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Mail 499 December 31, 2007 - January 6, 2008







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Monday  December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

I will have mail up tomorrow.





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Tuesday,  January 1, 2008

Happy New Year

I didn't get the mail up. The day was eaten by locusts.


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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

We just spent three days in Edinburgh. That's one of the nice things about the UK--it's easy to get away for quick break.

If you think the US Census Long Form is intrusive, take a look at

this: <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/

0,,2233296,00.html> <http://tinyurl.com/yssw9r>

Gordon Brown warns about the coming year--reminds me of those bad news/ worse news jokes: <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/politics/story/0,,2233303,00.html

> <http://tinyurl.com/ytqhaa> <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/minette_marrin/article3108141.ece

> <http://tinyurl.com/2enckm>

Is there hope? <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article3293982.ece

> <http://tinyurl.com/2dwcdl>

Police mad: <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/politics/story/0,,2233305,00.html

> <http://tinyurl.com/29g9k5>

University funding: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/

7164699.stm>. The Labour Government doesn't believe people should change their minds after the age of 16 about their chosen career.

Since most clergy enter the ministry after a life-changing event, this has the Church concerned. (Having changed my career several times and grown through each change, the Government belief looks rather wrong- headed to me, too,)

Why am I not surprised? <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7163741.stm


Blow-back: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7161071.stm>

Something about chickens and a roost: <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/12/27/uk_public_sector_outsourcing_cost_overruns/

> <http://tinyurl.com/yqmy38>

A Christmas gift for you, Jerry: <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/12/27/anton_wylie_climate_models/

> <http://tinyurl.com/2aqbtf>


"Truth is the intersection of independent lies." (Richard Levins, 1966) Harry Erwin, PhD


Piper Memorial Web Site

Hi Jerry,

Happy New Years! Please post this where you think it will do the most good. All the footwork is done and we're hoping to raise enough money to put up the new Piper Memorial Gravestone this year. I was also able to list the new website in my Piper biography which will be out March 30th, which will help.

Best Wishes,



The new Piper website is on the Internet at www.h-beampiper.com <http://www.h-beampiper.com/>

The H. Beam Memorial Fund was founded by Dennis Frank and John F. Carr to collect contributions from Piper fans and readers to purchase a proper granite memorial headstone for Piper’s grave in Fairview Cemetery, Altoona, Pennsylvania and to pay tribute to the memory of H. Beam Piper.

It is our plan to raise enough money through contributions so that we, as a group of Piper fans and admirers, can replace the existing grass covered marker at Altoona's Fairview Cemetery with a solid granite memorial stone, which will include an etching of Beam and his epithet, provided by his ex-wife, Betty Piper in a 1975 letter: "One line in our French divorce pleased him very much—it was: ‘He always maintained his independence,’ he said he wanted that on his tombstone.”

H. Beam Piper was born in Altoona. Pennsylvania and lived most of his life there until 1957 when he moved to Williamsport. He was fascinated by Pennsylvania history and wrote a number of articles on local history for the local papers. He was also a Civil War buff and knew the intimate details of almost every battle. He is considered by many to have been Pennsylvania’s finest science fiction author.

Piper was a fascinating character with a wry wit, and an irreverent view of science fiction, his own foibles and those of the human species. His foremost novels, "Little Fuzzy," "Cosmic Computer," "Space Viking," and "Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen" are science fiction classics. Piper’s humanity and informed intelligence grace every page of his writings. Beam was an original, even for his own time.

It is only fitting that we who love his work want to memorialize his burial site. The new headstone will be composed of gray granite (Rock of Ages) and will cost approximately $5,115.00, which is the Altoona Memorial Studio estimate. We plan to raise the money through contributions to the new Memorial Website.


Donations can be made via PayPal at H-BeamPiper.com, or by sending a check or money order to:

H. Beam Piper Memorial Fund P.O. Box 96 Boalsburg, PA 16827.

John F. Carr www.hostigos.com

As most of you know, John Carr worked for me as editor of my anthologies for many years, and Beam Piper and I were friends when he was alive.


