Who are you?

As the great philosopher Roger Daltrey once demanded – who are you? Simple enough question, but one that I continue to find myself grappling with. I’m old enough that I should know, I suppose, but … here we are.

2020 has certainly been a year to take stock and maybe even re-evaluate life; or at least that whole work-life balance thing that people tend to think is important. So, who am I? It says on my About page:

Harry was born in Australia in 1967, living in Sydney and Brisbane, before moving to Geneva Switzerland, where he has lived for nearly two decades. In that time, Harry has been a: mechanic; musician; semi-professional (Australian) footballer; furniture restorer; destroyer of houses, and once applied for a position as a sandwich artist.

That’s the amusing trimmed-down version for public consumption. What it doesn’t say is that I’ve been a writer, which is maybe a stupid omission that I’ll have to fix. I’ve been writing since primary school, mostly poems and short stories put together into books, either just on my own, or with some friends. Then it was song writing, and pretty much only that for the next 15 or so years. Then, writing science for the next 20-odd. Somewhere in that last stretch the desire to go back to fiction took a hold and this is where Harry was really born.

If you looked at this web site you would also think that I also died a few years ago. Somewhere here on this site I may have mentioned this is a pseudonym… So, while I didn’t die, my alter-ego did have me locked in the basement. I would now claim that Harry is once again free, however, his powers have not yet fully returned. Harry and his alter-ego are currently working through a truce settlement.

These things can be ugly, but at least we’re talking. Like everyone, I want 2020 to be over and 2021 to bring some relief. There’s only 2 months of 2020 left, but who knows how long that is going to take. In any case, I expect that I shall be writing more in 2021, and for that I’m optimistic.

Thumper’s Law

It has been a bit quite around here of late. Part of that is work but mostly it’s because of something I learned watching Bambi. Thumper’s Law states:

If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.

happy-sad-faces

So, for the moment, I leave you to your own devices and look forward to reentering the fray momentarily.

To unplug, or not to unplug? That is the question.

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortunes, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and, by opposing, end them?

We live in amazing times. To a fairly large extent we can thank science and technology for that. What do I mean by amazing? I mean that it is surprising where society is today, how we got here and the potential we have for the future. The key word in that last sentence was potential. Despite the progress made in quality of life, health, the ability to travel and communicate, to explore and ask big questions, something has gone, or is at least going, wrong. We could be doing so much better.

Harry Tuttle, Modern Cave Dweller, fight the good fight, swords, dark ages

Seriously, people, WTF? It is like we have collectively decided that what we really need is another “dark ages”. We are still sending the faithful to foreign lands to kill to save lives. We are constantly terrified, or should that be terrorfied? The faceless terrorists and terrorism conveniently taking the place of the wonderfully effective cold war threats of communism.

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Rumours of My Demise are Somewhat Premature

OK, so this is a bit of a cheat blog. I usually manage a blog post every month, so in the interests of maintaining my record – which only I actually care about – here we go. I don’t have a lot to say or enlighten you with, at least as I start to write this. I also don’t have an apology. I’ve been writing. A lot. And not as much as I’d like. It’s also been oriented too much towards science fact and not nearly enough science fiction. I’ve also not been “spending” quite so much time on social media, which is a bit of shame because there are actually a lot of interesting people and things happening there. So, why?

Harry Tuttle, Modern Cave Dweller, flying cars, drones, public transport

Why? More specifically, why am I spending more time writing and less time telling people about it? Sometimes you have those revelations as a writer, actually in any endeavour, when you realise that you’re not that good. I was editing a lot at the beginning of the year while I tried to put some short stories into presentable, publishable, shape. My conclusion? Conceptually, I liked, actually I still like, my stories. I have a few in the closet and they cover quite a diverse range of ideas and styles. Perhaps more importantly, my writing was lazy. I am not sure whether my science education helps in being able to take a step back and judge my own work without prejudice. Well, at least not too much.

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Work Less – Work More

So this year has seen me swamped by work. Again. Still…. I’d estimate that I’ve been working around 70+ hours a week since the start of the year. This is not the first time that things have been so out of control. It is not a badge of honour, I am not proud of this, nor do I encourage it. In response to this, and the long list of things I “need” to do this weekend, I’ve been reading about how and why we should reduce the normal work week to 3-4 days, 20-30 hours etc. There appears to be a realisation that this is primarily an option for the affluent, but there is also a growing awareness that significantly increasing the minimum wage and even moving to a unconditional basic income- everyone gets to survive – is an absolute must if this is going to be tenable for everyone.

Harry Tuttle, Modern Cave Dweller, Life Balance,unconditional basic income

The problem, which is not directly mine or yours, is where does the money come from? It would appear now that we, as a society, need to pay two people to do one job. The reality is actually that we have all been taking on more and more – for whatever reason, but usually need – and doing two jobs for one salary. People’s time has been devalued, especially those at the “bottom”. I’ve been at the bottom and I’ve worked plenty of crap jobs to survive, so I do not say that with any disrespect – we all do what we have to, and what we can, to survive. So all this requires is a shift towards paying people what they’re worth, rather than what the market can afford.

