February 25th, 2013 | mobilesignals
February 12th, 2013 | mobilesignals
December 3rd, 2012 | mobilesignals
Mulholland Books have launched a website for the book, updating daily with bits and pieces until the launch of the book in January. There are posts up already. It’s built on Tumblr, so you can add it on your dashboard there too. thisisgunmachine.com.
October 29th, 2012 | mobilesignals
ponyenglish asked: Would you ever want to write an episode for Doctor Who? I often think about it what it might be like.
I get asked this a surprising amount. Here’s why I don’t think about what it might be like. One writes for DOCTOR WHO by invitation. To be invited, one must either be an extremely well-regarded, trained and qualified television writer known to the showrunner, or Neil Gaiman, who is a previous television writer and also Neil Gaiman. This is because it is an very important and intensive show that doesn’t have time or money for on-the-job training or second-division writers. So it doesn’t matter if I would ever want to write an episode of DOCTOR WHO, because I never will.
urlnamegoeshere asked: Firstly, Transmetropolitan is my favorite book/narrative/comic by a long margin, so thanks very much to you and Mr Robertson. My question regards writing style- when I write I seem to unconsciously pattern myself on writers I like. Content and plots and ideas are all easy enough to hammer out, but finding my own voice (as inherently wanky as that sounds) is very much a struggle. How did you in about finding yours? My back-up question is what is your favorite kind of delicious baked good?
I try to avoid delicious baked goods, because I already weigh eight hundred pounds and have to wedge a unicycle under my gut just so I can move around like a normal person.
Stephen King has this adage about voice, which goes something like: “open milk always takes on the flavour of whatever else is in the fridge.” I’m mangling that, but it gets the sense across. His example was that if he reads too much Harlan Ellison, he starts writing like Harlan Ellison, not least because Ellison is a strong flavour.
The trick, perhaps, is to work out what it is that you like so much about your favourite writers — pick apart their work, find out how they achieve their effects — and take the things that feel most comfortable to you, and the things that you think will help you say what you want to say. Because “voice” starts with deciding what you want to say in your fiction. The things you really want to talk about. What makes you angry? What things do you want to explain your love for? How do you see relationships working? How should the world be? Answer these questions for yourself — or write fiction in which you can discover these answers for yourself — using the tools that look useful from your favourite writers — and you should be on your way to finding your own voice.
Also? An imperfect trick, but one perhaps worth trying: read your own work aloud. Does it sound like you talking, or you doing an impression of someone else? If the latter, bring it back to the sound of you talking.
differentdoorknobs asked: I was wondering if you had any advice regarding making ideas more important. I have pages of different events + characters that I can only develop so far because, after a time, all I can add to them are "WHO CARES?" and "WHY DOES THIS MATTER?" (I’m talking about events characters will go through. "Statues come to life all around Greece" is immediately followed by "WHO GIVES A FUCK?") Does this ever happen to you? Thank you very much for your time, and sorry if you’ve answered a similar question!
Ungh. This is a really tough one. There are two ways, maybe, to attack this.
1) One way of doing it, and this works okay for standard dramatic storytelling, is this: what do your characters WANT? The secondary questions are, what stops them from getting what they want, and how far are they prepared to go to get what they want? But start with the simple first question. What your character wants defines how we perceive and feel about them in the story. Find one thing they want, and see how that feels to you.
2) From a certain view, stories are two things. There’s what the story’s about, and what the story’s REALLY about. Wells’ WAR OF THE WORLDS is about a Martian invasion of Earth. But it’s REALLY about something else entirely. There’s a subtext: there’s the thing Wells wrote the story toactually talk about. What you may be encountering is having a story that’s all surface, or a story with a subtext that isn’t working out for you. Find out what you really want to say with your fiction. If it matters to YOU, it’ll matter to other people.
This is all a bit clumsy and off the cuff, but maybe something in there will give you something to think about. I hope so.
June 11th, 2012 | mobilesignals
Paul Gilster at Centauri Dreams has been thinking about solar sails for space travel. Specifically, pointing a solar-sail vessel inwards, towards the sun, to get a massive solar thrust effect:
…the numbers on a sail one mile in diameter moving to within nine million miles of the Sun. They find that a sail of this class could achieve a Solar System exit velocity of 250 miles per second. Johnson talks about all this in miles per second but let’s switch to kilometers, which is my normal practice here. 250 miles per second works out to about 400 kilometers per second, which we can usefully compare to Voyager 1’s 17 km/sec, as Johnson does:
And here he quotes:
A craft traveling this fast would pass the Earth in four days, Jupiter in twenty-one days and reach the Alpha Centauri system in just over three thousand years. By comparison, the fastest rocket we’ve ever sent into space won’t cover the distance to the Alpha Centauri system for another seventy-four thousand years! By increasing the sail size and keeping the payload mass the same, we can see an engineering path to building a sail that could cover this immense distance in about a thousand years.
Mr Gilster gets very excited about these numbers. But I got left behind, a bit. I stopped at “Jupiter in twenty-one days.” Wait. You send a probe screaming around the sun to develop a speed that’d probably have it pass Pluto in a month… and you point it out into interstellar space? Explain to me now how you’ve just put the outer solar system into commuting distance and don’t do anything with that first? Jettison the goddamn sail and coast in. Point a laser at a deceleration sail. Unload probes as you pass. Or, the hell with it, just fire a sensor-loaded penetrator at Europa. Even if it takes a year to perform the sundive manoeuvre, even if it takes three, it’d still get there before a conventional probe launch.
Chucking sun-powered smart missiles all over the solar system sounds like fun to me.