Monday, December 31, 2012

Dark Side

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a spectacular shot from our ambassador to Saturn, the Cassini spacecraft (still operating!!!). Saturn's rings from their "dark side".

Sunday, December 30, 2012


Quite possibly the most unrealistic fantasy setting of all, wouldn't you agree?

Addendum: Is there a New Zealand version of this? It would be more appropriate, from a (ahem) cinematic approach.
No Boom Today. Boom Tomorrow. There's Always a Boom Tomorrow.

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows doomed star Eta Carinae. As far as we know, it hasn't gone "boom" yet, but it seems a a million years from now.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hot Cup of Joe

It turns out they didn't want the xenomorphs for the bioweapons division after all.
Drop Test

Orion's parachutes undergo a drop test in this image.

Another picture from NASA's Large Image Gallery: NASA's Evolutionary Xenon Thruster has operated over 43,000 hours in tests. Can't wait to see this one deployed in the future!

NASA's Large Image Gallery presents NGC 3627, a "stacked" image combining visible and x-ray shots to show how high-energy x-ray sources line up with what we can see with our eyes.

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Zeta Ophiuchi, a massive star that is moving at a clip of 24 kilometers per second through the Milky Way. This results in the "bow shock" of gas seen in the image.

Fast moving star? Bow shock? Hmmm....Jack Williamson anyone? Or Gregory Benford?

Friday, December 28, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful shot of emission nebula (NGC 6188 and NGC 6164) in the southern constellation of Ara. Emission nebula have always been my favorite sights, especially for long-term exposure shots, ever since I first came across them. It is amazing to think of the beautiful (and blurry; and often only black-and-white) photographs of my misbegotten youth vs. the beautifully textured and detailed photographs of today.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Collected Shorts of Arthur C. Clarke

I first encountered Arthur C. Clarke pretty early on in reading books beyond the "Dick and Jane" stage. My first "big kid" book was not science fiction (it actually was a mystery adventure and I wish I could find it!), but the second was (Rocket to Limbo by Alan E. Nourse). Arthur C. Clarke was soon after with Islands in the Sky (part of the wonderful John C. Winston Books "juvenile science fiction series"), Sands of Mars and Dolphin Island. That was all there was in the children's section of the library in my town. Then a friend told me about a movie that was coming out, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and how the book was written by Arthur C. Clarke. I went to the library and found the adult section. There were science fiction books in the adult section? Off to the races!

His short stories were a pretty early encounter, mostly in the collections Tales from Ten Worlds and The Other Side of the Sky. Eventually, after moving, I found additional collections such as Expedition to Earth, Reach for Tomorrow, The Nine Billion Names of God, The Wind from the Sun and Tales from the 'White Hart'. Luckily, Clarke was pretty easy to find, given the popularity of 2001: A Space Odyssey (both the movie and the book), leading to a pretty steady series of reprints of all his fiction (and many of his non-fiction works).

With his death in 2008, his books fell out of print and became scarcer and scarcer in the bookstores. There had been some eBook editions, nowhere near a complete set, and even they were withdrawn as rights were lost and his estate seemed to retreat.

Luckily, that was only temporary. A few weeks ago came the announcement that his books were coming back into "print" as electronic editions. So far it appears to be only his fictional works (I hope that at least his essays come back into print as well!), including most (not quite all!) of his short work in a series of collections.

Most but not all, as I said above. There are a few later short works missing, but only a very few. On the plus side, several items that are rarely seen are included in these collections: the original shorter versions of Earthlight and The Deep Range and what became the first part of Childhood's End, as well as The Lion of Comarre, generally only found in a omnibus that the Science Fiction Book Club made extensive use of (containing also the similarly-themed Against the Fall of Night).

Volume 01: History Lesson (Rosetta eBooks; 2012; ISBN 9780795325045; cover artist not indicated).

Made up of: Introduction (author unknown); Foreword; Travel By Wire!; How We Went to Mars; Retreat from Earth; Reverie (not previously collected); The Awakening; Whacky; Loophole; Rescue Party; Technical Error; Castaway; The Fires Within; Inheritence; Nightfall; History Lesson; Transience; The Wall of Darkness; The Lion of Comarre (previously only available in a small omnibus of The Lion of Comarre/Against the Fall of Night); The Forgotten Enemy; Hide-and-Seek; Breaking Strain; Nemesis; Guardian Angel (later part of Childhood's End); Time's Arrow; A Walk in the Dark; Silence Please; Trouble with the Natives; The Road to the Sea.

Counts as twenty-nine (29) entries in 2012: The Year in Shorts.

With this collection of the early works by Clarke, it is clear to see how much H.G. Wells and Olaf Stapledon, two author's who are often cited, influenced him. What is also clear is a name that is not often as mentioned: John W. Campbell, Jr., especially when he was writing under the pseudonym of Don A. Stuart. From Wells he got his style and from Stapledon he got his feeling for deep time. From "Stuart", I think he got a sense of loss, a feeling so clearly felt in stories

It's interesting here to see the genesis of some ideas that echo throughout his career. There are even some "retreads" of a sort: The Awakening and Nemesis both spring from the same root and even share the same passages at times, but have different endings. The same is true of Rescue Party and History Lesson, with the differences being wider. The stories that show the Stuart influence the most include the aforementioned The Lion of Comarre, The Wall of Darkness and Retreat from Earth. The earliest tales in the collection are the weakest (and only for a completist), but it is interesting to see how many stories that are known as Clarke's best were written so early on.

If there is one irritation in this collection (and the others that follow) it is that the person who wrote the introduction is not credited! What the heck, Rosetta?

Volume 02: The Sentinel (Rosetta eBooks; 2012; ISBN 9780795329050; cover artist not indicated).

Made up of: Introduction (author unknown); The Sentinel; Holiday on the Moon; Earthlight (original novelette version); Second Dawn; Superiority; "If I Forget Thee, Oh Earth..."; All the Time in the World; The Nine Billion Names of God; The Possessed; The Parasite; Jupiter Five; Encounter in the Dawn; The Other Tiger; Publicity Campaign; Armaments Race; The Deep Range (original novelette version); No Morning After; Big Game Hunt; Patent Pending; Refugee.

Counts as twenty-one (21) entries in 2013: The Year in Shorts.

The quality of the stories improves in this collection, with only Holiday on the Moon being weak (probably the reason I never encountered it before). Clarke moves into Twilight Zone territory with a couple of these stories such as The Parasite, Publicity Campaign and Armaments Race. And we've got the genesis of two of my favorite novels by him: Earthlight and The Deep Range.

Volume 03: The Star (Rosetta eBooks; 2012; ISBN 9780795329081; cover artist not indicated).

Made up of: Introduction (author unknown); The Star; What Goes Up...; Venture to the Moon (made up of: The Starting Line, Robin Hood F.R.S., Green Fingers, All That Glitters, Watch This Space, A Question of Residence); The Pacifist; The Reluctant Orchid; Moving Spirit; The Defenestration of Ermintrude Inch; The Ultimate Melody; The Next Tenants; Cold War; Sleeping Beauty; Security Check; The Man Who Ploughed the Sea; Critical Mass; The Other Side of the Sky (made up of: Special Delivery, Feathered Friend, Take a Deep Breath, Freedom of Space, Passer-By, The Call of the Stars); Let There Be Light; Out of the Sun; Cosmic Casanova; The Songs of Distant Earth (original short story version); A Slight Case of Sunstroke; Who's There?; Out of the Cradle, Endlessly Orbiting...; I Remember Babylon; Trouble With Time; Into the Comet; Summertime on Icarus; Saturn Rising; Death and the Senator.

Counts as twenty-nine (29) entries in 2013: The Year in Shorts.

The last of Clarke's pre-space age stories. Most of these are set in the White Hart, Clarke's fictional bar (much like Gavagan's Bar of L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt or Lord Dunsany's tales told by Jorkens in the Billiards Club), where Harry Purvis spun tales which may or may not have been true to an audience that included various science and science fictional characters, including Clarke himself (both named and as "Charles Willis). Venture to the Moon and The Other Side of the Sky are a series of linked shorter works written for the popular (non SFnal) audience. Some of the best here include Out of the Sun (shows very clearly the effect of Olaf Stapledon on Clarke), The Songs of Distant Earth (which later was expanded into novel length), I Remember Babylon (marred in this edition by some very annoying typographical errors), Into the Comet and Saturn Rising. I especially recommend the later to those who say that Clarke never could write about a character or with emotion!

