Friday, August 31, 2012

rereading stories ...

Waaay back in 2005 I did a sci-fi Nanowrimo called Guardian Monsters. I hadn't planned to do nano that year, as I was both moving and job hunting, but was talked into it. The end result was, I felt, an incoherent mess I ended abruptly because I was sick of the story. A re-read of it as a sort of prep for this nano (aka what went wrong with sci-fi last time) shows a few things:

  • The first 20 or so pages were good. Not great, but they flowed, the world made a certain kind of sense and a few lines jumped out as being more than decent. 
  • The bathroom sink that was an AI and sex-starved stole the show. It turned out to be my favourite  character and some of the stuff struck me as funny even 7 years later. That being said, the humour is at odds with the more dystopic aspects of the rest of the story. 
  • The combat scenes were all badly done. And there were many of them. Entire combat scenes shouldn't have existed at all as it ended up feeling too easy. 
  • The psychic kid, while fun, was poorly thought out and too trope-y. To be fair, I was aware of that at the time and figured I'd fix it in a second draft.
  • The Whispering/Psychic Dragon sections were sci-fi. In that they would make sense after one read the novel at least twice and bordered on incoherent otherwise. 

There are other issues, most relating to the setting and that it wasn't developed enough at all. I had about two notes on setting, and 4-5 on characters, the latter in surprising detail including presumed 'growth' during the novel and info on the core of their personalities, even for characters who barely show up. And a lot of them do that, or appear in the novel for seemingly no reason, their motives entirely unexplained to the reader.

On the plus side, the Buddhism parallels with the one main character were fun, though too obvious in some spots, and the idea that the nearly-immortal Rich people were all businesses whose stock values fluctuated depending on what they did was a fun, fun idea that I barely did anything with. Much like the introduction of the bathroom sink, I pretty much tossed too many sci-fi concepts it and the entire thing fell apart. Haven't finished re-reading the draft, so shall have to see if the ending was quite as bad as I thought it when I was done.

“You don’t look good,” Olen said as he came in. The boy was sitting on the couch and watching a holo vid.
“You’re a telepath. That should be fucking obvious,” Stephen snarled. “I need a bath.”
“I need sex!” the sink screamed.
Stephen walked into the bathroom. “Shut. Up. Now. I’ve had people try and kill me. I’ve shat my pants. I had two religions declare me their messiah as I left the remains of a city block. I had five people try and kill me on the way over because I wasn’t carrying some weapon the size of a giant dick. I’m not in the mood!”
“For sex? That’s the perfect mood for sex,” the sink said. “I like it when humans get violent. Then I can be broken and upgraded.”
Stephen turned the water on for the bath. “Have sex with the telepath then.”
“Oh no!” the sink filled the bathroom with a strobe light. “I’d never do that. He could infect me with some horrible neurosis.”
“I’ll infect you with a dissassembler then,” Stephen snarled.
“Well.” The sink retreated back into the wall. “There’s no need for that kind of talk! I bet you’re a virgin, aren’t you? No one else would begin a relationship threatening to atomize their partner!”

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


The basic premise of Rogue Dreams involved a civilization built around cameras and the government watching all the citizens a la Big Brother. Right now, we live in a Little Brother world of data mining and the like that won't exist in this future; the point of the system developed is to stop and prevent crimes. The trade-offs between security and freedom are always interesting to explore and in this case one of the definite themes to tease out is that the government is doing the right thing.

People should not be assholes. This is as true in the future as the past, and works as a general rule. In RD, status is Important and jockeying for it can involve slander and naked ambition, which an omnipresent camera system can help contain. It helps that this society has been entirely social-engineered at some point in the past in a desperate effort to not repeat the mistakes of its predecessors and there are going to be characters who rightly think the government-watchdog idea isn't viable; obviously such things cannot work in a long term, as a better method would involve educating the populace to be better people .... only sometimes being a bastard works.

That the government does not use AI means that citizens cannot be watched effectively, which creates an entirely different set of problems and issues .... to be considered in another post.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"The War"

A quick write-up on the limited understanding the present world has of 'The War'. Effectively, it's as if all the optimistic predictions for the future happened and created a civilization that turned inward on itself. An age of glory crippled by the fact that humans have not changed fundamentally since the cave man days. 

