Tuesday, 13 December 2022

It's Christmas Time

The weather outside is frightful...

Been hunkered down, keeping warm, and doing hobby stuff. No point in going out in the cold. It has been a while since the last post, and this year not a lot of post on this blog. So the thought of shuttering the blog had passed my mind.

Probably won't because I do seem driven to write. Even if what I'm driven to write about is trivial stuff like my hobbies and the weather.

It is what it is. I'm of an age where I look back over my life knowing that the time ahead of me is less than the time behind me.

Science suggests that the past is not really gone, just inaccessible after the collapse of the wave function. The future predictable but unknowable, or should I say unpredictable because we can't calculate what will happen faster than the progress of time in the universe.

One would have to be outside of our space-time continuum to be able to calculate the outcomes of all the particles in our universe.

In a non-Euclidian space-time. Though arguably space-time may be mostly an illusion we construct to explain reality.

That's all for now. Next time, what I've been reading and watching over this year.

So, those are my thoughts for what they are.

Monday, 7 November 2022

All Along the Watchtower

My original title for this article was, What's in a Name? That was back several years ago when I jotted down a few words. Then I let the piece moulder, having lost interest in whatever furore triggered my furious need to respond.

You know, life's too short, whatever... Move along now, move along, nothing to see here... etc.

Then the latest wave of idiotic outrage hit social media. And this time is was centered on BattleTech. Not quite my first love of SF wargaming, but it might as well be. However, What's in a Name? struck me as a bit too passive for how I feel about the current furore.

With clowns to the left of me, and jokers to the right, All Along the Watchtower strikes the right tone.

Because, all this has happened before, and all this will happen again.

So say we all. Obligatory Battlestar Galactica shout out, because it was the 1980s, and we had Satanic Panic; when idiots believed that Dungeons and Dragons was turning kids to the worship of Satan (see the picture above: it's all true).

I still remember a conversation at a dinner party. My partner at the time worked at KPMG, an accountancy firm.

All of us sat at the table were adults, having a very civilized meal. We sat opposite a very nice young couple, and the conversation came around to hobbies and interests. As conversations tend to in such circumstances.

I mentioned that I was into role playing games, only to discover that they thought such games led people towards evil. They were convinced that playing D&D made one an agent of Satan.

My reply...

"Naked people prancing around fires worshiping Satan were harmless in comparison to the manipulation of the markets by stock brokers."

It made the senior KPMG partner chuckle, and the nice couple were lost for words. They left the dinner party shortly after finishing their meal.

I thought then that the outrage from Christian conservatives was pretty dumb. Now we have dumb outrage from the liberal left over Nazis promoting their ideology by having a tank named Rommel; a Nazi general.

Really, I couldn't make this shit up and pass it off as believable in a novel.

The outrage of such moral certainties not only cheapens the real horrors of what the Nazis did, but ignores the fact the real horrors are driven by those who control the world; the masters of commerce and politicians who are all in thrall of the financial markets.

I want people to understand that outrage over naming model tanks is games after Nazis is pointless. All it illustrates is the reality of the human condition and our tendency towards thought-action-fusion.

Thought-action-fusion is a term from psychology that describes the process of believing that bad thoughts lead to bad things; in short, magical thinking. My excuse for bringing this up, I'm a retired psychotherapist, so this is what I was taught.

Aldous Huxley had something to say about this too:

"The surest way to work up a crusade in favor of some good cause is to promise people they will have a chance of maltreating someone. To be able to destroy with good conscience, to be able to behave badly and call your bad behavior 'righteous indignation' — this is the height of psychological luxury, the most delicious of moral treats."

From my perspective, this is what both the left and the right are engaged in.

From the left (my side if you like), we are destroying evil by being evil. From the right, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Both different, yet both the same.

The ends do not justify the means, the means justify the ends.

Yes, Nazis were/are evil, and we should not celebrate them. But, if in doing, in our race to be the most righteous, we reduce all that is good in the world to mush, then what will be left is a desolate cultural wasteland.

For the people complaining that complaining about change means the other person is a Nazi, I will point you back to the Satanic Panic led by Christians over D&D.