Volume 04: A Meeting With Medusa (Rosetta eBooks; 2012; ISBN 9780795329111; cover artist not indicated).

Made up of: Introduction (author unknown); Before Eden; Hate; Love That Universe; Dog Star; Maelstrom II; An Ape Around the House; The Shining Ones; The Secret; Dial F for Frankenstein; The Wind from the Sun; The Food of the Gods; The Last Command; Light of Darkness; The Longest Science Fiction Story Ever Told; Playback; The Cruel Sky; Herbert George Morley Robert Wells, Esq.; Crusade; Neutron Tide; Reunion; Transit of Earth; A Meeting with Medusa; Quarantine; siseneG; The Steam-Powered Word Processor); Old Golden Seas; The Hammer of God (original short story version); The Wire Continuum (w/Stephen Baxter); Improving the Neighborhood.

And with this volume, except for a few scattered stories (one, for example, included in an out-of-print collection of otherwise non-fiction essays), we come to the final installment of Clarke's shorter work. This volume was a real mixed bag of the good and the bad. Stories like The Wind from the Sun, The Cruel Sky, Transit of Earth and A Meeting with Medusa show Clarke at the height of his abilities as a author of short works. On the other hand, during this period he received a lot of requests for short stories and would often dash off bits of "humour" that have not really stood the test of tme (The Longest Science Fiction Story Ever Told). More than worth it for those gems, though.

Counts as thirty (30) entries in 2013: The Year in Shorts.

Addendum: In addition to these new collections, a couple of Clarke's older collections came back into (electronic) print. I'm not sure why these were published and not others (or not all others), but here they are. I'll be reading only the introductory materials (if any) for these collections, given they are all part of the other (newer) collections).

Expedition to Earth (Rosetta eBooks; 2012; ISBN 9780795325373; cover artist not indicated).

Made up of: Second Dawn; "If I Forget Thee, Oh Earth..."; Breaking Strain; History Lesson; Superiority; Exile of the Eons; Hide and Seek; Expedition to Earth; Loophole; Inheritance; The Sentinel.

Reach for Tomorrow (Rosetta eBooks; 2012; ISBN 9780795325731; cover artist not indicated).

Made up of: Preface; Rescue Party; A Walk in the Dark; The Forgotten Enemy; Techical Error; The Parasite; The Fires Within; The Awakening; Trouble with the Natives; The Curse; Time's Arrow; Jupiter Five; The Possessed

Counts as one (01) entry in 2013: The Year in Shorts.

Tales from the "White Hart" (Rosetta eBooks; 2012; ISBN 9780795325885; cover artist not indicated).

Made up of: Preface; Silence Please; Big Game Hunt; Patent Pending; Armaments Race; Critical Mass; The Ultimate Melody; The Pacifist; The Next Tenants; Moving Spirit; The Man Who Ploughed the Sea; The Reluctant Orchid; Cold War; What Goes Up; Sleeping Beauty; The Defenestration of Ermintrude Inch.

Counts as one (01) entry in 2013: The Year in Shorts.
In the Nest

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a self-portrait of the newest visitor to the Red Planet Mars: MSL Curiosity, taking a drive along a "sandy beach".

Addendum: NASA's "large image" gallery has also posted this.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a hypothetical view of Makemake, one of many Kuiper Belt objects at the borders of our Solar System.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Oh Wintry Night

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a wonderful night shot of Yosemite in winter. Merry Christmas, one and all!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Horns of the Bull

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is of the Hyades star cluster, probably better known as the horns of Taurus the Bull. "Mouseover" the image to get a constellation outline and guide to what else is visible.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Speaking in Tongues

Can a language be invented?

Well, sure, we do it all the time. Every language that we speak was invented, out of earlier fragments. Computer languages are invented all the time as well, but I don't know too many people that "speak" them.

Can a language be manufactured from scratch?

Sure, why not. I think it'd be hard to come up with one that did not have at least some baggage from previous languages. Then you've got the problem of creep, how would you keep other languages from "contaminating" the manufactured language?

Can a manufactured language succeed?

Aye, there's the rub. We've had invented languages in the past. Esperanto, for one. Some felt that if the world would speak Esperanto, we'd have peace as we'd all really understand each other. Today how many people have heard of Esperanto (let alone speak it)?

Can an artificial language lead to utopia? I don't think so, but people who try this are worthy of attention.
Giving Head

David F. Dufty; How to Build an Android: The True Story of Philip K. Dick's Robotic Resurrection (Henry Holt; 2012; eISBN 978-0-8050-9557-9; cover artist not indicated).

This slim tome is an account of the project to build a android replica of famous genre author Philip K. Dick as a means to explore artificial intelligence and methods of making androids. I've written about this in the past, the story of the android head and how it went astray is pretty well-known at this point.

Given that Dick wrote about (among many things) artificial intelligence and what it means to be "human", and has attracted a pretty wide following, it is not surprising that the team that put together the android chose him as their subject. The book does a fairly good job of outlining the (sometimes pretty haphazard and crazy) process of designing, building and showing the android to the public.

Dufty's writing doesn't really come alive, alas, except for a few places. In one, Dick's children "meet" the android. In another, a little girl and her father ask the android some questions. The android's operating system coughs a bit, but manages to answer in an almost creepily alive fashion.

The book seems unfocused at times, going from technical to popular. Perhaps more of a steady course would have resulted in a better overall work.
The Eternal Quest

Nevin Martell; Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip (The Continuum International Publishing Group; 2009; ISBN 978-0-82642-984-1; cover artist not indicated).

While I am still not much of a comic book reader, I have had a long love of comic strips, starting with Prince Valiant and Peanuts and Dick Tracy (my grandfather worked for The (New York) Daily News, and would bring home the Sunday comics for us ahead of the print run). In college, Doonesbury was all the rage. Far Side adorned my desk calendar and my coffee mug for a time.

And then there was Calvin & Hobbes. The ongoing adventures of a small boy and his stuffed pet tiger (who, depending on your point of view, was either alive or still a toy) as they battle against the forces of education, parents, neighborhood kids and more. For years, it was one of the first things I turned to. I bought the collections (now firmly in the hands of my daughter, as big a fan as I ever was), clipped strips and laughed.

Then the strip paused...for a sabbatical. It came back and then...retired.

What happened? Why did Watterson, at the top of the syndicated world, leave?

These same questions bothered Nevin Martell and he set out to try to figure out what had happened. His quest led him throughout dusty archives of newspapers where Watterson had his start, to people Watterson had worked with and the syndicate that distributed the strip. Over the course of the quest he tried (on multiple occasions) to get an interview with Watterson himself, both to learn the reasons behind the departure and to show that people out there still missed the strip.

Martell learns a lot on his way and the quest is an interesting one. Without giving it all away, spoilers, sweetie, he mostly succeeds but is left with as many questions (in some respects) as he started with.

Will Calvin & Hobbes ever appear again? Martell's picture of Watterson paints the picture of a creator who just wanted to create...exist in a bubble, isolated from the public. Too bad he could not find a balance!

The Longest Night

Jeff Patterson; The Solstice Chronicles (Bad Day Studios; 2011; ASIN B007TXXLD4; cover by Jeff Patterson.

Caveat emptor: Jeff and I have known each other, electronically, for many years. I have been a visitor to his website Gravity Lens (part of the Bad Day Studio empire) for far longer than I can remember (10 years?). He and I appear on the SF Signal podcast, where we fill the roles of Statler and Waldorf, sitting up in the balcony and being cranky to the other participants. (It is often hinted that if a third SF Signal Irregular, John H. Stevens, were to appear on the podcast when we both were on it would be the equivalent of crossing the streams and the universe would go poof.)