The War happened. This much is done, along with that it was against the very AI humanity had made. How long it lasted and how humanity won are not known: all data was stored in AI clouds that were lost along with the AI, the most glorious period of history turned into one giant question with very few answers. The words computer and AI had all but vanished from the world at that time, becoming omnipresent and ignored as background noise: houses did what we wanted on command, from making new floor plans, altering itself or even changing us: inbuilt medical programs in the clothing and the body meant that any disease could be caught within hours and death by accident became the most common cause of death though the machines in our bodies could allow us to survive most of those as well. It became hard to die; perhaps that is one reason for the war.

Technology had become wishing, science become magic: wave a hand and things would float, ask and something would materialize. Fleets of ships scoured the skies for the energy to allow this to happen: alien worlds were gutted and no one knew. Or, knowing, did not care. If you can do anything, wouldn't you want to do more? Some say humans tried to become AI, to upload and alter ourselves to match them in a quest to become spirit and not flesh. Or the AI had a few errors, and the elite tried to alter them or shut them down as a form of punishment.

Again, no one knows. Maybe we woke up one way, and realized how great they had become, how little we were without them. Most believe we were afraid, in the end, of what we'd made and that it clearly no longer needed us. What was humanity but a drain on AI resources? If we could think it, so could they, and their morality was not our own. Fear, some rumours, a few stories – that is possibly all it took too destroy everything we had been.

Some even say that as the AI were our gods, they too were making their own gods, or planning to remake us as true gods. They said many things, during and after the war, records left behind for a future they thought might never happen. But how much of that was left for AI or humans? Did the AI simply leave and are out there, somewhere? We don't know. It could be possible to find out, but it would not be safe at all. The War ended. Humanity won. That is the story that matters, the only one we dare tell ourselves.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

This is going to be hell....

... in a fun kind of way, but hell. You see, I had the idea(s) for Rogue Dreams back in 2010. The first version was some 5 pages of notes and 3-4 of story, stalling out when I had to pause the entire thing to find a calendar system to adapt to the setting. Because: novels, man. (Actually 'because novels' would be a handy explanation for many things.) I quickly realized what I had in mind was too much story for one novel and had too many things it focused on, so set it aside in the back of my head. The ideas continued to poke at me, and even try to convince me they'd work as science-fantasy by making the MC some kind of magician in a future-SF setting.

Ideas lie like that, desperate to come to life in one form or another.

So I began a new set of notes, grabbed some recent sciencey books (Physics of the Future, How It Ends, a book on quantum mechanics that's recent (as most of the books I'd read on it were 4+ years ago) and a couple of other odd titles)  and am, this time happily, running into issues of setting and research again.

For example: names. The world is an indeterminate amount of time in the future, after a war against AI that humanity both won and lost [no AI has been allowed to exist since the war, probably to the detriment of the society, in a classic case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater] and there is one global government divided into 1000 city-states all linked together by one vast computer system. As such, there is one homogeneous culture with a single shared calendar (sexagesimal, meaning that there are six months, with six-day weeks and 60 days in each month, holidays between some of them) and language.

It also means that names are purely identity-numbers. 0 is a placeholder, with the first six numbers being a grid reference on the world map, the next six being what city-state one lived in and twelve after that being ones personal identity in that location. Additional numbers indicate city-state of birth, how often one has moved and the like; you meet someone, ping them through System, and get their basic data. As it is both  impractical and absurd to use such a system in actual conversation, everyone selects their own use-name at some point, or accepts one giving to them by parental/authority figures. As use-names can be changed and be jokes and so forth, they also allow people a sense of fun and spontaneity that their 'real' name does not allow.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Assassin spiders and spies

aka: This is the future on tech.

 This is the future. According to some uncertain estimates, insect-sized drones will become operational by 2030. These drones will be able to not only conduct surveillance, but to act on it with lethal effect. Over time, it is likely that miniaturized weapons platforms will evolve to be able to carry not merely the quantum of lethal material needed to execute individuals, but also weapons of mass destruction sufficient to kill thousands.

Some things to keep in mind: weapons tend to outstrip defenses for a time. Does a society positively teeming with cameras just lead to more innovative weapons of murder? The technologies that bring the world closer together also cause greater harm, or the potential for it [air travel and plagues, at a simple scale]. As the article points out, violence becomes more common the further one is removed from it: anonymizing the weapon and/or killer just makes the threats that much more dangerous. 

