Monday, October 31, 2016

What the heck happened to October?

It’s Halloween, last day of October, and it’s been a bloody exhausting month. Lots of things happening ... good, not so good, and just plain tiring. In the whole month it seems there’s hardly been a normal routine day, let alone week.

One of the biggest factors is Megan joining the football team this season (yes, actual American-style football as opposed to real football that the Americans call soccer :) And that means practices after school and matches every week, so a lot of late evenings home and daily planning of logistics getting food on the table around all the other things in life.

We don’t begrudge the effort. She’s enjoying it, it’s doing her the world of good, and last Friday I caught the tail end of a home game on a crisp and bright afternoon. I don’t know anything about the game, but I learned enough to see what a nail-biting finish it was, and the best bit was - they won. Against last year’s champions!

Add in an unusual number of other sundry events - drop-offs, pick-ups, before- and after-school help, a conference, charity fundraisers, multiple sleepovers and camps and parties - all contribute to an overwhelming feeling of busyness this month.

Yes, it’s been busy, but mostly good-busy.

The only real downer was two weeks ago we lost Gypsy, our husky who’s been with us almost as long as we’ve been in Canada. It was sudden, no signs of illness leading up to it. And the hell of it was she’d been back & forth to the vet recently because of a knee injury we’d been nursing her through, and they said she was in good health overall. So when we found her flopped on the floor and having trouble getting to her feet we thought - daft pup’s been overdoing it again playing with Ellie. But Ali realized this was more serious and whipped her off to the 24-hour hospital (why did she always insist on finding trouble on the weekends?) and within an hour she was gone.

On the writing front, I’ve completed a few passes through The Ashes of Home and tidied up a lot of points from my revision notes. The scene list (which I blogged about last month) has been very helpful in making adjustments to the order, tightening up timelines, and evening out points of view. I must remember that tool for future projects.

Over the weekend I printed the whole thing out for my first serious nit-picking pass through, which I always like to do on paper. Soon be ready for critique partners.

Saturday, October 15, 2016


How reliable do you think your childhood memories are? Are all those half-remembered events and general impressions from decades ago truly representative, or are they distorted through filters your life has since placed around them?

I got to wondering about this recently, with the unusually damp Autumn we’re enjoying up on the west coast. The last couple of days in particular, I’ve been saying to myself, this reminds me of Guernsey winters.

My recollection, especially from my teens, is of long spells of leaden skies, blustery winds, and endless rain. Day after day I’d wait for the bus, trudge up through St. Peter Port to school, and dash from class to class (my school was spread out over many separate buildings) to the sound of drops pattering on my umbrella. Rain coats and umbrellas were essential accessories.

When we moved from Guernsey to Victoria, we remarked again and again how different conditions were here. Yes, annual rainfall is pretty similar but here it mostly seemed to fall at night. Hauling groceries in a wet dash to & from the car seemed to be consigned to an occasional (as in maybe once or twice a year) discomfort rather than the expected norm.

As people in the office grumble, I find myself glibly saying, this is nothing compared to where I came from. But at the same time I can’t help wondering how objective I can be. Having made such a drastic move twelve years ago, it’s easy to fall into the trap of selective memory. We want our new home to be better, to have made the right decision, so are we selectively playing up the good sides and contrasting with the frustrations of our former home?

How about you? How do you view your life from year ago, and what filters today might be unwittingly distorting those memories?

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The pace of change

I’m an IT director in our provincial government, and last week my ministry organized a two-day conference to explore themes and trends in technology.

One of the biggest messages I took from those two days - reinforced by one speaker after another - was the pace of change in the technology world.

It’s scary!

No, I mean really scary, as in ten years from now will anyone who’s an adult today even understand the world any more?

Ideas that were pure science fiction ten years ago are reality today. And the scariest part is that the pace of change is exponential. That means that in five years time we’ll be living with technology that is speculative and far-fetched today. And the same will be true a mere two years after that. Then a year after that.

Will we be able to recognize the world a generation from now?

Regardless of the real world, this poses serious problems for sci-fi writers. We all know how novels from the 1950s feel dated today because of the changes in technology, but they still enjoyed a few decades’ shelf life first.

Ten years ago I was writing a novel (which I never finished) that involved computers worn as jewelry, gesture recognition, direct neural stimulation to provide sensory input, and an exclusively virtual interface. That all seemed safely far-fetched back then, but ten years on all those elements are here today in some form or another.

When I wrote Tiamat’s Nest, autonomous self-driving cars still seemed safely a few decades away because computers as a whole were still too prone to stupid errors and failures to be entrusted with the task. But this year we have them on the streets in some cities. That frightens me because no matter how well they perform when things are going well, computers are still dangerously error-prone. Not to mention prone to malware, and how about the prospect of being kidnapped by your own car - the ultimate in ransomware?

So, to all member of Homo Sapiens V1.0 out there, how do you cope with the accelerating pace of change in the real world. And to sci-fi writers, how do you stay speculative when the most way-out ideas you have might become reality before your book is even published?
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