Thursday, 24 December 2015

Xmas Awakens


This is my third Xmas blog written on the day before Xmas and I've seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  No spoilers from me.  All I'll say is that I enjoyed the film for what it was and reveled in the nostalgia of seeing old friends having adventures again.

Work wise I've been distracted from working on Ghost Dog by Xmas, Beta reader feedback on Strike Dog, and editorial questions about Bad Dog.  The latter being the quite discombobulating as my mind is currently focused on the necessary revisions to Strike Dog.

But as I said it's the Xmas thing that has taken most of my time.

That and reading up all the Star Wars: The Force Awakens threads on the internet.  Called me Miss No Mates, I know that's sad.  Currently Susan is slaving in the kitchen, I've helped by preparing the Brussels Sprouts, and I'm about to pop into the bath to soak away the pains from last minute Xmas shopping: Taylor's 10 year old Tawny port, and a bottle of Penfold's Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet, along with chestnuts and dried apricots for making stuffing.

So, all is right here at home as I listen to John Williams music from Star Wars.  Tomorrow we'll unwrap our presents and watch the Dr Who Xmas special.  That just leaves me to say thank you all for reading my blog, and I wish you all a Very Merry Xmas – and may the Port or drink of choice be with you.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Busy Bee

Before and after loosing – fly free arrow and wiggle your feathers at me.

And the week has just flown by with us going to two Xmas parties, a barbecue, and a friend coming around for dinner which is my excuse for posting this so late.  However, to my surprise, I managed to edit 8,938 words in between all the fun activities which includes my archery beginners course.

This week I was shooting at 30 yards and not hitting the target reliably.  I therefore failed to score the required 200 points in 36 arrows to progress to 40 yards which is a relief.  I'm doing this primarily for fun but the club obviously wants people to shoot at events and is therefore quite competitive.  I have neither the inclination (will/strength of mind) nor the competitive spirit (winning is not important to me) to take my archery seriously enough to enter matches.

Still, as a learning experience it's great.

Also, it will encourage to work on my fitness (mostly flexibility and posture) and, arguably it's research for when I need to include archery in story, because it gives me a much more realistic understanding of the reality of loosing arrows and the kind of distances that one can realistically shoot at given the lead one needs to hit a moving target.

Since the last blog we've watched Terminator Genisys which I thought was probably the best sequel to the first two movies so far.  However, it's not quite as good as the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.   As usual, I'm perplexed by the inability of reviewers to cope with SF ideas like time travel which seems to confuse them (I speak of the mainstream news website in general).

After that we watched The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions.  A series, along with the John Williams scores that I enjoy listening to, which in my mind largely redeems the prequel movies.  Then we watched season one of Star Wars Rebels, I guess you're sensing a theme here (the force is strong with you) and last night Star Wars: A New Hope.  I'm sure you can guess what we're watching this evening and tomorrow night.

Wednesday we're going to go and see Star Wars: The Force Awakens and have booked our tickets at our local Vue Cinema, so we're all set.

Finally, I finished reading the third of the Diana Rowland White Trash Zombie books – White Trash Zombie Apocalypse.  While this series may not be hardcore zombie fare, I found the central protagonist engaging and the developments and themes within the story satisfying with good pacing and exciting plot reversals and try/fail cycles.  In short well crafted stories.

So that's it for another week.  I'll be posting a Xmas blog on Thursday, see you on the bounce.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

December Flying By


Time is flying by with a plaintiff wail of where has it all gone?  This is mostly down to Xmas parties which cut into my writing time, but are a necessary part of being sociable, and not becoming a boring old recluse.

Like last time I'm in full on archery geek mode after my third lesson this week.  They put the targets out to twenty yards and after calibrating our sights we shot five dozen arrows and I managed to only miss the butt once.  The downside of doing so well is that next week the target is moved out another ten yards but it's fun.

I've been reading Diana Rowland's White Trash Zombie series sequel Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues.  I enjoyed the second book so much that I immediately picked up the third book to continue reading.  What can I say?  They're a fun read.  Brains!

Writing wise I've managed to revise a further 14,408 words of Ghost Dog this week.  This means I'm 29,945 words into my 98,360 third novel which is not that good in terms of speed but hopefully I'm catching the common typos that I usually miss this time round, because practice makes perfect.  Really that's one of my biggest concerns as an aspiring author is how to write clean text?

That's it.  Catch you all on the bounce.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Fractured Time and the Dichotomous Mind

Been dreaming about Archery all week because I've started a beginners course.

This week has been a tad chaotic, having flown by so quick I wonder what happened during the time I was awake.

Monday and Tuesday were fine, as in I was finishing off the out loud read through of Bad Dog and applying salve in the form of missing particles (a, an, of etc.) and the occasional additional comma or deletion depending on how the words sounded prior to sending it off.  Then, my partner had some sad news to deal with.  Her half-sister emailed her that their father had died after a heart attack.  So that was a bit of a downer.

Next I had to deal with the NHS.  Not as a patient this time but as a potential employee enrolled for bank work – the NHS equivalent of a zero hour contract.

So a lot of my time this week was spent filling in forms, online questionnaires, getting references, background checks, and occupation health clearance too.  This also involved me having to travel across London on Wednesday to visit the Trusts HR department where I had to fill in more forms, because the electronic copy I sent them had to be be printed out by me (don't ask me why they couldn't have printed it out, I'm sure there's a reasonable answer somewhere but not one that I'm privy too).

Of course this doesn't mean I've started work or anything, only that I might work at some future time as yet unspecified.  Not something I imagined I would be doing, but working one or two days a week would get me out the flat, and be good for me.

Anyway, we'd finished watching Agents of SHIELD season two which we both really enjoyed and need something else to watch that wasn't too hard and would be a distraction from the bad news.  Susan had bought Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and we sat down and, much to my surprise, we were sucked in.  So we've been mainlining the first season and hear that there's a second in the making.

Anyway by Friday I was shattered and didn't get anything done and I'm writing this blog entry late.  Still, I did restart work on Ghost Dog, but only managed to read through and revise 15,895 words, after having to go back and start from the beginning again because I'd lost track of the story.