Jeff has had the habit of issuing a short story each year themed around the holiday "season" (Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Black Friday, take your pick or insert your own!). They are all somewhat to extremely fantastic in nature (fantasy or science fiction elements abound), sometimes sad, usually funny. Particular favorites here are The Snowman's Tale (what happens when you build a snowman on a moon of Jupiter), Eating at Joe's (food in space and the ultimate evil), Snowbane (Crom!), and Trajectories (might be my favorite in the collection). Jeff shows his deep reading of several genres and his obsessive immersion in news, science, "futurism" and more, working elements he picks up into the stories. Short tales...lots of ideas, a great mix for the longest night of the year.


Made up of: Foreword: 'Tis the Season; In the Valley of Years; In the Orchard of the Ancients; In the Citadel of the Solstice; In the City of Winter's Reign; In the Last Days of the Age; World Without Holidays; Thrilling Holiday Tales; One of the Family; Coin of the Realm; The Snowman's Tale; Eating at Joe's Snowbane; The Harbinger of All Things Glorious; Trajectories; On This Longest Night; Roadside Ephiphanies; Candle Gardens; Notes.

Counts as nineteen (19) entries in 2012: The Year in Shorts.
Another Great Comet?

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows us Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997. Even from my light-soaked skies, I could see this comet (for part of the viewing cycle, as I walked home from the bus from New York City in the evening...and for the other part of the viewing cycle, as I walked to the bus in the early morning—who says you can't do astronomy anywhere?)

Out in the deeper regions of our Solar System, another new comet has been seen that will pass "close" to us. Will 2013 be the year of another "Great Comet"?

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Saturn from it's night side. Wouldn't that be a nice ornament for your tree? Courtesy of the (still operating!!!) Cassini orbiter.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Orion in the End Days

Is this it? Is this the end times? Are we all shuffling off the mortal coil? In today's Astronomy Picture of the Day...not so much.

See you tomorrow!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Howdy, Neighbor!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is of M33, the Pinwheel Galaxy or Triangulum Galaxy. One of our nearest galactic neighbors, at a mere 50,000 light years distance, it is thought to be a "satellite" of M31, the Andromeda Galaxy.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Material Outflow

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a Hubble Space Telescope image of planetary nebula NGC 5189 (located in Musca, The Fly Constellation). Beautiful plumage!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a sun pillar (ice crystals reflecting sunlight, to create a column) in Sweden. Ahhh, ligonberries...

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Space Review

In the current issue of The Space Review: Jeff Foust reviews Last Launch, a look at the final shuttle flights. Michael Listner looks at liability and space debris (second part, first part found here). Dwayne Day looks at the best of times, the worst of times: are our efforts to explore on the decline, the rise or doing just fine? Jeff Foust looks at NASA's role in the 21st century (if any).
Collisional Galaxy

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 922 in the constellation of Fornax. NGC 922 has been distorted as the result of a collision with another galaxy; this image is a combination of a visible light shot (taken by the Hubble Space Telescope) and an x-ray shot (taken by the Chandra X-Ray Observatory) that shows the "shocking" resulting from the merger.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

It's Hip to be Square

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the so-called Red Square Nebula (the reason for the name is clear!). Almost as interesting as the shape is what might be...are we seeing a star that will someday go supernova?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Cat Came Back

Patrick Hester; Conversations With My Cat (2012; ASIN B00AEV29Q8; cover artist unknown).

Caveat 01: I work with Patrick, on occasion, on the SF Signal podcast. Caveat 02: I was always amused by the postings he made on his blog about his cat, so I would have bought the book anyway even if I didn't work with him on the podcast!

Patrick owns two cats. it the other way around? Most cat owners would assert that the cat owns you and there is certainly plenty of evidence to that effect in here. Plus humor. G-rated, PG-rated, but humor. If you are looking for a chuckle (or five, hence my Amazon rating), I recommend picking this up.

Now, I'm back to my magnum opus, Conversations With My Dog...

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a nice depiction of the so-called "radiant" during a meteor shower. Showers (swarms) follow set paths (orbits) around the Solar System, ticking away on their Newtonian-derived tracks. When we intersect those paths on our journey, we seem to encounter the meteors coming from the same constellations (hence, Geminids, Taurids, etc.). Meteors will fall from "around" that constellation, from a central point or radiant. A time-lapse photograph like this is a nice demonstration.

As for me, I only spotted three Geminids. Damn light-polluted skies.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Small World

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a group of people gathered to observe the recent Australian solar eclipse. The picture was done using the "little planet projection" method, resulting in a large crowd...on a small planet.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Taurus-Littrow Red-Green

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a 3D image from the window of LM Challenger as it orbited the Moon during the Apollo 17 mission. If you look carefully, you can see CM America in the distance.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Gnashing of Teeth

Christopher Tolkien is back again, ahead of the opening of The Hobbit (first of three...ummm...really?). Having beat this dead horse into the ground with the original movies, he kicks it again. Literary defense or bitter tears that his father sold so many rights years ago?
Java Junkie

Momma said there'd be days like this.


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful shot of the Milky Way, reaching over the quiver trees of southern Namibia.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Nursery Crymes

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is an image from the venerable Hubble Space Telescope. Our gaze is fixed on NGC 604, a dense star-forming region found in M33, one of our "nearby" neighbor galaxies.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Space Review

In the current issue of The Space Review, a couple of items of interest: NASA announces another Mars rover and Pat Nealon speculates as to the reasons. Jeff Foust looks at Golden Spike and their efforts to go back to the Moon. Jason Catanzariti interviews Harrison ("Jack") Schmitt about training for Apollo.
Shadow Walk

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a short video showing the sweep of the lunar shadow across the landscape during the recent solar eclipse in Australia.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Sir Patrick

News is trickling in that Sir Patrick Moore has died during the night. Long known in the United Kingdom as the host of The Sky at Night television show, he was an active amateur astronomer, promoter of the hobby, holder of controversial views about the Moon and an endless enthusiast.

Some of my earliest reading on astronomy were his books such as Guide to the Moon, his books on equipment and techniques and his books about the planets. He was one of the people that got me started in a life-long interest. He later headed up a series of books on techniques that continued to get people interested in the field and was the author of the so-called "Caldwell Catalog", designed as a observing project to interest people in deep-sky objects.

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows astronaut Dale A. Gardner flying free of space shuttle Discovery in order to capture the malfunctioning Westar 6 Communications Satellite. A great potential use of the space shuttles, not really used effectively as the cost of the shuttle never dropped to "operational" levels. We still haven't reached the point of sending up the Toybox in order to clear our skies of garbage.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Friday, December 07, 2012

Boom Today?

Possible meteor (or pretty big space junk) fall reported in Texas. Interesting map graphic here.

'Ware pods.
Back to the Future

Visions of Lagrange Points dance in my head. Slate hauls out the paintings by Don Davis of proposed O'Neil cylinder colonies.
Last to the Moon

A spectacular shot of the night launch of Apollo 17, which carried the last (to date!) humans to the Moon. I remember staying up to watch it. The launch was delayed, so I stayed up later until it lit the sky up. The first mission to carry a scientist, the longest stay on the Moon, some of the most spectacular vistas (but Apollo 15 and 16 both landed in amazing areas).

I even made an audio recording of the launch. But, like many a sad tale of a baseball card collection, it was tossed while I was away at college.
Our Crowded Skies

Every wonder why you see fewer and fewer stars at night? Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows you why: look at all the photons we pump UP to the skies, scattering hither and yon, and washing out those few photons that are sent down.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Head Shots

Every zombie. Every weapon. Broken down by every character. As The Walking Dead takes it's mid-season break, a breakdown of zombie kills.
A Good Walk Ruined

This is a pretty interesting story. What would you take with you if you were going on a walking journey expected to last for seven years and 22,000 miles?
Cluster (Still No Eno)

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a wonderful "amateur" shot of 47 Tuc, in the region of the Small Magellanic Cloud. 47 Tuc is a wonderful example of a globular cluster.

Richard Feynman once said in response to a picture of Messier 2, another globular cluster:

"He who cannot see gravity at work here has no soul."

