The Best-Laid Plans

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…Are often derailed by that mythical thing some call “real life”, or at least, life as lived anywhere off the journal page. I’ve spotted an absolutely perfect research opportunity and am currently focusing the majority of my efforts (other than the background level of writing stories I need to do to avoid going nuts) on catching up on my field, because it’s been a while and if I’m to have a hope of doing serious research again I need to know what’s up!

So, fingers crossed it all turns out well! More to follow later, depending of course on the outcome of something so very uncertain!

Temporal Morality

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And moral temporality.

I passed – I can’t remember where, or I’d reference it – someone else’s Twitter discussion about whether or not people’s attitudes should be forgiven because they lived in a past time, and whether or not that changes if they’re still alive. I then, apparently, continued to think about it for a while, and thus this post was born.

So: is being “a product of their time” a valid reason for a person’s (presumably currently out of favour with the speaker) opinions, moral or otherwise?

Well… it depends. Continue reading

Distant Realms!!!

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Hey! At long, long last, I finally have hosting for my actual honest to goodness website! And it can be found over here, still very much under construction but worth checking out day to day to see which pages have updated! (Currently best: “Waypoint”. Also in decent nick: the BtSF book page, with up-to-date live links and everything!)

For now, I’m still posting here. When I get my database and other interesting goodies sorted out, current thoughts and other such posts will migrate over there: eventually I want to have everything in the one place.

Which isn’t anything against WordPress. They’ve been good to me. 🙂

A Continuing Infuriation

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It’s minor, I know, and I’m sure that the rest of the world finds me as periodically infuriating as I find it. Quite sure, in fact, since it will insist on letting me know. Heaven forbid in this era that anyone might define their use of language with common rules, after all. Everyone clearly seems quite sure that rules of language exist only so that those who know more of them can look down on those who know fewer.

At this point it probably won’t do any good to speak up for myself. It’s far too late for that, by all I see. Too late to point out that the reason I like rules and structure (and will bend them in accordance with certain secondary rules, at times) is because otherwise I don’t know what’s going on. Either a word has a certain meaning, or none at all: once learnt my mind doesn’t easily change such a thing. It’s a quirk of my way of thinking, as much as any other person’s mode of thought has its own quirks. I’ll not change an electron’s nature by calling it a proton, and being woolly in mathematics will get me nowhere.

I’m built for physics, I suppose.

And so what seems the rest of the English-speaking world will continue to claim that a word means exactly what they mean it to mean, no more nor less, and those of us who cannot even begin to guess without rules what they might wish to mean are left not just lost but insulted as well in passing as if it is so great an evil to dare value the rules by which I learnt to speak.

(…As for the degree of floweriness used in this particular post, it’s probably proof that I should never be allowed to write a blog post while also being shown one of the film versions of Macbeth.)

Grow Up and Take Responsibility

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So here I am, reading the Guardian, aka the good old Grauniad, whose most egregious error thus far today has been “reign in” instead of the correct “rein in”, which is pretty awful when you think about it, considering that to reign is to have power; to rule, whereas reins are an apparatus of control. (Usually over a horse. I’m sure you’ve seen one on TV.) To “rein in” that animal is to get it under control. To “reign in” a place or metaphorical place means to rule that place, e.g. “compassion reigned [ruled] in his heart, reining in [controlling] his anger”. (Cheesy, but you get the idea. Although incidentally, unlike rule, as far as I know you can’t “reign” something, you have to “reign over” or “reign in” it — I’m sure there’s a word for that.)

This, however, has nothing to do with this post, which was originally going to be a bit of a Twitter rant but got too long for a 140-character chain, or even 280-character chain if whatever that scuttlebutt about the text limit I was hearing was based on is true.

Specifically, this post is about this article here, where everyone witters on about how “like” buttons are terrible. It’s actually more nuanced than that, and some of the points are relevant enough to be worth taking into consideration for those who haven’t already. But my my main response, honestly, is just to get annoyed. Because, guess what? If you really hate notifications that much, THERE’S A BUTTON ON YOUR PHONE TO TURN THEM OFF. All of them, or selectively for individual programs, whatever suits you. (Admittedly Ingress manages to reset that control switch every time it updates, but then I’m also about ready to uninstall Ingress as a result, so I’m still going to win either way.) If you really hate Twitter that much, delete your goddamn account. If you think facebook is ruining your life THEN JUST EFFING LEAVE ALREADY. I did. Makes no difference to me whatsoever. No account — no login — no nothing. And don’t you dare tell me it’s impossible to communicate with friends etc. without it. How exactly do you think we all grew up? If your friends are worth keeping, they’ll stay in touch. If not, it’s probably better to know sooner rather than later.