Finished the week by having a quiet weekend by ourselves.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Thanksgiving

Me in red on far right.
I hope that all my American readers had a good Thanksgiving.  We celebrate it too and this year we had a full house with six sitting at the table for turkey and all the trimmings.  On Friday we repeated the meal with a friend from work, and on Saturday we drove to Cambridge to celebrate Thanksgiving again with our friends Kate & Malcolm.  So I'm totally turkeyed out and slightly behind on where I wanted to be with my writing this week.

Oh and I've been to my first archery lesson which is something my partner has been talking about taking me too for a while.  She's been shooting for a few years and started off with a nice aubergine coloured riser (modern bows are modular and have arms and a riser) and then found a Cadillac pink riser that she fell in love with and had to have.  As a result she had a the makings of a spare bow which is now mine (I love the aubergine riser because it's the same colour I chose for my iaito saya when I used to do Iaido).

So I went and I loosed four dozen arrows over the course of a couple of hours at the Greenwood Osterley Archers club.  It's the first of six lessons and it means next year when Susan goes off for a days shooting I can go along with her and join in the fun.  I must admit my neck and shoulders ached a lot this morning and I had to have a hot bath to get comfortable.

So work this week has been on doing one final read through of Bad Dog and I've done 41,146 words of 87,376 words.  So Monday is going to be a bit of a slog.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Snow Gone in a Flash


We slept in late this morning having stayed up way past our usual bedtime watching the film Spy.  So we missed the snow in London this morning.  However, I can attest to how cold it is outside because we've just got back from shopping and I wish I'd worn a scarf.

During the last couple of weeks we've watched a bunch of  TV shows.  First Flash and then Grimm, followed by catching up with the last series of Warehouse 13.

Flash is by the same company that produces Arrow but if Arrow is a hamburger then Flash is Candy Floss.  That's not a condemnation, as Arrow's last season was over the top melodrama and Flash was a refreshing change of pace.  There's a very nice call back to the 90s Flash with Mark Hamil reprising his role as the Trickster that made us laugh out loud.  Also, I must mention Cisco, the team science/engineering genius/geek, who gets to be the genre savvy character on the show.  However, the standout performance comes from the actor playing Dr. Harrison Wells, Barry Allan's mentor and the series protagonist.  He is a magnificent bastard and he makes the show more than just the sum of its parts.

Grimm remains a police procedural that rolls out the Wessen (monster) of the week and yet manages to remain eminently watchable because of its characters.  In particular Monroe and Rosalie who are the supporting couple.  Season four also mixes the format's formula and brings in some big changes, including, at last, adding Sergeant Wu to Team Grimm.

Warehouse 13 is a lightweight, don't think about what's going on too closely, magical artifact of the week formula melodrama.  It makes the Flash look grimdark by comparison.  But the characters are engaging and we're addicted to it like some people are addicted to crack cocaine.  Season five is a super short six episode mini-series that ties off most of the hanging plot-lines from the previous seasons.  It feels a bit rushed but it made me cry at the end.  I wish there could have been more.

Anyway, back to Spy.  The film had a lot of good press and stars Melissa McCarthy a CIA 'agent' who supports field operatives.  Like the Austin Powers series by Mike Myer's ' movies it sends up the James Bond spy genre but from a female perspective.  It has an interesting cast and a good story.  But there's a s lot of swearing, and in the extended cut nudity, so not for those who find swearing or sexual content offensive.  It made us laugh even though the plot is implausible to say the least because Fridge logic rules;  everything is in service of the gag. 

Reading wise, I'm still working through Steven Pinker's The Sense of Style which is messing with my head.  I shall come back to this and review it in full later.

I've started on the first revision of Ghost Dog.  The first step in the process of turning shit into gold or maybe shit into manure which can fertilize crops.  I've managed to do 22,043 words this week and have about 73,000 more words to wade through.

I've just gotten back the first of my three Beta readers feedback who made me realize that when I cut 6,000 words of stuff not directly related to the main story arc that I also managed to remove some exposition that explained stuff important to the plot.  Not withstanding the fact that said explanations are repeated later the information was needed earlier in the story.  Sigh!

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Saturday


Today I was interrupted by my partner telling me about what happened in France.  I commented about it on my other blog.

This week I've been busy writing.  Its something I do when not reading or thinking.  Or eating and sleeping.

So this week I compiled Strike Dog and read through it after finding a typo on the first page.  An oops moment which resulted in a quick editing pass going through the whole novel and adding 40 words to the total.  Phew!  Next I finished polishing off Bad Dog, a slightly more strenuous edit which I started at the end of last week.  I ended up changing about 102 words and after compiling it found some formatting errors.  So a quick once over to correct that and I was done.

After that and going to Aldershot to retrieve my truck after its service and MoT.

Then it was back in the saddle and I made a start on Ghost Dog, the third book of an unintentional trilogy.  In the process of starting the re-write I found a scene to pull and put into a side novel that I've tentatively titled Two Moons.  I had already put about 7,500 words in a Scrivener document from scenes pulled out of Strike Dog.  So by the end of this week, after a serious revision of those words, I find myself having accidentally written 10,653 words of a new novel.

Any of my friends who are doing NaNoWriMo this month I do apologize if knocking up ten thousand words in a day a bit discouraging.  But what you have to remember is that for the last three years I write almost every day.  So don't be disheartened just keep typing and good luck.

Friday, 6 November 2015

The Martian


Being such an on the ball happening person it has taken me four years to get around to reading Andy Weir's The Martian.  I'll keep my review short.  I really enjoyed reading the book.

Are there quibbles.  Yes, sure there are.  The weather scene.

My critical observation;  the hero would've lost a lot of weight after 18 months on a 1200 calorie a day diet.  Like the former criticism it's really not that big a deal because stories are more than putting squicky details into the description because sometime it can be too much.  Of course, if this had been a body horror story then it would be different.

So I'm looking forward to getting the movie on disc soon.

