Saturday, 27 June 2015

Work in Progress: 27th June 2015

Due to last week's marathon reflections on the Hugos I'm behind in my weekly blog post about what I've been doing: writing, reading and watching stuff that I've enjoyed.

Last week wasn't only hectic for all the writing I did, here on the blog, and the editing of my second novel, but also for attending an afternoon's workshop called Ultra-Wearable Physiological Sensing held at Imperial College.  It was five talks on the use of sensors in gathering medical information using new technologies and access routes, for example the ear canal.  The talks were: Challenges in MOD-related wearable sensing by Brigadier Professor Tim Hodgetts, Ultra-wearable sensing: Ear EEG and collocated sensors by Dr. Valentin Goverdovsky, The pulse of performance: Investigating the psychophysiology of performance under stress by Professor Aaron Williamson, Ultrawearable sensing meets complexity science: Stress and consciousness applications by Professor Danilo Mandic, and The role of sleep and the impact of sleep loss by Professor Mary Morrell.

I got to ask a couple of questions, which surprised me, as I hadn't expected to be able to ask anything sensible.  I was also quite surprised that one of the research teams work was effectively re-inventing the wheel from first principles.  This is not a condemnation of their work, because it was rather lovely to see them validate research in my specialist area without any of the political infighting that has beset psychological therapies.

After this most stimulating set of afternoon talks we rushed over to hear the inaugural lecture of Professor Arttu Rajantie called Playing the quantum field, which you can watch by clicking the link, explaining the standard model, and his work into magnetic monopoles.  Fortunately, because I've been reading Our Mathematical Universe by Max Tegmark, I was able keep up with most of the talk, except for the squiggly mathematics stuff, but one can't be good at everything.  Then to cap a wonderful day off we went for the post lecture supper, which had a very nice cold buffet selection, and a rather yummy apple pie dessert.

This week we've finished watching season two and started on season three of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.  It's light and fluffy, and we like it despite the silliness of the stories, because it keeps true to the emotional stuff.

Writing wise I've written 4,651 words for the blog, added 471 words to the current draft of my second novel, while managing to edit 7,754 words last week, and 9,778 words this week.  I'm now writing a new scene for chapter fifteen before moving onto act three.  So this has been a productive week for me.  Next week I'm attending Science in Science Fiction at Imperial College run by Dr. David Clements who also write science fiction.

Catch you all on the bounce.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Hugo Reflections: Part 7 The Future


Part 1 link
Part 2 link
Part 3 link
Part 4 link
Part 5 link
Part 6 link

So what if anything can I draw from this series of posts that reflected on the books I've read during the course of my life?

Adding up all the books I've mentioned in my posts I see that I've read 43 of the 62 Hugo award winners, and 91 of the 227 works that were nominated.  This adds up to 153 out of a total of 289 books.  Sheesh I've given away or sold off more books than that during this time.  Even taking this into account the total number of books is less than 10% of the total number I've ever read.  Also, the problem is that back in the day (circa 1953 of thereabouts) 150 books were published in a year, and since then this has risen to a peak of about 1500 books releases over the same period.  That's a ten fold increase.

Meanwhile the Hugo nominees have remained around five over the entire period.  Perhaps this needs looking at in light of the changing volume in the genre?

However, I think I need to point out is that anecdote is not data.  While the numbers of books I've read can be quantified, I'm a single point.  Or put in other words a data set of one.  Therefore one cannot draw any real conclusions about the state of the Hugos from my narrative.

But here's the thing; you knew this was coming, because otherwise why would I spend all this time talking about the Hugo awards.  My point is very simple.  The Hugos have been awarded to sixty-two books, and yes that makes them a thing worth winning, but it doesn't mean that all the other books that didn't win weren't good books.

So yes it sucks not get a Hugo, because it always sucks to lose.

But voting and stuff is not a simple problem.  One only has to look at the arguments around first past the post versus proportional representation, and whether or not instant run off voting is best, to realise that this is the case.  If it were not the case we'd already have a perfect answer that was fair.  But, like lots of things in life, things are not fair.  Not because we don't want them to be, or because we don't think it's worth striving to be fair, but because some things are just difficult to achieve, and subject to forces one cannot control.

