Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Almost Perfect

W. E. Pete Peterson has written an account of his time at WordPerfect Corporation, called Almost Perfect.

Apparently it was first published in 1994, but he has now released it free on the web.

The prose itself is simple - it feels like a student's writing. The story itself, however, is incredibly engaging. Because Mr. Peterson began at WordPerfect with no knowledge of computers, we learn as he learns, and you finish the book feeling like you know a lot about how the business worked.

Beyond that, the book is a very good read for anyone going into business for themselves or with a young startup company. Their inadvertent success is a lesson for the rest of us - especially anyone looking at a very young field.

I advise clicking over to Almost Perfect and giving it a read.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Interview With Chris Poirier

I had the opportunity to interview Chris last week.

For those of you who do not know him, Chris is the author of Winter Rain, and the founder of the community cornerstone, Web Fiction Guide.

We talked about the origins of Winter Rain and WFG, choices as a web fiction author, and the upcoming WFG overhaul.

Here it is.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Web Fiction: Winter Rain

Serial web fiction: Winter Rain.

As far as I'm concerned, Chris's choice of update length was golden. There is not a cliffhanger every chapter, there's a cliffhanger nearly every update (with roughly 10 updates per chapter).

The first few posts are amateurish and blocky, but the prose smooths out surprisingly quickly. Before the end of the first chapter, I stopped noticing any awkward construction, and by the end of the second, the prose becomes very smooth and very good.

The story is based on the Irish legends of wolves who are also men. This makes it a werewolf story - though it is devoid of most of the typical werewolf fare: full moons, silver bullets, monstrous wolf-men, etc.

Probably the most notable theme is the protagonist's anger issues. Tiergan's persistent anger is evident from very early, and the process is very well described. I say "process" because he is not an angry person - he does not walk around angry, rather, he becomes overwhelmed by emotion.

Whether or not that makes any sense, trust me that Chris writes Tiergan well, and the characterization and plotting more than make up for any early awkward prose.

In short, Winter Rain is recommended and engaging.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Interview With Gryfft

Robert Gryfft is the author of Thomas Bleakly, P. I. and a contributor to (and co-founder of) Air Theremin.

I mined his brain about writing, blogging, and the future of web fiction.

Here's the interview.

Oh, and I promise that Gryfft isn't interrupting me - we had some definite lag going on.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Josh and Imp: Starting in the Middle

Diana Nock has a short graphic work called Josh & Imp over at Jinxville.

It's a nice, surprisingly realistic slice of life from a superhero world. One of the best attributes of this graphic story is the framing. Nock avoided too much exposition by starting in the middle. This episode could easily be a slice from a novel-length work, but it is stronger alone than it would be as part of a larger work.

When authors trust their audience to have a certain level of intelligence, we all get a better paced story without dull exposition. We as people are accustomed to building background in our heads - how many times have you seen a movie from about 20 minutes in, but still understood the entire story line? Those first 20 minutes are often unnecessary, and Josh & Imp leaves them out to good effect.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Review: Mind and Body

Mind + Body, by Aaron Dunlap is a fast-paced scroller.

I'm currently reading a novel, some webfiction, and lots of nonfiction, but I tore through this novel. It's 400+ pages in PDF, but it sure didn't feel that long. It's a simple mystery/action plot - a high school senior tracking down all the weird shit that happens to him after his Marine Corps father dies.

At first it felt similar to Doctorow's Little Brother - the teenager thrust into a conspiracy too large for him to see its end, a fairly straight-forward love interest, etc. The more I read, however, the less alike they felt. Mind + Body is definitely has less to say, making it simultaneously shallower and less preachy. Mind + Body is not afraid of its simplicity - the work is less punctuated by action and fights than it is driven by them. And it works.

Unfortunately the final product reads like a draft. There are a solid handful of sentences that just aren't finished. They require 1-5 words to finish the thought, but they're just MIA. Our first person narrator definitely feels his age (though articulate), which is a plus (he says things like "the internet told me"). In the first third of the book phrases are often jarring. I'm not certain if I got used to the character or if Dunlap got used to him.

Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed this gripping, surprisingly real novel. It should be picked up by a publisher and marketed as a YA novel - it's good enough.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Florida does not allow the use of red-light cameras to enforce traffic violations. In order to use them, cities have to pass a city ordinance (that we all pretend makes running a red light something other than a traffic violation). On top of that, the DOT does not allow red light cameras to be mounted on their equipment or structures (i.e. many traffic light posts), so the city also has to erect a separate pole for the cameras.

To add to that, they price the tickets at just below what it will cost you to hire a lawyer, and if you take it to court and lose they charge you extra money. Essentially they are saying "If you just give us the money, it will be easy and we'll leave you alone. Otherwise we are going to make your life very difficult, make you take off of work, and try to charge you extra money."

I knew the mafia did stuff like that, but I didn't know local governments did.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


I've been thinking about Obama again since the inaguration, and a couple of things occur to me. First off - he is way more of a badass than he is given credit for. Over at 3 Quarks Daily Evert Cilliers writes:
There was a much-revered Civil Rights matron and Illinois State Senator, Alice Palmer, who decided to run for Congress, so Obama figured he could run for her open State Senate seat. But she lost her Congressional race, and wanted to keep her safe seat. The community’s leaders asked Obama to step aside. The brash newcomer refused. He sent his aides to the courthouse to examine the signatures for her, to see if enough of them could be disallowed to knock her off the ballot. A few fake signatures for her were found, as well as for all his opponents, so they were all knocked off; he won his seat unopposed. The Chicago way – bringing a gun to a knife fight.
So he's not the perpetually positive, perpetually nice guy he is portrayed as. It's can be a little bit disappointing to discover you had the wrong impression of somebody, though I think this tidbit is actually a good thing. A little bit of ruthlessness can be awfully useful.

The other thing that occurred to me is that Barack Obama spent 12 years teaching constitutional law. Holy shit. When's the last time we had a president with that kind of time spent thinking about and studying the constitution? Not Dubya, certainly. Not Clinton, though he had a law degree. In fact, it looks like, before Clinton, the last president who had a law degree was Ford, and Nixon before him.

So from 1977 to the end of 2008, we had only one president with a law degree - Bill Clinton, though even he didn't have any sort of specialization in constitutional law.

How amazing will it be to have a president who can be considered an expert on the constitution. And how awful is it that this is something unusual?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Books: A Game of Thrones

Cross posted at Air Theremin.

A friend of mine has been trying to get me to read A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin for years.

I just went ahead and borrowed it from him, and I have to say -- this is some of the best high fantasy I've read. An unjustly long book at over 800 pages, it is also surprisingly gripping.

Each chapter is written from a 3rd person limited point of view, but each also follows a different character. The story isn't told so much as it just coalesces. There are characters to love, characters to hate, and many characters to be mildly confused by.

At first, I was mildly put off by the feeling of omniscience you gain from seeing so much that other characters have no clue about, but that feeling gave way to a certain level of awe at the grandeur of the whole thing.

If "grand" and "sweeping" and "epic" are what you are looking for, this book has them -- and promises more for later in the series. Ah, yes, like all fantasy books, it seems, this is but one novel in a series. I've just picked up the second, A Clash of Kings, and it is longer than the first. Regardless, I started today, and am about 160 pages in - around classes and work.

All-in-all, a great fantasy book. If you like the genre, you need to read this book - it avoids many of the clichés that riddle fantasy fiction. If you don't like the genre, well, unless your dislike is founded on the clichés... you might want to pass.