Communion Of Dreams

Sights and insights.

A mix of little things, playing catch-up for the last couple of weeks …

Why catch-up? Well, this might explain why I took a break for a while there.

And we’re off …

* * *

First thing, thanks to all who downloaded Communion of Dreams over the weekend, or helped to spread the word about it. There were a total of 693 downloads worldwide — and that includes various European portals, as well as Canada, India, and Japan! Pretty cool.

For those who have gotten the book, once you have a chance to read it please take a few moments to review it on Amazon or elsewhere – it really does help, and as I am finishing up writing St Cybi’s Well the feedback is most welcome.

Because, yeah:


* * *

A long, but quite good, read about the value of the ISS: 5,200 Days in Space

* * *

And a fun bit of perspective from xkcd about getting there:

* * *

Some great images from one of the sites I’ve mentioned here before: Pentre Ifan

Petre Ifan is a haunting burial stack that stands in a verdant Welsh field as one of the most complete and dramatic stone dolmens still found anywhere on the planet.

* * *


X-rays stream off the sun

Go see the full size image and explanation of the science. Worth it.

* * *

An excellent read by an old and dear friend: There’s an App for That: Cancer in the Modern Age

* * *

And another excellent read, all in all. But this paragraph is so painfully true:

“Writing is a strange and solitary activity. There are dispiriting times when you start working on the first few pages of a novel. Every day, you have the feeling you are on the wrong track. This creates a strong urge to go back and follow a different path. It is important not to give in to this urge, but to keep going. It is a little like driving a car at night, in winter, on ice, with zero visibility. You have no choice, you cannot go into reverse, you must keep going forward while telling yourself that all will be well when the road becomes more stable and the fog lifts.”

* * *

Any others to add? The 10 Sci-Fi Films That Defined 2014

* * *

Of course, reading is always better for you: Brain function ‘boosted for days after reading a novel’

See? I’m actually making you SMARTER! Keep that in mind when you write a review, will ya?

* * *

And that’s enough for now. I need to get back to my “strange and solitary activity”.


Jim Downey

It’s a test.

Today’s xkcd triggered a thought: that we can think of the challenges of climate change as being akin to a planetary gom jabbar. Do we have the ability to endure short-term pain and survive, or do we give in to our immediate short-term desires and suffer the consequences?


Jim Downey

Hard to keep up.

As I’ve noted before, it’s hard to keep up with the steady trickle of revelations about what the NSA has been up to, and how the reality of what has actually been going on keeps surpassing the dystopian aspects I have been writing about in St. Cybi’s Well.  For example, here’s this passage from the beginning of the book:

He turned the hand-held on, did a quick check to make sure it had the software and apps he’d asked for. Everything was there. He’d pick up a burner phone later, and swap the SIMM card into the hand-held. He turned off the hand-held, dropped it into a special pocket inside his vest – one which was RF-blocked. He had another such compartment in his satchel. These, like the wallet/holster, were prohibited items and grounds for arrest in the States, but while they would raise an eyebrow in the UK they weren’t technically illegal.

With this item from yesterday’s Washington Post revelations that the NSA and related agencies are basically tracking every cell phone on the planet:

The NSA’s capabilities to track location are staggering, based on the Snowden documents, and indicate that the agency is able to render most efforts at communications security effectively futile.

Like encryption and anonymity tools online, which are used by dissidents, journalists and terrorists alike, security-minded behavior — using disposable cellphones and switching them on only long enough to make brief calls — marks a user for special scrutiny. CO-TRAVELER takes note, for example, when a new telephone connects to a cell tower soon after another nearby device is used for the last time.

Now, see, I was thinking I’d use something exactly like that as the ‘rude surprise’ which would trip up my protagonist later in the novel, since he wouldn’t expect that the NSA would have that level of data-collection ability.

*Sigh.* So much for my trying to come up with a dystopian reality …

And this is timely:


Non Sequitur


Jim Downey

Because …

… I’m a big 2001: A Space Odyssey fan, as well as a paleo-future geek, I offer this wonderful insight into my past/future:

“2001: A Space Odyssey” Howard Johnsons Children’s Menu (1968)

Yeah, that’s what it was like back in ’68. Definitely.


Jim Downey

Via MeFi.



Tweeting Darnell.

Lots of fictional characters have Twitter accounts — usually, one created by a fan to have a little fun. Well, the idea* occurred to me today to set up an account for Darnell Sidwell, who is the main character of St. Cybi’s Well.

If you’ve read Communion of Dreams (and if you haven’t, why not? I mean, seriously, go read the damned thing.) you know Darnell as the crusty old prospector with a colorful history. St. Cybi’s Well is the start of his story (OK, not really — he’s already middle-aged — but for our purposes it is), and you get to meet a man who is 40 years younger with a lot of changes ahead of him. Personally, I love the character, even if I’m going to put him through hell in this book.

Anyway. St. Cybi’s Well is not being written from Darnell’s perspective. Rather, like Communion of Dreams, it is written from a third-person narrator’s perspective.

