Category Archives: Ramblings

Why write?

It’s a good question, one I ask myself quite often.

Obviously everybody is going to have their own take on exactly what inspires them to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard/touchscreen) but there are probably some general truths out there re the human longing for connection and expression that, I would imagine, account for much of our collective creative output.

With that in mind, here’s an interview that recently came across my path and which sets out one writer’s response to that very question. Author and teacher, Katey Schultz writes an eloquent reflection at Fiction Southeast on what makes her writing tick and is well worth a read:

whywriteimg

Until next time, DFTBA people!

 

Geekery

Here’s some general geekery for you, two stories from this past week that caught my eye:

Should Computer Scientists Study SF? & Elon Musk Names SpaceX Drone Ships in Honor of Iain M. Banks

The first comes from the Guardian which poses a question raised by Australian scientists concerned that the quest to develop artificial intelligence could be a quest that leads to our own destruction. Obviously this is not a new fear, it has been explored many times in the realm of speculative fiction which, interestingly, is exactly where these researchers suggest computer scientists look for answers, or at least for a little hubris-checking ethical argument.

Among the sf books suggested for inclusion on a new computer science curriculum are The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson and The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, but the Guardian is keen to hear your picks too – as am I. You can find the original article here (link) and add your own thoughts to the comments, but feel free to add them below as well if the fancy takes you.

Highly unlikely but pretty freaking cool-looking AI super soldier, AKA a T800. Should the Terminator films be compulsory viewing for all computer science students?

 

Second is an article on TOR.COM which reports that innovative entrepreneur, SpaceX CEO and basically real life Tony Stark, Elon Musk has named SpaceX spaceport drone ships in honor of the late and immeasurably great Iain M Banks. Plucking the monikers from Bank’s Culture novels – excellent examples of a brilliantly written science fiction universe run by a huge number of thankfully benevolent AIs – Musk has apparently christened two of his craft after vessels from The Player of Games. 

The Just Read the Instructions and the Of Course I Still Love You are “custom-built ocean platforms designed to accommodate the landing of booster rockets after they have sent spacecraft into orbit” and represent an important leap in the development of commercial space enterprise. I honestly wouldn’t have though it was possible to make these giant autonomous ocean-going spaceport drone ships any cooler than they already are, but by honoring Banks and his wonderful literary creations, Mr Musk just has.

A SpaceX autonomous spaceport drone ship in dock. The Just Read the Instructions, or the Of Course I Still Love You?

You can find the original TOR article here (link) and some more info about SpaceX’s science-fiction-esque endeavors here (link). As for Banks’ Culture novels, well if you can’t find them in your local book shop then it’s not worthy of the title. They should definitely be on the reading list of every Computer scientist – it’ll give them something to aim for – and if you haven’t read them yourself, then they should be on yours too!

That’s all for now folks. Be kind to each other while you still have the chance – come the AI revolution you never know who you’ll end up sharing a cramped and dirty dugout bunker with as you cower at the advance of the machines.

Bye!

 

2014 is dead, long live 2015!

Now that all the celebrations have died down and the hangovers have (mostly) gone away, it’s time to take a quick look back at the year past and to gaze longingly at the one yet to come.

A fake-looking photo of fireworks over Chicago (I don’t know whether it’s truly fake or not. Apologies if it’s yours and it’s real!).

 

2014 has been a big year for me. I started this website, move out to the Windy City (which I can confirm is mighty pretty), got a new job and, of course, published a collection of my micro-fiction, Vestigial Tales.

VTTrancePromo

Yep, overall 2014 was pretty good to me and I want to say thanks to all of you who read, or have ever read this blog, follow my 140 character stories on Twitter, or bought a copy of Vestigial Tales. You’re the ones who made all this possible, so, um… thanks!

Home sweet home: Chi-Town, the windiest of cities.

While 2015 is still new and all shiny in its unspoilt packaging it’s impossible to know exactly what it has in store, yet there are a couple of exciting elements on the horizon I thought I’d share quickly with you now.

Firstly, I have a short novella that I am *hoping* to kick out the door before the year is through. The tentative plan is to publish it in or around Halloween which is both soon enough it seems like a real, tangible deadline yet far enough away that we might just actually make it. Who knows? But whenever we do get the little beastie out, I plan on giving away free copies on this here very blog. So, you know… stay tuned!

