Cheeseburger Gothic

Massive multi-threaded narrative versus single POV or small ensemble cast stories.

Posted October 7, 2009 by John Birmingham
I noticed a small off-topic discussion break out in one of the 'Answers' threads below about whether in future I should be writing books with the same multiple POV structure used in AOT and Without Warning. I think I mentioned that both my Australian and US publishers were very keen for me to develop a single character who could then be set up in a franchise series of books.

I do have a great character I developed years ago for this very purpose and kinda stoked the idea, however I also really like huge multi-threaded narratives, especially for thrillers. I think it was Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising which first got me into that particular format, at least with military thrillers. Stephen King of course used the same structure in a few of his horror titles, most notably The Stand.

With two more books to finish in the current series it's not a decision I have to make quickly, but I would be interested in hearing everyone's opinions at this early stage.

For me, technically, the challenge of single point-of-view novels is that the reader can only know what the single protagonist knows. Whereas I've always had the luxury of setting things up out of view of my characters, simply by shifting POV into another character. That is a great luxury as a writer and not one I would give up easily.

88 Responses to ‘Massive multi-threaded narrative versus single POV or small ensemble cast stories.’

Quokka is gonna tell you...

Posted October 7, 2009
I love reading stories written from a different point of view. I think they offer up the potential to see the things that one character is entirely unable to see about themselves and if you've got a character who is kind of 'off balance' it gives you the chance to walk in their shoes and see how distorted their world view is and how, often, they sink their own ships through their own defects.

In psychology they speak of 'Blind spots' - how there's always something about yourself or someone close to you that is hidden.

Multiple points of view give you the chance to explore those and you get a richness and a depth of layers that is missing from a single perspective.

Oh, and did you know that the BCC library doesn't hold a copy of Leviathan?

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Miche reckons...

Posted October 7, 2009
Good Morning JB,

From my perspective as a reader I enjoy investing emotionally into one character for the length of the book and beyond. Most of my favorite books are so because I like/love the characters. While I know the plot is important and the explody goodness is mandatory, if the characters don't interest me the book is never read again. In books that have multiple POV I will skip/skim characters that don't interest me to read more of the characters that do.

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Quokka swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 7, 2009
I've also noticed its a common criticism in movie reviews, that one character seems to be the focus of all the attention and other characters are not explored in any depth. So you get these glimpses into an interesting but unexplored character which leave the watcher feeling like they've never gotten the chance to see what makes them tick. They only get one perspective.

So if you want something to be made into a film that's likely to impress David And Margaret, (I am being facetious) you need layers.

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SirPhil would have you know...

Posted October 7, 2009
I like the idea of about 3 - 4 threads, like how Tom Clancy and Vince Flynn work. You have your Hero, you have the heroes support (CIA, FBI, Whitehouse) and then you have a couple of bad guy perspectives (AGAIN can possibly be CIA, FBI Whitehouse or Terrorists etc)

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NBlob asserts...

Posted October 7, 2009
*Chants*

Multi thread

Multi thread

Multi thread!

If WW had been the all singing all dancing Kaitlyn Show I wouldn't have enjoyed it half as much as I did. Ditto AoT.

"Whereas I’ve always had the luxury of setting things up out of view of my characters, simply by shifting POV into another character." The theatre level action that I enjoy so much would be intolerably dry without the "Bejewelled bug caught in gum on whatsiswhosits boot" dirt level exlpodey goodness - and if you stuck to a single character you'd never get this balance. What does that ivory tower egghead General Murphy know about rubf*cking the ground under fire?

*runs away cackling maniacly*

Aunty Q, Coolum (Sunshine Coast) Library has a copy that looks like it's done about a million hard miles, but at least it has a copy.

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Quokka reckons...

Posted October 7, 2009
Ta, NwBob.

I'm still waiting for the revised edition to come out so I can purchase it from Avid.

Is that happening or is that another one of my wishful thinking type flights of fancy?

I felt it was my civic duty to point out to JB that the BCC library system is failing him.

And, more to the point, ME.

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HAVOCK asserts...

Posted October 7, 2009
Tell ya publishers to Kiss ya fury rump. Multi is just that. A single character book, only that you have several single characters all rolled into the book is all.

TC and Red Storm Rising did it for me, its possibly the most consumed book I have..AFTER AoT of course.

But gumps above have touched it already. It lets so much more action or romance or whatever you wish be able to be dragged into the mix. I am much , much more a fan of the Multiheaded hydra, jugger author ensemble book than a dinky singled headed, bland bit of publisher wanted diatribe.

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yankeedog reckons...

Posted October 7, 2009
Depends. While I like books with multiple points of view, if a book covers, say, the actions of a single unit or group, then I don't have a problem with a single POV. I'd go back to Coyle's 'Team Yankee' as a good example of single POV-the team didn't have much knowledge of what was going on on a grand-strategic level, just what was happening in their given area of operations.

There's a good, non-committal answer for you. Any time I can not help, let me know.

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Murphy puts forth...

Posted October 7, 2009
Depends on the character.

One issue that I have observed in the AoT and Without Warning projects is that certain characters are either highly popular or deeply disliked by the readership.

Forex, I know that Julia Duffy is popular with many (though personally, I have never warmed to her myself). Conversely, I know there has been some criticism of Caitlin in the Without Warning series.

The danger of a single character is that you might narrow the tent you operate the show out of. With a multi character system, you give readers the opportunity to skim some sections while concentrating on others.

The great strength of multiple POV is the ability to paint on a very large canvas. The problem is that you sacrifice character development for that large stage.

Conversely, the great strength of a single POV is that you can spend a lot of your time focusing on creating a dynamic, enduring character.

If I were writing a novel myself, my preference would be to do a single POV. That said, I do not think AoT lends itself to this, mainly due to precedent set by the original trilogy.

My two cents. I'm onboard no matter which way you go.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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HAVOCK swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 7, 2009
Have to agreee wiff ya YD, team Yankee is possibly one of the best sml team, POV books hat I have read, certainly within he Mil Fiction range at least. Coyle did that very well, but I noticed that it was a stand alone.

Yet within the other books, Sword Point, Bright star and my FAV The Ten Thousand, which IMHO is the best of the lot. He keeps the team small, the scale is not overly large and follows his charactrs through. Thats possibly one a the great balances, he still manages to keep yo up to speed Theater wise on whats going on, even larger than that on occasion.

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Chaz reckons...

Posted October 7, 2009
JB, look in large, world (maybe multiverse?) spanning novels i think multiple threads work best. However single POV or small cast novels work well esp in a limited locale.

If you write a single POV or small cast novel within a wider event you are likely to get disatsifaction from readers who want to know more, which will of course mean more work for you and less time playing Xbox live.

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Lobes would have you know...

Posted October 7, 2009
Multi thread, I dont find claudine or celeste or whatever her name is (the spy in WW) that attractive or grippping a character. Focusing on but one person takes the risk of alienating people who cant/wont empathise with the protagonist.

I prefer the idea that we're all in this together (as in real life). You write such scenarios well so why not make the most of it.

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HAVOCK reckons...

Posted October 7, 2009
Lobes..it was caitlen, catland or whatever her name was. ..yeah, i didnt identify really well with her. the scenes were good, but i fear the rest of the attraction by some people relates o it bein in frog central. not for me. gimmea multi's jb.

chaz..he sucks at xbox...wont go on line for fear of getting pawned...AGAIN..pussie

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beeso reckons...

Posted October 7, 2009
I think the multi thread approach definitely suits the layered approach that your writing follows.

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DrYobbo is gonna tell you...

Posted October 7, 2009
Meh, they're just trying to make you into Matt Reilly. Cynical wankers. And who drives a fkn DeLorean anyway. What a choad.

I reckon single POV novels work best as first person, but that's a personal opinion.

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Brian ducks in to say...

Posted October 7, 2009
Multi-thread. And Multi POV. Its a useful exposition tool. Sweeping scope narrowed down to nuts and bolts single scope action. It also allows limited backstory. If you have single POV - you have to do a lot of backstory with it, you also end up with more spear carriers.

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DNABeast would have you know...

Posted October 7, 2009
I like single POV stories a lot.

If I haven't bonded with the character I get lost with the names and have to rely on various location and character cues to figure out if 'this is the same girl who collapsed during "the event" or if it's the beautiful journalist from the past'.

And of course, if I have bonded with them you can be sure that they'll die, tragically and pointlessly. Just like in real life.

(You're a Monster! :P )

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jennicki asserts...

Posted October 7, 2009
Personally I think I would enjoy a single POV with Caitlin.

That being said, I think the multi-thread works best with stories like WW. The Wave was a worldwide event and it would've crippled the story if the perspective was limited to one person in one part of the world. I wanted to know how it affected the survivors in the US, and how it impacted the rest of the world, and I think the only way you can really reveal that to readers is through the use of multiple character perspectives.

And I can't imagine it's easy at all to write an expansive thriller with multiple characters and story archs, knowing when to run with it and when to rein them in.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan asserts...

Posted October 7, 2009
I know I am just a simple, ol' country lawyer, but I just don't understand why you can't do both, John. You can organize a book so that it has a dominant central character focused on a central stand-alone plot line AND have peripheral story lines featuring peripheral (although robust [think Stavros in WW]) characters that augment the novel but can be severed from it to support a screenplay. I really don't see why that isn't doable for someone of your proclivities.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan reckons...

Posted October 7, 2009
I'm sorry; did I say screenplay? I meant series of novels.

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Albion Love Den (Blue Box) reckons...

Posted October 7, 2009
I'm on the single POV band-wagon too, but with multi-thread approach to give context to what's happening with the main character.

As a nice addition, while single POV restricts what ground you can cover, it possibly provides exponentionally more entry points for fan-fic options?

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Therbs mumbles...

Posted October 7, 2009
I prefer the multi-thread format, especially with the expansive scope of your premises in AOT and WW. For a single character POV I'd wanna see one of the Quiet Room operatives as the star.

Or perhaps a new character called Able Seaman Haddock? Just sayin'.

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Naut asserts...

Posted October 7, 2009
I have a gen Y attention span in a gen X brain. So multi-thread suits me. Maybe even multi-threads all in the same paragraph.

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HAVOCK is gonna tell you...

Posted October 7, 2009
Therbs, NAUT, ya on the TEAM. this other bunch of lets do single POV shite need taking out back nd swinging across the effin TOW BAR!...

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jennicki would have you know...

Posted October 7, 2009
Havock, wouldn't you love a single POV if the character was, oh let's say, Kate Beckinsale in a fkn PONYTAIL?

LOL

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MickH swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 7, 2009
I can't see why you can't do both. You have am ain character sure but why can't you go to the POV of secondary characters too. Take Dan Brown's latest Novel. We have the POV of Langdon, but you also have the POV of the antagonist and another secondary character as well. Seems to work so far.

