Calling all cat lovers: Who doesn’t need a wonderful drawing of a sabertooth in honor of National Fossil Day 2016? Today! The official name is Smilodon fatalis, and it’s not the only feline hunter of the Pleistocene. There were also thoroughly scary prehistoric versions of lions, cougars, jaguars, lynx, and cheetahs in bygone eras. Just look at those seven-inch teeth. This is 600 pounds of predator.
Here’s a Smilodon fossil skull from the famous La Brea Tar Pits.
For more about National Fossil Day and fossils discovered in the United States, have a look here.
I have a new guest editorial in Analog’s latest issue: November 2016. I give some thought to placing a scientist and/or inventor on United States currency. Give it a read and find out who might merit this honor. Do you have suggestions of your own — someone I don’t mention, perhaps? Let me know in the comments.
And hey, look at the other great stuff in this issue. I’m really pleased to be sharing a table of contents with these talented folks. As always, my thanks go to Trevor Quachri for giving me this opportunity and for unleashing his first-rate editing abilities upon this piece.
When I grow up, I still want to be Connie Willis or Walter Jon Williams or John Kessel or Michael Swanwick (who took this photo of Marianne Porter and the rest of us). You see, I’m still learning from the smart, funny, insightful and elegant works of some of my great friends who were at MidAmeriCon 2 this year. Wish I’d gotten more photos of some of the rest, but here are a couple more. And if any of these names are unfamiliar to you or if you haven’t read their marvelous stuff, are you ever in for a treat.
Scott Edelman is one of the very few writers of zombie stories that I’ll read. Yes, some of his tales terrify me, but they are so memorable and never run-of-the-mill horror.
My friend Dave Axler introduced me to the incomparable Pat Cadigan, who MC’d the Hugo ceremony on Saturday evening with her trademark wit and candor, giving us so many laughs. I still remember being blown away by Synners and Mindplayers when she wrote some fabulous cyberpunk stuff back in the 80ies.
Like any good gathering of the clan, one of the great highlights of this WorldCon was spending time with long-time friends. Jim Kelly and John Kessel are both extraordinary writers-separately and as collaborators-whom I am proud to call my friends. They’ve had my back for 20+ years, since they were my instructors at Clarion. Over the years, I’ve brought them various conundrums as to the art, craft, and business of writing SF in long and short forms. They’ve always had sage advice and reassurance. This time was no different. Thanks, you guys!
For any of you who have not read their Hugo or Nebula winning work: Good grief, why not? No time like the present. Plus, dinosaurs!
Hey look–Stan Schmidt (former Analog editor and author), Trevor Quachri (current Analog editor), Alec Nevala-Lee (Analog author) and me at MidAmeriCon 2. Stan, Alec and I read stories from our stories in recent and forthcoming issues of Analog. Also participating but eluding the cameras was long-time Analog writer James Van Pelt. My thanks go to Trevor for moderating the panel and to my fellow writers for such entertaining readings.
I have to say that I was a bit dubious when I saw that those in charge of convention programming had organized several of the author readings by the various magazines in which their stories had been published. Well, I sure changed my mind in this case. The room was packed and people had some interesting questions.
MidAmeriCon 2 was an all-round terrific World Con for me this year. Rather than ramble about this and that, I’m doing a series of retrospectives on some personal highlights, in no particular order. One was connecting up with writer buddies Cath Schaff-Stump and Christopher Cornell, whom I met at Paradise Lost. They’ve been putting out a podcast, Unreliable Narrators, that’s ridiculously good. For example, they’ve brought on some very talented SF writers like Ann Leckie and Charlie Finlay, who now edits F & SF.
So I was thrilled when Christopher squeezed my MidAmeriCon 2 dinosaur panel into his hectic schedule and mentioned our panel on the podcast. The ebullient Frank Wu led the panelists in a discussion of cool new developments in paleontology plus our conjectures as to courtship and mating strategies for enormous critters that have a row of spikes running down their tails. That’s a subject I’ve tackled in Dino Mate, an Analog story that’s been reprinted by Digital Science Fiction.
Hello Kansas SF readers: I’ll be signing some of my stories at the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson on Tuesday Aug. 16 from 1 p.m to 2 p.m. Come say “hi” to me and other writers: Martin L. Shoemaker, C. Stuart Hardwick, Daniel J. Davis, and Steve Pantazis. I’ve never been to this space museum and am looking forward to it. Hope some of you can drop by. Here’s the press release:
Next, I’ll be in Kansas City on Wed. 8/16 through Mon. 8/22 for MidAmeriCon, the world science fiction and fantasy convention. In addition to signing some of my work, I’ll be on panels talking about dinosaurs, time travel, Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop, magic, and cloning mammoths. Those are separate topics (whew!). Hope to see a bunch of you there. Here’s my Worldcon schedule:
What’s New in the World of Dinosaurs!
Thursday 1:00 – 2:00, 2205 (Kansas City Convention Center)
Dinosaurs are cool! New discoveries are being made every day as we unearth bones from the past. In a recent discovery, scientists believe that a pregnant T-Rex found in Montana may have fragments of DNA preserved in her medullary bone. What else is out there? What other news from the past is there to share?
Bennett Coles, Michael Swanwick, Mel. White, Frank Wu (M) Rosemary Claire Smith
Amateur Scientists Doing Real Science
Thursday 2:00 – 3:00, 2206 (Kansas City Convention Center)
We all know of amateur astrophysicists and their successes, but what other science is carried out by non-professionals? What can they teach us about doing science and learning about science in real life situations and in our sf-nal worlds?
