Filed under: 2nd Amendment, ACLU, Babylon 5, Brave New World, Civil Rights, Connections, Constitution, Emergency, General Musings, Government, Guns, J. Michael Straczynski, JMS, Mark Twain, Politics, Predictions, Preparedness, RKBA, Science Fiction, Society, Survival, Terrorism, Violence, Writing stuff | Tags: blogging, Boston, firearms, guns, jim downey, literature, Mark Twain, Nevil Shute, police, predictions, Roman, Rome, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, terrorism, Tom Wolfe, violence, writing
Any work of literature is, to some extent, part of the society in which it was written, and needs to be understood within that context. Whether you’re talking The Bonfire of the Vanities or On the Beach or Life on the Mississippi or just about any novel you care to name, it is, to some extent, a reflection on the culture surrounding it.
Writers react to the events around them. Even science fiction authors like yours truly. We really can’t avoid it.
I mentioned events in Boston the other day. Just a blog post. But it is some measure of what has gotten my attention. So it would be safe to assume that to some degree it will show up in St. Cybi’s Well. And it will. But perhaps not exactly as you might think.
Almost five years ago I wrote this:
This is nothing more or less than the peace of the gun. This is the abrogation of civil liberties as a solution for incompetent governance. Of course people like it – let things get bad enough that they fear for their lives more than they value their liberties, and you can get people to do almost anything.
Now, I don’t think that what happened in Boston was anything like what led to that blog post about HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. in August of 2008. In that instance, it was chronic problems with crime rather than a couple of domestic terrorists which brought about de facto martial law.
And I think that the police agencies involved in determining who was responsible for the attacks, and then seeking the suspects in a major metropolitan area did a very professional job. Just compare it to another recent dragnet and you’ll see what I mean.
But I keep coming back to that earlier blog post. Why? Because seeing a major city shut down, and then para-military operations going house to house searching for a suspect, gives me pause. I certainly can’t fault the police for taking precautions intended to protect their own lives and the lives of citizens. SWAT equipment and tactics have been shown to be very effective.
… I feel somewhat like the owner of a couple of highly trained and massive guard dogs, who has just watched those dogs chase off/control a threat. There’s a satisfaction in watching them do the task so well. But there’s also a nagging fear that maybe, just maybe, things could be bad if they ever decided that they no longer wanted to obey commands.
Nah – no need to worry. That has never happened before.
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Connections, Feedback, Kindle, Marketing, Predictions, Promotion, Science Fiction, Writing stuff | Tags: 1500, Alzheimer's, Amazon, blogging, care-giving, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, Her Final Year, hospice, jim downey, John Bourke, Kickstarter, Kindle, literature, predictions, promotion, reviews, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, writing
So, yesterday’s post was #1,500 here. The last Big Round Number was posted on December 9, 2010. Since I started the blog in January 2007, that means that the pace has actually been fairly stable, in terms of my posting — about 250 a year, more or less.
I never really expected it to last this long. But I’m glad it has. And I’m glad that so many people have shared some or all of the ride with me. Have been witness to my efforts to get Communion of Dreams published conventionally. Have shared my experiences as a care-provider for someone with Alzheimer’s (and the subsequent book). Have supported me when I decided to self-publish CoD. Have helped to spread the word about that novel. Have encouraged me to write the prequel.
Filed under: Art, Augmented Reality, Connections, Feedback, General Musings, Predictions, Publishing, Science Fiction, tech, Writing stuff, YouTube | Tags: architecture, art, arts, blogging, Communion of Dreams, construction, D. Westry, feedback, jim downey, literature, painting, predictions, Science Fiction, Scrivener, St. Cybi's Well, video, writing, www youtube
A number of friends and others have asked me how the writing is going on St. Cybi’s Well. It’s a natural question, but it’s a little hard to explain. Here’s the gist of what I have been telling people:
Using the Scrivener software, it really is a different process than what writing Communion of Dreams was like. It’s less linear. But it’s more balanced & comprehensive. Let’s put it this way – I have components now done in all 19 chapters of the book (plus the prelude). Some of it is just landscape descriptions, drawn from my previous travelogues. Some of it is character sketches. Or specific scenes. Or notes about something which needs to happen. It’s different. It feels more productive. But it’s kinda hard to explain.
