Communion Of Dreams


Encouragement.

I got a note from a friend earlier this week. She had just started reading Communion of Dreams, and was really impressed with it, and took the time to let me know. I thanked her for telling me.

And I was thankful — getting feedback from people like that is very affirming. Every author, every artist, likes it when their work is well received.

But I was also a bit bemused.

Why?

Well, because she seemed so *surprised*.

I can’t tell you how often this happens. You wouldn’t believe me. But it’s true. People who know me — friends, family — seem to be completely caught off guard by the fact that I’ve written a book which is actually quite good.

* * * * * * *

One of my relatives is pretty “old school” in the sense that he thinks that he should be parsimonious with praise. When I told him that I was going to grad school in order to study writing and literature, he said something along the lines of “what, weren’t you paying attention in college?”

When told that I was involved in the Ballistics By The Inch project, his reaction was that it was a waste of time, because “everyone knows the answer, it’s just 25-50 feet per second.”

I haven’t talked to him in years. I would bet that he considered the care-giving “woman’s work.” No idea what he would’ve made of the subsequent memoir. And Communion of Dreams?

Who knows.

* * * * * * *

A friend of mine used to always say: “It ain’t bragging if you can actually do it.”

* * * * * * *

There’s a new review up. Here it is:

As an avid reader, I go through many books quickly. I’ve read so much sci-fi stuff over the years, I have forgotten most or all of it. This book, however, is so wonderful and complex that I am certain it will stay with me. It brings in “hard” sci-fi in the Arthur C. Clarke tradition, marries it to cultural anthropology, sociology, psychology and all the other things I love. I was lucky to get this one for free for the Kindle during a promotion. However, it is well worth obtaining at full price. Downey has a flair for story telling and a firm grasp on even the deepest, most esoteric science and theoretical underpinnings. “Communion of Dreams” has been a joy to read. Highly recommended.

* * * * * * *

I got a note from a friend earlier this week. She had just started reading Communion of Dreams, and was really impressed with it, and took the time to let me know. I thanked her for telling me.

And I was thankful — getting feedback from people like that is very affirming. Every author, every artist, likes it when their work is well received.

But I was also a bit bemused.

Why?

Well, because she seemed so *surprised*.

I can’t tell you how often this happens. You wouldn’t believe me. But it’s true. People who know me — friends, family — seem to be completely caught off guard by the fact that I’ve written a book which is actually quite good.

This isn’t just about me. To some extent we all experience this. Hell, we all do this. A friend or a relative tells us that they’re writing a book, or a play, or a movie. Or that they are creating a work of art. Or that they are going back to school. Or that they are trying to lose weight. Or whatever. If we’re decent sorts of people, we make encouraging noises.

But when was the last time you actually considered engaging with that person? Actually *encouraging* them? I’m not talking about some bullshit “work hard, and anything is possible” line. I’m talking about asking about their project, their goal, their plans to bring it into reality?

I’m old enough, crusty enough, that I have pushed on to do things even in spite of lack of encouragement. Maybe that’s just because I’m a self-centered bastard who cares more about meeting my own goals than meeting the goals of others.

But think about how much better a world it could be if we really listened to one another’s dreams & plans, shared our enthusiasm, and our encouragement.

Jim Downey



Catnip madness.
June 29, 2012, 6:06 pm
Filed under: Humor, movies, Music, YouTube | Tags: , ,

Oh, gods, this is hilarious:

It *perfectly* captures the tone of those anti-drug vids I was subjected to as a kid.

I had to share.

Now I think I’ll go get the cats stoned…

Jim Downey



Context matters.

Mel, our new cat, has settled in nicely. Well, nicely as far as she’s concerned. Our older cat, Hil, has a different perception of the matter.

That’s because Hil has largely been supplanted by this young upstart, who is a bit bigger, a lot stronger, and somewhat more aggressive. Hil hasn’t taken to cowering, exactly, but she has kept a lower profile and tends to avoid Mel.

Mostly.

* * * * * * *

People keep saying things like this:

The storyline itself I would put on a par with some of the best SF I have ever read. I felt much the same at the end as I did 50 or so years ago when I finished “Childhood’s End”.

And this:

This book is an unapologetic homage to the “hard science fiction” style of writing and to Arthur C. Clarke himself.

* * * * * * *

It’s not surprising that people see this, since from the very beginning I have been pretty open about both my intent and source material. I mean, here’s what it says on the Communion of Dreams homepage:

Welcome to Communion of Dreams. You’ll probably find that it is closest in flavor to the works of Arthur C. Clarke and the late Carl Sagan, two authors from whom I draw inspiration.