Francis Hamit has written an essay on Print on Demand publishing, reflecting his experiences to date. Readers will recall his previous reports on electronic publishing. I have opened a Reports page for this latest POD essay.


Inching towards Velikovsky.

Velikovsky believed the Earth was moonless within the era of humans or proto-humans, though he thought it was likely captured, rather than ejected from the Earth itself due to extreme vulcanism or impact.


- Roland Dobbins

Inching indeed...


"Whatever comes to pass in Pakistan, it won't look like Chicago."

But, it *might* end up looking like the Bronx. :(

(How sad it was to see the transition from a place where a kid could safely go for walks in the woods (alone!) -- *real* woods -- picking berries, taking landscape photos with his father's Kodak Retina on glorious Kodachrome II, to a place where even the police fear to tread alone. When last I visited, it seemed like Beirut after its fall.)

Ron "Former Bronxite" Schwarz

-- Photos: http://www.michi-kogaku.com/picsdir 

Modern "Privacy": "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear."

Suggestion: Watch "Cabaret!" (It's a documentary, not a musical; a portrait of the end-game of a decadent culture.)


Subject: your response to Mr. Crawford 

Dr. Pournelle,

On your response to Mr. Crawford's remarks I can only say hear, hear and I hope he had his wife's permission to send that email. This sort of thing is why I subscribe.

My wife and I enjoyed briefly meeting you and Mrs. Pournelle and Mr. Niven last spring in Baltimore. Hope you're on the East Coast again soon or we're in CA.

Merry Christmas and a Happy and Productive New Year!

Infrequently yours,

Ron Booker




What do you get when Cold Fusion fraudsters spy money being made elsewhere?

http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2007/12/walking-the-pla.html <http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2007/12/walking-the-pla.html

Admiralty Lawyers Avast ! Here be a new Tort : Carbon Offset Piracy

-- Russell Seitz


Subj: ARTILLERY: M109 Replacement Enters Production


>>The current self-propelled system, the M-109, is a fifty year old design. Although the M-109 has been frequently updated, the NLOS-C incorporates many new technologies. This includes an auto-loader (from the Crusader) and a more modern 155mm gun (the M-777, a towed, British designed system) and an APC chassis with a hybrid-electric engine (to reduce fuel consumption.) This all weighs 23 tons, about the same as the M-109. But the NLOS only has a two man crew, compared to five in the M-109.<<

>>Meanwhile, the new Excalibur GPS guided shell, which entered service in the past year, could change everything. Excalibur appears to work in combat, and this is radically changing the way artillery operates. Excalibur means 80-90 percent less ammo has to be fired, resulting in less wear and tear on NLOS-C (and less time needed for maintenance), and less time replenishing ammo supplies, and more time being ready for action.<<

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


Creg Cochran - "There isn't much piracy." 

Dr Pournelle

Greg Cochran wrote "There isn't much piracy."

I call 'Bullshit'.

"According to the International Marine Bureau (IMB), an organization that compiles information on world piracy, more than 290 pirate attacks occurred across the globe from January to September of this year, up from 180 in the same period last year--marking a ten-year-high in maritime attacks." http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0EPF/is_12_100/ai_67830927 

The International Marine Bureau's 2007 piracy map http://www.icc-ccs.org/extra/display.php  Look at the map and tell me with a straight face that there isn't much piracy.

The monthly Piracy Report section of the January 2008 issue of Lattitudes and Attitudes magazine occupies two pages (10 reports spanning 26 September 2007 to 01 November 2007). The free on-line issue of Latts&Atts is availlable at http://viewer.zmags.com/showmag.php?mid=pwqwt  The Piracty Report spans pages 28 and 29.