This morning, after I got up at 3:00 for physiological needs, as I was trying to get back to sleep I was thinking more about this (well, and thinking through some scenes for the book — I do a lot of that in the middle of the night), and I came up with a couple of analogies which may help non-writers understand what the different processes are like.
First is constructing a building. Writing Communion, the metaphor would be that I picked a nice location for my building, leveled the ground, poured a concrete pad of sufficient size, and then started building a brick wall on one corner, working my way around the entire pad brick by brick as I went, making determinations as to locations of doors and windows and whatnot according to a rough plan I had in my head. Once the exterior wall was completed, I put a roof on it, then proceeded to do much the same process inside the building for interior walls and all that, using the mostly set exterior as a hard limit to what could be done internally.
With St. Cybi’s Well, the metaphor would be that I went to an architect/engineer, and did all the design and layout of the building in advance. Before a single footing was dug, or materials ordered, I knew pretty exactly how I wanted the entire thing to look. Then once all that was sorted, the actual construction was done entirely differently. Footings were dug, concrete poured. Then a steel framework was put in place for both the interior and exterior walls, and roof trusses positioned. Once this internal skeleton was finished, then I would start to put up sheathing material for the walls and roof, proceeding to finished surfaces.
See the difference? One feels almost organic, and makes sense to the outside observer from the very start. The other feels a little more arcane or artificial, and it isn’t obvious what the finished product will look like until well into the building process.
OK, let’s try another metaphor: art. Specifically, painting.
Some artists work in a way which seems natural and obvious. They pick a subject, usually do some rough sketches on their canvas to help get all the elements sorted out & proportioned. Then they’ll start to apply pigment according to their particular style or technique. Some of which may be a little hard to understand for a casual observer, but the basic process makes sense — you can see the different aspects emerging organically.
But there are artists who work in a completely different way. They have a concept in their head, and will proceed to do a series of fairly random strokes of paint. Each stroke is crucial, each one in the perfect place, but the end result isn’t clear to the observer until the final moments, when the last few elements are done and suddenly the artist’s vision breaks through. Like this:
Now, don’t try to over-think these analogies, or to take them too literally. They’re just intended to help illuminate some of the differences in process between this current novel, and the last one.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to work on my building.
Filed under: Amazon, Art, Arthur C. Clarke, Book Conservation, Connections, Feedback, Isaac Asimov, Kindle, Marketing, Music, Predictions, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction, Writing stuff | Tags: aesthetics, Amazon, art, Arthur C. Clarke, blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, Isaac Asimov, jim downey, Kindle, literature, Moody Blues, music, predictions, promotion, reviews, Science Fiction, Stephen King, writing, www youtube
So, a couple of things to share this morning …
One, the decision has been made: we’ll be going with a design for the leather bindings which includes raised cords on the spine. In terms of the response I got from people, it wasn’t even much of a competition — “cords” were the favorite almost 10 to 1.
But that doesn’t mean that the book has to have an old look. Not at all. I’m playing around with some design ideas which will incorporate the cords, but which will feel more modern. Watch for some preliminary posts on that in a couple weeks.
Two, if you are expecting to get a leather-bound copy of Communion of Dreams, but haven’t yet told me of your color preferences, do so soon. Further, if you didn’t get a confirmation response from me acknowledging your choices, then please contact me again. Because I had something of a book conservation emergency drop into my lap 10 days ago, things have been delayed a bit — but I’ll still be ordering leather and starting on those bindings before the end of the month. Please don’t delay.
