I didn't mention it last time, but I was writing that when I was on an honest-to-god holiday. I managed to do... no work? It's not true. But I didn't write any pages, which is basically no-work in my head, despite all the fact all manner of e-mail crap and notes and similar got written (including last week's e-mail). Writers, eh?
But I did write bits and pieces, which I'll include herein.
Gods and Skaven Gods
The penultimate issue of DOCTOR APHRA AND THE ENORMOUS PROFIT (which remains a title which still makes me smile, perhaps pipping MIC DROP AT THE EDGE OF TIME AND SPACE as the silliest thing I’ve put on the cover of a trade.) The capers cascade, as Aphra is trapped between… well, everyone. Also, read the letters page. We had fun with it. It’s a fun time. Doctor Aphra is a fun time.
I was away, but as soon as I got back, I was writing random stuff to amuse me.
Here’s the writer notes for WicDiv 31, where I say things like…
But still - less throwing Amaterasu under a bus, and more put her at the bottom of a mountain covered in buses and starting a bus-avalanche. You can easily imagine Amaterasu starring at the oncoming wall of public transport and going “I LOVE BUSES!”
I also finally submitted to my need to write up my own background for Warhammer Skaven in Age of Sigmar, which probably means nothing to you, but it amuses me. I’m trying to write a straight fantasy voice in an off the cuff manner, but clearly I can’t help but playing with it.
Skaven are everywhere.
Their endless numbers bloat the ranks of chaos hordes. They tunnel between dimensions, emerging grimily resplendent where you least expect them. They die in their millions, and millions more skuttle forward to take their place. In short, wherever there is civilization there are Skaven, gnawing at its foundations. Wherever there is a back, there is a Skaven stabbing it.
For all their ubiquity, there is one nagging question.
While Skaven are everywhere, no-one has any idea where they came from.
And if that amuses you, the rest is here.
The holiday was basically lying still, reading and eating. As such, I read a lot. I also hammered out micro reviews for my friends when I was there, which you lot can see too, in a slightly tweaked fashion.
A THOUSAND SONS: Official start of holiday reading (i.e. absolutely no nutritional value). 40k Horus Heresy “thing” which is basically the Council of Nicaea but with Psychics. Er… enjoyed it? Helps being a telling of one of the best bits of 40k lore and me being a huge 40k geek, obv. I think it’s my favourite of the Horus Heresy novels I’ve read. The previous one was Fulgrim, which was basically the closest you get to a Phonogram story in 40k, and clearly an excuse to write about William Blake for 400 pages.
DEEP WORK: Which I picked up after Kelly Sue talked about it in her newsletter. I’m looking for ways to interrogate (i.e. immolate) my methodology, so pretty useful. That said, by the time I’d read the first half and reached the actionable stuff in the second half, I just expected it to be “TURN OFF THE FUCKING INTERNET, YOU CLOT” repeated until he hit wordcount. I’ve picked it apart, and tried to integrate a few things already when I got back, and it’s been annoyingly good. I’m even doing the silly KIERONBOT CLOSING DOWN end of the day ritual.
THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS: For someone who has the Tombs of Atuan as part of his Secret Origin, that I’ve never read any Le Guin sci-fi is shocking. This was just great, from beginning to end. Unpicking its choices throughout, and a synopsis (“First Contact Story Between Aliens (Humans) and Native Species (Also humans, but with different gender model), started 7 years later than first contact and about politics until it becomes a love story during a survivalist walk across a glacier”) doesn’t really capture half of it.
THE LATHE OF HEAVEN: I started on a 600+ over-sized tiny print monster of a non-fiction thing on Tuesday night, so have had a break with another LeGuin, which was a delightful afternoon of horror mashed with delight.
THE STRANGE CASE OF DOCTOR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE: Another quick break from the monster non-fiction. The strangest thing to a newcomer is that it’s a twist story, with the “dude is the same person” as the extended epistolary denouement. That class of twist story where the twist is so well known that people forget it was even one to begin with, like imagining in 100 years time all anyone remembers about Fight Club is the two dudes were the same dude.
TO THE LIGHTHOUSE: (Virginia Woolf has strong use of parentheticals, also commas; semi-colons.)