And there’s this passage from Chapter 6:

“Here’s what our artifact makes me think of,” Ng laughed. Slowly the artifact image started to change in a more pronounced way, becoming taller, narrower, and losing the hexagonal shape. The mottling drifted away, replaced by a hard, black, shiny surface. It was the iconic monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

* * * * * * *

Things change. Last month I sold 550 copies of Communion of Dreams. As I noted a couple of days ago, this month it’s dropped off, and will likely end up somewhere around what the April total was (about 275).

Sure, I wish that the numbers had just kept climbing. They had been basically doubling each month. But these things have a natural ebb & flow to them sometimes. Right now other books are getting the attention, getting the reviews, getting talked about. I haven’t spent as much time & energy promoting the book this month, and next month will probably be even worse since I’ll be overseas for much of it.

Still, we’ll see. You can help, if you want, by contributing your own review, by spreading the word to friends and forums. We all need to watch out for one another in this world. Whether you take that as a warning or a comfort, I’ll leave that up to you.

* * * * * * *

Mel, our new cat, has settled in nicely. Well, nicely as far as she’s concerned. Our older cat, Hil, has a different perception of the matter.

That’s because Hil has largely been supplanted by this young upstart, who is a bit bigger, a lot stronger, and somewhat more aggressive. Hil hasn’t taken to cowering, exactly, but she has kept a lower profile and tends to avoid Mel.

Mostly.

See, Hil has long been comfortable going outside. For Mel, “outside” was a New And Scary experience (her previous owners told us she’d never been out). We started going out with her for short periods, letting her know that we were there and she was OK. And then progressed to leaving the back door propped open a bit, so that she could go out on her own, but come running back inside when she got overwhelmed. Finally, we started letting her out and then closing the door behind her.

But only when Hil was outside.

Because, for all that Mel seems to dominate inside, she wants to have Hil around outside. And Hil, with remarkable kindness, stays with Mel, watching over her. If Hil comes in, Mel does too. If Hil comes in without Mel noticing, as soon as Mel does notice she’s howling at the back door.

Context matters.

Jim Downey



Blimey.
June 26, 2012, 3:47 pm
Filed under: Ballistics, Guns, Humor, RKBA, Society | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Cross posted from the BBTI blog, just to give you an idea of what my day has been like.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Blimey. Just got the following email:

Someone directed me to this page from your site: http://www.ballisticsbytheinch.com/357mag.html

Now, I appreciate what you are doing, but how you are presenting it is not very helpful.

What a useless page that is. Hey, look, columns of unlabeled numbers! How exciting!

Is that velocity? Muzzle Energy? Momentum? Power factor? Drop over distance? What are the units?

It’s labeled at the top as “.357 Mag Results”. Why not “.357 Mag Muzzle Energy in ft-lbs”?

My response? This: “Sorry to disappoint you. We’ll be happy to completely refund your money.”

The guy wrote back, protesting that he meant it as “constructive criticism.” And then went on to protest that he *still* didn’t know what the data represented (in spite of the fact that it is listed on the Y-axis of every ammo graph and indicated elsewhere on the site).

Sigh. I wrote back the following:

From the homepage of the site, and also referred to in multiple locations elsewhere on the site: “Since we first launched BBTI three years ago, it has become a primary reference tool for firearms enthusiasts of all stripes and from around the globe. Our initial research data covered the relationship between barrel length and velocity for some 13 common handgun calibers/cartridges.”

But you’re absolutely correct, we didn’t spell out that the numbers were velocity in feet-per-second (the standard velocity measurement in the US). We’ll correct that to make it more explicit. The funny thing is that you are the very first person in 3.5 years to not understand that this was what was indicated. Probably because you came at it from someone else’s link direct to that one results page. At least that’s the most charitable conclusion I can come to.

And that, dear friends is why now each caliber/cartridge page now says .22 Results in fps. (or whatever the caliber/cartridge is). Never let it be said that we won’t go the e x t r a inch for the dimwitted and deliberately dense.

People really will always find something to bitch about, won’t they? Even if it is free & unencumbered research data that they can’t get elsewhere.

Blimey.

Jim Downey



That’s a weird feeling.

Something of an update/status report…

The other day an acquaintance of my wife’s told her that her reading group was reading Communion of Dreams. I’ve heard from two other people locally that they are also in reading groups reading it. Two of the groups may actually be the same, but I’m pretty sure that not all three are.

It’s a bit weird to think that there are reading groups out there using my book as a topic. More than a bit weird, to be perfectly honest.

