Thursday, January 31, 2008

New SF Imprint

Not the sort of SF I write -- or usually read -- but nevertheless an interesting announcement:

University of Ottawa Press Announces Speculative Fiction Imprint

The University of Ottawa Press is very pleased to announce its new speculative fiction imprint, Cangrande.

The imprint will include books of “science-based fiction,” novels which draw heavily on current scientific research. In the tradition of Francis Bacon, Mary Shelley, and Aldous Huxley, Cangrande books will emphasize the social and ethical challenges technological innovation poses to human existence, and explore the utopian vision of the future promised by science and materialism.

“We are very excited about this new imprint,” says UOP Marketing Manager Jessica Clark. “It signals an important shift in our publishing program towards trade books. We also feel that Cangrande’s editorial mandate fits perfectly within our scholarly list. Though these books use the novel form to dramatize scientific progress and the ethical issues that it raises, at their heart, these books are based on the most important scientific research happening today. And the scientists and philosophers who are writing these novels deserve to have their books respected both as literary and scientific creations.”

The inaugural Cangrande title, already available, is Hera, or Empathy by William Leiss, the first book of the Herasaga, a three-book cycle about a group of sisters who were genetically engineered to have increased cognitive abilities. Leiss, noted risk management expert and scientist, will also act as the director of the imprint for the next three years.

He believes that the speculative fiction genre creates important social dialogue: “With each passing day, new discoveries in the natural sciences are perceived by citizens as increasingly important for everyday life. Many of these discoveries also raise social and ethical issues that deserve wide and protracted discussion. The genre of science-based fiction provides a new opportunity for the public to learn about these issues and to become engaged in thinking about them.”

For further information, please visit or contact Jessica Clark at

Sunday, January 27, 2008

50 movies in 50 days

I've been catching up with John Herbert's blog, Shlock and Yawn and was very impressed with his current series, 50 movies in 50 days, in which he reviews old SF movies, most of which no one has ever heard of...or wished that they hadn't heard of them! Highly entertaining.

Hawaii Aftermath

The wind was over 100K Friday, the temperature cold enough to freeze even the hardiest Canadian, so the combination was not pleasant. Indeed, Kasia flatly refused to go out into the already dark afternoon following Ballet class, even though we had no alternative to walking across the windswept parking lot to the car if we were to get home. But in the end, cries of "I'm not going out there" could only be overcome by my physically picking her up and carrying her to the car. Which turned out to be damned difficult in the face of gusts up to 120K, which, with her added weight and a thick layer of ice on the ground, stopped me cold in my tracks. But we eventually made it across the cold dark vast expanse of the otherwise empty university parking lot (her ballet class is Friday afternoon, so all the university students and faculty were long gone) and I got her buckled into her car seat. As I started the freezing cold car and drove out of the lot, I once again heard a little voice from the back seat saying, "Dad, I want to go back to Hawaii!"

She's not the only one.

The weather in Lethbridge was, thankfully, relatively mild over Christmas, so our return from Hawaii was not as traumatic as it might have been...but I still found myself in a state of denial. For example, I continued wearing my aloha shirts until mid-January, when the weather turned too brutal to ignore. And I have been watching for academic positions available in Hawaii.

Mary and I have seriously discussed the possibilities of moving permanently to Hawaii, calculating how much of a pay cut we were prepared to accept to move there. It would mean giving up the house for an apartment-sized condo, but then, who stays indoors in Hawaii?

And I'm going round the house, figuring out what we would keep, and what wouldn't be worth the airfreight to move if we moved. Even now, as I stroll through Winners or other stores, before buying this or that unnecessary possession, I think, "would this be something we'd take with us to Hawaii," and if the answer is no, I find it easy to resist the impulse to buy. I'm even starting to buy paperbacks rather than hardcovers.

And there isn't a day that goes by without Tigana or Kasia asking why we don't go back -- in Kasia's case, why we can't go now. "Why do live somewhere where it isn't summer all the time?" is a very hard question to answer. Why do live here, other than inertia? (Well, that and the fact that we're not Americans.)

And Mary has caught the cruise bug pretty bad, already booking us on two new cruises.

We decided to do the Alaska cruise to see the glaciers this coming August because it's pretty obvious that if we wait a couple of more years until the kids are older, there won't be any glaciers left to see. Environment Canada noted that the impact of global warming on the North this summer was equal to what they had initially projected for the next thirty years. Another study reported on Quirks and Quarks mentioned that an island in the far north whose usual summer averages hovered around 5c above, this year hit over 20c above for over a week -- melting the permafrost down 1 and a half meters, rather than the usual 15 cms…Without the permafrost to stabilize the soil, any landform with the least slop allowed the ground to flow down into the central valley, blocking the river, and creating a new central lake. In one summer, the island completely reshaped itself and its local ecology. Knowing something about cliff effects, I reasoned that this process was only going to accelerate, and it was now or never for the full-impact Alaskan cruise.

Coincidently, Mary was teaching an extra grad course this term, earning the exact amount extra to cover the cost of the cruise. (She paid for the Hawaii cruise by writing a test bank for a new textbook in her field -- again the amounts matched almost exactly.) This helped to cut down on her guilt for booking two cruises within a year of each other; though I pointed out that when she moved to Lethbridge to marry me, I had promised her a holiday somewhere warm once a year to compensate, and she has never been able to collect on that promise until now, so is owed 9 more cruises just to catch up with the backlog.

So, poking around the cruise sites, she found a Disney cruise through the Caribbean next November that coincides with Mary's study leave and more importantly, Kasia's 5th birthday. (Tigana got Disneyland for her 5th, and so the Disney cruise for Kasia's only seems fair.) So now Mary is casting around for some project to pay for it…though I still argue it is not necessary, given that she went almost 10 years without a break.

So, Mary spends almost all her spare time these days on the Internet reading reviews and blogs and advice columns on the cruises we've signed up for. The level of detail you can obtain on-line is mind-boggling. For example, she found out the suite we had booked on the Disney cruise was right under the dance floor and the last few couples to take that suite found it noisy… so Mary was able to switch to a suite at the other end of the ship -- which the people who stayed in that cabin had said that they could hear the hum of the engines, but that it hadn't bothered them at all, and that they had noticed the motion of the sea much less. It is almost too much detail… in some cases, the reviews mention specific names of waiters or stewards, tell you what menu items to steer away from, and debate which deck chairs are the best.

But we do love cruises…We like that your hotel moves, so you don't have to change hotels to change locales, and we love the kids' club. Most hotels don't have built-in day care, and even when they do, it's well, not exactly Disneyland. In contrast, the reviews of the Disney Cruise often talk about how the kids' club is so good (staff of 60, dedicated facilities) that kids refuse to go back to be with their boring parents. After four years of never being able to leave Kasia alone with a sitter (because of her RAS), we could really use some time to ourselves. Good food, reading, maybe some writing, life is good on board! And Mary has planned so much princess stuff (including all of us getting dressed up in the appropriate Disney themes) that Kasia is going to have the best birthday ever.

And, we have more "Tigana learns about…" projects in mind for Alaska and Florida (see, so it all should be good. Except for the having to come back to Lethbridge part.

As I'm writing this, Environment Canada has issued a blizzard warning for Lethbridge, with high winds, blowing snow, and temperatures of 40 below (F and C are the same at 40 below). Looking out the window I have trouble seeing all the way across the street through the snow and deepening gloom, even though it is only 3:30 in the afternoon. It's not just my four year old who wants to go back to Hawaii, it's my aging inner child too.