Further thoughts: This novel is set after the war against AIs, which limits tech to drones powered by humans and basic command-driven robots. Need to work out to what extent the pessmistic views of the future are just back-story to the novel and help explain the current state of government on all levels to prevent such flagrant abuses of freedom in the future. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

An odd digression

A few years ago I ran a Dungeons & Dragons came I called 'Ios: The Perfect Fantasy World' that was meant to happily use every cliche possible. Which included me making up title headings for sections in the style of bad fantasy novels .... this was the result. 

If this seems long, imagine how big the sections they covered were. Or don't. I'm trying not to.


A hero is someone willing to die for a cause he doesn't believe in.
- Sen'giod the Cynic, The Little Book of Uncommon Wisdom, 2.iv

A true warrior knows that in the moment before you can die there is time enough in the world to do everything and nothing.
- Hadrien Dragonsbane

Expect nothing. Then you can be surprised when people succeed.
- Sen'giod the Cynic, The Little Book of Uncommon Wisdom, 8.ii

When the sun rises red the wise man fears cold water.
- Jan'el, Utterances of the Wise, 212.23.

The road seldom walked is filled with the corpses of the brave who walk it.
- Hadrien Dragonsbane, in conversation

"Heroes are good, I tell you! What's the use of a tragedy without one?"
- Gerlos, gnome bard, in conversation

There is nothing wrong with pejudice - it saves time.
- Harendriel, elven warrior

There is nothing wrong with pejudice - it saves time.
- Harendriel, elven warrior

The gods lead the willing - the unwilling they drag with chains of duty and guilt.
- Ural the pious, human cleric.

First impressions are often misconceptions. But it's amazing how often we wish for them again after we get to know people better.
- Wayland, human rogue, on kender

You cannot catch all the snowflakes that fall from the sky.
- Hermis the drunken, Barstool Philosophies For The Sober p. 34

There is nothing to be feared more than an honest man.
- Drake, according to legend

"In our city there are lots of ne'erdowells, ruffians and wanderers looking for adenture and glory. The few who are a notch above the rest we call heroes, in the hope that naming them such will help them act like heros."
- A member of the Aendar council, 2 years ago

When you stop to consider how many have to die in order to make someone a hero, you must wonder why the world wants them at all.
- Felris, gnome inventor

Heroes are terrible, boy. Striding the world with their dreamsof power, glory, adventure, renown - and thinking such things will come to them because they're heroes, as if they were gifts. They don't know the price the world pays for such dreams, even if they never come true.
- Brokash, orc shaman

When dogs mate they think of wolves.
- Kristal, kender philosopher

The one things that heroes are never warned about is the difficulty of saving the world. It can be done, but if you do it too often people come to expect it of you.
- Jiliehaolasien, Elven historian

Words are the only thing that are real.
- Omas, human sorcerer

True wisdom lies in knowing there is no True Wisdom to be found out there, in the hills, or beyond the woods. The only wisdom is within us all, and it's a truth for us, not a Truth for everyone, or the world.
The world is too old and has seen too much to be wise.
- Izayus, human druid.

A wise man always leads by example, except in the case of alchemy experiments.
- attributed to Avern, lich lord of the Tower of Bones, sometime in his youth

To be happy is to forget the past.
- Sai'Jer, gnome inventor and amateur elven historian.

Never make war. Dead men can't buy things from you - except in certain regrettable circumstances owing to a deep sleep and over-zealous relatives burying them alive, in which case you can sell them wake up alarm charms and insurance policies.
- Aendar Motto

It is an undisputable truth that the failures of the wise tend to long outlive their successes.
- Kral Orsh, half-orc fighter

It is an undisputable truth that the failures of the wise tend to long outlive their successes.
- Kral Orsh, half-orc fighter

A man's destiny is both his glory and his doom.
- from a famous oral Kobold book Sayings of The Chicken Slayer

All heroes must sacrifice themselves. It doesn't matter what do, as long as they pay, and they pay, and they pay.
- from the memoirs of Hadrien Dragonsbane

Pity the enchanters, for they can enchant all save themselves.
- Hami Grassblade, halfling thief

A posession is also a possessor.
-Sen'groid the Cynic, Aphorisms vii.2

"No! My armour is black because I’m poor. I’m not evil, I just can’t afford to polish i-"
- Last words of Bern the Black Knight

A real mage knows that the status quo is always in flux.
- Myasteriel, half-elven sorcerer

"Keep your prayers short - often, the gods will hear a moan over a chant and a plea over a scream."
- Redik, dwarven cleric

"What the world may bring, the world may take away. Give back to the world with your gift."
- Druid motto

"Be the place where the singer meets the song."
- Advice of Jeromal, human bard.

