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Please try to remember this

I am back home, after nearly a week in NYC, during which time I got to do BEA.

Before I went, my carpal tunnel problem was getting better. It's now a lot worse: and not because I was doing a lot of writing, either.

Folks, if you meet an author for the first time, by all means offer to shake their hand. However, writing is something we do on computer keyboards, and some of us have exciting and unpleasant repetitive strain injuries. It's generally considered polite to refrain from inflicting screaming agony on your favourite author in order to display your enthusiasm. So please be gentle when shaking our hands!

(NB: offering to crush the author's other hand instead is not an improvement: most keyboards require eight fingers and two thumbs to operate ...)

This PSA is, alas, necessary because I've been on the receiving end of one too many walnut-crushers this week (with a book signing on top), and I am consequently resorting to diclofenac gel (a fairly powerful anti-inflammatory and pain-killer for musculoskeletal problems: available without prescription in the UK, but not the US). I'm also laying off the keyboard as much as possible for the next couple of weeks, and trying to reserve my keystrokes for business-related activities.



Reinforced repetitive hand-shaking gloves, eh? To the invention machine!


I know a guy who can put me in touch with an armourer who makes plate mail gauntlets.

That would definitely solve the problem, although it would bring some of its own.

If I do BEA again I may take to wearing long sleeves with cuffs and holding out a foam artificial hand for strangers to shake ...


maimed by fans?
or were they working for the insidious 'anti stross syndicate'?
keep your eyes peeled sir, the ninjas are coming next

theres a new mmoi cpming out ' secret world'
its got deep ones in it..


Hugs instead? ;)


What is it with men who think that a handshake is some kind of manliness test? It's a handshake, not some kind of martial art.


Sir Terry P used swear by the virtues of packets of Frozen Peas during over extended Signing Sessions. Indeed I understand that his Publishers Minions used - in advance of Tour - to Routinely SEEK OUT sources of Freshly Frozen Packets of Peas Aching Authors Wrists for the Use of ..but that was doubtless long ago and far away and in an AGE of Yesterday when Aging Authors were Properly Respected and Surrounded by Hosts of Body Guards and Dancing Girls/Dancing Persons of Choice? Theres NO respect anymore! The Young Folks of Today ..Ba! Mumble Mumble ...

All of which does beg the question of why you haven't achieved the Entourage that your Status does deserve? Is someone at your Publishers Top Slicing the Entourage Fund?


Sorry to hear that. You might try wearing obvious hand splints to public events; people generally recognize RSI and avoid the overly-manly-greetings...

(currently fighting off Mac-trackpad-thumb-click-tendonitis - so I feel for you...)


It seems to be worst with marketing people: the toothy smile (friendly to an American, carnivorous to a Brit -- we have different body languages), the firm handshake that signifies solidity or sincerity or stranglers' fingers.

Be that as it may, BEA is a marketing event. QED ...


Hm, when I met Jeff Smith, author of Bone for a signing, he was wearing some kind of orthopedic RSI thingamabob on his arm. Maybe you don't actually need it, but having one might give people an obvious visual cue that handies are not to be pummeled. I don't recall anyone shaking his hand, at any rate.

The worst thing about RSI is how goddamn long it takes to heal, my own bout with it came in my early twenties, and until my mid thirties I could still feel twinges when putting weight on the wrist joint.

A true bugger.


Seriously, I don't get the faux-manliness that being willing to crush someone's hand-bones enables. And what's worse is that you're supposed to grin and bear that.

To heck with that noise. Next time someone crushes my hand in their idea of a 'firm handshake,' I'm taking Eddie Izzard's advice and going 'AHHHHHHH, YOU JERK, WHAT THE @&*($& ARE YOU DOING TO MY HAND?!'


I am not PTerry. If I could somehow acquire 1% of his per-book sales it would make me Very Happy Indeed. So I probably rate around 1% of his minion/flunky count as far as my publishers are concerned. As I've probably got, oh, all of 2.5% of his MFC, I should be grateful.


I always considered crushing handshakes to be a sign of sociopathy..

This tip might help:

If not, wrist mounted honey badgers might be necessary.


Have you looked into the Datahand keyboards? They are expensive, but have been magical for a couple of my friends and my wife.


I"m sorry for your pain. Definitely, guard your wrists as much as you can; severe carpal tunnel is serious stuff. After a long career of typing and clicking for a living I finally had to have surgery on both wrists. I still occasionally get soreness in my wrists, but it goes away after a few hours, and it's not crippling; I can type without the pain increasing.

Maybe you could get one of those 18th century automatons that writes perfect Copperplate script (just the one arm would be enough) and take it with you to signings. Your fans would probably be very happy to have a book signed by the hand, and your wrists could get a rest.


Can I ask when this type of problem begins to start, and how it begins to manifest itself? I'm in my early thirties, and spend a large part of my day writing--maybe not as much as a professional novelist, but not too far shy of it either.

Is there anything I should look out for here?


I'm nowhere near bad enough to need to investigate that. Also: they don't look likely to work with laptop Macs, or iPhones.


I will note that the diclofenac gel (aka Voltarol™) is miracle juice; I can apply a thin layer of it and in ten minutes flat I go from in pain to pretty much normal pain-free functioning.

The down side: pain is an important signal that you're damaging yourself. Do not ignore it.

So my policy is: put up with the pain while working, and apply the anti-inflammatory/pain-killer when I stop.