When I got full of myself and posted 'Pray there be law', you called 'Bullshit' on me and roasted me. I deserved it. I swallowed my ego (damn near choked to death doing it) and came back better for the spanking.

I have reason to believe that Greg Cochran is a friend of yours. But he speaks from ignorance.

Piracy is a growing problem.

This is tied to the decline of the American Navy. Am I the only one who visits Chaos Manor who sees in the rise of piracy the parallels in the decline of Pax Romana and Pax Americana? Surely not.

For my part, I want to hear more from Brendan Kelly ('Republics and Empires'; Chaos Manor Mail; Thursday, December 20, 2007). I don't see the parallel to the Carolingian Empire or the Byzantine, but I found his references to Odoacer and his Ostrogoths to be spot on.

Respectfully to you, but I call 'Bullshit' on Greg Cochran

h lynn keith


Subject: Getting the facts right 

Dr. P,

I hope Earl's facts about the severity of modern piracy are more accurate than his historical claims. Getting the facts behind his ending throw-away line so wrong says nothing good regarding the credibility of his other claims.

Just to set the record straight for your readers who have only heard the abridged version, there really was an attack on the U.S. Navy in the Tonkin Gulf, albeit a rather one-sided affair reminiscent of a cartoon where the kid tries to beat up a giant. In broad daylight, the U.S.S. Maddox did indeed exchange fire with real, live patrol boats operated by the navy of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, with the Navy demonstrating how much better it was at giving. The fact that reports of a second, night-time attack 2 days later were wrong does not change the fact that there was an initial attack.

More blatantly, the "Cambodian rescue effort" was undertaken by the Navy and Marines under CinC Ford, not Reagan.


Bill Clardy


Dear Doctor Pournelle,

Earl, whose letter you posted on on 12/20/07, seems a bit confused:

"except when we want to go to war (i.e. the non attack in Tonkin Gulf or when Reagan wanted to regain a bit of our lost honor in the Cambodian rescue effort)."

I'll leave aside the politically correct lie that there was no attack at all in the soi disant "Tonkin Gulf Incidents" of 1964. But Ronald Reagan was still the former governor of California in May of 1975 when the "Cambodian rescue effort" occurred (presuming that is what Earl calls the attack to rescue the crew of the container ship USS Mayaguez, hijacked in an act of piracy by the Khmer Rouge in May of 1975) . It may have been an act in part intended to rescue some honor (precious little after abandoning our Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian allies a month earlier), but it was done by President Gerald R. Ford, not Ronald Reagan.

Thanks for all you do, and keep up the good work.

We do appreciate it out here.



Subj: Expanding the Republic is still possible

Contrary to Brendan Kelly's contention, all we have to do is turn ninety degrees -- straight up, into the High Frontier.

Even if our Destiny is still to repeat the British Imperial pattern, this would let us repeat the part where they planted, before they slid off into their downward spiral, a fresh, free sapling-nation in the frontier -- in their case, the US.

One might also observe that the British colonies in America, that became the US, were planted by private commercial ventures rather than by government-financed expeditions. And one might infer from that a special importance of the private space-launch industry, and infer as well that withdrawing from the execrable "Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies" might be even more important than not ratifying the execrable "United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea".

One might almost think Someone should have written a science fiction story, or two or ten, along those lines.

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


Subject: Netscape So Long 


Netscape will soon be no more...


Netscape Navigator, the world's first commercial Web browser and the launch pad of the Internet boom, will be pulled off life support Feb. 1 after a 13-year run.


"While internal groups within AOL have invested a great deal of time and energy in attempting to revive Netscape Navigator, these efforts have not been successful in gaining market share from Microsoft's Internet Explorer," Netscape Director Tom Drapeau wrote in a blog entry Friday.


I remember Alex and I drove up to San Francisco for the grand opening announcement of Internet Explorer. It was a big party, and Gates said, "Well, the price is right..."

I also recall that Netscape was saying they would develop an operating system and put Microsoft out of business. Serious about it, they were, too.


