Cheeseburger Gothic

McCafe morning. (Please don’t tell anybody I wrote this.)

Posted February 21, 2019 into Writing by John Birmingham

I had to kill an hour in the city this morning. (Matter of fact, Dr Who-like, I’m there right now, but you’re not and it’s much later. Timey Wimey Magic!)
I had my new iPad Pro with me, thinking I’d test it out for mobile productivity. I love this fucking thing, and will write about it some more, but the tech wasn’t the issue this morning. It was the space.
Having an hour to fill while I was waiting for my daughter to get out of the orthodontist, I started casting around for somewhere to prop up and write a few pars.
Something I quickly discovered; the better the cafe, the less likely it is to provide Wi-Fi. Hence I ended up hanging with the red headed horror clown. AKA McCafe.
First impression. Going into the coffee business was a good deal for Ronald McDonald. My flat white and muffin cost more than they would have at a ‘real’ cafe. The quality was fine. Machine-tooled even. That’s one thing about Maccas. You know what you’re getting. Every. Goddamned. Time.
The Wi-Fi was free and fast, although having been lured there by the complimentary webz, I ended up using the city’s free network instead. No reason to the let horror clown in on my pornhub preferences. The city council, however, I’m fine with them knowing.
The Maccas I chose was in the middle of the Queen Street Mall, in the old Jo-Jo’s building. It was spacious, and having been recently fitted out it hadn’t yet taken on that depressing patina of an underground city on a post apocalyptic world. The air con was chilly, the table tops clean, and there was more than enough seating for me to hide myself away from the horde.
Crucially, after purchasing my coffee and muffin nobody hassled me to buy anything else. And to be honest, they wouldn’t have bothered me even if I’d just wandered in, hooked up to the net and started work.
I dunno that I’d want to try get any real work done here during the burger rush hour, but as a place to prop up and bang out a few quick words, it beat the shit out of cooler, better, realer cafes.
But if you tell anyone I wrote this, I'll straight up deny it and curse you for a damned liar.

9 Responses to ‘McCafe morning. (Please don’t tell anybody I wrote this.)’

Bondiboy66 would have you know...

Posted February 21, 2019
I'm not a fan of the Shrine of The Clown...but have found that their free wif-fi is handy when travelling overseas!

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insomniac would have you know...

Posted February 21, 2019
McDoodles is handy while waiting for a flight to land at Sydney Airport.

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tqft mumbles...

Posted February 21, 2019
That's a McCafe with recent work place relations issues, you may not have crossed a picket line, but some people avoid it on purpose.

You are not using a vpn?

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted February 21, 2019
I haven't put my normal VPN on the iPad yet. It's very new. So all I did was write a couple of pars in the Bear app.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted February 21, 2019
What issues, btw? Wage theft, I'd imagine.

tqft swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 22, 2019
Working conditions

Also the owners of that store franchise have a reputation

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Naut reckons...

Posted February 21, 2019
Maccas has a role to play and their cookies and cream cheesecake is inoffensive.

Tell me more about the iPad Pro. We are discussing BYOD at work and an iPad Pro could become my device of choice

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jason puts forth...

Posted February 22, 2019
I'm not judging you... but... can you please delete me from all correspondence and if possible erase my digital foot print on this site and any other you are a part of. I live in Brunswick, Melbourne and my hipster credibility will be seriously diminished if i have any connection at all to "that coffee".

jl has opinions thus...

Posted February 22, 2019
-Nods head in agreement while cruising through the drive-thru.

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Posted January 30, 2019 into Writing by John Birmingham

So, I have a calendar entry for a phone hook up with Melbourne University Press on Feb 11 to discuss a book I was going to do with them, The City and the Tribe, a sort of Leviathan-like study of tribalism and modernity. I'm not sure that meeting is even going ahead now, since the entire board of MUP and the head publisher, Louise Adler, resigned today.

The Herald has a report here.

There have apparently been disagreements with the University over the direction of the house. Odd, because MUP is one of the most successful publishing houses in the country. Although, allegedly some in the University disparage its output as 'airport trash'. (A pretty grotesque slur in my opinion).

Anyway, I'm not as unsettled by the shenanigans as you'd imagine. I've been staring at the Commitment Matrix on the white board next to my desk and wondering whether I truly have the time to invest in a big prestige non fiction project. I know from Leviathan how much work is involved and I have a couple of other projects that would likely pay a lot more for much less demanding work. Airport novels, by way of coincidence.

I tried hashing this out with Dirk de Jager on Skype last week. I really want to avoid over-committing myself, but on the other hand I do have some financial damage from the last few years to repair and, just as importantly, I feel myself challenged to write this book.

Think I'll put my head down and lean into the other projects for now. Maybe have a look around next week.

13 Responses to ‘MUP’

insomniac is gonna tell you...

