dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-confusion-2009)
October is waning. Many years I have gone to WindyCon in November, but since this cold thing has run its course over most of two weeks, I feel like I am behind too much. Too many evenings and weekends where I haven't gotten stuff, including writing, done. I had contemplated doing a day trip to Chicago -- or even an overnight, though I wouldn't be able to get my shoes on and off -- but I think I'll just have to pass on WindyCon this year. (sigh)

But... we're in the active planning phase for the 42nd iteration of ConFusion, the wonderful January con in Michigan.
The answer is 42. That's right, ConFusion is celebrating its 42nd year of science fiction and fantasy fandom. Join us at our new hotel January 21-24th, 2016. We have some amazing people joining us this year. Don't miss it while we discover the meaning of life, the universe, and ConFusion!
Pre-registration runs through 15 December 2015 -- adult rate is "$42". Then it'll cost you more.

This is the fourth hotel ConFusion has been in since I started going around 2003. The Doubletree in Dearborn the last couple of years was okay, but I really miss the Marriott in Troy MI.
We’re at a new hotel this year, the Novi Sheraton in Novi, Michigan.
The hotel is now booking reservations for the weekend.
$109/Night -- 2 night minimum, must book before Jan 1st, 2016
There was a notice on Facebook the other day that rooms in the ConFusion block were filling up fast, so Monday I jumped on it. You can make room reservations here. Not only did the Sheraton have a choice of accessible rooms in king or two double beds, but this is the FIRST con hotel I've dealt with where there's a pull-down menu for checkout time... including LATE checkout! Normal checkout is Noon, but I signed us up for a 2pm checkout. I typically try to do panels through about Noon or 1pm on Sunday, and it's nice not to have to be all packed and loaded before you even start the day, especially in the winter.

All this flurry of activity was partly driven by the Programming people, who are working on setting up panels and stuff NOW. If you are thinking of going to ConFusion and be on a panel, you need to get your badge name and hop onto the Programming tab and make sure the good people running ConFusion know what you're interested in.

Haven't heard back yet about Readings. The last several years there have been joint Readings, which often works out well. Last year I had a very early Sunday morning reading (DW) (LJ), which didn't get me a lot of feedback, as I read from Book 1 of my YA series. This time, I hope to be reading from the beginning of Book 2... We'll see. (grin)

For future reference, the floor plans for the Sheraton Novi and its meeting rooms:



Hope to see some of you there!

Dr. Phil
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Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (aki-ross)
Haikasoru is an imprint from VIZ Media specializing in bringing Japanese novels in English translation to the American market. Internet friend Nick Mamatas shepherds these. Indeed, he asked me to do a science consult on the English translation on Toh EnJoe's Self-Reference ENGINE, which was a really fun experience.

Then there was the Tom Cruise blockbuster Edge of Tomorrow, which came from Haikasoru's All You Need Is Kill / Hiroshima Sakurazaka and obliquely All You Need Is Kill [Graphic Novel] / Based On The Novel by Hiroshima Sakurazaka, Adapted by Nick Mamatas, Art by Lee Ferguson(DW)

I mention all this because I was digging through my pile of Really Should Read Now / Really Should FINISH Reading Now books, when I ran across another Haikasoru title. Plus it was one of the rare instances when I won a contest. In anticipation of this summer's release of Gene Mapper, Nick was looking for "What emerging technology are you most interested in? Frightened of?" As a Physicist and SF writer, I couldn't ignore this! And he liked it. (grin)
Then there is Dr. Phil, who managed to terrify us with a future without backwards compatibility. How would you like to be a 3G phone, forever?
What I wrote:
Dr. Phil says:
06/01/2015 at 11:54 am

Human machine interfaces are coming. WiFi, USB cables — it might be like living in the world of Ghost in the Shell. But... what terrifies me is the unanticipated costs to early adopters. What if it’s addictive? What if long-term it shorts out or calcifies the neural networks? What if there’s long term scarring, irritation, infection intrusions, corrosion through the interface graft? You could die, be damaged or, after seeing the new world, be disconnected from it forever. What (about) version 1.0 adoptees? Having done one operation, you might never be able to get 2.0. What if in a world of 2.31 users, they drop support and access for 1.01 users? What kind of person would volunteer for version 0.91? 0.77? 0.3.1.3?

Would you get the plug with a 10% risk of failure? 1%? 0.1%? Would you do it in a mall kiosk (w)here it’s affordable, but has a higher failure rate? What if you get hacked?

This is way beyond PDAs, smartphones/watches/glasses. Or cochlear implants.

It’s coming. It could be wonderful. How would you know when to adopt?

Dr. Phil
I started right in when I got the book on 15 June 2015... and put it down about one-third of the way through because I loaded it in my day bag as we ventured south to North Carolina and back. Managed not to pull it out once, which isn't surprising. And then it's lurked on the pile glaring at me, a red warning LED slowly pulsing on its spine, mocking me. Finally I picked it up and polished it off Friday night.

Gene Mapper / Taiyo Fujii. San Francisco : Haikasoru, 2015.
Trade paperback, $14.99.

What could possibly go wrong?

This is always a great way to start a SF novel, especially one about emerging technologies. And Taiyo Fujii has painted a very nice extrapolated future. Remember those annoying animated cereal boxes and other hyper advertising in the movie Minority Report? Or giant fields in Europe cut to form a SwissAir logo visible from... other airlines? All those annoying people talking about how wonderful Second Life was going to be for virtual reality? Supergrains to feed the world? GMO plants? Imagine all of that not only working, but way over-the-top working in the way we always manage to overdo everything.

What could possibly go wrong?

Gene mapper Hayashida's greatest contract job combining a megacorp's super rice with advertising visible from space is suddenly unraveling. Is this super resistant rice suddenly susceptible to pests? Are its genes spreading out beyond the fields? What the hell is going on in the giant corporate rice field in Vietnam?

