Friday, March 30, 2012

Narcissism vs a sense of scale

Diesel Sweeties: Good thing humans thought to evolve self-centeredness!:

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As annoying as it can be, self-centeredness probably has its uses in generating a sense of scale and survival priorities.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A good news cavalcade

The past month has provided a steady stream of good writing-related news. Two friends in the science fiction community are up for major awards within the field. Tom Crosshill's moving story, Mama, We are Zhenya, Your Son, is on the shortlist for a Nebula award, which is the equivalent of an Oscar for SF. At the same time, Brad Torgersen's "Ray of Light" is up for the genre's prize trifecta: the Nebula, Hugo, and Campbell awards in the novelette category.

Also, Aussie buddy and fellow VIRAL author Jason Fischer just got the cover art for his forthcoming Zombie apocalypse story collection, Everything Graveyard. At the same time, Jordan Ellinger, also in VIRAL, has been getting some great fan love for his novelette, Kineater, in Games Workshop's latest Grotek and Felix anthology in the Warhammer fantasy setting.

Meanwhile, the lead VIRAL novella,  -30-, by Keith DeCondido hit #2 in War and Military and #23 among Thrillers on Barnes and Noble, with some much welcomed PR support by B&N. That means that he was beating out John Gresham for a time, and overall it was good month for Team VIRAL. I'm looking forward to see how we do once our exclusivity period with Barnes and Noble is up and we can take the series to Amazon and other ebook venues, and of course how the trade paperback omnibus edition does once it's off the press and up for sale later this year.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ancient Rome

Totally yoinked from Brad Torgersen's FaceBook feed.

Rome Reborn 2.2: A Tour of Ancient Rome in 320 CE from Bernard Frischer on Vimeo.

One of the the things I love about this video is how it shows how many architectural marvels there were in Rome during the height of the imperial period. In a time in which most human beings lived in hunter-gather bands or small agricultural villages, a city like this must have been a literally awe-inspiring sight.

Some interesting thoughts on the biology of cooking

How cooking turned humans into an invasive species:

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

A tendency to overspecialize

Navy's Tiniest Warships Could Lead Assault on Iran | Danger Room |

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A gradual drift towards overspecialization has been a consistent problem for military services in many nations, pretty much since the arrival of the industrial age made perpetual evolution and refinement a reality of modern warfighting. As World War II played out, Germany's army, the Wehrmacht, gradually refined and improved the agility of its top tier units that were responsible for executing its signature blitzkrieg style of mechanized warfare. This involved paring down the tables of organization and equipment during the war's early years to produce leaner, faster moving formations. Units that were so light and agile that their commanders found that they lacked the manpower and redundancy needed to sustain themselves in drawn out fights, even before manpower became acute problem for the Wehrmacht as a whole during the conflict's later years.

Ironically, the same things happened with the Israeli Army during the twenty year period from the 1950s to 70s. Its mechanized infantry and especially foot infantry were reduced to create ever-more agile mech infantry and  tank units to the point that they found themselves unable to provide adequate support when infantry-carried wire-guided missiles made their first appearance on the battlefield and ravaged Israel's tank force.

The Wired article above touches on a similar drift within the US Navy over the past two decades. An emphasis on blue water warfare and the larger ship frames that are suited to it has come at a cost to the smaller Navy boats better suited to brown water, close-to-shore operations.

This kind of tendency to overspecialize during peacetime is often a nebulous problem--one that stems from a series of choices and priorities that gradually skews what was a well-balanced combined arms team. Such teams are collections of men and machines that in the right ratios compliment each others' strengths and compensate for each others' weaknesses in a wide variety of real-world situations.

Just something to keep in mind when thinking about military issues and futurism.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The acceptance speech - now on YouTube at long last

It was a more than a little intimidating to be introduced by Jerry Pournelle. Both because he wrote several of the fiction novels that I grew up reading and also because he, along with Larry Niven, was one of the first science fiction authors to break into the New York Times' best sellers list.

 Nevertheless, it was a huge honor to share the stage with him and with the amazingly talented Tyler Carter.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

One metric ton of awesome

Firefighting robots armed with flame retardant grenades. Nothing more need be said.

Meet the Navy’s Firefighting Robot | Defense Tech:

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Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Early praise for The Call

“Steven Savile and Alex Black pull their readers into the action from the first page and don't let go until the last.”

-Jeffrey S. Stephens, Author of Targets of Opportunity and Targets of Deception.

So sweet! My first blurb ever as a writer.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Call - now up on Barnes and Noble

My novella collaboration with Steven Savile (author of the top-selling thriller Silver) is now up on Barnes and Noble Online as part of B&N's First Look program. The Call features hardcore intrigue, techno-thriller action, and a man who might just be the crustiest, most badassed CIA operative to smack the world of literature upside its head in a long while.

It's the fourth novelette in the VIRAL Novels series, commng in after Steven and Keith DeCandido's -30-, Jason Fischer's Anomaly, and Jordan Ellinger's Martyrs. Taken together, these books give four very different views of the war on terror, all of them tied together by action, espionage, and the moral ambiguity of an international war fought in the shadows.

The Call will release on and other ebook venues in six weeks, and the tradepaper back ominibus edition will be out later this year. In meanwhile, if you don't own a Nook you can still read it on most computers and mobile devices by downloading a copy of the free Nook reader app. 

Happy reading!