But to sit there and complain about how you regret not spending time with your kids because you’re on your phone? YOU MADE THAT CHOICE. I don’t care how easy it was or how seductive a binging sound the (unmuted for some inexplicable reason) phone made (with the notifications that you didn’t turn off), you preferred the phone to the children and at the end of the day THAT WILL ALWAYS BE ON YOU.

Get your act together. I agree facebook is godawful for a great many reasons (that’s a whole other post), but then that would be why I don’t have an account. Twitter — I check when I feel like it, and mostly I just use it to tweet either funny or angry screeds, whatever’s on my mind. The only thing on my phone that has any priority settings active are texts and phone calls. And guess what? My social circle — my high-tech computer-building circle, no less — are all cool with that.

FORGETTING YOUR KIDS IS ON YOU. YOU AND YOU ALONE. That is the be-all and end-all of that situation. Get off the damn phone, or sell it and buy an old model that only receives texts and calls if you’re really that much of a suggestible* screwup, I don’t care, but don’t make out your failings to be somebody else’s fault. facebook and its ilk have enough actually wrong with them that there’s really no need to blame them for your inability to look after your own child as well.

*I say this from the perspective of someone who is by nature hideously suggestible, prone to believing any and every “authority” that makes a statement in my hearing about any subject I don’t know much about, and actively worries every time I ignore my phone that I might be missing something important. (Pro tip: I never am.) You have no excuse.

Well, Isn’t That Sweet

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I’m seeing more and more and more writers (they guest-post on Mr. Wendig’s blog at terribleminds.com, which I read) wondering how they can write “while the world burns”. And I’m glad they’re noticing, I really am, you have no idea.

But damn did it take you guys a long time and it being on your doorstep to notice.

I’m sure it’s nice to express your frustration and nice to feel like someone else feels that way and maybe get a bit of backslapping for your “oh god everything is shit” moment.

But too much of this and it’ll just be a circle-jerk. Nobody will do anything, they’ll all be too busy talking about how they have to do something.

If the world is burning then get a fire extinguisher.

If there’s genocide in Rwanda or torture in Russia then write a lot of politely worded very pointed letters to every diplomat you and Amnesty International can think of. (I was six. I was six and the world wasn’t as nice as it should have been, so I repeatedly told it to get better. It might even have helped.)

But waiting until there’s something less bad than genocide on your doorstep and then realising that maybe the world isn’t all sunshine and roses and then wanting to know how to go on alongside that?

You guys always were going on alongside it. You were (probably) there for the genocide. (I don’t know how old you are, but not being would make you pretty young.) But because you didn’t have a front row seat, it didn’t exist. You were there for the clusterfuck that was the invasion of Iraq. You were there for all the other atrocities that happened throughout my life, and that are still happening. People died every day, and still do, but the world wasn’t “burning” because you, personally, thought you were safe.

So I guess it just strikes me as a little self-centred. Which people are, and to an extent have to be, or we’d all forget to eat because we were doing more important things, and would starve. *Insert clip from Look Around You here.*

In fact, that’s about the right phrase. Look Around You. It’s always been this way.

It just wasn’t on your doorstep before.

So please, clear up your doorstep, and then whatever you do do not close your eyes and go back to thinking everything is okay. It’s not okay, it’s never been okay, things only get better if we work at it, if we stay aware of where the bad things are and then do something about them.

And yes, write books too. That’s important. Very important. Other minds and other viewpoints — if people don’t see those, the seeds are sown already.

Writers (of any stripe – book, film, comic, serial, you name it) share thoughts and ideas and strange new perspectives with the world. They make other people laugh and cry and think. Think things they never would have thought otherwise.

Now, as always, we need those ideas.

But don’t go complaining about how the world is worse and suddenly you can’t. It’s not worse, you just weren’t looking before. The rock is lifted. There’s a maggoty badger corpse down there, grinning at you with its half-decayed flesh hanging off the skull. But it was still there before, so… clear up the corpse, or write anyway, or clear it up and write anyway. (That’s what I do.)

Just don’t you dare claim it never existed before.

(But I am very, very glad that you’ve finally noticed it. Now pass me that shovel, because I think the tail’s fallen off.)

Aliens Used Our Bog Roll – In Wales!!!

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Good evening, everyone!

So what’s all this about aliens? Well, you see, it’s a tale of inexplicable mystery in the night, of occurrences so fantastic and improbable that surely no earthly force could have been responsible. Surely the only explanation could have been something uncanny, even supernatural… or could it?


