A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Chasing the Phoenix

Chasing the Phoenix

Tor Books, 2015
TOF is unsure of the publication date for this gem, he read it in prepublication proofs. The web says August 2015. However, Faithful Reader ought to reserve a copy as soon as he, she, or it is able. Everything in this noble novel works -- from Surplus, the genetically-engineered dog, to the Hidden King who wants to reunite a a far-future, post-tech China, to even the office-names of supporting  characters. (One general is named Powerful Locomotive.) The dialogue is entertaining, the plot twists clever and supple, the narrative voice perfectly tuned, and the whole story suffused with sly Swanwickian humor.

There seems more than a touch of R. A. Lafferty in the thing, for those whose tastes run in that direction.

In this future, armies march with archeologists on staff, whose job is to unearth and restore ancient high-tech battle machines. The AIs that once ran the world tried to exterminate man, but were outlawed and destroyed. Maybe.

Darger and Surplus, the two heroes, are a pair of con-men whose goal is to get rich by attaching themselves to an up-and-coming warlord, the Hidden King. They pretend to have limited superpowers (Darger calls himself the Perfect Strategist) and bit by bit they talk themselves deeper into the complex rivalries of this future China.

They are not, however, the only ones running an agenda.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Duhem on Physical Theory and Experiment

Let's see if this works. It should come out as a slide show.
Duhem on Physical Theory and Experiment

which outlines Pierre Duhem's takedown of falsification and positivism. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sisters of the Sacred Heart

This was one of the toughest stories to move. It was written originally in June 1989, and Gardner Dozois said it was a perfect story for The Twilight Zone magazine. Alas, TZ magazine had folded, and Gardner wasn't looking for that kind of story. Also, it was too long. I shortened it and tried some more. KK Rusch did not like the original ending. Neither did some others who looked at it. It was substantially revised in 1991, 1992, and 1997. Along the way, it got tightened, rewritten, re-ended. The version posted here at the STORY PREVIEW PAGE is like rev.5 or something. It is, however, substantially the same story of 1989.

Eventually, it found a home in the magazine Dappled Things (Easter 2010)

The Chthulu Reaction

The orange powder is ammonium dichromate and when heat is introduced, it forms nitrogen gas, water, and ammonium (III) oxide, which is the dark powder that looks like the volcano you see.
What appears to be tentacles is actually what happens when heat is introduced to mercury (II) thiocyanate. The white solid expands when it's heated to become a dark, tentacle-like mass due to its decomposition to carbon nitride. In addition, sulfur dioxide and mercury (II) sulfide are also produced. The reaction is appropriately nicknamed the "Pharoah's Serpent" and was sold in stores as fireworks until people realized it's toxic.

TOF remembers those "fireworks." You lit up a pellet and a "snake" grew out of it and curled all over. He does not recall all the 4th of July dead bodies from the mercury thiocyanate, sulfur dioxide, and mercury sulfide, but supposes they must have been on the next block.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

On This Day in History

The estmable Dr. Boli tells us that...

On this day in 627, the Roman Empire in the East finally broke the power of the Persian Empire after more than seven centuries of nearly constant conflict—the longest, and therefore most profitable, war in human history. It was the greatest triumph of the Roman Empire, and it lasted for about half an hour, after which the Caliphate obliterated Persia and reduced the Roman Empire to a state about the size of Delaware.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Flynncestry: Ragtime Flynns

Daniel Joseph Flynn goes to Phillipsburg

Daniel Joseph Flynn
This account is based on sundry documents in hand and on a transcript of a conversation with Francis Joseph Flynn, Sr (Pop-pop), May, 1976.  At the time of the recording, he was 76 years old and was talking about when he was a kid.  Those who remember him are welcome to supply his vocal mannerisms and to make metronomic hand-chopping gestures as they read his words.
After John Thomas Flynn was crushed in the railroad repair yards in Washington NJ in 1881, his oldest boys, Martin (12) and Daniel (10) had to go to work to support the family. According to TOF's grandfather, they would hop the freight train when it slowed down through the Yards and ride it through the tunnel to Oxford Furnace, where they worked in the Nail Mill. In the interview taped in May 1976, Pop-pop remembered:
Oxford Furnace, late 1800s
"My dad first worked... he worked in Oxford. They made steel, or rather iron. They cooked up the ore and made ingots, pig iron, until that ore played out. It was the Oxford Iron Mills."
The Merriam Shoe Co. had relocated from New York City to Newton NJ in 1873, and "attracted to the novelty, townsfolk peered inside and wondered at the mechanical wizardry of the modern factory system." Modern, indeed. A steam engine powered the belts that moved the machines. The Sussex Register thought that “the only question that remains to be settled is, will Mr. Merriam be seconded in his efforts by a competent corps of women and children from this county, who are willing to become his employees?” This was just in time for Martin and Daniel to become two of those children, for in...

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Feats of St. Nicholas

When TOF was a TOFling, it was the practice of Haus Flynn to set one's shoes outside the bedroom door in order to collect goodies left there by Good St. Nick. Later, after there were too many shoes cluttering up the hallway, this took the form of socks hung under the mantlepiece. TOF's maternal relatives, by which he means virtually the entire neighborhood where he grew up, were German and therefore hip to the good Sankt Nikolas, since elided via niederländisch to Santa Claus.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus; although the Santa Claus of the popular imagination could be accused of identity theft:

Artist: Lukasz Ciaciuch/