WWWednesday: November 6, 2019

You know what’s not fun? Throwing your go-bag into the trunk of your car at 4:00 in the morning, while law enforcement drives through your neighborhood with sirens and bullhorns, advising you that “This area is under an evacuation order; leave now.” We were in a town that got put under a precautionary evacuation order as CalFire fought the Kincade Fire, which has burned about 78,000 acres in my home county in California. In spite of the stress and anxiety caused by fleeing my house in a windy, smoke-filled morning, I am glad officials took the approach they did. This massive evacuation probably saved lives, and let firefighters focus their attention on the flames, not the citizens.  A heartfelt “Thanks!” to good friends, and to emergency responders everywhere. We had firefighters from Washington state, Oregon, Utah and Colorado assisting with the blaze, and, to date, we have had zero fatalities.

Thunderstorm image, Smithsonian Magazine

Thunderstorm Image Courtesy of Smithsonian Magazine

Whatever I think about a “public-utility” who prioritized shareholder profit and attendant bonuses over infrastructure for forty years, or about a regulatory commission whose relationship with said utility was suspiciously cozy, thanks also to the PG&E line crews. Many of them live in our county; they were under the same evacuation orders, and often without power themselves, but they worked diligently to inspect the power lines and stations before giving the okay; and they got power back as soon as possible.


Once again, National Novel Writing Month is off and running! This global event is in its 20th year. It’s not too late to sign up.

Norman Spinrad (Still Alive!):

I wasn’t sure in Norman Spinrad was still alive, but apparently he is, and he created a stir last week with his column for Isaac Asimov’s Magazine. About one-third of the way through the column, Spinrad takes on the Nebula Awards 2018 Showcase anthology. After making a couple of cogent points (like whether winning novellas and novelettes should be included in their entirety) he veers off into a sad-puppy-style lament about how none of the winners are “real” (Campbellian) science fiction. Asimov’s removed the column, then reposted the column after a statement from editor Sheila Williams. Her specific comment was that Spinrad implied he was speaking for the magazine with his divisive complaints, and she wanted to be sure everyone knew he was not. File 770 carried some of the responses to the article as well as Williams’s statement.

Spinrad uses Gregory Benford’s definition of science fiction, in part, saying that “that science fiction should not violate the known laws of mass and energy, or at worst tweak them…” In light of that definition, the internet really wanted me to know about Spinrad’s story called “The Void Captain’s Tale,” where the jump to hyperspace is either fueled by, or causes, orgasms in the female pilots. Wow, quantum physics is way more interesting than I realized.

Books and Writing:

While talking about adaptations in development, George R.R. Martin reassured his readers once again that he is working on the final book in The Song of Ice and Fire.

Cherie Priest gives an update on her latest project (and various issues domestic, mostly about her two dogs, who, on Twitter at least, seem to be adorable) on her blog.

There are some very cool books coming out in November, and I09’s got a list for us.

John Scalzi posted a free story on his blog, explaining “The Flow” from his Collapsing Empire series. It includes an audiofile so you can listen to him read it.

This was a Halloween column, but these horror or just horrifying novels are evergreen.

Really a stretch for books and writing, but I couldn’t resist this brief article and video clip that Kat sent me, of racoons checking out the Arkansas State campus library.

TV and Movies:

HBO’s His Dark Materials started this week. Entertainment Weekly provides a glossary of terms for the uninitiated.

Poster for Terminator: Dark Fate courtesy Paramount Studios

Girl Power! Poster for Terminator; Dark Fate. Image from Paramount Studios

Terminator; Dark Fate opened this week. EW has this article about the character of Dani, which WARNING: contains a huge spoiler for the film. On the other hand, the box office earnings for the film aren’t good and people are already eulogizing the franchise.

Science and Tech:

From August, IO9 rounds up fitness trackers and smartwatches, giving you the rundown. I don’t know how Google’s purchase of Fitbit factors in here.

I’m sad about the study using up its funding this way, but the story about the eagles they were tracking running up huge texting charges is just funny. (And you should teach your eagles more personal responsibility before you put them on your data plan!)

Two racoons in water, Image from Top13.net

Who, us? Vandalize something? Image from Top13.net


A new study published in Nature identifies the human “homeland,” the origin of modern humans, but many scientists are raising their eyebrows —  and questions.

Did you know there was a Continuous Plankton Recorder? I didn’t, but there is, and it’s been collecting data on plankton since the 1930s. It’s not only a valuable long-term study, it is a startlingly simple mechanism.


I learned a lot about various states in this article, and little of it was about sandwiches. For example, New Mexico has an official state question. (“Red or green?” referring to which time if chili you like best.) And I don’t think I knew there was a Marshmallow Fluff Festival in Massachusetts.

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MARION DEEDS, with us since March 2011, is retired from a 35-year career with county government, where she met enough interesting characters and heard enough zany stories to inspire at least two trilogies’ worth of fantasy fiction. Currently she spends part of her time working at a local used bookstore. She is an aspiring writer herself and, in the 1990s, had short fiction published in small magazines like Night Terrors, Aberrations, and in the cross-genre anthology The Magic Within. On her blog Deeds & Words, she reviews many types of books and follows developments in food policy and other topics.

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  1. Paul Connelly /

    It may be true that George R. R. Martin “is working on the final book in The Song of Ice and Fire” series, but he’s not working on the *planned* final book, supposedly to be called A Dream of Spring. He is (still) working on the book that comes before that, The Winds of Winter.

    Spinrad must have thought his contemporaries J. G. Ballard, Cordwainer Smith and R. A. Lafferty weren’t writing *real* SF also, but I don’t recall ever seeing him put that opinion in print. There’s a danger in outliving one’s more talented colleagues and leaving cranky opinions as one’s own posterity.

  2. It’s good to hear the perspective on the fire, its fighters, and the power company and its employees from a Sonoma County resident. I’m glad you and your home are safe, Marion!

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