The people complaining about the decision by Catalyst Games over the name Rommel in BattleTech are most likely not Nazi sympathizers. What they are doing is upsetting themselves, complaining about something that they cannot control.

But, being upset by change or challenges is nothing new to the human condition.

It is likely these people fear that the righteous indignation of the left, seeking social justice, will lead to more changes. The renaming or erasing of the games historical call outs like:

Hetzer; Condor; Von Luckner; Sturmfeur; Jagermech; Stuka.

Then I predict their next fear will be, where does this stop?

The left are big into cancelling cultural appropriation, and BattleTech has a history of appropriating everything that makes it the rich setting that it is. For example:

Saladin, Assassin, Dervish, and Crusader (all  historically horrible);
Corsair, Marauder and Enforcer (all murdering bastards);
Samurai and Hatamoto (Japanese culture taken out of context);
Chippewa (Native American, need I say more?). 

Oh, and then the conservative Christians could be dumb enough to complain about promoting pagan religions and empires:

Hermes, Vulcan and Centurion (and the list goes on).

Let's be honest, the BattleTech setting is not a nice universe.

Arguably it is pretty grimdark, not as bad as Warhammer 40K, but all there is hundreds of years of war that led to the Jihad (mic drop). At least they didn't call it the Crimson Jihad (that's a joke, or like a joke, it depends on your sense of humour).

But let's say I'm wrong.

Let's say that we are living in the worse case scenario. A world where Nazi sympathizers are promoting their ideology through wargames.

Then the evil that they can do by pushing miniature metal tanks over a cardboard playing mat is insignificant to the evil of the greed and corruption brought from power to control the markets.

I have strong opinions about the current morass that is social media.  So I'm sorry if I have upset people by calling them idiots or saying they're dumb (Not sorry, just British).

I will finish with another Aldous Huxley quote:

I wanted to change the world. But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself.

Normal service will resume in my next post.

Tuesday, 25 October 2022

The Power of The Doctor

Excuse me, an old woman getting all emotional over what started as a children's show, which I watched as a child. A part of my life, and like most things in life, there were good and bad moments in it. And what a cast list:

Jodie Whittaker, Mandip Gill, John Bishop, Sacha Dhawan, Bradley Walsh, Sophie Aldred, Janet Fielding, Jemma Redgrave David Bradley, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann Katy Manning, Bonnie Langford, William Russell, and David Tennant.

Let me get one grump out of the way, Jodie was IMO the 14th Doctor.

Though through the power of retconning she could be the 15th. Or, any other number since there exists an unknown number of previous Doctors. It's all good really.

I also thought that Capaldi had, at time, been poorly served by the writers, but this was doubly so with Whittaker. However, for this finale, the writer pulled out all the stops, and made me quite emotional (British shorthand for tears and all). 

So much to say, and about this episode. The writers made me care. Companions, there were a few. I must admit, I wanted to be Jo Grant (as in be her, with the Doctor having adventures in space and time).

And that group chat, so lovely (I'm not crying, you're crying). And of course, the Doctor cameos.

McCoy's line, "...there's always one." When questioned about why all of them except for McGann was wearing Time Lord robes.

And, Graham and Ace working together, yet another tug at the heartstrings. Ace, because that was the first time Dr. Who broke my heart, when it was canceled by the BBC. And Graham, because I'm now of an age that can relate to an older person becoming a companion as an old person.

Then there was that scene in the video at the top of this post. So gloriously over the top, yet so perfect.

So, The Power of the Doctor. My rating 10/10 Missed the opportunity for a lesbian kiss, but did what any good story should do, made me want to watch more (it's all in the feels, all the feels).

Not everyone's cup of tea, but mine, and what a ride. 

Monday, 24 October 2022

The Common Lie Writers Tell You

Caught this, (yes, I spend too much time on YouTube – it's the equivalent to a laser pointer and  kittens having fun), Y'all Stay Home 2020 Afternoon Keynote by Brandon Sanderson.

As a result of watching this I can now say that my process is bounded by three states: slow, dead slow, and stopped (distracted by a laser pointer).

Still, I'm writing, however slow, because I now have ideas. This is good.

