So anyway, I was in the bar tonight with Hal, Jim, Paul and others following that night's meeting of the writer's workshop (Shortest ever! Twelve minutes. Because we all read the wrong story) when the subject of exploding airships came up. It seems Mr Duncan had berated a certain Graham Joyce over a lack of exploding airships in his work.

I was appalled by the realisation that neither had I particularly had any exploding airships or such in my work so far. It was pointed out to me by Jim that my first book does contain brain-eating werewolves, which might be a reasonable substitute.

But no, I cried; there were no exploding airships. No detonating Victorianesque follies of highly flammable balsam crashing in picturesque flames, perhaps lightly seasoned with Pirates!.

It was then pointed out to me that my second book does feature an assault by psychopathic fairies aboard an exploding XXXXX XXXXXX (deleted to prevent plot spoilers). Was this a suitable substitute? Perhaps, perhaps; but no Nemo-esque Captain struggling to maintain height in the face of heroic valour.

It then occurred to me that the new book does feature a couple of exploding XXXXXXXXX's (deleted to prevent plot spoilers) and in one particularly impressive and lovingly detailed three page sequence, I do frag an entire bleedin' XXXXXXXXXXXXX (deleted to prevent plot spoilers) to atoms.

Which means I can now live with myself. Note to self: more exploding airships.


Time to find a new day job; they have someone new in the old place, so time to find a new place to do the old job now that I'm not crawling around on all fours anymore. I'm thinking along new lines, though ... Phil pointed out to me there's a lot of classes with names like 'Novels: how to write them and how to finish them' running at local colleges, and it's occurred to me I could think of worse things to do than teach creative writing, depending on how much it actually pays (not much, I suspect). Exactly how on Earth you go about finding out about this kind of thing - or if there's any required, official qualifications (outside of having written and sold books, obviously) that are mandatory - is beyond me. It has occurred to me, however, that I know one or two people who do things like teach classes and so forth, so I might ask about and see whether this is a realistic proposition or a (typically) woolly-headed pipe dream.

One other reason for thinking about this is that I'm not sure how comfortable I feel about continuing doing graphic design in the way that I have; to be frank, there's a point where most graphic designers either end up working for a large company or newspaper fulltime, or running their own agency and letting other people do the actual designing. The design and layout stuff for me, however, has never been anything more than a way of supporting my writing; and it's further occurred to me that if my primary skill is indeed writing, then perhaps I should consider avenues for making money that tie into it.

More than likely though I'll wind up with some design gig; my only worry is whether it's full time or part-time. The former tends to leave me not really feeling up to writing when I get home. The latter leaves me relatively relaxed, and benefits the writing. But finding a part-time gig ain't so easy; full-time might be my only option.


Saturday was largely spent in Edinburgh, watching Andrew Wilson and Hannu Rajaniemi from the Edinburgh equivalent of my own writer's circle read from and generally launch two chapbooks at a radical book fair just off Leith Walk. It was enjoyable, partly because I like their stuff, partly because we got to enjoy the unseasonally mild and even summery weather, and partly because it was fun being somewhere other than lying on my back in my living room which, as you know I never fail to remind you, is where I spent my entire summer. What was also cool was coming across books I might never have been aware of browsing through the 'usual suspect' bookselling monoliths.

Over the past couple of days, I've been exploring options for returning to work. I dropped into the old employer and it took him about three minutes to suggest I might be able to do some more of the usual freelance for him. I'm still not entirely sure if I will; the current designer - my replacement - was sitting on the usual, crappy, bad-for-you ripped-fabric stool better suited to some windy church hall rather than a daily working environment.

I looked at him and thought, in a couple of years, your back is going to be so scragged.

And that's the thing that bugs me; in a lot of print and design places, the attitude seems to be that designers are a necessary evil. I suspect this may in large part be because the people who usually open up these places are either people trained in running printing presses, or businessmen with an eye on opportunity; an awareness or understanding of the necessity of good design is not their priority. I've worked for a publisher, for instance, who very nearly attempted to put out a magazine by typing up the articles, justified, single column, in Microsoft Word with no pictures and a single font because they couldn't bear to pay someone to make it look less, well, shit. Sanity - or perhaps the horrified reaction of the advertisers paying to be in the magazine - prevailed. It's an extreme example of a common phenomenon.

And of course the corollary to all this is that even if they do realise they have to actually hire people to make their stuff look purty, they skimp enormously on desks and chairs, getting the most inadequate stuff possible. The desk in the old work is hammered together out of what could well once have been a door. Any designer in a place like that can expect to spend several hours, five days a week, sitting there and working. Anything less than fully adequate seating and desk arrangement is frankly criminal, in my mind.

