My father’s eulogy

Posted on: August 30th, 2013 by Nathan E. Lilly

My father—born August 30, 1948—passed away on January 12th, 2012 of complications due to lung cancer. This is the eulogy I wrote and read at his funeral.

When your father dies, you sit down and think about what they say a father should be and what they say a father should do. There’s an unspoken measure that is held up to a man as a father. You think about what they say a father is supposed to do, and reflect on whether or not he did it. We didn’t play catch. He didn’t teach me to ride a bike. To tell the truth, I don’t think either one of us were athletically inclined. But he did so many other things…

I remember sitting on his knee watching Tarzan and Abbot & Costello and Star Trek. He taught us to be brave and how to laugh and to be excited about the possibilities of the future. He taught us how to play chess. While we were younger—before we outpaced him in ability—he would play video games with us. That eventually led to him buying us our first real computer—a Commodore 64—and he was just as excited as us to be programming it. We spent hours writing programs in BASIC and saving them to a cassette drive (and eventually a 5¼" floppy disk). For Halloween one year we programmed an animation: a werewolf baring its fangs interspersed with random flashes of lightning that we displayed in our window on a television screen. This was in the 80s, when it was all but unheard of to do anything like that. We went apple picking; we went camping; he helped us with homework and class projects.

You’re led to believe that being a good father just happens. But when you stop to think about it you realize: good doesn’t just happen. Good things take a lot of work. As a child, there’s so much your parents do that you’re completely unaware of. As a child, you’re only vaguely aware of mortgage payments and food bills and the effort of getting to and from work.

It was the things that we often didn’t see directly, things that we really weren’t aware of—that when you stop to think about it and finally realize how much work it must have taken to pull off—it was these things that eventually made the most impact. When Christopher and Adam and I were in cub scouts the Cub Master stepped down. My father stepped up to fill that position. Our father spent countless hours in pack meetings and den meetings and committee meetings and planning and training. We didn’t see all of that preparation. What we saw was father & son camping trips, and trips to nature centers, and blue&gold banquets, and skits by the campfire. We only saw the tiniest bit of time that was the result of all that work. He’d hold pack meetings outside at local parks, and teach us about cooking outdoors, and the proper use of knives, and first aid and safety. Making an outdoor oven and baking muffins with freshly picked wild blueberries while camping is something I’ve shared with my own children.

And I wonder how much more he did that I’m still not aware of. I’m absolutely sure that there’s so much more. My father’s children show only the tiniest part of the work that he did as a father: Nadine became a strong self-sufficient woman and mother; I went on to college and a career in Web Development; Christopher joined the armed forces and went on to repair medical equipment and form an army of his own; Adam is managing his own small business. I can only imagine the lifetime of work that I didn’t actually see that went into making all of those good things just happen.

Science Fiction themed races that must be created

Posted on: March 8th, 2012 by Nathan E. Lilly

I ran at the Warrior Dash and Run For Your Lives and now I’m becoming obsessed with obstacle runs. Run For Your Lives really opened my eyes to their potential. After giving it some thought, here’s a list of geek themed athletic events that I don’t have the time to make happen but I would really like to run in:

The Reaver Run

“If we run, they’ll have to chase us. It’s their way.”

You’d thought the Reavers ignored you, but they must have circled back… There’s nothing left to do now but run! Kick your engine into high gear, disable their traps, dodge their grapplers, avoid any Alliance entanglements, and do a crazy-ivan back to the Core Worlds before the Reavers can get you. Post-race refreshment: Mudder’s Milk!

Race into Mordor

“One does not simply walk into Mordor.”

Attempt to cross the Misty Mountains, run through Khazad-dûm dodging goblins, take refuge in Lothlórien, travel down the River Anduin, run from the orcs sent by Sauron, evade Shelob in the tunnels of Cirith Ungol, and climb the Black Gate of Mordor to drop your ring into the Crack of Doom. A simply epic race, this might work well as a marathon although the expense of obstacles over a 26.2 mile course might make it cost prohibitive. Post-race refreshments: A beer so brown (that comes in pints).

The Running of the Leaves

“Despite its name, the leaves don’t do any of the actual running.”

Bring your fall weather friends to this race to help the autumn leaves of Equestria fall (those lazy leaves). Start at the park, gallop through Whitetail Wood (make sure you look where you’re going), over the bridge past the waterfall, canter past the steep mountain path (don’t take a wrong turn here), back through the maple trees in the Whitetail Woods (look out for the sticky maple sap), and sprint to the finish back in the park. Can you win without the use of your wings? Post-race refreshments: Not sure, but there will be no fudge.

Track to the Future

“Of course we run. But for recreation. For fun.”