Posted January 30, 2019
JB needs to be like Vegemite. You need to spread what you have thick and goodly. To spread yourself too thin - well, all you get is tasteless and awful.

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jason asserts...

Posted January 31, 2019
Airport trash - I think what we choose to read on the plane defines our true love. 10 hours lost in another world or 10 hours cogitating the meaningless of existence (with footnotes). Give me mayhem any day.

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she_jedi mutters...

Posted January 31, 2019
I was deeply shocked by the MUP dust up yesterday, and ESPECIALLY by the "airport trash" slur; have these ivory tower snobs actually READ any of the 'ON' books that MUP produced (much less any of their other great books)? Katharine Murphy's On Disruption and David Speers' On Mutiny were brilliantly pithy and accessible treatises on events that are affecting us deeply but we as pleb airport trash readers may not necessarily be able to grasp, not having a conduit into the inner workings of these subjects. I'm also hanging out for the release of Paula Matthewson's On Merit, which should be a forensic tour de force on the LNP's woman problem.

It's sad that you may not end up with a publisher for the City and the Tribe straightaway, and I do understand the dilemma of producing more 'airport trash' to pay the bills vs challenging yourself on a big non fiction piece like this. I can't imagine the slog that went into researching and writing Leviathan, but can i just say that book is a fricking MASTERPIECE? Especially in the sense of a journeyman finishing his apprenticeship and producing his masterwork kind of way? You really earned the right to write airport novels after that one.

I am very much in favour of more 'splosions and 'airport trash', but would also very much like to devour a big non fiction treatise from you as well. Very few do blistering social commentary like you do, and I gave up the Boob to support the City and the Tribe and feel invested in it now (because it's all about me). But as I said when you pulled the pin on ASB, you have to do what works for you, and I'll buy whatever your publish anyway! xx

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted January 31, 2019
I still haven't spoken to MUP, but I assume there's no way this idea of mine fits into the academic monograph plan. It's the sort of book you buy in an airport, after all. (But you still feel superior to the Dan Brown readers).
I could send an email this arvo and sell it somewhere else, but I really have been looking at my white board and chewing my lip worrying about whether I had too much on.

she_jedi asserts...

Posted January 31, 2019
Yeah I can't see it fitting into their new plan of cutting off the revenue stream that would have helped fund the publishing of their monographs, which is very sad. The only good things that can be said about Dan Brown readers is at least they're reading, and that they exist to enable readers like me to feel superior.

Knowing nothing about the publishing process as I do, is it worth putting feelers out to see if you'd be able to sell it at all this year? If no one shows an interest then that's your answer and you can focus on the airport fiction instead of the non fiction. Or is the dilemma that someone will throw a wad of cash at you (in lieu of a truckful of cash backed up to your door) and then you'd be stuck having to deliver? I'm leaning toward the challenge/personal growth project simply because I've flagged 2019 as my year of doing stuff I've been making excuses about forever, but that's my narrative, not yours.

What other works would you have to delay in order to deliver this one? Maybe we can vote a book off the island? :P

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted January 31, 2019
"Or is the dilemma that someone will throw a wad of cash at you (in lieu of a truckful of cash backed up to your door) and then you'd be stuck having to deliver?"


she_jedi ducks in to say...

Posted January 31, 2019
Ah. Yep that would do it. I guess you have to decide how badly you want to do it vs your other stuff? :(

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Rob mutters...

Posted January 31, 2019
Academic writing. The stuff only read by undergrads because they have to? I've read some utter trash in my new degree.(mostly it says Marxism good, capitalist hegemony bad)

Give me the clever snark and gold plated hovercrafts any day.

and 'splosions.

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Dirk has opinions thus...

Posted January 31, 2019
From my ivory tower near the summit of mount Olympus, I have only one question:
Did you burn enough ink today?

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Brother PorkChop is gonna tell you...

Posted January 31, 2019
Shame JB. I would have been keen to read this type of study. I did some courses on sociology and anthropology which I found really enjoyable. Since then (long long long ago) I have often thought of the tribal nature of societies and how football plays a role in continuing the tribalism BUT without the larger scale warfare. Yes, I know all about Chelsea headhunters (a friend of a friend was handed the knife) and lets not forget Millwall Bushwackers or FTroop.
Football can replace tribal warfare as an outlet for that aspect of our nature and I believe that over time this will prove to be true in Africa.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted February 1, 2019
I'm in two minds Porky. I really did want to write this book. It still fascinates me as a topic. But I also have to some debts to pay off and airport novels will do that.
As to the topic, there's a great book called The Professor in the Cage, which I'll write up here in a week or two. Middle aged English Lit professor takes up cage fighting. It's hella entertaining, but also goes deep on the same issues.

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HAVOCK21 would have you know...

