Communion Of Dreams

A small matter of perspective.

This is not unlike the tricks that a good story-teller uses, though manifest in a brilliant visual form:

From NPR’s Robert Krulwich, who has this to say:

These illusions were created by an artist who calls himself Brusspup.What he does is an exercise in anamorphosis, a conjuring trick that takes advantage of how our brains make sense of the world. If you know how, you can create an image which makes no sense until the viewer happens onto a particular — and it’s a very particular — spot. Once the viewer finds the right angle — the only place where he or she can see what the artist intended — suddenly, boom!- the drawing leaps into three dimensions.

Getting a reader to that precise point of view in a novel is the hard part. Willing suspension of disbelief is a kindness all readers give any author.

Jim Downey

Next level.
November 29, 2012, 11:38 am
Filed under: Writing stuff | Tags: , , , , ,

Interesting. I noticed this morning that a shift has occurred in my thinking about St. Cybi’s Well over the last day or two. Oh, I’m still thinking about plotting and scenes, but now I find myself increasing working through bits of dialogue.  *How* one character or another would phrase something, how the pattern of sounds with another would play out.

Meaning that I’m reaching some kind of saturation point, the moment when things, er, “gel”.*

And meaning, based on my previous experience, that I’m about to shift from spending the majority of my energy from making notes/plans/plots to actually constructing sentences and paragraphs, perhaps even chapters.



Jim Downey

(*Those who have read Communion of Dreams will get the joke. If you haven’t — why the hell not?)

November 27, 2012, 9:45 am
Filed under: Health, Science Fiction | Tags: , , , , , , ,

There is no pain.

Pain is the mind-killer.

Pain is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I will face my pain.

I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.

Where the pain has gone there will be nothing.

Only I will remain.


Jim Downey

*With apologies to Frank Herbert, for all my friends who suffer chronic pain of any sort.

Just … eeew.

In something of a follow-up/companion piece to my earlier post about FaceWatch, I offer this:

Porn companies adopt facial-recognition technology, encourage Instagram photos

Two porn companies are courting web surfers to upload photos they find online to the companies’ free facial-recognition, face-matching database services.

With and Naughty America’s “Face” anyone can upload an image and have the services match it with images and faces in image databases.

SexFaceFinder positions its service as a way for users to find a performer that looks like a specific person.


Not only does this have the potential to be a privacy nightmare … eeew. Just … eeew.


Jim Downey

November 23, 2012, 6:45 pm
Filed under: Book Conservation

I’m angry.

No, it has nothing to do with the last time I said “Grrr.” The sheets for the limited edition of Communion of Dreams are fine. And besides, then I was just annoyed. It’s pretty rare for me to actually get angry.

Even more rare when it has to do with my business.

But I got started this afternoon on some conservation work for a institutional client. I have half a dozen items from them this time, and thought I’d start with the oldest: a 1471 legal text.

For those who aren’t history buffs, let me give you an idea of how rare a printed book this old is: it was printed just 17 years after the Gutenberg Bible, the very first book printed using movable type. Such books are so rare there’s a special name for them: Incunabla.

And some idiot in the last half century did a machine rebinding of this book. Meaning that they just stuck it in a guillotine and lopped off the spine, then had a machine stab through the loose sheets and do a simple basket sewing, along with a layer of hot glue.

I’d really like to get my hands on this asshole…

Er, sorry. Like I said, I’m angry.

There was *no* reason to do such an unspeakable thing to such a book. The paper is in marvelous condition (as is usually the case with books so old) — it’s still strong and supple, without a trace of acid degradation or embrittlement.

So, I cut the thing apart, removed the bulk of the hot glue. After I dress the edge of the paper, I’ll guard the sheets back together into sections, using kozo tissue paper and wheatpaste. Then I’ll be able to resew the book like it was meant to be, then rebind it properly.

Here are some pix:

As it came to me. Note the 1960s-era spine added to a 1880-era cover.

“Title pages” hadn’t become standardized yet, this is the first page of text.

Shot of the spine, once the text block had been cut away from the covers.

First layer of gunk removed, the over-sewing threads cut.

Pulling apart the sheets after most of the hot glue has been removed. Note the perforation holes along the spine edge where the book was stab-sewn.