I'm enjoying this one so far, except for a gaff of using a mobile phone in an RF free area.

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aaron mutters...

Posted October 7, 2009
i like both formats but probably prefer the multi character the best. i find with single characters, as much as i like them, i start having trouble suspending my disbelief - just how many near death adventures can this person have before they say 'fuck it, i am working for the council' it can also get repetitive.

with multi POV, you get multiple angles and a wider world to explore (and more meat for sequels). for example I have had just as much fun on this blog discussing the side stories like that of Ali Moerterpo in AOT on this blog as i have reading the actual novels.

I think if JB's publishers want a dedicated franchise, wouldnt a 'This is an Axis of Time universe novel' do just as well as a character?

having said that, i am sure birmo's single pov character would have all the requisite explodey goodness

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HAVOCK would have you know...

Posted October 7, 2009
Jen...if she has FA on or is in DENIM jeans..FK YES!....

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HAVOCK swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 7, 2009
actually..just the ponytail will do.lol

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Blarkon ducks in to say...

Posted October 7, 2009
You could do both. Imagine a novel filled with clones of The Rhino.

(jokes to the side, Alastair Reynolds House of Suns does the multiple perspectives with clones thing)

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simon bedak has opinions thus...

Posted October 7, 2009
Greetings all from Macca's, Wagga Wagga.

Call me old fashioned, but 1st pers narrative from a diarised present-tense is easier to bung on stage. then again, I'm in Bernard Levin's camp that all novels should have an index. Then again, JG Ballard's attempt to write a story using just a Index was just as good.

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lostatlunch is gonna tell you...

Posted October 7, 2009
multi threads... all the big stars of all the books get a ample pages to get a story out... although all of them have other interesting stories in their back stories. I would be disappointed if there was only one major cast member, I did not really get the Caitlin angle but the crew of the Aussie Rules rocked my boat... in AOT, I liked the Harry portions more than the Lonesome Jones bits.. I would have loved to have seen more of Willett & Habibi... I felt they were squeezed out in order to only deliver a monolith.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted October 7, 2009
Okay, you're old fashioned, you wine drinking, play-writing, footy tipping contest hosting, cattle breeding bastard. You're fucking old fashioned.

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Therbs has opinions thus...

Posted October 7, 2009
Bedes - is first person P.O.V. easier to cover when you get a gig doing audiobooks? You know, with that radio voice of yours?

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HAVOCK mumbles...

Posted October 7, 2009
Therbs, ireckon we would call bedes's notes as a " Rotund Rumble"

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Chaz would have you know...

Posted October 7, 2009
Dr Y;funny i was thinking something similar of course Mr Reilly is younger and allegedly more photogenic than the Scribe.

Squire B:bloody country yokels...

Therbs: could you imagine him doing most of the voices? it would be a scream.

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Quokka would have you know...

Posted October 7, 2009
http://www.matthewreilly.com/authorbio.html

Chaz, if so I don't think his photo on his bio is evidence of this.

He looks bloody miserable.

At least JB can master teh appropriate author images of 'cranky' 'sleepy' and 'giggly'.

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DrYobbo mutters...

Posted October 7, 2009
Am loving Aaron's idea of Jason Bourne or Jack Ryan (or even Our Cait) surviving one scrape too many and going 'Fuck this for a game of soldiers, I'm gonna fuck off and be a fucken stop and go man instead.'

Bedes, you're old school. You've been retro since back in the DAY.

It worries me that H wants to have the seksi times with a disembodied ponytail, and nothing else.

IMO the 'Universe' idea would probably be just as much a moneyspinner for the publishers as a Cait Monroe spinoff series, or whatever they have in mind.

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Quokka would have you know...

Posted October 7, 2009
Dunno Dr. Yobbo,

If you had nasty enough ptsd I think you'd go ballistic with the stop and go sign and mash a soccer mum's SWAT vehicle into scrap metal.

For lack of a better weapon, I was tempted to take my rubber kick board to a few of them just yesterday in the car park at the local pool.

5km p/h in the toddler zone?

Nup. Hyperspeed for those overcaffeinated bitches.

I think Caitlin would need a job that offered less in the way of temptation towards violence.

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Abe swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 7, 2009
Please register my vote for multiple POV.

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Allan Dunbar is gonna tell you...

Posted October 7, 2009
I think its a matter of greed. When you do something as momentous as you did in WW or AoT you want to see what is going on everywhere because they are earthshaking events.

That's not to say you couldn't tell the same story from a single character POV, but you might not be able to show events all over the world. You could mention them, but its not the same as having a character experience them.

I enjoy both types of novels and I would certainly buy a single character book if JB wrote it, but the sequels would depend on whether or not it worked. :)

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NBlob would have you know...

Posted October 7, 2009
"I would certainly buy a single character book if JB wrote it" Nice one Allan, look up the definition of solidarity sometime- we had better than 80% punching the Multistrand chad. [Joking]

"...events all over the world. You could mention them, but its not the same as having a character experience them." JB's thinking immersive VR as you type. Reccomend Barnes "Mother of All Storms" for (largely)interesting VR playout.

Lord Blarkon, Sir, multiple Rhino's is just too much for one small bear to bear.

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Guy would have you know...

Posted October 7, 2009
Definitely the multiple POV. JB the best thing about AOT and WW is the way you've created credible worlds with lots of lovely big picture detail. Single or small group POV stories inevitably have less information about what's happening worldwide. There was nothing wrong with Coyle's writing in Team Yankee but Red Storm Rising was much more interesting and enjoyable because we got to see what was going on away from the POV of a few junior grunts.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure you would do a fine job if you caved into the pressure to write a series of single character books but I strongly suspect that the finished product would be altogether less satisying than the material you have produced thus far.

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HAVOCK mutters...

Posted October 7, 2009
GUY..you also left out that the BAND OF BROTHERS WOULD BE SERIOUSLY PISSED!....

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Guy would have you know...

Posted October 7, 2009
Heaven forbid!

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Matthew K mumbles...

Posted October 7, 2009
Thisa is something I have thought about

It is much easier to empathise/indentify and establish depth with single character

Multiples characters each need their individual identities clearly defined. I must admit to finding the multiple POVs hard going in WW: it was like "Who's eyes am I seeing through now?"

My ideal is a single protagonist who is kick ass enough to survive in the hostile environment of a John Birmingham novel, gets around a lot but needs to have stuff explained to him by lots of other characters, (ie a big dumb guy but likeable and admirable). Lee Childs Jack Reacher character springs to mind.

So overall I agree with PNB: "dominant central character focused on a central stand-alone plot line AND have peripheral story lines".

Anyone here ever read Joseph Campbell's "The Hero with a Thousand faces"? I'm struggling through it at the mo', it's very relevant to this debate.

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savo asserts...

Posted October 7, 2009
multi POV.

need I say more?

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simon bedak mutters...

Posted October 7, 2009
Well if it's the Abe multi-player version that gets the nod, perhaps have the PageMaker monkey run different threads in different colours so an idiot like me can follow it more easily.

To be frank from the playwright pov, I find it's hard enough working with simple dialogue only to reflect characters without having the cunts all sound largely the same.

I know this'd probably translate across as more of a style thing than a substance thing with multi-pov's off the pages, but the fucker'd be the spoken language of the characters, and even their fucking thoughts, would have to be even more marked than on stage.

On the boards, some drunken poofter or over talented bimbo can say the chatter and do the work and differentiate in the audience's mind, one page liberated butterfly among a seething mass of cockroaches. The next night, they can be a moth, or a budgie, or whatever floats their boat.

But flat off the page?

Fucking hell. Better you than me. To make it rock, you'd need a way to train/direct the reader to be your actor/s.

Find a way, to have the reader want to change that every-page reading voice that peels through from odd-to-even-odd-page-thru. What a job.

Annoyingly good test one of my tutors use to inflict on me was to cover the names of the characters in the margins and if he couldn't tell who was who just from the chatter on the page, he'd say it was shit and make me do it again.

But within your medium? Nup. As I saym, fucking better you than me Birmo.

Then again, an e-book with character avatars might assist. Oops, unless I don't really exist, that's a bit self-referential.

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zeniph is gonna tell you...

Posted October 7, 2009
love all the main characters - kolhammer, duffy, prince harry

probably love even more the bit players that fill in the gaps - the temp soldiers scoping out japanese occupied island with the hidden planes, the US guys at guantanamo bay (stavros?)

but most of all I love the world(s) they all exist in and all the concepts and tech that allows them to exist. so yaay massive multi-threaded

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damian puts forth...

Posted October 7, 2009
quokka - "If you had nasty enough ptsd I think you’d go ballistic with the stop and go sign and mash a soccer mum’s SWAT vehicle into scrap metal."

You say that like it's a bad thing?

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girlclumsy mutters...

Posted October 7, 2009
Apologies if this has already been said, but could you try a single-character book as a one-off experiment? Just to see how it goes.

As you say, you have luxuries with multi-POV, but maybe the challenge of a single thread might give you some awesome SPARTA self-pride. ;)

But thn, I have no idea. You write 'em, I'll read 'em.

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Moko is gonna tell you...

Posted October 7, 2009
Sounds like a reasonable pepsi challenge for Mr Birmingham. Keep ya on ya toes and all that.

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Bangar ducks in to say...

Posted October 7, 2009
As has all ready been said (partly) you'll have two worlds (plus a universe perhaps) to play in. I enjoy the multi POV, but no reason not test the waters of a single character. As you've said there are holes in the story you could fill.

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mckinneytexas is gonna tell you...

Posted October 7, 2009
Multi, definitely. Single character, franchise novels in which the same person has an endless series of improbable adventures, endlessly dodging bullets and saving the day, taxes the thinking audience as well as the author. It is good marketing, up to a point, since the theory is that a market is captured, waiting breathlessly for the next book.

But it ceases to be about ideas and more about the central character. What makes JB's books so worthwhile is the thought that goes into, first, the POD, and then the impact on a range of characters in different, and at times, antagonistic, situations.

As a loyal Burger, I would buy and read all of JB's "Spiff, the Spaceman" novels, but I would mainly reread and compare them to AoT and WW/AA/??.

It is a rare single character that can consistently deliver--Flashman comes to mind, but then only because Fraser had a series of 19th century actual events to drop his character into as a witness/silent catalyst, etc.

JB has the chops to push back on this point and, IMHO, he should. Clancey's Red Storm Rising was a good book, one of Clancy's better books, actually, and it didn't involve Jack Ryan peeling off his shirt to reveal the blue suit with the red and yellow lettering.

I may have mentioned this point some years back (Jesus, it has been years now, hasn't it?): stay with what you know and do best. Left to your own devices and tendencies, you've kicked out a great series that really does beg for more and you have another in progress. You are susceptible, as any thinking person would be, to 'theme fatigue' after three books or so. Limiting yourself to a single character--or worse yet, contracting to write 3-5 books about the same person--could prove problematical.

