Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Backing up is (not) hard to do

harddrive-crash

Computer crashes and lost data are all the rage these days. So many people are beholden to their computers and other electronic devices, backing up your data at regular intervals is more important than ever. Of course, and unfortunately, it's a process too many people fail to integrate into their daily process.

As writers, we all know the consequences of not doing regular back-up's can be catastrophic. We labor for weeks, months, even years on a story or feature, only to lose it in a nanosecond because of a hard drive failure.

Not good.

There are many options available for making backup copies of our work:

  1. Make a new copy of the file in question at regular intervals. For my current work-in-progress, I like to prepend the date to the document filename each and every day. This way not only do I have more than one copy (in the case of file corruption) but it also gives me a sort of poor man's version control.
  2. If your application supports a "make backup copy" feature (like Microsoft Word), use it.
  3. Periodically copy your data files to a secondary hard drive or, if possible, another computer. Other options might include an external hard drive, USB key, or CD or DVD. They all work, and mostly just come down to convenience as to the choice. An alternative to copying the files is to use a backup solution. I just started using Windows Backup. It comes with most versions of Windows and, so far at least, seems to work.
  4. Make backups to removable media, like a DVD, and take that media to an off-site location. This might be a bank safe deposit box or your workplace. Just make sure it's secure if you're storing sensitive data. Having multiple copies on different mediums inside your house or apartment is great, but what if there's a fire?
  5. Use cloud storage. Amazon S3 is a relatively inexpensive option. If you use Firefox, there's even an add-on available that eases its use. (see Amazon S3 Simple Storage Service - Everything You Wanted to Know for more information on S3 and the utilities that make it a breeze to use)

The above is more or less my backup strategy, minus #4 which I have not yet utilized.You can take it even further if you so desire.

Perhaps I'm a bit paranoid, but I've not lost a file in longer than I can remember. I know one thing: I'd rather jump through hoops making sure my precious data is safe than take the chance I lose years of work.

Tor Free E-books: BSG by Jeffrey Carver and Flash by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

I'm combining this week and last's Tor Free E-book Giveaway cause I was fairly underwhelmed with last week's offering and never got to posting about it.

In any case, let's get to it.

Battlestar Galactica, by Jeffrey Carver

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Tor gave us Battlestar Galactica by Jeffrey Carver last week. Ordinarily, I might have been excited about this, but the book is an adaptation of the show's pilot which I'd seen at least twice already. Once we get past the initial "human gets greeted by the cylons and blown up" sequence, we're shown Starbuck running through Galactica's corridors shouting "Make a hole!" to ordinary citizens come to tour the battlestar before it's decommissioned.

Huh, how's that for deja vu? Just like the pilot episode.

I can only assume the book continues to follow the storyline as dictated by the pilot (it is an adaptation, after all). Sorry, that just doesn't do it for me. Book closed, didn't even bother saving this one.

As an aside, I've developed quite a love/hate relationship with the show. Sometimes, it's the best sci-fi I've ever seen. Other times (usually when they're dealing exclusively with Gaius Baltar), I'm bored to tears and my wife gets to listen to me swear off the show again and again. But I'm always back the next week hoping to see the show's true potential. Sometimes, I'm rewarded, and that's what keeps me coming back for more. Right now, I'm swearing off the show again cause they're making us wait until 2009 for the remainder of the episodes. I'm sure I'll change my tune by then.

For a running list of all of Tor's free e-books, go here.

 

Flash, by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

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Next up, and this week's giveaway, is Flash, by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

Cool cover, and you have to love a book that throws you into the action from the very first sentence:

Cracckk!
“Down!” Down! At the sound of the ancient slug-thrower,
I dropped flat onto the squashed soyl plants at the edge of
the field.

Similar to Tobias Buckell's Sly Mongoose, where the opening begins with the lead character hurtling through the atmosphere on a collision course with a floating city, this sort of opening promises a lot of fast-paced plotting, kick-butt action, and some general edge of your seat escapades.

Let's see what Amazon readers thought.

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Not bad. 4 1/2 stars out of 5. As one would expect with a rating that high, most reviews are favorable, though one reviewer who gave it 4 stars notes that the book "ultimately falls short as the world doesn't quite support the plot".

Guess I'll have to read the book to see for myself.

Modesitt has an extensive list of books to his name, so if you like this one you've got plenty of others to keep going with.

For a running list of all of Tor's free e-books, go here.

Twitter: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

twitter_logoAs I write this, Twitter is dead. Not just down with the usual overusage whale or twittery bird, but completely dead as in their home page won't even come up.

This begs the question of how useful the service really is when it seems to spend so much time being down instead of up. Over on Men with Pens, there's a lengthy discussion going on about just that subject.

I've been using Twitter since my initial post about how I didn't get it. I like it well enough now. I don't use it all the time or even every day, but it was recently #2 on my list of driving traffic to my site (it only recently fell to #3 behind StumbleUpon), so in that respect it's been a boon. I also like the quick interaction it provides with others. However, when it's down, it's down, and not of much use to anyone.