This week I've been acting as a Beta reader for a friend of mine, going through his short story and being very critical.  In the process I've learnt some stuff about my own writing and the quirks and foibles I fall into.  Having Beta readers and acting as one for others is one way of upping one's game.

No boring word counts this time, so that's it for another week.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Chapelwood


Chapelwood is Cherie Priest's sequel to Maplewood: The Borden Dispatches which was a re-imagining of the Liz Borden axe murder case as a Cthulhu Gothic Cosmic horror story.  I reviewed it here.

I will say that this sequel is real ballsy.  By that I mean Cherie Priest takes the hero of her first novel and runs the story forward thirty years.  That takes real authorial courage.  It would've been so much easier for her to say one year later or five years later and have Lizzie start another adventure involving swinging an axe at the minions of the Great Old Ones.

I enjoyed the way the novel unfolds in a languid fashion, slowly building the suspense by showing us the transformation of the South in the 1890s through to the 1920s.  I felt that I actually learnt something about the craft of writing from reading this book.  The way the sentences were broken down to counter balance the pace of the story which evolves through the different character viewpoints; some new and some old.  The story blurs protagonist and antagonist and there's a real feel of Lovecraftian horror where knowledge is not power but damnation.

I love it.  The story ends in a manner that felt true to the mythos, reminding me of when I used to play Call of Cthulhu RPG and the heroes ended up changed, scarred by their experiences.  It will be interesting to see where Cherie Priest goes next with this series because I truly hope she comes back to this setting.

As for my work it's been a bit of a week.

Injection in my wrist for my tenosynovitis which was not exactly unpleasant, but needle stuck into wrist is not something one has done to one on an everyday basis.  My doctor informs me there's a 68% chance of the treatment working and I'll know in a couple of weeks.  He said the wrist would hurt more, and he wasn't wrong about that, but it was a strange pins & needles type of pain that was a bit disconcerting.

It should come as no surprise that I didn't sleep well that night.

Next morning I had to take my truck to Aldershot.  Unlike last year where I used the wrong postcode for directions, this year I got there without getting lost.  The biggest hassle was pumping up the tyres because the air at the petrol station was anaemic.  It took me fifteen minutes to inflate four tyres which was incredibly hard work as I had to keep the hose pushed on the valve.  My sore wrist didn't help.

So this week I finished the third draft of Strike Dog editing a total of 21,027 words.  Yay!

The running total for my second novel now stands at 92,854 down from the second draft total of 102, 343 words.  My plan now is to go back to Ghost Dog, but before I do I have a short story to critique, all part of the quid pro quo of having a friend Beta read my work in return.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Ancillary Mercy


Ancillary Mercy concludes Ann Leckie's Ancillary Trilogy, which started with the multiple award winning Ancillary Justice and what a ride it has been.  I reviewed Justice here and Sword here.  To say I enjoyed reading Ancillary Mercy is the equivalent to saying I like chocolate or coffee.  It doesn't begin to describe the pleasure from reading the book. 

I would be the first to concede that I'm not much of a critic.  Exploring the underlying metaphor of existence and all that jazz generally leaves me feeling cold.

However, Ann Leckie's writing is assured which has a certain panache.  This book made laugh and cry, mostly laugh, but there are some sad parts, because change often involves loss or an acknowledgement of limitations about life.  After I finished reading it my partner put down another book to start this.  She sat next to me on the sofa reading while snorting at all the little things that make this book so enjoyable.

I know some people don't get on with the use of 'she' as the gender neutral pronoun, and the main character's inability to differentiate gender, but quite frankly the point is to keep you mindful that you're no longer in Kansas anymore.  So space opera with transhuman hive mind versus the alien Presger who are weirder than a weird thing.  What's not to like?  Go read it.

Can't finish without linking to Kintsugi Art.

I've been working on the re-write/editing of the second draft of Strike Dog this week, and I've managed to edit 51,858 words which means I've done 71,852 of the novel's current running total of 92,414.  So the end is in sight.  But I now realize I need to write a new last chapter to bookend the story and give proper closure to what happens on the world of Two Moons.  Didn't see that one coming but it will learn me.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

On Writing: Part 2


I think people look to rules as a way to avoid doing something wrong.  Unfortunately, in my experience, some things are sufficiently complex or have edge cases where ambiguity can creep in that one will still do something wrong.  Life, living, and writing are full of mistakes from things going wrong.

Also, I think that there are no rules for writing a novel, only guidelines.

However, as a former cognitive behavioural therapist I will tell you that to do what works requires you to know what went wrong.  To be able to effect change one has to learn, and there the research shows that people respond to multiple modes of learning.  A mode or modality is seeing, listening, speaking, writing and doing.  The 'doing' can often be – teach the answer – to someone else.

The problems as I see them are:
Lifeless prose makes reading the story an exercise is drudgery.

Tangled sentences confuse rather than clarify the story.

Cardboard characters have no life outside the plot.

Listless plots leading nowhere.
A note on show don't tell.  Sounds good but stop before quoting it because it's not a rule, merely a guideline.  Show emotions, yes.  Her face turn livid with rage, not she was angry.  Show action, yes.  She slapped him around the face.  Not she was angry and hit him. Show a weeks worth of nothing happening, no.  Tell the reader, one week later, rather than nothing much happened for a week.

So how to reach this state of nirvana is the question.  I'm going to quote Heinlein, "Write, finish what you start, only re-write to order, send it out, sell it."  But I will unpack one part of his advice.

When he says, "only re-write to order,"  one has to remember there was an assumption that the person writing knew not to type lifeless prose, tangled sentences, cardboard characters, and the story had a plot (which is more than just a beginning, middle, and an end). But remember these are only guidelines.  The only absolute is do what works, don't do what doesn't work.  The trick is knowing how, and to do that one learns from making mistakes.

So this week I've been writing, if one assumes that editing is writing, which in my opinion it is.