Run from the Libyan terrorists around Twin Pines Mall. Avoid Biff and his gang. Race through the crowd at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance. And finally, race past the clock tower at 88mph to generate the 1.21 gigawatts to get back to the finish line where you started—at Lone Pine Mall. Whatever you do, don’t interact with your past-selves, the results could be catastrophic. Post-race refreshments: a Tab or a Pepsi-free.

Pokémon Dash

“Rapidash escaped using Run Away.”

Hold down the B button to take advantage of your Running Shoes. Run over hill and dale through the many different obstacles such as cobblestone, forests, beaches, water, swamp, and lava pools. Use the appropriate pokémon that you catch along the way to run on the easy path for certain obstacles. Post-race refreshments: Pokémon evolution shots.

Escape from the Death Star

“I’ve outrun Imperial starships. Not the local bulk cruisers mind you, I’m talking about the big Corellian ships now.”

Many Bothans died to bring us the plans for this race. Sneak into bay 23-7, up through the detention level, rescue the princess in detention block A-A-23 (actually, have her rescue you), tromp through the trash compactor to discover incredible new smells, swing across the chasm to the adjacent the bridge, dodge storm-trooper blasters, avoid being struck down by Darth Vader as you finally exit the Death Star and jump to hyperspace. Extra points if you do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. Post-race refreshments: Bantha milk.

Mythos Marathon

“There are memories of leaping and lurching over obstacles of every sort, with that torrent of wind and shrieking sound growing moment by moment, and seeming to curl and twist purposefully around me as it struck out wickedly from the spaces behind and beneath.”

The Great Cthulhu, the Great Old Ones, the other Elder Gods, not to mention Shoggoths, Deep Ones, Elder Things… there are too many dangers to name. Just don’t stop running. Post-race refreshments: A sip from Lethean streams.

Super Mario Parkour

“Our princess is in another castle.”

Save the Princess by racing from castle to castle through the Mushroom Kingdom overcoming obstacles such as vines, pipes, blocks, jumping boards, and flag poles. Defeat Goombas, Koopa Troopas, and Bowser’s other forces or lose one of your three lives. Collect power-ups and find bonuses and secret areas. Post-race refreshments: Nintendo Super Mario Bros. Power Up! Energy Drink (yes, this exists).

Like I said, I don’t have the time to make these events actually happen, so if you do, please, take these ideas and… run with them.

Introduction to running from zombies

Posted on: January 25th, 2012 by Nathan E. Lilly

At the request of “Tequila” Matt Black, our reluctant director of mischief: this is a post for Zombie Troopers of Pennsylvania members about how I got started running and about how to get into shape for Run For Your Lives.

Matt says that he never runs because he’s not being chased… when the zombies come, he won’t have that excuse. It’s best to train now—they’ll eat the slow ones first.

Don’t join the ranks of the undead: Consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

First of all, this isn’t about losing weight, or fitting into the swimsuit this summer, or addressing your body image issues. This is about running from zombies…

Getting started is the hardest part. When I first started running I decided to commit to running 15 minutes everyday on a treadmill at the YMCA. Between work and family it was an easy (and short) segment of time to commit to without being able to find a reason to talk myself out of it. It became second nature to drive straight to the YMCA after work, and run on a treadmill, without taking too much time out of my day. Eventually I began running longer, but getting into that 15 minute a day habit was key for me.

I was never a runner when I was younger, so I started slow and worked up to running faster speeds within the same time limit. I didn’t know how fast I was supposed to be able to run. I didn’t even have the goal of running a 5k race when I started. When I finally did race, after a good 10 months of running on a treadmill, my first 5k was a small local race. I finished in 25 minutes (about 8 minutes per mile) and placed third in my age group. Running outside on the road was much different than running on a treadmill. I’d recommend trying some outdoor runs early in your training.

If, like me, you’ve never run before, here’s a program to take you from the couch to running 5k (that’s 3.1 miles) in 9 weeks. I wish I had had this program when I had started running. You start by training for 20 to 30 minutes 3 times each week—alternating jogging for 1 minute with 1½ minutes of walking for 20 minutes. Eventually, over the next 9 weeks, you work your way up to running the full 5k distance (if you started now you could just about be ready for the Run For Your Lives event in Atlanta). Once you can run for a full 5k, then you can start working on cutting down the time it takes you to do it.

If you think that you need expensive running shoes, well, you don’t. They’re overrated and some people even run barefoot. A simple low cost pair of gym shoes should suit your purposes. You’re likely to already have a pair.

If you think you’ll need access to a treadmill, there are plenty of inexpensive options: many gyms are offering $20/month memberships (like Planet Fitness, who runs a limited time deal as low as $10/month). I spend more than that on video games. To save even more money, you could also check with your employer to see if they have an Employee Wellness Program and check with your health insurance to see if they offer discounts for gym memberships.