We live in interesting times.




-- Roland Dobbins

We do indeed. All three articles are worth attention.


More benefits of immigration.


-- Roland Dobbins



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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Subj: USAF creates Cyber War Central


>>Think of this as a war room for Cyber War. Many people, deluged with TV and movie representations of high tech military command centers, believe such a Cyber War center already exists. It doesn’t, and the air force is building it.<<

Rod Montgomery== monty@starfief.com 

About time...


Subject: Voting vs Not Voting 


Having read your thoughts in View on your not voting the 2nd time around for Bush I, it got me thinking.

In your opinion, when faced with Presidential candidates where one isnt better than the other, what do you think is the best course of action and why:

Vote for the "better" of the two? Write in a legitimate candidate who doesnt appear on the ballot? Not vote? Something else?

Thanks! Jason

In a primary, vote for the one you really want. It's in the final election that you need to decide on what is the best course. If your vote won't count anyway, again vote for the one you want. If it's going to be close, you want the lesser evil.

Vote for Cthulhu. Why settle for a lesser evil...


Subject: Fallujah


"Crucial to the failure, the authors said, was the role of the Arabic satellite news channels Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya.

An Al Jazeera crew was in Fallujah during the first week of April 2004, when the Marines began their assault on the city of 285,000 people.

"They filmed scenes of dead babies from the hospital, presumably killed by coalition air strikes," the assessment said. "Comparisons were made to the Palestinian intifada. Children were shown bespattered with blood; mothers were shown screaming and mourning day after day."

By contrast, the assessment stated that later in 2004, when U.S.-led forces successfully retook Fallujah, they brought with them 91 embedded reporters representing 60 press outlets, including Arabic ones.

"False allegations of non-combatant casualties were made by Arab media in both campaigns, but in the second case embedded Western reporters offered a rebuttal," the authors said."

I will merely state that I was quite surprised at orders to cease operations. I was even more surpised when we turned the city over the the Fallujah Brigade, made up of former Iraqi Army types, since those were quickly shown to be cooperating with the bad guys. Still, they dissolved pretty quickly, leaving the bad guys and a political figleaf for them to hide behind.

Serving Officer


Subject: R.I.P. Netscape


Ever since AOL & Sun carved up the dying Mozillasaur between them back in '98 (Sun got the server products, AOL got the just-open-sourced browser code and the web portal), "Netscape" has been little more than an AOL skin on the Mozilla codebase. There was noise at the time about AOL replacing their IE-based fat client with one based off the Mozilla code, but the prospect of being locked out of Windows pre-loads quickly scuttled that idea.

I worked for them not quite a year as an onsite SE to CSX Rail here in Jax, so I have some background on their plans. Their intent was to use the revenue from the browser to leverage themselves into server products; they had web, e-mail, LDAP directory, certificate, and news servers at the time of their demise. The "OS" plan was to work up a browser-based desktop environment (more recently attempted by the AJAX crowd) which would have been independent of the underlying OS. Given the attention Netscape was receiving at the time, said prospect unnerved the folks in Redmond, regardless of the likelihood of success. Microsoft literally *did* cut off their air supply by putting IE out for free; the cashflow dried up too quickly and the rest is history.

Seeing AOL using the Netscape logo of late as the branding for their discount dialup service to compete with Juno/Netzero just put the final nail in the coffin for me. The legacy of Netscape is now with the Mozilla Foundation elements ( those of you looking for the classic all-in-one web/mail/composer app should check out the Seamonkey project there). AOL dropping their efforts are at this point just another cost-cutting effort in their attempt to remain relevant as users abandon dialup and "walled garden" ISPs.

