January 2011 Archives

January 31, 2011

Most Wanted 31.01.11

Things I most want this week:

  • Yes. Outcasts. Although this time I know the start date, next Monday, which is Monday 7th February 2011, BBC1 9pm. With episode two the next day. Cool.
  • Some time to enjoy Zero History which I have started reading.
  • Black Swan. Going to try and see it this week. It sounds pretty crazy.
  • Christopher Nolan for a best director Oscar nomination. Boo to The Academy.

January 29, 2011

Week Notes 29th Jan 2011

Well this was pretty much the same as last week, and it seemed to fly by. Very low actual Science Fiction intake, but some reading about Science Fiction. That needs to change I think.

This week I have:

Reading
  • Finished Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. Very entertaining.
  • Interzone #232 with stories that had some interesting ideas and some nice artwork. As usual I preferred the more Science Fictional ones. Stories included:
    • Noam Chomsky And The Time Box by Douglas Lain. A story about a portable time machine gadget and a bloggers attempt to change time.
    • Intellectual Property by Michael R. Fletcher. To ensure company secrets employees wear a plug in their head which partitions their memory and results in no knowledge of their day job.
    • By Plucking Her Petals by Sarah L. Edwards. Fantasy story in which the essence of beauty can be sucked from people and resold.
    • Healthy, Wealthy, And Wise by Sue Burke. A personal AI watched over a young woman on a visit to Spain.
  • Started Zero History by William Gibson. About two pages in.
  • Usual collection of blogs. I seem to constantly have about ten tabs open on my browser of things to read and ten articles left unread in Google Reader. Far too much to read. I might have to start culling blogs.

Watched

No SF TV at the moment. Although the Outcasts trailer is on heavy repeat on the BBC. Service is interesting beyond the usual reality show, I’ve been fascinated at how a group of young men and women are motivated to become better at something. It ties in with the books I’ve been reading about success and how to get better at things. No shouting by Michel Roux, just calm, positive, patient encouragement which seems to be paying dividends.

 

Listened To

Even fewer podcasts this week.

  • 37Signals on hiring.
  • Kermode and Mayo's film reviews, including talk of the BAFTA nominations.
  • The Decemberists – The King Is Dead. Just discovered them on Spotify despite hearing about them a while ago. Folky and I’m liking it.

 

Writing
  • Submitted a story every day again. I’m now on the highest number of submissions and responses I’ve ever had in a month, with so far one sale.
  • Started writing a new story, but as usual came up with an idea and no plot. Wrote the first few paragraphs then stalled.

 

Blogged
  • Usual collection of random stuff on my Tumblr blog http://bigdumbobject.tumblr.com/. It’s usually stuff that’s not quite SF, and without much comment. In other words a tumblelog. Or a proper old skool weblog. Like in the old days. When we were kids.

January 24, 2011

Most Wanted 22.01.11

Things I most want this week:

  • Another book of the Malcolm Gladwell ilk. Searching for recommendations.
  • More awards shortlists.
  • Outcasts. Again. And still. The longer trailer been shown all over the BBC frequently looks really good. And, it’s embedded below.

January 22, 2011

Week Notes 22nd Jan 2011

Week notes seem like a good idea on a busy, productive week. On other weeks it makes we wonder of their usefulness. It also makes me think about what I've actually done, and what is important. However I shall try and continue....

This week I have:

Watched
  • Hustle. Continues to be enjoyable and even more remarkably keeps me guessing. Upbeat fun with Grifters as the stars.
  • Episodes. I'm surprised that it's written by US writers as it has a very UK feel to it, probably due to Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan. Enjoyably snarky.
  • Camp Rock. Not as good as High School Musical.(!)
Reading
Listened To
  • I Should Be Writing.
  • Kermode and Mayo's Film Review.
Writing
  • Submitted a story every day.
  • Typed some more of my large story. I'm getting bored of typing, maybe I'll start trying out the voice dictation software on my laptop?

 

A noticeably lack of SF there, despite a to-read SF book pile about a metre high. However I've been enjoying reading some non-fiction brain food books. In fact I definitely want to read some more, just need some good recommendations.

January 18, 2011

Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson

Throughout the entirety of Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation' by Steven Johnson the comparison is made between biological evolution and innovation (or invention). It’s an intriguing comparison, what’s similar between a coral reef and a hotbed of innovation, say Silicon Valley.

Steve Johnson takes us through a series of arguments and ideas about innovation, from the concepts of adjacent possibilities to liquid networks to slow hunches to serendipity, and shows how these effects are cumulative.

One of the key results is counter-intuitive to what we are led to believe in the Western world: capitalism is not the real driving force of innovation. It’s not the opportunity for a single genius inventor to make a fortune that drives the majority of significant innovations, in fact open, networked conditions are the most fertile.

Fascinating, and heartening stuff.

And entertaining. The writing is lively and enjoyable and contains a strong narrative. The insight of the accumulation of the ideas presented in each chapter meant that I couldn’t wait to reach the conclusion. Whilst along the way there were many moments that caused me to sit silently, mind whirring. Thinking.