But, if you must, "The Adventures of Tex McKinney, Civil Trial Lawyer" has a nice ring to it.

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Lobes swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 7, 2009
There are some very good comments in this thread advocating for either direction. However I still think multi-threads are the more suitable for story telling on this scale (ie global event)

Of course factor in all the regulars here are used to reading crazy multi-threaded threads on a daily basis right 'here' and of course they will lean that way for stories as well.

Cannot get PNBs comment out of my head. Visualising a giant chicken approaching the bar a la futurama

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robW mutters...

Posted October 7, 2009
Tex makes several good points, but the awful truth here is that for an analysis to be useful it should be comprehensive rather than anecdotal. I'm sure the analysis would show that the POV types would fall in clusters rather than monolithic styles: compare Michener's HAWAII and THE SOURCE, Wouk's THE WINDS OF WAR and WAR AND REMEMBRANCE, and of course, Clancy's RED STORM RISING. At one end of the continuum is Clancy: his RED STORM chapters are more like what we would call short treatments. At the other end is Michener, whose SOURCE chapters are stories complete within themselves, stitched together within a central story. While each is structurally similar, they all fall differently under the “seven basic plots” and the “seven basic needs.”

On the other hand, the motivation of the authors themselves was entirely different. Clancy and Michener were businessmen who were more interested in publishing franchises driven by invisible galley slaves writing for them. Wouk and King, on the other hand, are incorrigible writers, and no one can pry the pen out of their hands.

But wait, there's more. Look a Clive Cussler, back when he still had a day job as a copy writer for an advertising agency in Denver and was just starting to develop his central character, Dirk Pitt. The list could go on and on.

I end by suggesting that in your prolific free time you take a look at a long out-of-print book by an English academic, Jerry Palmer. One is THRILLERS: GENESIS AND STRUCTURE OF A POPULAR GENRE and the other is POTBOILERS.

Whatever you end up doing, I hope you continue to enjoy writing yourself and don't end up with hired penmen in your basement cranking out formula books.

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robW is gonna tell you...

Posted October 8, 2009
Did something happen here? The conversation froze.

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joe mutters...

Posted October 8, 2009
Whatever you write, I will probably end up giving it a read, and let you know how I thought it went.

Is it true you are rewriting/have rewritten Leviathan? It really didn't flow so well but had plenty of "awesome" in it regardless.

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joe asserts...

Posted October 8, 2009
How would you do that in single-perspective I wonder?

An immortal Cockroach being from the future come to take notes for a thesis?

Fly(roach) on the wall?

:)

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Quokka ducks in to say...

Posted October 8, 2009
Hum, JB, re: the current NT conversation...there is something about being asked to justify a group's raison d'etre that never fails to give me flashbacks to boarding school.

I was front and centre of a couple of activities that got banned.

One of course was the karate club - which didn't stop me training outside of school and going on to black belt, and the other, oddly enough, was the Rowing Club.

The headmistress had a fairly conservative agenda of these activities being 'unladylike'. Which, in 1980, she was never going to come out point blank and state.

I never did figure out what she had against rowing until I had a client who coached rowing at a rival girls' school. She explained that our headmistress hated rowing because it gave girls big arms and shoulders and made us appear intimidating to the boys. (yep. GRRRRRAAAAAHHH) And since our school churned out a good number of girl -on girl partnerships I don't think she wanted to add to the Unmarried Stats.

As you may or may not have noticed on meeting me, the girth of my shoulders is in fact, greater than that of my hips...yup, sorry GC but I am in fact a size larger up top becoz of my tender leanings towards rebelling against authority figures...

My point being that I don't think I have a lot to add to the cause of Fairfax V. Cheeseburger, today.

I'm getting far too many flashbacks to 'Well, tell us why this activity is important to you and if you can justify it's importance, we will allow it to continue.'

Sorry, but over and above the scent of Spam I smell Hidden Agenda.

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Quokka asserts...

Posted October 8, 2009
Then again maybe she was just worried I'd end up in some hell hole working as a jelly wrestler.

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Brian reckons...

Posted October 8, 2009
Yaaay! Score! I lost a post on the NT thread . . . . .

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El Coqui puts forth...

Posted October 8, 2009
I had used multi as well as single POVs on my stories. Which is best depends on what tale are you trying to tell.

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Quokka would have you know...

Posted October 8, 2009
Welcome to the Spam Trap, Brian.

I hope you packed the cat shit.

They love that stuff in there.

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damian has opinions thus...

Posted October 8, 2009
I say, I seem to have run aground on one of those spamfiltering shoals as well. Not that I need much excuse to sit around and wait for the tide of course. Beer anyone?

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Brian is gonna tell you...

Posted October 8, 2009
Well . . . .looks like I've got interesting company. I reckon it was when I mentioned 'Quokka' . . . .and then . . . Melbourne Storm. I was looking for triggers . .

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aaron is gonna tell you...

Posted October 8, 2009
you know what dr yobbo, if i get the time i will write a fan fic about - one of the jb's characters chucking in to become a council lifer. that would be hilarious!

another thing about multi threads i've noticed is that they are like The Beatles White Album - everyone has a different opinion of what the best bits are.

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Quokka is gonna tell you...

Posted October 8, 2009
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooKaCbMvaZ0

Attention GirlClumsy if you are out there, you might want to check out Harry Connick in his Pot Calling The Kettle Black attire.

Sorry for the hijack all but if the NT had their shit together, I could chuck it in there.

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sparty reckons...

Posted October 8, 2009
"handling multiple characters / threads" = skill set John Birmingham. enuff said.

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sparty puts forth...

Posted October 8, 2009
How the hell do you create a account on that bloody thing? doe sit only accept Oz postcodes? (which i have tried..)

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damian ducks in to say...

Posted October 8, 2009
Ooh, the tide came in. Now adrift, champagne?

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NBlob mutters...

Posted October 8, 2009
Damian, I appear to have found a simmilar sand bar a few hundred yards upstream this afternoon.

Holy bat-spoor JB - The Love In has arrived! 91 comments of pure pant-moistening adoration.

What impresses me the most is the capacity to steer "blunty’s main battle tank" like a maestro fiddles his stradavariwhatsit.

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Quokka swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 8, 2009
Ah, the Spam Trap.

It swallows us all.

And spits up the the tentacle porn of BigBillyBlowOff.

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damian mutters...

Posted October 8, 2009
NBob, on first glance that looked like stradivariwurst, a vaguely compelling prospect. I think it would go very well indeed with this nice Western Australian Cabernet Merlot.

As for the love in - I think the best aspect of blunty is the ironic distance.

Now I am imagining a Blondie song called 'Ironic'. Interteshamuality an' all that.

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Matthew K reckons...

Posted October 8, 2009
sparty: doe sit only accept Oz postcodes?

Yes, according to Birmo it does indeed need an Aus postcode. It didn't like my Cambridgeshire UK one at all.

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savo would have you know...

Posted October 8, 2009
I don't know if this has been mentioned previously, but without multiple points of view like we had in AoT, we can't has such an utter act of bastardery perpetrated on us like "Our Scribe" did with Dan Black.

Without such a spread of characters we can't have a heavy emotional investment shattered in such a way. If there is only the one major character, the emotional investment is only really in that one character and it's a bit pointless killing off the franchise.

So, again multiple POV please.

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savo would have you know...

Posted October 8, 2009
“The Adventures of Tex McKinney, Civil Trial Lawyer” ... Even my wife says she'll read that book.

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John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 8, 2009
Senator McKinney is correct. The Flashman novels are da schnitzel.

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John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted October 8, 2009
Joe, yes, I am rewriting Leviathan. Folding the 3rd and 4th chapters into each other, and adding a chapter on the city's aesthetic history.

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John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted October 8, 2009
Sparty, MattK had the same issue. Used a local post code. Mine actually 4171 Bulimba, Qld.

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Scott mumbles...

Posted October 9, 2009
Multi Pov please! The types of books you write wouldn't work in single pov. Anyway it is limiting, just look at Tom Clancy, Jack Ryan could only go so far.

Your books are set on a planetary scale and readers like me get the shits with authors who create large events like the wave and sending a fleet back in time and then leave out the jucey details.

Besides multi pov allows for higher bodycount, as above there is only a limited number of times person x can escape from plot device y.

Thanks for the graight books!

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Quokka ducks in to say...

Posted October 9, 2009
The Bloke (He Who Could Not Give A Rat's Nad's about Blogging - but who reads your books) wishes to register his vote for multi POV.

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Lobes has opinions thus...

Posted October 9, 2009
After counting the votes I've got multi-thread beating single-POV 23-7

I didnt count fence sitters like Chaz, Jennicki and Blarkon. Also left off a few others who I couldnt work out what they were saying (but nothing new there)

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NBlob reckons...

Posted October 9, 2009
Lobes, what are you purple monkey dishwasher saying?

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damian puts forth...

Posted October 9, 2009
Lobes, you could probably count me as more your Joseph Conrad, many stories in one but layered to come through a single 1st person narrator right at the top level sort of guy. But don't count that as an actual vote - I'm more "meh whatever" on how Birmo chooses to write, he seems to do both styles pretty well.

Mind you, there's the danger that any 1st person narrator character Birmo comes up with would be the same one from Tassie Babes, in improbable disguises. The really interesting project would be where he consciously invents a character with a voice very different to his own, and shows us the world of the novel through that voice. Quite a challenge, that - possibly not a timely one. And I don't think Birmo's quite finished what he started in the multi-threaded story space.

And sorry Birmo, I only realised halway through that I was basically addressing you in the 3rd person. Too lazy and tipsy to go back and fix it just now ;)

NFknBob, all I can say to you at this point, is "potatoes".

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damian has opinions thus...

Posted October 9, 2009
Ray - along the Tom Clancy line, I recall quite clearly from the movie version of Patriot Games, when they're in the operations centre during the raid on the terrorist camp, how unpleasant it makes some of the CIA agents/analysts look. Well, specifically the dude who quite superfluously pipes up with "That's a kill". Not sure if it's meant to draw attention to the modern professional's dispassionate regard for violence, but whatever it is that didn't work for me.

Interestingly a box of books from my teenage years came back into my possession recently, including a stack of Cussler's novels. I will probably have to reread a couple to see if I still hate him ;)

Now Geoffry Jenkins - there's a good thriller writer.

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mckinneytexas mutters...

Posted October 9, 2009
John, per Lobes, the vote it is in.

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SJPONeill has opinions thus...