So I'm thinking very seriously, when my next chunk of money comes in, of buying an Aeron chair off Ebay. I've never heard less than incredible reports about these chairs, but they ain't cheap - they start at about £900 and up; but I've seen them going for less than half that on the auction sites. Mind you, even then, that isn't cheap either. But since I got this cheap (though so far perfectly adequate) executive-style chair out of Staples, I've realised just how much time I spend sitting in this thing. Enough to make me think an investment in an Aeron could be an investment in my health as well.
Here' an interesting post via Boing Boing about the danger of people turning themselves into terrorists by browsing the internet, a dilemma publicly posited by Michael Chertoff, apparently speaking on behalf of the US's Homeland Security (via Reuters):

Disaffected people living in the United States may develop radical ideologies and potentially violent skills over the internet and that could present the next major U.S. security threat, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said on Monday.

"We now have a capability of someone to radicalize themselves over the internet," Chertoff said on the sidelines of a meeting of International Association of the Chiefs of Police. "They can train themselves over the internet. They never have to necessarily go to the training camp or speak with anybody else and that diffusion of a combination of hatred and technical skills in things like bomb-making is a dangerous combination," Chertoff said. "Those are the kind of terrorists that we may not be able to detect with spies and satellites."

Chertoff pointed to the July 7, 2005 attacks on London's transit system, which killed 56 people, as an example a home-grown threat. To help gather intelligence on possible home-grown attackers, Chertoff said Homeland Security would deploy 20 field agents this fiscal year into "intelligence fusion centers," where they would work with local police agencies.

Read it a second time. It actually reads even more stupid the second time. Really.

Now read it a third time; except now, insert the words 'through reading books' wherever you see 'over the internet'. Note also that at no point does he appear to speak of 'the internet' as a means of communication, specifically stating dangerous radicals who browse the net and read stuff don't need to speak to each other. Ever.

It's nice to know if I do ever go to the States, they'll be happy to ask me why I was googling different ways to blow up the Dome of the Rock with a dirty bomb. I don't know. If I tell them I was researching a science fiction novel I never got around to writing, do you think they'd believe me?


Here's an interesting idea for all you bloggers:

One Day in History

Make history with us on 17 October by taking part in the biggest blog in history.

'One Day in History' is a one off opportunity for you to join in a mass blog for the national record. We want as many people as possible to record a 'blog' diary which will be stored by the British Library as http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifa historical record of our national life.

Write your diary reflecting on how history itself impacted on your day - whether it just commuting through an historic environment, discussing family history or watching repeats on TV.

I'm not sure if this is in some way limited to the UK, given the project is being run by the British Museum - I haven't really had a chance to look for the specific details, but I don't see any reason why I shouldn't go out of my way to write up an entry on that specific date and post it on the History website as well as on my own blog.
Ok, I'm back. I haven't been blogging because there isn't a great deal to report. My back pain is almost gone, but not enough for me not to worry to a certain degree - worries such as, if I go back to my old daily work schedule, will it just get worse again?

But mainly I've been getting back out, something I literally didn't do for the entire summer. I regained my mobility just in time for the nights to turn long and dark. Rats. Still; you'll forgive me if writing blog entries hasn't been on the top of the list of my priorities recently.

Otherwise, I decided to bite the bullet and buy another computer, a desktop this time for the simple reason that writing at a laptop was absolutely killing me. At one point I had sciatica in my lower back, and pain between my shoulder blades too. Something had to give.

So I picked up a Mac Mini on Ebay reasonably cheap - I say 'reasonably' because it was one of the slightly older models with fewer usb ports; but, it had been upgraded to a gig of ram and an eighty gig hard disk, so still a very good deal for the price I got it for. Which I guess makes me a fully fledged mac-head now - and even better, all my back pains are just fading away (helped by the cheap but lumbar-supporting office chair I picked up). I'm used to Mac OsX from my design work anyway. And yes, it pisses all over Windows. Plus, I can't get over how quiet this thing is; it's just ... silent. And tiny. Tiny.

Even better, the current draft of Stealing Light is almost finished. Phil has most of it on holiday with him just now, so I'm waiting on his comments. What he has isn't quite the done deal - there's still a lot of tweaking to be done - but it's still pretty damn close to the finished article.

So yeah, I meant to write up some kind of groundbreaking, paradigm-shattering polemic tying together Iraq, the P2 conspiracy, and the secret symbolism of Mickey Mouse's ears, but I'm sitting here with cold tablets and a cup of coffee, and ... some other time, yeah.