So, just start running—no excuses. You can worry about refining your technique later. Don’t wait for warmer weather, or the beginning of next week, or next year’s resolution. Run on a treadmill; Run on the road; Run early in the morning; Run late at night (get some running safety lights). Most importantly: just get started.

Running with zombies

Posted on: January 21st, 2012 by Nathan E. Lilly

I ran in the first ever zombie run—Run For Your Lives—on Saturday, October 22, 2011 outside of Baltimore, Maryland. It was a 5k obstacle run (much like Warrior Dash) with the added difficulty of “live” zombies on the field.

Here’s my head-cam video of the run:

My race time was 35:34.5 which they say was a 12:26/mile pace. It was a much better time than I had expected, especially since I had to pause so many times to dodge zombies and the hills were so steep on the second half of the course. I finished at #669 for the runners who survived and #1012 overall.

Event runners tips for next year:

The major issues all centered around the size of the crowd. I didn’t experience problems like these at Warrior Dash, so I’m chalking it up to inexperience and hoping that as they run more of these events they’ll go smoother.

Parking, Busing, & Lines


I was there early so getting into the parking area wasn’t a problem for me. I heard there was a very long line of cars waiting to get in a little later in the day. On my way out I got stuck in the mud. They’ve already addressed the parking situation for next year by moving the location.


Because the wait for the buses was so long I’d recommend placing more porta-potties near the bus pick-up and before check-in.



I had arrived and parked my car an hour before my run time, as they recommended on the site, but due to the long lines (and bus delays) I didn’t run until an hour after my allotted time. Luckily the event was flexible enough to allow for it. Next year I plan on arriving 3 hours before my run time.

Swag

The shirt that I received was a nice shirt for running, but I was really expecting a commemorative t-shirt printed with the race logo, location, and date—the race medallion was very nice though. I guess I was a little spoiled by Warrior Dash, where they gave you a printed race shirt, a warrior hat, and a medal.

Accolades

For a first year event I think it ran fairly smoothly. The three different channels for the runners at the start of the race (appetizer, entree, and dessert) was an awesome idea. It allowed faster runners to choose a path in the beginning where they wouldn’t immediately get trapped behind very slow runners. The zombie makeup was phenomenal (watch the video to see for yourself).

I didn’t stay for the Apocalypse party, but I plan on doing so when I run again in 2012. I also hope to start a petition to get a race scheduled in Pennsylvania. I definitely recommend giving this run a go. Visit the Run For Your Lives website to see if they’ve scheduled a race near you.

The forgotten punk

Posted on: October 6th, 2011 by Nathan E. Lilly

The ranks of the steampunk genre continue to swell. Tor.com is wrapping up it’s third annual Steampunk recognition (Steampunk Week, as compared to 2010′s Steampunk Fortnight and 2009′s Steampunk Month), so I thought I’d take some time to pick on a “steampunk” nit. Actually it’s more of a nit that I have with the use of “punk.”

I grew up during the ’80s, when “punk” actually meant something. So it doesn’t surprise me that I find myself amongst the group of people a bit irritated by the over usage of the -punk suffix in SF/F genres. Don’t get me wrong. I love steampunk, but the meaning of punk seems to have been forgotten and diluted.

  • 1896 (Algonquian): inferior, worthless, wood used as tinder
  • 1904: a worthless person
  • 1920: a young hoodlum

It was the “young hoodlum” usage that was copied by the Punk movement in music circa 1974, and by Bruce Bethke in his genre-defining short story “Cyberpunk” in 1980. Bruce Bethke was focused on the criminal element: hoodlums, vandals, troublemakers, delinquents, misguided, disenfranchised youths; in other words: young street punks. In his terms, cyberpunk denoted “the juxtaposition of punk attitudes and high technology.” This was followed by the other canon cyberpunk works (Neuromancer, et al.) which also focused on the same elements.

Based on Bethke’s initial usage, for a work to be truly “punk” the central conflict should revolve around clashing with the status quo. You can see this in Sterling & Gibson’s novel The Difference Engine, in which they set out to write what they call a true steampunk work, rather than a work like Jeter’s Morlock Nights, which I think would be more appropriately classed as gonzo-historical.

Jules Verne’s adventure fiction was the antithesis of the garden party, the Victorian Romance, the popular parlor fiction of the Victorian-era (the fiction of the status quo). People of the Victorian-era “punk” analog would also be people from the bohemian lifestyles: the travelers, artists, poets, and wanderers, such as Michel Ardan in “From the Earth to the Moon.” What’s striking is that this is often the element that modern steampunkers look back to. Look back at the anti-hero Captian Nemo — a wanderer and man without a country — and we see the epitome of the juxtaposition of anti-establishment attitudes and high technology. Verne’s fiction had with much more in common with the youth centered fiction of Mark Twain and Charles Dickens and even the frontier fiction of Fenimore Cooper and Owen Wister.