Pile of loose sheets after the entire book has been taken apart. Painful to see it this way, but it will soon be much better.


Jim Downey

Like an invisibility cloak.

So, as I am constantly blathering about, I’m spending a lot of time thinking through various aspects of St. Cybi’s Well. Things like characters, plotting, fitting in the storyline with what is already established in Communion of Dreams (while still making sure that the book can stand on its own, without someone having read Communion).  Well, one of those things concerns an instance where someone wants to not be readily located. Which is a little harder in today’s world than most people realize, given two things: general surveillance, and the homing-device you’re probably carrying in your pocket.

Yeah, I’m talking about your cell phone/mobile device/tablet. Anything which can connect to a cell network or GPS is probably also capable of being used to track you. And chances are, it will do so even if it is ostensibly “turned off.” About the only good way to be certain to stop this use is to pull the battery out of the thing.

And that’s a PITA, if you want to be able to actually use it without a delay and hassle of installing the battery then booting the thing up.

So the other day I sent a note to a good buddy of mine who has a lot more physics/technical knowledge than I do:

Second, a thought I had: since privacy is a concern, and your cell phone is a tracking device even when ‘off’ (but it’s a hassle to have to pull out the battery and then reboot the damned thing if you need it), why not go with a simple solution to isolate it? To wit: turn the phone off (or put it into ‘airplane mode’), drop it into a small Faraday cage. Just a simple bag or wallet with the right construction would do it. I know there are such things for use with passports/credit cards (I use a wallet for such when traveling overseas), so why not just extend the design a bit to accommodate a phone/tablet?

I got back a response which indicated that it should work, though you may need to tweak the construction specifics to be sure to block out the proper wavelengths most effectively.

And today, just for grins, I went to look for something like this. Guess what I found, which is just now available (actually, it won’t ship for a couple weeks):

Off the Grid Bag
Go Completely Off the Grid

This cleverly designed, superslim pouch for your wallet and phone blocks transmissions, as well as cell-tower and GPS tracking, and protects personal information from RFID readers. Ripstop nylon. Imported.

Bingo. Like an invisibility cloak for your phone.

Jim Downey

Happy Thanksgiving! (Some assembly required.)

First and foremost, allow me to extend best wishes to one and all for a great Thanksgiving (if you’re here in the US. Otherwise, have a great Thursday just ’cause.)

For long-time readers, you know the many twists & turns in my life over the last 5+ years, particularly those related to the ostensible reason this blog was started: to document and explore the process of getting Communion of Dreams published. And I want to tell you, and all the others who have joined us along this trek: thank-you for sticking with me. Communion of Dreams was downloaded something like 35,000 times in the earlier .pdf incarnation, and has been downloaded or purchased in paperback about 20,000 times this year in the current version. And I am grateful to everyone who contributed to make that a reality.

Last week I documented the latest amusing bit of the saga, how we wound up with printed sheets for a “backwards” book, which should have been the sheets for the limited edition handbound hardcover version.

Well, yesterday we got the corrected sheets. Here’s a shot:


From initial checking, everything looks good to do the limited edition. And I want to mention that the printer did everything I could reasonably ask or expect to make right the initial mistake — which shouldn’t be unusual, but is all too often these days. So, thanks to the folks at PrintLynx for not only correcting the error, but doing so quickly and with zero hassle. I’ve used them for a decade or longer, and have every reason to continue to use them for the foreseeable future.

I have another big conservation job to focus on in the short term, but soon I hope to have some initial samples of what the handbound hardcover edition of Communion of Dreams will look like. And as for being ‘tempted‘, well, let’s just say that soon I also hope to have an interesting announcement to make. When life gives you lemons …

But for now, I want to again wish you and yours a great Thanksgiving. And to say that I am thankful for all my friends and fans, who have conspired to make this a wonderful year.


Jim Downey

Sometimes I think that Philip K. Dick was an optimist.

I’ve mentioned Philip K. Dick, his genius and his influence on my writing, previously. And I’ve specifically written about his short story The Minority Report in the context of the UK’s plunge into becoming a surveillance society.