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Starship Dimensions

This wonderful site is back! Thanks to Winchell Chung for sending me the link. How big is big (especially in science fiction)? Take a look at how your favorite vessels compare to each other.
The Space Review

In the current issue of The Space Review, we find: Dwayne Day looking at the "egolauncher", or Stratolaunch. Too big...has failed? Jeff Foust looks at the quiet cancellation of NASA's nanosat competition. Derek Webber talks about the "s word". No, not the one you're thinking of. And Jeff Foust discusses the "overview effect", the change in perception of our home sphere if viewed from space.
Cover Story

Images of cover art for the non-fiction books published by Pelican Books from the 1930's to the 1980's. I had a few of those on my shelves!
Bullet Time!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows plasma jets shooting from galaxy Hercules A out into intergalactic space. The result of a central black hole? Or something more sinister? The Medusae? The Boskonians? Or worse????

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

More Androids. More Dreams.

More adaptions of the work of Philip K. Dick are heading to the screen. How faithful will the films (if they are made) of The Man in the High Castle or Ubik be (the other titles are much more minor works)?

And let's hope that Ridley Scott's ramblings about connecting the Alien-verse with the Bladerunner-verse do not come to pass!

Addendum: Ramblings on Bladerunner. New issue of PKD Otaku out now. That damn movie has been out for THIRTY years?
Pies Are Square

I like pie? Do you like pie?

The Sabre engine for the proposed Skylon space plane has passed its latest series of tests. The ESA is backing this proposed vehicle.

A view of Super Typhoon Bopha as seen from the ISS.

Kerry Packer decide to give himself a winning edge by hiring three experts to come up with a guaranteed strategy for gambling on horse racing.

The first expert is a Nobel Prize winner in physiology. After three months he reports in: "I'm sorry Mr Packer, I've studied everything relevant in the fields of genetics, biochemistry and horse physiology, and I'm afraid there's just no way to be certain which horse will win a given race." Disappointed, Kerry Packer has one of his editors throw the physiologist into the street.

After six months the next expert, a Fields Medal-winning mathematician, contacts Kerry Packer. "I'm sorry, Mr Packer, I worked our supercomputer around the clock performing statistical analyses, I employed fractal metapermutational series in n-dimensional hypermatrices, I applied every possible arcane technique... there's just no mathematical way to pick the winning horse." Enraged, Kerry Packer has another one of his editors rough up the mathematician and throw him into the street.

The great man has all but given up on his dream, but after twelve he is told that the third expert, an esteemed physicist, has found the solution and is ready to report the secret.

"So after a year, you've found the winning formula," says Mr Packer.

"I have," replies the physicist. "Actually, I had the answer after a few weeks. I've just been working through some interesting ramifications of the theory."

"But it's absolutely certain," says Mr Packer, "100% guaranteed? You can pick the winning horse every time?"

"Oh yes," says the physicist. "The theory is absolutely solid."

"You bloody beauty!" says Packer. "What's the formula?"

"Well, first we assume that the horses are perfectly spherical and moving in a vacuum at the speed of light..."

(For this joke it helps to know that Kerry Packer was a billionaire media
mogul who loved to gamble but hated to lose.)
Tarot Roots

A 400-year-old deck of gilded playing cards. Figures depicted as classical Romans. Passed from collector to collector. Potentially had poisoned its maker. Sounds like the basis for a Tim Powers or Edward Whittemore novel!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows us a mega-storm. Not Hurricane Sandy; no, this is a storm that is located at the north pole (as it were) of Saturn. This enormous storm is dwarfed by others, for example, The Great Red Spot on Saturn's neighbor, Jupiter.

Monday, December 03, 2012

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Month

Settle down around the crackling fire and crack open the newest issue of Dave Langford's Ansible! What wonders will you behold?

Robert McCrum enjoyed himself by bashing every genre he could think of, each described as some kind of 'lit' (chick lit, ghost lit, gran lit, erotic lit etc; naturally only lit lit gets a free pass) except for ours: 'Science fiction is the cockroach in the house of books: it survives on scraps and never goes away. Occasionally, as in the work of HG Wells and JG Ballard, it becomes sublime.' (Guardian, 19 November) [AMB]

Spung in a Cold Climate Dept. 'His nipples were standing so erect they looked like little pink pencil erasers.' 'I looked down and noticed my own chest made it look like I was trying to smuggle candy corn out of the country, two at a time.' (Nancy A. Collins, Right Hand Magic, 2010) [CH]
A Complete Set

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows not just one, but four rings around the full Moon. The rings are caused by ice particles in the atmosphere; I've sometimes seen two rings, but never four!

Sunday, December 02, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the gegenschein ("counter glow") over the skies of Chile. Contrary to what you'd expect, the sky is not darkest opposite the Sun; dust that collects in the solar system reflects light back and under good conditions (not in New Jersey!) you can bask in the reflected glory.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Our Wet Solar System

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a Mercury MESSENGER view of the north pole of Mercury. Where we appear to have found water. Water. On Mercury. The place where lead will melt and flow! Water!

Our solar system continues to amaze and surprise us!

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Stars, Like Dust

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful shot of dusty nebulae and stars in the region of Cygnus. During late summer to early winter, this is one of the more rewarding regions for an amateur astronomer to explore.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mini vs. Maxi

No, no, I'm not talking about any product here, technological or otherwise! In today's Astronomy Picture of the Day we see the real difference between a "micro" Moon and the so-called "super" Moon. Did you see the full Moon last night in conjunction with Jupiter? Beautiful, wasn't it? Clear view of the features for me. That was a "micro" Moon.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the dance between Jupiter and one moon, Io. Jupiter is moving into "opposition", where you can draw a line from the Sun to Earth to Jupiter, so it will be visible all night long (of course, this is a slow process, it has been visible for part to most of the night for months now!). Get out your binoculars or your telescope (if you have one) and take a look!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Space Review

In the current issue of The Space Review, a few items of interest: Jeff Foust looks at the future of the Reusable Launch Vehicle. The USAF may succeed where NASA has failed. Billie Holladay Skelley looks back to when a aviation pioneer could have...but did the Mercury 13. And Jeff Foust returns for a book review of Near-Earth Objects: Finding Them Before They Find Us.
Jupiter Pass

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day has Jupiter in Taurus. Look to the West and you shall see it! And to the East, Venus!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Death Ribbon

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is of a few wisps from the Veil Nebula, in and around the constellation of Cygnus. It is a remarkably difficult object to see under our increasingly bright suburban and urban skies, but it marks a "bubble" of expanding gas from a star that went supernova.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Long Gaps. Brief Bursts.

I had been hoping to be getting back to more regular blog postings once power was restored after Sandy, but things have not turned out that way. This is due to a combination of craziness at work (increased demands on a decreased workforce are leading to just plain fatigue and low morale) and the fact that my past few weekends (and one weekday when I was "off") have been filled with helping people in my state affected by Sandy.

So, long silences filled with short bursts of "catching up" until "normal" becomes a state of being again.
Sandfalls on Mars

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a shot taken by the MRO, currently doing amazing job in orbit around Mars. The spring Sun melts carbon dioxide ice, causing sand to fall and expose darker interior grains. This results is a strange-looking set of images such as this.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

New Diamond in a Spiral

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 1365, a spiral galaxy in the constellation of Fornax. If you look closely at the upper right/center around the central core, you'll see a set of brackets showing a recently-discovered supernova in that galaxy.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Dense Field of View

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a wonderful combination of dark nebula, bright nebula and dense starfields: the regions around the so-called Pipe Nebula.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Long Trail

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful shot of a single Leonid meteor trail. This one stretches practically from horizon to horizon!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bad Luck = Good Sight

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is another shot of the recent solar eclipse. Bad luck in the form of clouds led to a good sighting of another eclipse phenomena: shadow bands.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the Moon with a halo around it. The halo is caused by ice crystals in high thin clouds (from the ground it sometimes looks as if there are no clouds at all). Snow coming?

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Space Review

In the current issue of The Space Review, a few items caught my eye: Jeff Foust looks at the grim budget outlook for the planetary exploration programs (and how history may guide). Vidvuds Beldavs and Jeffrey Sommers look at similar themes: how to escape the downward spiral and get to real economic growth again. Jeff Foust reviews Caleb Scharf's recent non-fiction work, Gravity's Engines.

