Here on the blog I do try to vary the subjects and not always talk about the pandemic but you can’t ignore life, and for all of us at the moment COVID-19 has certainly had a big impact on our lives. Most of it has been disruptive. We, personally, have been lucky in that way. We are fed, we are employed (although Sherylyn is retiring), we are relatively protected and so far our family has been safe.
Like many, that doesn’t mean the pandemic hasn’t affected us. From a writing point-of-view we struggled, and we’re only really getting back into it now. Plus it has changed our life in some ways.
That change hasn’t all been bad. My savings have increased. Increased a lot, in fact, which has made me realise just how much I was spending on things like eating out and other non-essential items.
Best of all, my priorities have changed. What was important before is less so now. Being alive is important. Being—relatively—healthy is important. Having a roof over my head and food to eat is important. As for the rest, chill, as they say, and take what comes.
Disney released Loki in June. We held off for a month and a bit—until the whole series had run, but that wasn’t deliberate—then we caved. We wanted to see it, and Disney Plus offers a month-by-month subscription.
So we succumbed.
Only to discover our television is too old to get Disney Channel.
Not a problem. Let’s plug the PC into the smart TV and watch it from there.
Ah, yes, but last time we did that we weren’t using our one-and-only HDMI cable for the sound bar we had attached to the television. (Our COVID gift to ourselves because we found we were watching a lot more TV and the native sound was awful. It’s an old TV. 😊)
Let’s get a new cable.
Just one tiny problem. We’re two days into a snap lockdown and we only have five reasons to go out for anything. Some of us might consider an HDMI cable a necessity, it’s not. So we ordered one online and settled in to wait. It’s coming on Tuesday.
Today, we decided to watch Loki on the PC, anyway.
How was it, you ask?
Well, the first episode I thought we’d made a mistake and wasted our money.
For those of you who felt the same but chose not to go any further, it gets better. A lot better.
It took a day, but we watched all six episodes, and I’m looking forward to series two.
Credit for the title, of course, goes to the one and only Terry Pratchett and the amazing Granny Weatherwax. Thank you Sir Terry, and Granny, for that immortal line, “I ate’nt dead.”
In science fiction we often take household objects and extrapolate from what is annoying about them to how they might change in future.
Take the mobile phone. You have to carry the phone around. You leave it places. You forget where you put it. And then, when you do find it, it’s running out of battery. Battery life has improved out-of-sight since the first phones but you still have to charge the phone regularly.
So, extrapolating from the first brick phone—and haven’t we all seen the Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps trailer, whereGordon Gecko gets his brick phone back—to the modern mobile, where do we go from here? Well, there’s the smart watch. That saves us carrying the phone around, but we have watchphones already. Where can we go next?
Phones built into our bodies, maybe. Our body powers the phone, the signal received wirelessly in the jaw and sent to our ear, sound picked up and sent in a similar way.
What about cars? Some of us spend a lot of time commuting. Self-driving cars are coming and I want one. Think how much you could with the time you spend driving.
Science fiction writers think about obsolescence as well. What do we do now that we might not do in the future?
Cleaning? Please. Let the bots begin. Food delivery? Yes, more bots.
Along the way we lose some things. Usually the new thing is better, or more effective. Firearms have replaced swords. (Some might argue this is not a good thing. It’s easier to kill with a firearm, and more hands-off.) The motor car has replaced the horse and carriage. The ball-point has replaced the fountain pen and is now being replaced in turn by gel, felt-tip and other pens.
I was in one of the last classes in primary school where you graduated from pencil to fountain pen when your writing was good enough. Sadly, ball-point pens replaced that a couple of years later, but I loved my fountain pen.
Another tool, or rather technique, that has become almost obsolete is shorthand. This has largely been replaced by voice recordings, transcription services and voice recognition. It’s not dead yet, but gradually being phased out.
I didn’t learn shorthand at school. Sometimes I wish I had, and if I had learned it that I had kept it up. There are so many ways I could use it at work. Meeting notes, research, taking down instructions. Right now I would find it really useful.
Interestingly, shorthand isn’t new. Forms of shorthand were used by the Roman Empire, and in Imperial China.
Maybe shorthand will be around longer than I think.
So we’re back in lockdown. Not such a trial for us, as it’s pretty much same-old, same-old. I feel for those who can’t work, like the casual workers, and small businesses, especially without the safety net of JobKeeper. What’s scary is that it only took one person and an out-of-state quarantine muck-up, and suddenly 85 people are infected. This virus moves fast.
I have to say that JobKeeper was good for those who couldn’t work during the big lockdowns, but outside of that the Federal Government has been mostly missing in action for the whole pandemic. Sometimes I seriously can’t tell if they’re simply incompetent, or if it’s because our PM, who is waiting for the Rapture, thinks this pestilence is part of The End and is letting everything go as a result. So glad for the state governments right now.