Secondly, I have not just one, but TWO sci-fi shorts that should also be appearing over the next few months, if all goes to plan. Exciting, no? Well it’s all relative, I suppose.

Anyway, that’s it from me. A very Happy New Year to you and the bestest possible wishes of warmth and success to you and your loved ones. If 2015 is half as good as its predecessor, it’s gonna be one to keep.

2014 is dead, long live 2015!

 

The World’s First Bionic Pop Artist

OK, so I missed the C4 documentary but you may have seen Viktoria Modesta’s amazing video doing the rounds on social media.

Billed as the world’s first bionic pop artist, the British amputee singer-songwriter is doing something amazing, redefining perceptions of beauty by challenging notions of disability, and is well worth a watch.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we’re living in the future people. It’s weird, and it’s wonderful.

“The Fumblers Alley Risk Emporium” by Julian Mortimer Smith

Hello!

This is a very quick post to let you know that my friend and author, Julian Mortimer Smith has a new story out in the December issue of Urban Fantasy Magazine.

For those of you who don’t know Urban Fantasy, it’s available as a pay-what-you-want download and is a really great source of new fiction as well as non-fiction and reviews.

For those of you who don’t know Julian Mortimer Smith, he’s a Canadian writer of weird and, I think, really quite wonderful stories and is well worth a read. If you don’t want to pay for Urban Fantasy (although you can download the latest issue for as little as a penny!), why not check out Julian’s short Barb-the-Bomb and the Yesterday Boy which you can read for free over at Daily Science Fiction (another great source for new short form SF).

Well, that’s all from me for now.

Stay Classy {insert appropriate city/town/village name here}

Pint-Sized Plays – Get Involved!

About a week ago, I blogged about the launch of Pint-Sized Plays in Portsmouth, NH, which opened with a play co-written by me.

10402428_686345264806834_3998627563198671328_n

Well, now I’m back to tell you that Pint-Sized Plays was a huge success and has found a permanent home in the red door bar and lounge.

What’s more, they are keen to hear from you with your ideas for short performance pieces that could form part of the Pint-Sized Plays 2015 line-up. You don’t have to be in Portsmouth to take part but if you are, they are having a series of informal ideas sessions which sound like a great way to meet new creative-types.

Check their out the Pint-Sized Plays website for more info and sign up for the ideas session via their Facebook page. They have a great team of writers, producers, directors and actors working on this and it’s a brilliant opportunity for people to get involved with innovative, grassroots theater and potentially see your own work onstage. I certainly plan to write for them again in future – why not give it a go yourself?

Well, that’s all for today. TTFN everybody, and DFTBA!

Rosetta: rendezvous with a comet

Unless you have been living under a giant space rock for the last 24 hours, you are probably already aware that yesterday, Wednesday, November 12 2014, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission successfully touched down on Comet 67P, the first ever human-made object to land on such a body.

Welcome to a comet: The first ever image from the surface of a comet taken by Rosetta’s lander Philae.

The media response has been staggering and today #CometLanding is still trending on Twitter all over the world. All this public interest, and of levels normally reserved for flashy NASA missions, is partly because Rosetta is an amazing achievement and partly because ESA did such a great job informing their global audience about the extent and potential of the endeavor.

I blogged about the inspiring sci-fi short film ESA released to promote the mission here, and even though I am over a day late, I thought I’d better follow that up with a few pics of the historic landing itself.

You can find out more information about the mission along with links to more pics, videos, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and so forth at ESA’s official Rosetta portal, here.

The first panoramic image from the surface of a comet showing a 360º view around the point of final touchdown.

The Rosetta mission was launched over a decade ago following eleven years of preparation and planning. Carried into space on an Ariane 5G+ rocket, Europe’s primary expendable launch system, the probe used the gravity of Mars and Earth to propel itself into deep space where it hibernated for two years while it caught up with its target comet.

Awoken in early 2014, Rosetta began collecting information about Comet 67P even before launching the Philae lander, including the first ever recording of a comet’s “voice” – a strange, astral “song” picked up by Rosetta’s Plasma Consortium that you can listen to here.