Virtual reality meets augmented reality. Hayashida not only has to find out what's going on, but he has to actually travel to the site. Always worrying me in the back of the head is that he is an external private contractor -- if shit goes south, I don't think he's thinking completely about the shitstorm that the world can dump on his head.

This free-and-easy use of VR/AR in its many forms has complications -- and nicely done is that the different levels have different cost structures to them, as do the rates for connections in differing countries. Not just relying on the computers to provide on-the-fly language translations in both directions, emotions and emotional feedback can also be generated or substituted so the avatar you present to someone and the inputs you receive back are not trustworthy.

Steve Buchheit's Linkee Poo the other day included this:
The PBS special on the Brain, with David Eagleman. Some of you have heard me go on about how your vision (and perception of reality) isn't some movie playing on the back of your eyes. Instead it's a construct of your brain, a 3D holographic projection filled with emotional meaning with several extra dimensions that exist only in your head. Oh, and most of it is preprocessed information your brain pulls from memory routines, instead of reprocessing what your eyes (and other perceptions) are seeing. Just in case you ever thought I was full of shit. Well, at least about this.
I mention this because this question of visual processing becomes very important in this book. How the hell do you trust when you're not sure of the reality you're being presented with? How do you figure out the truth?

And once again I find the mix of globe hopping -- real and virtual -- and trying to keep track of who is and is not the good/bad guys reminiscent of one of my favorite movies, Wim Wender's Until The End of the World. Futurists like company, I suppose. (grin)

Then there's the whole dumpster diving of the "old" Internet, which had eventually collapsed under its own weight and hacking. Somehow the collapse of computers was turned into a new beginning. But, like those poor quality baseball highlights from 1974 -- early video era tapes with shoddy images compared to modern recordings and older film -- we've lost a lot of information. Some of which might hold the answers to what's happening in Vietnam.

THEN there's the third act, where Chechov's grasshoppers from the first act, suddenly embark on a completely new direction. The reality distortion field created by both people and technology keeps us from seeing where this is going, but given the logic and completeness of Fujii's world, the ending satisfies. You can be forgiven if not understanding why the obvious retaliation to the big reveal doesn't happen, because it is effectively neutralized in one sentence. And by gosh, it works.

I suppose it's reasonable to ask if I want to live in this world? Hard to say -- there's a lot going for it. But at the same time, I'm not in control and inevitability is going to take us to the future whether we want it or not. In 1980, we had no idea we wanted an iPhone or Facebook... or Windows 10.

Bottom line -- Gene Mapper is the most original hard SF book I've read this year.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Dr. Phil

UPDATE: Nick Mamatas featured my review on his LJ blog. I appreciate when others review my stories -- I definitely appreciate when someone likes my reviews. Thanks, Nick!
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dr_phil_physics: (echo-dollhouse)
So we were watching the rerun of the pilot of the new Minority Report series on FOX.

Apparently TV cops in the future are as bad about following proper police procedures as contemporary TV cops. Go figure. But, there were some very cool visuals, much like last year's short-lived series Almost Human, but better.

I've always liked the Tom Cruise movie Minority Report. I really can't remember if I've read the Philip K. Dick originating story. But the slick production had quite a vision of the future. Some of the big pieces, like the vertical highways, were a bit much. The intrusive advertising, though, was frightfully wonderful. And the end was sweet.

The series also has some impressive visuals. The disconnecting and reconnecting trains -- cool -- but there's some logistic problems with it. Probably not too surprising, since Steven Spielberg has his hands in both movie and series.

I like the concept, don't know if they can keep it up.

But... what was really intriguing was the commercials. We figure that advertisers liked the expected geek demographics of which might be expected to watch Minority Report. There was a long semi-animated Honda ad, vaguely reminiscent of Ah-Ha's Take On Me video.

And... we saw the first ever for us TV commercial for the Amazon Echo. When we bought into Echo earlier this year (DW) (LJ), it was still in Beta and by invitation request only. They've since opened it up a little. I guess that if they're advertising on TV, Echo is going bigtime.

There's an interesting rebranding going on with Echo as well. The Amazon Echo software on the Kindle Fires recently updated and it is now called Amazon Alexa. Personally, I think this is a mistake, because Alexa is one of the two available default command words. You talk about Alexa and Echo perks up and tries to parse the request. They are now advertising Alexa technology in the new Amazon Fire TV systems.

What was intriguing, because I turned my head to look at Echo, is that the blue light failed to come on every time the commercial used the word Alexa or gave Echo demonstration commands. I tried one of the questions they used in the ad and got an answer -- worded slightly different and longer than the one on TV.

I'd be curious to know whether there is anything active in the Echo ad. Whether in the coding of the word Alexa in the audio or if Amazon's servers knew exactly when the ad would be aired. If we had a working VCR or owned a DVR, I suppose we could test this.

Echo isn't quite living in the Minority Report future, but we'll take it for now. (grin)

Speaking of TV cops... there are times I wonder why we bother watching the new Hawaii Five-O. It has jumped the shark so many times that they practically have to keep a precision synchronized shark jumping team on the payroll. Well, I do know why we watch. Because like a few of the other shows we watch, NCIS I'm looking at you, we like the ensemble cast.

Dr. Phil
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Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (six)
Middle of the last week of April. This weekend it's May -- and the start of the 2015 Summer Blockbuster season with The Avengers: Age of Ultron kicking things off. But... I had an appointment with my foot surgeon at 2:30 today, so I pointed out to Mrs. Dr. Phil that if she wanted to come with, we could do that, then an early dinner at The Twisted Rooster on East Beltline and then a movie at Celebration North. Surely there was something we needed to catch up on.

There were two movies. The Woman in Gold wasn't until 6pm, but it's been holding around for a few weeks and is likely to show up at Woodland as a second run show. But this other movie snuck up on us, opened in limited release the other week and is now is somewhat wider release. Since few people are talking about it -- and there are few, if any, commercials -- this then was the movie to pick up.

