In Sputnik’s Orbit

A few thoughts to tide you over…


Fake, Fake, Fakity Fake

This here is what UFOlogists call, “The Wedge of Aiud.”

It was supposedly found near some mastodon bones in 1974 in Romania. Sure, I’ll buy that, however, this thing’s all over the Interwebicles under headlines like “Experts are studying mysterious aluminum object that could date back to 250,000 years” (it does not) or “Experts speculate aluminum artifact may be a part from a UFO” (experts in what, pray tell?) or “Romanian Artifact Defies LOGIC” (it does not, but gullibility does).

It’s an excavator tooth. One of those pointy dirty scoopy thingamaboobers on the bitey end of excavator buckets like this one:

These things are made in a metric crap ton of styles by companies all over the world, but when they found it, I’ll bet you a can of soup someone at the site knew the exact make and model of the excavator it came off of–because it’s the one he’d used to dig the hole.

But….but aluminiminimumum… Yeah….some of these “experts” even claim to have had the metal analyzed and found to contain mostly aluminum and copper and a handful of other traces—in otherwords, Duralumin 2000, the international standard alloy designation for this stuff going back quite a ways further than you might imagine

This is definitely an excavator tooth. The only mystery is, why does anyone, anywhere, pay any attention to anyone who days otherwise?



While we are at it, this is not a 400 million year old “Out of place artifact” as claimed by pseudoscientist wackadoos the world over. This, “The London Hammer” is an ordinary hammer,  dropped most likely in the late 19th century into a creek flowing through Ordovician strata in London Texas. Minerals dissolved out of the surrounding rocks concreted around the iron, as they always do around iron or steel objects when conditions are right. This conclusion is supported by the shells of modern freshwater clams caught up in the matrix. The nearby rocks are Ordovician, the hammer and the concretion are not.

Some rocks form very quickly, like the foundation of your house, for example. Cement is nothing but synthetic limestone and takes somewhat less than millions of years to form. There’s a reason, when mixed with aggregate, it’s called “concrete.”

Limestone concretion can form very quickly indeed around iron, which is why this can exist:

If you believe, as the wackadoos claim, that that stone is half a million years old, you might as well donate your brain to science now, it’s not doing you any good.

Reality is amazing. It needs no help from the gullible.

The Reviews Are In!

I am over the moon (no pun intended) at the reception this story has gotten. It’s hard Scifi–as in real-world science and hardware that either actually existed in 1969 or really could have, and it’s long–novelette length in an era where flash prevails. I knew when I wrote it that Trevor Quachri at Analog was my first, best, and maybe only market.

But Trevor bought it–Yay! And he put my name on the cover (a pretty big deal, since this is only my second sale to Analog and there are 16 other authors in the issue)–Yay! And he hired the great, Hugo-winning artist, Vincent DiFate to do a full, two page illustration–say what?


And now the reviews are in:

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The Noble Art of Spin

Artists tend toward the introvert side of the human experience, but increasingly we are called upon to take the lead in promoting our own careers. Many recoil with distaste, perhaps sabotaging the recognition they might otherwise accrue. Others brag with gusto, thereby sabotaging their own efforts with a veil of well-earned distaste. There is a middle ground, and it’s not that hard to identify, as I realized recently in a discussion with fellow writers about reviews and what one should and shouldn’t do with them.Image result for spin bad reviews

The practice of mining reviews and news for favorable quotes was called “spin” long before that term made it into politics and the colloquial lexicon, and before it attained its more negative connotations. It’s an essential part of promotion, but like most things, it can be used and it can be abused.

To do it successfully, you only need ask yourself, “If I read this excerpt, then read the source, would I think the source had been misrepresented or not?”

It should be obvious that if you take a line out of context in order to make a negative review appear positive, the answer would be “yes.” If you go around misrepresenting your reviews, the world will see you for what you are, a douche with a coat of desperation. But that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t present what is written about you in the best light; that’s just common sense. Research has shown that your single biggest source of new readers is trusted referral. So it’s important that you collect and use good review quotes–but in a way that always preserves the honesty, even the objectivity, of your presence as a source of referral.

That being the case, resist mining the one positive comment in an otherwise lackluster review

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How to Get Rich in the Writing Business

Well, I did it.