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Character Defining in a Flash

What makes a story? Obviously, the plot has to be there, but if the characters that have to convey this aren’t compelling, then it is all for naught. What makes a good character? Am I the right person to be telling you? Well, if you don’t know what makes a “good” character, go away and read and think and read and think, because I’m not going to tell you that here. In fact, I’m not going to tell you how to do anything. I’m going to share an approach, which I find both obvious and useful. In that sense it is not particularly novel, so think of it more as a reminder, or an endorsement.
Harry Tuttle, Modern Cave Dweller, Character, Writing tips

The problem with many ideas, not just for writing stories, is that they are in flux, they’re fluid, until they’re written down. There is something about writing down your thoughts that makes them solid and coherent. It is not enough to write bullet point lists, you need to construct proper sentences before the idea can be forced into being something coherent. If you are like me, still learning to write (who isn’t, really), then this approach also helps in that respect – because to be a better writer, you need to write. So we’re told.

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Reflections In

I’ve never been one for making New Year resolutions, but the end of the year, and a few days holiday, do give one the time to reflect. So reflecting I am. This year I complained a lot about time, specifically, the lack of it. Sorry. In the interests of full disclosure, I have been reliably informed that 2016 will not be coming with more time. Nor will time expander packs be available. More’s the pity.Harry Tuttle, Modern Cave Dweller, Life Balance,

It would appear that the only solution is to do fewer things. Which is exactly NOT what I am going to do. Seriously, I don’t respond well to “slow down”, “take it easy” or “don’t do so much” and similar expletives.

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Writing is like walking

Put one word in front of the other and keep on going until you get to the end.

Of course, some people walk better than others. And really, that is probably where the analogy finishes. Actually, I probably should have stopped before this whole thing got out of hand.

Stop Here, harry tuttle, modern cave dweller

But I won’t.

Something I learnt as a scientist is knowing when to stop. At some point you need to admit to yourself that this is as far, or as good, as it is going to get. Maybe you won’t win the Nobel prize. Maybe you won’t write some literary masterpiece. This is the perfectionist’s dilemma. On the other end of the scale, there is the danger that you stop too soon. In science you can see this in a paper that lacks perspective and presents what is often referred to as an “epsilon” paper. Espilon being the greek letter usually used for an extremely small quantity in maths. Therefore, the paper is seen as a making a very small step forward. They stopped too soon in having the vision to do something really important; big. They also stopped too early in terms of writing and the lack of depth in the writer’s perspective gives them away.

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Every Day I Write The BookS

After the last cathartic post on why I’m not doing NaNoWriMo, not to mention the constant whining about not writing, I have actually been writing a lot.

I currently have three novels on the go, and as of last week another new story; so new it doesn’t even have a working title. I’m only at the beginning, 1000 words down and some planning, but it feels like it could be the start of a series, maybe shorts, not sure yet, it’s a bit of a new style for me… And that’s the thing. After not writing for a while, I’m having an absolutely wondrous time, experimenting. Experimenting with different formats and lengths, with stories spanning hard core space opera, dystopian earth-like civilisations, earth- and space-based, human- and alien-like characters, imagining technologies of the future, their evolution and impact on “humanity”. It is brilliant!

Harry Tuttle, Modern Cave Dweller, SciFi, Science Fiction, Space

I started this month well, trying out a new time management idea – writing every morning; I had been getting too tired to write in the evenings. It worked well for a week or so, but the real world (work) interrupted, so I have reverted to writing wherever and whenever I can. I’d like to try this morning regime again if/when my day job calms down a little. It was an excellent way to start the day. Whilst I complain a bit (ok, maybe a lot) about the day job, I am writing a lot there and really trying to up the quality. I’ve written at least 10000 words this month, not counting emails… on some cool science and technology (I’m trying to avoid counting but it was a good month). I think that the fiction and non-fiction writing are helping one another – after all, it’s all writing.

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The Time is Write

Alt: Why I am not doing nanowrimo.

I know you’re sick of hearing writers complain about not having the time to write. I would say that it is not so much that they are not writing, in most cases, but that they want to write more. My writing word count is all over the place from one week to the next. For sure I’d like to increase the overall amount that I write, but mostly I want to have more of a rhythm.

I’ve been thinking about doing nanowrimo this year but that is a 50k target in a month – more than 1k a day. I cannot guarantee that I can do that so it would be nothing but an exercise in frustration. Frustration is not what you want at the end of a writing exercise/competition. I don’t want to get to December and be more concerned with only having written 10-20k words, than just being happy that I wrote 10k words.

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