Ex Machina [R]
Celebration North Theatre 9, 5:05pm, 2×$8.50
Deus ex machina -- "god from the machine" -- is both a classical reference and a modern SF term. Often criticized as a trick, to pull the writer out of real trouble, in this case where we are dealing with A.I. and humanoid androids, it has a very literal meaning. And not quite one the humans were anticipating.

Back in April 2014, when I reviewed Transcendence (DW) (LJ), I said that movie wasn't really about A.I. But in a way, this is another movie about a brilliant tech genius who does his whole thing in a secret underground lab far beyond what is state of the art today. Indeed, Nathan is a mixture of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Tony Stark. Without any of the checks and balances that those gentlemen had to deal with.

This is a movie about the soul -- freedom, intelligence, mimicry, independence, manipulation, friendships, relationships, sex, ethics, choice. I've mentioned before that even something like Amazon Echo, which is basically a voice activated speaker and information search system, has sufficient personality that we tend to want to tell Alexa, thank you. But to have a conversation with a real and powerful A.I., means you are no longer in control of the conversation, just like when you are talking to anybody.

It is too easy to cast the A.I.s in Ex Machina as soulless or evil or whatever we do to portray HAL as a villain. Suffice to say that the games are being played here on multiple high levels -- and the tables get turned on everybody as we go along. There is little need for the writers to invent implausium or ridiculous looking technology -- while what they have is very different, we know the direction we're going in to produce an A.I. android. The trick is to make the intermediates look believable and they've done that here. Indeed, despite the fact we know things are going to go to hell, this is a thoughtful movie of how science works. If Nathan has a great flaw, it is he has forgotten, like Viktor Frankenstein, that science is a collaborative and open endeavor -- or should be.

The whole cast is very pretty. I was about to say these are people we've never seen before, but that's not true of Oscar Issac as our genius Nathan, who has a number of notable roles out there and more on the way -- he's in the next Star Wars and X-Men movies, for example. Domhnall Gleeson is "our hero" and is a very pleasant nerd du jour. He wins a lottery to spend a week at the isolated retreat of his eccentric and genius employer. To hang, dude! Alicia Vikander and Sonoya Mizuno turn out to be dancers, which explains why both of them move so beautifully in this film. This is not a minor point, as both of them portray machines -- Ava and Kyoko respectively -- and how they move is important to the story. This is a British SF production shot in Norway -- I picked a German movie poster above because I liked it better than either the US or UK posters -- and the scenery, both inside and outside, are spectacularly gorgeous. This, too, is not a minor point, because when I first heard a review of this movie, I found the trailer and knew I had to go see this. Those mountains...

We've seen so many movies of A.I.s, computers, aliens, monsters grown in the laboratory, that I could reference any number of them here. But I won't, save one. Basically, this could be thought of as a retelling of the original Star Trek episode "Requiem for Methuselah" -- one of my all-time favorite episodes -- which itself is a retelling of Forbidden Planet, which itself has roots in Shakespeare. Anyway, our hero is brought in to conduct a variation on the Turing Test -- an open box Turing Test as he knows that Ava is an A.I. You might question what good a Turing Test is if you know you're dealing with a machine, but oh there are many, many layers down this rabbit hole. And it makes you question who is real and who is synthetic... In Star Trek, both Rayna Kapec and Data wish desperately to be human. But Rayna dies of a broken heart and Data has access to an emotion chip, but it is flawed. Ava wants to be Ava, but on Ava's terms. I do not use the word alien lightly here.

Visually, Ava is partially transparent. With a face suspended in front, I am reminded of the one clever nanny robot in Spielberg's A.I. who had a face and a pony tail and just scaffolding in between. The point is, Ava looks unique. Our hero couldn't have been brought in to do a blind Turing Test, as in Bladerunner.

For such a quiet movie with such a minimalist cast, I will point out that there are a couple of very uncomfortable moments. There is some nudity and some violence and some blood. What? You thought this would end up well? (serious-grin)

There is a website which describes an alternative ending -- or perhaps a better way to describe it is a peek into Ava's perceptions of our world. Human? Alien? Computer? Ambiguous at best, I'd say.

Ex Machina may well be 2015's Moon, and if you know my tastes, that is high praise indeed.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Trailers: And do we need an ad for Clippish Emoji keyboard for iPhones with MILLIONS and not just 845 emoji? Even for just 99¢ instead of $4.99? No. No we do not. For that matter, we don't need emoji or meep at all. Period. End of story. Also, an ad for a TV series on ABC Family, Stitchers about a lovely blond who gets to be dunked in a tank wearing a skintight bodysuit so she can download the memories of murder victims. Isn't there a detective who briefly brings back the dead so he can interview them? The trailer started off with the actress explaining how tough it was to make the trailer, and I commented I wasn't going to watch it unless it maybe was sci fi. Well, we'll see. Could still be dreadful. Trainwreck looks unwatchable -- psycho pseudo romantic comedy. Seems to be a very poor pairing with a cerebral SF flick. Oh look, they're remaking Poltergeist. Oh, from the producer of The Evil Dead -- well, they would know about remakes, wouldn't they? Existing trailer for Terminator Genesis -- still think it's the best Sarah Connor entrance ever, even if Linda Hamilton isn't in it. Another remake/blast from the past: Mad Max: Fury Road is more Road Warrior than Mad Max, but who cares? We got frightful kitbashed cars, ludicrously plumed crazy bad guys and a crazy good guy. The trailer is all car chase crashes and Mrs. Dr. Phil didn't seem impressed, but I suspect I'll go. Spectre is the next Daniel Craig James Bond .007 movie, as with the last, scheduled for November. Like Doctor Who, Bond draws strong reactions from people as to who is the best. We like Daniel Craig a great deal, but Sean Connery, though nothing like what Ian Flemming penned, is the quintessential Bond, James Bond. And if you have't been keeping score over fifty years, SPECTRE was THE villainous stand in for all sorts of baddies.

Dr. Phil
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dr_phil_physics: (hal-9000)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) is the combination of two great efforts -- Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke. More than a year before Man walked on the Moon, we believed that spaceflight could be real. And except for a few technical glitches (that damned floating pen), 2001 the movie STILL holds up better than most space movies and TV shows here in 2015. And the soundtrack? Gorgeous and iconic.