One solution for when Twitter is down and you still want to twit is Twiddict. Think of Twiddict as an offline version of Twitter. Ahhh, maybe that's not the best way to describe it, but Twiddict queues your twits for you until the Twitter service comes back up. Then, when Twitter decides to come back up, it shoots them over. I've just tried using the service, so I can't attest to it's reliability, but it's a good idea and certainly interesting how niche apps crop up to fill gaps created by other applications or services.

Top 100 Favorite SF/Fantasy Authors, 50-100

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The latest issue of SFX features the "Top 100 Favorite SF and Fantasy authors of all time – voted for by SFX readers".

Approximately 185 people voted on the SFX Forum for the list. But more than 3,000 other votes were also counted for the list, which makes it far bigger than any of the other recent online polls.

The Wertzone lists them out for us non-subscribers starting with the bottom 50. The remaining fifty are to follow.

Sly Mongoose by Tobias Buckell

Tobias Buckell posted a request for advanced readers for his upcoming science fiction novel, Sly Mongoose, and, of course, I took him up on it.

This is my first go-around with Buckell’s work, though I’ve had one of his other novels, Crystal Rain, on my radar for a long time. Sly Mongoose is and isn’t a continuation of the story told in Ragamuffin. While there are clear references to the story that unfolded in that previous book, at no time did I feel as if I was missing something by not having read it first. Needless to say, as I found Sly Mongoose to be a very enjoyable read, I intend to go back and read Ragamuffin. Now, on to the review…

Sly Mongoose is a fast-paced, enjoyable read. The .rtf version I previewed came in at 208 pages, so expect about the same in the hard cover or paperback versions. The book is scheduled for release about August.

Buckell wastes no time throwing us into the story: Pepper, our titular character, is free-falling from orbit through Chilo’s atmosphere with only a heatshield protecting him from the 2,000 degree, friction-induced heat. Pepper is no ordinary person, though. He’s a Mongoose Man, a cyborg-like, elite soldier whose primary duty is the preservation of the human race (kicking ass is his other priority).

Therein lies one of the main complexities of Pepper’s character. He’s extremely resourceful, intelligent, and experienced, having lived hundreds of years thanks to his cyborg implants, but he’s also pragmatic to the extreme, and not above sacrificing innocents if that’s what it takes for him to live to fight another day. If those less equipped to save themselves must be sacrificed, so be it. This dilemma lies at the heart of many conflicts for Pepper; it should go without saying that it also plays a part in the unfolding of events in Sly Mongoose.

In contrast to Pepper’s seemingly unlimited resourcefulness is Timas, a teenage resident of the floating city of Yatapek (which Pepper is falling to in the opening scene) on Chilo. Like Pepper, Timas belongs to an elite group, though not a military one. Timas is a xocoyotzin, a person specially chosen to service a mining machine that prowls Chilo’s surface looking for raw materials. Yatapek is not a wealthy city, and much of their technology has become outdated and fallen into disrepair. The environmental suits the xocoyotzin must wear to survive conditions on the surface are only large enough for younger people to wear, so that as one gets older eventually one becomes too big for the suit. For Timas, serving his city is a privilege and an honor, and so he fights to prolong his ability to serve in that role by ritually expunging himself of any food he eats. It’s a terrible burden to place on one so young; we learn a lot about Timas’s character and courage in those scenes alone.

There is more.

Pepper crash lands in Yatapek, and we soon learn exactly why he was de-orbiting with only a heatshield between him and certain death. You see, he was trying to get away from something, and it’s not long before that something follows him down. Other cities are alerted to the threat. One such city sends an emissary, a girl roughly Timas’s age named Katerina, who possesses an eye that all of her people are able to see through. Both her and Timas have pre-conceived notions of the other, notions that change as they gradually bond with one another. There is adventure, and action, and harrowing encounters… Like I noted above, no spoilers, but let’s just say that Pepper, Timas, and Katerina find the entire world of Chilo at risk and are thrust into the role of saviors.

Buckell draws from his Caribbean upbringing, so imagining a mech-warrior-like soldier with dreadlocks or distinctly futuristic, island-like cultures is not far from reality. I found this injection of originality refreshing, though I have to admit to some reluctance to embrace it at first if only because it’s not what I’m used to. I went with it, though, and Buckell makes it work. The author’s style is fast-paced: chapters are generally short and he wastes nearly zero time pontificating or throwing “info dumps” at the reader. His characters are engaging as well. I perhaps liked Pepper the best, but Timas is the true underdog here given his situation. I genuinely wanted to see him both fulfill his duty and save himself at the same time.

The only character I did not become engaged with was Katerina, who has sacrificed much of her individuality to serve as a speaker for her collected people. Perhaps it is that aspect of her make-up which has stolen part of her humanity and therefore disengages the reader from her. In any case, I think her role was greatly overshadowed by Pepper and Timas to the point of irrelevance at times. But that in itself takes nothing from the enjoyment of the story.

As an aside, I also received an advanced copy of Seeds of Change and guess who just happens to have contributed a story to that compilation but Tobias Buckell himself? The story features Buckell’s principal character Pepper, so I’m eager to jump in. Meanwhile, though, check out Sly Mongoose. It’s worth your time.