Is there anything I should look out for here?

Yes: pains, numbness, or tingling in your fingers, hands, or wrists. Also wrist weakness. Go read the wikipedia article on carpal tunnel, or look it up in the Merck manual.


I believe that they are USB now, and therefore usable without a lot of trouble.

That said, they are clunky as hell and expensive, so if you don't need them, that's good. If it gets worse, though, you should keep them in mind. It was literally a career saver for one friend.


My key realization was that microbreaks help more than longer breaks after the damage is done, the thing about RSI is, it's insidious in the sense that the pain is manageable, you can easily ignore it and push ahead, finish what you're doing and then rest later, but that's how the damage accumulates. A 5 min. break every 20-40 minutes actually helps a lot more than a 3-5 hour break after uninterrupted 5 hours of mousing and or typing. I mentioned before the rsiguard software that helps time breaks, did good for me. The caveat is of course, those microbreaks can be killers for "the zone". You can skip them, but even the reminder can take you out of it...


Or of course theres always something New ...

" MIT students' invention turns bananas into keyboard "

Now why didn't I think of that? Bananas, or Cats ..

" Mr Silver said the possibilities were unlimited, from connecting a broccoli head to run Skype to creating an interactive music floor. Even his cat became part of the experiment.

"Cats are conductive on their foot pads, their ears, their nose, and their mouth. But their fur is not conductive."

According to Mr Rosenbaum they have managed to turn two of his friends into sound machines, a beach-ball into a game controller and have used a cup of milk to make music. "

it's so obvious when you think of it!


One of these perhaps?


It seems you should switch to fistbumps.


I'd agree with the wrist brace idea. Possibly you can get some simple, light ones, that are more signifiers of "look, I've got to sign a lot of books, so don't fuck with my hands, okay?" than something with a metal brace that will make the TSA ask you if you're smuggling a shiv onto a plane.

Also, please try not to get scavenged by vultures or go swimming in rivers while using diclofenac. Or scavenge roadkill with those hands of yours. Thanks.


Under no circumstances should you shake hands with a Blacksmith. I knew one, and he always crushed my hand when we met. Steeling (no pun intended) yourself for it helps, but if your not ready, expect every bone in your hand to get mashed together and be sore for a while.

Last week, was hanging out with a friend and his band, and the band they were touring with*. It was late and I was slightly inebriated, when the local band came in and introduced themselves. A woman, who plays bass with them, shook mine. I didn't give it much effort, being tired and not quite sober, and she says "Let's try that again." So we did, and gave her hand a good squeeze. "That's better." she says, and walks off.

Also being a lefty in a right-handed world does not help.

*Scottish band Uniforms. If you like old school Punk, check 'em out--they're home now.


While you recover, I might recommend some light reading:
Roughly: 95% of humans have a social-reciprocation reward pathway via oxytocin and dopamine. Of the other 5%, 1-2% are psychopaths.
Oh, and testosterone inhibits oxytocin and that reciprocation-reward pathway, but it also encourages social-norms enforcement, which is handy if you have norms about reciprocation and charity.

Gawd I love IEEE.


I'd agree with the wrist brace idea. Possibly you can get some simple, light ones, that are more signifiers of "look, I've got to sign a lot of books, so don't fuck with my hands, okay?" than something with a metal brace that will make the TSA ask you if you're smuggling a shiv onto a plane.

Also, please try not to get scavenged by vultures or go swimming in rivers while using diclofenac. Or scavenge roadkill with those hands of yours. Thanks.


If things get worse, might I suggest that your wife needs to create the Official Charles Stross Rubber Stamp, Good for Signing Books?


Is this why writers give so many humanoid aliens retractable claws?


My uncle Hughie was a heavy-horse farrier in his day, and he always went for the knuckle-crusher grip even when he was eighty. I'd warn people but he'd stick out his hand and they'd reflexively fall for it. Every. Time. I quit shaking hands with him when I was twelve.


I don't like diclofenac.
I have used DMSO in the past with very good results, esp if its carrying copper salicylate.


I'll try to remember that, if I ever meet a writer, I should just salute. (Actually, if I met an ACTUAL, REAL, WRITER, I'd probably just throw myself down on the ground and cover my face, before the radiance burned me).


I have been strugling with my right hand and shoulder since Easter. The worst part i during nights, every time I turn to the wrong (i.e. my right) side I wake up. I have been going to physical therapy, but his approch seem to be 1) to stretch me to pieces 2) to stick needles into me to make the muscles cramp. I use at least 2 days to recover from 1 session.

What helps is ibuprofen in large quanities, and Kendo. Beating people with a big stick seems to help. Not sure if it because of large arm motions, or just that beating people loosen up tension.


I'm pretty sure DMSO isn't available in the UK, even on prescription. Diclofenac is my go-to NSAID of choice, works better than ibuprofen in my experience. (Note: all human responses to drugs are somewhat idiopathic, so what works for me may not work for you.)

I do try to avoid using them, however. The elevated risk of a fatal heart attack that comes with all/most NSAIDs (as exemplified -- in the extreme case -- by Vioxx™) doesn't give me the warm fuzzies, so I only use them if I am in pain and it's too severe to ignore, and I stop using them ASAP when I'm out of pain.


More relevantly, I'm guilty of this too.
After meeting Charlie, in January, I shook his hand at parting, but it was after the con, and I don't think he'd had his arm pumped all day. So I hope it was okay.