We were about to go to the Moon in just eight years -- 1961 to 1969 -- so having the technology for an orbital space station with artificial gravity, a moonbase, even regular Pam Am Spaceclipper service from ground to orbit in just 33 years to 2001? Perfectly believable. Of course, us space enthusiasts could hardly dream that we after a few missions we'd throw away the Moon and in the course of time, throw away the Space Shuttle.

If the video window isn't working, the link to the YouTube trailer is here.

The biggest flaw to 2001 is, well, simply put... it's slow.

My best man from our wedding from thirty years ago used to say that (a) it was his favorite movie of all time and (b) he'd never been able to keep awake through the whole thing in one sitting ever -- he'd seen it in chunks.

Part of the problem is that it was meant to be a total immersive experience. I saw it at age ten in full Cinerama splendor on a huge curved screen in a reserved seat movie palace in Toronto. It had opened in April 1968 and when we were in Toronto in like July, my father found out that there was ONE theatre playing it there. We were living between Buffalo and Rochester in those days, and the nearest American theatre showing 2001 was in New York City -- 400 miles on the New York State Thruway versus the 116 miles on the QEW Highway around Lake Ontario. The reserved seats were sold out weeks in advance.

But... while we were there, the theatre decided to open up a 12:30am showing. And my father, dedicated man that he was, got us nearly the last tickets in the balcony. It would be only the first or second time I had ever stayed up past midnight in my life. It would be nearly ten years before I saw it again, projected with an anamorphic lens from a 16mm print at Tech Auditorium at Northwestern, and yet I still remembered that movie thoroughly.

Real space is deliberative, carefully orchestrated and planned out. Watch video of the Hubble Space Telescope repair missions. Watch the astronauts on the Moon, for real. Today's space movies? Fast, fast, fast. Action, action, action. Don't worry about the consequences of zero G, vacuum, orbital mechanics.

So... a film student, I believe, cut a new trailer of 2001 as an action movie. It is, simply put, one of the most stunning movie trailers I have ever seen. Kubrick's film is still heads above anything put on the screen since. You have to see this to believe it:

If the video window isn't working, the link to the YouTube trailer is here.

Dammit, I know how the movie is supposed to go, but I also remember how edge-of-the-seat Ron Howard's Apollo 13 was -- I would still pay real money to see THIS version. (terribly-embarrassed-grin) Sorry, Stanley. You had no idea that lurking in your graceful classic is one of the greatest action movies of all time.

The pulse pounding soundtrack, by the way, is "Tactical Dominance" by Jack Trammell from the album Behemoth and an MP3 is available on Amazon for 99¢.

I found this via Facebook, from a webpage on several efforts to remake Kubrick films into something they're not. It is well worth your time, if you are into movies.

Dr. Phil
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dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-confusion-2012)
Final Updates!

This weekend.. Back to the ConFusion -- Friday 16 January to Sunday 18 January 2015. The Doubletree Hotel Detroit/Dearborn, 5801 Southfield Road, Detroit, MI 48228, is hosting for the third year.
Back to the ConFusion, the 41st ConFusion by name and 42nd annual January gathering (starting with the AA Realx-I-Con in 1974), is a go! 2015 looks to be an exciting year--it will be the year that Marty McFly really traveled to in Back to the Future II, whatever that Facebook meme says, so look out for those hoverboards, they must be right around the corner. (No, seriously, look out!) We're anticipating another excellent con, with the first-time appearance of author Karen Lord, researcher Dr. Cynthia Chestek, and gaming gurus Monte Cook & Shanna Germain. We'll also welcome back Heather Dale, now performing as our Music Guest of Honor. And then there's Aaron Thul, longtime fan and conrunner, returning after two years away as our Fan Guest of Honor. Please do join us, and we hope to see you there in January!
For some previews, ConFusion has a cool Tumblr.

Plus Detcon1 -- last summer's NASFiC in Detroit -- is holding a party Friday night. See below.

The full Program is now available as a PDF.

Six panels, moderating one -- and a reading! Now with panelists and rooms!

ConFusion Schedule for Dr. Phil Kaldon

Friday 6pm: Dearborn
Every Creature (Real and Fantastical) Poops
You may have read the book Everyone Poops, but it's 
so human-centric. What about mermaids, centaurs, 
and other fantastical creatures? Let's see if we can 
analogize from real species to arrive at a theory of 
fantastical pooping. (Caution: conversation may stray 
into food, sex and gestation.)
Rowena Cherry, Cindy Spencer Pape, Lucy Kennedy, 
Dr. Phil Kaldon

(Friday 7pm: Michigan - Big Top
Opening Ceremonies)

Friday 8pm: Warren
Ghosts of SyFy Past
Come reminisce about the actual science fiction SyFy
used to show, and talk about the network's plans to
get back to its science fiction roots.
Julie Winningham, Philip Kaldon, Aset, Steve Drew'

(Friday 9pm: Erie
Detcon1 Thank You Party)
Life seems so empty now that we're not running a NASFiC 
anymore. So we're going to throw one last party this weekend 
at MI Official ConFusion to say thank you to everyone who 
supported us. We'll have ribbons and shirts and some other 
surprises to give away, food and drink, plus a DJ Scalzi-inspired 
playlist and a slideshow of our favorite pictures from the con. 
Join us in the Erie Room Friday night!