Posted October 9, 2009
Sorry, I'm late...multi-POV works better for me in stories on the scale of AoT and WW...as above Tom Clancy got it right in Red Storm Rising then totally lost me for about 10 years because I could not get into Jack Ryan...the down side of multi-POV is that they can be so broad that they become difficult to screw into a single coherent movie as a follow-up project (PJ got so lucky with LOTR that it actually worked). Other good examples on a multi approach include Larry Bond's Red Phoenix, Cauldron and Vortex; Mark Berent's Vietnam series; and Barret Tillman's The Sixth Battle. 633 Squadron, Charlie Mike, and The Eagle Has Landed are great examples of the single POV way and 2 of those 3 are also great movies...

FKN Damian - I binned all my Cusslers years ago but have now reacquired most of them, having found that I now quite enjoy them as non-challenging entertainment; ditto for the Jack Ryan's - probably a sign that I've chilled out a bit over the years and no longer expect everything I read to be 110% accurate and realistic - probably why I can enjoy Matthew Reilly as well...

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Respond to 'Massive multi-threaded narrative versus single POV or small ensemble cast stories.'

Even more answers.

Posted October 5, 2009 by John Birmingham
Springfield Fats asked in the Ivan thread how much scenario planning went into the AOT series. I guess the short answer is bugger all into Weapons of Choice, and rather too much into the other two books. Designated Targets in particular was plotted out scene by scene, against a huge white board full of branching consequences for every single plot point. I dialed it back significantly for Final Impact. And I must admit there were some scenarios I should have spent more time investigating, but I didn't. The middle east for instance was an arena in which very little on screen action took place, and I've often wondered about whether or not it'd be cool to set a spinoff series there. But then on the other hand NBob did raise a whole Indonesian storyline which all took place of the page. Again there's a lot you could do there.

I think that Guy identifies the narrative sweet spot however, in his comment about the European theater being the most interesting because of the Soviet takeover. I don't know how many of you read Steve Stirling's Draka series but the second book which was set in an alternate occupied Europe was quite amazing in terms of world building. If I was going to go back to the AOT at novel length I would probably do it in Europe 10 years after the end of the war. Something like an old Cold War espionage novel except in a Transition universe.

Having said that, McKinney's point about the Zone being another mother lode of narrative potential is also true. (By the way MacSpeech Dictate would like to call McKinney 'bikini'). When I was writing the novels I always found the sections set in the zone to be the most entertaining to write, with the possible exception of the New York scenes, simply because of all the concentrated points of divergence you have in the San Fernando Valley.

42 Responses to ‘Even more answers.’

Paul Nicholas Boylan mumbles...

Posted October 5, 2009
The Quiet Room is surely another sweet spot/mother lode.

Come on, John. Just commit to doing a fourth book picking up where you left off in the third. Nothing fancy. Nothing requiring extraordinary effort beyond the usual extraordinary effort it takes to write a novel. Hell, this one will damn well write itself.

Come on, John. Just say yes. You know you want to.

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HAVOCK is gonna tell you...

Posted October 5, 2009
Europe 10 years on from the emergency as a follow on whilst interesting, I think would simply be the cold war brought forward on the time line. Unless of course as background the US and Russia have already gone AT IT somewhere else on the planet.

The one that always held great appeal to me and has been the content of numerous day dream session was pre the emergence, the Middle east. You touch just briefly on Damascus and ME previous battles and to be honest I find it fascinating. THAT or the ME post the AoT series holds vast potential. OK, there is vast potential all over…but that’s my fantasy thread if I could wave the wand.

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HAVOCK mutters...

Posted October 5, 2009
PNB...oh he wants too i reckon, just hes being a girl and not making up his mind, like an effin girl

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Paul Nicholas Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted October 5, 2009
I suspected the same, but didn't want to be the first to mention it because I harbor hope that a character will be named after me - one that is tall, good looking and athletic.

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HAVOCK is gonna tell you...

Posted October 5, 2009
The other reason I would like to see the AoT Prequel come out is the TECH. I’m willing to wager the Boss has thought about this. In the AoT series we see 21C go up against WW2 era ear, we have all marvelled at the oh so sexy kit but its relatively one sided.

Now just sit back an imagine 21C gear and like!, the terrorist and 21C kit, Syrian armoured units and 21C kit go off all over the page. The chance to dream up more shite as well that not fully included, expand on what countries are doing, play with he political landscape some more….DAM!, the possibilities are FKN endless and just about give me a H@RD ON ! thinking about it!

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Quokka would have you know...

Posted October 5, 2009
PNB my spouse is the JB fiction reader and he frequently tells me that one day JB is going to put a Quokka in his story and it will die a horrible, horrible, nasty death.

And he, The Bloke, will laugh his head off.

And PNB, I do not think it at all wise to make such a wish in the same post where JB has said 'Bikini' - unless you want your character to be a long legged cross dresser who hangs out at The Sportsman on Sunday nights wearing string shirts and sipping Long Island Iced Tea.

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Tarl mumbles...

Posted October 5, 2009
PNB - remember, we saw a fanfic with Havock & Rhino being major characters.

I almost broke a rib reading it. That could happen to you :-)

Personally, I'd like to see a prequel or perhaps post-quel in the world the fleet came from. Seeing how that world is put together would be pretty interesting - and how they react to a fleet disappearing off the coast of Indonesia.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan mumbles...

Posted October 5, 2009
Shut up! Shut up all of you! Just stick to the script! "4th book." "4th book." "4th book." You risk frightening the man with fancy talk of "prequel" and "postquel." Stick to the script.

Quokka: I'm not afraid.

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HAVOCK puts forth...

Posted October 5, 2009
PNB.. ( in best YODA VOICE)....you should be....you should BE!

Quokka, whats the name for a book that comes out mid stride of the series...Interruptous..????

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted October 5, 2009
Depends what kind of bikini you've got on the cover, Hav.

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HAVOCK reckons...

Posted October 5, 2009
The books appeals, or the series I should say. Was in its WHAT IF and the blending of tech, the consequences, yeah and the characters as well.

But Like I said before, I will say it again. If we go down the path of T55/70’s running own the Fulda GAP, we simply have another Nato V RUSSIA type scenario.

You could do a whole mini series on HRH Harry and his daring do exploits…. An his just as dashing and daring do partner HAVOCK!. That would sell bucket loads of copies…

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Brian puts forth...

Posted October 5, 2009
'Marching Through Georgia'

That was the interesting one.

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NBlob asserts...

Posted October 5, 2009
As in "Life Partner"

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Tarl ducks in to say...

Posted October 5, 2009
Brian - disagree. Marching Through Georgia was a fairly standard war/battle story, with minor traces of world building underneath it. The scary one was Under the Yoke, where an entire slaveholding society was described in credible detail from both top and bottom.

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Chaz would have you know...

Posted October 5, 2009
I still think we should have a prequel, I will be willing to take one for the team and do the indepth research in France (as long as I can claim it against tax)!

JB BTW lunch was ok, not inspiring (just to make you feel better), should have gone to Rockpool

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HAVOCK asserts...

Posted October 5, 2009
I bags the Middle east and TESTING of wepons characteristics......er...EFFECTS!

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HAVOCK swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 5, 2009
The question is: Would an Author who puts down, dare i say it, such a great series ( THREE) of books, who had such a gapping effin holes waiting to be filled in ( prequel), would they be called a girls blouse, sook, sisy, wimp, if they DID NOT DO A PREQUEL!...thats the sixty five million dollar question. After all, was it not the collective voice..PLUS MINE, that managed to slap own the cretins at NT and get some shite down...hey..hey!..was it not. So I'm thinking we shoudl belt the living verbal crap outta JB until he commits to the PREQUEL!.

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Chaz ducks in to say...

Posted October 5, 2009
H considering the Scribes enfeebled state (after being smacked around by a young girl), I can't say that it'd be too much of a challenge.

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Quokka reckons...

Posted October 5, 2009
I have yet to see results from this so called Bitch Slapping at the NT.

Suspect our complaints re: the format are about as bothersome to them as a gnat on an elephants arse.

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Brian has opinions thus...

Posted October 5, 2009
Tarl. Depends on what I found interesting about it. :))

It was a Staligrad set-up.

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savo would have you know...

Posted October 5, 2009
Ladies and Gents, there is still plenty of room in the Mini-burger for you to expand on your favourite parts of AoT. Haddock, have you been holding anything back?

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Chaz asserts...

Posted October 5, 2009
Savo, hmm got to dig up 'Dien Bien Phu II' if I can find it.

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John Birmingham asserts...

Posted October 5, 2009
oh, they're bothersome quokka. i've made myself very unpopular in some qtrs by insisting they be followed up.

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SJPONeill swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 5, 2009
I think the prequel will (let's use positive words here like it is going to happen and NEXT!!) rock and the concept excites me almost as much as it does Havock (scary in its own right)...was listening to the Beeb yesterday on my way back from Cosford and there was serious talk about Tony Blair becoming president of Europe so maybe the alternate universe is already here?

A 50/60s sequel to AoT (as opposed to Cold War as there might not be a Cold War) would be interesting (but not as much as the prequel) as it might provide an opportunity to 'learn' the lessons for the future...maybe the Allies will have a breather and then deal to Uncle Joe Stalin much like Dean koontz did in Lightning? Maybe the western nations won't go down the whole nationalisation, east of Suez path and secure the Middle East for ourselves; maybe Tahiti will nuke France before anyone in the Champs d'Elysee has ever heard of Mururoa; maybe the OSS will support Ho Chi Minh, the French will get arsed out of IndoChina (all in favour of an alternate universe that hammers France, raise your hands), the Vietnam wars will never occur and the space programme doesn't stop after Apollo? maybe David Lange (Google is your friend) sticks it to the French after Rainbow Warrier....

But I still think that the prequel would be better...

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted October 5, 2009
SJP that's the first good laugh I've had all day. Thanks.

And Savvo, who are you calling a Lady?

JB gotta admit that after sifting through some of the comments at the Courier Mail website today I have some sympathy for the spam trap at the NT. At the Courier Mail Website, no one can hear you scream....yaaaaaaargh...scary shit.

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sibeen swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 5, 2009
Jesus, he's not Frank Herbert, you know. His kids arn't old eneough to be writing novels as yet.

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HAVOCK swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 5, 2009
Quokka. Yeah, if you take a peek around other NEWS sites and so forth, you can see that we tend to get away with a fuckload more than all the others. Thats a pretty big shift for the NT munters to get their head around. I suspect also its a pretty big shock on top of that, to have not only the author, but pretty much all the posters go POSTAL on their collective arses as well. Being told what you have is shit does not go down well with most people.

the smart ones look and listen and adapt, time will tell of course, but we have a very unique crew that comments, toss in the author and I reckon the have struggled with the whole ensemble going off at them somehow.

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Guy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 5, 2009
Well I'm still hoping for a new AOT novel and I think JB is absolutely right that concentrating on Europe 10 years into a new cold war would be the way to go. Instead of East Germany we get the hideously evil state of southern France - to keep Mr SJPONeill happy it could even get nuked!

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sibeen reckons...

Posted October 5, 2009
we get the hideously evil state of southern France

So things haven't changed in this universe then?