Just over a week later Jaron Lanier was in town speaking, and afterward there was a signing of his latest book. The guy before me shook his hand, so I stuck mine out too, at which he looked a little surprised, but didn't refuse.

So, I shall refrain from doing that in the future.


From your previous post, I know you don't need or want any suggestions on handling RSIs -- but I will offer one on handling signings; a very cheap, very lightweight, un-medically-useful wrist brace does marvels for making people soften their hand-shake grip.


Back in January I was okay. This has come on since April. I'm hoping it goes away as fast ...


You are about the seven-billionth person to suggest that.

I've got a better idea: about a decade ago I had RSI of a different kind (different cause, too) and started using hand-eze gloves. I reckon a pair of fingerless support gloves in a visible colour should flag me up as "handle with caution" without needing physical splints or suchlike. I just need to find where I put them ...


Since last July I have been struggling with an inflamed rotator muscle in m shoulder - similar to what has been plaguing Cheryl. I use a diclofenic gel that helps a lot AND when things are very bad a bag of frozen peas welded to my shoulder. The cold will shut down the pain very quickly and aids in shrinking the inflammation. Take it slow and good luck. Also the wrist brace is for more than just show - it can help.


I got my pharma grade DMSO as a sample from a UK supplier - I said I was doing metal salicylate solubility testing, which was true. Anyway, you don't get the smell if its very pure. You can also buy it from the USA. I had to synthesize my own copper salicylate. It is a more potent anti-inflammatory than cortisone.
Can you tolerate aspirin?


Twenty-odd years ago, I soundly trashed both wrists (bilateral tendinitis). At one point, it hurt too much to even pick up a toothbrush. You mention "working through the pain", which is a pretty dangerous idea, as pain is also a signal that something is going bad, and soft tissue injuries tend to fail in an exponential fashion but heal linearly.

My recovery took maybe five years, and I've made a number of life adjustments in order to keep things kosher. In no particular order:

- Early on, while injured, I had custom thermoplastic wrist braces, made by professional therapists. They're moulded just to you, so they don't place undue pressure on any specific parts of your hands or wrists, while keeping your hands in a neutral position. They also allow you to continue typing. They're a world improved from any off-the-shelf pre-fab wrist brace.

- I also wore my wrist braces while driving, which turned out to be every bit as painful as typing for me, while I was dealing with my injuries.

- As a college undergraduate CS major back when computers were expensive and even the keyboards in public labs were sometimes threaded with security cables, I enslaved myself as a research assistant to a professor who allowed me to have my own desk, where I installed my own keyboard. (I was the first paying customer of Kinesis, and I still use their keyboards today. I also maintained the "Typing Injury FAQ" from roughly 1991-1997, back when that meant regular postings to the relevant Usenet newsgroups. I got a bit nerdy about alternative keyboards.)

- I hated ibuprofen, which at the doses they gave me felt like it was tearing a hole in my stomach, but I grew to love temperature contrast baths. You can do this in any bathroom sink. Simply flip from as hot as you can stand for a few seconds to maximum cold for a few seconds, and back, several times. The switch to cold causes your swelling to go down, and the whole process is far less painful than immersing your wrists in icy water for 30+ seconds, as my evil therapists initially demanded of me.

- Keep in mind that the muscles which actuate your fingers are most of the way back toward your elbows. If you're injured, the problem could well be further back from your hands.

- I discovered that wrist pads aren't particular helpful (they mostly compensate for poor keyboard placement and posture), but wrist warmers are wonderful. If it's warm enough that you're in short sleeves, then experiment by cutting the feet off some old socks. If you feel better that way, then find yourself somebody who knits and can fabricate custom wrist tubes to fit your size.

- I've become very particular about my workstation layout. I sit up properly, elbows at my side, forearms level to the floor, and keyboard lowered to suit. I've tried every possible pointing device and have settled on Apple's Magic Trackpad. However, I've always been an aficionado of keyboard shortcuts, minimizing my mouse usage.

- If and when something starts hurting, that means it's time to get up and go for a walk. I never, ever "work through the pain." Never again.

(Incidentally, I'd be happy to discuss this sort of thing with you on the phone if you'd prefer to avoid lots of typing. Contact info on my home page as linked.)


Time to turn Japanese and bow to everyone you meet, it'll confuse and mystify 'em so much they'll completely forget to shake hands.


Suggestion 1: If you're not feeling particularly sociable

Next time as you're being introduced to someone who looks ready to mash your hand into pulp/over-enthused, sneeze right into your open hand. "'Beg pardon! Must be allergic to something in the air here!" That'll let you off to just nod 'hello' to everyone, individually.

Suggestion 2: A bit more civilized/sociable

Try to keep both hands full. Easy at parties or bars if food and drink are being passed around. Otherwise, keep a tech-toy in your non-drink hand - something that isn't easily put down.

If you prepare a couple dozen one-line greetings premeeting, the nod-plus-personalized greeting will offset the no handshake.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery!


I recently noticed something I call the "Computer Geek Grip", a sort of secret handshake seen on game development convention floors everywhere: A firm grip with no twisting, shaking, or other embellishments. I suspected RSI was at the root of it.

Haven't had any feeling but pins and needles/burning in my right pinky for the last month, starting to consider a wrist brace.



When I trashed my wrists years ago, I went through all the various therapies. They stopped getting worse, but didn't seem to to get much better. The thing that actually fixed them?

