Be very afraid.
Is your writing scaring you? I’m not calling out all horror writers but people looking to push themselves, find the limits of their writing comfort zone, and push through it. It is hard to do this because we are such creatures of self-preservation, but it is typically here/there, in unchartered waters, that we find that something special. As a writer, hell, as a person, I am always looking to stand out, to be different, to look at the world in a different way. What is the point of everyone being the same? If you’re starting to worry that this is some rant from a newly-enraged teenager, then you’ll be happy to know that I’ve been enraged for nearly half a century.
The other primary … primal?… thing that holds us back, makes us hesitate, is that we are also creatures of vanity – who wants to be seen to fail? Well, for a start, as a writer, you can fail a lot in private first, so no one can see you. Eventually though, you’re going to have to step out, stand up, and declare yourself.
This is me, this is what I write, and this is how I write.
Continue reading “Be Afraid”
There are times in life when it all hangs in the balance. Now, is one of them, at least for me. As the blurb says, I write science fact to science fiction, however, these two worlds do not always find a peaceful way to coexist. In life we always have choices even if some of them don’t seem like it at the time. And so it is that I find myself here, at one of those decisive moments. Concentrate on the scientist, or concentrate on the writer. Let’s be clear, science is what puts food on the table, while writing is a passionate pastime that is very much in its infancy.
So on the science fact front I face an uncertain future. In six months time I might be out of a job OR I might be spearheading an initiative that will take most of my time for the next 15 years. There are a lot of “ifs” to fall into place for the latter. So it appears, at least for the next 6-12 months, that the “decision” is not so hard, or at least not so complicated – I need to concentrate on the science. My apologies but this will have to remain cryptically anonymous for the moment.
Continue reading “World building: Reality vs Fiction”
What do I even mean by that? I am coming at that question from two perspectives.
- As a science fiction writer, one often needs to build worlds, political systems, industries and infrastructure … usually so that we have something to pull back down again. So how do these things grow, evolve, come into existence even? Usually, it is a question of scale – and all the pieces of the puzzle being there, being ready, big enough, and open to working towards a bigger goal. But is it evolution or revolution? Is there a tipping point?
- The other is real world – how do whole industries appear? We can also think about things like the industrial revolution, the space race, and perhaps what we call the information revolution, why not Google itself. In all of these cases, they didn’t just happen. Again it was a question of scale – and, like for my first point, all the pieces of the puzzle being there, being ready, big enough, and open to work towards a bigger goal. Where is the tipping point here?
Now, here is a question for you. Do you think anyone saw these revolutions coming? Or, did someone just decide to invest massive amounts of money and presto-magic, revolution?
Clearly, people knew. Let’s consider the space race. On May 25, 1961, President J. F. K. announced the mind blowing goal of sending an American safely to the Moon before the end of the decade. It is clearly not a question of going out to the industrial park and asking the guys to stop making cars and build a space ship. They knew all of the necessary industries were there, albeit in varying degrees of readiness, they “just” needed a push.
Continue reading “A Question of Scale”
You often see people/memes saying that anger is a bad thing. Anger is negative. Nothing good ever comes from anger. Bollocks! If you replace “anger” with the word “violence” then I agree, but most of the time people seem to confuse the two. Perhaps you could replace “anger” with “frustration” but only up to a point.
So, what am I angry about? Well, not everything – I think – but a lot. I’m angry at me, at the world, at people, sometime, maybe, possibly, even you. I am angry that we are not doing more to stop destroying the planet. I’m angry about equality. I am angry with organised religion for exploiting people. I’m angry at banks and governments … for exploiting people. OK, I’m angry at anyone exploiting people. I also get angry at people driving cars with headphones on, or who change the settings on the toaster. Mostly, I’m angry about people accepting this as the way it has to be. I’m angry with people for not being angry enough!
Continue reading “I’m Always Angry”
I was recently reading a book – a debut science fiction novel released a few years ago. The title and author shall remain nameless for the purposes here, as they are not of importance.
What I am curious about is how we perceive technology, or science in general, in a story. In particular, when does science and technology take over a story? And how much does it depend on the reader?
We can consider films as well as books if you like. Indeed, if we take a couple of recent and popular films, then we don’t have to worry about ruining the career of a new author. Two recent movies have generated a lot of discussion; Gravity and Interstellar. “Experts” came out and told everyone in great detail, how the films had got it wrong, i.e. the basic science was flawed. I love science fiction and have been enjoying the resurgence in popularity for film and tv as well as books.
Continue reading “Too much Science in your Fiction: A distraction waiting to happen”
I have (almost) no books in my house. That doesn’t sound right, I hear you say, especially for someone proclaiming to be a writer. But I had to say it because it’s mostly true. Don’t go away, there is a happy ending. OK, if you can’t wait, I have a lot of e-books. Anyway, for the less impatient… There are actually some books in our house but I have for most of my adult life led a rather transient existence. The consequence of which is that with all the packing and moving and lugging from town to town, I’ve often been obliged to lighten my load. Many a friend has benefited, along with various local libraries – those people really love free books.
