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.
So, for the moment, I leave you to your own devices and look forward to reentering the fray momentarily.
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.
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.
Continue reading “To unplug, or not to unplug? That is the question.”
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?
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.
Continue reading “Rumours of My Demise are Somewhat Premature”
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.
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.
Continue reading “Work Less – Work More”
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.
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.
Continue reading “Character Defining in a Flash”
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.
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.
Continue reading “Reflections In”
So, in the interests of getting to know me and given that LifeHacker are probably not going to ask me how I work, directly, I’ll just borrow the questions they typically ask – How I Work.
Location: Geneva, Switzerland
Current Gig: Scientist and Writer – mostly more science fact than science fiction recently but I’m trying to fix the balance.
One word that best describes how you work: Chaotically
Current mobile device: iPhone 6
Current computer: Macbook pro – getting a little old now but it’s running light and without distractions – for writing. The science gets a newer macbook air and there’s an ipad in there as well to replace paper.
Continue reading “I’m Harry Tuttle, Modern Cave Dweller, and This is How I Work”
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”