I went through Bad Dog again after the realization I'd missed some things the last time round.  It took me four days to edit 84,174 words.  I then started back on the third draft of Strike Dog, and over the last couple of days I managed to edit 15,668 words.  My pace is a lot slower because I'm at a much earlier stage with my second novel.  It hasn't been sent to my Beta readers for criticism yet but when it is I hope that the feedback on the writing will be more positive than the last time.

If it's not then I will need to go back and assess where my prose is lifeless, tangled mess, and add flesh to the cardboard characters who are being swept ashore by an uncertain plot.

Friday, 9 October 2015

On Writing: Part 1


I've been totally immersed in editing this week.  A roaring rampage of re-writing, and it's all the fault of a single tweet from someone I follow on Twitter about Autocrit.  I tried it, the interface looked nice, but I got so many emails over the weekend that I felt I was being spammed.

Still the idea was good and I started to look at reviews.  The one at Editor made for interesting reading.  However, there's a difference between theory and practice and what I as an aspiring author wants, rather than a critique of editing functionality.

In the process I found the Hemingway Editor and ProWritingAid.  So I spent the weekend playing around with them.

Hemingway Editor

A simple no frills writing tool.  It's lovely.  Does what it says it does.  Cheap too.   I bought it, and what more can I say?  For me it seemed to reveal my writing quirks in a natural and intuitive way.

Pro Writing Aid

At first I wasn't sure.  The interface is not as slick as Autocrit, but the reviews were good, so I decided to give it a test run.  Try it out.  Kick the tires so to speak.  After a week of pasting in text and analyzing the results, working through the various reports I now think I have a good handle on it.  What it did for me was allow me to read my text with a fresh set of eyes.  Drawing my attention to possible problems with my writing.  Things that I found good:
Over used words
Multiple sentences starting with the same word
Sentence length
Repeated phrases
Pronoun use
The program also has what it calls a combo report that pedantically list every fault it finds paragraph by paragraph.  At first this was a bit overwhelming to say the least, but by the end of the week I was able to parse it better and take from it those things that I needed.  The only thing that I still can't get my head around is what they call a transitions report, because I'm confused by the wording and numbers so I can't tell if a low number is good or bad.

The other thing that spurred this flurry was some feedback I had from my last Beta reader, David Barrow, who commented that he felt that my hero was just observing the action, rather than immersed in it.  Once I started removing the over used words I could see what he meant, because the text was much punchier without the "I heard' and "I saw" etc.

I can't afford to buy it but my partner is going to buy it for me.  I'm so lucky to have her.

So, this week I've run through Bad Dog again removing 879 words in the process, and now the novel  runs to 84,095 words.  More importantly I've got a better handle on what was nagging me about my story.  So this is all good.

Finally,  I read an interesting article by Steven Pinker on the Guardian website this week, which I will talk about more once I've read his book, which my partner has ordered for me.  It will be another early Xmas present.

Friday, 2 October 2015

TGIF

It has been a long week, for several reasons: partner home late more nights than I'd like, work on the second draft of Strike Dog going slower than anticipated.

I was talking to my partner about the last draft of Strike Dog and she made the comment that the pacing was a bit slow in places, and perhaps I should add some more inciting moments.  I feel that there's enough excitement in the story as it stand what with giant reptiles, rampaging robots and stuff, and had to think about the feedback I was getting.  In short I interpreted the comment as some stuff in this story bores me.

Having been in an email exchange with Peter Watts, who very kindly allowed me to bounce some ideas off him, I realized I had written some boring scenes.

Boring because they were effectively 'as you know Bob' info dumps.  So I've been editing my story and as a result I've removed 7,000 words from the narrative.  I find this quite depressing in a way, because it feels like a lot work going down the drain.  Also, more importantly, it has slowed my progress down.   This is the really frustrating part of the week, because I feel I've lost momentum.  And keeping one's momentum going is a thing.

So TGIF.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Its Time of the Season


A call out to The Zombies, because this week I've read two zombie books.

The first is My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland, which you can probably tell by the title is not World War Z.  My partner bought it after reading an excerpt somewhere online and  suggested I should read it.  The title pretty much tells you what it's all about.  It's a light-hearted rags to riches urban fantasy story that takes the topic and treats it to an off the wall approach.  I really enjoyed this even though I wasn't expecting much.  I'm very much looking forward to reading the two sequels.  BTW brains taste nice.

The second zombie book I read this week was Feed by Mira Grant aka Seanan McGuire, which is set in a post zombie World War setting.  The title has a double meaning as the story is about bloggers who write about the news; in this all the zombie news that's happening, with a shout out to people like the late Steve Irwin etc.  So replace crocodile with zombie and you're good to go.  I really like the writing in this book and I certainly will be acquiring more books from her.  But, be warned she has a touch of the George R.R. Martin about her, in that she kills off characters.  Minor spoiler warning – she kills the kitten that one of the characters has saved from a zombie outbreak, which really shocked me.  So all I'm saying is don't get too attached to characters.  There again it wouldn't be a zombie book otherwise.

As for my writing this week I have to be honest and say I got very little done.

I've not been able to face up to re-reading Strike Dog again out loud.  So I spent the time researching stuff for my next novel instead, which is tentatively titled The World of Drei.  It's an expansion of my short flash fiction piece called Territory, which I first commented on here.   I submitted it to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and I had a very nice rejection back from them.  You can read the original idea for the short here.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Edge of Tomorrow aka All You Need is Kill


We picked up a English trade paperback translation of Hiroshi Sakurazaka's novel being marketed under the title of the film Edge of Tomorrow.  I reviewed the film Edge of Tomorrow aka Live. Die. Repeat some time ago, and now that I've read the book I thought I'd take the time to muse about both, and their relationship to my novel Bad Dog.  As I said, the similarities between Bad Dog and the film Edge of Tomorrow are all surface level stuff, with the MacGuffin driving the plot being entirely different.  Alien tachyon technology versus my idea of a holographic multiverse.

For the purposes of this review I shall refer to novel by its original title – All You Need is Kill.