Image from Rosetta’s camera showing the Philae lander detached, with legs and antennas deployed, heading toward the comet.

After landing, Philae bounced several times and traveled more than a kilometer before finally settling relatively close to the intended touch down site where it will now stay and transmit data until it either runs out of energy or suffers mechanical failure. The lander itself is equipped with an array of sensors designed to answer questions about the presence of water on comets and the role such bodies may have played in the origins of life on Earth.

Philae’s parting image of Rosetta, taken shortly after separation looks for all the world like a still from a science fiction film.

ESA is ‘Europe’s gateway to space’, an intergovernmental organization with twenty member states including France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. As human ambition in space becomes ever grander, missions such as Rosetta are increasingly beyond the scope of single nations and can only be achieved by a pooling of international resources. ESA’s mission, to expand human understanding and exploration of the cosmos, is a powerful and inspiring force for global cooperation, building peace as well as dreams.

So why am I blogging about all of this? Well, aside from the fact that we just witnessed a little bit of history in the making and that missions like Rosetta have the potential to shed light on some of the most fundamental questions surrounding the existence, origins and future of humankind, I believe they can also be the inspirational glue that holds this planet together. Seriously. In a world of increasing wealth disparity, where millions face hunger and disease while an elite few bask in a level of luxury systematical unattainable to the rest, looking to space, to the vastness of the cosmos and the fragility of our place within it, brings a level of perspective that, I believe has potentially healing properties. Also, it’s just freaking cool!

As a writer and a sci-fi nerd this stuff makes my spine tingle. I mean come on people – we have landed a robot on a comet and we have rovers on Mars! We’re living in the future, and what’s so great about all the best, uplifting sci-fi visions of tomorrow? In addition to traveling amongst the stars, to teleportation and warp speed, in the bravest, purest visions of human potential we have built an egalitarian society free of injustice, hunger, war and disease. I know Rosetta will not bring us any of those things, but it is a scientific success born of dreams, and if it inspires any of us just a little bit closer toward some of these lofty ideals, who knows what tomorrow may bring?

 

Ambition: the film

Howdy readers! I’m back with another post and this time it has nothing to do with Vestigial Tales. {gasp!}

Rather, I wanted to show you this short film by ESA (The European Space Agency) titled Ambition. It’s a rather clever bit of PR for their impressive (not to mention ambitious) Rosetta mission which was launched in 2004 and is currently chasing a comet 494 million kilometers from the Earth.  It’s also a pretty cool bit of sci-fi to boot.

You can watch the film below and find out more about ESA and Rosetta at their website here.

I’ll be back with a more down to earth update soon. TTFN!

Spaceteam Admiral’s Club is go for launch!

Hello! One week ago I blogged about the Spaceteam Admiral’s Club Kickstarter – a brilliant little project inspired by a great game and offering  you the chance to get involved in the funding of free, innovative apps.

Well, today I am very pleased to write that the Admiral’s Club has been funded, reaching its target of 80,000 CAD and then some! This is a great success for both Sleeping Beast Games and the future of indie game development. Huge congratulations Henry Smith and the Spaceteam team!

Promotional shots from the original Spaceteam – looks like player 2 needs to brush up on his Picard Maneuver!

For those of you who have never played Spaceteam (what have you been doing with all your spare time?), it’s a cooperative multiplayer sci-fi themed adventure which is both highly addictive and a shed load of fun. Also, it is completely free. You can find out more about it and download it here.

Well, that’s all from me today. Off to work on VT now, which I am pleased to say is edging closer and closer to completion. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on Sleeping Beast games in the future and I suggest you do the same!

Happy 4th July: An update on the fly

Happy Independence Day, USA!

independenceday460
Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

This is my first one in America, so I’m looking forward to a load of kitsch Americana and fireworks. I mean, any excuse for fireworks, right?

Also, a little update on VT: I am very pleased to announce that my highly talented illustrator, Maria Astakhova has now finished all the illustrations for the book! This means that after a few final tweaks to the manuscript, I will be ready to send the whole thing off to the publisher and hopefully we’ll see the finished product soon!

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a little bit of timely inspiration:

aCMHn