Several months of unemployment, which allowed them the necessary time to heal.

Things I learned, which I credit for preventing a recurrence:

- I learned to sit up straight, and trained until my back muscles were strong enough to do it habitually. (People started asking me if I were from the military, but that's a small price to pay...)

- I learned not to rest my wrists on *anything*: keep your wrists straight, and floating *above* the edge of the keyboard/table/seductively padded wrist wrest.


Diclofenac is certainly my friend, I had a near fatal addiction to motorcycles between the ages of 20-30. AFAIK you can't develop a tolerance for it (though you could certainly worsen your injuries while it does a truly excellent job of reducing your symptoms).

Taken by mouth *some* people will corrode their internals, thank the Gods I'm not one of them.

If I ever meet you I'll go for the Zivkornian Space-Marine Elbow-Bump (by tradition they *always* have a weapon in their hand) which is not actually as violent as it sounds. Or maybe I could just bow.


I've become very particular about my workstation layout. I sit up properly, elbows at my side, forearms level to the floor, and keyboard lowered to suit. I've tried every possible pointing device and have settled on Apple's Magic Trackpad. However, I've always been an aficionado of keyboard shortcuts, minimizing my mouse usage.

I'll expand on this a bit. I've been dealing with various keyboards for 40 years. And working with various offices doing all sorts of things on computers for 36 years. Here's what I've learned about pain from keyboarding.

Do not in any way shape or form allow your hands to "bend back" for any length of time. Tape a ruler (real or imagined) to your forearm which extends out past the base of your fingers. If the back of your hand or fingers is hitting the ruler you'll be causing problems and eventually have pain. Do whatever is needed to your working situation to allow this concept to work. People who have followed this advice over the years have not had issues or their issues (minor when I got involved) have gone away.

You also want your arms at your sides with your forearms reasonably level or sloping down away from your body.

The problem with this setup is that many people and/or office owners don't like the look of a desk that supports this. You need a keyboard support which basically puts the keyboard in your lap. And the mouse/trackball/trackpad needs to be next to the keyboard. And you need wrist support of a decent height.

Also, as much as some people find they don't like them, a trackball is much better than a mouse. Larger balls better than smaller ones. These keep you from carrying the weight of your forearm and hand with your upper arm muscles while moving a mouse around. But again, don't bend your wrist back. Put a pad or your wallet under your hand while on the trackball. Another problem with a mouse if people tend to "grip" them even when they don't need to putting unneeded strain on their hands. And with a (well designed) trackball your thumb motion is less stressful when clicking.

And as others have mentioned, don't use a mouse when the keyboard will do. Many people who complain about wrist and/or arm pain don't seem to believe the TAB key can move the cursor from field to field. They type a few letters, move to the mouse to click on the next field, then back to the keyboard, then to the mouse, then ...

Anyway, this is what I've learned over the years of working fairly closely with a few hundred people in small office setups.


My old aunt Cecile (may god have her soul) was quite the anti-monarchy type. Now and then she would whip out a dollar bill and tell me "Look, look, at what we have on our money, an English queen, a foreign queen". She was convinced that we could not be free as long as we had a prtrait of a foreigner, Lizzy Windsor, on our money.

On the other hand, she was suddenly filled with compassion when she learned that Lizzie Windsor often had her hands reduced to bloody pulp from handshakes at official functions. Her minders told everyone, ahead of time, to shake her hand without grabbing it, but there were enough boneheads (with tight grasps) in any given group to give her crushed fingers by the end of the day.


Iv'e found that wrist-specific weight-lifting and the wrist exercises found in Akido were very helpfull (if done on a daily basis!).

ps. Here are your gauntlets. (Pair), 16G


I saw a public person ware (?) a wist brace at a event. He likely did take it off after the hand jive.


I'll second Charlie's comment that what works for some may not work for all.

During a bout with kidney stones I was given diclofenac as pain relief and lost about 3 months - it turned me into a total zombie until someone realised my mental state was due to the drug rather than the medical condition.(I'm now marked as "do not give" for that on my medical notes and switched to a combo of paracetamol, ibuprofen and codeine which did the trick).

Interesting thought though: How close (or far) are we from truely personalised drug regimes based on physiology and/or genetic markers rather than trail and error?

(I'm guessing far, far away!)


Sounds as though some cultural hacking is required. Bowing as a social greeting isn't too far out of the norm in Western culture (it's only about one or two centuries back) and while it is possible for the bow to be turned into a form of social one-upmanship (more elaborate gestures, deeper bowing etc) the only person that is hurt by a more elaborate bow is the person doing it. Unlike nutcracker handshakes, which are intended to both hurt and intimidate the recipient.

I'd suggest either a variation on the Japanese version (hands by sides) or the Hindu version (hands in front of torso in "prayer" position) in order to eliminate the old quandry of what to do with the hands, but even a version on the Prussian military version (hands by sides, return to the vertical accompanied by clicking the heels together) would be culturally acceptable.


I really don't see what problems gauntlets would introduce. Any fan would be both honored and gawking at your armor.

Also, I am very, very American.


Perhaps you could implement a fist-bump/'bro fist' policy? It's just as gratifying a greeting, less prone to abuse/injury, and likely more hygienic.


It's too late for your pain now (my sympathy, I've had carpal tunnel)

Google "hypnosis handshake induction". It may be a little drastic, but you could use it to produce a lifelong book buyer from a hand crusher... but that wouldn't be ethical would it? Well you could make everybody you meet feel happy and fulfilled. Wouldn't that be great?