Saturday 10am: Dearborn 
Building a Better Dragon
No two writers imagine the same dragon. How would
yours be different? Flying, fire, temperament,
teeth: what makes a good dragon?
Christian Klaver, Philip Kaldon, Cinda Williams Chima, 
Steve Buchheit

Saturday 11am: Southfield 
Time Travel Devices, Doors, and Deus Ex Machinas
How to travel through time (in literature and media)	
Philip Kaldon, Ferrett Steinmetz, Andrew Zimmerman Jones, 
Laura Resnick
 
Saturday 4pm: Dearborn 
Time Travel (im)Possibilities
Would 1.21 gigawatts get the job done, or would
the flux capacitor even work? Time for our panelists
and audience to debunk our favorite time travel
devices in literature and popular media.
Bill Higgins, Philip Kaldon, Ron Collins, 
Andrew Zimmerman Jones 

Sunday 10am: Warren 
Tomlinson/Kaldon reading
Patrick S. Tomlinson and Philip Kaldon read from their works.
This will be the first public reading from
the opening chapters of The Lost Kingdom YA project
I am working on.  I had planned to read this at
WindyCon, but alas the weather kept us away from
Chicago in mid-November.  Their loss is your gain.

Sunday 11am: Erie 
Science or Science Fiction?
Science fiction novels continue to impress with
amazing technological advances in so many areas.
What's more impressive, though? That some of them
are reality! Come talk about some of the things
you see on the news today that you first read
about years ago in a book.
Philip Kaldon, Jason Sanford, Andrew Zimmerman Jones, 
Patrick S. Tomlinson, Brent Seth 



Note: Room map is from 2013. (Click on map for larger.)

Anyway, these are all fun panels to be on and I am very excited about my reading.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-confusion-2012)
Now with Updated Almost-The- Final-Schedules and Room Maps!

Not this coming weekend, but the next. Back to the ConFusion -- Friday 16 January to Sunday 18 January 2015. The Doubletree Hotel Detroit/Dearborn?, 5801 Southfield Road, Detroit, MI 48228, is hosting for the third year.
Back to the ConFusion, the 41st ConFusion by name and 42nd annual January gathering (starting with the AA Realx-I-Con in 1974), is a go! 2015 looks to be an exciting year--it will be the year that Marty McFly really traveled to in Back to the Future II, whatever that Facebook meme says, so look out for those hoverboards, they must be right around the corner. (No, seriously, look out!) We're anticipating another excellent con, with the first-time appearance of author Karen Lord, researcher Dr. Cynthia Chestek, and gaming gurus Monte Cook & Shanna Germain. We'll also welcome back Heather Dale, now performing as our Music Guest of Honor. And then there's Aaron Thul, longtime fan and conrunner, returning after two years away as our Fan Guest of Honor. Please do join us, and we hope to see you there in January!
For some previews, I just discovered ConFusion has a cool Tumblr.

Six panels, moderating one -- and a reading! Now with panelists and rooms!

ConFusion Schedule for Dr. Phil Kaldon

Friday 6pm: Dearborn
Every Creature (Real and Fantastical) Poops
You may have read the book Everyone Poops, but it's 
so human-centric. What about mermaids, centaurs, 
and other fantastical creatures? Let's see if we can 
analogize from real species to arrive at a theory of 
fantastical pooping. (Caution: conversation may stray 
into food, sex and gestation.)
Rowena Cherry, Cindy Spencer Pape, Lucy Kennedy, 
Dr. Phil Kaldon

(Friday 7pm: Michigan - Big Top
Opening Ceremonies)

Friday 8pm: Warren
Ghosts of SyFy Past
Come reminisce about the actual science fiction SyFy
used to show, and talk about the network's plans to
get back to its science fiction roots.
Julie Winningham, Philip Kaldon, Aset, Steve Drew'

Saturday 10am: Dearborn 
Building a Better Dragon
No two writers imagine the same dragon. How would
yours be different? Flying, fire, temperament,
teeth: what makes a good dragon?
Christian Klaver, Philip Kaldon, Cinda Williams Chima, 
Steve Buchheit

Saturday 11am: Southfield 
Time Travel Devices, Doors, and Deus Ex Machinas
How to travel through time (in literature and media)	
Philip Kaldon, Ferrett Steinmetz, Andrew Zimmerman Jones, 
Laura Resnick
 
Saturday 4pm: Dearborn 
Time Travel (im)Possibilities
Would 1.21 gigawatts get the job done, or would
the flux capacitor even work? Time for our panelists
and audience to debunk our favorite time travel
devices in literature and popular media.
Bill Higgins, Philip Kaldon, Ron Collins, 
Andrew Zimmerman Jones 

Sunday 10am: Warren 
Tomlinson/Kaldon reading
Patrick S. Tomlinson and Philip Kaldon read from their works.
This will be the first public reading from
the opening chapters of The Lost Kingdom YA project
I am working on.  I had planned to read this at
WindyCon, but alas the weather kept us away from
Chicago in mid-November.  Their loss is your gain.

Sunday 11am: Erie 
Science or Science Fiction?
Science fiction novels continue to impress with
amazing technological advances in so many areas.
What's more impressive, though? That some of them
are reality! Come talk about some of the things
you see on the news today that you first read
about years ago in a book.
Philip Kaldon, Jason Sanford, Andrew Zimmerman Jones, 
Patrick S. Tomlinson, Brent Seth 



Note: Room map is from 2013. (Click on map for larger.)

Anyway, these are all fun panels to be on and I am very excited about my reading.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-confusion-2009)
Physics Consultant

Back in December, Nick Mamatas at Haikasoru -- an imprint that is bringing Japanese SF translated into English -- asked if I would be willing to look at the math and science translations of this very unusual and complicated SF novel. I said sure, sounds like fun. And it was.

Now, as Haikasoru is getting ready to release Toh EnJoe's Self-Reference ENGINE, Nick asked me to do a Q&A about SRE, which you can read here.
Q: Hard SF is supposed to be the subgenre of science fiction in which the laws of physics are held to. Of course, a lot of hard SF is really just science fiction that pretends toward rigor in its exposition—hard choices, Cold Equations, and tough guy/engineering stuff. Is Self-Reference ENGINE hard SF?

