After long silence

This blog is a bit of an ancient artifact cast in amber these days, but I thought I should officially note somewhere on my authorial site that I have a new novel coming out from a major publisher next year. Specifically, my everything-and-the-kitchen-sink speculative fiction novel Exadelic will be published by Tor Books , the world's pre-eminent SF publisher, in 2023. I'm pretty excited to finally be an SF author after a lifetime of reading and discussing the genre. It's a weird monster of a book, made of spoilers, and I'm still figuring out how exactly to talk about it, but for now: Philip K. Dick meets Michael Crichton in this tale of programmable reality. When an unconventional offshoot of the US military trains an artificial intelligence in the dark arts that humanity calls 'black magic,' it learns how to hack the fabric of reality itself. It can teleport matter. It can confer immunity to bullets. And it promptly decides that our protagonist, obscure Sil
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Levantine pix

A few highlights: Brief British stopover. Grand mosque, Beirut. Love, Beirut-style. The Corniche, Beirut. Downtown. In the suburbs where Hezbollah reigns. Somewhere over Syria. I think that conurbation might be Homs. The road into Petra is kind of ridiculous. I mean, really. Its entrance is famously cinematic. Guides wait for customers. City carved from stone. The monastery. The road out. Wadi Rum. My standard photo pose. My not-so-standard photo pose. Khaled, my Bedouin guide. Random camels. Wadi Rum is ridiculously gorgeous, in that stark bleak desert way. "We've taken Aqaba." Old city, Jerusalem. Golden Dome and Western Wall. Orthodox chillin'. Muslims only beyond this point. The Mount of Olives. Apparently this is the real deal. Don't forget the struggle. Checkpoint 300. Dead Sea blues. Illicit photo of licit mummy. Pyramid golf. I don't even like camels. Um. Look, it's a long story, OK? Last-day-in-the-country blues. Full set here .

Levantine days

I've been thinking a lot about Rafik Hariri today. He was the former Prime Minister of Lebanon who was assassinated in a massive car bombing ten years ago. Other car bombs followed in its wake, like echoes, murdering those who would investigate Hariri's death. Wissam Eid, who performed remarkable cell-phone metadata analysis to tie the assassination to Hezbollah, survived a 2006 car bomb but not a 2008 follow-up. Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan, Hariri's former chief of protocol, was killed three years ago by another huge car bomb in downtown Beirut that killed eight and wounded 120. Both the Hariri and al-Hassan assassinations happened within a kilometer of where I sit and type, the Saifi Urban Gardens in downtown Beirut, a rather nice modern hostel with rooms for $50/night. Large swathes of Beirut are rather nice and modern. No, that's too half-hearted; extremely nice and ultra modern. There is, very apparently, a ton of money in this city. A Ferrari dealership

In which my life remains reassuringly surreal

On Friday I flew a military jet, which is not something I expected to say, well, ever, really. Uh. Caveats. First, "military"; it was an L-39 Albatros , widely used as a trainer jet, although "it has also flown combat missions in a light-attack role," so. Second, "flew"; I only took the stick for a few aileron rolls and sharp (~4 G ) turns. The actual pilot, "Sticky," a former Thunderbird and current precision-jet-team air-show pilot on the Patriots Jet Team , controlled throttle and rudder the whole time. But still. I was six thousand feet up in the sky, moving at circa 500 km/h, in control of a small and highly maneuverable jet plane. It was exhilirating. It was adrenalinizing. It was also hard on my gut, in a cumulative way, and I very nearly vomited as we finally banked to land; but even if I had, it would have been so worth it. (Doing so is apparently not uncommon. After the formal briefing from Sticky, "Fidel" -- the actual owne

North and south in West Africa

North: the spirit of Saint-Louis Once we leave Dakar the country gets arid in a hurry. The landscape is dominated by stands of huge baobab trees, clusters of gnarled limbs reaching skywards from their absurdly thick trunks as if pleading for some kind of arboreal salvation. Some few are selected by a mysterious avian algorithm for group accommodations; I counted twenty separate nests on one particularly large baobab, while others all around it lay empty. There are also thorn trees not quite like East Africa's acacias, a thick-barked species from which foliage grows in sporadic dense clumps, etcetera; but this is unquestionably the land of the baobab. The road is excellent the whole way north, two smooth broad lanes with gravel shoulders. A wide swathe to either side is generally dusted with trash, mostly plastic bags, proportional to the density of the local population. We pass a children's hospital, a giant mosque towering above a bizarrely large roundabout, pale long-ho

On farming coral

"You know," I said to Gavin, "I've spent ten days around here, that's way more than I've spent almost anywhere else I've travelled to. I thought I'd get a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the place than if I'd just spent a few days." "And did you?" he inquired. "Nope." Moalboal may not have hidden depths, but it is an interesting place. Or at least there are far more boring ones. For one thing, the geology is striking: the earth for many miles around this peninsula essentially consists of a vast coral atoll which rose above the sea millennia ago. You don't have to dig very far -- in fact, half the time you don't have to dig at all -- to come across the bedrock of dead coral; jagged, striated, fractally pockmarked, and extremely hard. The result is a brittle and infertile land. Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be coral farmers. There are virtually no actual fields within a five-kilometer