I always tell people who complain that life's not fair that I'm glad it's not fair, because if life were fair then everything bad that happened to me would have happened because I deserved it.  Therefore, by analogy, if the Hugo awards could be made to be totally fair, and you deserved to win and lost, then you would have been were robbed, which would be totally unfair.

So in short; cue Highlander meme, there can be only one!*

And finally, in relation to people on either side of the puppy debate getting angry because other people were angry.  No matter how angry one gets about something, venting one's feelings doesn't help.  It's worse than that.  Venting your anger will reinforce what you're feeling, and increase the intensity of your anger, not reduce it and leave you feeling better.  Furthermore, getting angry just makes it more likely you'll become angry again, which is why I wrote this piece the way I have.  Better to look at the positive side of things.

In this case the positive thing to take away from the Hugos is the years of  pleasure I've had from reading books, where 90% have never won an award.  And no-one can take that away from me.

* Sometimes two if there is a draw.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Hugo Reflections: Part 6 - 2003 to 2014

After going Conjose we started going to other SF conventions, and have now been to nine more; mostly those that are in or near London.  You can read about three of them by clicking this link.

Again the link for the Hugo Wikipedia page is here.
2003 to 2012

In this decade have I well and truly passed the peak of reading Hugo award winners and nominees.  In fact it looks like I've fallen off the map.  The only Hugo award winner that I read was Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge.  I really like his work, and I bought the hardback as soon as I saw it on the shelf at Forbidden Planet.

Of the nominees I've read nine of the forty works.  Old Man's War by John Scalzi, Blindsight by Peter Watts, The Last Colony by by John Scalzi, Halting State by Charles Stross, Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold.  For the record Scalzi, Stross and Watts were all new to me authors that I discovered either by word of mouth or through the internet during this period.

I should add that in general I'm reading Hugo award winners and nominees years after their original publication date.  Also, I have on my to be read pile one other Hugo nominee novel Mira Grant's (a pseudonym of Seanan McGuire) Feed, which I picked up recently to try.
2013 & 2014

So now we enter the beginning of the seventh decade of the Hugos, and soon my fifth decade as a reader of science fiction.  This may well make me a boring old fogie or not, depending on how one sees such things (get off my lawn!)  At the end of 2012 I had a change of career, in that I decided to take a sabbatical from working in mental health care.  I started writing again, after more than a twenty year break by restarting work on a novel I began in 1988.

In this time I've read both Hugo award winners (Redshirts & Ancillary Justice), and two of the eight nominees: Captain Vorpatril's Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold, and Warbound by Larry Correia.  If my writing career takes off I imagine that the number of Hugo winners and nominees will rise.  It's kind of inevitable really as one wants to keep abreast of what people are reading.

I've also read two of this years nominees, which as far as I'm concerned puts me ahead of the curve.


Tomorrow I will sum up my thought about the Hugos and the debate that has been causing a storm across the internet.  But the first post I started this series with had a list of a few authors whose work I'd read, but whom had not been nominated at the time for a Hugo or won the award.  So I thought I'd like to end with a few random books by authors I love that I would have liked to have seen in the running for the Hugo (year of publication, so they would be in the following years award).

1985 Wizard of the Pigeons by Megan Lindholm aka Robin Hobb.
1989 A Talent for War by Jack McDevitt.
1990 The Ring of Charon by Roger MacBride-Allen.
1990 Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett.
1990 Angel Station by Walter Jon Williams.
1991 Hardwired by Walter Jon Williams.
1992 Grunts! by Mary Gentle.
1994 The Engines of God by Jack McDevitt.
1996 Excession by Iain M. Banks.
2000 Ash: A Secret History by Mary Gentle.
2000 Storm Front by Jim Butcher.
2002 The Praxis by Walter Jon Williams.
2002 Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan.
2003 Spin State by Chris Moriarty.
2004 Century Rain by Alistair Reynolds.
2010 Truth of Valor by Tanya Huff.
2011 Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge.
2012 Silence by Michelle Sagara.
2013 The Coldest Girl in Cold Town by Holly Black.
2014 Maplecroft by Cherie Priest.