Well, even Philip K. Dick had his limitations. He was a man of his time, and couldn’t foresee just how powerful and widespread computing power and expert systems would become. Powerful enough that now it is routine for such systems to mimic one of the human brain’s best tricks: facial recognition.  To wit:

The UK’s online crime reporting
& intelligence community

Stop crime before it happens

And when they say “community” they mean it — this includes a social media-like network of interlinked businesses, government agencies, and individuals. They even have an app for your smart phone! If you don’t believe me, just check out the promotional video which seems like it is straight out of your favorite dystopian movie:

Remember, if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to fear. Unless, you know, you worry about abuses committed by others using such a powerful surveillance tool.

Nah, *that’d* never happen, would it?

Jim Downey


“Involved, Intense, and Very Thought-Provoking”

Just a few quick notes to share…

First is a new review up on Amazon. Here’s an excerpt:

The author deftly crafts a tale of a group of humans who endeavor to understand more about this artifact and in the process make some profound discoveries. The characters, both real and virtual, are well crafted and the story is well written with very few (I think I noted one) flaw in the text.

It is a mind-boggling tale with some tie-backs to present time.

As always, I’d ask anyone who has read Communion of Dreams to please consider doing a review, or at least rating/liking the book on Amazon, Good Reads, or elsewhere — honest reviews really do help.

A quick follow-up to Friday’s post: in case you didn’t see the additional note, the printer realized that they’d made an error with the job, and are going to do a complete reprint. It means a bit of a delay, but nothing serious — and I really respect that they’re going to make things right. So many businesses might try to weasel their way out of that responsibility.

I’ve decided that I like the Scrivener software, so am going to be using it for the bulk of the initial writing of St. Cybi’s Well. I’ll probably post further thoughts on it as I get deeper into the actual writing, but I really like that I can use it for collecting research as well as jotting notes/scenes in a way which is fairly intuitive and seamless to use. Not exactly like having my own Seth around to help me, but …

Have a good Monday!


Jim Downey


So, last night I posted about the fiasco with the print job for the special edition of Communion of Dreams. I thought this morning I would explain just exactly what the problem is.

Typically, inexpensive paperbacks are made using a process called “perfect binding” where the stack of individual pages are glued up along the spine and a cover is slapped on. The cover at the spine provides a backing to the adhesive used. It’s a process which can be completely mechanized, and is fast & cheap, providing decent value for the money. It’s how the paperback copies of Communion of Dreams are printed.

However, more expensive machine hardcover books, and most varieties of hand-bound books, are done using sheets which are folded and sewn. A folded sheet is called a folio, and a gathering of such folded sheets is called a signature (or section, or quire). How many folios are in a signature varies greatly, from single sheets up to about a dozen, depending on the thickness of the paper and how the book is designed. To make the book ‘work’ properly, the book designer has to make sure that the individual pages are laid out such that when the signatures are gathered together the sequence of pages is correct.

Chances are, most of the physical books you’ve read conform to what we in the West think of as ‘normal’: they have the spine of the book on the left side, pages are numbered with odd numbers on the right and even numbers on the left. To read the book, you turn pages from right to left.

But if you think about this for a moment, it is not the only way a book could be arranged. You could have the spine at the top, for example, and have the ‘book’ work like a typical calendar, turning the pages from bottom to top.

Or you could have the spine on the right side. This orientation would then have you turn pages from left to right.  This, in fact, is how traditional Hebrew Bible books are printed, and the same convention is used with Japanese books.

And it’s the way they printed Communion of Dreams, which we discovered when we started looking at the sheets last night.

Here’s an image of the center folio of the proof they sent us:


And here’s an image of the same center folio from the sheets we picked up yesterday:


Note that even the page numbers are now in the wrong locations, being in the center rather than the outside of the pages. The entire book — the entire print run — is done this way. If I wanted to, I could actually bind the book so as to read ‘backwards’ like a Hebrew Bible, though the page numbers are all in the wrong location for that.

I must admit, I’m tempted, just for giggles.

But we’ll get things sorted out with the printer, and get the proper printing done.

Edited to add on Friday afternoon: Yeah, so I think after the printer saw this blog post, and went back over their own records, they realized where & how they had screwed up. They’re now going to reprint the whole order.

Which is what they should do, but it is nice to have a business who is willing to make good without much of a fuss. I can only compliment them on their business practices, and will be happy to use them again in the future.


Jim Downey