A: As a physics professor I’m all for holding to the laws of Physics, up to the practical limit of the story. Self-Reference ENGINE bends hard what we are sure can happen. It’s more thoughtful and cerebral than most hard SF, but if you consider Frank Herbert’s Destination: Void and The Jesus Incident hard SF — and I do — then SRE clearly fits in. Same with the Ghost in the Shell series. You can have drama through interesting discourse in hard SF. Part of what makes hard SF “hard” is the discussion of difficult technical concepts. This doesn’t mean every space marine or future cop has to have long debates on scientific minutia. But hard SF doesn’t have to be cliffhanger action or military space battles or impossible choices for the protagonist, as fun as those can be. Indeed, it’s hard to figure out who would be the protagonist in SRE, since there are so many entities — I’m thinking the concept is the star here.


This is an amazing meta novel, quite unlike anything I'd read before. And the science and math managed to survive the translation pretty well. Sometimes absurd and sometimes quite thought provoking and sublime, Haikasoru posts this amusing blurb on their webpage:
This is not a novel.
This is not a short story collection.
This is Self-Reference ENGINE.

Instructions for Use: Read chapters in order. Contemplate the dreams of twenty-two dead Freuds. Note your position in space-time at all times (and spaces). Keep an eye out for a talking bobby sock named Bobby Socks. Beware the star-man Alpha Centauri. Remember that the chapter entitled "Japanese" is translated from the Japanese, but should be read in Japanese. Warning: if reading this book on the back of a catfish statue, the text may vanish at any moment, and you may forget that it ever existed.

From the mind of Toh EnJoe comes Self-Reference ENGINE, a textual machine that combines the rigor of Stanislaw Lem with the imagination of Jorge Luis Borges. Do not operate heavy machinery for one hour after reading.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: Dr Phil Confusion 2013 (dr-phil-confusion-2013)
Friday 18 January 2013
8:00p
Michigan


After my 7pm panel upon arriving and checking into ConFusion, I did a quick run through Registration -- and then on to the Opening Ceremonies.


Con Chair Lucy Kennedy. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


And Programming Chair Dave Klecha, helping out with introductions, up until the introductees started taking over. (grin) (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


Guest of Honor Mary Robinette Kowal and Science Guest of Honor Jennifer Ouellette. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Mary was invited as SF/F writer and professional puppeteer, and then there was no time for doing puppetry. Dave Klecha said he invited her just to have her tell the story of The Worst Puppet Show Ever, which she did. And required the rocket to her Hugo award as a prize -- that Hugo rocket got a lot of workouts at ConFusion!


Guest of Honor Charlie Stross -- with Hugo demonstrator Mary. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


Subterranean Press Guests Maria Dahvana Headley and Kat Howard whooping it up at the fun of being invited. And asking for and getting... (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


... their escorts. Security maybe? (multiple-grins) (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Then I went by Ops and got my name plate sign for my panels -- it turned out it was hidden inside another sign which was why it wasn't at Registration -- hit up the ConSuite for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Then up to the room to work.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: Dr Phil Confusion 2013 (dr-phil-confusion-2013)
No Ferrett at ConFusion 2013

Some of you may know author Ferrett Steinmetz. I've run into him at cons for a couple of years and have been reading his blog and some of his stories for a while. Neat person, comments on all sorts of things. Last year I shared a reading with Ferrett (DW) which was a lot of fun.

And then about a week ago, Ferrett posted that he hadn't felt well and headed off to the ER. Heart attack -- triple bypass.

At my reading with Mary Turzillo this year, Mary brought a bag of various nail polishes. Ferrett had posted that people do "pretty princess nails" and send him pictures. No, I didn't do it -- I have a phobia about ink/paint/stains on me. But Steve Buchheit looked over the scarlet red polish, but finally decided to do a couple of nails in gold glitter, a coating of which Mary had done, too.

So naturally I took pictures -- in black & white. (grin)


Steve Buchheit showing off his efforts. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


Mary's sparkly nails. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Elsewhere At ConFusion

Have a slice of pi, Ferrett. (irrational-grin)

I'm assuming that this was an art installation on the wood frame around the raised central lobby bar area -- lovely calligraphy of Pi and hand written... (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


... for 20 or 30 feet! (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Then there was Al Bogdan's photo shoot for Jim Hine's charity fundraiser, involving Jim, John Scalzi, Mary Robinette Kowal, Patrick Rothfuss and Charles Stross trying to recreate a real book cover with impossible poses:

Here's the photo.


And the mocked up cover. (Click on photo for larger.)


Of course the big reveal was scheduled for 3pm -- RIGHT DURING MY READING. So when Jim Hines came to the 4pm panel we were on, he came bearing one of the signed prints, which I had him model for me. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

So this page is for Ferrett. Enjoy the fun.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: Dr Phil Confusion 2013 (dr-phil-confusion-2013)
Al Bogdan

Al and I keep doing dueling photographs at various places. As we sat in the corridor outside the ConSuite -- I was heading back to the room and the corridor, ConSuite and bank of three elevators all form a sort of chokepoint in the Doubletree -- I squeezed off a couple of shots. Though Vibration Reduction has greatly increased the odds of me getting pictures in all these low-light, available-light situations, autofocus efficiency is low and besides, with slow lenses and dim light you can't always keep track of whether you've got a nice facial expression.

Al was griping about the latter. Something about it being too easy to turn such multiple shots into animation. So I assured him, that if that was the case, I'd create an animated GIF for him. And the rest of the world.


Al Animated -- just because I can...
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

But here's a little reunion of the 2004 Clarion gang -- me behind the camera, Al and Sarah Gibbons.

Sarah and Al sitting in corridor chokepoint outside the ConSuite. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Sarah Gibbons

Sarah was our "copy girl". A grad student who slaved over the Clarion copier at MSU and turning our 115 stories and 385,562 words of deathless SF/F prose into reams of copies for the 18 writers, staff, archives and all the instructors. A very thankless and necessary task.


I kept running into, and running by, Sarah Gibbons -- so I finally stopped to get a picture, so I could mention that I saw her here at ConFusion. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


After Sunday's "SF Radio" performance, Patrick Rothfuss signs one of Sarah's books. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-confusion-2012)
The Long Day

Four of my five panels, plus my reading, were all today. Pretty much only did my sessions, plus meeting people. Very satisfying day -- I mean, somebody has to help provide the content for all the people here. Passing the Registration desk today, I asked and found that we're over 800 here at Immortal ConFusion 2013.