As I compiled this list what I found it harder for me to add books that I've read the closer I got to the current date (big gap between 2004 and 2010 for example).

I think this is indicates that I'm always reading behind the curve, except for those few authors I will buy in hardback as soon as something appears from them.  Reflecting back for a moment, when I started to read I could on occasion manage three books a day.  My average, I guess, was more like a book a day.  But nowadays  I'm only reading a book a week, at most, sometimes less.  This sort of change in volume means there's no way I can keep up with all the new novels coming out in a year.

So it's no wonder I'm behind the curve, which probably makes me a boring old fogie.  Anyway, see you tomorrow for my summary.

Part seven link.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Hugo Reflections: Part 5 - 1993 to 2002

Now I'm into my fourth decade of reading SF.  I went to Helicon in 1993, but after this I didn't go to another convention again until 2002 when I return to fandom by attending ConJosé the 2002 Worldcon in San Jose, which was the first convention my partner ever attended.  Talk about being thrown in at the deep end.

Again the link for the Hugo Wikipedia page is here.
1993 to 2002 

Looking at the awards I have managed to read five of the eleven winners in this period, and only four of the forty nominees.  Given how few of the Hugo award winners and nominees I've read it's easiest for me to list them, rather than trying to encapsulate all the books I haven't read (check out the link for all the books).

The award winners I've read were: A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge, Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold, Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman, A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling.  However none of these were bought because they were Hugo award winners, assuming that makes sense.  I was blown away by A Fire Upon the Deep and I've just snapped up anything by Vernor Vinge ever since.  Likewise for Bujold's work, and Rowling's books were read mostly so that I could talk to my clients at work who were enjoying the stories.

Therefore it's no surprise to find that of three the books nominated for the Hugo were by two of the authors in the award winning list: Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold, Brightness Reef by David Brin, A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling.

This seems to indicate a complete collapse in the number of books I'm reading, except I bought and read a whole bunch of books, even though I will qualify my statement by saying I wasn't reading as much during this period as I used to.  In this case mostly because I had a shed load of text books to read for the diploma in mental health studies I was studying for.  The job I then went into was quite demanding, which also had a considerable impact on how much I read. Still, saying that my book collection kept growing.

Part six link.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Hugo Reflections: Part 4 - 1983 to 1992

Beginning my second decade of reading SF, which ends around the time my life became more interesting than I really care to talk about.  I had been writing stuff on and off for a number of years, and selling some non-fiction work to magazines, but an enforced change career meant I put everything on hold.  The harsh reality of needing to be able to afford to have somewhere to live and food to eat.  Boring real life stuff, which resulted in me gafiating from SF Fandom.

During this period I attended Seacon in 1984, and even did some gophering, and as I've said I was Doris Lessing's minder during the con.  I even published a fanzine,and I was also a member of P-APA for a while.  I know I went to both Yorcon 3 in 1985, and Albacon3 1986, followed by Conspiracy, which was the 1987 Worldcon.  So definitely this period reperesent my peak involvement with SF Fandom and its effects on my reading choices.

Again the link for the Hugo Wikipedia page is here.
1983 to 1992 

There were ten winners during this period, and forty-one other novels that were nominated.  I've read nine of the ten winners, and fifteen of the forty-one runners up. This is the first decade where I haven't read all the nominees in any of the given years.  The only Hugo winner I've not read was Hyperion by Dan Simmons.

Given that now I have more nominees that I've not read, rather than listing them all I shall just list one's that I want to comment on.

First off is Friday by Robert A. Heinlein,  which for me probably marks peak Heinlein, because I stopped reading any of his new books after Time Enough for Love.  I still enjoy re-reading his earlier works, but once he started writing big fat doorstops I walked.  I think this may mean I have an aversion to reading big fat doorstop books, which would also include his Job: A Comedy of Justice.  However, I will note for the record that I've re-read quite a few of Heinlein's novels since then, Double Star being one of my favourites along with The Moon is  Harsh Mistress, and Starship Troopers.

Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov, didn't grab me, and this again probably indicates I've reached peak Asimov.  In this case it was more a matter that I missed the book at a time when I had other stuff to contend with, and I wanted to read different books.  Again I've re-read a couple of his books since then.  The End of Eternity, because it's my favourite novel of his, and I recently bought another copy of The Gods Themselves to re-read, because it deals with parallel universes.

I have also not read Integral Trees by Larry Niven.  The concept didn't grab me, and again I think this means I've reached peak Niven.  However, while I've not read Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, I may well read it someday, because alien elephants.  Again I've re-read The Mote in Gods Eye and The Moat Around Murchison's Eye aka The Gripping Hand between then and now.  Clearly some stories appeal to my tastes, which when you think about it is obvious.  It's what defines our tastes; what we like and dislike.

The real surprise for me from this period is how little of Greg Bear's work I've read.  This may be down to senility, and being unable to tell Bear, Brin and Benford apart (that's a joke).  So that's all I have to say today, more tomorrow.

Part five link.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Hugo Reflections: Part 3 - 1973 to 1982

I went to my first convention in 1976, which if my memory serves me correctly was called Lunicon, where I saw Arthur C. Clarke talk, amongst other things (the editors of White Dwarf were there and I bought a subsciption to the magazine).  It was a tiny one day, and I mean really tiny as an event held in one room.  From there it was one small step to take my first step into UK SF fandom, and I attended Skycon in 1978, which was the British national SF Eastercon, which as it's name suggests is traditionally held over the Easter weekend.  The next year I attended my first Worldcon, Seacon.

This I guess marks my entry to SF Fandom, rather than just being a fan of SF.

I remember going to at least one of the Albacon's in Glasgow, but can't remember if it was the 1980 or 1983 one.  I certainly went to Yorcon 2 in Leeds 1981, and I think Channelcon in Brighton 1982.  But apart from attending conventions, reading any fanzines I got given, I wasn't particularly active in fandom, for example producing a fanzine or helping to run conventions.

Though, as I'm writing this down I remembered I did start a fan group with my friend Dave Harwood, an under appreciated comic artist, while I was living in Southend-on-Sea.  It was really David and Ashley go drinking and talk about SF books, films and comics.  Alex Stewart aka Sandy Mitchell was a regular attendee, driving all the way down from Colchester, and usually bringing friends with him like Susan Francis and John Murphy.

Those were the days when we were young and full of energy, and would do crazy stuff like drive to Wales for the chance to attend a party.  Anyway, again I've put the link for the Hugo Wikipedia page here.
Third Decade 1973 to 1982 

There were ten winners during this period, and forty-one other novels that were nominated. I've read eight of the ten winners, and twenty-three of the forty-one runners up.  The only year where I read all the contenders was 1975.

The two Hugo winners I've not read were: Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre, and The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge. Both of these rather shocked me, because again I remember reading other books from both these authors, which only goes to illustrate that one doesn't necessarily read everything by a given author or remember what you've read. In this case I've read a lot of Vonda N. McIntyre's tie in novels, being a big Star Trek fan who wanted to read well written books in this universe. The only book I've read by Joan D. Vinge was her Star Wars tie in novelization.

Of the runners up the one's I haven't read are: There Will Be Time by Poul Anderson, The Book of Skulls, and Dying Inside (two nominations in one year) by Robert Silverberg, A Choice of Gods by Clifford D. Simak, The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold, The Stochastic Man by Robert Silverberg, and Shadrach in the Furnace also by Robert Silverberg, The Forbidden Tower by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Dying of the Light by George R. R. Martin, The White Dragon by Anne McCaffrey, Blind Voices by Tom Reamy, Titan by John Varley, Jem by Frederik Pohl, Harpist in the Wind by Patricia A. McKillip, On Wings of Song by Thomas Disch, Lord Valentine's Castle by Robert Silverberg, Wizard by John Varley, The Many-Colored Land by Julian May, Project Pope by Clifford D. Simak.

Clearly I haven't read as much  Robert Silverberg or for that matter as much Clifford D. Simak as I thought I had, or at least what I've read didn't make the Hugo shortlist;  I did check and I guess I must have mostly read their shorter works.  I'm surprised by the inclusion of the David Gerrold story, and while I've read a fair bit of Anne McCaffrey I stopped reading the dragon books after the second novel in the series.