Umm, I'm trying out a url link for my art projects (instead of a blog). Work in progress. May go away.
Hope you don't mind. Just tell me if you object.


I was about to suggest bandages; but splints might be better in hot weather.


I'd like to say thank you Charlie for signing a book to me this week. My boss was nice enough to get it for me while she was at BEA. I was not invited to attend with the group from my library. So thank you Charlie.
She had offered to get me Scalzis book, to which I replied,
"Yes please. But, Charlie Stross will be there too, possibly sitting right next to him, since they have the same publisher."
I am sorry to read that your pain is back and so severe. Here's wishing you swift relief.
I don't really get why some people feel the need to crush anyone's hand while shaking. Part of the lingering neanderthal subconcious possibly. Smaller guys do it with me. I am generally larger than anyone I meet, and I never sqeeze when shaking hands. I don't feel the need to prove I'm strong, and if we ever meet, I will shake you hand painlessly sir, because you are one of the best.
Thank you again


A few centuries ago everyone wore hats. If you were a man you would usually take your hat off and come very close to sweep the floor with it when bowing for people who deserved it.

It required a certain amount of space.

So, the solution is for Charles Stross to have an entourage carrying many hats and lending them out and instructing everyone who meets him?


Agreed, a lot of the flourishes in bowing (circa C17/18) were a result of hat usage. However, the core of the actual procedure - the removal of the hat and inclination of the upper body as a gesture of respect and greeting - were capable of being performed in a relatively simple manner. To clarify, I'm thinking more of the late-Victorian era "hat-raise and nod" type of greeting. Alternatively, as I mentioned in my earlier comment, we could adapt either the Japanese or Hindu versions of the bowing-as-greeting social meme, where the main focus is on the inclination of the upper body.


Have you considered trying text-to-speech software? It's allowing Sir Terry to remain productive; and if it's good enough to allow my favorite living author to keep supplying me with reading material, it might be good enough for one of the runners up. :-)


Oops, I guess that should have been "speech-to-text software."


I swore off initiating handshakes years ago because I accidentally made Charlie wince TWICE at the same convention.

These days everyone gets a nod or slight bow unless they offer me a hand first.

I don't like breaking authors.


Authors shake hands? Who knew?


Perhaps the solution is to respond to anyone who initiates a handshake like that with the Ankh-Morpork friendly version?


Small world. Hi again, Dan. I remember when you were having those wrist problems in college...

A bit later, David L writes:

Also, as much as some people find they don't like them, a trackball is much better than a mouse. Larger balls better than smaller ones.

On the left side of my MacBook is a Logitech USB Marble Mouse trackball; on the right side, a Microsoft USB optical trackball. When mousing a lot, I use both simultaneously; usually, navigation with the Logitech and left hand and all the button pushes on the right hand / MS trackball, but I switch function back and forth intermittently.

The MS one is shaped like a palm rest, with the trackball on the left side (thumb driven for right hand) and buttons and scrollbar up at the front (finger driven). The Logitech is symmetrical, trackball forwards and one button each on right and left sides.

And despite this, my thumb is killing me now, so it's time to go home.


Every flu season, I really wish we could get over the need to shake everyone's hands at meetings (and the air kissing as well). It's extraordinary how many relatively sensible people think it's ok to struggle into work when clearly unwell and then shake everyone's hand.

So perhaps the answer to unwelcome hand shaking is one of those Japanese face masks?


You need a stunt double android - let's be nice and say powered for 4x normal human grip strength, rather than giving it automatic weapons. That might teach the obsessive squeezers a lesson...


I've had Carpal tunnel - "cured" by a small nick under local ....
Diclofenac is powerful and useful stuff - I'm on a tablet-a-day for inflammation of legs. Slow-acting but effective (Diclofenac, not my legs!)
For emergency relief "Movelat" gel for joint inflammation.

Good luck with it.

[ I suppose one could always revert to a "Glaskie kiss" instead of a handshake? ]


My grandfather was able to perform the raise-hat-nod-smile-replace-hat greeting gracefully until the end of his life. I always thought it looked very stylish. But then, he also walked with a cane. Doing either without the props would probably need some adaptation.


I think a new formal greeting gesture is required for everyone who needs to preserve fine hand co-ordination: musicians, surgeons, gamers, authors and probably more.

That would be a difficult cultural invention, but well worth it for those concerned. The question then becomes, what gesture? The bow already has cultural traction in many places, but comes with all sorts of historical status palaver that seems likely to lead to local operational difficulties and misunderstandings.

My first thought was a sort of air handshake, but I think it fails because a) associations with air anything are not good: kisses - insincerity; guitar - too silly; etc. And b) vertical shaking of hand in front of body may be misinterpreted.

So does anyone have any better ideas? No Spock gestures or not-worthy-kowtows, please, it has to be something without precedent.

For bonus points: how to bring forth the open gesture community to promote this radical innovation.

Then there's the all important branding for the Handicrafters' Hello. Which obviously fails due to inevitable apostrophe misplacement issues... Maybe the nanononce? That just sounds wrong somehow.


Perhaps we should go for the classic solution (slightly updated).

The electric shock hand buzzer

That is Amazon UK selling it, but there are other sources. The reviews are mixed.

Some iron-grip handshakers deserve something more potent, possibly involving a backpack Tesla Coil. Might look OK at a Steampunk event...


