06 Dec

Capsule Review: Toussaint Louverture by Philippe Girard

Several people hit me up to note that Toussaint Louverture by Philippe Girard just came out. It’s apparently the first biography of Louverture that’s English first that has come out in 80 years.

I snagged a copy that arrived last night and read the book promptly.

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It’s best read if you already have an appreciation of Caribbean history. Something like Carrie Gibson’s Empire’s Crossroads is a great start.

Haiti’s history and the US is so intertwined. I could write a large essay. But short of it: the entire Louisiana Purchase came about because Napoleon wanted to reinvade Haiti after Toussaint Louverture’s successful rebellion. Haiti was such an economic crown jewel that Napoleon jettisoned enough territory to the US that it doubled the size of the US, much to the shock of the negotiators who showed up. There is no modern US as you conceive of it without Haiti. The French gave up plans to invade the US as well, which was a war that had been possibly brewing.

See Haiti and the Founding Fathers.

Hamilton (yes, that Hamilton) helped Toussaint draft a constitution. Hamilton, famously finding democracy and liberty messy, basically suggested a highly centralized military run system and advised against an American styled system. We’re not sure how much that influenced Toussaint, but that’s what he went with.

I find the American blindspot to Haiti very frustrating.

Oh, yeah, and Jefferson as president actively supported the French attempt to retake Haiti (Sant Domingue) because he was just plain racist.

A lot of the American South reacted to the revolution and refugees by becoming super racist, setting the state not only for the American Civil War but to the Southern Strategy in US politics that just kicked our ass right now.

It’s all bound together. History still lies with us. The evil of slavery and the creation of racism as a major tenet of modern Wester Civilization still stains the body politic, so it’s important to read about one of the major figures in this long, sad history of the fight against slavery and its follow on effects.

So finally digging deeper into Toussaint is important, and I read biography last night in one big gulp. It’s not a hagiography, but then few really good delves into the complications of major historical figures are. While I learned some things I wasn’t expecting, I have a greater appreciation for the sheer unlikeness of what Toussaint did.

Here are some highlights I noted on twitter as I was reading:

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18 Nov

Capsule Review: Planetfall by Emma Newman

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One of my regrets about how scheduled I was last year was that I got very little time to read books I was hearing buzzed about. Planetfall was one of those on my shortlist. I finally got to pull this one off my shelf and start reading it a couple days ago.

This was an interesting book because the main character struggles with a disorder and trying to plumb too much about what that is gives away some of the core secrets of the book, and this book is interestingly constructed as a mystery. A lot is revealed all at the end, even if you suspect going along the pay off is still all unraveled right in the last pages. Which is something you rarely see in this day and age of spoilers and reviews that give away endings. I’m glad I was able to miss any spoilers and come at this fresh.

Let’s just say if you like classic SF, but also enjoy a deeply personal angle on the big ideas and a bit of a mystery genre, this is a personal tragedy that makes for a fast read and is a great piece of science fiction. You have your Big Dumb Object, ‘God’s City’ which has been left by aliens for humans to figure out what it is there for. You have a plucky band of interstellar explorers heading out to explore it. And then you have the strife of survivors trying to pick up the pieces and the consequences of bad decisions made and their after affects years later.

I recommend giving it a read, reminded me of some of my favorite classics:

Planetfall on Indiebound, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.com.

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17 Nov

SpaceX Plans to Launch over 4,000 satelites to blanket the Earth in high speed internet

Well, this is somewhat stunning and exciting:

SpaceX just asked the FCC to launch 4,425 satellites – Business Insider: “SpaceX, the aerospace company founded by the Mars-hungry tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, just made a big move to envelop the Earth in high-speed internet coverage.

“With deployment of the first 800 satellites, SpaceX will be able to provide widespread U.S. and international coverage for broadband services,” SpaceX wrote. “Once fully optimized through the Final Deployment, the system will be able to provide high bandwidth (up to 1 Gbps per user), low latency broadband services for consumers and businesses in the U.S. and globally.””

(Via Business Insider.)

Musk plans to offer 1GBPS high speed internet to anyone on Earth. You know, as you do.

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16 Nov

So that one dude got elected…

In some ways it is Deja Vu all over again…

I’m 37, I arrived in this country during the Clinton administration and not too long after that, I saw Gore win the popular vote and lose the electoral college and I subsequently lived through 8 years of the Bush administration.

It was freaky to see Gore miss the election by losing the electoral college but having won the popular vote. It was devastating to see a conservative judge swing the vote over to Bush. It was devastating to see the recount halted. There were serious feelings back then. It’s hard to remember how angry many were. Jay Lake captured some of that in an essay he wrote in 2000 called Why Are So Many of Us So Mad.