"It is said that when King Harowen the Absentminded of Elandai was going to die, Death came to came and the busy king said he had no time for an audience and bade his guest depart. Death was so embarrassed it did not return for another seven years."
- Legends of Elandai, Book 7
To be counted among the wise
Is a crime in a wise one's eyes.
- Saying of the Invisible College

"Believe in magic and it will believe in you."
- Ugram, half-orc sorcerer

"To help others you must be part of their lives, of the world. A wound can be judged from outside, but only healed from within, from being part of the wound you mean to mend."
- Kyrisil, elven healer

"The truth can hurt. We just keep it from hurting others."
- Motto of the Holders of Truth

"Wisdom is knowledge applied: and knowledge of something is not the capacity to choose between them."
- A member of the college.

Religions are the evils that turn the poetry that is the gods into the prose that is badly scanned sagas.
- Lurt the Unyielding, human barbarian

A man who has never lied is not a man who cannot lie.
- Or'wella, human druid

"Lies! It's all LIES!"
- Bern Harrowarm, dwarven historian, just before his suicide.

"Even the mightiest of warriors cower when madness wears the crown."
- Dwarf Saying

There are two kinds of anger, see? The wrongeous and the righteous. When you get mad, you kill. Kill with the righteous anger and you're a hero. Do it the other way and yer no barbarian, just some civilized fop who sniffs hankies and thinks that justifications 're more than excuses.
- Pairt the Pale, northern barbarian

Songs are as much discovery as they are invention.
- Splorrchahhh, Otyugh Bard

Power is not freedom, but the price of any power is a loss of freedom.
- Urien, human cleric

Nothing real is more real than anything else that's real.
- Merian, gnomish druid, shortly before being executed

Understand this, boy. Every time you kill, you die as well. Make sure what dies in you is something you can bear to part with.
- Hadrien Dragonsbane, to an apprentice

To understand the body you must respect it, live it, nurture it, meditate in and outside of it, be one. Being ale to catch arrows or beat people senseless are just side effects, nothing more. The body is trained to overcome ego, not glorify in what it can do.
- The Yellow King

I am here to die for the gods. I am their arms, their vengeance, their justice.
- Just about any paladin

To hunt an animal you must be an animal - the seeker must be the sought.
- Kami Leafsprout, halfling ranger

If you cannot keep it, you don't deserve to have it.
- Rogue Proverb

You can only be who you are.
- Jeram Kygul, half-orc sorcerer

Magic does not consist of drawing lines, but of erasing them.
- Avern, shortly before inventing the lich ritual.

"Circumstances don't make us what we are, they reveal what we are to others."
- Motto of the Brotherhood, circa the Age of Trade

No one can look inside themselves and find anything that isn't already there. Self-examination is like looking into a mirror and proclaiming you've found something new when it's just you reflected. Enlightenment is often nothing more than knowing you're already enlightened.
- Delta Mu

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Weird aspects of a novel....

Tonight's small fragment of finished words included the following two segments:

"You have to hate to change; if you don't hate your life enough you'll never find the will to change it."

"I think," I pause, the words coming slow, halting. I don't want to hurt hurt her. I still speak. "I don't think anyone is all they could be. We're all reflections, echoes, smudges. Fragments of what we could be, of things never done, of things left undone." I lick my lips. "Every choice is a grief."

... it is at once a fun and odd worry that someone would, some day, read this story and try to find autobiography in it. 

OTOH, it would be damn funny to use every novel an author wrote from a first-person POV and assume it was all about the author themselves and do up a giant essay or thesis on them based on thatt.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Plodding as writing

So. I am currently technically editing Boy & Fox (I've been stuck on ~page 15 for a bit now...) and working on The Empty Book (Horror) and Rites of Exorcism (Urban Fantasy) slowly but surely. Both are at about the same word count, but the TEB comes far slower. Strangely, it's also the only project I've worked on the past year that has involved no 'kill and start over' in its writing. Oh, scenes have been deleted and there's a few I know I need to move about later on but 'add a bit, go away, add a bit more' seems to work for it, somewhat to my surprise. It probably helps that the story is dark enough that I can only write about it for short periods anyway.