But the Tweets are going to come directly from Darnell, from his perspective. He’ll be writing about his thoughts and experiences as the story of St. Cybi’s Well unfolds. Sometimes there will be hints about the story. Sometimes he’ll give away some insights. Sometimes he’ll (unintentionally) mislead, because he won’t understand exactly what is going on in the bigger picture.

This will be fun — and somewhat useful for me, since it is always a good thing for a writer to completely get inside the head of a character, to understand how they view the world. To a certain degree I go through this exercise with any major character, but this will be a way I can share some of that process. When all is said and done, it will form something of a supplement to the novel, and I’ll probably figure out a way to have those Tweets collected/linked in the final version. In the meantime, you can ‘follow’ him @DarnellSidwell, and we’ll put up batches of Tweets on the St. Cybi’s Well site. He’ll probably Tweet every day or two, as my schedule allows.

Now I need to get back to work. Toodles!


Jim Downey

*Credit where it is due: this idea came to me when reading today’s Girls With Slingshots strip — note the ‘hover text’.

January 21, 2013, 10:24 am
Filed under: Art, Comics, movies, Violence | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

This is exceptionally well done.


More later.

Jim Downey

Yeah. Like that.

Wow — this hits close to home: Making Things.

We should pick up the printed sheets for the special edition of Communion of Dreams tomorrow. I’ll post pix!

Now, back to work for me.


Jim Downey

“This is the LEAST crazy one anyone has come up with.”
September 19, 2012, 9:52 am
Filed under: Apollo program, Art, Comics | Tags: , , , , ,

The man is a genius:

If you’d like a zoomable version that’s much easier on the mouse/trackpad, here’s about the best one I’ve seen.

Thanks, Randall.

Jim Downey

I blame the Prednisone.

You know, this whole thing made a lot more sense at 3:43 this morning.

To quote from a favorite character*: “Let me ‘splain. [pause] No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”

I recently gave an example of the . . . creative froth, let’s call it . . . that I always live with. I think particularly when I am in the middle of a creative endeavor this stuff is a lot closer to the surface, as I am now with working out all the characters, setting, plot, et cetera for the prequel to Communion of Dreams. It’s like the barrier between the conscious and subconscious parts of my brain becomes . . . thinner. Connections become easier.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

A number of my friends are or were cops. Last week I was amused by the video going around which was a fan-made movie of an oddball webcomic called “Axe Cop.” Here it is:

Bizarre, eh? Most of my friends thought so. I thought it was hilarious.

Anyway, at about 3:42 this morning I woke up from a dream. Just *Boom* – wide awake. It’s the damned Prednisone (I’m taking another course of it for ongoing efforts with my rib/lung pain) – a common side effect, and one which seems to be hitting me harder this time around than previously.

I had been dreaming. About an “accidental cop.” Someone who had been a cop previously, but then had moved on. The situation developed that he was drafted back into being a cop. Think Rick Deckard being convinced to resume detective work in Blade Runner.

Well, upon waking, in just a few short moments, I developed a whole backstory to the dream, ideas on characters, plot for future development, et cetera. I toyed for a moment with the idea of pitching it as a screenplay, perhaps TV pilot.

Madness, of course. And I realized that when I woke up more completely. But thinking it through, I came to the conclusion that what happened was something of this kind of progression:

  • Cop.
  • Ex-cop.
  • Axe Cop.
  • Accidental Cop.

I blame the Prednisone. And a strong manic swing.

Jim Downey

*Inigo, of course, whom I have discussed previously in relation to my own history.

After the hype.

Today’s xkcd sums things up pretty well, I think: the actual discovery was cool, but the hype made it feel anticlimatic.

Above and beyond what this says about our press being driven by ASTOUNDING!! news and the failure to get even basic science stories right (with some very obvious and excellent exceptions), consider just what was behind the hype: excitement at the prospect of non-terrestrial life of any sort being discovered.

The initial speculation that NASA had proof of life on Titan swept like electronic fire around the world. It wasn’t just science fiction geeks. Or actual biologists. Or space buffs. It was pretty much the whole world, though some had more fun with it than others.

Why did this capture the imaginations of so many people? Easy: we’re hungry for this news, and have been for decades. It’s not just the countless science fiction books and movies which have fed this hunger (mine included) – it is also the very real science behind the search for extra-terrestrial life (or intelligence). Proof of the existence of life beyond our planet would likely be considered one of the most important discoveries in the history of mankind, and the announcement of such a discovery would be a turning point bigger than even the first time that humans walked on the Moon.

It is easy in a time of recession, when money is tight for most people and the government is trying to figure out ways to cut expenditures, to under-value NASA or basic science research. And I am not arguing for this or that ‘big science’ program, per se. But all you have to do is look at what happened this week, to note the wonder and excitement which was launched by the merest possibility of the discovery of life elsewhere, to realize that this kind of knowledge is something that people around the world are waiting for with eager, almost palpable, anticipation. I think it is one of the very best things about humans that this is the case, and it should be encouraged and used.

Jim Downey