but his triumphalist ode to a hypothetical future in which science solves all of humankind’s problems, and his depiction of what he honestly seems to believe is an ideal society will probably give me nightmares for months to come.

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Kicking people when they are down

No, for the time being I’m not going to write an ‘In defense of…” post about the whole Rachel Dolezal mess. I don’t think I have the facts to do it properly, though it could be an interesting one. Still, I came across an article by Priscilla Frank in the Huffington Post that kind of bothered me. You can find it here, though the gist of it is that Frank accuses Dolezal of both plagiarizing and violating the copyright on a work dating back to the 1840. It’s an interesting theory, the problem is that, if the work dates back to 1840, then it is in the public domain, and if it is in the public domain there can be no copyright infringement.

Yes, Dolezal has made some questionable claims to say the least, and there are plenty of reasons to criticize her, but this particular article feels  like a cheap shot, and an attempt to kick someone while she is down, and while I am not going to defend Dolezal, I do believe we should try to retain a sense of fairness.

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Like pieces of a puzzle

Writing a book can feel a lot like putting a puzzle together… with the difference that you only have a vague idea as to how the final thing is going to look like (and more often than not it changes in the process). The thing is that you usually have a starting point, otherwise you can’t really get started, but once you are done with the edges you have a huge span of emptiness with few clues as to what goes where. As you near the end, on the other hand, there are only a few sections to fill in,  and far fewer pieces to fill them with, the end result: if you’ve done it right, you will reach a point where the story will basically lead you towards its natural end.

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When a story suddenly clicks into place

Yesterday was a weird day. Early in the morning I realized that I had basically painted myself into a corner in the story I am currently working on. As you can probably imagine, I was not exactly happy about that, but by the end of the day not only had I figured out how to get myself out of that mess, but I had also managed to work around a number of issues in a way that actually made sense.

I love it when things suddenly click into place! 😀

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Sometimes I scare myself

Okay, so I was working on a new idea, another take of a possible future, with ‘possible’ being the operative word. The end result? I somehow wound up really scaring myself. Oh, well, I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later.

On a more positive note, I just put a book to marinate for a couple of months. If everything goes according to plan, it should be ready before the year is out.

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New book coming along nicely, Citlalli, not so much

Okay, so the good news is that the book I’m currently working on is coming along nicely, and will probably be published before the year is out. The better news is that I am also working on another project. That one’s in the early stages, but it too is shaping up nicely. The not so good news is that Citlalli is being stubborn.

I know it’s silly, but it still feels like that one’s been poisoned by the problems I had with my cover artist, who used to be one of my best friends.  No, that doesn’t mean I’m going to be abandoning it, but the truth is that I don’t know when will I get around to writing the fourth and final book. What I do know is that it would be worse for me to write it feeling that it is some sort of chore, than to wait a while before coming back to that project.

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Silly questions

Today I was watching a pigeon. Not the most engaging of activities, I know that much, but it caught my attention because it was huge. Now, I realize that a pigeon doesn’t really warrant a blog post, but the thing is that, having seen it, I found myself wondering what the biggest pigeon species happens to be. Some twenty years ago I would have dismissed the question as one that wasn’t really worth pursuing, today it took me thirty seconds to find an answer, and the truth is that when I did I found nothing remarkable about that fact (apparently that distinction goes to the three species of the Goura genus). The thing is that, as pretty much everyone else, I’ve grown used to having the answers to my questions at my fingertips, and today was one of those days in which the realization of how used to taking that ability for grounded I’ve become really hit me.

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CreateSpace ruins the day!

Up until now my experience with Createspace had been a fairly positive one. Now I have to report an extremely unpleasant experience: I was in Mexico, and I needed some copies of my books in a hurry, so I placed an order and paid for priority shipping, which was ridiculously expensive (as in 150% of the cost of the books themselves!). I was told that the books would be there within a week. That felt a bit too long in light of what I was being charged, but seeing how I had ten days, I figured I could live with it. The order was placed on March 11, the books were ready to ship by the 13… and there they sat, neglected until the 17, when I finally got a notice letting me know that my order had shipped… and would arrive by the 23 (and that 23 has now been changed to a 24). That’s thirteen days for priority shipping, and long after the time those books will do me any good. I wrote back to them to ask what was going on, and I had my shipping fee refunded.

That was something, though there was nothing remotely resembling an explanation, and the truth is that it didn’t really do me one lick of good, as what I needed were the books, not the refund, that was why I had paid that outrageous shipping rate in the first place… and then I began poking around. It was then that I realized that they had sent an international shipment that had been billed as priority, and for which they had charged the same rate they would have charged if they had been sending the books all the way down to Argentina (there’s a flat rate for Latin America), using UPS’s Standard service, which the company itself lists as “economical ground delivery for your less-urgent shipments”.

Ground delivery? On an international shipment? And how do they reconcile the word ‘priority’ (as in priority shipping) with UPS’s   ‘less-urgent’ wording? Quick, someone get these folks a dictionary.

