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The Lair Of Gary James

Posts Tagged ‘research’

The Black Terror: Roundup 1

Posted by BigWords on May 24, 2013

So, you may be wondering – if this all fell together so easily, why am I not doing anything with the character? Well, because others are still working with The Black Terror. They may not be using the character to his full potential, and – in all likelihood – there will never be a proper exploitation of all the things that make him so interesting, but that doesn’t matter. I can’t play with the character while there are stories published elsewhere. One of the main elements that makes me excited about a property is being out there on the sidelines of what people are doing, taking characters in new directions and ignoring the (often insipid) popular movements. Maybe there’s room for a comic-book title featuring the character which is less mainstream, but as long as he is appearing elsewhere I won’t be involved in the character.

This example isn’t a particularly unique insight into how I patchwork a grand story together from thin material, and I could have done an equally in-depth piece on The Lady In Red, or even Robin Hood (if anyone is using the character, please get the historic “great forest” feeling in there somewhere), but it shows how a great story can be told about even minor characters. When I have expressed dissatisfaction with the stories which I have been reading, it is mainly because people aren’t being either as bold or as intuitive in their extrapolation of characters as they should be. I want the wild and intelligent elements to come to the forefront, and be played with – I need more intelligent material to pore over than many people are willing to write. It is neither difficult nor time consuming.

There’s a lot of stuff I won’t touch. I dislike the thought of writing something just because it is popular at the moment. I could do a helluva vampire novel, but what’s the point? There’s already too many mediocre attempts at Twilight-lite fiction, and by adding to the considerable number of titles muddying the genre I would merely be committing the same literary necrophilia as those who I am irritated by. Playing follow-the-leader is fine for children, but for authors it is a sign of desperation and lack of strength. Standing clear of the traffic already clogging up genres is the only way for people to grow as writers, and avoiding any confusion is paramount to establishing that most important of credentials – originality. I know people are gonna be headdesking at that word, as there is nothing truly original left, but having a degree of originality in the writing is different to plot.

I scratched the notion of doing something with Black Terror rather quickly, so I never got to the point where I had a page-by-page breakdown, and had I managed to quell the feeling that I was stepping on the work being done with the character elsewhere I would have created a tighter focus on the conspiracy drawing him to The Spider (or his niece, as she will have that name by the 1940s). The problems inherent in bringing any character back from the public domain are that they aren’t controllable – others have the ability to go ahead and use the characters in any way they see fit, and there is no right or wrong in their use. There might be entirely uninteresting uses, but those aren’t “wrong” per se. Just not to my taste.

There’s a lot of characters which I have a passing interest in the future of. Most of them are in the public domain, and freely available for use, though it is a hard sell convincing myself to tackle them when there are others utilizing them. One of the most neglected Golden Age areas is the Egyptian characters. This bleeds into the pulps as well, infusing the magnificent discoveries with a sense of wonder, mystery and horror. The use of Egyptian heroes (Ibis and Kalkor in comics, right through to low-budget films) have always felt as if they were slightly underdeveloped. I’ll go so far as to make note that modern comics don’t have a grasp on just how much there is still to be done. Hawkman, long an Egyptian-tinged hero, never felt as if he was truly connected to anything approaching reality.

For anyone writing characters tied to Egypt of the 40s, reading Montet’s 1958 record of his expedition is pretty much essential background research. And as for the lighter depictions of WWII – really, are people sitting down with a DVD of Saving Private Ryan and claiming to have done the necessary historical research? Yes, I may be overstating just how irritated I am with much of the comics on the market right now, and there are good things appearing, but there seems to be too many light and breezy versions of history which are presented as having some validity when they merely reprise what has gone before. Like anything else, this results in lowered fidelity with each removal from the source material.

Although it should be obvious, I have no intention of writing for DC or Marvel. I know most people would be desperate to get their hands on those characters, but the quality of the writing – overall – has been rather low from what I have read, and I would feel bad if people following the adventures of a character were subjected to one of the intermittent crossovers through anything I did. There hasn’t been a worthwhile one since the original Crisis back in the 80s, with each money-grabbing, poorly plotted mess becoming more and more irrelevant to the mainstream. Mainstream readers don’t care about superheroes, and they care even less for stories built on the continuity snarls of superheroes.