I survived two weeks at nearly 9,000 feet. I critiqued thirty-three stories and a quarter-million words. I helped plot three novels, including my own. I wrote a nearly-ready-for-publication draft of a short story in two days. I had dinner with George R.R. Martin and Steven Gould. I hiked an alpine trail and got barked at by ravenous prairie dogs.

Now, it is with a heavy heart that I big adieu to a whole pose of talented, fascinating people, many of whom I expect to see great thing from–and do great things with–in coming years.

Taos Toolbox. It’s been different things to different people. If I’m honest, I signed up partly because I’ve always been a bit jealous

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Taos Toolbox

In its ten years of operation, Taos Toolbox has become one of the best-regarded Milford-style advanced novel writing workshops in the country. With Worldcon in Europe this year and a major novel rewrite on my agenda for the year, I decided to apply. I consider myself very fortunate to have gotten in, as George R.R. Martin is teaching this year and while Walter won’t tell me how many applicants he got, he did confirm it was a record.

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My story, For All Mankind, about the Apollo Program, the Tsar Bomba, and two women who save the world, appears in the July/August 2017 issue of Analog Science Fiction & Fact. Rocket Stack Rank calls it “meticulous and moving…quite an accomplishment…a Hugo Award worthy story.” And here’s the cover:

Meet the Winners! – C.L. Kagmi

Stuart: Introduce yourself. Who the hell are you? What might surprise your friends?

CL: Hi there! I’m C. L. Kagmi. Wandering writer, armchair scientist (I used to assist actual scientists before striking out on my own), and adventurer competing for Most Interesting Woman In The World Title.


Stuart: Ah, yes. That’s like…one of the x-prizes isn’t it? So what’s your entry?

CL: I was very predictable for the first 25 or so years of my life. Obtained a degree in Neuroscience and served as research coordinator in a children’s hospital. It was great work – but I’d never shaken my love for writing, or my desire to voraciously study any subject I chose.

Stuart: I hear you. I was much that same. I used to write radio plays and put them on with my sister. One day it occurred to me that I was still working on them but hadn’t done anything concrete in years.

CL: I’m told that I used to tell stories in stick figure comic form before I could properly pick up a pen. I believe at one point I filled a blank notebook with hilariously-spelled attempts to write Land Before Time fanfiction

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How Did Apollo Astronauts Get Through The Van Allen Belts?

Speed and trajectory.

It is a common misapprehension that all radiation is some sort of magic death ray. It isn’t. Type, dose, and duration of radiation make all the difference. We evolved on a radioactive planet. Sunlight is a type of radiation. Nuclear radiation can kill–or be stopped by our outer layer of dead skin cell. Even our bones are weakly radioactive, and we evolved to handle the gamma rays they produce within our bodies just fine.

Long before Apollo, NASA launched a fleet of probes to map and characterize the Van Allen belts. The belts primarily consist of an inner band of energetic protons and an outer band of electrons, all trapped from the solar wind by the Earth’s magnetic field.

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Comicpalooza 2017


Comicpalooza 2017 is upon us!

I will be in booth 2632, in the middle-rear of Hall C, smack in the middle of the convention center, right next to NASA:

It’s going to be a great year.Image result

This Felicia Day will be there talking about the new season of MST3K, cosplayers will abound, and there will be something for everyone, from celebrity audographs and photo ops to art, to “working” light sabers. If you’ve never been, come on out, it’s a thing to behold.

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Meet The Winners – Ziporah Hildebrandt

Next in this year’s interview series, say hello to Ziporah Hildebrandt, who joins us from Hollywood during her workshop week.

Stuart: Ziporah, hello, and welcome to the Writers of the Future family!

Ziporah: Hi Stuart, thanks for inviting me to visit.

Stuart: To start us off, what can you tell me about yourself that would surprise your friends?

Ziporah: Well, I don’t know about friends, but I have a Post-it with “Surprise!” written on it that I move around the house to make my husband laugh when he opens a drawer or picks up the dustpan.

Stuart: (Laughs)

Ziporah: I grow heirloom garlic, breed tree peonies, and dye silk with homemade plant dyes from my garden, using traditional Japanese shibori methods as well as my own designs. I also like to take photos of flowers and ice and clouds.

Stuart: Neat!

Ziporah: I grew up down the road from the estate used in The Philadelphia Story with Katherine Hepburn.

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