And three, there’s a new review up on Amazon you might want to check out. Here’s an excerpt:
this book is very well worth your time if you love classic sci-fi. i would say that so far it is a combination of arthur c. clarke, isaac asimov, and a little stephen king. not too shabby for an unknown author. not sure if this is a series, and don’t want to ruin anything for myself by finding spoilers in reading others’ reviews. i’ll finish this book first. that may be soon- already lost most of a night’s sleep reading it. this is an original alternative universe, populated by humans and their robots, being created here; that is why it reminds me of asimov.
As always, I invite you to produce your own review, rate the book or other reviews, or just leave a comment in any reviews which particularly engage you. And you don’t have to do so only on Amazon — if you participate in another venue where such a review or recommendation would be appropriate, the help is always appreciated.
One final note: yup, the writing is proceeding apace. More on that later.
Filed under: Artificial Intelligence, Brave New World, Connections, Harry Potter, Humor, J. K. Rowling, Predictions, Science, Science Fiction, tech, YouTube | Tags: blogging, Harry Potter, humor, jim downey, literature, predictions, quadrocopter, Quidditch, science, Science Fiction, technology, video, www youtube
OK, that last post kinda churned around in my head a bit, reminded me of something else having to do with robotics.
I didn’t post anything about this a week ago when it made the rounds, but check it out:
The ability to toss a pole back and forth like that, while flying, is pretty cool. And I bet if they can do that, then tossing a ball back and forth would also be possible — if not now, then in the very near future.
So, what I want to know is: when is someone going to come up with an honest-to-God game of “Quadrocopter Quidditch”? Should be eminently doable.
Filed under: Connections, DARPA, Guns, H. G. Wells, Mars, Music, Paleo-Future, Predictions, Science, Science Fiction, tech, YouTube | Tags: blogging, DARPA, H.G. Wells, Jeff Wayne, jim downey, laser, literature, Martians, music, predictions, science, Science Fiction, technology, Thunderchild, War of the Worlds, www youtube
A news item you may have seen:
Very soon the U.S. Military will be fitting some of their fighter jets with real laser weapons. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) says that the new laser system will be fitted onto jet aircraft in 2014 as a defensive weapon capable of knocking out missiles and other projectiles while in flight.
If you’ve been waiting for the future to finally get here, just go ahead and mark your calendar for 2014. It was recently announced that the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) would be retrofitting some U.S. military jets with actual 150KW lasers that will be able to knock missiles out of the sky.
The new laser weapons are part of DARPA’s High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System and are purportedly being fitted as a defensive measure specifically for knocking projectiles out of the sky such as surface-to-air missiles or any type of larger projectile. The exact specifics of the system’s capability are still classified.
This may … ring a bell:
Forthwith flashes of actual flame, a bright glare leaping from one to another, sprang from the scattered group of men. It was as if some invisible jet impinged upon them and flashed into white flame. It was as if each man were suddenly and momentarily turned to fire.
Then, by the light of their own destruction, I saw them staggering and falling, and their supporters turning to run.
I stood staring, not as yet realizing that this was death leaping from man to man in that little distant crowd. All I felt was that it was something very strange. An almost noiseless and blinding flash of light, and a man fell head-long and lay still; and as the unseen shaft of heat passed over them, pine-trees burst into fire, and every dry furze-bush became with one dull thud a mass of flames. And far away towards Knaphill I saw the flashes of trees and hedges and wooden buildings suddenly set alight.
It was sweeping round swiftly and steadily, this flaming death, this invisible, inevitable sword of heat.
Small wonder that I’ve had this song kicking around in my head, from what is probably a largely-forgotten concept album 35 years old.
Filed under: Amazon, Art, Brave New World, Connections, Feedback, Humor, Isaac Asimov, Kindle, Marketing, Predictions, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction, Writing stuff | Tags: Amazon, art, blogging, bookbinding, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, free, humor, Isaac Asimov, jim downey, Kickstarter, Kindle, literature, promotion, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, writing
A couple weeks ago, when I was setting up the price change and promotional stuff for the one-year anniversary of Communion of Dreams, I was again confronted with something I had pondered and then ignored previously: was this book part of a “series”?