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HAVOCK mutters...

Posted October 5, 2009
WTF...cheese eatin surrender monkeys..WTF..EFFIN HELL FK FRANCE..JFW..if he even goes near fkn france I'll cap his arse

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted October 5, 2009
Yes Hav.

I must remember to save them a little something from the kitty litter box as a gesture of my appreciation for all that they've done so far.

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HAVOCK mumbles...

Posted October 5, 2009
quokka..not much..just some. THATS me doing my good deed for the day. As for the french think..well stomp, cap. rip tear crash and fkn burn the bastards

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sparty swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 5, 2009
interetsing that most research went into "Weapons of choice" for me that was the one with teh biggest pay off and the one where I ddint know what would happen. By final impact events were kind of limite dby cause and effect, particulary cause of nukes - so I'm very intrigued by the book idea of a alt his world where Mahahtten project failed.

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Matthew K mumbles...

Posted October 5, 2009
savo: "there is still plenty of room in the Mini-burger for you to expand on your favourite parts of AoT."

Actually I'm interested to see that there I'm not the only one still stuck on AoT, I thought you all had moved on to WW.

I do have a half finished AoT fanfic...

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Damaso has opinions thus...

Posted October 5, 2009
It must be an interesting position to be in to have so many options in terms of what to write and so very little time! I agree with Paul, we want to see whether or not a Sherman crashes into the Kremlin or a T55 into the White House.

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Vallon Davis ducks in to say...

Posted October 6, 2009
I think that there should be a stand alone book that could serve as an added conclusion for the first three books, where we can find out what happened to other characters that were in the first two books, but were left out in the third, would include all the material that you originally wanted to include but had to cut (like the face off between Lonesome and contemporary Marine Generals), and parts set in other areas that were mentioned but not expanded on or not really concluded (the uprisings in the Middle East, the growing Civil War in the Soviet Union, Soviet Occupation further than where they went on the original time line, dealing with the killer of Anderson and Myizaki). As for the next trilogy, it can pick up some ten or fifteen years later, where the Soviets are fighting a war of attrition in China and Vietnam; where a large number of Russian troops are fighting a Dien Ben Phu type battle, and Zukhov is sent from the Civil War in the Soviet Union to command the forces there, but his helicopter is shot down and he is listed as missing in action to the Kremlin, but it was actually a reuse as he uses it as a way to defect to the Rebel Russian Forces who are growing in numbers and gaining more territory from those forces loyal to Stalin.

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mckinneytexas swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 6, 2009
The AoT-verse is a broad canvas. OTOH, JB's got to follow his advisers' leads, the question being whether he does it in real time or a point of departure yet to be announced. Maybe the WW is the vehicle for an extended story line . . .

Should he go back to AoT at some point (his advisers should give this some serious thought), it needs to be at a point when he is really on fire with an idea. Writing a book because you have to leads to the Turtledove syndrome (book after freaking book, yet not a single story to be told).

Under the Yoke was Stirling's second in the Draka series. Like AoT, the Draka series was one that could and should have been continued, but apparently, there are contractual differences and whatnot that keep that from happening. I think JB's situation is different. Burgers may recall, reading between JB's lines, that a bit of AoT fatigue had set in while he was grinding out the last of Final Impact. I suspect there is a lingering sense of "Jesus, when is this going to be over?" bouncing around in John's head. In time, maybe after he can learn to say 'no' to every commission that comes his way and learn to pace himself a bit better, he will have an epiphany and come up with 'the great story line' for another AoT trilogy. Until then, though, John should follow his current leads, probably for a couple of years anyway, until he can look at AoT with a totally fresh and enthusiastic view.

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Damaso asserts...

Posted October 7, 2009
This has probably been mentioned but what about a collection of short stories set in the AoT universe?

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NukemHill swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 9, 2009
Damaso, I had exactly the same thought. Even more interesting would be if he mixed in some fan-fic (if it's good enough, and gets solid editorial support). That'd be fun.

I hadn't realized until now that there was such an active interest in the AoT storyline. Like I said in an earlier thread--I'm picking up Designated Targets on the way home tonight. I'm absolutely looking forward to it. If possible, my appetite's been whetted even more by reading all of these comments.

And John? Nukem Hill will either be a sub driver, or a post-apocalyptic cowboy. Your choice. ;-) Either way, he's randy as hell, and dies a horrifying death.

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Guy mumbles...

Posted October 9, 2009
The short story option was taken quite successfully by Steve Stirling with the 'Drakas' collection (including one story by Harry Turtledove) and I have no doubt it would work well enough with the AOT. However it would not be a real sustitute for a new novel by JB - or better still a new series of novels.

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Barry swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 15, 2015
Great to see the Skyhawks get a showing in Final Impact. One of the finest cheep attack aircraft produced.

w from brisbane swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 15, 2015
Does this thread really date from October 2009? Barry, I love a considered response.

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Respond to 'Even more answers.'

More Ivan answers.

Posted October 5, 2009 by John Birmingham
Springfield Fats asked in the Ivan thread how much scenario planning went into the AOT series. I guess the short answer is bugger all in Weapons of Choice, and rather too much in the other two books. Designated Targets in particular was plotted out scene by scene, against a huge white board full of branching consequences for every single plot point. I dialed it back significantly for Final Impact. And I must admit it was some scenarios which I should have spent more time investigating, but I didn't. The middle east for instance was an arena in which very little on screen action took place, and I've often wondered about whether or not it'd be cool to set a spinoff series there. But then on the other hand NBob did raise a whole Indonesian storyline which all took place of the page. Again there's a whole spinoff series you could do there.

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Respond to 'More Ivan answers.'

Answers! Answers! Precious answers.

Posted October 4, 2009 by John Birmingham
Okay, at last. Sorry about that. Friday was a hell day with deadlines, Friday night we had visitors until quite late, and Saturday I was out all day. This morning however I woke up an hour earlier by accident because I suspect Telstra's 3G network pushed the clock on my iPhone forward an hour while I was sleeping, little realizing I live in Queensland, i.e. the past.

They'll be a reckoning for this, my friends. A heavy reckoning indeed.

Still, it gives me some time to answer a few questions before I walk the dog. So, the Kanto plain. Sparty (whom MacSpeech Dictate refers to as Spicy) is correct. I was thinking about an invasion of Japan at the end of Final Impact. There were a couple of reasons I didn't go down that path. Murph has covered a few of them in his notes, but there was also the complicating factor that I wanted to save an invasion of Japan for entirely separate series of alternate history novels set in the 1980s but with a point of departure at the end of the second world war when the Manhattan Project failed. I've done some work on that project but haven't presented it to any publishers or agents yet. Some of you may recall a brief extract I ran from it at the old cheeseburger back at journal space. Bottom line however, an invasion of Japan would have required an entire book all on its own. And I'm pretty happy with the way I wrapped it up. Nuking the Imperial Palace after all, what's not to love about that?

A few people asked about whether there would be any more books set in the AOT universe. That's hard to say. The books are very profitable, and still deliver a royalty stream, but both publishers here and in the US are very keen for me to do something with a single ongoing character in what ever series I do next. And I happen to have a project along those lines that I've been itching to do for about 10 years. However, that doesn't mean AOT is dead. If and when I push ahead with my plans to start releasing stories and books via the app store (and its non-iPhone equivalents) it will be that particular universe that I work in. And that could happen as soon as next year.

Timmo asked way back at the start of the thread about the naming of the incidental characters. He was wondering whether all of the non-historical characters were blog buddies, mates, minor literary figures and so on. Answer, no not all of them, but yes lots of them. It's a series in which hundreds of characters appear over the course of the three books and it's hard work naming them all. As for the second part of his question, asking whether Weapons Of Choice grew out of a bit of frivolous fuck knuckling around while I was working on Leviathan, yes, Nick Earls was correct. That is exactly how it came about.

Mr. havoc (Whom MacSpeech just referred to as 'haddock') is also correct. Capt. Halabi is entirely jumpable.

Right now, however I have to walk the dog. So I'll answer a few more of these later.

54 Responses to ‘Answers! Answers! Precious answers.’

Quokka is gonna tell you...

Posted October 4, 2009
I knew there was something fishy about MacSpeech.

So my question, then, is why does it not call Cap. Halabi Captain Halibut?

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Moko asserts...

Posted October 4, 2009
If you do, it needs Javelin missiles.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted October 4, 2009
The electronic gods have spoken through their electronic prophet, MacSpeech (peace be unto it). Henceforth, Sparty should be referred to only as Spicy and Havoc only as Haddock, and spicy haddock should be the dish we eat during the high holidays of our new electronic religion to commemorate this very moment.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan puts forth...

Posted October 4, 2009
Wait a minute, all kidding aside - John, are you saying that the only way I am going to get any more AoT will be via an iPhone?

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Quokka mumbles...

Posted October 4, 2009
PNB you need a new addiction.

May I suggest tupperware. The Happy Chopper is just what you need to spice up your fish.

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Abe ducks in to say...

Posted October 4, 2009
Could the "single ongoing character" have a yen for sausages?

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Bondiboy66 reckons...

Posted October 4, 2009
I was happy a little reference to the North Bondi RSL got slotted in - being a member and all, and it's my favoured watering hole at the rare times I get to rehydrate and top up alcohol levels.

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savo puts forth...

Posted October 4, 2009
But what about the movie John, the Movie! or at least an anime series.

AND

WTF is that televison stuff you hinted at a few months ago? Not AoT related?

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yankeedog mutters...

Posted October 4, 2009
I am not HAVOCK, I AM a FKN GOD DAM fish!

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NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted October 4, 2009
Here fishy fishy fish.

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Quokka mumbles...

Posted October 4, 2009
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkF7Bj5cxJU

Ever since JB said the F word, I have had an image of Commander Haddock sitting for his engineer's exam, as per Rimmer in Red Dwarf.

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Brian ducks in to say...

Posted October 4, 2009
God NWB! Leave Haddock alone. He's only a tiddler.

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FKN HDK would have you know...

Posted October 4, 2009
Fish CN GT FKD - all there FKN slimey nance feral schenanGNs. Sometin FKN FISHY about FKN FISH. Dont evun TruSt them at the shop when I order FKN FLAKE.

Only FKN Funny Fish is my TIE that is shaped like a fish which is FKN comedy GOLD!

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Brian puts forth...

Posted October 4, 2009
'Comedy Gold' . . . .fish? Oh my Cod!

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Big Bad Al ducks in to say...

Posted October 4, 2009
Mmmm....Fried Haddock... Love the smell of Fish Oil in the morning.

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spicy has opinions thus...

Posted October 4, 2009
cheers brimo!

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lostatlunch puts forth...

Posted October 4, 2009
Abe, Julia Duffy had a yen for sausage..