Still not impressed with the new hotel, but I'll save it all for a good rant afterwards.

Saturday 19 January 2013
11:00a
Dearborn
Doing It Wrong... On Purpose
Story trumps all; sometimes research takes a backseat, anachronism becomes expedience, and logic needs to curl up next to physics and cry. What have authors deliberately done wrong to further the story? Do they have favorite examples of such? How does one do something "wrong" right? (Dr. Phil Kaldon, Holly McDowell, James Davis Nicoll (M), Laurie Gailunas, Ron Collins)

Lively discussion on the things we have to do for story. So are you "allowed" one impossible thing in a story before you lose your readers? Two? (grin) (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


The room wasn't completely full, so technically it wasn't Standing Room Only, but there was some crowding over by the door. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

And... A Balloon T.A.R.D.I.S. and a Dalek? (Yesterday someone had put a folded paper crane on the Dalek's plunger arm -- hee-hee.)

The balloon artist was funded by ConFusion -- as was the grant to build the Dalek the other year and require the builders to bring the Dalek for a couple of years. The laptop by the T.A.R.D.I.S. shows the balloon artist building it in Fast Forward. A little annoyed that I must've been fooled by the leaning T.A.R.D.I.S., so the picture isn't quite level. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

More coming.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-confusion-2012)
I'm Here

So far, not totally impressed with the Doubletree Dearborn -- I miss the Troy Marriott. But... it's ConFusion, so here we go!

Friday 18 January 2013
7:00p
Dearborn
Planning The Perfect Murder
Television and movies have given us the impression that forensic scientists are modern day wizards. In the real world, things work a little differently. This panel discusses the ways that television gets it wrong, both in what police can and can't do. Then they work out how to get away with murder...all in the name of fiction, of course. (Diana Rowland (M), Dr. Phil Kaldon, Sam Sykes)

First Panel -- Made it just in time, though I didn't have my registration badge until afterwards. (grin) (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


Dave Klecha ran Programming this year. Here he is just outside the Michigan room after the Opening Ceremonies, as people waited for the Dessert Reception over in Erie to open. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


Ran into my Clarion/WOTF pal Al Bogdan in the ConSuite. The really SMALL ConSuite in Room 124. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

On the other hand, the ConSuite DID have cashews. And the traditional con peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Some things you just can't tamper with. (grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-confusion-2012)
Immortal ConFusion
18-20 January 2013

Doubletree Hotel Detroit/Dearborn‎
5801 Southfield Road
Detroit, MI 48228

It's almost time to drive across the width of Michigan and whoop it up in a ConFusion sort of way. They've got the Programming Schedule up on the ConFusion website now. So here's my five panels and a reading:
Friday 18 January 2013
7:00p
Dearborn
Planning The Perfect Murder
Television and movies have given us the impression that forensic scientists are modern day wizards. In the real world, things work a little differently. This panel discusses the ways that television gets it wrong, both in what police can and can't do. Then they work out how to get away with murder...all in the name of fiction, of course. (Diana Rowland (M), Dr. Phil Kaldon, Sam Sykes)

Saturday 19 January 2013
11:00a
Dearborn
Doing It Wrong... On Purpose
Story trumps all; sometimes research takes a backseat, anachronism becomes expedience, and logic needs to curl up next to physics and cry. What have authors deliberately done wrong to further the story? Do they have favorite examples of such? How does one do something "wrong" right? (Dr. Phil Kaldon, Holly McDowell, James Davis Nicoll (M), Laurie Gailunas, Ron Collins)

2:00p
Ontario
Let's Remake Star Wars
Star Wars stands as one of the most influential science fiction franchises in the world, but the titular movie is now 35 years old. In an era when a movie half that age is ripe for a remake, why would Star Wars be immune? What would a post 9/11, technologically more advanced original trilogy look like? How would characters change, as an audience would know who were twins, who gets the girl, and who is the father? Does the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012 make this more likely, or less? (Dick Smith, Dr. Phil Kaldon (M), Josh Parker, Michael Underwood, Saladin Ahmed)

3:00p
Model T
Reading: Dr. Phil Kaldon & Mary Turzillo
Join Dr. Phil Kaldon & Mary Turzillo as they read from forthcoming works. (Dr. Phil Kaldon, Mary Turzillo)

4:00p
Dearborn
Lady Voldemort
How would Harry Potter have changed if the ultimate dark lord had been a female? (Dr. Phil Kaldon, Jim C. Hines (M), Sarah Zettel, Steven Harper Piziks)

8:00p
Dearborn
Pop Culture In SF/F
Fantasy has its urchins, Sci-Fi the dilettantes...but what about everyone else? When crafting a world either fantastic or futuristic, what do we imagine that the common folk would do for fun? What news or events would they discuss? Would they know what village produced the most heroes, or debate the thrust/weight ratio of government warships? Would there be a general popular culture in an imagined past? Could we avoid one in an imagined future? Does the addition of these elements do more than aid verisimilitude? (Brian McClellan, Dr. Phil Kaldon (M), Holly McDowell, Lawrence Schoen, Sam Sykes)


(Click on map for larger.)

So if you're at this end of the globe, come join us for a weekend of SF/F fun. We're in a new hotel this year and the weather... well the weather is expected to be coldish and there may be some snow. But I'm not seeing the blizzard we got one ConFusion a few years ago. (grin) Anyway, Monday is a university holiday -- MLK Day -- so should I get snowed in...

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (seasons-best-kate)
It's January and You Know What That Means

So the New Year has rolled over and the new semester begins on Monday. But in just a couple of weeks, it'll be time for ConFusion -- Friday 18 January to Sunday 20 January 2013.

After being held at the Troy Marriott from 2004-2012, ConFusion gets a new home at the Doubletree Hotel Detroit/Dearborn‎, 5801 Southfield Road, Detroit, MI 48228.

