Monday, 30 September 2013

The Fuller Memorandum


What a difference a day makes.  I've been without an internet connection all weekend with service restored this morning at 11.00.  All down to a fault on the voice line that BT owns.  So I've been sorting out a zillion emails, catching up with what the internet thinks and sorting out problems with one of my credit card companies login that now require cookies for their security procedure.  As someone who has set all cookies to be deleted when I quite the programme this has caused a certain amount of frustration as I was locked out of my account.  It seems that the previous change of password changes didn't take, or something.  I put in a complaint that using cookies as away of maintaining security was a dumb idea.  Correct me if I'm wrong.

Writing wise last week was not super productive as I ended up spending too much time thinking through plot points and having to write specific scenes to make everything work, which I always find hard.  On the positive side my alpha reader thinks the two chapters I wrote were great.  So total number of words for the week was 5,305, total for the month 22,760, and running total for the novel stands at 45,477.  So I'm about at the halfway point. Yay me!

Fortunately, the lack of internet access wasn't an issue for me on Saturday as I was out at an Absolute Writers forum meet-up at a pub in London (my partner on the other hand was going up the wall trying to sort it out).  I don't post a lot to the forum for several reasons.  First is that I'm not a prolific poster on any of the forums I visit.  Second, I've realised that visiting forums and reading load of posts is a time sink.  Third, American forums have a hard time with British sense of humour, especially one from a former British nurse who tends towards posting black and ironic comments in particular.

Anyway I had a nice time talking to various writers and some of their partner's.  So big shout out to all the attendees on Saturday, if you are reading this?

I was also most flattered to be asked when was I going to start submitting my work for publication by Julie, a writer I know, and as a result I'm planning on sitting in on a writing group session at some point in the near future to see if my face fits, and if I like them.

Still watching Stargate SG1 and now on season seven.  That's the one where Daniel Jackson returns as a series regular, but given the number of guest episodes he featured in during season six it never really felt like he left.  Neither season six, or seven are as punchy as season five.  They have gone back to having filler episodes about characters that don't add anything to the plot.  I think they missed the chance to up their game at several points.  There again what do I know?

Reading wise the loss of the internet meant that I sat down and blew through Charlie Stross's The Fuller Memorandum on Sunday.  It was that good it made me weep in despair and I wanted to shout out, "I hate you Charlie Stross for making me feel so inadequate as a writer, hiiiisssss, boooooo, suck."  The man can write.  One day I want to grow up to be as good a writer as him.

So that's it for another week.  See you next month.  ;-)

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Writing Log 130922

Laser project my partner is working on.  Real science stuff.  Image © Imperial College 2013
Okay this week I finished reading my Sandman collection, and while by the end of it I was enjoying the process of reading it. Also,  it occurred to me that I have changed over the years, and that my annoyance at being slowed down by changing between text and image processing was a sign of me getting older, and probably an indication of age related process.  I also took a moment to reflect upon a comment made by a comic artist friend of mine that my script for The Bureau was in his opinion not drawable, which is arguable, but I can see where he was coming from, and tend to agree.

Of course last year when I dragged the text out to work on I found myself getting into an awful mess with the task of converting it from a script into a novel.  I remain hopeful that when I get back to working on it, sometime early next year, I hope that the experience gained from writing three first drafts will get me over the hump, so to speak.  I certainly feel that I have developed as a writer during the course of this year; both from a structural perspective and that I have become more skilled with words.

So this week I have managed to write 6,518 words, bringing my running total up to 40,247, and by comparison to the previous novels at this same time I am ahead of where I was when writing them.  For instance Bad Dog at the six week point I had written 29,998 and Strike Dog a very similar 29,772.  For me the lesson learnt here is that I get caught inside my own assessment of how I'm doing and think I should be doing better, when in actual fact I am doing better.  Score one point for keeping a log of my word counts, not for the numbers per se, but to keep one grounded in one's progress.  I am clearly writing consistently and the amount I'm able to write is increasing.

Away from my neurotic self obsession with failure I've been watching more Stargate SG1.  Finished season five, which was note perfect.  Not a single episode was filler.  Best season so far.  Just started season six and while it remains good, some episodes are not necessary to the overall plot behind the story arc.

Reading wise I'm still labouring my way through The Emperor's New Mind, which couldn't be more densely written if it tried.  Sorry, Hawking's did a far better job with his Brief History of Time in conveying complex ideas in an accessible manner, and I know that a lot of people who bought this book and were unable to finish it, because they thought it was hard going.  Trust me when I say that Penrose's book is a much harder read. 

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Sandman


This has not been a good week for me health wise with a bad bout of rheumatoid arthritis sneaking up on me and laying me out flat for three days.  Still mustn't grumble could be worse, I could have no immune system at all.

The other thing that bothered me was that I seem to have lost my comics/graphic novel mojo.  I use to seriously enjoy reading graphic stories and restarted with Sandman written by Neil Gaiman, but have found myself tripping over the format with the pictures getting in the way of the story.  Probably a sign of getting old.

Still watching Stargate SG1, having just finished season four and now starting on season five.   The end of Apophis story arc was actually very well done, and one actually felt sorry for his predicament that led to his death.  I've started compiling episodes into essential arc stories, supporting episodes and filler episodes; imagining how I would edit the series to cut it down to the most action packed and character developing episodes.  This also has made me think about how I would have done the Battlestar Galactica reboot differently too, which wouldn't take that many alterations to fix the plot holes.  Such is the burden of aspiring to be a writer, one starts analyzing everything one reads and watches.