In short, buyer beware, when it comes to international orders CreateSpace’s ‘priority shipping’ is a mess, one that can leave you looking like a fool if you dare rely upon it, and no refund is ever going to fix that.

UPDATE: Okay, so the books won’t be here on time, there’s nothing anyone can do to change that, but I just got a call from a representative from CreateSpace, acknowledging their mistake in shipping via UPS Standard, and doing his best to find a way to make things right. Unfortunately there were some elements of this particular mess that made finding a real solution impossible, but I realize that those are not CreateSpace’s fault. Yes, they screwed up, but they owned up to their mistake, and I definitely appreciate it.

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Goodbye Mr. Spock

Yesterday we lost Leonard Nimoy, I won’t bother repeating here what has been said countless times already. I am a member of my generation, and as such I cut my SF teeth on Star Trek reruns. I make no apologies for that fact, and I admit that I, like countless others, was more drawn to the weird character who was originally meant to be little more than a sidekick than to the valiant hero (sorry, I could never quite warm up to Captain Kirk).

One thing I find fascinating, however, is the shift in Mr. Nimoy’s  relationship with his own character as seen in the titles of his autobiographies (I Am Not Spock in 1977 and I Am Spock in 1995). That he would have a love/hate relationship with the fictional character that had effectively taken over his life is logical enough, and a part of me can’t help but to be relieved by the fact that in the end he chose to embrace him… or maybe it would be more accurate to say that in the end he chose to make it his.

That, I suspect is the key, a key that is hidden in those dates. When I Am Not Spock came out the extent of the Star Trek official corpus was restricted to the three seasons of the original series, which was itself about ten years old by that time. That’s a long time to be held hostage by a figment of someone else’s imagination. The thing is that the Spock we get to see in that series, while memorable, is probably the weakest and most stereotypical incarnation of the character. It was a character that, while featuring some important contributions from the actor, was conceived first and cast later. It was in the motion pictures that Mr. Spock truly came into his own, or at least that is how it seems to me. It was also in those films, especially in the ones he actually got to direct, that he was finally free to take his character in the direction he wanted. That, I suspect, is one of the key elements that enabled him to make his peace with the role Mr. Spock had carved for himself in his life.

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Series interrupted, the Millennium Trilogy

Okay, so I finally tackled the Millennium Trilogy. I admit it’s not exactly my cup of tea, that was why I had been putting it off for years, but seeing how crazy the past couple of weeks have been I decided that now would be a good time to give it a shot. Anyway, over all I have to say that I enjoyed the first book. The second one was interesting enough, though at times I felt that my suspension of disbelief was pushed past its breaking point. The third book I found downright annoying.

But let’s take things one book at a time.

As I said, the first one was a pleasant read, the story was reasonably well told, and over all I found myself being drawn into the plot. Oh, there are a couple of plot holes that can be more than a little annoying when the book is considered in the context of the series (without getting into too many details, and keeping things deliberately cryptic to avoid spoilers, Lisbeth’s financial dependence on Bjurman makes no sense whatsoever once concept of the Republic is introduced), but if the book is read on its own those can be reasonably dismissed.

Book two too has an interesting premise, though there were a few too many coincidences for my liking (Sweden comes across  like a tiny village in which everyone knows everyone else, rather than a country of nearly ten million), there were some loose ends I felt could probably have been trimmed, and it also got a little preachy at times. Still, those defects were not serious enough to detract from the main plot line.

Book three, on the other hand, is a bit of a mess (and I apologize for the mild spoilers in what follows).

To begin with there are a couple of subplots that take up a good chunk of the book, but don’t add one lick to the story, such as the whole story of Berger leaving Millennium (and then coming back), and the relationship between Blomkvist and Figerola. In addition to that the dramatic tension depends, to a large extent, on a really absurd plot hole, namely on the fact that, when confronted with a gross miscarriage of justice, the government cannot interfere because the judiciary is supposed to be independent (let me count the way to get around that one without breaking the law), thus leaving the heroine’s fate in the hands of a desperate legal ploy that was cooked up by the valiant hero. Finally there is the fact that the preaching is also amplified to a ridiculous extent… and the fact that a story that begins with the protagonist standing almost alone against the power of a corrupt government agency, ends up with a ringing endorsement of that government, where the bad guys turn out to be just a few bad apples. That last bit was the one I found the most annoying one.

Now,  I realize that the first one of those complaints -the one having to do with the pointless subplots- may have something to do the fact that this trilogy was never meant to be a trilogy in the first place, but rather that these books were supposed to be part of a much longer series, and that the author could reasonably have been laying down the groundwork for a future story, unfortunately the other issues are harder to excuse.

In short, I would recommend book one, as that one can stand alone, but seeing how much of a mess book three is, and how intertwined books two and three happen to be, I am more reluctant to recommend the rest of the series.

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