For a while now I have been concentrating on developing and building up material for my own titles, but… Yeah. This hasn’t been a good couple of years. There will be a proper something appearing at some point which will go some way to answering what has been happening with that material, but it is a ways off just yet. And it won’t be the kind of things that you can go get anywhere else.

Having laid all that out, I think I have covered everything I set out to do. Time to leave this via a nice, relaxing piece of music…

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The Black Terror, Part Three

Posted by BigWords on May 23, 2013

Back to the Skull & Crossbones… Man, that is so full of potential. And it opens in to a lot of things that can add depth to the character. It was while sketching out a basic timeline that I realized that I could strengthen the ties back and forth between the stitched together elements. Going back to the Herbert West story, and the explosion that aborts the experiments on Major Sir Eric Moreland Clapham-Lee, D.S.O., I had another feverish moment of canon-welding. There’s a funky character called Phantom Raider Of The Sky whose visuals and history fit the tone and mood which I was going for. And it fitted with the general theme of the characters being bound by events from the past, unable to escape the consequences of actions taken by others.

By incorporating other characters using the logo, I was able to form a timeline – John Perry of the Daily Clarion running a series of stories which seem to be using the Terror image, but it is Black Fury; a Japanese assassin of The Black Dragon Society trying to dirty Benton’s name; the actor Perry Knight appearing in a play in town… With the increasing appearance of the skull and crossbones surrounding Benton, it was also a way to increase his discomfort about having a secret identity, and the thought that someone might have discovered his role as Black Terror could be used to rack up the tension. It also led to a way to get other old properties tied into the continuity. Of course, having the plot set up through happy coincidences and conspiracy theories wasn’t enough. The basic reality of the character outside the fantasy has to be right for verisimilitude.

There are a few essential posts for anyone writing chemists working in a drugstore in the forties. There are not one, not two, but three posts which Sarah Sundin has written that are essential to capturing the atmosphere of the era. It was reading those posts that I realized I needed to show Benton in the white outfit (and that hat) which held so great an era-appropriate tinge. Nobody has really caught the forties flavor of the character, and it is stuff like the uniform which helps. Small details. I was reading books on vintage automobiles for something else a few years back, though I don’t have those to hand. Irrespective, there are places to get a feeling about the cars in play at the opening of WWII

One of the things which attracted me to the character was the political edge about the character. One of the foes was Alderman Peters, lining his pocket and providing shoddy constructions, then there was the fact that his girlfriend worked for the mayor – it was a milieu almost built for a heady mix of corruption and political shenanigans. There isn’t another character from the forties so readily adaptable into a clever, in-depth examination of the ways that the war impacted on life. Even the throwaway element of his professor turning to crime for funds due to his research being appropriated for the war effort was strong enough to drag in some other character moments. It had the potential to be the forties version of The Wire if handled correctly.

When I talk about being able to see the connections which exist under the surface of a story, it is all this stuff I am talking about. It isn’t difficult to whip up something so complex and intelligent in a couple of days. I mentioned that there was a need for something more personal in the character – the original comics present a remarkably solitary figure despite friends – and it was in family that the character would face his greatest fears. He needed a brother. There’s a film which has slipped into the public domain that felt like the work of a divine hand, a narrative that tied itself into the character so well that there was little choice other than to accept Charles Benton as Robert’s erstwhile brother.

And the serum in that film is soooo right.

So, with all the pieces of the puzzle falling into place remarkably easy, it was time to address those guns. I am not adverse to characters wielding firearms, and in stories which take place in a pulpy, film noir world, there needs to be at least one scene where a character empties a revolver. But all the time? It gets too similar and tired, and there isn’t a link to the character’s other moments – with being a chemist, I had the notion that there might be more to the use of knockout gas or something… Small vials of milky liquid thrown at enemies rather than gunplay also fits with the attention paid to pugilistic tradition. This, in turn, keeps the character fresh and interesting when paired with characters who are more closely associated with carrying firearms.