Of these I think I will try to get hold of a copy of  Blind Voices by Tom Reamy, who I've never heard of, and when I checked the link on the wiki I discovered this was his first and last novel.  He died just before publication, slumped over the first seven pages of his next novel. The review suggests he was a promising writer who may have had a substantial career in the genre.

So not only can you not win, but you can win and not see that you've won.  It sucks sometimes, and sometimes it really sucks.

Part four link.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Hugo Reflections: Part 2 - 1963 to 1972

Towards the end of this period we enter the time when I began to read voraciously, this being a typical reaction of those who find SF and fall in love with the genre.  In my case I remember picking up two of Robert A. Heinlein's juveniles from a shop while on a seaside holiday in Ilfracombe.  It was one of those wet summer's, which meant we couldn't go to the beach, and I was bored.  The books I bought were the Red Planet and Farmer in the Sky, followed by me picking up the two other books of his that the shop had on its racks: Tunnel in the Sky and Time for the Stars.

From this point on I pursued books by him and other authors like him: Andre Norton, Alan E. Nourse and Hugh Walters.  And that is how this SF fan was born.  As for the Hugo awards, my eleven year old self would have been too deep into reading books to have taken any notice of some boring event where you had to sit and watch been adults wearing fancy clothes being given prizes.

As before I shall be referencing the Hugo Wikipedia page here.

1963 to 1972

There were eleven Hugos awarded during this period (one year had two winners), and thirty-nine nominated novels.  I've read all eleven winners, and twenty of the thirty-nine nominated runners up.  Again I note that I've read all the contenders for the award in both 1966, 1970.

The one's I haven't read are: Dark Universe by Daniel F. Galouye, The Fisherman aka Time Is the Simplest Thing by Clifford D. Simak, The Sword of Aldones by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper, Sylva by Jean Bruller, Witch World by Andre Norton, Dune World by Frank Herbert, The Whole Man by John Brunner, Davy by Edgar Pangborn, Too Many Magicians by Randall Garrett, The Witches of Karres by James H. Schmitz, Day of the Minotaur by Thomas Burnett Swann, The Butterfly Kid by Chester Anderson, Thorns by Robert Silverberg, Rite of Passage by Alexei Panshin, Past Master by R. A. Lafferty, The Goblin Reservation by Clifford D. Simak, Tower of Glass by Robert Silverberg, The Year of the Quiet Sun by Wilson Tucker, Star Light by Hal Clement, A Time of Changes by Robert Silverberg.

What surprised me about the books I haven't read was how many Robert Silverberg novels there were.  He's an author who I thought I'd read more of, but there you go that's what your memory does, it deceives you.  Again there's nothing on this list that makes me want to rush out and buy them, though I may well get around to the Hal Clement at some point.  From this I think I can see some indications of the sort of books I like to read, and those that don't appeal.

I'm rather hard pushed to list alternatives who may have deserved a Hugo during this period, because of the selection of nominated works rather takes away any point in doing so when you consider my criteria:  I must have read the book, and the author hasn't had an award or nomination.

Part three link.


First thing I want to say is that obviously if any of the books I haven't read struck a chord that would make you recommend them to me, then please leave a comment below.  

Secondly I just wanted to add how I choose the books I read nowadays.  First is through recommendations from friends or from reviews I've read, but the main route is through the bookshops.  When I go into Forbidden Planet I look at their new book selection.  First the cover, then the back page blurb, and finally the first chapter.  This turns new books into the equivalent of a publishers slush pile, which is why word of mouth and reviews are so important.

If the cover has a woman on it with an elf, werewolf or vampire I'll probably pass, because this signals paranormal romance, but I always check the blurb first just to make sure.  Romance books are not my thing.  I've read a bunch, even read some by accident, it's just my taste in stories.  Same goes for horror, unless tentacles as in Cthulhu; I always have time for the Great Old Ones.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Hugo Reflections: Part 1 - 1953 to 1962

As I alluded to in a previous post I've been distracted, dismayed and distressed from reading the current furore over the Hugo's.  This post, the first in a series, is not going to be a diatribe for or against the Sad Puppies, rather it's going to be a reflection on the books that won or were nominated for a Hugo award.  In short just some anecdotes about the books I've read or not that were nominated or won the award, and who didn't.