Even the appendix is fascinating, a chronology of key innovations from 1400 to 2000.

Recommended.

January 17, 2011

Shortlists For The 2010 BSFA Awards

Here are the shortlists for the 2010 BSFA Awards (announcement here).

That’s a pretty good selection of novels, and I’ve actually read three of them (still to read Zoo City and Lightborn). Out of those three my favourite is The Dervish House, which I loved a lot.

I’ve only read one of the short stories though (by Peter Watts) and none of the non-fiction so I can’t really comment there other than noting: that’s two shorts for Interzone, a trio of blogs and a podcast. Varied, and I’d guess pretty representative. Also, some great artwork nominated, hard to choose a favourite.

Best Novel

  • Paolo Bacigalupi – The Windup Girl (Orbit)
  • Lauren Beukes – Zoo City (Angry Robot)
  • Ken Macleod – The Restoration Game (Orbit)
  • Ian McDonald – The Dervish House (Gollancz)
  • Tricia Sullivan – Lightborn (Orbit)

Best Short Fiction

  • Nina Allan – ‘Flying in the Face of God’ – Interzone 227, TTA Press.
  • Aliette de Bodard – ‘The Shipmaker’– Interzone 231, TTA Press.
  • Peter Watts – ‘The Things’ – Clarkesworld 40
  • Neil Williamson – ‘Arrhythmia’ – Music for Another World, Mutation Press

Best Non-Fiction

Best Art

  • Andy Bigwood – cover for Conflicts (Newcon Press)
  • Charlie Harbour – cover for Fun With Rainbows by Gareth Owens (Immersion Press)
  • Dominic Harman – cover for The Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (Gollancz)
  • Joey Hi-Fi –cover for Zoo City, by Lauren Beukes (Angry Robot)

Most Wanted 17.01.11

Things I most want this week:

  • The new series of Being Human. Loads of trailers on the BBC, the last two series have been great. Starts on BBC Three on Sunday 23rd January 2011.
  • Source Code. Not out until April.
  • Black Swan. Darren Aronofsky does ballet!
  • Awards lists, lots of awards lists.

January 15, 2011

Week Notes 14th Jan 2011

Things I've consumed this week...

Watched

Read

Reading
  • Schismatrix by Bruce Sterling
  • Wired. I have six months of partially read issues.

Listened to
  • Shift Run Stop
  • Digital Planet
  • Kermode and Mayo's Film Review



January 11, 2011

Deep Rooted Confidence. Do Writers Ever Find It?

This is a post about confidence, but first of all I need to talk about Cricket, stay with me it's all relevant...

The England Cricket team have just beaten Australia in The Ashes Test Series, in Australia. This is a big deal because England haven't done that for 24 years. In fact it's fair to say that Australia have been a much better team than England for a long time. Yet this time something has changed: the English cricket team were really very good.

Even if you're not into cricket it's interesting talking about the psychology of this. How does a team change from being losers, to being winners?

Don't stop until the job is finished. Each Test match can last up to five days. The attitude of the English players at the end of each days play was fascinating, no matter how good a position they were in, the usual quote was "we've got a lot of hard work to do yet". Even when a match was won they never seemed satisfied, "we've not won The Ashes yet". (The series is five matches, if the series is drawn the holders retain The Ashes, so England only had to draw the series because they won it in England in 2009.) Even when they retained The Ashes, it was "We haven't won the series yet." They wanted to win. Everything.

It was about the team. Another feature of the player interviews was the continuous refusal to talk about themselves and instead talk about the team. Talk about how someone else did a great job, talk about how the team did a great job, talk about us.

Deep Rooted Confidence. England didn't win every match in the series they lost the third match quite badly (after drawing the first and winning the second comprehensively). However the last two matches were won by England extremely comprehensively. When talking about recovering from the defeat, England Captain Andrew Strauss said that they always believed they could win because they had deep rooted confidence. In other words England had such belief in their ability that they knew they were going to win, that the loss was a blip, that they could play better cricket than Australia.

So my question is this (yes, I've got to the point) do writers ever get Deep Rooted Confidence?

Personally, I constantly doubt my ability. I read my stories and think they're rubbish. I um and ahh about whether my story is good enough for the pro magazines. I worry that I'm not getting any better. I definitely do not have Deep Rooted Confidence.

Does anyone else? Is it even possible for writers? If so, how do you achieve it?

January 10, 2011

Most Wanted 10.01.11

Things that I most want right now:

  • Outcasts. The new year trailer is showing repeatedly on the BBC with clips of Outcasts. It looks good. No sign of a date as to when it will be shown..
  • New Doctor Who. Also included in the aforementioned trailer are clips from the new Doctor Who series. The Doctor in a Stetson. Do we really have to wait until Easter?
  • Time to read. As always, too many books and the inability to carve out enough time to read them.

January 5, 2011

BSFA Nominations Nearing Close. My eligible stories.

