All of Discworld mourns today at the news that Terry Pratchett has had his final meeting with Death.
I love the Discworld novels far more than any other fantasy works I’ve read (I generally prefer my fiction with a little science). They are satire at its very best – laugh out loud funny wrapped around biting political and social insights.
It’s a close run for my favorite between Going Postal and Making Money, but the latter wins for its profound observations on that most ethereal substance – money – that we all seem to spend so much time pursuing.
Wherever Sir Terry is now, he can take comfort from knowing it’s turtles all the way down.
I just watched the movie of Orson Scott Card’s best-selling novel Ender’s Game.
The movie was enjoyable, but lacked the emotional impact of the book which is a sci-fi classic and one of my favorites, by which I mean that it still affects me when I think about it, even now several years after I first read it.
In the book we see the slow, deliberate process by which Ender is transformed from an innocent six-year-old boy into a ruthless military commander. How and why this happens is fundamental to the story and the skill with which Card carries it off is what makes Ender’s Game so unique.
In Fuller’s Mine, there’s a process of a character being broken down psychologically. My character’s transformation is nowhere near as dramatic as Ender’s–it doesn’t so much change her as simply force her to act against her wishes–and occurs over a period of only a month, but it still required nearly 15,000 words (45 paperback pages) to do it justice.
In the movie of Ender’s Game the transformation happens to quickly. We don’t see enough detail of the experiences which change Ender for such a dramatic change in his character to be convincing. They’ve also compressed the timeline, so rather than being six years old at the start of the story he’s more like eleven or twelve.
If you’ve seen the movie but haven’t read the book, you really must.
Since I’ve started writing I’ve found that when I’m daydreaming, it’s primarily dialogue. Not storylines, not structure, but literally dialogue. I hear my characters talking – not to me, but to each other.
The biggest problem is that this mostly happens in places where I can’t immediately write it down – in the shower, the car, falling asleep!
As I have mentioned previously I was very conscious in writing Newton’s Ark to keep the science as real as possible. The most speculative technology I included was probably the micro fusion reactor – a small, highly portable fusion reactor that could power a satellite for decades.
This technology requires us to find a way to build a self-sustaining fusion reaction that produces positive net energy. And then you have to miniaturize it – I’m going to ignore that challenge assuming we can solve the main problem.
This technology has been a decade away for the past sixty years. Will we ever solve this problem? Who knows. It may really be a only decade away, it may be another sixty years away or it may never happen. It’s hard to extrapolate from the experience to date. There has been some progress but not enough to be completely confident that the fundamental challenge can be overcome.
It is still an active area of research though. In fact I recently received an assignment to design a biometric security system (iris recognition) for an experimental fusion reactor facility!
This post brought to you by author of Newton’s Ark, D.A. Hill.
“Despite all the holo-movies you might have seen where they destroy the asteroid before it hits the Earth and everyone lives happily ever after, it isn’t possible with the technology and time we have available. To nudge the asteroid off course we have to hit it far enough out that we would need to launch now. Problem is we don’t have anything with the range and payload required….”
“Can’t we just nuke the damn thing when it gets closer to Earth?”
“Yes sir we can, but we risk turning a single very large asteroid into multiple asteroids, each still plenty big enough to wipe out a large city. Better to have only one object to track and to limit the impact to a single location.”
I think this quote from the article nicely captures my philosophy:
…fiction is all about the make-believe. But good science can make for a more plausible narrative, making it easier to suspend disbelief.
One of the things I set out to do when writing Newton’s Ark, was to keep the science part of the science fiction plausible, by basing the technology of the future either on already emerging technologies or at least on plausible projections of current technology trends.
“The early drones worked exactly that way, Major. They were vulnerable; if communication is disrupted the drone is pilot-less. Worse still, if the signal is intercepted it is possible for a hostile force to take control of the drone. Back as far as 2012 the Iranians captured what was then one of our most advanced drones by spoofing a GPS signal. They convinced the drone that it was landing back at its base in Turkey when it was really landing in Teheran. Incidents like that were the impetus for the EM program.”
If you’re really worried about price though, the Kindle edition is a bargain at $2.99 (or the equivalent in pounds or euros). Interestingly, I make a bigger royalty on a $2.99 kindle edition than I do on a $7.99 paperback.
That makes it hard to see how traditional publishers can justify asking almost as much for the Kindle version (and sometimes more!) than for the hard copy. e-books should be considerably cheaper, not only because they are much cheaper to produce and distribute, but also because they are more restrictive (you can only lend them once ever, if at all, and you can’t resell them) which ought to mean more sales. The disruption of the publishing market has really only just begun.
I’m attempting to explore similar concepts through fiction, with the goal of trying to understand how these sorts of technological developments might affect the human experience. My view is that when confronted with ideas this radical, stories are the best way to explore the possible implications. Otherwise it’s all too abstract, all to clinical, all too remote, and therefore all too easy to ignore, at least until it actually begins to happen and we’re totally unprepared.