Spring Schoenhuth, Rosemary Claire Smith, Renée Sieber (M)
Thursday Aug 18 03:00 PM to 04:00 PM (Kansas City Convention Center)
Launch Pad is an annual event whereby a group of invited writers, editors, and creatives learn about modern science, specifically astronomy, so that they can in turn use it in their work and inspire others. Members who have attended Launch Pad discuss how it has affected their writing and ideas.
Fonda Lee (M), Monica Valentinelli, William Ledbetter, Matthew S. Rotundo, Rosemary Claire Smith
To Clone a Mammoth
Thursday 6:00 – 7:00, 2207 (Kansas City Convention Center)
We’re trying to clone dinosaurs (because that went so well in the Jurassic Park films), but maybe we should start with something smaller. Perhaps… a mammoth! Then again, what would we do with a mammoth? Where would it live? How would we go about cloning it? What are some of the risks, real or imagined, of reviving extinct species using cloning technology?
Rosemary Claire Smith, Mel. White (M), Frank Wu, Takayuki Tatsumi, Lynette M. Burrows
Autographing: Neil Clarke, Brenda Cooper, Rebecca Moesta, Martin Shoemaker, Rosemary Claire Smith
Friday 10:00 – 11:00, Autographing Space (Kansas City Convention Center)
Rebecca Moesta, Neil Clarke, Brenda Cooper, Martin L. Shoemaker, Rosemary Claire Smith
Archaeology in SF
Saturday 2:00 – 3:00, 2503B (Kansas City Convention Center)
Forget Indiana Jones, learn what archaeologists really do and how science fiction and fantasy get it right and wrong.
Dana Cameron, Rhiannon Held, Jason Sanford (M), Jack McDevitt, Ms Rosemary Claire Smith
When The Magic Goes Away
Sunday 11:00 – 12:00, 3501H (Kansas City Convention Center)
In a world once filled with magic, mystery, and beauty, where the Old Magic slipped away from the forests, the gates to Faerie closed, and the last ships sailed to the west, what does it mean when the magic fades? We look at representations of coming back to the real world or letting go, and wonder why it is such a potent part of fantasy writing.
Mr. Jared Shurin (M), Heather Rose Jones, Ms Rosemary Claire Smith, Erin Wilcox, Mr. Kevin J. Anderson
Time Travel and the Search for Redemption
Sunday 1:00 – 2:00, 3501D (Kansas City Convention Center)
Much of literature involves characters’ fraught relationship with the past. They are haunted by memories or spend their lives regretting a single horrible decision. Time travel permits the character to confront the past directly, to make literal what in mainstream fiction is only metaphorical. Join us as we discuss stories where time travel is a metaphor or device for witnessing and learning about the past or wishing to correct personal flaws and errors.
Kenneth Schneyer (M), Jack McDevitt, Jason Heller, Ms Rosemary Claire Smith
When SF and fantasy writers talk about the craft, you hear a wide range of remarks about world building. Some grin and say things like, “That’s the most fun part of the job; I could spend all my time on it.” Others struggle and quietly despair.
So how does one go about crafting a more believable world inhabited by far-future humans, aliens, or magical creatures? My writing buddy, Juliette Wade has a website and youtube program dedicated to “Diving Into World Building”. With her advanced degrees in anthropology and linguistics, she’s got a wealth of knowledge. Better still, some terrific guests have been on her program. That’s great seeing as there are as many approaches as there are writers, maybe more. Hope you’ll dive in. The water’s great!
At the Paradise Lost Writer’s Retreat this past weekend, the talented and clever Ken Scholes talked about writers as a tribe and the need to help out members of our tribe from time to time. Gosh, I had no idea he was going to be talking about me being the one to need help, and just 48 hours after his talk! While sharing a final dinner with one of the attendees after most of the others had left, I contracted a stomach virus. Thankfully, two of my tribe were able to help me out, by which I mean getting me and my suitcase from my hotel room to the shuttle van, watching over me in the airport and on the flight, making me drink Gatorade when I had uncontrollable shaking in my arms and legs, and packing me off for home in a cab.
Thank you both! You treated it like a small thing, but it meant the world to me to have you there when I was away from home and not entirely able to trust my own judgment.
Writing is by its very nature a solitary profession. That makes it all the more important to find members of tribe who will be there for you when needed, and vice versa. Never doubt how important this is. As I found out, you never know when you’ll be leaning on them, sometimes quite literally.
The other day I remarked to someone as to how their day job designing games must be the coolest thing ever. In reply this person said, “Well you spend your time writing about dinosaurs. How awesome is that?” Yes, indeed, I need to stop and remind myself that I do have a totally fabulous day job writing about what I love.
Better yet is doing the field research. For example, a few weeks ago, I visited the pterosaur exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. As I gaped at the full-sized reproductions and fossil casts, and absorbed the explanations as to the differences between a pteranodon wing and that of a bird or a bat, I was grinning from ear to ear. It brought to mind my very first time staring up at a dinosaur fossil at age five. For me, prehistoric creatures are as stirring in 2016 as they were decades ago.
As for the above photo of me, I thought it was interesting to see that velociraptors weren’t particularly large. No doubt they made up for their small stature with lightning reflexes and those sickle claws on their feet.