Baen's Bar news

Arnold Bailey (the Grand Poobah of Baen's e-Publishing division, and administrator of Baen's Bar) has replaced the software that runs Baen's Bar.

It was a big job, but Arnold pulled it off smoothly.

So . . . effective today (2007-09-30), you will have to re-register, to access the Bar. If you were getting the Bar (all of it, or parts of it) by email or newsreader, you'll have to set those up again -- after you re-register.

The old software (WebBoard) was a web-forum management system -- to which Arnold added a back end to allow users to access the Bar by email and by newsreader.

But with 25,000+ registered users, the volume of postings was thousands of times what the WebBoard software was designed to handle. And the overload led to periodic crashes.

The new software system, from MPNews, is designed for newsgroup management -- so it can handle virtually limitless volumes of posts.

But the newsgroup software doesn't have a web forum interface. So Arnold added a customized web forum user front end.

Personally, I like the new Bar software system.

However, all the old posts now have new URLs -- so my posts with links to useful threads no long works. I'll have to redo all of that. Oh well . . . I had to update it anyway, to incorporate newer threads.


SF on network TV

It's been a while since I've posted here -- mostly because I didn't have anything of interest to say.

But I watched the first episode of "The Masters of Science Fiction" earlier tonight, and I now have something to say.

I was so glad network TV is doing a science fiction anthology based on stories written by real science fiction writers. But if I didn't have a vested interest in the success of SF, I doubt I'd watch another episode after seeing this one.

If this is the best "The Masters of Science Fiction" has to offer (and one would think they'd debut with one of their strongest episodes), the series will tank rather quickly.

And sadly, it's going to have a net negative effect on the perception of science fiction within the general public (which is mostly unaware of written SF). It will simply confirm their belief that SF doesn't have anything meaningful to offer.

Couldn't the people who put this series together have chosen to debut with a story that's less than a quarter century old?

Or if they were determined to choose such an old story, couldn't they have chosen one that wasn't so woefully dated?

I got the distinct impression that John Kessel wrote this story during the first couple years of the Reagan administration. (His naive rant against Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative has been thoroughly discredited by history. And far worse, he hadn't yet mastered his storytelling skills.)

The actress playing the psychiatrist was emotionally unconvincing. Sam Waterson is a superb actor, and he did the best he could do with the material he had -- but it wasn't nearly enough to carry this weak story.

I only watched it to the end on the hope that it would close with something fresh and original. I was sadly disappointed at how utterly predictable it was.

On a scale of 1 - 9 (8 or higher meaning I recommend it), I'd give this episode a 3.

Want a Free Sample of Jim Baen's Universe?

There is an adage: "Know your markets."

Towards that end, Jim Baen's Universe is offering a free issue to those who aren't yet subscribed. Here's the letter:

= = = = =
Are you a blogger? Do you have an established blog?

Would you write a review of Jim Baen's Universe in your blog?

We are offering a free copy of Issue 3 to bloggers who agree to post an online review by June 30. This issue contains Mike Resnick's Hugo-nominated story, "All the Things You Are" as well as stories by Gregory Benford and Gene Wolfe.

Here's how this deal works:

1--You send an email to with your email address and the URL where you'll post the review.

2--We email you a copy of Issue 3 (PDF and HTML versions).

3--You promise to post a review by June 30 2007.

4--We link to your blog.

There is no requirement that the review be positive (although we can hope it is), only that it be posted. We would like it to contain a link to the Baen's Universe homepage, too.

This offer is open to everyone, so feel free to spread the word.

Best regards,

Eric Flint
Editor in Chief
Jim Baen's Universe magazine
= = = = =

Also, if you would, please include in the email request where you saw this offer. (I just want to know if anyone ever pays any attention to anything I post.)


My computer died

Two weeks ago, my computer died.

It didn't take me by complete surprise, though, since it had been sick and getting sicker. Several weeks before its final demise, it started locking up at random intervals -- sometimes even when the computer was idle. (Note: most PCs have a built-in override in the on/off switch -- pressing and holding it for five seconds has the same effect as flipping the master power switch on the back of the box.) Then towards the end, it would even lock up while booting up in the morning. Several times, I had to power down and reboot several times to get it running.

I knew its time was near, and I had been backing up all my data. But I had been putting off replacing the old computer because it's such a major hassle.

Getting everything transferred to the new computer was, indeed, a hassle.

However, the final death of my old computer probably made the switchover easier than it otherwise might have been. Since my old computer was dead beyond resurrection, I took the hard drive out and put it in my new computer as a secondary drive. So I saved quite a bit of time by not having to load in my data in.