Oh, and because he’s into boxing, it opens the door for Costigan to make an appearance at some point.

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Rounding Up The Regular Research Resources

Posted by BigWords on July 26, 2011

or, How To Find Stuff Without Going Insane

I already have a Resources page, but this addresses a wider need for basic information.

If you have already read through yesterday’s post, you might be forgiven for thinking that research is an ultimately aggravating experience, but if you want to know certain minor details about a specific area – say, for example, train times in Victorian England – you will be pleased to know that the resources for nearly everything have come on in leaps and bounds. It may surprise some, but this is, in part, thanks to a particularly Victorian kind of individual – the hobbyist. Oh, and those timetables? Why, they are right here, if you are desperate to find out the exact times…

Nearly anything which falls under the Common / Everyday Knowledge category – no matter how ephemeral the original content was intended to be – has been preserved by someone. Indeed, as collectors of the everyday have begun to pool resources, the amount of material uploaded to the internet has exponentially increased. It isn’t just public notices and pamphlets which are now available to all; there are more esoteric things you can find out online, and from the strangest of places – Whitstable ‘phone numbers from the 1920s? I have that covered. For all the large, complex databases which have been made available, sometimes it is the small things which really matter.

Current information, which is normally copyrighted by the originator, is a touchier part of research – for every piece of information freely available, to copy, save, share, and disseminate freely, there are a dozen (often vital) pieces of information which are considered as being the property of an individual or (more often than not) an organization. Wherever I have culled some critical note from a primary or secondary source, I tend to make deliberate use of links back to the place I found the information. In print, and as part of a larger work, this might become more problematic, though I consider the relationships built through open cooperation to be of great value.

When it comes to research, we are not just the sum of our work, we are the sum of our connections.

I really wish I didn’t have to point this out, but simply heading for the first available mention of the subject you are researching isn’t going to help you. People seem to have become incredibly lazy when it comes to finding reference works – the main objective in the first four hours of researching a subject is to make a comprehensive list of acknowledged experts in the field, who might be able to shed light on hidden aspects of the material. Simply gathering information at the early stages of a project is likely to frustrate, so by gathering resources quickly you’ll see that the eventual collection of data is much easier and more accurate …which is where I should pimp back-issues of Book And Magazine Collector for it’s reading lists.

Now for music…

To sharpen your skills at uncovering information quickly and accurately, start playing a multi-discipline version of Five Degrees Of Separation. Look beyond the simple task of connecting individuals, and attempt to connect a place (Paris, perhaps) with a book (pick your favorite non-French title here), a song (try Oye Como Va, above) with a car (maybe an Austin Cooper) or some other combination of subjects – once you have this initial connection, try adding other elements. It is by removing obvious conclusions that you can start stretching your ability to uncover obscure and occluded facts.

Posted in Misc., Over The Line, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

As Ripples On Water

Posted by BigWords on February 4, 2011

Everything, as I have said many times before, is connected. The most seemingly isolated things are entangled, in ways which make even the most random and inconsequential items matter. When I started seriously putting the pieces of the non-fiction book together, adding fifteen years worth of notes and observations to the bare bones of an idea which I have carried with me from place to place, this became even clearer for me. I’ve (thus far) resisted the temptation to give too much away about the contents of the WIP, but as I cautiously move from segment to segment of the book, I realize that I’m not entirely sure of how much other people know. The notion of “common knowledge” seems to get further complicated as I attempt to write for an international, and more importantly educated audience.

The first thing which strikes me about writing non-fiction, and is in no way a slur on anyone else, is how often there are massive gaps in reference books. Not merely oversights, but whole sections of history which are so poorly represented that it would seem, to an indiscriminate eye, that such times have had no event of significance within the period described. I knew, right from the start, that I wanted to do something definitive with this, and having had long enough to consider how I wanted to proceed (in a subject which is still more or less virgin territory) it became clear that there were no suitable guides from which to draw on. A rough outline of contents has revealed to me the scope of the omissions in other peoples’ work, which means I have to strike out on my own if I want to do this right. In the short time I have been compiling the data, the vast world of interconnected information has slowly been revealed to me.