It’s a fine late evening in a seaside town in Wales. The two of us are out walking along the pier in the night, past the closed shops and rides, while the rest of the party remains in the arcade. I never was much of a one for gambling, and, since I have a gamer’s reflexes, I darn well notice when a machine is cheating me. (It’s happened.)

Pausing to look out across the bay, I can see past the headland of this one and into the next. (Or possibly I can just see England, I’m not quite sure. I know it is possible from here, in good weather.) I spot a really bright light, moving back and forth above the town lights on the shore, and point it out — is that a helicopter?

Pretty cool, then, but not that interesting. We walk on.

I look at the distant shore again, because it’s pretty, and I realise that the light I thought was above the lights of the distant town is actually on the somewhat nearer far headland, moving back and forth as if it’s negotiating a series of S-bends. Which, on a steep face, is reasonably likely. I point it out again, realising it must just be a car on full beam, and I misplaced it while glancing at it earlier. The headlights are close enough together to look like a single light at this distance, and so bright they’re reflecting in the waters of the bay. It weaves back and forth as I watch, presumably rounding the tip of the headland.

We walk on, and suddenly the light darts to the right, so fast it must be going over 90mph. Shocked, I stop again, and as I do it reaches another series of S-bends. Back and forth… but still not seeming to go either up or down.

Is it a helicopter? It couldn’t have got from above the city to the headland that fast, and it couldn’t have flown that fast from a circling start, and all the while it’s been a constant brightness. Now my mind is getting full of crazy things. I think about how bright the reflection in the water is: no way it’s a regular car. Or a regular helicopter. It’s not a plane, because they (mostly) can’t hold position like that. It’s nothing overly loud, or I’d hear it echoing across the gently rippling water, the swish of tiny waves the main sound.

So there’s no known object this thing can be. And what kind of military genius tests cutting-edge technology over a highly populated area?

But it can’t, can’t, can’t be aliens.

It just can’t. That would be stupid.

And all the while this insanely bright light is just weaving back and forth like it’s taunting me.

I look at the reflection again in the vain hope that will tell me something I couldn’t see in the air. Yellow-gold light on black water, it starts illuminating… not all the way to the far shore. At first I think it’s maybe halfway across the bay, then I recalibrate, remembering the rules of perspective. It looks halfway, which means it’s way, way closer than halfway.

Staring into the darkness, I slowly begin to make out something. A shape. A kind of triangle shape, black on black, the light at its tip…

I’m an idiot!

The light’s not bright, it’s just close by, sixty metres or so from me! It’s one of the conical buoys that mark out sections of the bay! I saw them not ten hours ago! But it’s black against black water, black rock, and black sky… and that’s why I didn’t see it.

Seriously, Stop Saying That.

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I don’t know how long this has been getting on my nerves, to the point that I don’t even remember if I’ve complained about it before. But as it gets ever more prevalent, it also gets ever more annoying.

So let’s just stop, okay? Stop with this phrase “content creators”. That. Is Not. What I Do. I’m a writer. I’m an author. I’m a scribbler of random idiocies, if you like! (I’m also a mediocre artist and reasonable songwriter.) But I am not, not, not a “content creator”. And here’s why.

“Content”. What does that even mean? The content of what? It makes the bucket more important than the molten gold pile of jewels er, writing. Here and now, WordPress is my bucket, because I’m busy and still haven’t got around to setting up my website. But WordPress — good as they have been to me — isn’t what’s important. People don’t visit this blog because it’s on WordPress.com. They don’t buy Before the Sun Fades because it’s on Smashwords.com. They do these things to read my writing. (Possibly they later regret it.) I could stop doing this and, yeah, WordPress, Smashwords, Amazon, B&N, and everywhere else wouldn’t lose a wink of sleep over it. But I could also just move it to another site. And that site won’t be important either.

“Content creator” says to me that the bucket is all that matters. It says it doesn’t matter what goes into the bucket, grotty pig vomit or your friend’s cat’s regurgitated hairballs or a giant pile of dust from the vacuum cleaner or the corpse of a bird I found lying on the roadside. (I found one of those just the other day. It was really interesting, it had been dessicated somewhere else and then knocked down to the pavement, so you could see all the structure of the bones under the stretched-parchment skin.) It says, ha ha you sucker, you think what you’re doing is important to anyone? What you’re doing is only important to feeding Youtube’s bottom line.

And maybe it is. (Or at least, maybe my various hosts get more money out of my writing than I do.) But at the same time, it definitionally isn’t.

“Creator” I’ll take. It’s what I do, I make stuff. But I’m not making it for your bucket, or their bucket, or anybody’s bucket. And I think I’ve already proven that if I don’t like the look of the bucket that’s being held out to me, I’ll walk off and find or downright make another one that I like better.