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Archive for November, 2020

“Vein Glory” on Patreon!

This month’s original story on Patreon has gone live, coincidentally at the same time Arachne’s Crime got its cover reveal (and I’m informed the novel has just gone to press, and Kickstarter backers have received their e-book copies.) It’s the second bonus story I offered with that Kickstarter campaign earlier this year, a short SF/fantasy hybrid called “Vein Glory,” which is one of only two vampire-themed stories I’ve ever written or probably ever will. As always, it’s available to patrons at the $10/month Fiction tier or above, and the story’s annotations are also online at the $12/month Behind the Scenes tier. Here are the links:

Fiction: “Vein Glory”

“Vein Glory” Annotations

COVER REVEAL – ARACHNE’S CRIME

November 26, 2020 1 comment

Here’s the final cover!

eSpec Books

FB-McP-ArachnesCrime

Cover art and design by Mike McPhail, McP Digital Graphics

Is this a dream… or a nightmare?

The crew of the interstellar colony vessel Arachne is roused from artificial hibernation to face a horrific reality, as an alien boarding party takes them into custody to answer for the deaths of tens of thousands of sentient beings.

But there is more to their trial than meets the eye, and the threads of intrigue weave a tight web as crewmates and friends are divided between those who feel they owe restitution for the actions of the ship’s AI in their defense, and those who refuse to bow down to a judgment they see as persecution.

What future can they hope to build among aliens who see them as mass murderers… presuming they have a future at all?


Christopher L. Bennett

Christopher L. Bennett is a lifelong resident of Cincinnati, Ohio, with a B.S. in Physics…

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ARACHNE’S CRIME cover art!

It’s been a while, but it was worth the wait… Here’s Mike McPhail’s cover art to Arachne’s Crime!

Arachne's Crime cover art

Pretty striking, huh? It’s a more symbolic image than I expected, not a scene that literally takes place in the novel — at least, not physically. But what it represents is critical to the story, an excellent choice of focus.

I got to suggest a bit of an in-joke — the “18:11” under “CYBELE” is a nod to Analog Volume CXVIII No. 11, the issue containing my debut story, “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide,” of which the first half of this novel is a revised and greatly expanded version.

The folks at eSpec Books are working on the title text and such, and we should have a final cover reveal any day now. Which means the novel should be very close to going on sale at last!

More phone notes

November 10, 2020 5 comments

Still getting to know my new smartphone…

  • I’ve settled on using the vinyl bank book holder as a protective sleeve for my phone. It really works surprisingly well, though it would be perfect if it were about a centimeter shorter. Indeed, it’s easier to grip than the phone’s somewhat slippery case. I have my doubts about its durability, but I definitely prefer it. I did have to cut a hole in the clear plastic to accommodate headphone and power cords; the first time I did that, I subsequently found there were some numbers in ink on the inside of the clear layer, transferred from a bank book or something, and they wouldn’t come out. Luckily the thing’s symmetrical, so once I checked that the other side was clear, I had to cut a hole in that side and use it instead. And then I determined that it’s best not to charge the phone while it’s in the sleeve, since it gets kind of hot. Also I prefer to use the glasses case to hold it when I’m listening to an audiobook. So maybe I didn’t need to cut a hole at all.
  • I discovered that MS Office (Word included) is pre-installed on the phone, so theoretically I could save my prose files on the cloud and write or edit them on the phone. Although they open in read-only mode by default, and it took some research to figure out how to make them editable (you have to save a local copy on the phone). I’m undecided whether to try it. I’m not very practiced at typing on a phone screen — I’m not much of a texter — so it would probably be slow and not very comfortable. But making a change in where and how I write can help against writer’s block, so it might be worth a try. At the very least, it could work as an emergency backup if something happened to my laptop.
  • I found that the phone has a “side screen” that you can open that has various built-in tools like a compass, level, ruler, and flashlight control. Oddly, the directions the compass claims as due north and due south are only 143 degrees apart (I checked with a ruler and protractor). Several attempts with the “Calibrate” button failed to correct the problem. Either the app is inaccurate, or my apartment is a space warp.
  • Followup: I looked into it online, and apparently you’re supposed to calibrate the compass away from magnetic objects. It was a nice day, so I took a (masked) walk up to the local park to get as far out in the open as I could, and my recalibration attempt there was successful. I don’t know if I’ll ever actually need a compass — I never have before, and there was actually a time way back in the day when I did carry a small compass in my backpack just in case — but if I have one anyway, it might as well actually work.
  • I’ve discovered that a number of the New York Times puzzle games are easier to play on a smartphone than a computer screen. I’d wondered, in particular, why the Spelling Bee game was so unwieldy in that you had to click on the letters instead of being able to type out the words. It makes sense if it was designed for a touch screen.
  • This phone’s native weather app doesn’t auto-update when you unlock the phone like my old one did. You have to tap it, or set it to update on a schedule. The weather radar app I use has an alternate widget I could try, but I don’t like its design.
  • I also miss the light on my old phone that blinked to alert me to a new text message, e-mail, voicemail, or whatever. Now I don’t see any notification without turning on my phone. There’s a notification sound when a message arrives, at least if I have it turned on, but that doesn’t help me after the fact if I miss hearing it.
  • Plus it annoys me that the ringtones and notification sounds on modern phones don’t have any nice, simple rings and beeps, just these annoying musical phrases. I did find a ringtone that sounds like an ’80s telephone, which is tolerable. But when I tried using the timer, there were no nice, simple “ding” or “beep” options for the notification sound.
  • I have to retrain my muscle memory for turning the screen on. My old phone had a front button I tended to use for that, but this one only has a side button. It goes on if you tap the front a few times, or if you move it suddenly while touching the screen, but I’m still figuring out its triggers.
  • There’s also an “Always On Screen” that shows the time and charge level and such on the black screen when I tap it once, as well as the temperature from my weather radar app. I wish I could increase its font size, since I often don’t have my glasses on when I want to take a quick look at it. But I checked, and apparently there’s no way to do that. The font can be enlarged elsewhere, but not there.
  • I’m getting more spam calls and texts than before. I think it must be because I failed to back up my old phone’s data, which might have included my block lists.
  • Battery life seems comparable to my old phone. I’m generally charging once a day, and that’s to keep it in what I gather is the recommended charge range for modern phone batteries, between 50 and 80 percent. It charges pretty quickly, at least as fast as the old one did with the newer cord I bought last year.
  • Oh, I’m so glad that I’m now able to have a fully functional Firefox app on my phone with access to all my desktop (or rather laptop) bookmarks. Before, I could only get Chrome to sync bookmarks between devices, but it’s inconvenient to keep importing updated Firefox bookmark lists into a browser I rarely use, so I only occasionally got around to doing that. Now that’s no longer necessary. The Firefox app doesn’t let me access my bookmarks as easily as my laptop browser, but I’ve already found that the phone lets me view a couple of sites that my older, refurbished Windows 7 laptop has trouble with (including FiveThirtyEight’s election update liveblog, which sometimes fails to load on my laptop).
  • I discovered a surprising new quirk of the phone — its calendar widget not only popped up a notification of my upcoming deadline on the phone, but somehow transmitted one to my laptop as well. I didn’t know it could do that and didn’t ask it to. I’m not sure how it did. From the placement of the message’s tab on the bottom bar, it was associated with my e-mail client somehow, evidently through the Gmail account connected to my cell number, but I’ve never seen the client display that ability before. Anyway, I’ll have to try to remember to set it not to do that anymore.
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Hope lives again!

