Friday, October 31, 2008

Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory

'You know, I am never sure whether the pain of not letting me drink vodka is worth the price. I mean, I appreciate all they have done for us. This warm little room you have beats sitting on a cardboard mat begging on the streets of Moscow over a Russian winter. And the food here is, well, hospital food reminds me of Army food and I think I was one of the few of us conscripts who enjoyed the food the glorious Russian Army provided. Provided you spiced it up with a swig of vodka. And that brings me back to my first point. If they just let me have a small sip of vodka now and again, my life would be perfect.

'Well, as perfect as you can get with no real eyes. Not that my old eyes did much for me - all burned out and useless. I could barely see the hands in front of my face, for all the thrashings my father gave to make me read. Well, it wasn't a waste of time when I was driving a tank. Ah, the beauty of a T72, the roar of the diesel engines, the useless chugging of the autoloader, was only compounded by the baroque complexities of the operating manuals. At least I could read them - otherwise I'd have ended up being a foot soldier on some forgotten front.

'I guess army issue beatings and a brush with the odd Islamist would have been better than blind and begging in a Russian winter. How was I to know? A blink and you missed it error with the laser range finder, and I'm blind and extraneous as far as the Russian army is concerned. But now... I'm a valued treasure in the heart of the IM Sechenov Moscow Medical Academy. Because Comrade Maykov... sorry, Chief Scientist Maykov... you know, with us no longer being a communist country and all, is not cooperating in the grand Kremlin scheme of things. I'm a living prize until they figure it out.

'Not that the eyes he grew me do much good. Nine times out of ten I wake up looking like the morning after a hard night on the vodka. These black and white spots and flashes. Just like a hangover. Which is why I want the vodka - I'm sure it'll fix things again.

'That's the secret of a hangover. More drinking, good and proper. Fixes your body right up. You see, alcohol converts from ethanol to acetaldehyde, which is the poison that you feel in your system the morning after, the black spots dancing in your vision, the malodorous head aches, the vomiting. It finally cleans up as ascetic acid, which is harmless, but you have to go through the pain first. But at higher alcohol levels, you get the MEOS system kicking in, which doesn't have that nasty acetaldehyde step to bring you down. So keep drinking to top yourself up and you'll feel fine.

'Just like the way we've run Russia since the break up. Keep topping up the binge, on oil, on nationalism, on invading our old property around the Caucasus, keep topping up ourselves until we get drunk and angry and stagger into China in a jealous fit. We should have handled our hangovers the Chinese way. Not drinking in the first place, because they can't handle their drink the way we do.

'Ah well, soldier. Enough of my ramblings. I'd best be off to the next bed. You'll be up and around, just as soon as they figure my eyes out. Of course, my accident is a little different in scale to what the Chinese are using. Just be grateful you're a foot soldier and not in a tank. I hear they shoot our tin cans even after their eyes are out. Whereas you and your comrades they leave behind. Whole divisions of you, cradling your bright, burned faces in your hands.

'A generation lost, the papers are saying. Tens of thousands, maybe hundreds. Now that's a hangover... But don't you worry, as soon as they figure out my eyes, you'll be the first to get them.

'And I'll be back to my vodka, with a medal on my chest.'

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Old Faithful

Apparently, there are these two quasars in the northern sky that are actually one quasar, which astronomers call "Old Faithful" (Not very original). Besides the light that comes right at the earth, there is a galaxy cluster off to one side of this object with enough gravity to redirect some of the light passing by from the quasar back at the earth. This cluster is far enough away from the original quasar so that we see the bent light as a second its the same quasar twice in our sky. Not only do we see two of the same object, but because of the distances involved, the "lensed" quasar's light is delayed around 1 year from the light coming straight at us. This allows astronomers to watch whatever happens in the quasar twice; once now, once in a year. As one of the hosts of the podcast said, its like a TIVO for the universe. The whole idea of the distances, sizes, masses and physics involved is just mind boggling cool.

Wikipedia entry

(From Dubious Quality)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

State of the Art in Evolution

Ars Technica has science coverage - a fact I didn't know. And a great article on the state of the art in evolution sciences.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

'How to Make an Adult Film'

I just had the pleasure of sitting through a two hour audio production of a script that I originally wrote approximately a 12 page treatment for some seven years ago.

Three young talented actors, sound engineers and producers have turned the kernal of an idea I had into a feature length script. They've taken it in directions I never considered, and are now going to turn a 5 minute scene from that script into a fully realised day long full production shoot.

My hat off to them.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Holocene: End of an Epoch

From Centauri Dreams.

Mindset of 2011

Another great 'list of' - this list detailing the mindset of students graduating from Beloit College in 2011.

More submission guidelines

Here's the submission guidelines for Clarkesworld Magazine and Intergalatic Medicine Show. And for the record, medicine has two syllables.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Interzone rejection

I've just received a thoughtful rejection from Interzone for the short story I submitted to them in November. I made it down to the final 30 out of 404 stories (apparently adding up to some 1931100 words). The feedback was great - basically keep writing and try submitting it elsewhere, which is always nice to hear, but ran to 10 paragraphs, which I think is a good sign. I just want to say publicly thanks to Jetse de Vries to take the time out to provide such great feedback to an aspiring writer (as well as critically reading through nearly two million words in less than two months).

I've picked Strange Horizons next, over the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, simply because they have an electronic submission process. They also have stricter word limits, so I cut the story down to 8,024 words. Given that Paul J. McAuley's "Gene Wars" covers much of the same territory in a much smaller word count, I don't think I'm being too aggressive in the cuts.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

75 words every science fiction fan should know

A great list from Geek end. Of course, very few of them are mundane...