Sunday, July 31, 2011

My writing week: Issue 31, Year 4

Hi all,

Another week has passed without me overindulging in writing. Everything in moderation they say. Well at least with writing I seem to be getting that right.

Characters with Disabilities in Science Fiction.

I wrote an article for Divine online magazine about characters with disabilities in science fiction. Before I started doing some research I was scratching my head a bit to think of such characters. In the end I discovered/remembered plenty of paraplegics, vision impaired and those with artificial limbs. Not so many hearing impaired and characters with intellectual disabilities. When I wrote the article, word constraints had me cutting out a number of examples.

My article is much more than just a list. It questions the use of technology in relation to characters with disabilities, and I comment on the future of characters with disabilities in science fiction.

Turing Evolved.

I finished reading David Kitson’s excellent self-published ebook, Turing Evolved. I reviewed it in my last post. It’s about artificial intelligence, virtual reality, androids and what it means to be human. The plot really moves along with plenty of action. Only problem with it is that it needs a good edit, but I only occasionally found myself shunted out of the story by its changes in tense and occasional typos.

The download was free. I suggest you download it from Smashwords as there are no paragraph indents in the copy on Amazon. David asks for a donation at the end of the novel. I sent him $8 using paypal. I am prepared to pay $10 for a fully edited ebook.

Melbourne Writers' Festival.

I had a look through the Age Writers' Festival program today and there was nothing that had me wanting to spend three and a half hours travelling to Melbourne. No science fiction that I could see.

So, hopefully, this week it will be back to writing a short story which was progressing nicely last time I did some work on it.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Review of Turing Evolved by David Kitson

Turing EvolvedTuring Evolved by David Kitson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A really good read. Full of fresh ideas about artificial intelligence. The central theme is about attempts to create an artificial entity that has free will and makes its own decisions to the benefit of humanity.

The plot revolves around a man who is thrown out of the military after reporting a his comrades for their terrible actions during a virtual simulation. He was a symbiotic pilot of robotic weapons called Demons. He then gets a job helping people come out of long stays in virtual worlds.

He meets and falls for an artificial guardian of mankind called an Angel. The Angel, Rachel, falls in love with him, but Jonathon has trouble with the idea of love between human and machine. The Angels are built by one of his long-term virtual world extractees, Peter.

Meanwhile his ex-comrades try to extract revenge on Jonathon. There is a lot going on in the plot, but all of it revolves around what it is to be human.

There is a twist at the end, which I didn't see coming, but made perfect sense.

The novel is written in first person. It really needs a good edit, but don't let that put you off. David Kitson may also soon have a cleaner version up for download. It is a free ebook.

Why publishers have not taken a chance on Turing Evolved is a mystery to me? Perhaps they prefer safer science fiction with staid old plots.

View all my reviews

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My writing week: Issue 30, Year 4

Hi all,

I have been busy researching an article I am writing about characters with disabilities in science fiction. At first I thought there were very few such characters in science fiction, but just thinking about the subject has prodded my memory. How could I have forgotten John Varley’s brilliant story Persistence of Vision? It is about a commune set up by the deaf and blind. And then there is The Day of the Triffids.
I then recalled a story where an avid reader discovers an intact library after a nuclear war. But then his thick glasses are broken. It turned out to be a Twilight Zone episode.

I am still searching for the name and author of a novella I read years ago where people with disabilities are forced into specially constructed tanks to fight wars. They are viewed as dispensable. I think it was written by an Australian. 

My research reminded me that Darth Vader had his arms and legs amputated and replaced with artificial limbs. His raspy voice is because of his burnt lungs. He also helped his son, Luke, join the ranks of people with disabilities by cutting off his hand.

I still haven’t discovered many science fiction characters with cognitive or mental disabilities. That is apart from the Star Trek franchise which is full of characters who could be said to have Asperger’s syndrome – Spock, Seven of Nine, Data, the holographic doctor. And the Dalek’s and Cybermen from Doctor Who who were bred/altered to lack empathy.

If you have any memorable science fiction characters with disabilities, please mention them in the comments section.

I am writing the article for Divine magazine. I was very happy to find out last week that after my contract with them ends in September, I will still be able to submit, and get paid for, articles.
Apart from my research, I added a few words to a short story.

