Work on the 2nd draft of Welcome to the Fold started in earnest this weekend, and to mark the occasion I have some more notes about the whole rewrite process. (Tr.: SKIP THIS POST IF YOU HATE WRITERLY MINUTIAE.)Read more
I spent most of yesterday without Internet access — I'm reminded once again why a reliance on network-based Web apps is such an awful idea; why make the network your single point of failure when we can't even reliably guarantee how fast it runs, let alone whether or not it runs at all? — so I had time to muse over a few things about my writing workflow. Skip this post if you find writerly minutiae numbing.Read more
More about the other day's post. I'm still stung at the tone I used to describe that stuff — Cory Doctorow in particular — but I suspect it's an abreaction, a consequence of being bombarded by so many we're-going-to-change-the-world-with-our-website types.
Zach Bonelli had his own take on it which is a more reasonably worded version of mine: "I’m not sure which I dislike more — wholesale acceptance of anything technological, or wholesale refusal to admit that anything technological might be of value." Some of that dichotomy was at the heart of Flight of the Vajra, too, although my feeling was that people would tilt towards technology by default anyway, because who really wants to not live with the conveniences offered by same? I was also deeply skeptical of the idea of a "post-scarcity" society, since after a certain point the concept of scarcity is more sociological and psychological than physical, and it becomes hard to tell a real scarcity (no clean water) from merely not being able to keep up with the Joneses (his broadband is 100 MB next to my paltry 20 MB).
Zach is right in that it's not about figuring out which one is right and going that road. It's about a dialogue between the two, something that doesn't end at any given moment, one where (as he put it) "one optimal human society might engage in endless self-reflection and criticism about the proper use of technologies, alongside a scientific arm endlessly churning out new theories and constructs."
My feeling is that no human society will elect to divide itself that neatly, because such a divide — as someone else once put it about good and evil — runs through every human heart. The struggle's going to be incarnate, first and foremost, inside each of us. Every time we wonder about what to put into our car (or our bodies), every time we choose where to live or what kind of job to work at, we're struggling with those things, even if the broader consequences of that struggle would never reveal themselves to any one of us, but only to humanity as a whole a hundred years from now.
There's a good chance that by the time this post goes live, the first draft of Welcome to the Fold will be complete — about six months behind schedule. But then again my self-imposed schedules have always been somewhat unrealistic.Read more
OK, I can't help myself here.
For those who just walked in, protomics was the name of the fictional in-universe technology I created for Flight of the Vajra, where various forms of matter have been created that are programmable and malleable. (I started writing that story over three years ago.)
The researchers call the building blocks "catoms" (or "claytronic atoms"), but even the concept as they describe it is fundamentally the same as what I had in mind:
... the researchers hope to use a set of local rules, whereby each catom needs to know only the positions of its immediate neighbors. Properly programmed, the ensemble will then find the right configuration through an emergent process.
... The researchers’ ultimate aim is to create a system of modules the size of sand grains that can form arbitrary structures with a variety of material properties, all on demand.
And at the bottom is this cute scare headline: "Help, My Chair Has a Virus! / Hackers could turn your programmable matter against you." (Yep, that's in the book too.)
I kick myself now for not putting in that patent application ahead of time.
Well, I had a feeling something like this would come along in some form; it didn't have to be as I predicted it, or on anything like the same time scale. I gave it a century or so from "now" before it really took off; I still give it a good long time before it's on the scale I had in mind.
But I have to reiterate that the point of the book wasn't to predict any specific thing or even enumerate how workable a given concept would be. Protomics, the "entanglement drive", the whole far-future¹ setting I devised was just a backdrop for a story about some people who are faced with some very tough choices, whose lives (and the lives of innumerable others) are altered because of that, and who can only see it all through by turning to each other. In the end, the human side of the story had to win, and I hope it did.
Addendum: DARPA has something tangentially related: "Atoms to Product: Aiming to Make Nanoscale Benefits Life-Sized".
¹ I almost typed "fart-future". I almost kept it.
Some great notes about writing for a living vs. living for writing:
For me personally, I would rather extricate my personal need for income (and by proxy shelter, food, clothing, etc.) from my writing. Being able to do nothing but write doesn’t mean a damn thing if I don’t wholly believe in what it is I’m producing.
I've felt the same way for some time myself, and here's why.Read more
And now, a shout-out. A bunch of them, actually.
If you were one of the folks who stopped by my table at AnimeFest and bought a book: thank you.
If you were one of the folks who stopped by my table at AnimeFest, took a flyer, and bought one of my books online afterwards: thank you.
I received my Amazon Kindle royalty statement this week. It wasn't a lot of money, but it was a sign that a few people are interested and curious. I hope they — you — stick around and check out what else I have to offer.
Remember that great interview I gave at the Two Geeks Talking podcast for Flight of the Vajra?
... Go stand in the hall and hold these pails of water.
In all seriousness, I did a podcast interview with the TGT folks and it was great. Now I'm in a fight to come out on top in an Author Vs. Author battle, where all the folks who were interviewed on the show have their fans vote them to the top.
Go here and search on "Flight of the Vajra" to vote. The winner will get, uh, bragging rights and a bunch of good karma*. Those who support me will get even better karma*!
* yes, I know this is a flagrant abuse of the term.
Flight of the Vajra is $1.99 on Kindle through next week.
And the entire first part of the book is available as a Kindle sample freebie.
If you've been on the fence about whether or not to grab it, this is just your excuse.
And if you're still wondering what the book is about, take it from my good friend Steven: "A more responsible version of Tony Stark finds he's got to save the galaxy - and his team consists of a circus acrobat, a futuristic Dali Lama, Jim Gordon, Seven of Nine, and David Bowie."
If that doesn't sell people on it, I have no idea what would.
I'm now in the homestretch — the last 5,000 to 10,000 words — of Welcome to the Fold's first draft. Normally I'm reluctant to talk about projects in progress like this, because it feels like either bragging or promising more than I can deliver. The book could change drastically in the second draft for all I know, so I don't like to lead on that it's going to be a watermelon when in fact it's going to be a pumpkin. Vegetable metaphors aside, the occasion did bring some other thoughts to mind.Read more