Friday, 7 July 2017

Science For Fiction 2017

This is the third year in a row that I've attended the conference, come workshop, come convention that is Imperial College London's Science in Science Fiction.  It is run by the energetic Dr. David Clements, who can call on world class experts to present on a diverse range of topics of interest to any science geek who wants to write stories with up to the minute science in them.

Wednesday afternoon we all met up for the first talk, which was about the Square Kilometre Array and the Epoch of Reionization by Emma Chapman.  A fascinating look at how science is pushing our knowledge of the beginnings of the universe further back in time through advances in technology, and how we are getting to the stage where the amount of information that can be amassed will exceed our ability to record it.

Next up was a talk on Titan and Cassini by Ingo Mueller-Wodarg that explained the importance of what has been found, and what the mission hopes to get from the final end run that bring the mission to a close with the spacecrafts destruction in Saturn's atmosphere.

Thursday began with the presentation Ending the Universe by Arttu Rajante, who clearly is enjoying his research.  He presented an interesting talk on the Higgs Boson and what finding it means under the current Standard Model.  Basically the end of the universe will be driven by the Higgs Boson forming an expanding singularity that will eat the universe at near light speed; in about 10 ^ 160 years from now.

After  that the next talk brought us back to the present with a talk on Visiting Mars, with a VR Demonstration & discussion by Sanjeev Gupta who is a geologist who works with the Curiosity programme.  Fascinating stuff that discussed the historical development of Mars and future plans to explore the Red planet.

Extremophiles and Synthetic Biology by Robert Weinzierl was next.  Unfortunately my picture of Dr. Weinzierl has too much motion blur to use, which I didn't notice when I took it.  He discussed how life adapts to extremes and this fed back into the problems with sterilizing spacecraft that we want to send to other planets that may have life.

Forming Stars & Planets by Tom Haworth was the final talk.  He covered what we think we know, what we actually know, and what we need to know about how stars, planets and star systems form.

By the end of the final talk I was feeling pretty exhausted from the heat, which was not surprising given the temperatures in London.

Friday, 30 June 2017

June Reflection

This writer's metaphorical coal face, where all the magic happens, as in putting one word after another.  Picture taken by me, processed by Susan because I used her fish-eye lens to get everything in.

It's June and over on the Mad Genius blog earlier this month I found an interesting post, which stimulated me to sit down and reflect on this years writing so far.

Reflecting on my own writing this year, which has felt laboured, as in not enough and what I've done has been a bit of a slog, I looked at what I've done.

For the Galactic Journey fan site I've written six articles:
January Freeze (The Great Explosion, by Eric Frank Russell)
February Thaw (tales from the British fan)
A convention of a different colour (Eastercon in the UK)
“To ride on the curl’d clouds” (ARIEL ONE)
Old AND New (UK’s New Worlds Magazine)
A is for Armchair Theatre (Out of this World – UK’s new sff anthology)
These six pieces total up to 5,434 words.  My blog here totals 5,090 words (excluding this piece).  And my wargaming hobby blog totals 8.095 words.  For a total of 18,619 words.

Looking at the work I've done on Strike Dog, my second novel and sequel to Bad Dog, it's hard to come to a figure.  The fourth draft of Strike Dog ran to 91,552 words and the current fifth draft runs to 103,141 words; so roughly that comes to 12,089 new words.  But, I restructured the novel while editing it, and looking at my notes that came to 78,010 words, according to my running total I keep in my diary of each day's work.

So, at one level I've written 18,619 plus 12,089 words for a total of 30,708 words.

If editing is writing, and I would argue it is because–gotta catch them all–then in the last six months I've written 18,619 plus 78,010 words, which comes to a total of 96,629 words.

The latter is 3,716 words a week and that feels a lot more impressive than the former, which only comes to 1,181 words per week.  However, I can't help but wonder if I'm deluding myself by such an optimistic appraisal of the amount of work I've done this year?

Perhaps a better way of thinking about my writing is to see it as a process.  If, over time I produce novels, what does it matter whether it's a novel a year or a novel every other year?  It only matters if it's important that output has to generate income, and in that respect I'm currently secure.  This is not a state that is guaranteed, so being mindful of my goals and working towards them is probably my best option.

Still, Strike Dog is now going back to my Alpha reader for reappraisal.

Friday, 23 June 2017

The Vang: The Battlemaster

And now I've finished the third book in Christopher Rowley's The Vang series, the first being  Starhammer, and the middle book being The Military Form, and what a ride it has been.

This is not your usual series or even for that matter trilogy, the story being far looser than what one has come to expect when reading either.  Yet it has elements of both.

It's a series if one considers the first novel to be a prequel written to define the setting, which it is because it lays down a lot of world building stuff that underpins the sequels.  However, given the settings are separated by a thousand years they're not exactly sequels except for the theme that links them all together.

As for being a trilogy, then if the simple definition of a trilogy is three books that tell a single story then yes but, the single story is not about the humans.  It is instead a story about the Vang, and Rowley manages to generate in the second and third book quite a lot of sympathy for the plight of the Vang even as they do horrible things to the humans, which is quite an achievement.

All added up it makes for an interesting execution of what a story is, and how it can be told.

And it is very clear I've given nothing away about the plot of the story, and I'm not going to.  If eighties SF interests you, as in all that is old is not necessarily passe, then these books are well worth reading.  If one like military SF where the military side is mostly from the alien perspective, then this story will also be of interest.  If one thinks that the eighties is full of old fashioned stuff which has no value, then you probably want to skip these.

I loved it, and more importantly I want to read more by Christopher Rowley.  The biggest question is how is it that these novels aren't in print, it seems such a shame to me, as they have a lot to offer new readers coming into the genre.