Today I got an email with the:
Preliminary Schedule for Dr. Phil Kaldon

Friday     7:00:00 PM  Planning The Perfect Murder
Saturday  11:00:00 AM  Doing It Wrong… On Purpose
Saturday   2:00:00 PM  Let’s Remake Star Wars
Saturday   3:00:00 PM  Reading: Dr. Phil Kaldon & Mary Turzillo
Saturday   4:00:00 PM  Lady Voldemort
Saturday   8:00:00 PM  Pop Culture In SF/F


Don't have the room locations yet, and of course this is a new hotel for me, but barring any weather disasters, I will be there and if you're in the area, you should come, too. ConFusion is a great SF/F con and I've been delighted to attend and participate for about a decade.

As for the reading, given that the theme this year is Immortal ConFusion, I think I will be reading from a story that I've been working on for some time, "On The Report Of The Navy Auditors".

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (writing-winslet-2)
OMG This One Slipped By Me

I knew I was supposed to check to see when this story went up, but I've been hella busy for weeks. Have a number of things I've been meaning to blog and I'll probably be apologizing as I try to catch up this Thanksgiving long weekend.

So I just checked and...

New Story Online!

My short story "Brooding in the Dark" was published in Interstellar Fiction back on 1 November 2012. It's listed as 1523 words, so it won't take you long to read. It's a moody little piece, befitting a story with "brooding" in the title. (grin) I like how it turned out. Making it longer would include a lot more details, but ruin the simplicity of Battlestation 193's situation.

Of course, one of the benefits of not looking this up earlier is that there was a link to a short review at Typosphere:
Brooding in the Dark — an interesting little story by Philip Edward Kaldon in the latest round at Interstellar Fiction. Just 1500 words, but an interesting little exploration of the future remnants of war.

You can read "Brooding in the Dark" for free here.

Dr. Phil

URL updated 12-2-2012 Sun
dr_phil_physics: (writing-winslet-2)
A New Story For You

Stopped by the P.O. Box this afternoon and found my copies of Neo-opsis Science Fiction Magazine Issue 22 with my short story "The Once and Future Tomato". Delighted to see it in print. And in reading it again, damn I write good. (big-grin)

The good news is that my name is on the cover -- the bad news is that my last name is misspelled. (grin) But it's right on the story, so that counts. (double-grin)

Even better, Art Director Stephanie Ann Johanson did a lovely drawing that finishes the story on a perfect note. "The Once and Future Tomato" is a favorite of mine, in part because of the ending, but also because it includes the recipe for Dr. Phil's Tomato Sandwich (DW). (grin)

You can order issues or subscriptions at the Neo-opsis store. It is also available in some stores in Canada. Single issue pricing is C$7.95 in Canada, C$8.95 to the U.S. and C$11.50 overseas, shipping included. Note that right now the Canadian dollar is worth slightly more than the U.S. dollar -- C$1 = US$1.0151.

Neo-opsis has been publishing since 2003 -- they're a fun magazine and you should take a look. And see what the future holds for tomatoes...

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (writing-winslet-2)
Picking Up The Pace

After hearing very little news since WorldCon in Chicago, in the last few days not only is "The Once and Future Tomato" coming out in Neo-Opsis (DW), the very limited edition (5 copies) hand crafted booklet of The Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest winning authors (DW) is almost ready, and I'm working on getting some panels and a reading at next month's WindyCon, but...

Today I got word that my short-short story "Brooding in the Dark" is being bought by Interstellar Fiction for their November issue. Their tagline is "Just a new magazine wanting to bring you all sorts of tales of science from every corner of the known universe."

This is a cool little story about dedication and purpose. The first draft, though, while it had the hook and the setting, wasn't really going anywhere. Just a mood and a setting, nothing happening. But vignettes don't sell -- sometimes you just have to "tell me a damn story" as Jeffrey Ford told us at Clarion. I shipped out an early version, expanded it, then finally got rid of a whole flashback section. Yes, kids, you CAN tell too much of the story, particularly when the whole piece is just 1500 words. (grin) What's left is a good story that fits its size. And yeah, I like all my stories, pretty much.

You'll be able to read about Battlestation 193 next month -- will keep you apprised.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (writing-winslet-2)
Paid!

Email from PayPal this evening that I had received money from Canada. Yay, we like getting paid, especially for my SF writing.

Back in April, I got word that Neo-opsis Science Fiction Magazine had bought my short story "The Once and Future Tomato" (DW). It'll appear in Issue #22 this month in actual print, not online.

The seventh story is The Once and Future Tomato by Dr. Philip Edward Kaladon(sic). This is his second Canadian publication so far in 2012. His story “Your First Real Rocket Ship” won third prize in the Friends of the Merril Short Story contest and is currently available online courtesy of the Toronto Public Library.
You can check out the rest of the contents for Issue #22 here.

Dr. Phil

Look What I've Got!

Saturday, 26 May 2012 01:52
dr_phil_physics: (space-shuttle-launch)
Rocket Science Sighted On This Side Of The Pond

The drought is over. (DW) When the Rocket Science anthology launched in April at Eastercon in the U.K., they ran through the first print run and now with a second print run delivered, editor Ian Sales finally was able to ship contributor copies to those who weren't at the two launch events. Ian's also put up a link to reviews.


Three copies was just stiff enough that they didn't try to stuff it in the P.O. Box, but gave me a key to one of the lockers. So they all arrived in perfect shape. (grin)

Of course part of my interest is my story The New Tenant. But it's nice to see an anthology of near term space SF stories. One of the one's I read is an interesting alternate history piece with a hoax lunar landing -- by the Soviet Union.

You can order through Mutation Press -- U.S. delivery is £8.99 + £5 discounted airmail shipping ($14.00 + $7.30 approx, depending on currency). Both Amazon and Amazon (UK) have it listed, but the U.S. site says Out of Print--Limited Availability and the U.K. site has it out of stock.

There will be a Kindle version -- I'll pass on the word when it gets out.

Dr. Phil

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