Posted February 1, 2019
"I tried hashing this out with Dirk de Jager on Skype last week. I really want to avoid over-committing myself, but on the other hand I do have some financial damage from the last few years to repair and, just as importantly, I feel myself challenged to write this book"

I guess the hover must need a new polish or cut or whatever it is you outsource to some plebes etc...

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thetick mumbles...

Posted February 1, 2019
You gotta make your own decisions about how much work to do and stuff, but as an aside, I'd read the FUCK out of a book like that.

I mean, I'm gonna read all the rest of your stuff, but that sounds really interesting.

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WW 3.1 sample

Posted October 11, 2018 into Writing by John Birmingham

I get a lot of questions about when the next Axis of Time book is due out. Soon, I say, very soon. But that's only because I've been gettng a lot of help from Dirk de Jager and Jason Lambright.

If you're interested in what sort of help, there's a sample scene written by Jason over at his blog, The Interstellar Valley (still one of the greatest blog names ever, I reckon).

Brilon-Wald was not going to be cheap.

Artillery started to fall around him; the Russians were probing. Jochen remained where he was, standing in his turret, binoculars in hand. To catch the prey, he thought, one had to wait like a hunter. Both sides wanted the same thing; for someone’s nerves to break, for the prey to flee and catch the eye. That’s when the real killing began.

Boosfeld spotted movement along the road to the south. He lifted his binoculars slowly while shading the lenses. He felt the old surge of the blood, the taste of iron. There they were- BTR scout cars, coming slowly. They would surely sense they were being watched, he thought. They would also pick up on the lack of civilians in the streets if they had any experience at all.

He had four tanks in his forward position, counting himself. No one fired. This did not surprise him; he had been very specific that he would initiate the ambush. The BTRs came to a halt; their little turrets swiveled back and forth. Jochen controlled his breathing, he willed the scout cars to go away and call in their big brothers for an“easy”march toward Brilon proper.

13 Responses to ‘WW 3.1 sample’

Dirk is gonna tell you...

Posted October 11, 2018
Can I tell the Burgers that it's gonna a be a good one, Sire? With more splossions and kissy scenes then the Burgers have ever read before? And that it's not a coincidence that El Goog presented a Slate this week?

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted October 11, 2018
My lawyers are talking to el Goog.

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thetick swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 12, 2018
I wants it. I neeeeeds it.

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Bondiboy66 asserts...

Posted October 12, 2018
You are a tease JB!

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insomniac puts forth...

Posted October 13, 2018
Is this getting the beta treatment?

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Vovchara reckons...

Posted October 15, 2018
Spend 2 hours on Amazon looking for something to read... Is something wrong with me when I don't want to read a time travel romance? Because judging by the number of those, there is a huge market for them %)

Or the stories, where avoiding a paradox is a huge part of narrative... how boring :/ Fuck the butterfly.

Or space opera, where the author doesn't give a shit about space.

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Vovchara reckons...

Posted October 15, 2018
Oh, almost forgot, LitRPG is also a thing. How delightful, to read a fiction about the virtual world... NOT.

And if the pornhub is not enough, there is a shit-ton of harem/reverse harem crap.

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HAVOCK21 puts forth...

Posted October 15, 2018
mmm yeah baby. GUNNA BE FKN EPIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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HAVOCK21 has opinions thus...

Posted October 15, 2018
BTW...for duration....thats a PRETTY FKN PISS POOR SAMPLE. Contents great...length fkn SUCKS! JB....MORE!

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NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted October 28, 2018
I look forward to this very much.

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Peterharryhat reckons...

Posted October 28
When will you be writing the next axis in time novel

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GeekOnTheBeach puts forth...

Posted November 21
Still waiting and hoping for the release of World War 3.1!!

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Dtex342 is gonna tell you...

Posted May 21
Would love to see this! I rotate between the Axis and the Disappearance audio books. Almost have them memorized!

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Posted September 11, 2018 into Writing by John Birmingham

I've been learning a lot about Montana, mostly how purdy it is.
For those of you who are following the End of the World Project at Patreon, Montana is my Boulder, Colorado. It's where I've pointed my survivors, good and bad, of civilisational collapse. It's almost Tolkienesque in some respects, but populated by cowboys rather than hobbits.

I won't actually set many chapters in Montana until the second book, since my narrators are busy dealing with the end of all things in the first.

Still, I've learned it helps to sort out a few basics well before you start writing, and so its off to Big Sky country for me whenever I get some down time. One of the geographical features I'm really taken with is the existence of 'island ranges'. These are like isolated, singular outbreaks of mountain terrain, hundreds of miles before before you get to the continental divide. They soar up without warning in the middle of oceans of grassland in the state's east. Think Uluru, but made out of sabre-toothed granite, and surrounded by hundreds of milles of flatland.