I googled and found a smoked Haddock & bacon sausage

John, could any amount of on-going royalties lure you back into the Falafel omniverse?

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NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted October 4, 2009
Anyone else percieve a piscatorial pattern forming?

Tentacle pr0n one day & Haddock the next.

Yes yes move past the cheesy alliteration. It's my problem & the therapy is helping.

JB, these "stories and books via the app store " of which you speak, is there anyone doing it already or are you hanging out on the bleeding edge of lit? Not being either a Mac person nor in the 21st Century I'm yet to have the priviledge of the app store & would be interested to know more about the business model from a "content suppliers" perspective.

Also I'm intrigued by the ongoing character concept, any chance he / she or it will be betting horn inches & pettin pussy cats?

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Timmo mumbles...

Posted October 4, 2009
Comedy gold, indeed Captain Haddock! But perhaps it is found in the posts above, rather than in the form of a nautilean necktie or crustacean cravat?

JB, cheers for the answers.

I've been mostly a follower at Blunty, posting now and then, but have recently made the leap here.

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Matthew K asserts...

Posted October 5, 2009
JB: "do something with a single ongoing character", mm yes! I understand the difficulty of limiting oneself and that a single protagonist must balancing sympathy, credibility and all round bottom kicking ability but I found it a bit tiring keeping up with the who's who of the cast.

Captain Haddock! Hah, of course! So does that mean JB is Tin Tin? who's Snowy?

When I was about 12 or 13 I read an invasion of Japan war novel, cannot remember who wrote it - it involved a black DUKW driver and a black aviator (amongst others).

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Matthew K reckons...

Posted October 5, 2009
There's a few novels on this it turns out. I think it was this one:

http://www.amazon.com/Death-Lighter-Feather-David-Westheimer/dp/0929398904%3FSubscriptionId%3D1PBBW85R76PQTM62KDG2%26tag%3Danswers2000limit%26linkCode%3Dxm2%26camp%3D2025%26creative%3D165953%26creativeASIN%3D0929398904

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Quokka mutters...

Posted October 5, 2009
Smoke him a kipper, he'll be home for breakfast.

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Quokka is gonna tell you...

Posted October 5, 2009
http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,26164722-952,00.html

Hmm. Back to what I was saying a while ago about people in my family history group discovering that someone in their family is embellishing their history.

This type of thing is fairly common.

I have a friend whose ex tells people that he was in the Vietnam War at a particularly famous battle and he has a metal plate in his head and other nasty injuries that he sustained from it. Nobody seems to question it, even though his age is a little 'off' for him to have been in that particular conflict.

I don't understand how they get away with it.

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted October 5, 2009
For those of you who are overseas, its very easy to check this stuff on the net.

I just don't see why it is so hard for a publisher to

1. Check the nominal roll to see if X has a service number and their story stacks up

2. Do a quick search to see if the Unit that X claimed to be in actually did the things that X claimed.

I don't get how this kind of fraud gets this far.

Oh, and for the record, my friend has trouble convincing some of her kids that Daddy is a liar. Even though you can see that there's nobody by that name on the Vietnam Vets nominal roll. There are no scars on his head to suggest a plate was ever inserted and short of running a metal detector over his head at the kid's hockey meetings, I can't see how she's ever going to be able to convince mutual acquaintances that this guy is FOS because he is very, very charming.

I know, I'm stuck on this but I just don't get how this kind of lie goes on for years and gets to this kind of pinnacle of deception. All it says to me is that people WANT to be deceived.

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John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 5, 2009
Ah yes, i recognise that ip addy now. Welcome to Hell.

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Lobes ducks in to say...

Posted October 5, 2009
The AoT series seems to be very popular and the large cast of characters does not seem to have hurt reader appreciation of it. I cannot understand why publishers are so intent on having JB write novels that only focus on one character.

Is it because thats what they know how to market best? Perhaps they have one eye on how this will afect future projects and spin offs or something else? These are all secondary considerations if you ask me. I have yet to hear any actual artistic justification for it.

JB should not be constrained from creating Tolstoyesque worlds if he wants to and more importantly we as readers should not have publishers dictate what is an appropriate way to construct a story. JB is the artist, let him do his work. Publishers should stick to making sure the printing plates are in the right order and that they have the right shade of ink for the cover art. Getting involved on a deeper level than that just demonstrates why they are not themselves writers.

tl;dr JB = writer, we = readers, publishers = booksellers. Just let everyone do their jobs.

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John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 5, 2009
I was bleeding edge until Nick Cave released his porno schlock fest last week. And no, it wont be exclusive to the app store or iphone.

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NBlob asserts...

Posted October 5, 2009
I thought Nick Cave stuck to heroin, sex, violence & the Old Testament not bleeding edge publishing.

On hindsight perhaps I should have just said heroin & the Old Testament as it covers the sex & violence angle pretty comprehensively.

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damian reckons...

Posted October 5, 2009
Something that has been beginning to bother me more and more in recent years, quokka, is the strange standards of truth that people entertain.

As an example you would not credit the confusion that new pool fencing laws engender, particularly when it's very easy to produce a definitive document from the QLD government's website about them yet neighbors will still give higher credence to what some unnamed tradesman said, 2nd or 3rd hand.

In the case you mention, people WILL give the bloke more credence because he's a vietnam vet, even though it makes no sense at all to apply that credibility to his claim to being a vet itself. If you point out that is what someone is doing, they will deny it and cite some other reason that involves a lot of handwaving, refusing to be drawn out on detail but which is just as circular.

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savo swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 5, 2009
Let it go Quokka, let it go. Come on- Big Breath now .. hold and ... release.

There, feeling better?

Either that or confront him, demand proof, he may huff and puff: "Are you calling me a liar" reply "Yes I am", if he fronts up with his service papers then you owe him BIG TIME otherwise you've just made a little man (he knows how sad his lying really is) even littler.

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Lobes asserts...

Posted October 5, 2009
Saw a thing in the paper yesterday about some guy who was president of the Aussie returned POWs association or something. He apparently made the entire thing up, he was never a prisoner of the Nazis and had lived his whole life in Adelaide (which is bad enough I suppose).

As I pointed out to my mate who showed me the story. When somebody tells you they were a veteran and a POW most peoples fisrt inclination is not to start checking for holes in the story. And these people are often not right in the head anyway. Someone (I think Quokka) pointed out previously that you will rarely find someone with as much charm and charisma as a crazy dude. I can attest having known several people like that.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted October 5, 2009
Lobes - Novels are seen as the first step of a long money making staircase. Publishers prefer single main character story lines because it enhances licensing/option potential. As a consumer of such fiction, I think that is bullshit. As an attorney who drafts licensing/option agreements, I more than understand.

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HAVOCK puts forth...

Posted October 5, 2009
I trust you have altered the HADDOCk, god fkn forbit shite and replaced it with HAVOCK, or GOD, or FKN LEGEND, or GREAT LOOKING , TALL DARK'N FKN HANDSOME and articulate fella...or look out

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Quokka would have you know...

Posted October 5, 2009
Lobes, that sounds like the same story I gave the link to in today's Curious Snail.

Savvo, I do have evidence that an author has been er...misguided - in his claims. I've written to the author and the publisher with the relative documents as proof.

And was ignored.

And have heard a lot of similar stories from other family researchers.

If they got a response from the publisher it was 'Bad luck, its in print and we're not changing it.'

My spouse is the fiction reader, I like history, biographies, and memoirs. I like listening to their stories.

Should I let it go? Should others let it go?

Should the person who knew the truth about Arthur Crane have let it go?

I just find it disturbing that apparently Australian publishers are so willing to forgo the facts in the interests of promoting sales.

I have always loved bios and memoirs, but to be honest, now that I know that publishers and authors are so willing to lie, I'm becoming reluctant to buy them.

I'm much more likely to wait and get a copy from the library.

That's one person, but my disillusionment is affecting my purchasing choices. And I think that this is really unfair to people who DO tell the truth and are willing to correct their mistakes, if and when they are found, in their bios.

When I heard the others at the writers festival speak of the high handed and arrogant attitude of publishers towards correcting factual anomolies in bios and memoirs, it really made me question why I should bother to support their products.

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Springfield Fats has opinions thus...

Posted October 5, 2009
Following on from Mr Boylan's comments, I would have thought that a single character book series is easier/cheaper to adapt than an ensemble piece. I'm happy to accept that if it means well written explodey goodness on the screens.

As for itunes releases, I've been pleasently surprised how easy on the eyes reading on the iphone is. Not sure I could read anything longer than a short to medium story, but would be all over AoT stories to read on the train.

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Quokka is gonna tell you...

Posted October 5, 2009
And I know its irrational but I guess its because I'm the child of a service man - but there's something about making false claims about having a military history that really gets to me.

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savo mutters...

Posted October 5, 2009
Q it's so prevalent, certainly in Oz that JB made a minor character out of one.

Agree with you Lobes, that multiple charcters do not detract from the story. They are not a distraction, they add realism or rather allow the suspension of disbelief more easily. There is too much pap out there with story lines that are just a breeze, we need adult fiction that we can think about and not just accept, and having multiple POV's gives you the chance to think, let your imagine wander off the stoy into other 'unwritten' parts of it. It's amazing the amount of planning that JB developed to build the consistancy of the AoT'verse.

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HAVOCK would have you know...

Posted October 5, 2009
Quokka, thats because we hodl those persons higher than normal upon a pedestal, emulation of them or call it what you wish. For a lot, its possible the wish or " I hope I would do that", if the situation were presented upon me. I guess!. Its also the reason we are so scathing and seek retribution when a FAKER is discovered, more so if they are spouting they have suffered or endured extreme hardship whilst serving , thats ACTIVE SERVICE in a conflict mind you.

Sick puppies, some need help..some just need cappin!

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HAVOCK would have you know...

Posted October 5, 2009
any author who has half a ticker and SOME moral fibre ould take it up to the publishers and simply say, " Listen Fk wit, its got multi characters, explodin hit throughout, bitches gettin caped, blokes flogged, cities nuked and tech shit out the wazoo, take it up or fk off".

See, its a simple negotiation method really.

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Quokka reckons...

Posted October 5, 2009
I guess I just don't understand why, if someone has made a genuine error, they would be unwilling to get their publisher to correct it when the alternative is having someone discover it down the track and accuse them of deliberately lying.

I would think that it would be in the interests of the author and the publisher house to step up to the plate and show some integrity, I mean, how hard can it be to make a public statement on an author page saying 'Unfortunately x information is incorrect and Author John Doe wishes to apologize to his readers for blah and blah.'

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spicy aka sparty mutters...

Posted October 5, 2009
thing i liked about AoT were the breakout characters - If i remeber rightly Halabi was meant to go early in Trident auto destruct or something but stayed in the series and really meant something. I think in some ways Birmo AoT novels are a little like Maine small town set stephen king novels with similar characterisation that might be lost on concentration on a single Dirk Pitt style character, Just my two cents.