And it is scary.

Writing about books (in a way, for such is the nature of this tome), has been as complicated as anything I could possibly have imagined. There’s already over a hundred years of history I have to convey, and titles I need to track down, but of the material which is present and correct, very little information is already documented. This is not only new research I am having to do, it also bleeds into other areas I never expected to have to fix. The US side of the material (which is tertiary at best to what I intend) has so meager a bibliography that it isn’t worth my while reading further on the collated data there, and the European side of things is even worse – in English, at least. I’m opening myself to writing at least four or five books worth of information to back up the central data in the work in progress.

It isn’t just the paucity of good reference works about the books, it also concerns the magazines, comics and periodicals I am going to be covering. For a long time – until very recently – I had expected that there would be some sort of website or overly-priced reference book which I could work off as a starting point for further research, but that is not the case. I’m having to go through (by hand) decades of fragile documents to get the barest scraps of information required to find elements which correspond to the titles I am documenting, which is at least another book’s worth of great material sitting beside me. It’s slightly disheartening to think that there is so little interest in the history of an area of publishing that so little has been written as to necessitate such extensive research.

I’m going to hold my hand up here, and admit that I thought this would be easy. Hell, it’s not as if I ever go out of my way to do things which are on the very edge of impossible, even if it sometimes seems that way. It’s a good thing I am so obsessed with making my work as good as it can be, and – really important, given the titles which are in the same general area – encompassing, because I have the feeling the works which have set out to tackle similar areas were crushed by the ever-expanding reference pool which goes with crafting a definitive work in one area. It’s the ripples which get people every time. One thing leads to another, which opens a new field of query, then onwards… Outwards…

The ever-expanding pool of knowledge I am having to cope with may seem like a daunting task – and there are things I’m writing about which go back to the 1700s, so it is a very wide net I am casting – but I have the feeling that this is an important lesson, in many ways. If I hadn’t decided to tackle this work, then it would have remained forgotten by most as a blip which passed without much fanfare. There are names which are difficult to trace much of their work, and that’s another thing which annoys me a bit more than I find comforting. It’s pretty much up to me – as the only person who seems to be doing anything to preserve the knowledge – to make their work live on again. I really don’t like the responsibility which comes with that…

Maybe the ripple effect isn’t as bad for me because I need to write this. It isn’t because I have a feeling this will make heaps of money (in fact, I’m almost certain that the very limited audience for such a book is shrinking by the day), nor is it because there is a pressing need for such a book (given the absence of similar works on the market, that is a given), but the urge to write it remains. It’s the kind of thing I would buy in an instant if there was a title of distinction available. I may be overcompensating, by adding more information than is truly necessary for the work to stand alone, but all the elements build to something which has never been done before, and that excites me.

Do I want to be cited? To have my name in footnotes? This book, this folly of epic proportions, deemed a work which is to be read by people as a window into the small area of publishing it covers? I hope not. I do want the dissemination of information to go as well as possible, but the daunting and rather awful prospect of this graduating from a diversion to being an important title in its’ subject makes me uneasy. The way that I have been approaching the end-section of the book, unlike other reference guides, is to give it an equal weight of importance as the main body of text, and it’s probably the one thing I am most shocked with. There’s already indexed information which I can’t really grasp the reason for people excluding elsewhere, and the more I uncover (every day I seem to find some new and shiny fact) the more I am convinced that this book found me rather than the other way round.

Like ripples on water, the information grows.
Like ripples on water, it touches everything.

I can only hope I am up to the task of clearly explaining all that I hope to.