This time it is Russian intervention, the use of racism well above the usual Southern Strategy that Nixon first used, and the FBI’s October email surprise. There is still rage.

And everyone who predicted Bush would be a mess turned out to be right.

Bush gave us trillions in debt for the two wars where there had been a surplus. Invaded Iraq for reasons turned out to be fabricated. And then presided over one of the greatest economic collapses the country has seen.

Now this sort of thing has happened to Democrats twice in the last 16 years.

But seriously, HOLY SHIT, this is nothing like Bush…

That being said, Trump ain’t no Bush. And so help me, that is a fucked up thing to have to write.

Who the fuck knows what comes with the mismanagement of Trump. This tweet just about covers what a freakshow his ‘management’ of the last week has already been:

Everyone is scared. I think they’re right to be. An anti-semite and racist from Breitbart in a high position of power. Peter Thiel, who wrote that capitalism is incompatible with democracy and left South Africa to come here, is an influencer. Seriously sketch people are getting nods for staff. The team not understanding basic things about government. Trump making millions off of charging the government for use of his planes and hotels. His kids getting woven into all this.

One week in and it’s already a new modern low for incompetence and just general sketchy behavior. Then there are the Trump supporters, many of whom are emboldened racists, which is leading to encounters that are just one jump removed from me that I’ve seen reported on Facebook via trustworthy sources that are fucked up.

That’s just one week in.

So they whole ‘trust the system’ thing? When Republicans blocked the Supreme Court nominee and played this dirty. When they got rid of the voting rights act and purged voter rolls. When they gerrymandered their way to this victory that gives them Electoral College dominance but they lost the popular vote by (checks, over a million people now), then you’re left going ‘what system?’

I could write a massive essay on how fucked up Trump is. I don’t have to, Wil Wheaton did a bang up job here.

When McCain ran, I really felt he wasn’t up for running things and I didn’t want Palin one heart attack away from the presidency. Romney, I didn’t want the policies but I got why he was running for the other side (Ryan I didn’t like).

But Trump?

Jesus.

On the other hand, this reveals a segment of America that has always been here

Many of my friends of color were wholly unsurprised by the result (yeah, man, America is racist, this is news) and when liberals have said ‘this is the worst thing I’ve ever seen happen’ have had some very strong reactions to that.

I live in a red state, where I am surrounded by Trumpist opinions, and have been fighting that sort of shit through my fiction since 1999. I don’t feel I got the Obama years off, in fact, it was frustrating that so many white folk would tell me I was being over dramatic for feeling like the US was still a hostile environ. It has never not been hostile for me. I never know who is going to accidentally forget I’m not white and say something racist. And then I know, at least I look white, so I’m relatively *safe* compared to the non-white people who that shit gets aimed at. I just get backsplash.

I feel this election has more revealed what was already there. More so than it was a sudden surge from nowhere. The same pick up trucks with confederate flags are still rolling coal up and down streets in my town. As Vice points out in this article “A Racist White House Doesn’t Surprise Black People.

I feel that a bunch of people stayed home, proving Martin Luther King’s statement that it isn’t the people who hate you you need to worry about, it’s the quiet folk in the middle.

We’re in a moral recession

Change is slow, and involves setbacks, and what I call ‘moral recessions.’ I think we’re in one now. This isn’t just about politics, but the kind of people being posted in charge right now. I’m happy to say that a president who puts a publicly anti-semitic, alt-right, white nationalist in a position of power has a moral deficit. And the president has a big impact on the country.

I don’t know if Trump is a facist or a Hitler, I am not omniscient. These same comparisons were made to Bush, it’s a natural part of the reaction that comes. I sometimes worry that over ascribing power to the opposition causes self-defeatism. I think 2018’s house is all up for reelection, and that is the tool to blunting the worst of this damage. I take hope from that. But it’s going to be a rough road ahead if this week’s any indication.

But when I say moral recession, it’s because a line is never straight.

I take some hope from the fact that more Americans, despite gerrymandering and voter roll purges, voted for Hillary Clinton than for Trump. I take some hope from the fact that basic modern attitudes in the US are swinging in a progressive direction and this is why many Trump supporters are screaming on twitter and Facebook how happy they are that they think Trump is a white nationalist, or destroy healthcare, or women’s rights.

Things are radically different from the 1980s. In the 1980s, 75% of white respondents to polls thought it was okay to discriminate when selling a house. That’s 25% now. That 25% is where you find a lot of Trump’s core support (due to the US being such a low voter turnout country, 25% of a population can swing an election). When I first arrived in the US, more Americans thought my very existence shouldn’t allowed (mixed race) at 52% of the country than not, that’s now 13% according to Gallup.