PLAYING THE WORLD: 600+ over-sized microfonted borderline-academic history of Dungeons & Dragons. You know you’re in trouble when half-way through one section on rules, even the author suggests any but those interested in tracing microinfluences in the mechanics skip the next sixty pages. Sections long enough to be books by themselves, which I basically alternated between it and fiction, as doing it in one go would have killed me. Now I’ve finished it, I can use it as a Mace (D6 damage). It really goes for it, and is dry (though not too dry) enough that it was particularly useful to me, in terms it gives the facts to go and play games with. A lot I knew (but was glad to reacquaint) but lots of new stuff (including some stuff I can’t believe I didn’t know - Stevenson as closet wargamer!) and lots of detail on stuff which I only had broad strokes of (The Kreigspeil stuff is particularly strong). I was looking for bias throughout, and the only bit which really raised my eyebrow was how hard Tunnels & Trolls was trashed when it entered the narrative, to almost comic levels given the generally dry approach. While that always makes me wonder about whether there was as obvious bias earlier in the text and I just missed it, it was really strong and if I was still doing the games journalism thing, I’d have at least five articles to pitch off the back of it.
I saw the moon rise east of Crete and spent nearly a minute trying to work out whether it was a nuclear explosion.
C and I watched, unsure. We were sure moonrise was earlier, and neither of us had ever seen a moon so bloody… so what else could it be? I was somehow reluctant to reach for my phone to check, in case it was. We may as well wait for judgement to creep over the horizon and resolve one way or the other. We did the math on what was east of Crete, and realised that – yeah – that was a place on Earth where it wouldn’t be impossible to see a nuclear explosion.
It wasn’t, and I was twitchy for the rest of the evening. It made me aware how I’m running on high anxiety about it. I think of my friend Ste and I having different responses to the last earthquake you could actually feel in the UK, back in the early 00s. A shudder… and I just think “earthquake” and go to sleep. Ste runs to check online and spends hours nosing around. I suspect if that happened again, my reaction would be identical to Ste’s.
This got me thinking about nuclear Armageddon. Obviously.
As a species, we’ve been dancing at the edge of a cliff since 1945.
When the Cliff appeared, everyone freaked out. There’s a fucking cliff! Cliff! Cliff! We all thought we were doomed to dance off it. Since the end of the cold war, there’s been an increasing tendency to argue there could never have been a nuclear exchange. The problem with our world is that we have an experimental dataset of one. I wish we could study alternate timelines, and see how many Earth’s are just burned husks. Perhaps it was a one in a hundred chance we didn’t dance our way off that cliff? We’ll never know. Neither would any of those people in those other timelines – if anyone has a (lucky) Mad Maxian life there, they’d be saying nuclear war was inevitable. What happens is inevitable, and thinking so is a trick of our existence. We have no idea how lucky we are on the largest existential level, because by our simple existence we’ve always passed through the filter.
The problem with dancing on a cliff for nearly 70 years is that we’re used to the cliff. The cliff is simply there. It is not a real threat, because if it was a threat, something would have happened by now. It’s easy to say that nuclear war was a paper tiger.
However, this is the key thing: those who think Nuclear War is a real and present danger need only to be right once, and it’s all over. The people who think Nuclear War will never happen need to be right until the end of time.
Betting against forever is dumb. That even seemingly impossible things will turn up given enough time is the core of evolution. Give enough time and a filter, and we can build miraculous things. Or tear it all down.
I will bet that the chance of nuclear war is considerably higher than amino acids getting it on in some pool in the distant past. This is why we have to be careful, and not to be complacent. The last seventy years have shown it possible for us to dance at the edge of the cliff.
But the cliff awaits.
These cats were cute though.
In my regular podcast listening is the longstanding In Our Time. I listened to this academic gleeful intellectual fistfight about Seneca the Younger, and was delighted. You should too. Honestly, the best thing about doing THREE was hanging with Academics and watch as their knives came out. It’s just fun.
I’m still sorting out my New York Comic Con schedule, but tickets for the From A Certain Point of View Panel are for sale. Worth noting that you don’t need a NYCC ticket to get in here. I got my proof of my story through, and it looks lovely. There’s also a show edition of the book, for those who are interested in such special fanciness.
The real reason why I didn’t do any serious work in Crete was because I had no hard work that I needed to do. I managed to clear the deck of imminent scripts. It was still clear when I returned – in fact, the next two scripts I need to hand in are already written, so I’m back and just carrying on from there. By next week I may be three scripts ahead on Star Wars, which is worryingly organised, and takes me to the end of what I’ve plotted in detail.
Really, that’s what the next few weeks around. Detailed plotting. Issue by issue synopsis, at least in the broad strokes. I have… quite a few books to do. When you have that, I feel safer. The book’s framework exists. There’s a path. When I know where the path is, then it’s just the process of going for a walk along it and seeing what’s there (including going off the path as an when you need it). In the next few weeks, I have to do it for Spangly New Thing, the last year of Uber, the final year of WicDiv and the second arc of Star Wars. I’d normally be intimidated, but I feel ready and clear, and my first attack at the problem yesterday went well.
More on that next week, I think. I’d rather not jinx it.