My Writing Theory of the Day

Your approach to writing SF is basically determined by which Burroughs you give your allegiance to.


In the Outer Dark, the Monster Planet Lurks

Pardon my language, but holy heck! “Intriguingly, the astronomers said that details of the orbits hint at perhaps an unseen planet several times the size of Earth at the solar system’s distant outskirts.”

Others suggest that a rogue planet, ejected from the inner solar system, dragged out the Sednoids as it flew through the Kuiper Belt. Dr. Trujillo and Dr. Sheppard point out that Sedna and 2012 VP113 have similar values for one orbital parameter known as the argument of perhelion, as do several other bodies at the edge of the Kuiper Belt. That could be a sign of the gravitational influence of an unseen planet.

Computer simulations showed that the data could be explained by a planet with a mass five times that of Earth at a distance of 23 billion miles from the sun, too dim to show up in current sky surveys.

Harold F. Levison, a theorist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., who models the begining of the solar system, agreed that was a possibility. “I think they’ve convinced me there’s something going on,” he said of Dr. Trujillo and Dr. Sheppard. “But I think it’s too early to say that it’s a planet.”

If there is a planet, that could reopen the debate over the definition of “planet.” Something that far from the sun would be unlikely to have “cleared the neighborhood around its orbit,” as required by the International Astronomical Union’s current definition. That could lead to a confounding situation in which something larger than Earth would be classified a “dwarf planet” like Pluto.

My first thought, considering the mass, was gas giant. But according to New Scientist it’s likely to be “a giant, unseen rocky world, 10 times the mass of Earth”:

…WISE was looking for the tell-tale warmth of gas giants – a rocky “super-Earth”, like the one Sheppard’s team suggest, would be too cold for the telescope to pick up. “This is too faint for WISE,” says Ned Wright, the space telescope’s principal investigator. Even if the planet has a small internal heat source – and absorbs some sunlight, it would still not generate enough heat to register, he adds.

Not sure about the discrepancy between 5x and 10x Earth, because basically I’m a little too freaked out for a close comparison of the articles.


Clarion West 2014


So this is great news that I can now share: I got notified a few weeks back that I was accepted to attend Clarion West this summer. For those who haven’t heard of it, it’s a six-week writing workshop with a focus on speculative fiction, held here in Seattle. (There’s an affiliated workshop that’s basically the same thing held annually in San Diego, confusingly just called Clarion). By all accounts it is the absolute shizzle shizazzle for folks who write SF or fantasy and want to get better at it.

This year’s lineup of instructors looks great: Kij Johnson, John Crowley, Ian McDonald, Charlie Jane Anders, Hiromi Goto, and Paul Park. I’ve read work by some of them, and obviously I’ll be checking out the others’ writing in the next few months.

Apparently it’s a pretty intense six weeks. Folks come from all over the US and from other countries to attend, though fortunately for me it’s only about four miles away: I’ll be living at the UW campus for the six weeks with the rest of the group — in a sorority house, apparently — but I should be able to visit with my wife and son occasionally. It’ll also be great to be hanging out in the U District again — I worked at the University Book Store right off-campus for three years in the mid- to late-90s. Good times. All in all I have to say I’m really looking forward to this whole undertaking.

Quote #18

mansfield“Putting my weakest books to the wall last night I came across a copy of Howards End and had a look into it. But it’s not good enough. E. M. Forster never gets any further than warming the teapot. He’s a rare fine hand at that. Feel this teapot. Is it not beautifully warm? Yes, but there ain’t going to be no tea.

– Katherine Mansfield, from her Journal, May 1917. I like Howards End, and feel like this is actually a better description of the stillborn A Passage to India. But it’s still hilarious.

S.T. Joshi in the NYT

Two things I didn’t know but am now aware of, thanks to the Times profile of S.T. Joshi:

Poor Debussy, Poor Vaughan Williams

One of the more depressing things I’ve come across recently: searching the Seattle Public Library catalog for Debussy preludes brings up “Fifty Shades of Grey: The Classical Album.”

Even more depressing: Vaughan Williams’s lovely Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis is also there.