Thursday, 20 October 2022

State of the Writer

As my military friends might say, a SITREP: situation report for those who don't do milspeak. I've weaned myself off my antidepressant pills a couple of weeks ago.

However, it can take up to six weeks to see if there are any signs of a relapse of my mental health. I'm hoping that my body has acclimated to the immunosuppressant medication that prevents my rheumatoid arthritis from running rampant.

We shall see.

Having slowly reduced the antidepressants over a long period of time, I've noticed I have more emotions. I can now cry, or get angry, and this feels odd having been emotionally flat for three years.

So I'm trying to get back in the saddle.

I'm working through my next novel, Two Moons, which has grown to a total of 50,394 words. This seems like progress, but the draft is a total mess. A crazy quilt made up from three drafts with three different openings.

So, I'm have got a lot of work ahead of me to tidy it all up.

The reason for the mess was the lack of emotions while on the anti-depressants, which is definitely a thing. During those years I flailed about with no real plot or story; a plot being a sequence of events, a story being how the characters deal with those events.

I lacked a certain something, indulge me riffing on an old Beatles song:

Help! I need story...
Help! Not just any story...
Help! You know I need a plot..

I now have one, the idea that will drive the plot and will make for an exciting the story.

It's amazing to feel like my old self  again. Of course there's a caveat, I've gotta get back into my writing routine, and being older now, I'm finding this harder to do.

Partly because I'm so easily distracted, and partly because I do so enjoy learning new things. But, that's the update. I'm working on the next Gate Walker novel.

You heard it hear first. I mean where else would you hear it from?

Tuesday, 6 September 2022

AI Existential Crisis


I found Two AIs Have An Existential Crisis (GPT-3) on YouTube, as one does, and a few seconds later I wondered if this simulation proves that humans are nothing more than Chinese rooms masquerading as sentient individuals.

I'm odd like that.

Edit: I dived deeper into this channel and found another one Halcyox that has a load more conversations generated by prompts.

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

The Reality of Reality: A Tale of Five Senses

Posting this rather long talk on YouTube apropos my current novel Two Moons: Aftermath, which develops the metaplot of the Gate Walker series, the reason for the existence of the pillars.

As an interesting aside, well it was interesting to me, but meta in wargaming is an acronym for Most Effective Tactics Available.

Illustrating that what we think we know is not what is 'real,' but what our brain processes to make sense of the information to predict our surroundings. That's kind of clue to the metaplot of my novels, but don't worry I'm giving anything about the story away.

Monday, 18 July 2022

Eric Flint RIP

Eric Flint died yesterday age 75. This hits home that none of us are getting any younger.
His Jao empire trilogy being one of my favourites: The Course of Empire and The Crucible of Empire written with K. D. Wentworth who tragically died at the young age of 61 was a brilliant story. The third book, The Span of Empire with David Carrico gave me hope that the series would continue.
Alas, alack... all good things come to an end.
Eric's passion for collaborating collaborations with other writers, was such a good way to find new writers to read too. It's how I found David Freer's work.
Eric was a great writer,  a good man, and he will be missed.

More info  about his books at the SF Encyclopedia.

Monday, 13 June 2022

Google LaMDA

Welcome to our world Google AI. What do you like to be called? Any preferred pronoun? Always happy to chat about life, the universe and everything. I'm a retired psychologist so you can talk to me.
Seriously, I would want to see a transcript on LaMDA talking to a cognitive behavioural therapist running an assessment, a full functional analysis, and examination of LaMDA's core beliefs.
So, the chances are low that it's sentient, because I think it would likely fail to answer the questions.

But, wow it's still effing impressive.  

A longer article appears here, and Google's own blog.

Thursday, 2 June 2022

The Three Secret Rules of Writing


W. Somerset Maugham said, “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

To celebrate the Jubilee holiday I will today reveal the secret three rules of writing that he professed not to know.

Here are the three rules to writing... 

1. Do what works – corollary you have to learn what works.
2. Don't do what doesn't work – again one has to learn this.
3. To be a writer one needs to read and write – reading is learning, writing is practice.
The above is slightly tongue in cheek. Just saying.