My real concern was getting the browser and email programs on the new system to read in my old stuff. Without my browser bookmarks, I don't know where anything is. And I have thousands of emails in my mailbox that I would've hated to lose. And I have some 25,000 - 30,000 messages in my newsreader -- over 15,000 messages in 2,000+ threads in "Baen's Universe Slush Comments" alone. I could re-download the Slush Comments from the news server, but I have a substantial portion of those 2,000+ threads color-coded -- and I rely on the information imbedded in my color-coding a lot to manage the JBU slush forum.

I did finally get my old browser and email stuff back, but it took quite a while to figure it out.

My old Windows system kept my (Mozilla Thunderbird) mailbox settings and data in:

C:\Windows\Application Data\Mozilla\Profiles\default

So I copied it over to the same place on the new hard drive. The email program on my new Windows Vista system didn't pick up the settings or data. And I couldn't find a way to make the email program recognize the old data.

I left my Internet connection turned off (I didn't want the email program to read in any new email until I got the old stuff in place -- or else I'd lose either the old stuff or the new stuff). Then I wrote a draft email and saved it. Then I did a detailed data search of the entire hard drive for a character string in the draft email.

It turns out that Mozilla Thunderbird, on a Windows Vista system, keeps the mailbox settings and data in:


(In my case, %username% is "SamHidaka" -- since that's the name I entered the first time I started the computer.)

I had been looking all through the "Windows" and "Program Files" directories. It never occurred to me to look in a "Users" directory -- until the data search led me to it.

(Afterwards, I found the file directory location in "Tools > Account Settings." And my colleague, Benja Fallenstein, emailed me with the link to the Mozilla webpage that details where the different versions of Windows stores the profiles. But I didn't read Benja's email until after I figured it out. Knowing where the profile info was stored would have saved me a few hours, but while searching, I found out quite a bit about the new system -- so in hindsight, it was time well spent.)

Anyway, once I found out where the email program expected to find the settings and data, I copied over the contents of my old "Profiles" directory -- and everything was in place.

And once I found that, it was easy enough to find that the Mozilla Firefox settings were in:


Actually, Vista has some pretty nifty tools for transferring settings and data from an old system to a new Vista system. But alas, it doesn't seem to work well for non-Microsoft products. And I stopped using Microsoft's browser and email programs quite a few years ago, because Mozilla's Firefox and Thunderbird are better -- they have more features and they run a lot faster.

Then I got the other programs that I use daily up and running, and able to access my old data files.

And over the last couple of weeks, I've been reconstructing a whole bunch of utility programs that I use. I never kept track of the number of freeware and shareware programs I had accumulated over the years, but there are quite a few.

My new computer is fast.
Windows Vista is slooowwwwww.

In fairness, Vista has some excellent security features. It stops everything and asks for authorization whenever anything tries to access operating system files or alter system settings. That should prevent (in principle, at least) intrusions from outside programs or viruses.

OTOH, it prevented me -- at first -- from doing stuff that I want to do.

For example, I like to have Word, Wordpad, and Notepad in my "Send To" menu. Say I have a *.rtf file. The default program, if I just click on the file is Word. But I may want to send it to Wordpad. Instead of right-clicking on the file, clicking on "Open With ... ," and searching through a list of programs, I do it often enough that having it in my "Send To" menu saves a lot of time.

Also, clicking on two *.doc files will put them both in Word, and you can bring up the different files by using the "Window" drop-down menu and clicking on the filename. But (and this is important to me), right-clicking on a *.doc file and sending it to Word through the "Send To" menu will start up a new iteration of Word and put the file in that new iteration. That way, you can have both files up front -- each in it's own iteration of Word. This makes switching back and forth much faster (one click on the Windows Task Bar). As a writer, I often need to look at multiple versions of a manuscript. As an editor, it's crucial.

I need to have Word in my "Send To" menu.

But . . . Vista won't allow me to alter the contents of my "Send To" menu. Apparently, I'm not authorized to alter the contents of my own computer.

That alone was almost enough to make me scrap Vista and load a copy of an older version of Windows.

But there is a way to turn off "User Account Control" -- which allows me complete control over my system. And having the "User Account Control" turned on is a major step forward in protecting the computer from malicious software or spyware installing or altering system settings.

All in all Vista is as slow as a slug. But its security features make it worthwhile.

Yeah, the constant "! A program needs your permission to continue" ... "If you started this program, continue" messages are really annoying. But considering the dangers of all the malicious software out there . . .