-- Bob Halloran Jacksonville FL

----- "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither." - Benjamin Franklin



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Friday, January 4, 2008


The caucuses are the last remnants of the old system. When I was District Captain (later, House District Leader) out in Colorado, Colorado was a caucus state. We held precinct meetings (which I had to make sure were held - one year I had three precincts meeting in my house. One bunch showed up because the committeeman who had promised to host it had locked his door and turned off all his lights. They got my address from the County officers.) Each precinct would select delegates to the County Assembly and to the District Convention. (There was a technical distinction between assemblies and conventions having to do with the offices involved.) They were elected in proportion to the original caucus vote for the highest contested election - presidential, senatorial, gubernatorial depending on the year. At the County Assembly, delegates were elected to the State Assembly; at the District Convention, delegates were elected to the State Convention. The State Assembly and Convention were held together. There, we elected delegates to the National Convention.

Most of the delegates had some personal contact with and knowledge of the County and State candidates and were prepared to make more informed judgments. Less often, we had a chance to shmooze with national candidates. I didn't worry whether the caucuses were "democratic." Any registered Party member could attend and vote. We called, we offered transport. It was their choice to stay home. Their purpose was to pick the Party's candidates, and that's the Party's business, not the general public's.

But the Parties were collapsing even then. I often had trouble enlisting campaign workers because I would call on people and they would say they had already volunteered for so-and-so's Campaign. If there were congressional, senatorial, and gubernatorial elections on, that was three "personal parties" sucking the volunteer pool dry and creating three parallel pseudo-party organizations working the same territory. Problem was, they were only interested in leafleting for their Candidate, so local offices, like sheriff, got stiffed. So the next go round, I rounded up all my precinct people and we volunteered for each of the Campaigns and went around leafleting for the entire Party slate.

Used to be the Parties served as buffers between the Candidates and the Interest Groups. They could broker deals, balance interests, and so on. Now with the Personal Parties/Campaigns, the Interest Groups go directly to the Candidates who, being smaller fish, are less well-equipped to broker them. (It's a physical mass thing: Parties are larger than Interest Groups, but Interest Groups are larger than Candidates. Work out the physics...)

Michael Flynn

Agreed on nearly all counts. I will go further and say that unless we can restore something like that older party system we will never again have the Republic; we will slouch toward "democracy" which will in fact be empire.


Buy fur coats?

'Lasting cold era' Ahead Says Space and Science Research Center


<junomsg://032CC928/http://www.spaceandscience.net/id16.html>  A cold spell soon to replace global warming






Subject: Cyber War

>>Think of this as a war room for Cyber War. Many people, deluged with TV and movie representations of high tech military command centers, believe such a Cyber War center already exists. It doesn’t, and the air force is building it.<<

Poo. The Pentagon has working on this in various iterations (counter; counter-counter; attack; etc) since, at least, 1989. I've had some small involvement in the early stages with the USMC. Y2K had a huge impact and focus on protection and counter-attacks.

Also, 9/11, while certainly a physical attack on the US was also an attempt at Cyber War. Our economy didn't collapse due to precautions and cooperations that had been taken long ago by Wall Street and the NSA.


Me too. From days in Vienna VA on a very long time ago...

More CyberWar





Subject: Protect me from things I like


"I am not alone in loving Hummers. An effective tax will have to take into account all variety of Hummer lovers, the strength of their preferences and the size of their wallets.

I say: Better not to tempt me in the first place. Take the Hummers away. Don't clutter my world with things I should not have. Don't dangle them in front of me, creating desire, only to then try to have me renounce them. Just ban the damn two-cycle hedge trimmer and let me be done with the matter."

Wouldn't it be nice if our college professors had the sort of self discipline they want students to show?




Now if there were only some way to slip this into the desks of the people in Congress....

Tim of Angle



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Saturday, January 5, 2008

professional level patron


Your articles have added significant value to me from the early Byte days until today. Your columns have spanned my entire professional career. I believe that Apple is now leading the way and that your analysis of their products will provide just as much value to me and others as you have done in the past.

Getting Apple or any company to give or loan you hardware is not as easy today as it was.