Four years ago, after the horror of seeing the results of the 2016 election come in, I made a post called “What do we do now?”, expressing my fears of what a Trump presidency would mean — all of which subsequently came true, and then some, because all this was incredibly predictable even then — but also trying to find rays of hope for the future. My hopes for the short term failed to materialize. The past four years have been an ongoing disaster, an unprecedented assault on American society and values. I always expected Trump to lead us into an unnecessary war that would cause enormous death and suffering. I never anticipated his war would be waged directly against Americans.

This year, the polls and forecasts gave me hope that we could end this hell. Joe Biden was not my first choice for the nomination (I liked Elizabeth Warren), but he was a good choice, a good and decent human being and a proven, competent statesman — and Kamala Harris struck me as a good choice for VP, and perhaps for the top of the ticket in time. But I was burned four years ago, so I couldn’t let myself grow complacent. I knew that if Trump won again, legitimately or through trickery and theft, it would probably mean the end of democracy, the solidification of fascism and kleptocracy. This might be our last chance.

For much of Wednesday, I feared the worst and despaired for the future. Then the tide started to turn as the absentee votes were slowly counted. By the end of the day, I felt cautiously optimistic. It was a thrill to wake up Thursday morning and see the news on my new phone that Biden had pulled into the lead. For the two days since, I’ve been waiting with everyone else for the expected outcome to be made official. I suspect any normal, rational incumbent who cared more about the stability of the nation than his own ego and power (and fear of prosecution and bankruptcy once he’s out of office) would have conceded by Thursday night.

But now we can say it — President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris. In any other year, the fact that we elected a woman to the executive branch for the first time, let alone a woman of color, would be the story. It’s amazing, and long overdue, though still only halfway there. But under the circumstances, it’s just one part of a bigger story — the story of bringing America back from the brink, of preventing the most corrupt, incompetent, and evil chief executive in generations (if not ever) from continuing to entrench fascist rule.

I find that my faith in America’s institutions has been restored. Trump and the GOP did everything they could to sabotage democracy and subvert the will of the people. They stacked the courts with appointees they expected to hand the election to them no matter the outcome. They spent months creating doubt about the integrity of our elections. They sabotaged the post office to try to keep absentee ballots from getting through, restricted the number of drop boxes and polling places to make it harder for people to vote, and did everything they could to disenfranchise voters.

They did manage to come closer than they should have. They probably managed to hold the Senate, which is dangerous. But our laws and institutions withstood the assault better than I feared. The post-election attempts to subvert the count with bogus lawsuits went nowhere, thrown out by those judges who were expected to be rubber stamps. In that and other ways, the mechanisms in place to keep elections fair did their job. Moreover, I’ve heard that a number of attempts by right-wing extremists to commit terrorist acts against Democrats and the electoral process have been quietly thwarted by law enforcement, with multiple arrests happening before the parties in question could inflict any harm. It seems our country’s immune system isn’t as badly impaired as I’d feared.

It’s still going to be a long, hard struggle to rebuild, and there will still be fierce resistance from the faction that’s been radicalized by decades of right-wing media. But we’ve won the first battle now, and I have renewed hope for the future. As I said in my post four years ago, I believe we’re playing out a recurring historical cycle and that eventually the turmoil of the crisis era would be resolved by a new generation that would bring us to a new era of prosperity. But I feared how long it might be and how much more suffering and death we might have to go through before that point could be reached. A second civil war? A resistance movement against a dictatorship? Would a writer like me have to flee the country to escape the anti-intellectual purges? Instead, we’ve managed to avoid that. Hopefully these next couple of months before Inauguration Day will be the worst of it, and then we can begin the slow climb back upward.

I’d really gotten tired of seeing the bad guys win. It’s such a relief that we came through in the climax.

This meme has been going around all over, but I’m going to post it too, because it sums up this feeling so well:

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