That smaller part of the country, mainly rural, has reacted against the majority and done something pretty horrible while another chunk of the country stood by and did nothing. But they’ve been doing horrible shit all along, and now is not the time to buckle against their lashback.

What I plan to do

I’ve always been here making art that’s diverse. I didn’t stop doing that when famous white SF authors told me to die or leave the country after 9/11 in SFWA forums. I didn’t stop doing it when called any number of things along the way. I’ve tried to play the long con. The fight for diversity and inclusion and my values has been something I’ve been at since the beginning. I will be at it forever.

I’ve made up a list of things I can do that are not posting on social media to try and help out politically as I realize I’ll need to do more than continue my mission in art. Places to donate, ways to volunteer, places to lend my creativity to

But I will continue to create exactly the kind of art that quite a few Trump supporters have always despised me for, wish to shut down, and I will continue to help create a future that supports the trend lines of positive things in this country so that in the multi-decade span of time, I can look back on this.

I plan to do my best to make sure vulnerable people are safe near me, reach out to other friends who feel the same. I plan to make sure my family is safe and that I am safe. I plan to avoid getting sucked in too much to news and social media that depresses me or overwhelms me or I will be lulled into inaction, which is how these things work. Expect a flurry of negative news, and a flurry of legislature and plans that try to overwhelm us all with apathy. I remember social security teetering on being canceled by Republicans in 2004, I remember the way people tried to stop the inevitability of the wars and couldn’t. It’ll be tough, but you’ll need to take care of yourself as well.

This is a lifetime’s work. It may not pan out to put hopes on 2018. Or 2020. I think it’s always been a lifetime’s work. I think it’s a lifetime’s work that minorities of all kinds have borne heavily and this will be heaviest on them moving forward. I hope that doesn’t get anyone down, you need to protect yourselves, but it’s the long game I tend to think of. Back when it was Bush in charge, when Obama swept in, and still now. Always the long game. Always about what the point of my art is here for and why I do it. And always about what I’m trying to leave behind in the world.

PS

No, I’m not sure what the hell will happen with my healthcare. A year ago my wife joined me in freelancing and we set up on ACA. I would prefer single payer, but ACA was at least something, and though pricey, it let the family freelance. It’ll be good for 2017, but 2018 is a shrouded mist for me. Like that place the Bene Gesserit can’t see past? I can’t either.

I have, now, a pre-existing condition, my heart defect. That means even if I wanted to pay it might prevent my family from getting health insurance. I’m not sure how we’ll thread that needle, it adds some anxiousness to my ability to forecast and plan. However, since we all freelance in the house now, we do have the ability to move anywhere we need to in order to get health insurance. I’m hoping not to have to move, as I’ve put down roots pretty well in my current community…

PPS

This is the calm version of the post. I just wrote ‘fuck’ over and over again originally. I feel I still have yet to wrap my head around many different aspects of this election, but this was a first attempt. I may be posting more.

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12 Nov

My METAtropolis novellas Stochasticity, Byways, and Tensegrity are now for sale as eBooks

If you enjoyed my novella Stochasticity from the METAtropolis anthology, know then that there were two sequels to that anthology and I wrote a novella for each one.

I’ve finally gotten these copyedited, turned into eBooks, and uploaded to Amazon as readers have frequently asked if they could buy them individually as well. Stochasticity, the first eBook of the three, is free for the next five days at Amazon.com. I hope if you’d read it you might leave a review, and if you haven’t, head over to download it and maybe leave a review!

So here they are:

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A disturbing, science fiction vision of the possible future of post rust-belt America.

Reg Stratton is a bouncer eking a life out in the decaying Wilds just outside of Detroit in a pseudo post-oil collapse. But when he gets sucked into a making a little money on the side by tasking out his time via an anonymous app, he finds himself in the middle of a riot that could change his life, the city, maybe even the world… as long as Reg keeps cool and makes the right choice.

Get it at Amazon

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A science fiction thriller that romps through a post-oil America in the middle of being re-wilded.

Working road demolition is thankless work. Reg Stratton has been helping rip up the infrastructure of a world that depended on oil, cars and carbon. Now the re-wilding of the USA is in full swing and he’s in the middle of it all. But a conspiracy threatens the Pacific North West, and Reg isn’t all he seems. Neither is someone else on the road demolition crew. Reg will have to work quickly, before time runs out, and everything he’s worked for is threatened.

Read it at Amazon.