So, I was thinking you might want to consider a "professional" level subscription. Say $500.00 / year. For a consultant or other self- employed type, that would be an easy deduction. You would provide analysis just as you do today, we, the folks that are more directly tied to the computer industry, would help subsidize your analysis.


Thanks for the suggestion that it would be worth the money, but alas, the obligation would be too great. I am primarily writing fiction now. Keeping this site up, and doing the columns, take significant amounts of time now.

I do wish I could get enough more subscriptions to let me get a new Mac, but that will happen when I get the next book turned in.

Thanks for the kind words.


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Sunday, January 6, 2008      

I have been cleaning up old mail and I have found some that ought to have been posted but I didn't get to. In no particular order, and with short shrift:



I've been a faithful reader of yours for centuries :)

I own two of your hardbacks (Mote and the sequel) and I think the majority of the rest of your canon in paperback. As far as purchasing a paperback, I should have said "never say never," but my Nokia tablet has really changed my view. As far as DRM goes, my device will probably never support DRM-encumbered media. So, I won't buy the same, unless the DRM is weak and can be easily cracked. It's a shame that publishers would make me go through the effort to do this. I'm not a thief.

Looking into the future, what if you had a selection of your canon available for download along with a PayPal "tip jar," or some other mechanism that allows readers to pay the piper? I'd gladly do so, and with a scheme like that you'd get all the profits.


Jeff Elkins

I am slowly trying to get all my works into ebook format from Baen. I don't own all the rights, so I have to work on my other publishers as well. Self publishing doesn't work too well, I have found, although it may change.


Have you seen this?

Publisher's plan could spell the end of the literary hardback


Bob Sprowl


Subject: E Book Machine

Dear Jerry,

I would guess I'm not the first to point out this Time Invention of the Year to you


Electronic book readers will come but I think there will remain a demand for 'real books' for some time. The Expresso machine could help. With the rising cost of fuel to transport anything, shipping whole books from large printing plants to distributor's warehouses and then to retailers seems to be a good place to start cutting costs. There is also reduction of large inventories and the ability to offer a wider range of books.

It would also seem an excellent way for publishers to retain some control. One might think that publishers could even offer to subsidize the cost of the machines. This machine can print color covers but it had occurred to me some time ago that publishers could make hard or soft covers of a very good quaility and bubble wrap and ship those to retailers. They would contain bar coding that the store could scan prompting the printer to run the book. The final step would be to unwrap and insert the cover to the binding portion of the printer and receive a book if not equal quality at least close to any publisher's plant.

Of course none of this addresses the profit sharing of publishers with authors but with a little less cost maybe the authors could benefit too.

Dave Krecklow


Jacques Barzun Centennial

This video, shown in September 7, 2006, at a banquet in San Antonio at which Jacques Barzun received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Gemini Ink, is not to be missed:


Leo Wong -- http://www.murphywong.net



Jerry --

I have a small stack of things that might interest you.

First, that snake oil you talk about whenever the subject of the FDA comes up... Apparently it can be a good thing after all.


Here is one way companies can make money off CO2: cut back on a data center's electric usage, get a CO2 reduction certificate, then sell the certificate. The company that buys the certificate doesn't need to conserve power. Basically, it's one company earning celestial merit, then selling that merit to another company in the form of an indulgence. They've just figured out how to cut the medieval church out of the middle.


Three things that bear on alternate global warming scenarios:





An interesting take on why suicide bombing makes sense in some circumstances. Like playing Halo 3.


And last, an article entitled...

"Tennessee limiting use of electric chair"

*snort* One would hope.

That's one of those titles that belongs in "The Solid Gold Copyeditor" as a case study, filed under "titles that beg for sarcastic one-liner responses." But seriously, I wonder how much CO2 the chair is responsible for in a single usage? But the state is now limiting the use of the chair to condemned convicts who request that form of execution, so we only have to determine whether the state or the convict's estate gets the CO2 reduction certificate if the convict opts for another method of execution.