Posted in comics, Misc., writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

A Question Of Authorial Respect

Posted by BigWords on January 22, 2011

Playing a little game of “What If” now, because I want to ask a question, but I don’t want to be completely open about exactly what I’m up to. Those of you who know the general elements of what this is regarding may want to take a back seat, as I don’t require more calls of “Bloody hell man, get on with it already.” This isn’t another attempt at delaying the inevitable approach of the-thing-which-must-not-be-referred-to. Really. Honestly. It is a valid question which I haven’t seen pondered enough, and as it has some passing relation to the things I am currently going through, it seems a decent enough time to raise the issue with people who may have a more objective viewpoint from which to approach the suspect. I’ll get to the big question in a moment, but first I’ll set out a hypothetical situation from which I will move on.

If a title is on the market – irrespective of its’ provenance (traditional vs. self-published, paperback vs. digital book), and ignoring the qualifications of the author – and has been for some time, how long (if a time frame is to be brought up) is the correct period to wait before a similar title might be considered? For our imaginary title, lets stick to non-fiction (as there really are no new ideas in fiction, merely variations on a theme) as that is where the issue really gets tangled up. Are we, as writers, subject to some unspoken rule about not interfering with another author’s work by bringing out a competing title for a certain amount of time, or are we beholden to readers, who demand choice in their purchasing habits? Is there even an issue here?

Adding to the problem:

  • If both books are about a specific sub-section of an area which has not been fully documented to date, does this matter?
  • If the sole book on the market is from a respected author, what are the obligations the second book must make towards the first?
  • When preparing for publication, are we obliged to inform the author of the competing title of the imminent approach of a new title?
  • If there is sufficient reason to believe that an updated edition of the first book is going to be released, should work on a book be stopped, or postponed, until the other title has had a chance to recoup its’ investment?

This is normally the place where I screw around and have fun, but this question has been nagging at me for a few weeks. I take the rights of authors seriously, and the idea that, by omission or ignorance, I might negatively affect someone else is really pressing on my mind. I know there is a call for a definitive work about the thing I am thinking of (which some folks will already know), yet I keep backing off because of a title which appeared a decade ago. It’s far from a perfect reference work (this is no slight on the author), and I keep returning to the prospect that my work on the subject might actually be important. Not important as in world-changing, but important for those interested in the subject.

So here’s the issue – Am I stepping on anyone’s toes by continuing this project? It’s not as if the purpose of the two books would be a problem, as the one I am writing is more in-depth, as opposed to the shotgun approach which the extant title took. I’m also going to completely ignore a few of the quirks which the existing book presented. It’s an entirely different approach, though there is room to believe that they would be seen as competing entries to a small market. If there had been a few different titles out there, this would be less of a quandary, but the fact that my book would be the first to openly tackle the same subject makes things all the more complicated. Maybe I’m over-thinking things wildly, and making a problem where none exists…

Having looked at areas where people have been the first to publish a book in competition with an existing title, I have noticed a tendency for things to get… Well, “messy” would be an understatement. The accusations which arise when people enter so small an area of publishing, no matter if they have a perfect reason for presenting their work, makes prolonged consideration of the pros and cons a requirement rather than an afterthought. It really matters to me that I do not anger the individual in question, as his work – whatever I think of its’ presentation of the data – is a landmark in certain geek circles. Going forth with the project is giving me headaches which no fiction has ever managed, and some degree of impartial commentary on this would really be appreciated here.

I could say “fuck it, I’m going ahead whether people like it or not,” but that leaves me with the possible conflict I wish to avoid if at all possible. I’m not even sure there would be a problem should this be brought to the attention of the individual whose work I may be threatening (which is, in itself, a pretty big statement I really don’t want to make this early), as they seem to be genuinely love the subject. If someone is so enthralled by such a (relatively) small interest area, then further information should be welcomed… Right?

Jeez, I can’t believe I’m trying to talk myself out of completing the damn book after so much work. As it stands at this moment, there is nothing to say that there could be some degree of collaboration should events require it. I’m willing – with caution – to share further details of what I am working on, but I really would prefer this to be handled in a way which does not drag undue attention to something which needs (at least) another few weeks to get all the pieces in place.