I shall be referring to the Hugo Wikipedia page here.

1953 to 1962

I note that there were no awards presented for best novel in 1954 or 1957.  So only eight novels won the award during this period, and there are only sixteen novels recorded as being nominated that didn't win.  Of these I've read all but one of the winners: They'd Rather be Right aka The Forever Machine by Frank Clifton & Mark Riley.  I've never even heard of them, and following the wiki links I found that this was a controversial win due to links to Scientology.  However, I see I've read all the books that are recorded as receiving nominations in 1959 and 1961.

Given that I've read twelve of the sixteen books that were nominated, it will be easier to look at what I haven't read at this point.

Those four books were: We Have Fed Our Sea aka The Enemy Stars by Poul Anderson, The Pirates of Ersatz aka The Pirates of Zan by Murray Leinster, That Sweet Little Old Lady aka Brain Twister by Mark Phillips, and The High Crusade by Poul Anderson.

After reading the synopses of the books I haven't read, I can't say I'm curious to go out of my way to try them, except perhaps for The High Crusade.  Why?  Because there are more books that are calling for me to read than these, which really is the long and the short of it at the end of the day.  I will also come back to how I choose books in my last post when I sum up everything.

In case it's not obvious, I was too young to have read these books when they first came out.

My question now, is would I change any of the Hugo award winners for another book from that year? I did a quick skim of the books published over this time period, and I take one from each year that I think was worth reading, and would have made an equally good winner, taken from here, may not be a full list of the books published in each year, I used it because it was quick and easy.

1952 Mixed Men aka Mission to the Stars by A. E van Vogt (one of 128 books published that year).
1953 Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke (160 books published that year).
1954 Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien (157 books published).
1955 The Chrysalids by John Wyndham (120 published).
1956 No Blade of Grass by John Christopher (115 published).
1957 Wasp by Eric Frank Russell (104 published).
1958 Non-Stop by Brian Aldiss (139 published).
1959 The Marching Morons by C. M. Kornbluth (134 published).
1960 Flesh by Phillip Jose Farmer (139 published).
1961 Bring back Yesterday by A. Bertram Chandler (130 published).

Note: I've restricted my choices to what I've read, so may have missed other equally good books, and I've elected to only chose books where the author hasn't won or been nominated during these years (just to show some of the authors who missed out on getting a Hugo during this time period).

Part two link.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Philae: I'm Back

I'm posting this today, because it's exciting news.  As an SF fan this is the sort of stuff I live for.  Mankind's exploration of space.

There are some who believe that without humans the exploration of space will not interest the general public, and that may well be true, in that I'm not necessarily representative of the general populace.  But you know what this excites me; at the heart in mouth level of excitement.  It's certainly the best bit of news I've heard all week, and I just wanted to share my excitement with my readers.

Waiting for the cute xkcd cartoon from Randall Munroe now.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

BSFA, SFF & ICSF Mini-Convention

Last Saturday my partner suggest that we attended Mini-Convention, which was a one day event run by The British Science Fiction Association, the Science Fiction Foundation, and the Imperial College Science Fiction Society.  The attraction for Susan being the chance to hear Brian Aldiss speak.  We'd seen him at LonCon 3 the world SF convention, but missed any of the panels he was on, and given that he's not getting any younger (none of us are) it seemed like an opportunity we should take.

He gave a set of rather charming answers to his interviewer's interesting questions.  A genuine grand old man of SF.  One thing I learned and liked was the fact that he keeps journals that he draws in.  He has a shed load of them it seems, and we got to see some of his collages later on.  It made me feel good about my own book of doodles, and my other blogging where I show off the models I make of things I'm thinking about.  In particular my recent attempts to make models of the combat armour suits that appear in my first three novels.