OTOH, considering the annoyances of Vista, this might be a time to look into converting to Linux -- since I am an old-time Unix guy. (How many of you know what "grep" is, and what it means? What about "awk"?)

James Patrick Baen Memorial Writing Contest

The first annual James Patrick Baen Memorial Writing Contest closed on April 9, 2007. The winning story will be published in a future issue of Jim Baen's Universe.

As a member of the editorial staff of JBU, I'm one of the semi-final judges.

Earlier today, I finished reading the ten semi-finalist stories. (The contest administrator has stripped out all author information from the manuscripts. So I don't know who any of the authors are.)

There are two stories among the semi-finalists that are, IMO, publishable at the pro level.

Four of my colleagues have also read them all and rated them (and I expect at least two more to do so presently).

Three of my colleagues have given the highest rating to one particular story. It is, alas, the story that I think is second best.

The story that I liked the most was rated by the others: tie for first place, third place, tie for second place, tie for fifth place.

It actually doesn't much matter how we place the top three or four, because first place, second place, and third place will be decided by Eric Flint, Mike Resnick, and Toni Weisskopf.

But I'll be interested to see how my bosses rate the stories. I'm curious to see if they select the story chosen as first by most of the others -- or my first choice.

JBU stories in the Year's Best anthologies

JBU stories in the Year's Best anthologies

The stories from the first four issues of Jim Baen's Universe (June 2006 through December 2006) are well represented in the Year's Best anthologies that will appear in the coming months.

Gardner Dozois will continue his long-running YB series.


"Bow Shock" by Gregory Benford
"Every Hole is Outlined" by John Barnes
"The Big Ice" by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold

Rich Horton is doing three Year's Bests, this year:


SPACE OPERA 2007 EDITION will include the following JBU story:

"Every Hole is Outlined" by John Barnes

David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer have two annual YEAR'S BEST anthologies. This year's editions are:


YEAR'S BEST SF 12 will include the following JBU story:

"When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth" by Cory Doctorow

YEAR'S BEST FANTASY 7 will include the following JBU stories:

"Pimpf" by Charles Stross
"Build-a-Bear" by Gene Wolfe

So from the first year of JBU, six stories will be included in the major Year's Best anthologies, with one of them appearing twice.

Not bad at all, from the first year of a new magazine -- and a partial year at that.


Class, Claaaaaasss? . . . Is anyone paying attention?

Over in the Baen's Universe Slush forum, I'm conducting a writing clinic.

One of the members of the editorial board was quite taken with a story.

The writer of this story did, in fact, create an emotionally compelling tale. However, she wrote it in an omniscient POV, showing the perspectives of the two main characters (sometimes for only a line or two before hopping back), which was causing POV whiplash.

I told the writer that I'd forward her story for a purchase decision, but I'd like her to revise the story, recasting it into third person limited POV, keeping tightly focused on the female protagonist.

She agreed, and revised.

The new version worked much better. But in reading the new version, I found that I didn't much care for the line-level writing quality. (I hadn't noticed the clunky writing in the previous version -- I had attributed the jerkiness to the head-hopping POV.)

Well . . . the underlying story is compelling enough that I still want to forward it. But I can't stamp my approval on a story that doesn't meet my standards for writing quality.

So I'm doing a very detailed critique of the writing. I'm analyzing just about every paragraph, deconstructing every sentence within the paragraph and pointing out the clunkiness and showing how to say the same thing in a way that reads smooooooth.

I had undertaken this particular very long critique (the whole critique, when completed, will probably be five times longer than the story) for two reasons.

1. The underlying story really is quite good. It succeeds in putting me "in the story," so that I as I read it, I participate in the events as the character -- instead of just riding along as a passenger. When a story does that, everything else (like some clunky writing) is fixable.

2. I thought, and my managing editor agreed, that this would be a good writing/revising teaching lesson for the folks in the Universe Slush forum.

So . . . if you want to read the critique thread, some of you might learn some stuff -- or it might reinforce stuff you already know.

It may also illustrate the difference between writing that competent enough to grab and hold a reader's attention versus writing that brilliant enough to get my approval.

Here are two different views to that thread (you need to be registered to Baen's Bar to view this):,66e#1028355


Mike Resnick editorials

Mike Resnick has written his first two editorials for JBU.

February 2007 Editorial:

April 2007 Editorial:

Note that all the "Preview" pages state that 1/3 to 1/2 of the story is available to you free. That's true of the fiction. These editorials are in full.

In the February editorial, Mike introduces himself.

In the April editorial, he discusses the business principles behind JBU paying writers the highest rates in SF/F.