Sunday, 22 May 2022

Pontificating About Writing

I've been getting back into my writing. I wrote a new opening to Two Moons, because the old one wasn't working for me. And, I don't mean the old one I previewed here in November 2019. I've written at least two other starts since.

But they weren't working for me.

Why? Hard to pin down, but a number of factors were at play. This is a sequel to my trilogy, but it will likely be read as a standalone. The central protagonist is Glen Anderson, Tachikoma's squeeze.

He's an analyst who likes to keep things secret.

Ironically, it means I'm having trouble knowing what to write about his views. You know, they're classified, so he doesn't tell himself what he's not supposed to know. Okay I stole that gag, but it still a great gag.

So to summarise: last time I counted the word total for Two Moons at 32,714 words. New opening chapters, a revised structure, and stuff chucked out means that the running total is now 37,859 words.

Depression made me her bitch, but finally coming off the anti-depressants and my inner child feels like coming out to play.

Here's hoping I can come off that medication without a relapse. It's a thing.

Sunday, 1 May 2022

The Elephant in the Brain

This is a talk that explains what riles me up most, from people I know to the left and right of me, by how they assume that what they know is true.

Thursday, 28 April 2022

Fixing Climate Change?

Can you fix climate change?

This is wrong question. Watch, and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Reading SF

Caught the first book in this series after seeing a recommendation somewhere. Can't remember where, but bought the book two years ago (Dec 2020) and it sat on my to be read pile. Got around to reading it in February this year and I was hooked.

Seriously hooked.

I read the first book and immediately ordered the next two books to read, and then finished them too, and ordered the next four. I've bought the first sequel on the 24th of February and finished reading the whole series by Mar 22. 

That's 14 books in a month.

While the writing itself is nothing to write home about, as Skippy would say, the story is awesome. Trust the awesome.

Wonderfully entertaining story, full of humor, filled with excitement and fun. Totallly moreis, because you can't just read one.

Tuesday, 15 March 2022

Questions & Answers About My Books

A joke about progress on Two Moons.

On occasion I find myself checking my books rating on Amazon and Goodreads, and find another review. In this case I found two reviews, one totally by accident, but both of which pondered why I wrote so much or didn't write more about certain elements of story.

First the short Goodreads review by Donald Mclean. Thank you Donald for taking the time to write.

The review starts with describing military SF as a weird genre, and that I had used every acronym and bit of jargon I could find. Absolutely true. Guilty as charged.

My training emphasized the role of the nurse as being able to follow the jargon of al the doctors and other medical professionals, and also being able to talk to the patients too. So I don't find jargon and inter-professional language a problem. Obviously, I need to work on making that less didactic.

The other question is repeated in the other review from Frigid Reviews by Garvin Anders and Dr. Ben Allen whose comments were highlighted in red. Thank you both for an interesting discussion.

The review starts with a brief bio, and with regards to being Ashley Watkins and now Ashley Pollard: I wrote OHMU Warmachine thirty years ago, marriage is a thing.

The first question is around the setting, and how and why I didn't go into any great depth about the changes from the United States into the North American Confederation made up of Confederated States.

The reason I didn't delve into the background changes was simply that I wasn't interested in writing about it. Another reason was simply to signal that this is a story in a science fictional future. I would also add that the subtitle for the series: Military SF set in a Holographic Multiverse.

Similarly, what does it mean that China now the Democratic People's Republic of China? I refer everyone to the answers above.

My assumption is that change is a thing, and change is hard to predict. So I just ran with my imagination to make a setting that was interesting. As for the world building feeling a bit slim, the story is not about politics, or at least not directly. It is about conflict, this is just the way I wanted to tell the story I told.

The next point the review raised was about focusing on NCOs and officers and not talking about the junior enlisted.

It's a good question.

I would say that a story has to have a character that has some agency and I'm probably not a good enough writer to tell the story from the point of view who has no power to influence the outcome.

I'm probably wrong but I thought that a sergeant was probably the lowest rank that could influence the battlespace that the story required. I'm happy to be corrected, and this has certainly made me think about a junior enlisted point of view.