The book is quite short, running in at around 50,000 words, and I managed to read it over the course of Sunday morning.  While there are many small differences between the film and the book, which depending on one's tastes either adds or distracts from the story, in general the plot is the same.  I thought the translation was very well done, and I'm really nit-picking when I say I noticed a couple of things that I would have used different words for – namely clip for magazine, especially as the word magazine was used a few line later for instance.  The ending of the book is differs from the movie, and this makes it worth reading if you want to see how the author originally intended the story to end. 

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading All You Need is Kill, it reminded me of science fiction that I read back in the seventies and eighties.  Plot driven action that runs with an idea.  So if you are into military SF with power armour then this book should hit the spot.

This week I've finished the first out loud read through of Strike Dog and rewrite.

I feel a bit burned out after five days of solid work editing 100,314 words, with 1,072 words trimmed in the process.  I've made some notes about things that I need to go back too.  Mostly to do with duplication of background information.  I plan to do another out loud read through next week, which hopefully will go a lot faster second time round.

So that's it for another week.  See you all on the bounce.

Friday, 11 September 2015

I've Got Friday on my Mind

Which can only mean one thing, write a blog entry.

Things are interesting.  Not being shot at kind of interesting, but I'm going through one of those writer phases.  I'm not sure if it's a power-up to the next level or delusional thinking, as in emotional responses are not a solid basis for rational assessment.

Still I've been working on my writing, and some parts of the process seem to be coming together, because contrary to what people think just because one can write a sentence down on paper doesn't mean anything.  Stories consist of sentences – hard to argue with that – and sentences are grouped into paragraphs, but here's the thing, a story is greater than the sum of its parts.

All novels are in effect magic tricks, as in illusions performed by the writer to convince the reader of the veracity of the stories setting, but stories are not reality.

They're a construct to explore the human need to understand the world we live in.  Gosh that sure sounds pretentious, but we tell each other stories all the time.  Usually they're very small stories, mundane in their scope, and explain our actions to others so that they'll understand that we're (insert meme of choice); so that we don't end up in a conflict with them –  as in appear inconsistent and untrustworthy.  In short we want to feel good about what we do, and have others feel we've done something good too.

Exceptions do occur.

So, I've spent the last week reading my first novel out loud from beginning to end.  That was a thing.  My throat tells me it's a thing.  It was a useful exercise, even though at times it was painful, because reading out loud is slow, and I felt the need for speed.  Most authors will read what they've written out loud, it's one of those tools you get told about, but sitting down and reading a novel from start to finish is quite a task.

Inevitably I ended up revising some parts of the text, and made some notes to action after the read through.  This resulted in a couple of chapters being taken out of the story.  Sounds like quite a big thing.

And in one sense it was.  Three scenes that duplicated parts of the story were merged together.  But other overlapping scenes were kept.  I just moved them to another chapter, so in terms of words lost not such a big thing.  As a result I've started reading out loud my second novel, which due to it being a lot less polished is actually taking longer to do. It's taking longer to revise scenes, and the re-ordering the chapters as a result of how the story flows.

The result is that I have novels on my mind.  Everything else pretty much taking second place to my need to finish what I've written and send them out to be sold.

Friday, 4 September 2015

London Falling & Severed Streets


When I was preparing to write this piece I was going to say and see my review of London Falling, only to find that said review exists only in my imagination.  Well this post is going to transfer my thoughts about reading London Falling and its sequel Severed Streets from the interior of my mind into something that can be read on the internet.  Such is the power of the blog!

A disclaimer.  I vaguely know Paul Cornell, but there again I'm acquainted with a lot of authors, but only because we tend to hang out at the same places; conventions and parties.  It's not some secret members only club or anything like that.  I met Paul at a SF convention.  I saw him on a couple of Dr Who panels, and threw a few questions at him about the Time Lords and the Daleks, which garnered a reply of, "Have you been spying on our writing meetings?"  We've also talked in passing, as well as being on a panel together.  In short he's a likable person.

I've said before that urban fantasy is not my core interest, but I will read books that have interesting premises written in the urban fantasy genre.  We heard Paul read an extract from London Falling at the Olympus 2012 British SF EasterCon, which led us to go and buy a copy.

London Falling is promoted as the first book in the Shadow Police series, and introduces a grimdark London where all is not what it seems.  It's effectively a realistic present day police procedural novel set in an urban fantasy setting.  Overall I quite enjoyed the story, but there were times when the tone of the novel went places that were not very entertaining.  Or to paraphrase my friend Roger said in his review (warning spoilers), the story is full of unpleasant people doing unpleasant things to other unpleasant people.

However, I enjoyed the first well enough to want to read the sequel.

Severed Streets starts well enough, delivers a shocking development, and then the middle wallows around until the highly telegraphed plot twist, where it all picks up again, and comes to a reasonably satisfying conclusion.  But Paul Cornell's tendency to fall into describing the nostalgie de la boue does at times overwhelm the joy of reading the story.  My main gripe is that the novel does not deliver what it promised at the end of the London Falling.  Namely what happened to the old guard?  My friend Roger has a review with spoilers here.

On a lighter note, much lighter, we are burning through the last series of Xena: Warrior Princess.  Season five was very good and this one is managing to maintain the quality of the stories.

Writing wise I've been working through Alix's, one of my Beta readers, line edits.  I managed to do just over the first hundred pages before going on holiday to Provence, but only managed to restart work this week, because I became distracted by the controversy surrounding this years Hugo awards.  Looking in my diary tells me that I've edited 40,437 words this week.

So on that note I'm going to finish as I want to finish the edits for Bad Dog today so that I can start working on my Alpha readers feed back of the second draft of Strike Dog.

NB: Edited to include another link so that one can compare and contrast reviews.  Roger reads and reviews a lot of books and is well worth book marking his site.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Hugos Where?


And who says that Americans don't do irony?

Reflecting on the 2015 Hugo Awards over the course of the last week I see that my conclusion that ninety percent of what I'll read will never win a Hugo award remains true (that's meant to be a joke or at least like a joke, if not very funny).  While I sympathize with the Anti-Puppies slate, I do think such things are a very blunt tool, which may produce the desired results, but result in unintended consequences.  As an aside, what appears to be a serious analysis of the numbers can be found here.  My view remains pretty much the same, as I prefer de-escalation of conflicts rather than escalation.  Arguably research and history supports the former rather than the latter.