And for those of you who might be wondering: my sister finally got out of hospital after five weeks and has returned to her home. It seems the second nose plug graft has worked.


Monday, July 18, 2011

My Writing Week: Issues 28/29, Year 4

Hi all,

It has been a couple of weeks since my last post. I’ve been having a break from all things writing, giving the brain a rest from what has been a stressful year.

I watched a lot of science fiction over the past week and a bit, including the last few episodes of the excellent British apocalyptic series Survivors. I also watched the last half dozen episodes of series three of Fringe – very good too, leaving the series in an very interesting position. The last couple of episodes of series four of Doctor Who were only so so. I suppose Doctor Who survived Peter Davidson, I hope it can survive Matt Smith. But then again, I think it has more to do with the absence of writer/producer Russell T Davies.

Speaking of Russell T Davies, the new series of Torchwood, Miracle Day, is fantastic, full of suspense and wit. Two episodes in and we still don’t know why everyone has stopped dying. My bet is on aliens. The third episode of Falling Skies was only average. It looks like Steven Spielberg is involved in another ordinary science fiction series, remember the turkey Seaquest DSV.

I watched a few movies too, including the sequel Wall Street 2 which is set during the GFC. In the movie Gordon Gecko signs copies of his book in Borders, now there is some irony for you.

New Article on Divine – Recycling Televisions

I have a newish article up on Divine on recycling televisions. Regional Victoria, where I live, has just been through the switch off of the analog signal and had the resultant great telly chuck out. Council waste facilities were flooded with old televisions. In the near future manufacturers will take back old television sets and recycle them.

People with Disabilities in Science Fiction

This week, what is left of it anyway, I will concentrate on a new article for Divine. This one is about the portrayal of people with disabilities in Science Fiction – book, television and movies.
My article won’t be just the nice portrayals like Jodie LaForge in Next Gen. There have been some mightily mistreated and evil people with disabilities in science fiction. Gattaca was all about discrimination against those who aren’t perfect. Davros in Doctor Who was the epitome of evil.

I note that there have been a lot of vision impaired and paraplegics in science fiction, not so many manic depressives or hearing impaired. 

Any examples of people with disabilities in science fiction would be appreciated.

Monday, July 4, 2011

My Writing Week: Issue 27, Year 4

Hi all,

I am feeling a bit more awake and alive this week. Last week I was recovering from having some teeth removed. I really did not expect to be so weak and giddy. But my hairdresser who is about to have all four wisdom teeth out said she had scheduled two weeks off work to recover.

New Article for Divine Magazine

In between sleeping up to twelve hours a night, I managed to research and write an article on recycling televisions. It seemed the right time to write it too with a lot of things happening with recycling electronic waste. On Thursday the Victoria government announced a new scheme. I did a lot more research for this article than other articles due to me knowing nothing about the subject.

Part of the research included ringing the director of the Product Stewardship Association. My brain haze had me losing my train of thought during the interview. He helpfully asked me to email him questions, but then didn’t get back to me. Just as well one of the organisations involved in implementing product stewardship did email me back with a great quote.

If you want to know what product stewardship is, you’ll have to read my article when it is put up on Divine online magazine soon. Product stewardship will affect how you dispose of your electronic waste in the future.

I also managed to do some writing of a short story last week.

Bookstores, Abbott and Selfish old Murdoch

I’ve been catching up on my newspaper reading and read an article written two weeks ago where the federal Small Business Minister, Nick Sherry, is quoted as saying that bricks and mortar bookstores will be wiped out in five years time. Needless to say Australian bookstore owners disagreed.

If other online bookstores are like Smashwords, who refused to recognise my perfectly OK debit card, maybe Australian bookstores will have less to fear from online competitors.
Apart form online sales, local bookstores are caught in a general drop in consumer confidence in Australia. Much of this drop is due to Tony Abbott and the Murdoch press’s bullshit about how much everything is going to increase in price if a carbon tax is put in place.
I wish Murdoch would do the world a favour and hurry up and die.
The power hungry bastard will probably never realise you can’t take it with you. A lot of the world’s ills can be sheeted back to his media’s self-interested view of the world. So glad the federal government has intervened to stop his successful tender for an overseas Australian broadcast service, we don’t want Asia listening to Murdoch’s distorted view of Australia.