Spotlight on Books: the 'Mother of Milstar,' Eating Clouds, and Subversion

A few new books that have come to my attention, that I’d like to bring to yours …

Over at New Scientist, there’s a review of a new book about actress Hedy Lamarr, who invented the frequency-hopping and spread-spectrum techniques that made Milstar satellite communications secure … and that make WiFi and other modern communications possible.


(Artist’s conception of Milstar satellite. USAF image.)

My commander at the 4th Space Operations Squadron, where I “flew” Milstar satellites, called Ms. Lamarr the “mother of Milstar” because of her invention. This new book sounds as if it captures not only the essence of her invention but also the trouble she ran into as a movie star who also happened to be a first-rate thinker.

Meanwhile, my writing friend Edmund Schubert has a new short story collection out entitled The Trouble with Eating Clouds.

Ed’s stories are very entertaining, often thought-provoking, and sometimes a little quirky. You might already have guessed that from the title, if not from the striking cover art, but I figure there’s no harm in stating the point.

And speaking of short stories, the folks behind Crossed Genres magazine (which published my story “The Tower” in one of their quarterlies) have brought out an anthology entitled Subversion, which they describe as “science fiction & fantasy tales of challenging the norm.”

Of course, ’tis the Season: if you know someone who might enjoy one of these books, now you can satisfy their Christmas wishes.

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DRAGONFORGE, by James Maxey

Finished reading DRAGONFORGE today, on the plane from Atlanta to Raleigh-Durham, and I must say my friend James Maxey has crafted a tight, compelling story that picks up where his excellent BITTERWOOD left off. I thoroughly enjoyed DRAGONFORGE — but how could I not enjoy a book in which one of the leading characters is a dragon named Graxen the Gray?

Seriously, James did a great job expanding and enriching the future world he described in BITTERWOOD. I haven’t been reading much SF or F recently, because I see quite enough in the slush pile that already distracts from writing my SF novel, but I’m glad I read DRAGONFORGE to be reminded of what good genre fiction is supposed to be.

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More Books I Want to Read

“So many books, so little time” has been a refrain in my life for years. My Christmas list is full of books, and I barely get through the ones I receive one year before the next set of gift books arrives. (I’d do better if I didn’t go to the library and pick up books from time to time.)

This evening I had a nice chat with John, a friend from church, and he told me about two books from the Barna Group that I added to my “want to read” list. The first is unChristian, and it presents “research into the perceptions of sixteen- to twenty-nine-year-olds” that “reveals that Christians have taken several giant steps backward” in terms of how we come across to nonbelievers. The second is Pagan Christianity, which traces the historical development of the church structure and service to see how different the current church is from the original church. Both of them sound fascinating to me.

In Heaven, after the feast is over, you can find me in the library. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Boredom Sets in and We Die

Which of my high school friends came up with that phrase, which we repeated at some point in almost every class? I think it was either Joe or Shawn, but it was so long ago I’ve forgotten the source. How long ago? In those days, many of us carried pocket knives — from Barlow, Boy Scout, and Swiss Army knives to more exotic blades like butterfly knives — to school without fear of reprisal; and not too many years before, an afternoon hunter could keep his shotgun in his locker during the school day.

But enough reminiscing.

What brought to mind that mantra of frustration? I thought of how sharply it contrasts with a Boston Globe article I read yesterday: “The joy of boredom,” by Carolyn Y. Johnson.

As [Richard Ralley, a lecturer in psychology at Edge Hill University in England] studied boredom, it came to make a kind of sense: If people are slogging away at an activity with little reward, they get annoyed and find themselves feeling bored. If something more engaging comes along, they move on. If nothing does, they may be motivated enough to think of something new themselves. The most creative people, he said, are known to have the greatest toleration for long periods of uncertainty and boredom.

The usefulness of boredom, in spurring us to explore new possibilities, makes sense. It seems that a key factor is what we find rewarding. I slogged away for years at writing THE ELEMENTS OF WAR, “with little reward” except my own satisfaction; frankly, itโ€™s brought more than its share of disappointment (q.v. my entry yesterday). But the same is true for most of my writing. The internal reward keeps me going, even if the pursuit becomes difficult (and yes, boring).

Sometimes that internal reward is barely enough; I hope for more. I keep writing and sending out stories, etc., in my arrogant belief that they have worth beyond the confines of my own mind. So far the world mostly disagrees, so I labor — I slog away through the boredom and doubt — to prove the world wrong.

Boredom sets in … and I write.

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