“I really don’t mind if you sit this one out,
My words but a whisper, your deafness a shout.” (Jethro Tull, Thick as a Brick)
I’ve just heard that The Chronicles of Davids is being released on the third of September. I have a story in this alongside such luminaries as David Drake and David Weber (Honestly the only way I get into that kind of company is by having my maternal grandfather and my great uncle’s names. Names were few and far between in those days, and when people found one they tended to keep using them until they wore out. They weren’t like these disposable modern names, that show scuff-marks after a few years, let along centuries. But they don’t make like that anymore.) Read more
“As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods,
They kill us for their sport.” (King Lear, William Shakespeare)
That’s rather how my poor characters must feel. And not a god they can appease, but the sort of rotten bastard whose divine purpose was to maintain the sacrificial stone knife industry. Read more
In a fit of whimsy (I have them often) I set out to write a book which takes as its starting point the idea that the ‘kooky new-age ideas’, everything you might find in the Fortean Times, from Mystic Crystals to Lemuria to Burrowing Llamas… is, if not actually per se ‘true’ but had its origins in something that, with broken telephone style oral tradition, gave birth to the idea. It’s a very tongue-in-cheek story… pure and unrestrained space opera, with disbelief suspended because the reader chooses to let go and enjoy, rather than being (for want of a better word) conned into going along with what superficially seems sort-of plausible.
I say this and I’ll have people in tinfoil hats accusing me of betraying the secrets of the Ancients. The principal secret of the ancients seems to have been to live much shorter lives. The other secrets, such as women having perhaps two dresses, and there being no flush toilets are considered too unbelievable to even be used in fiction these days. Read more
The book, in the forms we might recognize it, has been around for a heartbeat in terms of the universe. Even now, we discuss it’s demise, as we read on our e-readers, or our phones, and the shelves of paper seem so dusty and old-fashioned. Scientists come up with even newer ways to store data – they have encoded cat videos on DNA, to sum up the absurdity of the internet in one small petri dish. They have stored data on molecules that could endure for millions of years (at least, theoretically, none of them having proved that hypothesis).
Just like the storage of data on other mediums, though, this has it’s own problems. Paper is flammable and wettable. 8-tracks, cassette tapes, hard drives, CDs DVDs Blue rays and many many more need specialized readers to access the data stored on them. Sure, molecular data storage is tiny and durable. But do they make handheld mass spectrometers yet? Oh, wait, yes they do. And unlike many spectrometer detectors, the process is non-destructive of the sample being read (again, in theory. But we’re talking science fiction right now, not mass practicality for many people to carry in their pocketses). So yes, in theory we could have millions of books for millions of years, as long as we remember how to read them. Read more
This is, perhaps, only tangentially related to writing. But it is something that slots neatly into the genre that many of us write when you consider that a lot of science fiction never discusses just how we’re going to feed all those people in space. Food production is going in interesting directions at this point in our technological development. Vat meat seems to be getting near the point of practical mass production for the reasonable cost that, if not the general public, the sector that considers themselves constantly in danger from their food, and are willing to pay up to 200% more for the placebo effect of feeling their food is safer (even if the data in no way backs those claims about Organic foods). Yes, you can raise a vat of algae and call it food in space. In theory, at least. Read more
Biosafety is just as important for the Mad Scientist as it is for the rest of us scientists who are varying degrees of peeved, ticked, and not-quite-on-kilter. Without good lab practices, the Mad one might wind up cross contaminating his experiment and yield fluffy bunnies wielding switchblades instead of his intended Rabid Cape Buffalo of Doom! Or he might catch his own engineered plague and instead of half the world dying it’s only him, alone, futile, forgotten, slowly mummifying on the lab floor.
There are four biosafety levels, in regular labs. I think as a writer you might safely add a MS5 to the end of the list, but we will begin with the categories you’d find in any old lab here in the land of liberty and biohackers. Along the way I’ll discuss things like waste disposal, the problems of acquiring source material, and, well, being Mad isn’t as easy as it looks on TV. Read more
Ever wanted to be more creative? Feeling like you just can’t come up with any good ideas? Stuck on ways to throw a curveball in your plot?
How about a jolt to the old brainwaves? Just strap on this helmet, and press that button, and your brainwaves can be remotely controlled to block out the common, dull, familiar associations. You’ll be thinking outside the box! And it takes no effort on your part! Writer’s block is a thing of the past!! Read more