We also got to hear Pat Cadigan talk, and as a result of listening to her we're buying a collection with her short stories in, which only goes to to show that authors talking about their work gets people interested in reading their works.  Besides seeing the two authors talk there were other discussions too, and while Mini-Convention was very low key (they asked people not to mention it on social media during the day) it was an enjoyable day out that mostly avoided the Hugo controversy, which quite frankly I've had enough of.

We also got and have finished watching season one of 12 Monkeys, and I'm impressed.  It's a very clever, retelling of the Terry Gilliam movie, because while the story still has all those elements of the original the style no longer treats them as a nightmare that comes over as totally bat shit crazy insane.  Also, Barbara Sukowa is stunningly good as the slightly obsessed to the point of being crazy doctor, especially so when playing the younger version of herself.  I can recommend the series if you've not yet seen it.

Also this week we finally caught up with Man of Steel and Kingsman: The Secret Service.

Starting with Superman first; the Man of Steel manages to reinvigorate the franchise, assuming that one doesn't mind the violence, which is the antithesis of the much loved versions starring Christopher Reeve.  I would say that the fight scenes in Metropolis were on reflection a tad over long, but the whole ruins things worked for me, because it very much reminded me of the Alan Moore Miracleman fight – two god like beings slugging it out while mere mortals try not to be noticed.

However, it was Kingsman: The Secret Service that really impressed me.  More violence than you could shake a big stick at, but it had a sensibility that just lifted it up beyond it's source material: James Bond, which is referenced within Kingsman.  There are a couple of scenes between Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson that set up and deliver a punchline that was quite frankly breathtaking.  I've just read that the director is working on a sequel, which is most unlike him, but he says if he can write a good script it will go ahead.

With regards to my writing this week I've been distracted, dismayed and distressed by a number of events throughout the week, which due to a wide range of other factors have rather derailed my progress.  Still, I managed to finish another chapter, but I feel I really must do better.  Words written 851, edited 1,760, running total 100,349.

Bright hope in darkness.  Managed to deconstruct my seven book series arc, and plan out everything I want to do.  I can add side stories and diversions to the series core, but I now have a much better handle on the themes, and overall structure of the series arc from the beginning, through to the middle and how it ends (five pages of penciled notes in the notebook I keep).  So that's it for another week, see you all on the bounce.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Observations & Commentary

Carnufex Carolinenis, a recent find, which proves that the internet can give you good things as well as bad.

I'm entering the fourth week of what I'm calling the fine tooth comb edit of the second draft of my novel Strike Dog.  I forgot to say that last week I edited a total of 10,841 words.  This week however I've only managed to edit 7,812, with a total of 802 words added to the running total, which now stands at 100,379.  In some ways this is disappointingly slow progress, but given the amount of work I had to do to get a new first chapter, and the work needed to kick chapter four into shape it's probably not too bad.  Chapter four was especially troublesome because it was pretty rough with far too much telling in the form of info dumps.  So I've sent the revised version of this chapter off to my Alpha reader for comment and feedback.

I've also had updates from both of my second round Beta readers.  Slow progress being made due to various family commitments.  Still I must thank both David Barrow and Alix McFarlane for their time and effort.  I've already had some useful feedback from both of them, and hope to see their finished pieces in due course.  In the meantime it's not like I haven't got another couple of novels to polish up.

Sometimes I despair at what I see and hear on the internet, and to quote Carl Sagan, "We aren't living in a world where people are becoming more stupid or irrational, people have always made stupid choices and behaved irrationally; it's the human condition."  And I also try to remember Sturgeons Law that 90% of anything is rubbish, and that's the nature of the world that we live in.  So people complaining about things is really par for the course, and differences of opinion will therefore arise as a matter of course.

Beside sometime we get good things.  In my case the Carnufex Carolinenis, which was lucky find as I describe an off world creature as a cross between a Komodo dragon and a crocodile, which I think pretty much describes this dinosaur.  It also gives me a solid naming convention one of my characters can use to name the alien creature.  Truly serendipitous.

I'll leave you all with a quote that I find quite thought provoking.  Machiavelli once said, "Unlike some people, I feel under no obligation to pretend that only one set of beliefs are true, and that any others beliefs are mistaken; or that I know better than people themselves what is right for them to believe.  The point is precisely for all people to decide for themselves."