METAtropolis Tensegrity

A science fiction detective story set on a living floating city.

Long ago, before genetic work extended his life, Reg worked to build the massive city of Skyholme that now floats well above the clouds of Earth. Now, in his retirement, Reg is being asked to investigate a murder unlike any other: the city itself. Forces are at work, distant intelligences are moving against the city, and it’s only a matter of time before everyone around Reg will suffer if he can’t solve the crime.

Get it at Amazon.

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11 Nov

Capsule Review: Revenger by Alastair Reynolds

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This is one of the most fun reads I’ve had in a while.

Revenger is full of all the stock Alastair Reynolds world building that I love, since Chasm City (in some ways it’s a real return to his roots of mixing low, almost steam level punk technology and high space opera settings), yet the narrow focus on a single POV, that of Fura Ness, gives it a fast-moving whip pace that meant I ate through this book in a quick couple of days.

Set in the ruins of a galaxy that has seen many civilizations rise and fall Fura Ness and her sister join a ship plying the space ways in search of artificial worlds that have since collapsed and been locked away. With strong hints of the age of sail, but with a vividly imagined solar system as its playground, and a revenge quest plot (one of my favorites!) I felt really sad when I finished because I didn’t get to stay inside the book.

Seriously, I’ll read the fuck out of a sequel.

Indie Store near you
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

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08 Nov

Bridging Infinity (which includes short story written by me and Karen Lord) is now available!

Earlier this year Karen Lord and I wrote a short story together (here’s where I documented the process of doing that). I’m psyched to say that you can now buy this anthology.

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The latest volume in the Hugo award-winning Infinity Project series, showcasing all-original hard science fiction stories from the leading voices in genre fiction.

Sense of wonder is the lifeblood of science fiction. When we encounter something on a truly staggering scale – metal spheres wrapped around stars, planets rebuilt and repurposed, landscapes transformed, starships bigger than worlds – we react viscerally. Fear, reverence, admiration – how else are we to react to something so grand?

Bridging Infinity puts humanity at the heart of these vast undertakings – as builder, as engineer, as adventurer – reimagining and rebuilding the world, the solar system, and even the entire universe.

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07 Nov

Author considered as a newly reconstituted gym rat, one year in

Tomorrow I visit my cardiologist one year after he cleared me to start exercising again (I have a heart defect, it’s likely Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. You can’t tell for sure unless you biopsy the heart, which is a bad idea while you’re still living.)

Some reactions:

1. I’m still alive after a year of experimenting with exercising again. Go team!

2. I’m kinda nervous that I get told to ease back so I’m somewhat not looking forward to going in.

Seeing as that it’s been one year, I’m in an Auld Lang Syne kind of mood about the progress I’ve made and looking back over it.

Once I got cleared to start exercising again I slipped carefully back into it. Not wanting to overdo it and kill myself (this is how you die with HCM, you push yourself too hard and die, it often kills athletes who everyone otherwise thought were awesome). But after almost dying of HCM, almost dying of a pulmonary embolism, spending a year on blood thinners, and then being banned from exercise other than walking for 7 years, let’s just say I’d gotten a bit hefty and very weak.

From January 1st through April I had a good 4 month streak of gym attendance. I focused hard on the running aspect. I over trained (again, not something I want to do with my condition) and ended up taking May and June off, basically.

I started up again July 22nd with a whole new lifting plan that has been perfect, and am sticking with that. Since July 22nd I think I’ve missed maybe a day at the gym. It’s become such a habit that if I miss a day, I spent the rest of the day itching to go, which is weird. Habits can be killer, or super helpful!

So, how has that worked out for me.

Well, on the conventional measure everyone focuses on, pounds, I was 231 pounds on November 2015 and here in November 2016 I’m… 231 pounds.

I’ve failed?

Nah.

I’ve gotten better at running:

November 2015 jogging up a flight of stairs winded me. Now I find it fun. My first run in November 2015 on the track, little old ladies speed walked past me. Now, I can TOTALLY CRUSH THEM in speed walking. Also, I can run a 5K (I did it on video on the track, but my schedule didn’t work out to run one for real, but I run about 5K every Sunday playing Ultimate Frisbee now and I’m thinking about adding a Wednesday game in). Also, I play Ultimate Frisbee now!

I’ve gotten stronger at lifting shit:

November 2015 I was barely able to bench 85 lbs after 7 years off. This morning I did 185lbs for two of my three my sets of 10 (warmed up with 145). I couldn’t do a single pull up, now I can do 10. I’m beating most of my ‘bests’ from just out of college. My cardiologist told me I couldn’t do any low rep high weight maxes, I could only do 3*10s, so I’ve just slowly been focusing on form and raising weight slowly (they don’t want me straining super hard). I struggled to do a dip, now I can do 35.