Posted in writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Four Days And Counting…

Posted by BigWords on December 27, 2009

It’s something of a tradition, as the old year gives way to the new, that a short moment is given over to reflection on those who have passed in the previous twelve months. I’ve been surprised – rooting around the old Absolute Write threads – that nobody has thought of putting together such a list for the wordsmiths who have passed beyond the veil. Well, that is all set to change, as I have usurped the role of official chronicler from whoever was meant to be putting together such a thing. Yup, that’s the reason I haven’t been so active around the internet, commenting on blogs and such, but I’m sure I can be forgiven my lack of participation in the day-to-day activities as I toil away in my own mad way.

It started out as a few names, hastily sketched down in a notebook, but rapidly grew into an obsession. That’s what you get when OCD begins scratching away in the back of the mind, demanding a comprehensive run-down, alphabetized and with copious links to ensure that a level of understanding can be gained into the work of those who are no longer with us. I’m currently up to four pages of names, though I had (about a week ago) assumed myself to be 80% through the names. I was wrong, and the list grew substantially. It doesn’t help that I have signed up to various news feeds and e-mail alerts, begun digging through old obituaries, read Locus’ online portions, and trawled through Wikipedia.

Which brings up an interesting point – I’m not linking anything directly to Wikipedia. I’ll use the wiki to gather direct information (their links), but the site itself doesn’t meet my criteria for accuracy. There’s a long history of me bitching in forums that surfing Wikipedia is a poor substitute for research, but I’m willing to concede that it (sometimes) manages to throw up the odd name or two I wouldn’t have thought of. That, in case you missed it, is an apology to Wikipedia for my dismissal of its’ usefulness. Don’t hold your breath for a more glowing tribute to it, ’cause one ain’t coming.

The main thing I have realized, as the names accumulate, is the shockingly young age of some writers. My peers, people my own age and younger, are among the departed. It’s scary, and a bit intimidating. Here’s something I thought of – you know that feeling, when you first understood how far away the Earth was from the sun, and how far away the sun was from other galaxies, and how far those galaxies were from the rest of the universe, and how small and insignificant we truly are… That’s kinda the same feeling I had when I stood back and looked at the ages of some of the writers. I also has a few moments when I had to walk away from the laptop before the utterly depressing nature of such an undertaking got to me.

I’ve also begun thinking of the myriad ways in which I might – one day long from now, hopefully – die. It seems that many of the writers over the past year have died of cancer. That’s scary. That’s scary in ways which cuts through the bullshit and hits straight in the gut. My paternal grandmother died of cancer – and my mother has had a few scares – so it runs in the family.  I smoke a lot, and my chances of dying from the disease are slightly above average. Slightly. My paternal grandfather had a few heart attacks in his thirties, and my maternal grandfather had cancer at the end. I have genes which are custom-built for self-destruction, aided and assisted by a streak of obsessive compulsive weirdness.

Not the Christmas cheer you came looking for, right? Sorry. I’m not up to dancing the Snoopy dance for your entertainment.

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone besmeared with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword nor war’s quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.
‘Gainst death and all oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth: your praise shall still find room
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
. So, till the judgment that yourself arise,
. You live in this, and dwell in lovers’ eyes.

Shakespeare

The immortals, those whose words will continue to ring down through the ages, may no longer be with us in person. They are gone, but their words will outlive us all. It’s a wonderful reassurance that everything isn’t in vain – we will always be here as long as our work is remembered. I don’t hold on to religious notions, so grasping at immortality by vicarious means is as good as I can hope for. That’s why remembering those who came before us is important, and why time should be set aside to think of those who have gone from our midst. It’s why I’m putting my piece together. It’s why I’ve been surprisingly quiet this last week or so.

Things should be back to normal soon enough. Savor the quiet while you have it.

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The End-Of-Year Wind-Down

Posted by BigWords on December 20, 2009

I’m in the middle of a massive fact-checking excercise for a That Was 2009 type post, covering notable deaths, the important awards, the stuff that I’ve found interesting and other information, so I won’t be getting around the internet as much as normal. Don’t worry, I haven’t died, or gotten lost on my way home from a night out… As soon as I’m finished prepping the big posts planned for the last day of the year it will be back to business as normal.

If anyone has anything they want added to the rundown of 2009, then leave your notes in the comment section below.