From my perspective I was disappointed that the Edge of Tomorrow aka Live. Die. Repeat didn't win the Hugo for best film.  I thought it was by far the best SF movie of the year, though I would acknowledge in my heart that Captain America: The Winter Soldier was more likely to win.  I was surprised to see Guardians of the Galaxy win, given it was a Sad Puppy slate nominee.  What this means is anyone's guess.  Mine would be that no one who is heavily invested in the Worldcon and the Hugos has any real interest in films, or people figure that the studios don't care if a film wins the Hugo.  Take your pick.

I was saddened to see my friend Ken Burnside's work The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF getting burnt by the Anti-Puppy slate.  Likewise the editors going down too, but recognize that YMMV, and probably does where this is concerned.

However, Orphan Black: By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried, winning a Hugo was nice.  I thought the series should have won a Hugo last year, so the unintended consequences of the Sad Puppies resulting in an award for this show was a welcome outcome.

The only other thing I have to say is that as a British person I find some of the things I'm reading in the aftermath rather puzzling.  For instance, the stuff being said about Terry Pratchett that only make sense if you think that the world revolves around America, which for me shows how much the Worldcon is at heart an American institution rather than something representing World SF.

The best thing I've read about what came out of this whole debacle is George R. R. Martin's Hugo Losers party.  Rock on George.  Him and Eric Flint, have impressed me throughout by just being plain professional.

Monday, 24 August 2015

A Week in Provence


We've just got back from our first holiday abroad in nine years.  We had a wonderful time paddling in the swimming pool, catching some rays and becoming acquainted with new friends – seen above.  Susan is still working on the other pictures she took, and I imagine will post them on Facebook in due course.

We traveled by Eurostar there and back, managing to avoid any unpleasantness with people waving Kalashnikov's around.  Despite having comfortable seats, and not doing much, apart from reading, eating and drinking, the journey was quite tiring.  As you can imagine I had a lot of emails to catch up with when we got back, having not logged onto a computer for ten days.

Provence, apart from the first day's thunderstorm, was sunny.   I even caught the sun a bit.  Since our return to London we've had unpredictable weather, with sun one day, rain the next.  Such is the joy of living in Britain.

Monday, 10 August 2015

In the Groove Five by Five


The title says it all; though hopefully I won't suffer the fate of the Colonial Marines.  I"m back from a sunny weekend in Brighton having caught the sun and everything to prove it.  We went down to celebrate my best friend Alix's birthday, which by good fortune or happenstance is the same day as my partner's.  So lots of celebrations and drinking all round – Pimm's was quaffed in large volumes.  Also got to see friends, and my godson and his sister.  So all good.

On the Sunday Alix gave me beta reader's feedback on my novel, which was most appreciated as she had put an awful lot of hard work into doing it.  Very critical, but managing to be also very constructive, leaving me feeling more confident in myself.  I've been having a lot of doubts about my ability to write an interesting story over recent months, and the discussion we had put things into perspective.

So, sitting next to me is a print out of Bad Dog with detail corrections, questions and annotations for me to work through.  I feel if this is not the end, then it must surely be the beginning of the end?

Currently I'm about halfway through redoing all the call signs and phonetic shorthand revisions, having edited 43,969 words this week.  My plan is to finish this round of edits first and then start working on incorporating Alix's edits afterwards.  So I'm going to be a very busy person indeed.

So yee-haw, and see you all on the other side.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Pluto & Reflections – WIP: 1st Aug 2015

If Pluto remained classified as a planet then these other eight worlds would have to be planets too, and there could be another thirty or forty worlds as yet undiscovered.

The last week has been one hell of a roller-coaster ride for me.  I started off at the bottom in the pit of despair (cue Mel Smith doing raspy voice) of facing another week of editing Strike Dog.  As I write this I record that I managed to edit 29,294 words, from eleven chapters, and managed to my usual couple of blogs that came to just under 700 words.  So the week ends on a high.  What a rush.  Could have done without the low though.

I did get a bit distracted by having some pieces of the puzzle of my fourth novel in the Bad Dog series click into place.  So I spent some time making notes and pulling information from my universe bible into what had been mostly a blank Scrivener document with the title Red Dogs.  As always I should add that these are working titles, who knows what the stories will be called when/if published?

Moving on I want to wade into the debate on whether Pluto is a planet or not.

I'm old, so for me Pluto has been a planet all my life and it therefore feels wrong to reclassify it as a dwarf-planet or Plutoid/Plutinoid.  However, when one looks at the evidence behind the decision to do so I can see why it was done.  The first picture explains where we are and what we know about Trans-Neptunian worlds.


However, what I find most intriguing, and an order of magnitude more important than the arguments over Pluto's status as a planet is shown in the picture above.  Pluto forms a binary system with Charon.  Unlike the Earth and Luna, where the orbit that both rotate around lies within the diameter of our planet.  Whereas the Pluto and Charon orbit around a barycenter with the other moons making Pluto unique within our Solar system.

This discovery I think more than makes up for any sentimental reasons for calling Pluto a planet.  Instead it is its own dwarf-binary system.  How awesome is that?

Monday, 27 July 2015

Fool Moon


I finished reading Fool Moon, the second book in the Dresden Files, a series that I have gotten into recently.  I started reading it last weekend, and while I was enjoying it I put it down and only finished it this week.  I think that the first half of the book sets out a lot of stuff that rounds out the world of the Dresden Files, but was mostly exposition, and while stuff got interesting the first half of the book didn't grab me.  However, the second half of the story the shit starts to get serious, and things go down hill for our hero and his friends.  What Butcher was then able to do was ramp the action up to eleven.  From that point on the book became unputdownable.