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the Leonid meteor shower over Monument Valley.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

An Archway of Diamonds

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a combined series of images from the Hubble Space Telescope showing one of the most massive stars known plus a vast star-forming region. (For some reason this reminds me of images from 1980's shows such as Buck Rogers.)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Shine On

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a shot of the solar eclipse, this time in the partly-cloudy skies over Queensland, Australia.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Your Hat's On Fire

Excellent in-depth look at one of my favorite books, Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep.
Time Passages

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the recent solar eclipse, from partial phase as the Sun cleared the horizon, to totality and back to normal. Fantastic sequence!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Darkness Falls from the Sky

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the eclipse in Queensland. Beautiful shot of Bailey's Beads!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day compresses life, the universe and everything into one minute. It really all did start with a big bang!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Monday, November 12, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful composite of ground and sky.
The Space Review

In the current issue of The Space Review, we have: Jeff Foust looks at the rumblings in the press about NASA's plans to return to the Moon...sort of. Is the L1 "Gateway" an actual plan or speculation based on old plans? Michael Listner (Part 01) looks at space debris (all together now: Send up the Toybox!). Alan Stern and Geoff Marcy look at Uwingu, Kickstarter (as it were) for science (a better name is needed, folks). And Jeff Foust reviews Gary Westfahl's The Spacesuit Film (who can identify the image used on the cover?).

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Bailey's Beads and Rings

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a new depiction of Bailey's Beads. Horizontally compressed image of all the beads from a eclipse in 2008 creates art.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mergers and Acquisitions

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 660, a galaxy in the constellation of Pisces. The odd shape may have been caused by a "collision" (merger or passing through by another galaxy) or other close encounter.

Friday, November 09, 2012

The Heart of the Heart

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows emission nebula Melotte 15. This structure lies in the larger nebula known as The Heart Nebula (IC 1805).
On Reading

We who pride ourselves in reading much and widely forget that the printed page serves us in a similar fashion as the drug serves an addict. After a short time away from it we grow agitated and begin to pine, by which time anything will do: a bus timetable, a telephone directory, an operating manual for a washing machine. "They say that life’s the thing," said Logan Pearsall Smith, a littérateur of distinction but now almost forgotten, "but I prefer reading." For how many of us—avid readers, that is—has the printed page been a means of avoidance of the sheer messiness, the intractability, of life, to no other purpose than the avoidance itself? It is for us what the telenovela is for the inhabitant of the Latin American barrio, a distraction and a consolation. We gorge on the printed page to distract ourselves from ourselves: the great business of Doctor Johnson’s life, according to Boswell and Johnson himself. Or we read to establish a sense of superiority, or at least to ward off a sense of inferiority: "What, you
haven’t read Ulysses?"

Once, staying overnight at an airport hotel in Los Angeles, I found myself without a book. How this happened I can no longer recall; it was most unusual, for by far the most useful lesson that life has taught me, and one that I almost always heed, is never to go anywhere without a book. (In Africa, I have found that reading a book is an excellent way of overcoming officials’ obstructionism. They obstruct in order to extract a bribe to remove the obstruction; but once they see you settled down for the long term, as it were, with a fat book, Moby-Dick, say, they eventually recognize defeat. Indeed, I owe it to African officialdom that I have read Moby Dick; I might otherwise never have got through it.)

(Anthony Daniels, The Digital Challenge: I: Loss & Gain, Or The Fate of the Book )

Thursday, November 08, 2012

The Tail of the Tadpole

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is of Arp 188, popularly known as The Tadpole's Tail. Galaxies interact and create beauty.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the reason I've been posting these retroactively. Hurrican Sandy. If you look closely, you can see my house.

Interesting bit on reading Dune at the age of 13. Good to see the kids are still reading the old stuff, these days.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day puts me in mind of the science fictional locale of Jinx (Larry Niven's Known Space tales). The universe is stranger than we can imagine: that's Methone, right here in our own solar system. Another great image from Saturn's tiniest "moon", the Cassini orbiter.

Addendum: January 1975 Analog cover. See what I mean?

Monday, November 05, 2012

Where Was Moses When the Lights Went Out?

Kewpie doll to the first that correctly links that to a movie I'm thinking of.

Hurricane Sandy came to call last week. We lost power at around 1900 hours on Monday and did not get it back until around 1200 hours Saturday. And we're fortunate: a few trees down, our fence probably will need to be replaced, I had to bail out the sump hole in order to keep the basement from being flooded (40 gallons of water, initially every 30 minutes, eventually slowing to every 3 hours, all day and night). Many are still without power, many have lost everything they owned.

So, this might be a good time to contribute to a charity that will help those who were affected!

Blog was knocked out by loss of power, internet, and all those other hallmarks of civilization. I'll start posting APOD and more again, soon, going retroactively. Stay tuned.

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful shot (courtesty of the still-operating Cassini orbiter, long may it function!) of Saturn's heavily-cratered icy moon Dione.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

There's a Bad Moon on the Rise

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the "Hunter's Moon" rising over the Alps. Hmmm...full Moon in October. Europe. Where wolf? There wolf!

Friday, November 02, 2012

At the Bottom of a Hole

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a peek at what we can't see directly: the black hole that resides at the center of the Milky Way.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Toil, Toil...

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a reflection nebula, IC 2118 (but more commonly known by the nickname of Witch Head Nebula!) casts spells near Rigel in the great constellation of Orion.

Another month, another Ansible. Rejoice and be glad!

Paul Krugman, introducing the Folio Society edition of the Foundation trilogy, has an Atwood Moment: 'Maybe the first thing to say about "Foundation" is that it's not exactly science fiction – not really. Yes, it's set in the future, there's interstellar travel, people shoot each other with blasters instead of pistols and so on. But these are superficial details, playing a fairly minor part in the story.' [PDF] [KMacL]

As Others See Us. Coverage of the new Red Dwarf X offers a hauntingly nostalgic sense of déjà revu: 'The show has an obsessive fan base, which stereotype would suggest is mainly men in their thirties and forties with a penchant for sci-fi and gaming – see how I'm subtly avoiding the provocative words "nerd", "geek" or "unsuccessful with women" here?' (Michael Hogan, The Telegraph, 4 October) [MPJ]

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Galactic Ghost

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is very appropriate for the holiday. Faint clouds have a ghostly appearance; VdB 152 in the constellation of Cepheus. Who you gonna call?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tiny Bubbles

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows planetary nebula PK 164 +31.1 (in other words, the Perek & Kohoutek catalog entry number 164, followed by additional information), found in the constellation of Lynx (the Wildcat). Tiny bubble? Only on the scale of the universe at large!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Nebula of the Arachnid Overlords

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day would be a perfect setting for a classic space opera by Jack Williamson. NGC 6537, The Red Spider Planetary Nebula (with amazing structure and detail in its layers).

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Rock of Doom

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a view of Phobos, one of the "hurtling moons of Barsoom" (Mars). Take a good look, it'll only be around for another 100 million odd years.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Layers Within Layers

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows emission layers around a short-lived (and brightly burning) O-type star within NGC 6164. Take a look, because it'll only be around for a few more million years!

Friday, October 26, 2012

We're Going to Need a Bigger Pot

Holy flipping blue claws! That's some crab!
Reflections Of

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a nice shot of a "reflection nebula" (as well as some other nice features), vdB1. I think they found a good first entry for this catalog!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Basement of Non-Euclidian Geometry

The creeping reported to the housing association.

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is of Abell 21, more commonly known as The Medusa Nebula, an old (and distorted) planetary nebula in the constellation of Gemini.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Some of Their Favorites

Reading through The Miscellaneous Writings of Clark Ashton Smith, I found a note in the biographical sketch by Donald Sidney-Fryer which mentioned that both Clark Ashton Smith and H.P. Lovecraft noted their favorite weird stories in a fanzine one month apart. How many of these have you read?