So salespeople from the US are actually telling you "buy from me or I will strangle you with my own hands and feed on your body"?

This may explain many things.


A cane and hat gives a whole range of options which can usefully keep your hands occupied. But what sort of hat?

A top hat seems excessive.

A homburg does have certain historical royal associations, but most people would likely think it was a trilby or a fedora.

A good Panama might be best for packing.


Urgh. My RSI sympathises with your RSI. Another item for the "reasons to be grateful I'm only a small press author with no meatspace presence" list. Much as I would like to have your sales, there are definite drawbacks to being a Name.


I think he needs several hats.

The narrow brimmed panama hat would be good for simply saluting and bowing while leaning on the cane. Lacking an entourage to instruct newcomers this would be good for indicating pre-emptively that shaking hands is impolite compared to bowing while nearly sweeping the floor with the panama.

Some panama hats are rollable and "hiking" hats of similar shape are crushable.

Then, you have those handy very-wide brimmed panama hats which are great for having people keep their distance from you, but might not be so handy for pre-empting handshakes.

And then you have berets, which are great floor sweepers if they are of sufficient size like this Scottish beret:

The range of berets is amazing.

But the cane is essential too. With the cane in one hand and the hat in the other the message is clear that your hands are full and you can't shake hands now, after that very polite bow.


Interesting. Where I live, the handshake has become almost nonexistent in daily life, and normally seen only in the context of a formal introduction, and even then it seems to be optional.

Of course, "guest author at a convention" probably counts as "formal introduction"...


Logitech USB Marble Mouse trackball; on the right side, a Microsoft USB optical trackball. ...

And despite this, my thumb is killing me now, so it's time to go home.

OK. Looking at the pictures of these I'll go further with my comments. Anything the causes someone the flex their thumb much seems to cause pain over time. The MS unit seems to have you use your thumb for moving the ball and the LogicTech one requires you to close and open your thumb for the button click. (Correct me if I'm wrong here.) When I think of trackballs as being better for CT and other issues I'm thinking of things like the Kensington Slimblade or Expermouse trackballs. Where when you use your thumb to click you do not have to "close it" on the button. And the ball is moved via finger tips, not thumbs.

And with all this stuff you arms/wrists need to be above the keys and trackball.

There's way too much cute design in all these mice, trackballs, and keyboards and not very much thought about how they actually get used in relation to the bodies of the users.


I'm pretty sure DMSO isn't available in the UK, even on prescription.

DMSO as a polar aprotic solvent? Organic chemists love that stuff. There are plenty of industrial applications. Apparently it also makes pretty good paint stripper.

As organic solvents go, it's relatively non-toxic but it does have the tricky property of carrying solutes through the skin. Pyridine dissolved in DMSO is God's (or your research supervisor's (not that there's much difference for most Grad students)) way of telling you he doesn't want you to breed.


As I've said before at length, speech-to-text is unsuitable for writing fiction. Some people manage to force it to do so -- because they have no alternative -- but it's a serious pain in the ass and it mangles your sentence structure.

[...] but it's a serious pain in the ass and it mangles your sentence structure.

Speaking of the alternate I am very gratified that Atrocity Archives, The Jennifer Morgue & the Fuller Memorandum all translate not too badly on Kindle text to speech seeing as it's apparently impossible to get Laundry audiobooks in the UK. (Not that I'm whining you understand, but if you could mention this to your agent(s))...

Mind you presumably Pratchett can afford to have his voice recognition software customised and one imagines has hosts of accountants who will write that cost off to tax.


Dip your hands in chilled silicon lubricant before potential handshakes. I guarantee contact will be fleeting.

(You can borrow my gauntlets, but the inner gloves are rather sweaty.)


What Charlie Said.

Speech recognition software is, in my experience, not really suitable for writing fiction (scribbling notes and scraps of dialogue, yes, but not actual manuscript output). If you have to use it because there's no alternative, it's not utterly impossible, but the process of using it is quite remarkably disruptive to one's chain of thought.

It's really, really not like dictating to a human, although someone who's used to doing that has something of a head start in knowing how to compose a sentence in their head and then speak it clearly.

What it *is* useful for is allowing you to do various other necessary things on the computer while minimising your use of the mouse and keyboard, thus conserving whatever typing capacity you may have for the "bum in chair, fingers on keyboard" part of writing.


Yeah. We sold audio rights direct to Audible, but they only asked for North American rights. I need to go read some legal contracts -- it is possible that Orbit bought the UK rights -- but it's also possible that Audible or whoever in the UK just don't think the UK market is big enough to justify acquiring audio rights. (Remember, they have to pay someone to record the books, i.e. a voice actor who is going to put in several days of billable work, and then pay for mixing, and manufacturing ...) Either way, it's a pain.


...and the LogicTech one requires you to close and open your thumb for the button click. (Correct me if I'm wrong here.)

I'm a Logitech trackball user and can comment on this. It's a symmetric lump with a golf ball sized sphere in the middle; my thumb rests on one button and my pinkie on the other, with the remaining three fingers pushing the ball around (although the ring finger doesn't do much most of the time). The heel of my hand can take the weight of my arm if I'm going to be there a while. This might not be everyone's preferred grip but it works for me. Mine is in the default right-hand mode but naturally the whole thing can be flipped around in software if you prefer. As for your mentioned thumb issue, this setup has me clicking with my right thumb, moving it only a few millimeters and with little force - I've never had any trouble, but YMMV.