So yes I finished it, and yes I plan to go out soon and get the next one in the series.  I was really impressed with the writing.  The first book is good, but this is even better.  At this rate I'll be hooked, and a fully paid up member of the Jim Butcher fan club.  If I were a member of this years Worldcon I'd seriously be thinking about voting for his Hugo nominated book Skin Game.  And I tell you why.  I'm a fairly hardcore hard SF fan who likes a bit of Space Opera, and Cthulhu, but urban fantasy has to be really good for me to want to read it.  The fact that I want to go out and buy more books in this series is evidence that Jim Butcher can write interesting and engrossing stories that are outside of my usual taste.  For me that says volumes about him as a writer.

We also rewatched Mad Max 2 aka The Road Warrior, and Jurassic Park this week.  I bought Blu-ray copies cheap off Amazon.  I thought with the new sequels/reboots we ought to watch the originals first.  Both films stood up remarkably well.  Mad Max is thirty-four years old and still sets the benchmark for post apocalypse car mayhem.  Some of the CGI is a little dated in Jurassic Park, but ickle pooh dinosaurs FTW.  Then sharp teeth and claw action from less cute velociraptors, and of course the star – Tyrannosaurus Rex saving the day.

We have just finished watching season four of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.  At times the stories crossed the line from silly into cringe inducingly bad, but somehow the show managed to stay true to its core values, which were the relationship between Lois and Clark.  After a considerable break we have also restarted watching Xena Warrior Princess.  Season three and the first three episode of season four were what I'd call hard work.  However, as we move more into season four the stories have gone back to the basics that make the show work; the relationship and adventures of Xena and Gabrielle.

A lesson to be learnt.  Stories are all about the characters.

Writing last week went well.  I managed to edit 9,803 words of Strike Dog, which is five chapters further along to my goal of finishing it.  At the same time I worked on radio call signs and other stuff, to make sure I'd used military phonetic shorthand correctly.  So all-in-all not a bad week.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Interstellar Lucy


I've wanted to get around to talking about seeing Interstellar and Lucy, which we watched over the course of a weekend a little while back.

Let me start with Interstellar.  I was so disappointed.  I'd heard so much good stuff about the science behind the movies, and I would unequivocally agree that the scene with the spherical wormhole, and the rendering the of the giant rotating black hole were stupendous.  However, with regards to the plot, acting, dialogue and story Interstellar just fell flat.  I'm not going to go into the details of each, because I really don't like being so negative about something, but as Interstellar was being sold as the spiritual successor to 2001: A Space Odyssey I just want to say no, not really.

While I can see the themes that made people make the comparison the the technical execution of world was let down by a number of things that were quite frankly outrageous.  The first example was the need to launch the Ranger, a single-stage-to-orbit shuttle, on top of a conventional booster to get into space.  Please explain to me how the Ranger can complete the mission to explore the worlds on the other side of the wormhole if it can't get into Earth orbit by itself? (rhetorical question).

The second blooper is the spaceship Endurance waiting for them in orbit.  Where are the heat radiators?  I admit that Discovery One in 2001: A Space Odyssey omitted them, but here's the thing the Discovery looked like it could carry the reaction mass needed for its mission, whereas the Endurance appears to have some Star Trek style handwavium impulse drive, which in my books doesn't make it hard science.  And then there is the problem of precession while accelerating with the grav ring rotating, which really is another don't get me started thing.

You know what, Avatar had a more realistic looking interstellar spaceship.

Next we watched Lucy.  There were times during this movie when Morgan Freeman's character was talking about the potential of the brain, and how we only use five percent brain where I went oh really that hoary old chestnust again, but the plot, acting, dialogue and story swept me away.  The special effects were slick, and Scarlett Johansson showed that she could lead a movie as well as any man.

So where's our Black Widow movie?

Last week started slow for me as my wrist was still playing me up, so I went and had coffee with a friend, and talked about writing and stuff.  It made a change from sitting in front of my computer editing.  Then the next day I found I needed to go and do a shop at our big Tesco, and by the time I got back I was sodden from the heat.  So treated myself to a long soak in the bath.

However, despite such dalliances I managed to edit another 4,601 words of Strike Dog, added another 666 words bringing the running total up to 102,443 words, and managing to pass the halfway point of the novel in the process.  I also wrote a new scene, and rewrote a segment that involved using phonetic shorthand over the radio.  A big thank you to David Barrow for his input.  In addition  I wrote 910 words for words for my blogs.  So it felt like a fairly productive week, even if at times I feel frustrated by the pace of the progress I'm making.

Catch you all later.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Jupiter Ascending


Just watched Jupiter Ascending this weekend, and had to comment, because really why all the negativity?  The Wachowskis describe their film as being the Wizard of Oz in  space.  I would say while channeling Charles Fort and Cordwainer Smith (the former for the idea that we're property, the latter for the whole Gothic Lords of the Instrumentality, underpeople and stroon).  Its also a rag to riches story, and therefore shares a lot of tropes with the Cinderella fairy tale.

So I'm finding it hard to understand how the reviewers were baffled by the story?

This is not to say that Jupiter Ascending is perfect.  It has a number of flaws, especially for an old fogie like me: explosions too loud, action scenes too long, not enough witty dialogue.  But it's a magnificent visual feast with eye poppingly gorgeous scenes of spaceships and underpeople.  Yes it's Candy floss, but Candy floss turned up to eleven on the scale of awesome flavoured Candy floss.

It also seems to have been received better by women and non-Americans, and I have to wonder if the current zeitgeist in America is moving further away from the tastes of the rest of the world?  If so what would that mean?  I have no idea.

Moving on, my wrist has been hurting me.  So on Sunday I took time off and sat and read all day.  I had several good books to choose from, but my partner wanted me to read the latest Charlie Stross Laundry series novel The Rhesus Chart, so that we could discuss it.  I really enjoyed the book, it kept me glued to my seat and turning pages.  So on that front ten out of ten.

However, I feel the book could have done with another editing pass, because there were several repetitions of jokes that while funny, get rather tired when used repeated; namely the play on Deeply Scary Sorcerer as the real meaning for the job title of Detached Special Secretary.  This is repeated in each book when Angleton is mentioned, and in the case of The Rhesus Chart more than once.  The repetition was clunky.