Sales keep plugging along, slow but steady, at about half the rate they did last month (but they’ll probably top April’s totals). Which isn’t bad, since I have been doing very little to promote the book recently — I’ve been preoccupied getting things ready for this unexpected trip to Italy in two weeks. There’s a new review up at Amazon, and obviously some people are still talking about it, but I would certainly encourage any additional reviews or ratings (hint, hint).

As noted, I will be gone July 10th through the 26th, but I’m going to dig back into the archives for some posts to re-run. The blog is now getting a lot more readership, and the chances are these older pieces will be new to most folks. If anyone has a theme or topic for me to work around, leave a comment.

Cheers!

Jim Downey



“…something that we do not yet understand.”

Those who have finished reading Communion of Dreams will have a particular appreciation of this:

“Ancient Aliens,” the popular sci-fi meme, has yet to produce solid proof that extraterrestrials ever interacted with humans. Yet Unidentified Flying Objects have a surprisingly ancient history. The earliest UFO sightings were reported by Roman historians Livy, Orosius, Seneca, Plutarch, Pliny, and Josephus. The ancient sightings have been classified by a NASA scientist according to the standard UFO categories devised by astronomer J.A. Hynek (1972): Close Encounters of the First (no physical evidence), Second (physical traces), and Third Kinds (occupants observed).

The parallels to modern UFO sightings are eerie.

* * *

The astronomical meteorologist who analyzed these Roman reports in Classical Journal (2007) notes that the “UFO phenomenon, whatever it may be due to, has not changed much over two millennia”: disk, elongated, or sphere shapes; metallic, brilliant colors and materials; smooth, erratic, or hovering motions; the object often vanishes. Whether these are extraordinary atmospheric effects, astronomical phenomena, or extraterrestrial encounters, the persistence of consistent details over thousands of years seems to point to something real observed by many witnesses over time, something that we do not yet understand.

Since I’ll be in Rome in a couple of weeks, maybe I’ll have to talk to my Classics Prof friend about this…

Jim Downey



Details, details.

From the first page of Chapter 17:

“Sorry.” She looked over at him, the dread in her eye replaced by something else. “The 1918 flu was recreated in the early part of this century, as there was a growing concern about Avian flu. The scientists at the time discovered that the prevailing form of Avian Flu, the H5N1 virus, was surprisingly related to the 1918 pandemic virus. Almost identical RNA structure, similar DNA.”

“But you say this one is different.”

“Yeah. Ignis was such a nasty bug because it spread by aerosol, but it also had a very short incubation period, just a couple of days. Then the disease itself was very swift, and victims died within hours of onset. Like it was all time- compressed, hyper-virulent. This is one of the reasons that people thought then, and still debate now, whether it was a weaponized version of Avian flu.”

From yesterday’s All Things Considered:

Anyone and everyone can now look in the journal Science and read about how to make lab-altered bird flu viruses that have been at the center of a controversy that’s raged for months.

But in the eyes of some critics, the details of these experiments are effectively the recipe for a dangerous flu pandemic.

The H5N1 bird flu virus isn’t normally contagious between people, but these mutants most likely are. They were created with the best of intentions by a lab that’s trying to understand how flu viruses might change in the wild and start spreading in humans.

But as word of the experiments got out, scary headlines warned of a “doomsday” virus and a “super-flu.” Scientists, public health officials and security experts debated what to do in closed-door meetings, as others made their arguments in op-eds and at public meetings.

Remember when the “fire-flu” (Latin name: Ignis) was supposed to happen?

Yeah, 2012.

Draw your own conclusions.

Jim Downey



Leaving pennies.

Slightly cool and breezy this morning, the light rain we’d had having just moved out of our area. The dog trotted ahead, checking all the usual places for ‘messages’ left by other dogs.

“Oh, look!” My wife paused a moment, bent over and picked up a penny. It was shiny from having been rubbed on the road surface by passing cars.

* * * * * * *

So, somewhat surprisingly, and definitely suddenly, I’m going to Rome in a couple of weeks.

Yeah, Rome. As in Italy. And to environs thereabout.

You’re right – I haven’t mentioned this before. No long lead-up, as with our trip to New Zealand last fall. That’s because it just happened. Like three days ago.

So, here’s the story: A good friend is a professor of classics at a major university. He’s well known in the field, has written books and everything. Anyway, most summers he takes one or more groups over to Italy for various seminars and teaching sessions. Sometimes it’s a bunch of students from his school, gaining some extra credit/experience. Sometimes it’s high school instructors in Latin and history. It always sounds like he has a good time, and I’ve enjoyed his stories from some of these trips.