So this week my own writing has been rather limited and I only managed two days work in total for 3,036 words, which brings the running total to 33,730 words.  Hopefully, next week will be better.

I did spend yesterday doing more research for the novel I'm working on about what are minds and how to make them, courtesy of the internet and watched an interesting interview about microtubules working at the quantum level?  Unfortunately, while I can buy that for a dollar, the presenter then drifted off into uncertain territories that would have been better left alone as he undermined the veracity of his ideas with stuff that was quite frankly loopy IMO.  By that I mean I know enough about what he is talking about to understand that what he is suggesting is non-testable, and therefore fails the criteria for being based in scientific reasoning.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Principle of Angels


Another week another dollar and on the internet people have been upsetting others with their views.  Oh wait it's the internet, people are always getting upset over something someone else has said.  So no change there then.

I've just started skimming through The Society of Mind by Marvin Minsky, which is nearly thirty years old according to the copyright date inside.  Had I done my research before buying it I probably wouldn't have bothered with it.  Not because it's a bad book, or because it's arguments are not interesting, but just because it isn't really telling me anything new that I didn't already know from primary research sources. If unlike me you have not been following the research into artificial intelligence then I would highly recommend this book as a good introduction to the debate on why we can make artificial non-human minds.

What is interesting is that this book is in opposition to Roger Penrose's book The Emperors New Mind, which is equally old with an original 1989 copyright date.  I've put this book down to rest, because it is hard going with pages of formulas.  Penrose takes the opposite stance to Minsky and argues against artificial intelligence.

I think both authors are right, but for different reasons.  Will we be able at some point make artificial intelligence like Minsky suggests?  Undoubtedly the answer is yes, but with certain terms and conditions that require that our technological civilization lasts long enough to achieve them.  I would liken AI to nuclear fusion and say it's about fifty years away, except that nuclear fusion is likely to happen within the next fifty years, whereas AI is in my opinion less likely to happen within that time frame, and therefore Penrose is right in that we don't know what we don't know to make an artificial mind.

It's not because I don't think it can't be done, it's because I don't think we have the theoretical base on which to construct minds outside of the good old fashioned biological imperative to reproduce ourselves.  I'm firmly in the camp that humans are biological machines, but we don't even have a pathology of mental illness that would at least be evidence that we understood how a mind works (my core professional area).

Back to the internet and the greying of the SF Worldcon, sorry can't resist commenting.  Lot's of furore amongst those that chat about some stuff about the BOF* at this years Worldcon and where have all the youngsters gone?  And OMG it's the end of fandom as we know it unless we do something.  Then comparisons are made with DragonCon and why can't the Worldcon be more like that?

All I can say is that in 1939 the SF Worldcon the idea that media convention where actors were feted was probably not in the forefront of peoples minds.  The Worldcon has historically been a convention for people interested in reading and writing SF.  As for encouraging the youngsters who go to ComicCon and DragonCon to go to a Worldcon, I would suggest that unless they are interested in reading and writing then one is probably on to a hiding for nothing.  YMMV, feel free to leave comments.

Back now to what I'm reading.  I'm currently well stuck into Jane Fenn's Principle of Angels, which I'm looking forward to finishing off this afternoon.  I'm really enjoying it and Jane's voice is so clear that I feel I'm having a conversation with her about the story and the ideas she is developing as I read each page.  Highly recommended.  On the watching front; we are still working through Stargate SG1, now on season four.

On my own writing, my work in progress has seen me add another 7,901 words to the first draft of my third novel, which now stands at 30,702 words in total.  An interesting development in how I write has occurred (the dynamic of plot versus characterization), so obviously I've blown through one of these learning points on the curve to becoming proficient novelist.

*Boring Old Fogey, or other equally suitable and or offensive term for the letter F of your choice.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Mad Scientist's Daughter


End of week three on the third novel.  I've been assiduously keeping track of my writing this year and it's interesting, for values of interesting to me, to compare the writing totals for each.  For Bad Dog I managed to write 13,303 words in the first three weeks, Strike Dog 18,124 words, and Ghost Dog 23,198 words; this seems to suggest that I'm getting better at maintaining steady progress from just the process of sitting down to write five days a week on my writing.  What I think is referred to as the craft of writing; techniques and practice.  This weeks total was 8,103 words, which included one day where I ended up writing six words, because I had a negative total from deleting a earlier passage that contradicted a later passage in the novel.  First time that has happened to me, but I expect that when I finish Ghost Dog and go back for the rewrites this will be a more common phenomenon.

Still watching Stargate SG1, now working through season three.  Some real heart breaking episodes especially when Daniel Jackson's arc gets re-booted with the death of Shauri; a real tear jerker after all this time searching for her and having his friend kill her to save his life.

On the reading front I'm well into a free book I got at Nine Worlds GeekFest called The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke, which is accurately described by its subtitle: A Tale of Love, Loss and Robots.  So not my usual reading matter, but it's charmingly written and quite engaging, if rather lacking in 9mm gun action.  Okay that's it for another week, catch you all on the bounce.