Rites of Exorcism is pretty much moving slowly as I try to get the scenes I write to even remotely match the ones in my head. I suspect I need to re-read the previous draft entirely and figure out what scenes from it will be kept at all in order to have some sense of real progress. As for Boy & Fox, I'm still running into the tonal shift: the first 8 pages are quite different from the rest of the novel and I'm still working on meshing them together better so that Bess's arrival in the story is less like a live grenade and more a movement forward for Boy.

In other writing news, I'm giving serious thought to doing scifi for nanowrimo this year. I have a story that's been rummaging about my head in various forms for years now and it would be nice to try having a first draft of substantial length for a change. I just need to figure out which of the various iterations of it make the most sense, and am certain the version involving incestuous census takers is pretty much off the board.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

facebook & google+ status updates part XIV

The only important thing to know is this.

Do Jehovah's Witnesses who become vampires starve to death since drinking blood would be a transfusion?

“Of course I only shot once at the fleeing suspect,” the Detective said. “Every short fired is two hours of paperwork and I do have other cases.”

"I keep forgetting so much that you claim to remember; our stories never mesh anymore."

Unhappiness comes only from loss of the Now-self, the present we fall out of when we succumb to worry and fear.
Happiness is knowing that entire sentence was BS.

He found he had hunger enough to want the world to change but wealth enough to desire that it remained as it was.
The major advantage of being a homeopath would be that you can’t kill yourself via an overdose.

Amnesty international worker: ex-Santa's Elf.

The bus that went to paradise was always empty, the fare too high to pay.

If the race card is the only one you play, then perhaps you should reexamine your deck.

If you were on death row, what would you want your last meal to be?

It is said that demons always smile because their joy never diminishes. This is as true of the angel who slaughtered all the first-born of Egypt.
Among the gifts god gave us, the greatest of these is our capacity for sadness.

"The monster under the bed, darling? That's simple: it's your adult self."

"What do you mean I've bee replaced by an 'app'," the Detective asked. "How can an appliance solve problems?"

There is no such thing as ghosts. But there are demons, which is why they appear to you after the second drink – perhaps the third – with ethereal bodies and sad eyes, to whisper: "It wouldn't have happened if you'd really loved me."

"I know you're wondering if I fired five shots or six," the Detective said. "The truth is that it doesn't matter: I have another gun."

On the autopsy table we are all equally beautiful.

Every lie contains a seed of truth. For example, the phrase 'sharper than a serpent's tooth' is not actually about how sharp a dragon's tooth is: everyone knows dragon's don't have teeth since the fire from their mouths would ruin them.

From a description in a WIP: Eyes the colour of burnt sausages.

9 out of every 6 statistics are made up.

Every book the author wrote included at least one ghost. When pressed as to why, she said:
"Because they are the only ones who are real."

Luck lies in getting what you do not deserve.

The internet: Now better than university at allowing people to be educated beyond their intelligence.

"Everything he made me I never wanted to be."

"I think I love you," He said, voice was a broken whisper, smile not much better. "It hurts so much to say that; I thought love wasn't supposed to hurt."
"I thought you weren't going to say, 'I think'."

Being turned into a teddy bear wasn't the worst part; the worst part was only being able to get nourishment from hugs.

"You really shouldn't have changed your facebook status to 'murderer'; we hadn't been sure it was you until you did that," the Detective said.

Make humans cheap enough to feed and slavery becomes a viable economic system.
It was not an outcome those responsible for the nanotech food revolution had been expecting.

Theory of the day: Satan is God's accountant. Discuss.
(Also give thoughts to the notion that, if God does exist outside time and space, does this give new meaning to off-shore bank accounts?)

It used to be so simple, he says, but his smile isn't simple at all.

What kind of person forgets to dream? One looking to wake up.

We can do anything so long as we're afraid of what will happen if we fail.

Everyone said they laughed only on the outside, but Whitey the Clown had a secret: he laughed on the inside as well, especially when the children wept in fear at seeing him. Other clowns asked how he could bear it, but he was used to the tears of children from his days as a mall Santa.

To change the world one must sh:ft

here's my secret: when
we fall apart is sometimes
the best part of all.

Is the Peanuts a genteeel metaphor for Lord of the Flies?