I’ve seen suggestions for various other “punks” offered up for use: biopunk, bitpunk, dungeonpunk, etc. If a cyberpunk story centers around a world in which computers are accessible to such a degree that kids are using them for acts of low level vandalism, then similarly a biopunk story would be about a world where the biological sciences have reached such a saturation point that even young hoodlums have access to gene altering technology. I wish this were the way that “-punk” was being used and it’s the core of my irritation: “-punk” shouldn’t be synonymous with “genre” (and neither should “opera” for that matter). Unfortunately that has become the common usage of it, in much the same way that the press overuses “gate” when describing scandals (note to future historians: Watergate was a hotel, it wasn’t a scandal about water).

For the record I much prefer the more descriptive term “gonzo-historical” (also coined by Jeter).

Jocks + geeks = zombies?

Posted on: September 28th, 2011 by Nathan E. Lilly

I’ve been getting myself fit for a little over a year now. During this time I discovered obstacle races, like the Warrior Dash and the Spartan Sprint. However, I always thought it’d be cool if someone could combine fitness adventures with geekdom. Well, someone has.

I’ve just signed up for the first zombie obstacle run: Run for your Lives in Baltimore, MD on October 22nd. I’m hoping that some of my ZTOP (Zombie Troopers of Pennsylvania) friends will be joining me.

From the website:

Protect your brain and run for your life. This is one race where your legs giving out are the least of your problems. Run For Your Lives is a first-of-its-kind event, one part 5K, one part obstacle course, one part escaping the clutches of zombies — and all parts awesome.

Runners will navigate a series of 12 obstacles throughout a 5K course in an attempt to reach the finish line — all while avoiding zombies. At the end of this adventure race, you get to celebrate survival (or zombie transformation) with live entertainment and music, local celebrities, vendors, food, and of course, beer!

There are still a few spaces left in the morning and evening heats. If you see me there, say “Hi!”

Fake X-files novels

Posted on: September 27th, 2011 by Nathan E. Lilly

I found these this past weekend on the GreenTentacles servers:

Backstory: Keith DeCandido (interview with him on Space Westerns Magazine) was having a bad day with random rumors and he mentioned how in the thread someone was complaining about his X-files novels. Of course, Keith has never written an X-files novel. I made these fake X-files novel covers to cheer him up.

Interviewed about Containment by John Joseph Adams

Posted on: September 9th, 2011 by Nathan E. Lilly

Because I’ve been making updates to Containment and trying to get it filled up with next year’s conventions, I happened to stumble across an old interview that John Joseph Adams did with me on Tor.com: Convention Finder Makes It Easy to Plan Geektastic Getaways. I had completely forgotten that I did it.

Backstory: in 2008 John Joseph Adams (hugo award nominated editor/anthologist, for those who need a clue) mentioned on his blog that he was looking for a list of conventions that was searchable by ZIP code. I stepped up to the challenge and had a working version shortly thereafter. Containment was born. John then interviewed me which helped get the word out about the new site.

Seeing this interview made me realize that I’ve been interviewed quite a number of times. I’ll have to track down all of my previous interviews and put up the links.

Thaumatrope writer open pimp thread

Posted on: September 6th, 2011 by Nathan E. Lilly

This is an invitation for all writers who have been featured on Thaumatrope to pimp themselves in this thread. Feel free to make it as long as you like, but if your comment contains multiple links then it’s likely to go into moderation (so please be patient while it’s in the queue). Also, pending editorial approval, writers who post a comment under 140 characters may have their pimps tweeted to the Thaumatrope timeline for all 2,206+ followers to see (include your twitter account and the #pimpage hashtag in the comment). For example:

@nelilly has been working on the back-end web development needed to revive Space Westerns Magazine @spacewesterns #pimpage

The #pimpage tweets will also appear on the main Thaumatrope website under the interviews section.

All right, tell me what you’ve been up to!

I have altered the Star Wars saga…

Posted on: August 31st, 2011 by Nathan E. Lilly

…pray that I don’t alter it any further.

With every new addition George Lucas keeps making tweaks to the Star Wars movies. From the classic “Han shot first” scene and adding Jabba the Hutt and Boba Fett in Episode IV, through to his most recent tweaks in the new blu-ray release due to be released September 16th. His latest Star Wars changes were to replace the Yoda puppet with CGI in Episode I to better match the CGI Yoda in Episodes II and III. He also added CGI work to make the Ewoks blink. And then there’s this wonderful addition:

I concur: NOOOOOOO!

Please George, leave it alone. Leave it alone! Leave it alone! Leave it alone! Leave it alone! Leave it alone! Leave it alone!

Conventions local to me which I may or may not go to