It makes for a bit of imagined whiplash though, jumping between this and the research I'm doing on How To Collapse Modern Civilisation Without Really Trying.

That turns out to be surprisingly difficult. I'm having to call on all the Horsemen of the Apocalypse to ride to my help.

5 Responses to ‘Montana’

jl mumbles...

Posted September 12, 2018
Man, reading your EOTW stuff on Patreon makes me want to move to Montana... before it's too late.

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Therbs puts forth...

Posted September 18, 2018
There's one of those long distance hiking trails goes through Montana, the Continental Divide Trail. Could be worth ferreting around CDT website/blogs for tips about the trail , water sources etc.
Just gave me an idea for a short story in this universe.

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alfettesfalconer mutters...

Posted September 27, 2018
Richard Ford's collection of short stories, 'Rock Springs' is set almost entirely in Montana (with the occasional brief excursion into Wyoming). The landscape's not a central feature but the names of a lot of the features and places are memorable - Deer Lodge Prison, Great Falls to name but two

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted September 27, 2018
I've always meant to read that book! Now I have a reason.

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NBlob asserts...

Posted September 29, 2018
The one Planet Birmo (tm) product/service I'm yet to enjoy. *opens wallet, small tattered moth emerges*

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Little brother is watching

Posted September 5, 2018 into Writing by John Birmingham

I had a co-worker in the word cave today. Thomas was off school with a tummy bug and... well, he can't really expected to keep his head in the books without a stern disciplinarian standing over him with a cat o' nine tails, can he?

So he took up position somewhere behind me, gurgling and farting away all day.

Needless to say, I didn't get much writing done.

I used to be able to write long, complicated features in a rowdy newsroom or magazine bullpit. And this was before headphones were invented. I seem to have lost that ability now.

I realised this after an hour of staring at the screen this morning. The whole day could have gone down the tubes, but I had a couple of editing jobs to get done too. I've cranked out some magazine and journal features recently (after a years long drought that'd finish off most farmers) and they needed checking. I also had a ten thousand word essay for MUP to proof, and a monstrous info dump of research material for World War 3.1 to injest. (Thankyou Mr Lambright, Mr de Jager)

So I jumped into that instead. Found I could even do it while listening to music, which I can't have on while I write. Even if I'm not using dictation software, music distracts me.

By the end of the day I'd cleared a heap of work I'd originally thought might take a whole week.

Might have to feed this kid a few more poison pizzas.

5 Responses to ‘Little brother is watching’

Barnesm reckons...

Posted September 5, 2018
were the farts, as you once described the odours I would endure taking a coach between Brisbane and Melbourne "rancid hungarian goulash farts"?

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted September 5, 2018
They were... not good.

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Leftarc is gonna tell you...

Posted September 6, 2018
Did the dog resent having someone farting away in the Man Cave?

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted September 6, 2018
She stepped up to the competition.

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Bangar reckons...

Posted September 6, 2018
Since losing my sense of smell farts are no longer an issue ... apparently though my SBD Hunter Killers are still effective ... so maybe not an issue for me, everyone else is fair game ;)

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Learning to take a beating

Posted September 4, 2018 into Writing by John Birmingham

Jason Lambright has published an interesting (and for me very useful) chat with his old CO, Lt Col Howard Pearce, whom he describes as "a good guy and proven combat veteran". They sat down a little while ago and talked through a few things. Jason's published three of the six part interview so far, with the rest to come at his blog The Interstellar Valley. Worth a read on its own merits, but in my case, with a whole raft of military sci fi novels on the go, it's got some very useful insights, often puncturing the received wisdom or establshed narrative about how professional militaries operate. Below is a short extract from their discussion about an escape and evasion training course:

“When you show up for SERE School it’s a gentlemen’s course, everyone is in the classroom to eventually you get to the point where you’re in the prison camp. It’s one of the few Army schools where you sign a form saying that they are going to hit you. You are going to be struck, you are going to be injured, and you sign a form saying that you understand that.”

“You go through interrogations. Without going to in-depth about it, let me say that they were professional and they explained everything that they did- to include that at the end you sat down for at least an hour with one of your interrogators. He would walk you through your interrogation, what you were thinking…how you reacted, where you started going wrong.”

Howard thought he went wrong when the “hitter” came in. The interrogator disabused him of that notion. “No, no, you went wrong before we called in the hitter…”

As an aside, the Army has people who are specially qualified and trained to beat people in these schools without causing permanent damage. Still, the experience is unpleasant at best.

2 Responses to ‘Learning to take a beating’

Barnesm asserts...

Posted September 5, 2018
of as the great Al Swearengen of Deadwood once said "Pain or damage don’t end the world. Or despair or fucking beatings. The world ends when you’re dead. Until then, you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man and give some back."

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted September 6, 2018
We can still learn so much from Al.

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