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A Quick Word About New Projects

Posted by BigWords on December 1, 2009

There’s always something going on, and it can be hard to remain focused on what I’m meant to be doing, so I thought I would share some of the things which have been bubbling under the surface and are almost ready to begin work on properly. This does, of course, mean I am taking on yet more commitments, though I have enough material stashed away to prevent them overwhelming me. Hopefully. I can’t guarantee that things will go smoothly, but I can guarantee that there will be a wealth of information available from my archives very soon. Both of the not-quite-ready blogs I am getting ready to add to my blogroll are going to be based around reviews and associated material.

The first of the blogs will appear at some point in the next week or so, with the second added when I get the chance to dig out the reference work I have been gathering for the last few years. The addition of two new blogs doesn’t mean that I’ll be ignoring this slice of insanity on a regular basis, nor does it mean that the book blog will be pushed to one side. If anything, the addition of two new blogs will allow me to put more material online than at present. It will also allow me to cover material I haven’t yet taken the opportunity to spend any time thinking about, adding links throughout all of the blogs to tie everything together in one meta-blog. Did I just come up with a brand new term? Quite possibly…

I have considered adding a fifth blog to the weekly duties, specifically centered on artwork I like, though that might wait a while. Diluting my free time with things to do is part of my attempts to keep busy while everyone else is asleep, ’cause the insomnia is really beginning to affect the way I spend my time. It really isn’t healthy to spend so much time arguing with the radio and causing mayhem around the net. I need constructive work to keep my idle hands from giving the devil work to do – or something.

I’ll finish up here with another pic which I like.

I didn’t draw it, so the blame can’t be pinned on me.

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It’s Just A Question Of Self-Restraint…

Posted by BigWords on October 22, 2009

As NaNo lasts an entire month, I figure that I’ll have to drastically alter my internet habits. The forum activities will be hard to give up, but if I stick to two or three rather than my usual round of three-to-four hour surfing then I’ll be able to give more attention to my writing. The NaNo forum is going to be one of my main haunts, but I can’t give up AW for any novel. Hell, I’ll probably need some of the advice therein to get my story fixed up nice ‘n’ presentable.

Film and game forums will be banned from my computer for the foreseeable future though, as those are distractions, and I probably shouldn’t be browsing 4chan in the first place… TV Tropes might have to be given a miss as well, despite being one of the most useful Wiki’s on the net – yes, it is much better than the one you’ve all heard of. The one which pops up at the top of every single fucking Google search. I have spent longer on TV Tropes than Wikipedia these last few months, and not a single minute has been wasted time.

Can I stay away from ‘Quote Of The Day’ sites? Hmmm. Might need to ponder that. I certainly won’t be bothering with online dictionaries or thesauruses, seeing as how the NaNo WIP will be posted here anyway. I do so love the spellcheck WordPress has, even if it isn’t filled with as many obscure and wonderful words as I would like. There will be no reason to mess around on music sites because I have enough CDs to listen to different songs all the way through November, and I’m not going to need any browser games.

Am I missing anything?

Oh yeah… Torrents. Downloadable goodness. I might as well fill up some of the space on my hard drive while I’m busy writing, and the entertainments which will be ready for me at the end of the month can count as my little reward to myself for keeping focused. The idea of staying in for a month is beginning to appeal to me, especially when I take into account the money I will save by not going out. I might even end the month with some money to spare – not likely, but I can dream, can’t I?

It’s lucky that I don’t have any ongoing subscriptions to sites, so I’m not gonna lose money by not visiting anything, and there’s nothing I particularly need to subscribe to anyway. My book blog (not abandoned, simply neglected) won’t be getting any attention during the writing frenzy, but neither will my Triond account – which I still haven’t written anything for due to all my running around these last few months. I guess I ought to check in on my mail every day, even if only to delete the spam…

This NaNo thing is a really good idea for people who spend too much time online.

