Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Inadvertent writing research

I visited the optician this evening for a two-yearly check up. As I suspected, my near vision is steadily going downhill (along with most of my physique). It’s that little thing called age.

On the plus side, my eyes - apart from the overall loss of shape - are in very good health. So I have an extremely healthy pair of eyes that can’t see a lot. Oh well.

But I digress.

Reaching that conclusion involved eye drops to dilate the pupils, and a lengthy examination staring into bright lights.

Very bright lights.

Painfully bright, in fact.

To distract myself from this torture, during which I completely forgot which was left and which was right when it came to following instructions, I thought about the technology in Tiamat’s Nest, and in particular the kind of nasty tricks hackers play on each other in that world.

This not-too-distant-future story includes implants that delivery fully immersive virtual reality through direct stimulation of visual and auditory centres. The implants are equipped with safety limits that stop any damaging stimuli, but hackers can override the implants and over-stimulate nerves to the point of inflicting permanent damage.

Several times in the story, there are examples of painful attacks of sound and vision, but I’ve always worried that they come across as a bit tame. After all, it’s only loud sounds and bright lights, right?

But picture staring into something as bright as the sun, and not being able to shut it out! Closing your eyes or turning your head does nothing because the sensations are being fed straight into your brain.

My experience this evening persuaded me that even safe exposures can be painful, so maybe it isn’t so wimpy after all.

Have you ever managed to conduct some writing research without even realizing it?


  1. Hi Ian - can see your thoughts here - and it's great you've got that first-hand experience ... and we're lucky there are people who look after our eyes. Good luck with including some of these deteriorations on life into your book - or just utilising some senior things that happen regardless of our age.

    I do take on board as much as I can about illnesses, as generally in a family we've been relatively lucky, so this latter part of my life since my mother and uncle were ill, subsequently dying, and I've been blogging I pick up on things that suddenly come to the fore with others in life ...

    Lots to keep us occupied with our writing and our thoughts - cheers Hilary

  2. Not wimpy at all. And you could make it even more dangerous such as staring at the eclipse with no protection.

  3. Curiously, the last time I had my eyes checked my vision had improved.

  4. Hilary, yes there's lots of fodder for writing out there in Real Life :)

    Alex, not sure that something associated with the POTUS would be a positive selling point!

    Stephen, you were lucky. I think it's just downhill now for me :(

  5. It might not be all downhill for your vision. I had cataract surgery in 2001 or so, and after that, I could see better than ever. :) I've had glaucoma for the past few years, so I have to get that bright light kind of testing several times a year, so I know what you mean. (And remember how our parents warned us about looking into our flashlights...?)

    In a way, I think every day is full of potential writing research if we keep our eyes and ears open.

    Your book sounds good. Sold ME! I just bought it.

  6. Wow! Thank you Susan. I hope you enjoy it.

    1. I'm sure I will... but it may be a while before I get to it. It's patiently waiting its turn... :)

  7. Hehehe I was just talking with my mom about it yesterday. How a lot of stuff I've experienced plays into stuff people write about in the stories I edit. It's not that I purposefully research stuff, but I understand things simply since I've experienced them.

  8. Misha, I think that is partly what they mean by "write what you know" - the most authentic writing draws at least in part on personal experiences.

  9. I am sorry to hear about your eyesight.

    Reading about the implant in your story and what could happen if the nerves are over-stimulated...yeah...I wouldn't want that to happen to me.

  10. Chrys, the eyesight's just a natural ageing thing. I'm relieved that everything is otherwise healthy!

  11. Hi human, Ian,

    I think that you might be going more uphill and downhill in a most pawsitive way.

    My human had a bit of eyesight problem caused by him being vain and insisting on wearing contact lenses. A broken contact lens is never recommended.

    Here's to your health, my fine human friend.

    I think I might just of done some writing research without even realising it.

    Pawsitive wishes,

    Penny 🐶

  12. Ouch, Penny, a broken contact lens does not seem like a good idea at all! I hope Gary all right now.

  13. My eyes sound similar to yours. I find myself reaching for reading glasses almost anytime I sit down at the computer these days.

    Funny how we convert our daily experiences to writing research. Guess that means our brains are in better shape than our eyes.


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