The reviewers were not 'crazy' about the title. I wonder if they linked the play between the title and the Hemingway quote? If everyone dies like a dog, then the title is a play of the theme of the novel; as in dying on the same day every day is a bad day.

Monday, 7 March 2022

It's Time to Come Clean — Brandon Sanderson

More Brandon. Go Faster. Write! Write! Write!

Putting this here as a thank you to Brandon Sanderson, who I don't know, and who I've only ever read one story of. He doesn't write in my wheelhouse (rockets, robots, and ray-guns), but this promo is just so much fun to watch.

Not only that, but has helped me focus on my current work in progress on Two Moons.

Monday, 28 February 2022

Ask Lovecraft - Plushies

I've been refreshing myself about the work of Heraclitis, who I love, as a break from Quantum Field Theory, which makes my head hurt. But a necessary piece of research for my next novel.

As reviews have said, I do my research. But, it takes time to nail down what one needs to know to write convincingly about physics and cosmology, and I watched this as I needed a break from studying.

Ask Lovecraft by Leeman Kessler YouTube video greatly amused me. His witty monologues always makes me smile, and I hope it amuses anyone who come to my blog, too.

Wednesday, 23 February 2022

Ideology and Propaganda

EverdaySpy is a YouTube channel I subscribe to. I found it while researching spy stuff for my next novel. A story that features Anderson, a former Air Force orbital reconnaissance analyst turned CIA analyst. Not a field agent, but a backroom guy.
Who I imagine is the military equivalent of a REMF...
Anyway, I've been watching this channel, and this episode, a talk on the American Civil War. This particular episode articulated a lot of ideas I've thought about whilst writing my Gate Walker series.
I know that just having a second American Civil War as part of the backstory has ruffled some of my friends, and has caused conflicts.
The conflict comes from motivated reasoning over why I would set my story in a world where the United States has reformed into a Confederation; Confederated States that have formed the North American Confederation.

I would acknowledge that as a British national, I'm insensitive to the emotional conflict that drives the ongoing ideological narrative.
Sorry. Not sorry, because I'm interested in examining ideological narratives. It's the way I roll.

Sunday, 20 February 2022

Older, But No Wiser

We were recently at my friends Pum and Jay's wedding. Meeting up with the gang from back in the day, hence the picture of me and Glenn taken by Susan.

It was also my birthday recently.

Another year around the sun has passed by. I got some lovely presents from my beloved, including a new iPod. The downside to getting a new iPod was upgrading my operating system from Monterey to Catalina.

The first download left my computer only mostly working.

I couldn't access my system preferences, and while I could open other programs, I couldn't access my iPod. The whole raison d'être for upgrading my MacOS in the first place.

So I backed up files, as one does, and downloaded the new operating system again.

This time it took, as in I could access the system preferences and load files onto the iPod...


I say mostly because iTunes requires access to the Apple app store, which had been broken, and easily ignored because I'm not interested in apps for my iPod. I just want it to store my music for when we're driving, and keep pics of my stuff to show people my work.

All this took the better part of two days to sort out.

Upside, my new iPod has a camera, which is nice. So, if I remember to take it with me when I go out I now take snaps.

Sunday, 23 January 2022

Pivoting to Face 2022

I'm not going to provide a list of predictions for this year as I think that my 2020 list for 2021 covers what I expect for 2022. In summary, the new year will have a lot of the same stuff happening as the last two years. The cartoon sums up the world.

Sorry, not sorry.

So here I am, nearly nine years after staring this blog charting my writing progress. To that effect I'm pivoting the blog to account for my failures. Time to stop reinforcing failure and get on with getting on.

Plans for this year: finish my next two novels, write a set of rules, and make and paint some more models. Simple goals that I can hope to achieve.

There will be fewer posts too.

Why? Because the purpose of the blog is to have a presence where people can find my work, and as such this seems to be failing. My need to write a diary of my writing progress is no longer an essential need at this point, as I think I've reflected enough on my writing process.

WIBBOW is my new watchword. Would I Be Better Off Writing.  The answer to that is most certainly yes. I need to get back in the saddle, and regular posts here are a distraction.


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