--Gary Pavek


'In my view, the LAUSD is completely corrupt, inept and broken, with many students having serious behavioral problems and disinterested in learning . . .'


--- Roland Dobbins


Subject: "I have created a situation and wound many clock"

"Next is Mamelukes. I have created a situation and wound many clocks; it is time to let the story resolve those problems."


I know you don't talk much about the "how-to" part of writing, so if this is too off-topic, please disregard it.

I have an idea-book (actually a Notepad file), in which I jot down premises as they occur to me, with the idea of going back and filling out story skeletons around them. The vast majority of them have never gone beyond the premise stage. A few of them are in the semi-outlined stage, and one is a book in progress.

I was wondering how others go about laying the foundation for a new story. Since you are highly respected as a master plot-builder (and certainly admired as such by me) I would value anything you'd be willing to share regarding the nuts and bolts of the process.


The best way to learn to write is to write. I don't believe it can be taught as a "creative art". I have an essay on "How to get my job" on this site.


And Mike Flynn, author and collaborator with Niven and Me on Fallen Angels, says:

Subject: Learning to Write

Regarding the discussion of writing classes, some aimless thoughts.

Years ago, I took a night class in novel writing at the University of Denver. The instructor, John Dunning, was himself an accomplished novelist and told us up front that he was going to teach the nuts and bolts and not creative writing. He may even have said he could teach the first, but not the second. So we discussed how to turn ideas into stories, how to characterize, doing research, butt-in-chair time, and so on. One aphorism I recall - I don't suppose it was original with him - was in description: describe the thumb so well that the reader thinks he's seen the entire hand. Dunning used his then current novel-in-progress as the frame for the course, taking us step by step through his own process. At the end, he announced that he had abandoned the novel because it turned out to be not one that he really wanted to write. (All was not lost. Years later, he gave me permission to use the basic idea and I turned it into a novelette that made this past Hugo ballot.)

But I was writing stories when I was 10 and my brother was 9. In pencil. In spiral notebooks. Illustrated with Magic Markers. The very first was based on a bed-time story my father told us. Later, we learned that we had written a very bad imitation of Damon Knight's "To Serve Man." (So my father used to tell us bedtime stories from Knight and Bradbury. Didn't everyone's?) In grade school, I got form rejection letters from Boucher. In high school, I got serious. Wrote a story called "Ashes" and a two-page rejection from Campbell. I was crushed. Later, I found it in a drawer, re-read it. It sucked. So I rewrote the story and got it rejected by Bova. A while after, I found it again, and it still sucked. So I rewrote it and sent it to Charlie Ryan at Galileo for a contest. Charlie accepted it, but the mag folded and never paid. So I sent it to Stan Schmidt and he accepted it. Paid cash money, too.

Earlier, in college, I had finished my first novel, entitled THE JANUARY DANCER. It was awful. But all was not lost. My mother saved all this, and a much improved and rewritten THE JANUARY DANCER has just been delivered to David Hartwell at Tor.

So what is the point? Learning to write is like learning to ride a bicycle. Good advice from a master - like Dunning - can be very helpful: like your dad's hand guiding the bicycle while you give it a try; but unless you keep falling off and getting back on, you don't learn how to do it.

Mike Flynn


Subject: Why a hydrogen economy doesn't make sense


This chart compares the useful transport energy requirements for a vehicle powered from a hydrogen process (left) vs. electricity (right). Image Credit: Ulf Bossel.

In a recent study, fuel cell expert Ulf Bossel explains that a hydrogen economy is a wasteful economy. The large amount of energy required to isolate hydrogen from natural compounds (water, natural gas, biomass), package the light gas by compression or liquefaction, transfer the energy carrier to the user, plus the energy lost when it is converted to useful electricity with fuel cells, leaves around 25% for practical use — an unacceptable value to run an economy in a sustainable future. Only niche applications like submarines and spacecraft might use hydrogen. <snip>


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