Clark Ashton Smith: The Yellow Sign (Robert W. Chambers); The House of Sounds (M.P. Shiel; The Willows (Algernon Blackwood) A View from a Hill (M.R. James); The Death of Halpin Frayser (Ambrose Bierce); The Fall of the House of Usher (Edgar Allan Poe); The Masque of the Red Death (Edgar Allan Poe); The Novel of the White Powder (Arthur Machen); The Call of Cthulhu (H.P. Lovecraft); The Colour Out of Space (H.P. Lovecraft).

H.P. Lovecraft: The Novel of the Black Seal (Arthur Machen); The White People (Arthur Machen); Count Magnus (M.R. James); The Moon Pool (A. Merritt) (novelette version).

Sidney-Fryer says of Lovecraft's choices "Six of them duplicate Smith's choices, with only four titles different." The four listed above are the "different" but he does not list the "sames". Will have to do some searching!

I'll also have to cross-check this with the titles/authors mentioned in Lovecraft's essay Supernatural Horror in Literature (online versions here and here).
Partly Cloudy

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day will have you wondering if your eyes are seeing things. No, just some clouds. Some clouds!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Saladin's Shorts

Saladin Ahmed; Engraved on the Eye (Ridan Publications; 2012; cover art, not indicated)

I can't recall exactly where I came across Saladin Ahmed. Facebook? Twitter? His own website? In any case, the description of his first novel, Throne of the Crescent Moon interested me (and has been reviewed here), so I sought out what he had published already. Alas, not much came up, a few short stories, scattered in online magazines and podcasts, but what I read interested me.

This self-published book (eBook only) gathers all of Saladin's short works under one cover. You have two stories set in the same universe as Throne (Where Virtue Lives and Judgment of Swords and Souls), fun in the Old West with a twist or three (Mister Hadj's Sunset Ride), generally twisted humor (General Akmed's Revenge?, Doctor Diablo Goes Through the Motions, Iron Eyes and the Watered Down World), straight-up dystopian apocalyptic cyberpunk (The Faithful Soldier, Prompted) and straight-up fantasy/horror (Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Iameela).

All polished and interesting and with some nice stylistic or plot twists. All showing a level of sophistication and skill higher than most first-time novelists. Would that he typed faster!

Several of these I had read in my previous searches. Doctor Diable Goes Through the Motions was completely new and is a gem. Supervillains trapped in endless Power Point presentations and having their souls sucked away by endless board meetings. And I want to see a novel set in the universe of Iron Eyes and the Watered Down World. Fritz Leiber and Robert E. Howard are sitting in Valhalla, jealous. Oh, so jealous.

Great stuff here. Get thee to your favorite online eBook retailer and buy!

Made up of: Introduction; Author's Note; Where Virtue Live; Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Iameela; Judgment of Swords and Souls; Doctor Diablo Goes Through the Motions; General Akmed's Revenge?; Mister Hadj's Sunset Ride; The Faithful Soldier, Prompted; Iron Eyes and the Watered Down World.

Counts as ten (10) entries in 2012: The Year in Shorts.

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a sad sight.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Astronomical Sketch of the Day

While working on a presentation about amateur astronomy for my daughter's Earth Science class (eight periods, I can feel my SAN slipping away now!), I came across a lovely sight dedicated to the art of astronomical sketching. Sketching not only is a great way of recording your observations (at a relatively low cost compared to any photographic outfit), but sketching an object helps you to observe it better.

The sketches on this site are by "amateurs". Wow. I have a long way to go.
Knight Moves

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the Horsehead Nebula (Barnard 33), a dark nebula in the constellation of Orion. I've found this one to be one of the hardest to spot, needing special filters and a dark sky. I've only been sure of spotting it on one occasion.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Double Shadow

Ever since The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast was started, I've been looking for podcasts that cover other writers of weird fiction. For new stuff, you can listen to PodCastle and Pseudopod (for science fiction we have Escape Pod), but I was lucky enough to find two podcasts that cover older writers. The first is A Podcast for the Curious, covering the works of M.R. James. The second is The Double Shadow, covering the works of Clark Ashton Smith.

Smith was a very interesting person and had many talents. Poetry, short fiction, sculpture, drawings, paintings. Alas, I don't know what has happened to most of his art: while you can find pictures of some online, I have a feeling that much of it is sadly lost.

I wonder what he would have produced if his life had been somewhat different: if there had been more (and better paying) markets for his work; if he had not had to care for both of his parents for so long. He was, I think, a better author overall than H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard (sacrilege!). Too brief a candle in our genre world!

Rather than following the stories as they were written (as The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast did), The Double Shadow is covering stories by "series" (however vague the series was). The first episodes cover the stories set in Smith's region of Averoigne, an imaginary region of France during the Dark and Middle Ages.

The first batch of stories were enjoyable, but as this entry from The Double Shadow shows, the setting grew without much forethought and planning. I wonder what a fantasist such as Smith would do with more discipline?

The podcast has been using those tales that are easily found online, I've been using the collections published over the past several years by Night Shade Books (five volumes, plus a sixth of miscellaneous writings). I've also pulled out a collection of poetry, a collection of letters, and a couple of books of criticism and bibliography as reference (but probably won't dip into them for a bit).

Stories Read While Following the Podcast: The End of the Story (The Collected Fantasies 01): Introduction (Ramsey Campbell); The End of the Story; The Satyr; The Last Incantation. The Door to Saturn (The Collected Fantasies 02): Introduction (Tim Powers); A Rendezvous in Averoigne. A Vintage from Atlantis (The Collected Fantasies 03): Introduction (Michael Dirda); The Colossus of Ylourgne; The Maker of Gargoyles; The Holiness of Azedarac. The Maze of the Enchanter (The Collected Fantasies 04): Introduction (Gahan Wilson); The Mandrakes; The Beast of Averoigne; The Disinternment of Venus. The Last Hieroglyph (The Collected Fantasies 05): Introduction (Richard A. Lupoff); Mother of Toads; The Enchantress of Sylaire.

Counts as sixteen (17) entries in 2012: The Year in Shorts.

Addendum: Good outside references! The Eldritch Dark. Poems by Clark Ashton Smith. Bibliographical information at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database and the Open Library.

Addendum: And if you want to read CAS? You can certainly get a lot of his titles used, but watch out for "collectible prices" in certain titles (the older books). I recommend the set from Night Shade Books as they have corrected texts, notes, alternate endings and the like. If you go the eBook route, I recommend the Nightshade editions again; or searching places like Project Gutenberg (see this) or reading off of The Eldritch Dark (you won't get as many titles as the Night Shade editions, though—if you see other collections for sale, these are made up of freely-available stories, so you're better "building your own" or buying the Night Shade's—honest!) Helpful hint: You can get the Night Shade eBooks from Baen without DRM, in multiple formats, for a very good price here. Amazon also lists these, as well as others, at higher prices.

Stories As Found in the Books (and As Read in the Books, Outside the Podcast):

Smith, Clark Ashton (edited by Scott Connors & Ron Hilger): The End of the Story (The Collected Fantasies 01) (Night Shade Books; 2006; ISBN 978-1-59780-028-0; cover art by Jason Van Hollander).

Made up of: Introduction (Ramsey Campbell); A Note on the Texts; To the Daemon; The Abominations of Yondo; Sadastor; The Ninth Skeleton; The Last Incantation; The End of the Story; The Phantoms of the Fire; A Night in Malnéant; The Resurrection of the Rattlesnake; Thirteen Phantasms; The Venus of Azombeii; The Tale of Satampra Zeiros; The Monster of the Prophecy; The Metamorphosis of the World; The Epiphany of Death; A Murder in the Fourth Dimension; The Devotee of Evil; The Satyr; The Planet of the Dead; The Uncharted Isle; Marooned in Andromeda; The Root of Ampoi; The Necromantic Tale; The Immeasurable Horror; A Voyage To Sfanomoë; Appendix One: Story Notes; Appendix Two: "The Satyr": Alternate Conclusion; Appendix Three: From the Crypts of Memory; Appendix Four: Bibliography.

Counts as zero (00) entries in 2012: The Year in Shorts (podcast reads not counted again).