Until the lockdown I had been going in to the office to work two days a week, and for the first time in a year I’ve taken the train. What is it with the younger men? It’s compulsory to wear a face mask on the train. All the women do, the older men do, but few of the youths and men up to their thirties. Is it a macho thing? Do they think they’re immune?
As soon as you think that another busy time comes along, but right now I’m feeling there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Of course, we all know what that light signifies, don’t we? An oncoming train.
Had a really good weekend writing, at least. The best in months. Very happy with what we produced.
Work work (as opposed to writing work) is keeping me occupied right now, hence no updates on the blog last week. Hopefully, we’re getting to the end of the busy work. After I have slept three days straight–I think I’m going to need that much–I’ll get back to posting here. 🙂
I wake at 1:18am to a flash of blue and a bang. I check the house. Power in the back half is out but the rest is okay. The house isn’t burning down or anything. I’ll worry about it in the morning, I decide, and go back to bed.
Thirty minutes later I’m woken by a cacophony of beeps and other noises. All the bots and electrical devices are going crazy, as they do when their power supply goes off. We have so many of them, and each one makes a different noise. I get up again (the clock is off this time, I check time by the phone). The whole house is black. No lights, no power. Half the street is dark, too.
I go back to bed.
The power comes on at 2:44. Yes, all the bots and other devices tell me they’re starting up again. The radio clock, with its internal battery, comes back set on the right time. Hallelujah.
It used to be when the power went out all the clocks would go, too, and you’d spend time in the middle of the night trying to reset the alarm. Or wake up next morning having overslept–after all, you’d spent part of the night awake, hadn’t you.
“Such a simple thing,” I tell Sherylyn the next day. “But so smart. Batteries in clocks that store the time and alarm information. Inventions like that are amazing.”
I mean, sure, clock radios are great too, but someone (probably like me, who’d had to reset their clock in the middle of the night) came up the idea of putting a battery into that clock radio so that when the power went out, it retained all its settings. It’s so convenient.
So here’s a nod to those people who take great inventions and make them just that little bit better. Thank you.
On Friday, I checked the rain radar for the first time in 13 months.
Weather watching is something I do as a commuter, and at work. What’s the weather going to be like today? Do I need my umbrella? What about a coat? How hot will it be? What type of shoes should I wear?
Then, when I got to work, at lunchtime I’d look up the rain radar. Will I stay in the office? Go for a walk? If I walk to my favourite lunch place will I get wet? Have I got time before the rain holds off? Is it too hot to walk far?
I checked the temperature for the first month of lockdown, and then stopped. I never checked the rain radar at all? Why would I? We had a three kilometre limit on where we could go, and limited time to go anywhere. I wore similar clothes all year working from home. Loose, comfortable trousers, a loose, comfortable shirt. If it got cold I added socks and a cardigan, and if it got colder still, I turned the heater on (and sometimes even the other way around). It’s only now that I’m working back in the office two days a week that I’m thinking about weather again.
Hmm. Interesting statistic. I wonder if the hits on the Bureau of Meteorology website went down last year?
Lately I have binge read a few longer series and I’m noticing a trend.
The narrative is linear for the first three, maybe four, novels. That is, the reader knows everything that happens because they’re reading the books. Then suddenly there’s a jump. Between book, say, four and five, something important to the story happens off-scene. A new character integral to the story is introduced, or an important sub-plot that provides valuable information takes place off-scene. In the next series book there’s a fleeting reference to what happened off-scene and we go merrily along with the story.
And I go, “Huh? What happened there? Where did that come from?”
As the series continues, we get more and more jumps like this.
If I do my research, I can find these missing stories. They are available, usually as novellas or short stories, separate to the main series. Often with different protagonists.
I confess, as a technique, I find it annoying. I don’t want to have to go hunting for the whole story. Sure, I like my sideline stories to give me new insights into main characters in the series. Acquard’s War, for example, will certainly give you a different insight into Jordan Rossi, but it doesn’t tell the story of what happens in the Linesman books, (hmm. Better make sure of that, hadn’t we) and it won’t tell the story of what happens next to Ean Lambert.
If you’re an author who does this why do you do it?
Is it because in a long series you get tired of writing about the protagonists in the main story? I mean, eight plus books straight and I’d be getting tired of it too. (We’ve always said we’d like to do it like Robin Hobb does. Three books, then write something else and come back to that series—in our case Linesman—refreshed and ready to go. By the end of three novels you need a break.)
Is it a marketing tool? Most of the series I have read that do this are in Kindle Direct. Is writing the shorter stories a way of keeping readers interested while you write the next book in the series?