Well, as sometimes happens, at the last minute there’s an opening in the trip he’s taking next month. Since they’re committed to having a certain number of people along . . . you can see where this is headed.

Consequently, in exchange for being a warm body and helping out with some minor ‘roadie’ duties, I get to take the open seat on the bus, as it were. Minimal cost to me (which is a good thing, given how things have gone the last couple of years). Sometimes there are advantages to being self-employed: it was easy for me to convince my boss to give me some time off at such short notice.

So, yeah, Rome. With a truly expert guide to show me (and the rest of the group) the sights. Granted, I don’t really have the knowledge base to get the most out of this particular Workshop, but hey, I’m a quick study.

And while the teachers are spending time on the hardcore history stuff, I’ll have time to explore, learn, write. Such a trip will provide plenty of fodder for me to draw on for future novels.

* * * * * * *

Slightly cool and breezy this morning, the light rain we’d had having just moved out of our area. The dog trotted ahead, checking all the usual places for ‘messages’ left by other dogs.

“Oh, look!” My wife paused a moment, bent over and picked up a penny. It was shiny from having been rubbed on the road surface by passing cars. She stuck it in her pocket.

“I still do that,” I said, nodding to her pocket where the penny had disappeared.

“Pick up pennies?”

I chuckled. “Nah. Toss them out now and then. I figure others will pick them up, and for a moment feel lucky. We all need a bright spot now and again, and I figure it helps my karma.”

The dog, turning from his latest message-spot, looked back at us as if to say “C’mon guys, let’s get going.”

Jim Downey



Paradigm shift.

Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions came out when I was only four years old, but the ideas it contained percolated through the culture I grew up with, having substantial impact on everything I read at a crucial point in my life. In many ways, the concept of paradigm shift was self-fulfilling, as it came to define and dominate a lot of the intellectual backdrop of my formative years. This in no small part will explain a *lot* of the ‘meaning’ of Communion of Dreams.

And, unsurprisingly, it still has a major influence on how I see the world. Which is why sometimes I am willing to try seemingly absurd things: not because I think that they will necessarily succeed, but because I am looking for an inflection point, a fulcrum, which will allow me to assess and perhaps change perspective.

One of those things has been playing with the idea of doing a Kickstarter in lieu of a conventional publishing deal, as I mentioned previously. Of course, I’m hardly the first writer to consider this, since it seems that Kickstarter-type crowdfunding of creative projects has started to take hold in our society.

Well, I just came across another one, something of a template by author Seth Godin. Here’s an excerpt from his blog about it yesterday:

My idea: Kickstart + bookstore + ebooks.

The publisher (my key to the bookstore) is only willing to go ahead with the rest of the plan if my Kickstarter works. No Kickstarter, no distribution, the stakes are high. (As you saw at the Domino Project, the ebook part is easy now, but the bookstore is still critical to reach the many readers who find and buy books in stores).

If the Kickstarter works, then all the funders will get to read the book before anyone else, plus there are bonuses and previews and special editions. A few weeks after the early funders (that would be you) get to read it, the book will be available to book buyers for purchase the traditional way (wherever fine books are sold in the US, including digital readers). Of course, the Kickstarter funders get a better price, get it first and get unique bonuses, plus the pleasure of being in early–and knowing that they made it happen. The only way this book becomes real is if my readers get behind it now.

This was outlining his project, basically starting it. For the experiment he set a goal of $40,000 on his Kickstarter, and had it running for four weeks to see if it was viable.

He met his goal in three hours. And it is currently funded at $194,873 – almost 500% of his goal.

Now, Godin is a published author and successful self-promoter. He has a real following. Most authors, myself included, have no where near his level of support going into such an effort.

But he has found his fulcrum. He has proven that this is possible, at least under some conditions.

Are there other fulcrums out there? Is it possible for other authors to succeed under different conditions?

Specifically, is it possible for me to do?

Your thoughts welcome.

Jim Downey



OK, kiddies, gather ’round…

…and let me show you what things are supposed to be like today:

Sometimes students are good for a big surprise – as in this case. Having read one of my shorter posts (actually this one: http://www.hs-augsburg.de/~mstoll/?p=411 ) on a website about retro-futurism, Dennis Bille one day came around with a quite large set of folders and unpacked these wonderfull illustrations. Obviously they once were give-a-ways from “United States Steel International” to show, how the future might look like – from a early 60s perspective. Dennis Bille got these folders from a retired designer as a gift for helping to close down his office. what a symbolic story!

Yeah, I remember that kind of stuff from when I was growing up. Some excellent paleo-future there.

Jim Downey

(Via MeFi.)




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