If your'e a BSFA member it's time to nominate for the BSFA Awards, and time to do it quick because nominations close on midnight 14th January. Here's the full details, but basically send a list of your favourite novels, short stories, non-fiction and artwork to Donna and she will work the magic of award nomination collation.

I've got a couple of stories eligible:

The Rules Of Utopia published in DayBreak Magazine

If you like them, then don't be shy, nominate them.

January 3, 2011

Doctor Who - A Christmas Carol

The 2010 Doctor Who Christmas special and the first from Steven Moffat. The Christmas special is now traditional since the start of Nu Who. Also traditional is that the episodes were great fun (influenced by missing Doctor Who for months) but ultimately lacking, and often with ridiculous RTD plot escapology. Moffat did better.

What I love about Steven Moffat's writing for Doctor Who so far is the use of time travel. For to0 long the TARDIS has just been a convenient plot mechanic for getting to somewhere new, used at the start and the end of the episode (someone now is going to point out that on average that's not true, citing the Tom Baker episode from 1976 as the perfect example, go on....). Moffat has turned the TARDIS into a time machine, like it really is.

Crucial to the time travelling stories is the fact that The Doctor can control the TARDIS accurately, something that io9 recently examined in detail. A time machine that can be controlled suddenly opens up a huge swathe of interesting plot choices, leave external forces to push The Doctor somewhere unexpected and let him use his machine to solve problems. Much better.

A Christmas Carol continues the time travelling idea with great success and piles it on top of a perfect Christmassy story. It's the most Christmassy Doctor Who yet, and the best Christmas special. Yes there were some minor negatives: the fish swimming through the air felt like an unnecessary monster, but I guess it was for the kids in case they weren't hooked by the time travelling love story. The shark drawn sleigh was also very silly. Apart from that the episode was brilliant.

Gambon was fantastic as Sardick the Scrooge, a perfect foil for the increasingly impressive Matt Smith. He's turning into a great Doctor. Adding quality actors doesn't always pay off, it needs good writing to prevent turning into stunt casting, but Moffat provided the script and the story: great dialogue and great story. And talking of stunt casting, classical singer Katherine Jenkins was perfectly fine as the frozen Abigail. Yes she sang to a big shark, but yes she can act as well.

I loved the time travelling dinks, slipping from present day into the black and white projected film was pure style. Then the yearly visits, as The Doctor lived a crazy week in Christmas Eves. Including marrying Marilyn Monroe, and name-dropping Father Christmas (aka Geoff). Witty and touching. All the thoughts that time couldn't be changed were thrown out the window as The Doctor relentlessly pursued making Sardick a good man. Only to realise that the result didn't change (couldn't change?) and it was The Doctor himself who made Sardick what he was. Nice.

It also helped that Amy and Rory were out of the way for an episode, letting The Doctor loose in the way that the other Christmas specials tried to.

The poetic tendencies of the episode is exhibited by the brilliant line to sum up the Christmas festival "halfway out of the darkness." I like it.

And to top it all, the also traditional trailer for the upcoming series! Nazis! Men in black! The Oval Office! Stetsons! River Song!

Oh yes.

January 2, 2011

My Writing Year

It’s the start of a new year, so I’ve decided to look back on 2010 from the point of view of my writing.

I’ve had a couple of successes, and hit some major milestones, but overall this year had felt a bit weak.

Success

On the success side my story The Rules Of Utopia was published in DayBreak Magazine, which was my first pro sale. Also, my story Together was published in A Fly In Amber. And I won the James White Award with my story Flock, Shoal, Herd. All three of these stories I really like so it was great for them to find a home or recognition.

Also an achievement, although it doesn’t feel like a success, was tackling my large backlog of handwritten stories. I started in September, and haven’t finished yet, typing up thirty stories so far.

 

Failure

The number of stories I submitted this year was the lowest ever, only twenty, a very poor effort. One of the things within my control is the amount of stories I submit, I should raise my level.

My production of new stories this year has also been very low, and those that were finished felt like a tortuous process. Writing does not appear to be getting easier.

The amount of time I spent writing has been lower than usual, for a variety of reasons. This is something almost within my control, or rather within my control to a certain extent, and so I should spend more hours writing.

I failed to sell anything to Print. This includes anthologies or print magazines. Maybe this milestone is becoming less important but I’d still like to see my work in print in paper.

 

Aims For 2010

  • To work harder and get better. The harder bit sounds easy: write more hours? Perhaps. But it needs to be effective effort and I’m not quite sure how to achieve that yet. Which is frustrating because I thin getting better derives from working harder and effectively. I need to be productive not just churn away.
  • Submit more stories. I’m going to try submitting one story a day and see how far I get. I’ll probably run out of markets or stories.
  • Write some quality short stories.
  • Sell stories to more pro markets. (Hopefully a consequence of the previous two points.)
  • Start thinking about my novels again.

Is that enough? Are they too vague? Not sure, I’ll let them change as the year goes on, but that’s what I’m starting with.

January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Yes I know it's an arbitrary day to mark another journey around the sun, but it's convention. So, I'd like to wish a happy and wonderful new year to everyone. I hope 2011 is good for you.