See, when you’re going through the interface to publish a book with Amazon, that’s one of the questions you need to answer. The helpful little dialog box explains the idea this way:
A series is a connected set of books. If this book is part of a series, identify where the book exists in the sequence with a volume number. We only accept volume numbers in numerical format (“1″, “2″, or “3″). Magazines and journals are also often grouped as a series. Identifying the series helps customers find other books in the series.
It makes me jealous.
Well, OK, it doesn’t really. But it does make me wonder. What would I call the series for the slightly-altered-universe in which Communion of Dreams exists?
When I first published Communion of Dreams, I thought that I would eventually like to write several other related books, but I didn’t know for sure whether I would ever get around to doing so. I mean, we make plans, and have hopes & dreams and all that, but it seemed both a little presumptuous as well as potentially risky (in the “tempting fate” sort of way) to claim that I was going to write a series of books before seeing what the response to the first one was.
And then there’s the complicating fact that at least for the time being I consider Communion of Dreams to be the end of any such series. St. Cybi’s Well is a prequel — the start of the so-called series, in fact. And I have some rough ideas for other books which would be related to the overall story arc, about one per decade of the time between now and the setting of Communion (2052). But those are just approximations. How can I number the books in the series when I have little confidence in how many there will be? And wouldn’t it be confusing to number the books in the order they are written, since they jump around in chronological sequence?
Anyway, this is all by way of saying that I could use some help and suggestions with this. If you’ve read Communion of Dreams, you have some sense of the overall arc of the series, at least as the history is outlined in that book. And I’ve chatted a fair amount about St. Cybi’s Well. Knowing those things, what do *you* think would be a good ‘series name’ for these books?
I’m serious — I’d like suggestions. Post it here in a comment, drop me an email, say something over on the FB page. If I use your suggestion, I’ll credit you with it and send you a hand-bound copy of either Communion of Dreams or St. Cybi’s Well depending on your preference (and if you’ve already got those coming as part of the Kickstarter rewards or something, we’ll work out an equitable substitute).
Filed under: Art, Connections, Feedback, Health, Publishing, Science, Science Fiction, Writing stuff | Tags: art, Australia, blogging, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, health, jim downey, Karst, literature, Missouri, Nullarbor Plain, reviews, science, Science Fiction, writing
Sorry I haven’t posted much — been down with the nasty respiratory virus which is going around, and which has aggravated my torn intercostal muscle. So I’ve been devoting most of my energy to other things, like not hacking up a lung.
Anyway, thought I’d share a new review:
Oh dear; a shocker. Not only did this diatribe descend into fantasy rubbish, but the characters were as flat as the nullabor plain. The whole thing had about as much narrative flair as a year 8 kids English assignment
Ouch. Unsurprisingly, he gave it only 1 star. Though he did say that he wished he could give it zero stars.
Bad reviews are part & parcel of being a writer or artist or just about any other kind of public person. No biggie — Communion of Dreams isn’t to everyone’s tastes, and that’s OK. I do wonder a bit whether this review was intended for another book. Evidently a couple of other people wonder the same, given the comments.
Anyway, at least I learned something from the review: the Nullarbor Plain (which I think the author meant to say) is a geographic region of Australia. And it shares something in common with our property here in central Missouri: it’s a karst formation. So that’s kinda interesting.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go not hack up a lung.
Filed under: Amazon, Brave New World, Carl Zimmer, Connections, Emergency, Feedback, Flu, General Musings, Health, Kindle, Marketing, Pandemic, Plague, Predictions, Preparedness, Promotion, Publishing, Science, Science Fiction, Society, Survival, The Loom, Umberto Eco, Writing stuff | Tags: Amazon, antibiotics, blogging, Carl Zimmer, Communion of Dreams, Darnell Sidwell, direct publishing, fire-flu, flu, influenza, jim downey, Kickstarter, Kindle, literature, norovirus, pandemic, predictions, promotion, science, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, technology, Umberto Eco, virus, Wordpress, writing
So, the WordPress Machine informs me that I’ve had a fairly busy year blogging here.