Smith, Clark Ashton (edited by Scott Connors & Ron Hilger): The Door to Saturn (The Collected Fantasies 02) (Night Shade Books; 2007; ISBN 978-1-59780-029-7; cover art by Jason Van Hollander).

Introduction (Tim Powers); A Note on the Texts; The Door to Saturn; The Red World of Polaris; Told in the Desert; The Willow Landscape; A Rendezvous in Averoigne; The Gorgon; An Offering to the Moon; The Kiss of Zoraida; The Face by the River; The Ghoul; The Kingdom of the Worm; An Adventure in Futurity; The Justice of the Elephant; The Return of the Sorcerer; The City of the Singing Flame; A Good Embalmer; The Testament of Athammaus; A Captivity in Serpens; The Letter from Mohaun Los; The Hunters from Beyond; Appendix One: Story Notes; Appendix Two: Alternate Ending to "The Return of the Sorcerer"; Appendix Three: Bibliography.

Counts as zero (00) entries in 2012: The Year in Shorts (podcast reads not counted again).

Smith, Clark Ashton (edited by Scott Connors & Ron Hilger): A Vintage from Atlantis (The Collected Fantasies 03) (Night Shade Books; 2007; ISBN 978-1-59780-030-3; cover art by Jason Van Hollander).

Introduction (Michael Dirda); A Note on the Texts; The Holiness of Azédarac; The Maker of Gargoyles; Beyond the Singing Flame; Seedling of Mars; The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis; The Eternal World; The Demon of the Flower; The Nameless Offspring; A Vintage from Atlantis; The Weird of Avoosl Wuthoqquan; The Invisible City; The Immortals of Mercury; The Empire of the Necromancers; The Seed from the Sepulcher; The Second Interment; Ubbo-Sathla; The Double Shadow; The Plutonian Drug; The Supernumerary Corpse; The Colossus of Ylourgne; The God of the Asteroid; Appendix One: Story Notes; Appendix Two: The Flower-Devil; Appendix Three: Bibliography.

Counts as zero (00) entries in 2012: The Year in Shorts (podcast reads not counted again).

Smith, Clark Ashton (edited by Scott Connors & Ron Hilger): The Maze of the Enchanter (The Collected Fantasies 04) (Night Shade Books; 2009; ISBN 978-1-59780-031-0; cover art by Jason Van Hollander).

Introduction (Gahan Wilson); A Note on the Texts; The Mandrakes; The Beast of Averoigne; A Star-Change; The Disinterment of Venus; The White Sybil; The Ice Demon; The Isle of the Torturers; The Dimension of Chance; The Dweller in the Gulf; The Maze of the Enchanter; The Third Episode of Vathek—The Princess Zulkais and the Prince Kalilah; Genius Loci; The Secret of the Cairn; The Charnel God; The Dark Eidolon; The Voyage of King Euvoran; Vulthoom; The Weaver in the Vault; The Flower-Women; Appendix One; Appendix Two; Appendix Three; Appendix Four; Appendix Five.

Counts as zero (00) entries in 2012: The Year in Shorts (podcast reads not counted again).

Smith, Clark Ashton (edited by Scott Connors & Ron Hilger): The Last Hieroglyph (The Collected Fantasies 05) (Night Shade Books; 2010; ISBN 978-1-59780-032-7; cover art by Jason Van Hollander).

Introduction (Richard A. Lupoff); A Note on the Texts; The Dark Age; The Death of Malygris; The Tomb-Spawn; The Witchcraft of Ulua; The Coming of the White Worm; The Seven Geases; The Chain of Aforgomon; The Primal City; Xeethra; The Last Hieroglyph; Necromancy in Naat; The Treader of the Dust; The Black Abbot of Puthuum; The Death of Ilalotha; Mother of Toads; The Garden of Adompha; The Great God Awto; Strange Shadows; The Enchantress of Sylaire; Double Cosmos; Nemesis of the Unfinished; The Master of the Crabs; Morthylla; Schizoid Creator; Monsters in the Night; Phoenix; The Theft of the Thirty-Nine Girdles; Symposium of the Gorgon; The Dart of Rasasfa; Appendix One: Story Notes; Appendix Two: Variant Temptation Scenes from "The Witchcraft of Ulua"; Appendix Three: "The Traveler"; Appendix Four: Material Removed from "The Black Abbot of Puthuum"; Appendix Five: Alternate Ending to "I Am Your Shadow"; Appendix Six: Alternate Ending to "Nemesis of the Unfinished"; Appendix Seven: Bibliography.

Counts as three (03) entries in 2012: The Year in Shorts (podcast reads not counted again).

Smith, Clark Ashton (edited by Scott Connors & Ron Hilger): The Miscellaneous Writings of Clark Ashton Smith (Night Shade Books; 2011; ISBN 978-1-59780-297-0; cover art by Jason Van Hollander).

Foreword (editors); The Sorcerer Departs (A Biography of Clark Ashton Smith; Some General Remarks on Smith's Poetry and Prose; The Sorcerer Departs; Afterword) (Donald Sidney-Fryer). Fragments and Early Tales by Clark Ashton Smith: The Animated Sword; The Red Turban; Prince Alcourz and the Magician; The Malay Krise; The Ghost of Mohammed Din; The Mahout; The Rajah and the Tiger; Something New; The Flirt; The Perfect Woman; A Platonic Entanglement; The Expert Lover; The Parrot; A Copy of Burns; Checkmate. The Infernal Star (Fragment of a Novel): Chapter 01—The Finding of the Amulet; Chapter 02—The Wearing of the Amulet; Chapter 03—"I am Avalzant, the Warden of the Fiery Change"; Chapter 04—The Passage to Pnidleethon. Dawn of Discord; House of the Monoceros; The Dead will Cuckold You; The Hashish-Eater—Or, The Apocalypse of Evil; Bibliography (editors); O Amor Atque Realitas! (Donald Sidney-Fryer).

Counts as one (01) entry in 2012: The Year in Shorts (podcast reads not counted again).

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a nice nearly all-sky shot of the Milky Way and zodiacal light. Neither are seen anymore from my backyard, thanks to light pollution!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Mergers and Acquisitions

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 2623 in the constellation of Cancer. NGC 2623, also known as Arp 243, is actually a pair of galaxies in the process of merging.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Close Up: New Worlds

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a depiction of our "newest" neighbor (it has been there all along, we just didn't know it!).

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Curtains and Streams

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a wonderful shot from Yellowstone National Park showing the erupting White Dome Geyser coupled with a curtain-like showing of the Aurora.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mode of Operation

"Nine-tenths of tactics are certain, and taught in books: but the irrational tenth is like the kingfisher flashing across the pond and that is the test of generals. It can only be ensured by instinct, sharpened by thought practicing the stroke so often that at the crisis it is as natural as a reflex."

(T.E. Lawrence)

Posted previously...but given what I've seen so far this "season", this is the television show I'd much rather see than anything currently playing.
I Really Ought To Keep Better Notes

He showered, and for once climbed very early into bed, feeling that he must have nightmares. About strange sounds in the winds, over the mysterious thickets of Mars. Or about some blackened, dried-out body of a sentient being, sixty million years dead, floating free in the Asteroid Belt. A few had been found. Some were in museums

(From...maybe The Planet Strappers by Raymond Z. Gallun? I need to keep better notes.)
Spiral Path

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is an odd looking one. The star R Sculptoris was recently examined using the recently built ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array). It was found to be surrounded by gas and dust moving out from the star in a spiral pattern. What is causing this?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Being Negative

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a very different look at a familiar thing. The Sun, inverted, against an inverted starfield. The solar image shows a lot of "surface" detail that we cannot normally see.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Deep Time

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a new version of a "classic", the latest generation in the "deep field" shots of the Hubble Space Telescope. From the Deep Field to the Ultra Deep Field to the (now) Extreme Deep Field.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Stars, Like Dust

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful shot of the area in Pegasus: galaxies embedded in an area of cosmic dust.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Wide Swath

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful shot of three degrees (six times the width of the full Moon) of the sky towards the center of the Milky Way. Most astronomical instruments only cover a smaller portion of the sky, so a vista like this must be built up over many images. Producing stunning shots, such as this, is secondary for this instrument (Pan-STARRS), it is designed for "wide angle viewing" to hunt for potentially dangerous asteroids.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Different View

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows us aurora. So what, you say, we've seen many such pictures this "season". Not so much from this point of view!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Combat Jump

CSM Basil L. Plumley has passed away after a brief stay in hospice, out of complications due to colon cancer. I wrote a bit about him here, in 2008. Hopefully he is sharing drinks with other members of his unit who went first to clear the way.