Sympathies on the handshaking... (And on the kidney stones - two bouts of that were quite enough, and I now work very hard at staying well-hydrated).

Apparently, politicians who do a lot of handshaking swear by the antibacterial hand gels (presumably the moisturising ones) as it dramatically cuts down their illness rates.

Agreed on the tip about how to avoid sadistic handshakes; push the web between thumb and forefinger as far into their web as you can, straighten your hand so that your fingers point towards the other person's wrist, and no-one will ever crush your hand again.


I tried one of those many years ago -- hated it with such a fiery, livid passion that I gave up within hours and refuse to go anywhere near such devices. (I think it's the use of the three fingers to push the ball around. I was fine on old Mac Powerbooks of the ball-driven persuasion because I could use my thumb and forefinger instead.)


After my black belt, bonecrusher handshakes ceased to be a problem.

I'll see if there's an easily-taught technique to disengage, return the grip with a nice crackly wristlock, or throw the perpetrator. Or all three.


You don't need to disengage to throw someone from a handshake. There are at least 5 different techniques to do that.


It sounds like you have some lab experience. So have I, but as far as I am aware, there is usually a difference in purity between lab grade and pharmaceutical grade. E.g. with industrial ethanol in the lab, they use a messy process to make it which usually leaves some methanol or other things in it, I forget what. Or maybe its a byproduct.
Anyway, home chemistry is on paper easy enough but quality control can be an issue.


You might try wearing hand splints while sleeping. I found it improved my carpal problem in about two weeks of constany use.


Here's another one of these suggestions that is probably throwaway but I'm going to make it in case it's helpful:
I have one of those roll-up rubber keyboards that are intended for use with tiny laptops like those Eee PC doodads. It's a fairly standard USB keyboard with rubber keys that tend not to register if you push them too hard from an off-centre angle. As long as you've got a good office chair and desk so that your hands aren't flailing around or hanging at a bad angle the next thing to make sure of is that they keys and the keyboard springs aren't stressing you out unduly.
I had to slow down from 120 WPM to about 85 on this keyboard, but it's very gentle on my wrists.


Ive read that many public figures have this problem andjust shaking a lot of hands crushing or not can not just make it worse, but cause it where there was no problem before. The fist bump doesnt seem so bad now.

Really,I think most of us would prefer to forgoe shaking hands with you should the oppertunity arise if it was going to injure you. From a purely selfish point of view,I imagine the books will come much slower if you ended up having to dictate them to speech recognition software.

Of course,you could allways have a sign that says "Mr Stross does not shake hands as his fans are filthy disgusting people. Please also refrain from standing to close to him." Those of us who understand its really about a repatative stress injury can share in the joke when some people get offended. ;-)


Charlie, have you tried exercising with handheld gyroscope? Something like this:


"E.g. with industrial ethanol in the lab, they use a messy process to make it which usually leaves some methanol or other things in it, I forget what."

I had to get a license to consume industrial ethanol recently. You have to declare *which* one you're going to consume, as there are a couple of dozen different "taints" added to it, all designed to prevent drinking it. Each taint is appropriate for a different application.

For some reason, it all seemed a bit Jack Vance.


The Logitech trackball that I have is asymmetric (right-handed) with the ball at my thumb and the buttons under my first three fingers. It fits my hand pretty well and it's usable for a good while but I found that extended intensive use, e.g. gaming, caused the back of my hand and the side of my wrist to ache. I've never seen them for lefties, though.


I can think of several options - waldo's (or is it waldoes?), any SF fan would be happy to shake one, although the difficult bit would be setting it up so the author is using the minimal musculature.

Or you pick/ find a stand in. "Hi, today I'm Charlie's hand shaking stand in, please shake my hand".

Or a sign saying "The author thanks you for not shaking his hand, thus allowing him to keep typing to produce the next novel you are eagerly awaiting."


If you have a lab, making ethanol is not difficult. Even anhydrous.


I've read that there's a Japanese hand-shaking robot for just this purpose, although memory is vague on whether it's a self contained robot or a teleoperated remote arm. Either way, it's a bit odd.


It just occurred to me that if tribes in Southeast Asia managed to train cats to perch on their shoulders in order to scream and warn them if eminences approached them, while they were walking single file in a jungle path, then you could train cats to perch on your shoulder and scream if someone tried to shake your hand.


Oh my, we do have some dangerous people here.

Doubly dangerous, because we're civilised about such things.


If _enemies_ approached them, NOT eminences. Auto-correct problems.


The WORD that we are looking for here is " IF " Train ? Cats ? !!!!!!!

Wishful thinking I'm afraid.

" then you could train cats to perch on your shoulder and scream if someone tried to shake your hand."

I have a pretty good imagination but I have Extreme trouble in Imagining that Our Host would be daft enough to bind a cat to his shoulder as a preemptive enemy attack countermeasure ....hum mm ..dunno though, instead of a direct body Armour type defense against assault how abouts tricking your enemy into doing something Really, Really, Stupid by way of preventative measures then POUNCE as he is, say, trying to prise a cat from the vicinity of his jugular vein.

A dog at your heel as a warning of imminent attack? Yes .. a Cat at your throat?


Given the types of people who normally like to be called "your eminence", I can definitely understand wanting to be warned of their approach.


