Charlie's Diary

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Thu, 25 Nov 2004

Still Ill, Part 2

I'm still not better. The cold is drying up slowly, and the really worrying cough has gone -- but I've still got a residual dry tickly cough (irritated bronchi, I reckon) and I feel weak as a dishrag. I managed to get out of the house today and walk into town and back, and what's normally a one-hour routine errand left me feeling wiped out. It's not a pleasant sensation, and it's played havoc with my work schedule: I think I'm now about two weeks behind on the rewrite of GLASSHOUSE. Luckily I was six months ahead before this bug bit me ...

Being too unfocussed to work I've been catching up on my reading, both recreational and research. Let's draw a polite veil over the Laurel K. Hamilton vampire books -- if I say they're research you'll draw all the wrong kind of conclusions, and if I say they're recreational some of you will question my sanity. (What's left of it.) Let's just say that, while I've been thinking a lot about vampires of late, I'm not about to jump in and imitate that particular best-seller.

On a very different note I can wholeheartedly endorse Stamping Butterflies by Jon Courtenay Grimwood. It features his usual calling-cards -- deracinated middle eastern youth, someone in a situation where his own actions suddenly acquire a power and significance he doesn't want, seedy goings-on in dusty North African alleyways -- but there's a lightness of touch, combined with a deft multi-threaded plot reminiscent of Iain M. Banks on a good day, which makes it most enjoyable, and there are also some very un-JCG touches of far future big-universe gosh-wow SF that suggest he's breaking new ground.

On the research side, I've just ploughed through A Matter of Risk by Roy Varner and Wayne Collier (published in 1978 -- thanks John, for lending me your copy: I'll return it as soon as the one I sourced arrives). It's a journalistic account of the CIA's project to raise a sunken Soviet Golf-II class ballistic missile submarine from the floor of the Pacific in 1975, under the code names "Azorian", "Jennifer", and (cancelled at the last minute) "Matador" told in rather breathless (and intermittently plodding) prose. I wouldn't recommend it unless you're actually trying to research the background to the voyage of the Glomar Explorer and the huge Clementine submarine grab -- there are more recent and better written books around that cover the whole weird caper without the tedious detail -- but it served its purpose. (If I mention the next book on my to-write stack is titled "The Jennifer Morgue" I'm sure you'll draw the relevant conclusion.)

One little tidbit did, however, stick:

[Loss of USS Scorpion] ... During the spring of 1968, three other submarines had also gone down: the Israeli Dakar in the Mediterranean, with a crew of 69; the French Minerve nearby, with a crew of 52; and the Russian Golf-II northwest of Hawaii. A total of 290 sailors died in submarine disasters over a four-month period. In fact the year 1968 had two-thirds of the marine disasters of the previous sixteen years, and three-fourths of their fatalities -- and all in the first five months.

(And if you can't hang a thriller plot off that, you shouldn't be writing thrillers. Right?)

Finally, my current reading matter: having stalled out on GLASSHOUSE (due to the chest bug and two lots of copy-edits arriving simultaneously at the beginning of the month) I'm pacing myself and updating my background reading before I go back to it. One useful source has shown up since I wrote the first draft, and is sure to feed into the final one: The Man Who Shocked the World, The Life and Legacy of Stanley Milgram, by Thomas Blass. Milgram was a hugely influential figure in the field of social psychology and -- equally importantly -- his work cast a fascinating (and rather unpleasant) light into some dark and dirty corners of human behaviour, going some way to explain why perfectly ordinary-looking people may commit atrocities when ordered to do so by an authority figure. The book itself turns out so far to be one of those scientific biographies that place the work of their subject in the perspective of their life and times; if it continues as it begins, it will be very good indeed.

[Discuss writing]

posted at: 20:23 | path: /writing | permanent link to this entry


Is SF About to Go Blind? -- Popular Science article by Greg Mone
Unwirer -- an experiment in weblog mediated collaborative fiction
Inside the MIT Media Lab -- what it's like to spend a a day wandering around the Media Lab
"Nothing like this will be built again" -- inside a nuclear reactor complex

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Missile Gap
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The Jennifer Morgue
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The Clan Corporate
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The Hidden Family
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Some webby stuff I'm reading:

Engadget ]
Gizmodo ]
The Memory Hole ]
Boing!Boing! ]
Futurismic ]
Walter Jon Williams ]
Making Light (TNH) ]
Crooked Timber ]
Junius (Chris Bertram) ]
Baghdad Burning (Riverbend) ]
Bruce Sterling ]
Ian McDonald ]
Amygdala (Gary Farber) ]
Cyborg Democracy ]
Body and Soul (Jeanne d'Arc)  ]
Atrios ]
The Sideshow (Avedon Carol) ]
This Modern World (Tom Tomorrow) ]
Jesus's General ]
Mick Farren ]
Early days of a Better Nation (Ken MacLeod) ]
Respectful of Otters (Rivka) ]
Tangent Online ]
Grouse Today ]
Hacktivismo ]
Terra Nova ]
Whatever (John Scalzi) ]
Justine Larbalestier ]
Yankee Fog ]
The Law west of Ealing Broadway ]
Cough the Lot ]
The Yorkshire Ranter ]
Newshog ]
Kung Fu Monkey ]
S1ngularity ]
Pagan Prattle ]
Gwyneth Jones ]
Calpundit ]
Lenin's Tomb ]
Progressive Gold ]
Kathryn Cramer ]
Halfway down the Danube ]
Fistful of Euros ]
Orcinus ]
Shrillblog ]
Steve Gilliard ]
Frankenstein Journal (Chris Lawson) ]
The Panda's Thumb ]
Martin Wisse ]
Kuro5hin ]
Advogato ]
Talking Points Memo ]
The Register ]
Cryptome ]
Juan Cole: Informed comment ]
Global Guerillas (John Robb) ]
Shadow of the Hegemon (Demosthenes) ]
Simon Bisson's Journal ]
Max Sawicky's weblog ]
Guy Kewney's mobile campaign ]
Hitherby Dragons ]
Counterspin Central ]
MetaFilter ]
NTKnow ]
Encyclopaedia Astronautica ]
Fafblog ]
BBC News (Scotland) ]
Pravda ]
Meerkat open wire service ]
Warren Ellis ]
Brad DeLong ]
Hullabaloo (Digby) ]
Jeff Vail ]
The Whiskey Bar (Billmon) ]
Groupthink Central (Yuval Rubinstein) ]
Unmedia (Aziz Poonawalla) ]
Rebecca's Pocket (Rebecca Blood) ]

Older stuff:

June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
(I screwed the pooch in respect of the blosxom entry datestamps on March 28th, 2002, so everything before then shows up as being from the same time)

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