For those of you that are concerned, you’re so sweet, I really do have quite an extensive e-library. Library is perhaps somewhat of an exaggeration. Until recently these were scattered over myriad devices and in more formats than I thought existed. So what do I do? I seem to have settled down over the last few years and might even let myself imagine that I won’t move again for a while, so do I start building up a paper library again? To be honest, I’m not sure that it won’t go all pear shaped and I find I have to move again. Also, for some time now I have been moving towards a paperless existence – partly enforced by the aforementioned inability to stay in one place. That and my apartment is only so big.
Continue reading “A Library, but not a book in sight”
I claim to write science facts to science fiction and beyond. I have been, for some time now, more focused on the facts than the fiction. This remains the case – this year I have published or submitted around 10 scientific papers, which is an incredibly good year no matter how you look at it. So if we look at the fiction side of things, I’m still taking baby steps, but this is a long game and this was always the plan.
This year the goal was to read and write as much as I could, without worrying too much about what it was. In a sense, it was a quest to find my style, and more importantly, improve how I write. The only way to do that is to write. I now have first or second drafts of a handful of flash fiction, two and half shorts as well as two novels – one about the third done and the other a bit less, but both are fully planned.
What have I been writing? I would say SciFi, but if you’re after space cruisers and alien battles, there is not much here for you yet. Trust me, this to will come. Currently, there is a heavy dystopian influence in a lot of the work – possibly too much, but it is what it is and it is more symptomatic of where I have been coming from lately and where I am heading.
Continue reading “Phase One Complete – Bring on 2015!”
In my ongoing struggle to balance my day job as a scientist and my passion for science fiction it occurred to me that I could reconcile this by simply stating that:
I write science – from fact to fiction.
As a scientist one is typically writing about the latest results – at least that is what we would like to be doing. In reality we also spend an increasingly large amount of time writing project proposals, which is in fact writing about what we want to do in the near future, but is perhaps not even possible yet. Then, if one is really unlucky, one has to write “roadmap documents” and “vision statements”. Typically the later discuss what we can imagine to do if 5, 10, 20 years. This is very hard and requires a certain perspective over a field, or even many fields, of research. Furthermore, if we’re honest, once we get past five years, these uncertainty on these “predictions” rapidly increases. In polite company one might argue that these are educated guesses. If we were increasingly honest, we might simply say that they are a guess. Obviously, the time scales involved depend on the field, its maturity and how fast progress is being made.
So it is that with my science fiction writing, speculative fiction if you prefer, we can see that as simply an extension of this – typically I would be looking beyond the 10-20 year time scale, certainly into guessing territory, and imagining “what if?” In science fiction, I am free from the constraint that I actually have to prove or demonstrate what I claim will be true. Nor do I have to worry about respecting the currently accepted laws of Nature but the “what if” question remains the starting point.
Continue reading “From Science to Science Fiction”
Petit à petit, l’oiseau fait son nid is a french proverb that dates back to 1835 (dictionaire de l’Académie). A more or less literal translation would be: little by little the bird makes its nest. In daily speech, the lazy things that we are, this is often shortened to “petit à petit”. As in: “How is it going?” … “Petit à petit” – little by little. It is extremely useful in a wide variety of situations, for example, when you really don’t want to go into detail about what you’re doing. More often though, it is an admission that you’re probably struggling to make progress at all today and you just want it (the day) to end so you can start fresh tomorrow.
So it was that this made me think of the life of a writer. We run around collecting all sorts of bits and pieces of ideas, text, pictures and weave them like threads into ideas until, eventually, some form starts to appear. A story. A nest. I’ll leave the metaphor there for the moment, but leave it as an exercise for the class – yes you – to run with that metaphor and see where you find yourself!
Continue reading “A French Proverb That Could Save a Writer’s Soul”
Time is against me. Ok, it’s against all of us. I blame society … I’ve been trying to catch up on reading/living this year and have revisited or been reading some classic scifi. Which is good. But someone pulled me up on a list of books I posted on Ello the other day and asked, what about something more contemporary? My argument was that some of them were contemporary … when I read them … Anyway, the end result is that I now have a nice list of books to read and authors to discover.
That is not to say that I haven’t been reading contemporaries. So, while I’m distracted, here are a few things that really rocked my reading world in the last few weeks. Immersion, by Aliette de Bodard (on Clarkesworld) is possibly the best thing I have read in a long time. Also on Clarkesworld, A.C. Wise’s The Children of Main Street – actually, I’m not going to say anything. It’s a short. Read it in 10 minutes and be immensely satisfied. Somewhere in between Flash and Short story is Lacarant Plainer‘s “space opera flash fiction” serial Mission Impossible. Currently up to episode 10 and cruising along wonderfully. Okay, where was I? So that’s reading, what about writing?
Continue reading “Short and Flashy”