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As I mentioned a while ago, earlier this month I had fallen prey to the nasty bit of cold virus going around. Turned out that the damn thing was even more stubborn for my wife, who is still struggling with a hacking cough and various other annoying symptoms. We’ve been keeping a close eye on it, watching for signs of secondary pneumonia, which would call for antibiotic intervention, but I think she’ll get past this on her own.
Which is good, because there really isn’t much we can do to fight a virus. In this sense, medical science is at about the same place in viral treatments as we were in dealing with bacterial infection 70 years ago:
In 1941, a rose killed a policeman.
Albert Alexander, a 43-year-old policeman in Oxford, England, was pruning his roses one fall day when a thorn scratched him at the corner of his mouth. The slight crevice it opened allowed harmless skin bacteria to slip into his body. At first, the scratch grew pink and tender. Over the course of several weeks, it slowly swelled. The bacteria turned from harmless to vicious, proliferating through his flesh. Alexander eventually had to be admitted to Radcliffe Hospital, the bacteria spreading across his face and into his lungs.
Alexander’s doctors tried treating him with sulfa drugs, the only treatment available at the time. The medicine failed, and as the infection worsened, they had to cut out one of his eyes. The bacteria started to infiltrate his bones. Death seemed inevitable.
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You may not have heard much about it here, but the norovirus is causing all kinds of grief in the UK. Cases are up 83% over last year, and are estimated to have hit over a million people already. In the UK the norovirus is commonly called the “winter vomiting bug” whereas here we tend to call it “stomach flu”. As miserable as it makes people feel, it’s usually not a life-threatening disease for otherwise healthy people, and the best thing to do is just ride it out.
Of course, public health authorities have taken steps to try and limit the spread of the disease into populations where the virus could be life-threatening, and a lot of hospitals have curtailed or eliminated visiting hours. Furthermore, appeals have been made to the public to not to go see their doctors or go to emergency rooms for routine cases of the norovirus, since there is little that can be done to treat the virus and this just contributes to the spread of the disease.
Still, people get scared when they get sick, even when they know that it is a fairly common bug that’s going around — and one that most people have had before and gotten over just fine. So they tend to swamp available medical services, overwhelming the health care system.
Just think about what would happen if it was a disease which wasn’t known. And one which was killing people so quickly that they’d drop over in the street on the way home from work.
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But it is something which has had me in a bit of a quandary this fall, as I’ve been working on writing St. Cybi’s Well.
Howso? Well, because I kept going back and forth on making one final decision: where to end the book.
See, I know how the *story* plays out — I’ve had that all sorted since I first worked up the background for Communion of Dreams. But in going to write St. Cybi’s Well, I needed to decide exactly where in the story that book would end. Which is to say, I needed to decide how much, if any, of the onset of the fire-flu would be included. Because I could set everything up and have the book actually finish at the onset of the fire-flu — after all, the reader would know what was about to happen. Why drag the reader through that horror?
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A week or so ago I made my decision, and I’ve been chewing it over since then as I’ve been busy with other things, making sure that I was comfortable with what I have decided, and why. I’m not going to give you the details, but you can safely assume from what I’ve said in this post that at least some of the pandemic will be portrayed.
I decided this not because I have a desire to write about the horror (in spite of what I may have said previously) but rather because it is critical for character development of the main character.
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So, the WordPress Machine informs me that I’ve had a fairly busy year blogging here. 293 posts (this makes 294), which is a faster pace than in some years. Of course, I’ve had a lot of promotional stuff do to with the launch of Communion of Dreams last January and everything to support that through the year, not to mention the Kickstarter for St. Cybi’s Well.
And while I’ve cautioned that I won’t be writing quite as much here on the blog as I’m working on St. Cybi’s Well, well, it does make for a nice change of pace.
So thanks for being along for the ride this year. Together we can see how things go in 2013.