The Monarch on sale

May 26th, 2015

The Monarch: A Thriller, a novel by local author, Jack Soren, is on sale on Amazon.ca for $2.99. The blurb says: “Fans of thrilling adventures and international suspense will love Jack Soren’s whirlwind debut novel—a tale of two thieves detoured on the road to redemption.”

Normally, I wouldn’t be interested (I like thrillers, but given the number of SF novels I’ve bought but haven’t read yet, I just don’t have time), but Jack Soren is the pen name of someone I know – a writer who I hired (and had to lay off three months later when the company hit bad times) when I was working at Daleen fifteen years ago. I’m not sure if he wants his real name spread all over the Internet so I won’t reveal it here.

The Monarch has been nominated for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize in the Mystery category and it’s also on sale on the KoboBooks site.

I’ve had a skim through the book and it does look good and the Amazon reviews are highly positive, so do check it out. I will read it, once I finish my slog through this year’s Hugo nominees.

A Word 2013 annoyance

May 25th, 2015

I was recently upgraded from Word 2010 to Word 2013 at work and generally, I like it. But I have found one annoying change that I first thought was a bug.

In earlier versions of Word, turning on text boundaries showed you the overall text boundaries for your page – in other words, the area bounded by your margins. This was handy for judging the layout for things like tables that might extend past the margin boundaries.  Now, in Word 2013, the text boundaries show for each paragraph. This is essentially useless information and can be visually distracting to the point where the only option is to turn them off.

According to Charles Kenyon, it’s not, as I had first thought, a bug but a (rather unfortunate) design change.

The workaround, such as it is, is to turn on crop marks, and if you wish, the ruler.  I will probably set up a macro that I can add to my Quick Access Toolbar that will toggle the display of text boundaries on and off, for the times when I need to see them.

2015 Aurora Award nominees

May 24th, 2015

The nominees for the 2015 Aurora Awards have been announced. The Aurora Awards are for Canadian science fiction, fantasy, and fan achievement and will be announced at SF Contario 6 in November. The novel category is particularly strong this year – at least three of them would have been legitimate contenders for the Hugo this year had not the Puppies peed in the dish.

We are proud to announce the 2015 Aurora award ballot for work done in 2014 by Canadians. Voting for the awards will begin for members of CSFFA* (Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association) on June 1 2015 and will close at Midnight (end of day) EDT on October 17, 2015. The awards will be presented at  SFContario 6 / Canvention 35 on the weekend of November 20-22, 2015.

Best Novel – English

Echopraxia by Peter Watts, Tor Books
The Future Falls
by Tanya Huff, DAW Books
My Real Children by Jo Walton, Tor Books
The Peripheral by William Gibson, Penguin Books
A Play of Shadow by Julie E. Czerneda, DAW Books

Trailer for Childhood’s End

May 21st, 2015

Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End is one of my favourite books – I’ve read it at least six times and when I taught an SF course years ago, it was the movel I used as an example of 1950s SF. It still holds up and hasn’t dated badly at all. Now SyFy is making it into a three-part mini-series and the first trailer is out. And it looks promising. I am cautiously optimistic, although the comments on the SF Signal site are much less so.

Written by Arthur C. Clarke and hailed as a revolutionary work of science fiction since its publishing in 1953, Childhood’s End follows the peaceful alien invasion of Earth by the mysterious “Overlords,” whose arrival begins decades of apparent utopia under indirect alien rule, at the cost of human identity and culture.

Charles Dance (Game of Thrones) will play Karellen, the ambassador for the Overlords. Mike Vogel (Under the Dome) will play Ricky Stormgren, a midwestern farmer whose life is turned upside down when he is named the sole human ambassador for the Overlords. Julian McMahon (Nip/Tuck) will play Rupert Boyce, an enigmatic American entrepeneur.

I’ve often wished I had the money to commission Philip Glass to do an opera version, especially after having seen Einstein on the Beach a few years ago.

The Hugo Controversy makes the WSJ

May 20th, 2015

Well, the Hugo controversy has hit the big time – it’s come to the notice of the Wall Street Journal.

The success of the Puppies stunned and outraged many authors and fans. They say the Puppies’ claims are nonsense and that their real beef is with science fiction’s move toward greater diversity, with growing prominence in recent years for women, minority and gay authors and an increased focus on social and gender issues. To them, the Puppies’ supporters are carpetbaggers who gamed the process, trashed a cherished institution and injected the wider culture war into science fiction to stick it to the “social justice warriors”—that is, outspoken liberals.

“They’re crashing the party and wrecking the place, and that’s not the way to do it,” said John Scalzi, a Hugo-winning novelist.

The fury on both sides has roiled the Hugos, and no one knows what will happen when the 13-inch-tall, rocket-shaped trophies are awarded Aug. 22. Multiple categories might go to “No Award” as anti-Puppy voters try to prevent Puppy nominees from winning.

Use gaming peripherals to be more productive

May 19th, 2015

Gizmodo points out that you can use gaming keyboards and mice to increase your productivity with business applications. As well as being more ergonomic than the (typically junky) keyboards/mice found on most business PCs, they come with extra keys, buttons, and software that you can you to automate common tasks.

Here are some of the key advantages I’ve discovered:

  • Dedicated buttons means less finger gymnastics: One of the most annoying things about making custom keyboard shortcuts is finding a shortcut that another program isn’t already using. With a gaming keyboard, I’ve got twelve new buttons that can do whatever I want. Even if I need AutoHotkey, I can map them to a shortcut I’d never be able to pull off with my fingers.
  • Mouse buttons are a revelation: I feel this needs its own bullet point because I never realized how lazy my right-hand’s thumb is. With the G600 I got another twelve buttons I could press without moving taking my hands off the mouse. It’s a little disorienting at first, but once you get used to it, you’ll wonder how you can live without it.
  • The software is stupid easy: AutoHotkey and TextExpander are already pretty easy to use once you learn the basics. When it comes to basic automation, however, Logitech’s mouse and keyboard software is even easier. You can set custom shortcuts, record macros, launch applications, or paste entire blocks of common text with a simple interface. The keyboard even includes an on-the-fly macro recording button, so you can create a shortcut for some repeated actions with just a couple button presses.