Seriously, I can really imagine it being suggested to people who have big problems with constant web activity, and it’s benefits aren’t limited to keeping people off chatrooms and forums. There are lots of therapeutic reasons why writing for a month can be beneficial. All hail The Office Of Letters And Light, saviors of the human race. If it wasn’t for an enforced break from my usual routine I would have the urge to see what is going on around the internet…

I won’t be buying DVDs, games or books. There are some magazines I might pick up, because life without at least a few little luxuries would be intolerable. That is a lot of free time I’ll be making for myself. Other blogs are a big temptation, and I’ll do my best to steer clear of the more engrossing ones, otherwise I’ll end up spending the better part of a day engrossed in someone else’s life. Which, interesting as that may be, isn’t gonna be the most productive use of my time.

The biggest difference the lack of downtime will bring is in my ability to find weird stuff, which I seem to have a knack for. So that means I won’t be bringing you stuff like, uh… Well, this:

Disneyland Memorial OrgyMy words will have to be compelling enough on their own…

I’m getting rather nervous about this idea now.

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Notes On The Zombie Apocalypse

Posted by BigWords on October 12, 2009

Back when I started writing the zombie novel (my records show that to be 2003) I decided to take copious notes on anything and everything that could possibly be referenced. One of the first things which was considered was the weather, due to the usual horror bullshit of everything happening in the rain – something I was determined to avoid. It’s kinda an unusual way of approaching a story like this, but still…

With the dead walking there would be no scheduled flights taking place. The only record of such an event taking place is 9/11, so I looked at the weather reports which were taken in the weeks after the attack and noticed an increase of 1° in the three days after flights were grounded. Global dimming – where the reflection of the sun by clouds – is counteracted by Mother Nature, along with slightly clearer skies, would mean sunny days ahead.

If the infrastructure of emergency services is compromised early there would be massive fires, making city living impossible. The toxic fumes from the smoke would replace some, but not all, of the pollution which has been eliminated by normal life. While the oft-publicized greenhouse effect has been warming the planet, global dimming (thank you airlines of the world) has been cooling things down. With air pollution minimized we would be facing very hot days.

All of which amused me, as writing rainy scenes with running zombies seemed to veer deep into parody. And, knowing my sense of humor, I would be forced to use slapstick scenes of the shuffling undead kicking water into the air in amazement at their surroundings…

The interesting bits of info from my notes mostly cover world-building and organization (reorganization, actually) of society, but some neat visuals came from medical stuff as well. There are nine pints of blood (roughly) in a human body, so – working back from the endpoint – I managed to estimate that one human could sustain five zombies for a day or so. It gets more complex as time moves forward, due to the desiccation of the zombies, but as a starting point I thought it pretty solid.

The fact that a severed femoral artery is capable of spraying claret six feet also added to an idea which came to me during an episode of a nature documentary. Sorry to say that I didn’t note the program, but it dealt with sharks being able to ‘smell’ blood. So… They know that there is an injured person nearby because they can sense the presence of fresh blood which isn’t zombified. It takes quite a bit of workaround to sell their heightened sense of smell as a logical plot point, but one which works for the betterment of the story.

Interestingly (or so I think) I chose to call the small interludes ‘INTERMEZZO #1’ etc., rather than the (expected) movie-referencing INTERMISSION. The following is from the first of these pauses, but I’m not sure if it would have ended up being included or not:

Infrastructure is underrated. The societies we build around us depend on independent and subtly woven tapestries of companies, individuals and entire industries which – over decades – have coalesced into an efficient illusion of simple everyday occurrence. It is only when the morning newspapers fail to arrive, or public transport is discontinued, or some other inconvenience shatters our routine that we are forced to confront the possibility that we rely too heavily on the continuance of things which are out of our control.

Wordy and obvious. Meh.

The following is a conversation from near the end of the first chapter.

“Do you want the long version or the short version?”
“Readers Digest version.”
“We’re fucked.”
“Maybe I will take the Director’s Cut after all…”
“Okay, we’re fucked and the dead are walking.”
“Isn’t there a bunch of other information on the commentaries. Like, how-they-did-that segments on the dead walking?”
“Just look out a window.”

Not exactly subtle, but zombie stories aren’t meant to be subtle, right?

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