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Abe asserts...

Posted October 5, 2009
Yeah, Im with spicy. Who was the cutie from the Ipswich again?

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Guru Bob is gonna tell you...

Posted October 5, 2009
Re Iphone the whole Nick Cave thing made me want to go out and buy one...

http://www.enhanced-editions.com/books/bunny-munro/

As for Captain Haddock who is going to be the guy with the bowler hat and moustache? Although my recollection of Tintin plot lines is now pretty hazy...

Juts one other note I did read a few years ago about a group of veterans who went aroudn beating up fake vets. Often it is more just a case of someone bignoting their actual service record after too many beers down at the RSL - you know somehow working at the motorpool at Wacol ends up being a member of the SAS behind the lines in Vietnam. That sort of thing...

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HAVOCK puts forth...

Posted October 5, 2009
I have a layman’s view on Multi headed ( threaded) novels. FAR FAR more interesting than almost solo character. And now let me make a small addendum to that as well. If the characters, scenes and general structure of Solo and side kick novels is not sufficiently engaging, they fail biblically. What I find is that I end up at the final para and almost go..WTF, mores the point, I then tend to struggle to remember the content of the book.

I have no doubt, non hydra threaded novels can take as much work and there are plenty of them out there, possible I guess, it takes more effort in the continuity of the story as you are unable to readily switch to another scene and character set. Likewise switching from set to set is not easy i guess either.

So now having done a full circle and smashed the original argument to pieces it really doe come back to TWO simple items.

1. Its what the readers preference really is.

2 Its the authors ability, if they cannot craft either style of book sufficiently then no matter what it will in all probability sick big time.

Too much thinking I think!

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HAVOCK mumbles...

Posted October 5, 2009
Abe...cuttie..you mean spanking hot as well and I would be looking for Captain Jane Willet, Commander of Her Majesties Armed Ship, HMAS HAVOCK!.........

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NBlob puts forth...

Posted October 5, 2009
Yeah, that's a little freaky.

I worked with a Journalist who's name prominantly appears in AoT. Freaked me out as we didn't have what one could call a "warm & mutually respectfull" working relationship. I queried JB about it & he told me it was the outcome of her husband winning a charity auction gig. Fair enough.

Then he gave Jane Willet the surname of great friend who was much loved then lost on The Dark Path of addiction.

It'd be much easier reading for me if every character in AA had the surnames Smith or Jones, or alternatively Mr A, Miss B & Rev C like Dept Immigration.

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Quokka swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 5, 2009
Guru Bob I think you've hit the nail on the head with what happened in the instance I'm referring to. Dad was in the RAAF in WW2 and I don't think we ever got three words all together out of him as to what he went through.

When I was little he would hang out in various pubs with his war mates and once together and suitably pissed there would be some rather tall stories told, by men who I imagine were normally as silent and as unforthcoming as my father.

My suspicion is that the family member I've written to actually believes the Beer Tales rather than what's on record at the National Archives.

I just took a look at the comments that have been attached to that story about Arthur Crane and I took one guy's advice and did a search on 'Australian Military Imposters'.

Wow.

There's a lot.

It certainly seems to piss the veterans off.

Don't know how I feel about the name and shame sites, though.

Some are probably players and grifters but I suspect a good number of them are simply delusional.

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NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted October 5, 2009
Auntie Q.

*Stepping very carefully*

What is the probability of The National War Records being less than 100% complete?

I believe with the best will in the world the records are maintained by Professionals who sometimes, being human & all, may make errors, omissions & mistakes.

It is a Very Big Deal to allege that someone has fraudulantly claimed active service. More so inside a family.

Perhaps an option would be to take it up with the RSL & let them deal with it?

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Quokka reckons...

Posted October 5, 2009
That's OK, NwBob I do understand the need for caution and this is why, when said book came out, and I noticed the discrepancy, after the initial 'WTF?' moment, I then spent nearly 2 years researching, finding unknown extended family members, and hunting through the national archives before I wrote to the author and the publisher saying 'Ahem. X and Y do not mesh with what's on record.'

But in the end the nuts and bolts of the information I came up with was still at your fingertips in under two minutes of doing a basic google search.

I just went that extra step further by discovering photos of Relative X at a training camp in Outer Whoop Whoop with his unit, which never left the country.

And was certainly never overseas doing the heroics that are spoken so proudly of in the text I refer to.

If my information is incorrect, and the author/publisher has proof that I am wrong and the author is right, I imagine it would be a very simple matter to respond to my letter with 'thank you for your concern but Person X served under the name and service number _______ in the unit of _______. Feel free to look it up, we have nothing to hide, go jump in the lake if you don't like it you squirrelly nutter.'

In this instance I think that the author has probably innocently passed on what I would call 'Family Myth' - and if the publisher, prior to publishing, had done that simple two minute google search, they would have been able to question the author as to why his story didn't mesh with what's in the national archives and thereby avert a situation where he's likely to end up with a large quantity of egg on his face.

So my point about why publishers don't check facts now extends to add 'There are probably situations where the author is well intentioned but ill informed and some simple fact checking by the publisher would save a good deal of mortification down the track.'

Which brings me back to my basic hijack of 'Why on earth don't publishers do some basic fact checking of bios, in this country?'

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HAVOCK mumbles...

Posted October 5, 2009
Quokka. Its called money. Pure and simple. Money is what it costs to do all the fact checking and money is what they get from the sales. So long as the auto or tale reads well and seems to fit reasonably well i suspect thats all the boxes that need ticking. Unless of course he is claiming a VC and not on the list or somthing just as outlandish.

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted October 5, 2009
Havock that's what the cynic in me would like to believe too, but I suspect 'Laziness' on the matter of the publisher is closer to the mark.

I did a google search on the subject matter and discovered one opinion on a blog site that basically, publishers don't invest time and money in checking the facts in bios and memoirs because they take the attitude that if the author is Full of Shit/Delusional/Misguided, it will come back to bite the author on the arse, hard, and it falls into the heading of Not Our Problem.

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted October 5, 2009
I probably boggle too much at human behaviour.

I can remember being four and saying to my mother 'Why don't you just tell your parents that you don't really like them and you don't feel like visiting today?'

I don't think I ever got a good explanation for that one, either.

Even though it did and still does seem like the most logical thing in the world to do.

(Evil naive grin)

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Matthew K has opinions thus...

Posted October 5, 2009
The unofficial British army website calls them "walts": http://www.arrse.co.uk/wiki/Walts

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Quokka mumbles...

Posted October 6, 2009
I'd love to know what the psychiatrists call them.

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Respond to 'Answers! Answers! Precious answers.'

MacSpeech Dictate, a potted review.

Posted September 27, 2009 by John Birmingham
Okay, it's been a week since I got this thing. My first impressions were good, but they were also influenced by the fact that I was kinda desperate for this software to work. I really can't type worth for shit at the moment. Even hunting and pecking out a short e-mail is a pain. Ripping out tens of thousands of words of new manuscript or editing hundreds of thousands of words of After America are simply out of the question. If this didn't work I was pretty much fucked.

With that in mind I was probably a bit too enthusiastic, a bit too forgiving in my early assessment of MacSpeech Dictate. Or rather in my assessment of my own abilities to use it straight out of the box. This is an unusual product in that it really asks a lot of the user. If you're not willing to do the training, if you're not willing to understand the parameters of the software, and most importantly if you're not willing to read the fucking manual then forget it. It's not a cheap bit of kit and you'll do your dough cold. If you are willing to invest the time learning how to use MacSpeech (or its Dragon-based Windows equivalents) and training the software to work with you then it could be a really powerful tool.

First question, does it work?

Yes, and it's awesome. It is freakishly accurate, much more accurate than my own typing. And there is no need, as I mentioned in a previous post, to speak in an American accent, Shatner style. (And yes it recognizes the word 'Shatner').

But it's not Star Trek. It won't do all these things out of the box. You do need to train it to listen to your voice, and the software needs to train you to speak to it. The more time you spend using MacSpeech, or Dragon, the more accurate it will become. But only if you take the time to update your profile.

Your profile is the software's understanding of how you speak, and to a lesser extent how you write. Think of it as a super-avatar. It also includes a lot of environmental information, so you might record one profile for dictating in a quiet room and a different profile for a noisy room. When you first start dictating, the program will make errors and just as importantly you will make errors because you'll probably try to speak to it like a person, not just a bunch of code. If you mumble, cough, slur your speech, whatever, it'll all be transcribed.

The first couple of days you'll spend a lot of time pointing and clicking in what's called the Recognition Window. In this little box you'll find the programs interpretation of what you just said, and up to 10 alternatives. Option number one is always Dictate's best guess but if option number six was the right choice you just click on that and it swaps out the copy. If none of the options were accurate you can choose one to edit and use that. After a couple of hours of doing this and of saving your profile as you go, you'll notice a marked improvement in the program's ability to understand you. As you get more confident and you relax you'll also find you're able to speak much more quickly and conversationally until you do get to the point of that Star Trek moment where you just speak at the computer and the words magically appear on screen.

That's dictation, it's not editing. And editing is way more important than composition in terms of whether your finished product is readable. I had real fears that MacSpeech Dictate would be crap at editing, and in one sense it is. If I simply opened up a huge manuscript and tried to edit the thing via voice command I would fail. There is just no way that telling a cursor where to go and what to do is anywhere near as efficient as using a mouse and keyboard. But as all of the reviews and a lot of the documentation that comes with MacSpeech makes clear, you're in for a terrible hiding if you try to mix keyboard and voice commands. It just won't work, and you'll crash the program. As I did at least half a dozen times during one very frustrating hour this week.

Its all down to the cache. MacSpeech/Dragon keeps two things in its mind; what you said and what it wrote. If you fuck up that delicate balance by using your mouse and keyboard instead of your voice you'll blow the cache apart and overwhelm the program.

That could be a deal killer, because of the unwieldy nature of using voice command to edit. There is however a caveat. The software comes with its own notepad, a very very basic text editor in which you can compose your documents. Again most reviews and the software's documentation emphasize the ability to use MacSpeech with most of the other bits of software on your computer, with MS Word, with Firefox, whatever. But here is JB's tip... Don't Do It.

Yes, MacSpeech Dictate can work with all of these programs, but it probably won't. It will almost certainly crash within the first few minutes.

The notepad on the other hand is an exceptional environment into which to dictate. It is stable and robust and most important of all it allows you to edit with your mouse. You can just place the cursor wherever you want, define whatever text you want, and dictate right over the top of it. The essence of editing.

Unfortunately for me, I only figured that out after a couple of very frustrating days of constantly crashing the system. It got to the point where I was so pissed off, so depressed and so fucking desperate that I went back and did what I should have done in the first place. I Read The Fucking Manual from start to fucking finish. In doing that I learned of at least half a dozen very basic errors I'd been making over and over again, and I picked up a whole bunch of obscure but powerful pointers for getting the most out of the program. If I hadn't done that I reckon I'd have thrown it away and there'd have been tears before bedtime.