One of the reasons Japanese do not shake hands.
There are a whole class of sword techniques that start from sitting down having a friendly chat with someone.
At 2:03

105: could train cats to perch on your shoulder and scream if someone tried to shake your hand.

Would Mafdet do that? The shoulder perching alone might be too much.


When I'd get a flareup in my right hand I'd switch my mouse to my left hand and in about a week, my right hand would be feeling fine and in about three weeks my left hand would hurt.

I used keyboards from 1974 through 1990 with no carpal tunnel problems, but within a year of starting to use a mouse...maybe it was just my age, but by avoiding the mouse, it seems to subside.


Apparently cats are much easier to train than bears.

It's all relative.

But I was not suggesting that anyone should train a grown cat. All the movie cat trainers start with very young cats, and not all of the cats they start off with end up being good performers. You need to love cats, not just "a" cat.

Also, the cats were incited, trained to perch on shoulders, following a natural bent. Cats like to perch in places where they have good views. They were never tied up there, and they were very much single-purpose. They warned of incoming strangers and did not try to attack them.


i tried that,, the wrist splints work, they just made a cool noise


Time to go looking for an Attack Mongoose. Or maybe a Watch Ferret. Something that can hide up your sleeve and savage the hand of anyone who applies too much handshake pressure. Better still, just wrap a small boa constrictor around your forearm as warning.


So that's what that's about. On the odd occasion being on the other end of that, I'd assumed the shakie might have athritis. I'm not a hand crusher myself. Limp or over baring handshakes make me suspicious though. The above technique does deliver a good signal to avoid that.


I think a trained pit viper might be more appropriate ...


Well, I've physically met Charlie on several occasions ranging from fairly formal to entirely social. IIRC neither of us has ever offered to shake the other's hand. I've never felt even slightly slighted by this.

Also, can I suggest that the "bonecrusher" is partly a reaction by people who're trying to avoid doing the "wet fish" handshake?


can I suggest that the "bonecrusher" is partly a reaction by people who're trying to avoid doing the "wet fish" handshake?

I suspect it is more of a holdover from the 60s revolution. There was a feeling that almost all social graces where to be thrown under the bus as they were signs of a decadent society. So instruction in the social graces went away for most people. Which included things like why and how you greet someone in various social situations.


I thought that the 60s revolution's version of a handshake was holding up two fingers in a "V" sign (with the palm in the proper direction) and saying "Peace, Love" at the same time.



"Since last July I have been struggling with an inflamed rotator muscle in m shoulder - similar to what has been plaguing Cheryl. I use a diclofenic gel that helps a lot AND when things are very bad a bag of frozen peas welded to my shoulder. The cold will shut down the pain very quickly and aids in shrinking the inflammation. Take it slow and good luck. Also the wrist brace is for more than just show - it can help."

As somebody who's been dealing with this for a decade now, the big long-term tip is to do those physical therapy exercises - 3x per week, forever. Do not stop when you're feeling healed, because you're not.


You're an author, you're allowed to be eccentric, insisting on bowing is within your prerogatives.

Alternatively, have somebody medical make you up some fake plaster hand casts you can slip on. Those signal "fragile" quite effectively, and bonus, act as armour.


Didn't Homer use speech-to-text for composing fiction?

Another vote here for replacing handshakes with bowing. Other people are simply rife with disease. And modern-day assassins are strapped on the hip or the ankle, not the wrist.


I don't know why I didn't remember this when I first read the post a few days ago:

Met Stelarc at Siggraph many years ago. Seemed like a very laid back guy, couldn't quite picture him as the same bloke who would suspend himself from fishhooks hooked into the skin of his back.

Takes all sorts I suppose...


Probably takes his mind off RSI.
Maybe Charles could give it a go.


You must not be an EMACS user, if your keyboard requires only eight fingers and two thumbs!


Just had another meeting with him. He's about to do the next round of stem cell work to get the ear lobe separated from the forearm.

(Sometimes I love my job)


Maybe you could have your arm in a sling?


No, your blacksmith friend is being a prat. Just because you can have a strong grip, doesn't mean you have to havea strong grip and can't be reasonably delicate. I assume he can pick up an egg in the fridge without compulsively crushing it, eh?

As a woman, I really, really hate men (and it's always men, in my experience) who go for the Super Crush Manly Handshake. I am neither attracted to nor do I respect anyone who pulls that shite. Why are they trying to show me how manly they are, anyway?


Well, I left out that I'm sure he has his issues; being a Vietnam vet, with a good helping of PTSD. Otherwise, he was a decent guy.

But, yeah, I don't get the hand-crush thing. Or proving 'manliness'. Whatever. I'm relatively secure with myself.


Handshake time is also used as an hypnotic susceptibility test


At 1.96m and a shade over a tenth of a metric ton, I have to balance the fear of being thought 'a bit wussy' for a weak shake with the equally-worrying fear of inadvertently crushing small innocent creatures, so I view a handshake as a trainable reflex skill of quickly assessing the received pressure and briefly matching it prior to the disengage.

The Prussian bow/click is infinitely snazzier though.

May I say the digression into rotor cuff shoulder injury (my most recent affliction) treatment was very helpful to me personally. Curse the frailty of these fleshly abodes! O powered exoskeletal armour and internal polyhandwavium alloy augmentations, wherefore art thou?

My stupid car still won't hover. Bah!


The ear infection's cleared up then?

I've met him once; astoundingly laid-back, and very hard to put together with his work.



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on June 8, 2012 5:57 PM.

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