In addition, I felt that one of the two main protagonists was given the idiot ball.  I got the fact that there could only be one master vampire, but I didn't feel (given the history of the two vampire protagonists) that this come through.  It might be because we were told, rather than really shown what drives vampires to be the only one.  So I wasn't convinced that one of the protagonists would really feel the need to get his hands dirty, rather than use his resources to go underground and ride out the storm.

Also the events leading up to the ending felt rather forced.  Some of the action is told in a rather detached style, as an add-on commentary to what has happened.  It's a technique Stross uses quite often, but this time I found it broke the internal structure of the narrative by jumping back and forth in time within the same chapter.

However, The Rhesus Chart is well worth reading, and it's the best in the Laundry series as the story has consequences that I imagine will come home to roost in the next book.

Last week I managed to edit 6,684 words on Strike Dog, adding to the running total to bring it up to 101,777 words, which makes it now the longest of my three novels.  This also means I'm just a tad sort of half way through editing the novel, having edited a total of 47,774 words so far.  There has been a change in the tempo of my writing during this re-write, but I'm not sure that this is a good thing or bad.  Perhaps neither, but it's a thing for sure.

So that's it for another week.  See you all on the bounce.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Science For Fiction 2015


This week has been one with two halves.  The first part of the week spent editing, and the second half spent at the Science in Fiction conference listening to a series of talks organized by Dr. Dave Clements at Imperial College all topped off with a barbecue at my friends Kate & Malcolm's place.  Sunday we were both a little wrecked from having so much fun on the Saturday.  So I've had a very busy week

I went over to Imperial College on Wednesday and met my fellow Science in Fiction attendees, most of whom were writers, and we all boiled in the room during the hottest day in Londons this year.

The first talk was by Roberto Trotta called Heart of Darkness – Dark Matter in the Galactic Centre?  This  was a presentation on why he and his colleagues are looking for dark matter, and how they hope to do so.  The theory that underpin modern physics are founded on Einstein's theory of Special Relativity and General Relativity, which predicts that the universe must have more matter than we can account for.  These particles are called WIMPs: Weakly Interactive Massives Particles that must have a neutral charge like neutrinos.  Detecting said particles is a bit of a head scratcher for the physicists since the particles go through everything, so it requires a cunning experiment to try and find the evidence that hey do exist.

Robert made us all think up haiku during the session, my poor attempt was:

Dark Matter matters
Quantum gravity is maths
WIMPs are aether or

After all the head scratching it was time for a refreshing cup of tea to keep us going on what turned out to be the hottest day in London this year 37 degrees centigrade 98.6 Fahrenheit.

Then Andrew Jaffe came and gave his talk called The Random Universe, which was the study of space and the cosmic background radiation.  This was an excellent presentation showing how astrophysicists have been able to tease out and refine the data they've acquired from looking at the universe through radio telescopes using some very clever mathematical tools to refine the data.  By the end of this talk we were all rather wilting from the heat.

Then we went to the Student Union bar for a drink to hydrate, and a have chat before heading off to have an Indian curry at a local restaurant.  I rescued Susan from her basement workshop so she joined us, and we were also able to celebrate seventeen years together, so it was a nice end to the first day.

Thursday morning I cycled with Susan  to Imperial College, which was a first of sorts.  I've cycled there once before by myself, but could pootle along at my own speed.  Susan was nice, and didn't cycle too fast, so I was able to keep up with her, as she's much fitter than me nowadays.  This didn't use to be the case, but after being hit by a Mercedes Benz back in 2009 I had a period where cycling wasn't possible, and latter not convenient.  So I'm out of shape, and when we arrived I was glowing.

The first talk of the day was really special as we had Marina Galand presenting her talk called  Catching a Comet, which was about the Rosetta mission to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, and Philae - the little lander that could.  She wasn't allowed to talk about everything she knew, because the information is embargoed until publication, but promised there was interesting news to come from the team.  Anyway, it was an awesome talk, and for me the highlight of the Science in Fiction event.

After suitable refreshments the next talk was called Climate Change and the system transition to a sustainable future by Christoph Mazur.  This looked at the evidence for climate change, and the technologies that can be used to mitigate the worst of the effects.  He discussed the various ways of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and the risks arising from if we release trapped methane into the Earth's atmosphere as the temperature rises.  Very level headed, and without any attempt to fear monger.

Then we had a most excellent lunch and chatted together about writing, or at least what I remember is taking the time to talk to the other people there with me all of whom were writers to talk about writing.

The next talk was by Helen Pennington who had been sitting with us as part of the conference, and she gave a talk called How do we work out what proteins do? A genetics and proteins approach.  I found this most informative talk, which I think scared the bejesus out of a couple of my fellow attendees.  The one thing I took away from this presentation was to  accept that banning something doesn't allow one to regulate and control it.  Otherwise one ends up with people in other countries with less ethical practices to set the pace in the development of GM food.

The final talk of the conference was by Faye Dowker called What is Time?   For me this didn't quite hit the spot, because she didn't have any research data to present, so it was rather a generalized open talk about what we understand time to be, and how that fits what the theories tell us.  In short biologic time stands opposite to time as understood by the theories underpinning physics.

So as you may guess my progress last week was impacted by having two days at the conference, and taking the day after to catch up with emails and shopping.  However, I manged to edit 4,509 words, adding another 825 words to Strike Dog, which means it's running at 101,472 words, so not too shabby.

Other than that we've been continuing to watch season three of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

I also re-read Isaac Asimov's The God's Themselves, which is apropos of my recent posts won the Hugo.  It's been a long time since I first read this book, and I found myself becoming bored with the description of the aliens and their ecology.  However, while Asimov may not be the worlds finest writer for deep characters, what he does do extremely well is describe the complex science behind the ideas and the plot rather succinctly.  He also nails the emotional world of the academic rather well too.  I understand that he considered this to be his best novel, but I still prefer his The End of Eternity, which I think is a more satisfying read.

So that's it for this week, catch you all on the bounce.

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


Summary

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.

Addendum

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.