More here. A photo of then Sgt. Major Plumley at LZ X-Ray.

And we can't forget another mention of this song. Social interactions, old school. More social interactions, old school. Look at those service stripes!

Background information. You might want to look up the genesis of the "username" behind the video. Extensive webiste. Full (?) trailer.
Wheel of Time

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a shot of star trails over a lighthouse located at Cape Cod, Massachusetts (USA). Dizzying!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Twisted Bubble

Yesterday we had one result of a star near the end of it's time on the main sequence, today we have a less symmetrical result. Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows supernova remnant Simeis 147 in the constellations of Taurus and Auriga. Very faint (too faint for me!) and covering the span of six full moons in the evening sky (!).

Monday, October 08, 2012

Better Than Cinema

"I come in peace, I didn't bring artillery. But I'm pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you fuck with me, I'll kill you all."

(General James Mattis)

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a nice shot of the planetary nebula Abell 39. Bobble, not bubble, as it makes me think of the statis fields in the Vernor Vinge tales.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Don't. Blink.

No, no angels here, weeping or otherwise. Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day will have yo wondering about what you are seeing.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

First Nebula

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful shot of M42, the Great Nebula of Orion. This is something I visit every time I see it in the night sky and is the first nebula I remember looking at (with a very shaky, over-priced and under-powered "department store" telescope).
Warp Speed to Mars!

Well, maybe not. But it tickled the fanboi to read "dilithium crystals" in this article about a potential rocket system.

Friday, October 05, 2012


"It is frequently a misfortune to have very brilliant men in charge of affairs. They expect too much of ordinary men." Thucydides
Reflections Of

Aurora and a "falling star" are featured in today's Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Eye in the Sky

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 7293, the Helix Nebula, the remains of a stellar explosion.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Goats Over Greenland

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a "goat" in the sky; one of many fantastic shapes generated during an aurora. "Mouseover" the picture to see the constellations.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Cool, Clear Water

Well, maybe not quite yet! But today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows that MSL Curiosity appears to have hit a "hole in one" with signs that it has found the remains of a streambed.

Monday, October 01, 2012

The Next Celestial Wonder?

Many amateur astronomers are straining their instruments towards today's Astronomy Picture of the Day and wondering if the next "comet of the century" is on the move.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cleanup in Universe Aisle Six

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a Hubble Space Telescope image of galaxies in collison (or merging): NGC 6745 is actually two galaxies currently as one rather misshapen mass.

Saturday, September 29, 2012


The incomparable Tony Halles (we are not worthy to carry his filter case) provides today's Astronomy Picture of the Day with this beautiful image of NGC 7023, The Iris Nebula.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Overdrawn at the Memory Bank

I seem to be perpetually behind on listening to podcasts, even at sites where I contribute to the podcasts, so it wasn't until this morning that I started to listen to Patrick Hester's excellent interview with one of my favorite writers, Jay Lake.

And, then I shut it off as it seemed more important to actually be able to see the fricking road that I was driving on than crying from emotional reaction to this very brutally honest discussion.

Both my father and father-in-law died after very long and protracted illnesses. Both of these overlapped the other, with my father dying first, then around a year later, my father-in-law dying. Along that timeframe we had the birth of my daughter, 09/11, a loss of a job of fourteen plus years, unemployment for a year, part-time work for several years, full-time employment at a fraction of what I had previously made, sacking of over 50% of the people I work with, illness of my mother-in-law and associated events in trying to move her, and more.

My father did not die of cancer, but of conditions related to dementia and Parkinson's Disease. My father-in-law did die of cancer, he had cancer upon cancer upon cancer which lead to other problems which lead to long-term secondary illness which lead to dementia which lead to heart failure...

The cost—financial but also—often overlooked—personal to a family is tremendous. I drove thousands of miles to visit my parent's to try and help out. I drove hundreds of miles on errands for my in-laws, including trying to get my father-in-law to the doctor or to chemotherapy. The illnesses exhausted me (I can't imagine how it was for my mother or mother-in-law) and frayed relations with family members both in terms of my siblings and my siblings-in-law (the fact that only one sibling-in-law, and that by marriage to a brother-in-law bothered to call or send a card on my father's death irks me to this day; I can understand that they were dealing with their own problems with my father-in-law, etc., but somehow I managed being hip-deep in two parental illnesses to function, sigh).

I can't imagine what Jay is going through. Or his child. I pray that they both have the strength to carry on.

I'll eventually listen to the podcast, but right now, it is too much. As with anything vaguely related to 09/11, or certain stories written by David Drake and set in the Hammer's Slammers sequence, or even the pillory scene with Jack Aubrey in the Patrick O'Brian tales...this just hits too close to home, hits too much of an emotional chord.

Cancer sucks. Parkinson's sucks. Arthritis sucks. Illness sucks.
The Empty Square

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows what is (to the naked eye) a pretty empty part of the night sky: the "great square" of the constellation Pegasus. With sufficient light-gathering ability...things look different!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Stars and Smoke

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the stars of Corona Australis and very smoke-like nebular clouds.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Horror of It All

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a perfectly good working spacecraft, about one-quarter to one-half through its expected useful life, being sent into retirement.

What the heck is wrong with us?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dried Fruits

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a closeup taken by MER Opportunity (you know, one of the other rovers on Mars) of blueberries...the rocky "fruit" that was first found by it and MER Spirit when they first touched down on Mars. These are not like the earlier spheres, so we have found a new process at work on Mars.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Celestial Pencil

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows us NGC 2736, more commonly known as the Pencil Nebula. Supernova shockwaves!

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day continues the fling into Fall with views of the Sun over one location from the solstice to the equinox to the solstice!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Another Analemma

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows us another analemma, this time a complete cycle!

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Unquiet Sky

Astonishing shot in today's Astronomy Picture of the Day. We've had quite the active star recently!

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a analemma (a series of images of our Sun, tracing its course over a year or part of a year) from a sequence of sunrise shots. Look carefully at the upper solar images for a visit by a planetary body.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Viva Las Vesta!

No dusky natives, no waving palms, but possibly a future oasis in space. Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows us the place where Asimov once stranded his character's and the setting of a thousand other science fiction tales: the asteroid (minor planet) Vesta, as the asteroid explorer Dawn departs on the way to asteroid Ceres.
Mad Dogs and Englishmen

The tavern keeper looked at the girl who was re-lacing her bodice. He shrugged sympathetically. "The English, yes? Mad. All mad. Heretics. Mad." He made the sign of the cross to defend himself from the heathen evil. "Like all soliders," the tavern keeper said. "Just mad."

(Bernard Cornwall, Sharpe's Rifles)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Say, "Cheese"!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows us that tourists are the matter where they are.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Our Quiet Sun

Like yesterday's entry, today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is something that you will have a hard time believing is reality: our "quiet" Sun.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Op Art

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Saturn, the rings and Tethys. There are some things you see that just make your mind wonder if it can be real.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Ring Sketch

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful rendering of Messier 57, the Ring Nebula in Lyra. Despite the spread of more and more advanced means of imaging (equipment, software) at lower and lower prices, amateur astronomer's are still encouraged to take up sketching as it helps to train the eye to observe fine detail.

Friday, September 14, 2012

One of These Things is Just Like the Other

Hard to believe on first glance that today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is showing two of the same thing. Yes, that almost star-like object is a galaxy (Messier Object 60), as is the more obvious spiral to the side (NGC 4647). Ellipticals are odd ducks, many of the so-called Arp objects, catalogued by astronomer Halton Arp as sites of interesting goings on.

Beyond that, take a look at the image. How many other galaxies can you spot? The constellation of Virgo is an absolute swarm of galaxies and a great "hunting ground" for amateur astronomers.