I have more energy:

I feel less like burrowing down and hiding from the world. I have energy for stupid shit that happens, both in career and otherwise. Last week I walked up a 1,500 foot mountain in Tempe because I thought the view would be cool and it seemed like something I should do. I wouldn’t have had the energy for that a year ago. Or the ability.

And yes, my body has changed:

While I haven’t lost ‘weight’ I seem to be slowly replacing fat with muscle as I keep to the habit of being in the gym every morning. That’s the whole point. I started out around 30% or (higher) body fat percentage. I’m down to 23%. I still have a ways to go.

Measurement wise it’s meant going from a nearly 44 inch waist to 39.5. That’s been slower than I’d like for a year’s work (I’d been hoping to hit 38), but due to the lifting focus, it’s meant my shoulders and chest went from 52.5 to 55.5 (which means that my shoulder to waist ratio is the same as if my waist were 38, and I’m still slowly losing there as I keep going). And my arms from 15.5 to 16.5 inches.

So even though I’m exactly the same weight, which wasn’t something I expected, my body reacted rather well to being back in the gym and I’ve been happy with the results. More energy, I fit in shirts better, I’m down sizes in pants, and it is still a process in progress.

I feel that’s a good year’s progress. If I keep that up for another year I will position my body well for heart health, which was the real goal my cardiologist had. I still need to get more inches off the waist based on heart health needs (a body fat percentage below 20% is healthier for heart), but I’m not really shooting for any goals, but rather focused more on the form and habit of being in the gym every morning no matter rain, sun, snow, or what have you. In all previous years I never built the habit this deep in, but it’s serving me well.

All of this would progress faster if I ate way, way cleaner. But half the fun has been that I can EAT AGAIN this year. Nutty Bars are back in my life, and it’s a wonderful thing. I was able to eat very carefully in the last 7 years and lose weight, but I would gain a chunk back during every deadline season when I’d fail to track what I ate and ate crap because I was stressed. I’ve now successfully lost weight while under a rough deadline and some career shake ups, and that’s just because no matter what is happening I am in the gym for my morning routine. I also toss I more walking during that time.

What is my routine?

So from Nov-April I was doing a routine where I did upper body on Mon, lower body on Wed, upper on Fri. Every day in between was cardio. Then you swapped out the stack next week. Lower body Mon, upper on Wed, lower body Friday. My issue was that I was a) tempted to skip cardio days and b) struggling to get the whole upper body workout in without getting over exhausted or feeling wobbly. So I would have to slow down a lot, which meant way long workouts. Which ate up my morning and impacted my day. Then I ran too much, overtrained, and fell apart.

July-November I’ve had a lot more luck splitting everything up and leaving the routine exactly the same. Monday is chest. Tuesday is back day. Wednesday is shoulder day. Thursday is leg day (ugh). Friday is arms and abs. By isolating muscle groups, I can actually do 30 minutes workouts, even with my extra long heart safe pauses between every set to make sure I’m not overdoing it.

My community gym is half a mile walk from the house. I walk over, which warms me up. Workout one muscle group pretty quickly. Then, I have the option of a 20 minute jog, if I’m feeling up for it, or a treadmill walk. Then it’s a 1/2 mile walk home. My goal is to aim for that 10K steps a day.

I try not to yammer on about all this too much. But a few people have asked b/c I have been celebrating milestones on twitter. This summarizes it all. Plus, one year anniversary of being able to hit the gym again feels… big. For me at least. Long way to go still, but, I am proud of what a year’s work has given me.

Gratuitous gym selfie from tiny hotel gym (also, first time habit of working out has been so ingrained in me that I’ve used hotel gym during a trip b/c it’s… just what I do when I wake up now):

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06 Oct

Check out the Blue Origins test of their capsule escape system

This is pretty amazing. Not only can SpaceX get a booster to restart its engines and land, but Blue Origins can as well. Here they are showing their ability to launch a booster, land it again after restarting the engines, and also test the escape system that shoots the capsule away in an emergency.

I know Blue Origins hasn’t gone orbital, but this puts us close to having two very amazing launch systems available going forward.

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04 Oct

Capsule Review: Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit

A capsule review of Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit that I wrote on twitter:

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I’m thinking I need to do more capsule reviews as I read things, plus maybe a books received post as they come in. I’ve been so bunkered down I haven’t been very good about sharing bookish goodness!

After reading the above book I now want to sign all my emails with “Yours in calendrical heresy.”

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