Bottom line, it works and it can work brilliantly, but whether it does is down to you.

There is one final point I'd make though. It feels weird. I am so used to 'thinking with the tips of my fingers' that, as lobes pointed out earlier this week, I just wasn't writing like normal when I used the dictation program. I'm still not, but I am getting past the initial strangeness where I constantly felt as though I was thinking about thinking about dictating the writing. I suspect that will take a bit longer to get used to than simply mastering the mechanics.

Anyway, my apologies. I am not a software reviewer and this entry has been a useful exercise in teaching me that if I ever wanted to be I'd have a lot to learn. There's so much more I could tell you. Some good, such as its ability to inhale vast slabs of your writing for syntactical analysis which then gets fed into MacSpeech's memory, allowing it to better understand how you write. And some bad, like its tendency to 'hear' your breathing as dictation (mostly a problem when you're sitting, staring at the screen, saying nothing).

So perhaps I should just throw the floor open to questions.

39 Responses to ‘MacSpeech Dictate, a potted review.’

Bangar ducks in to say...

Posted September 27, 2009
They'd have been an ocean of tears if it hadn't of worked out.

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Moko has opinions thus...

Posted September 27, 2009
Well I'll be....manuals CAN be useful.

Would ya use it without a broken wing?.

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Lobes reckons...

Posted September 27, 2009
Good question Moko.

It seems a pretty long winded process to get up to speed. I wonder how hard it would be to just teach yourself to type fast and well with one hand. Perhaps need a special keyboard though? Its actually not that hard to train your non-preferred side if you really concentrate. I can play golf lefty, surf goofy and write poorly with my non preferred side. To be honest my handwritings not that flash even on my good side. Its a steep learning curve but not that long to get over it.

How do you speak to it? Through the mic in your computer or with a headset? Maybe get one of those special forces throat mics, be like STar Trek and SWAT rolled into one.

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Brian would have you know...

Posted September 27, 2009
Sniff. Gone, The old days. Nubile young touch typing bunnies.

Give 'em 15 minutes off every hour to relax those hands of theirs . . . .neck rubs spring to mind. . . recommended by physios . . .

Over . . .just 'cause JB has an unnatural fascination with gadgets.

Just watch what happens when you want your next grape peeled, son . . .

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Orin swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 27, 2009
Vista and Windows 7 have built in speech recognition, you just have to turn them on. Training them takes a while, but I found that it was a strong enough feature (and worked well enough) not to want to bother with the expensive alternatives.

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John Birmingham reckons...

Posted September 27, 2009
Moko, no. I doubt I would've had the motivation to stick with it beyond about a day or so. It does require a significant investment of your time to train it up. Without a broken wing, why would I have bothered? The more interesting question is whether I'll stick with it once my arm is healed. I can't say for certain right now, but I am impressed with how quickly it is learning. As long as I can get over the hump of feeling awkward about talking rather than just writing, then yes, I probably will stick with it. It could potentially increase my productivity by a huge margin.

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John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted September 27, 2009
Lobes, it is a long-winded process, there's no avoiding it. But then so would be learning to touch type one handed with your nonpreferred hand. Any alternative to a long-established system is going to involve a steep learning curve and a lot of fuck knuckling around. I wouldn't do it if I had an alternative, but I don't. It's this, or sell the house.

Re. Input devices, it comes with a Plantronics headset in the box. You can upgrade to something way more expensive, but the Plantronics seems to work fine.

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NBlob asserts...

Posted September 27, 2009
Sounds pretty sweet.

How does it spell an exhalation? Different to a frustrated sigh?

If you stick with it post recovery it will free up those Nimble Bunny Fingers for more tanning lotion application, feet / neck massaging & grape peeling duties. You may need another profile that ignores little grunts of pleasure.

How is the exportablitility of the Notepad document? Does your preferred word processing software groove to the imported file? Manuscripts probably leave your desk a minimum formatting anyway -just paragraph breaks & punctuation.

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damian mutters...

Posted September 27, 2009
The speech recognition that has been in the various MacOSes since the 90s isn't too bad for commands and stuff. Not for dictation obviously, and it doesn't seem to have developed much over the years. I haven't played with the one in Vista, etc yet.

As for alternatives - single handed "chorded" keyboard replacements do exist and may have a less steep learning curve than what you've described with the speech stuff. I work on the assumption that one of those will eventually become a standard and the qwerty keyboard will simply go away. The Twiddler seems to be the best of breed, but I'm sure there are others around.

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HAVOCK reckons...

Posted September 27, 2009
its gunna be funny reading the next MS ( BOOK), after all, given its Voice activated software, I'm not really sure how your fans are gunna take, to intermittent sections of reading, thats Fergal sharky , a good heart these days, and All I need is a Miracle, song words being in it, as we know you grove to tunes when writing. OH THE horror of it!......

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Orin reckons...

Posted September 27, 2009
I like the Frogpad more than the Twiddler

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damian puts forth...

Posted September 28, 2009
As a desktop keyboard replacement, I agree it looks nicer (Twiddler s just the one that sticks in my mind for some reason).

Venturing into the world of wearables, the wrist-mounted FrogPad seems awkward to me. When on foot away from my flying car, I will want a HUD in my glasses, and a keyboard I can operate casually.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan mutters...

Posted September 28, 2009
What a great review. I'm sold. The spirit is strong, but all flesh is weak and time eventually takes - well, everything. I love my profession. The only way I am going to "retire" is feet first. What you describe, John, will allow me to be productive and effective long after my fingers lose their keyboard dexterity.

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John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted September 28, 2009
NBob, usually as 'the' or 'a'.

And the pad exports perfectly, probably because it's SO basic. Not even itals or margin controls. That stuff can easy be tweaked in Word though, even one handed.

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Havock swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 28, 2009
In time management though I suspect at the end you would be in front especially for those with poor to average keyboard skills. The amount of continual time spent correcting typos, grammar and the general typing rate in cumulative , I think would be far less than even a week of aggregate hrs traing the software. Unless you are a typing wizard, with really good accuracy

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Murphy puts forth...

Posted September 28, 2009
John, you could fly me to Australia and dictate it to me while I transcribe it.

Just kidding. I want to see Australia but I don't want to leave my teaching career behind.

I suspect it is probably too expensive to hire someone to dictate the project to. Correct?

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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robW puts forth...

Posted September 28, 2009
As a "code monkey" it really ticks me off when I'm referred to as a code monkey. Anyway, this monkey has coded lots of programs for control centers that use voice recognition like Microsoft voice servers to control devices. For example, taking voice commands and lighting up signs along motorways/freeways; voice commands to select cameras and monitors in the control room and pan, tilt, zoom, record video, playback and the like; voice commands to pull up maps, change the lats and longs of centerpoints, drill down, drill out, and so on.

Thereafter comes the implementation, which always seems to fail. Operators always get frustrated with speaking commands and talking to a computer. Invariably their frustration level rises not because of the responsiveness of the software, but because "it doesn't feel right" to them. They always abandon the software and go back to the tactile and use a joystick to control the devices or a keyboard for input or keyboard shortcuts for controls.

Consequently implementation always starts out (1) with wild enthusiasm at the novelty; then (2) awkwardness at what the operators call "like talking to myself in an empty room"; then finally (3) a return to using hand controls.

I know some people take to the software like a fish to water; certainly some authors like to dictate: Sidney Sheldon is one I know of, although he dictated to his secretary and not a machine. Others never seem to get over the tactile linkage to controlling output. Probably it is just a matter of rewiring the brain, but that takes time. I'm sure there is a million-dollar research project in there someplace.

Good luck.

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Havock is gonna tell you...

Posted September 28, 2009
Training the software would be less than the the other, I fkd that up in the delivery.

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Quokka mumbles...

Posted September 28, 2009
I hope that my arms never fall off.

I type somewhere between 70-80wpm and my brain works differently and better when it travels via my fingertips.

When I'm talking, words tend to come out backwards and sometimes I hunt for the right word, whereas if I'm typing its just there, on command. Most of my girlfriends started going through the same sort of memory issues with spoken language when we hit the 40mark so I suspect it's hormonal or something to do with the female brain. Not that I think I've ever had a particularly female brain, having been raised by a male (gosh, does it show?)

Anyway. There's definitely some different wiring going on between the sexes so I would be interested to see if there's studies out there that say that this is something males adapt to better.

Re: your arm, seriously, get some acupuncture. When they sliced up my foot they severed the nerves to the lateral and underside of the foot and said I'd never get the feeling back. I got acupuncture on it ASAP and my specialist was shocked at how well it recovered. It didn't restore the nerves fully, but I have the kind of sensation you get after you've been to the dentist and the numbing sensation is wearing off.

Weird, but better than nowt.

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Havock has opinions thus...

Posted September 28, 2009
Quokka. We will adapt better hanfemales. The talking to ourselves bit is somthing that we are used to

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Paul Nicholas Boylan would have you know...

Posted September 28, 2009
When I first began working as an attorney all letters and documents were produced via dictation. I would dictate onto a cassette tape, which would in turn be put in an envelope, which would then be picked up by an office courier and delivered to a secretary who would then put it in a special foot-pedal controlled tape player and then transcribe the tape, printing out the draft, which would be delivered to me for my hand written revisions.

I was the very first attorney in my office to bypass the firm secretaries by using my own computer (a little, boxy Apple Mackintosh with attached dot matrix printer) to type my own letters, briefs and documents. The main partner called me into his office to explain that typing was considered secretarial work and that clients didn't like seeing attorneys doing it.

What an abysmal lack of vision. To make a long story very short, I worked faster with better results bypassing the dictation system. Slowly more and more attorneys began doing what I was doing.

Now, after all these years, I must learn how to dictate again. If it extends my usefulness as an advocate and advisor, then I am all for it.

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Moko would have you know...

Posted September 28, 2009
Yeah, I can see the value in it for dictating letters and a shit....and if if you're a fraction flight challenged at the mo with the wing, but you've gotta proof read it all anyway and to do that you've gotta sit in front of the screen anyway.

It might be a good thing for one of the near final drafts just to see how it flows?. You're reading the script anyway and you'll pick stuff that doesn't quite sit right reading it out loud. As from a readers POV.

...and while you're proof reading a near end draft you could record it and FINALLY do audio books!. See, two birds, one stone, and no flying necessary. ;o)

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Quokka asserts...

Posted September 28, 2009
JB how about an update about this filing in for Spencer thing on the ABC? Just for the benefit of those of us who aren't on facebook and twitter etc.

Will it be podcast so that the OS burgers can listen in?

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Paul Nicholas Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted September 28, 2009
What is an OS burger?

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John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted September 28, 2009
You, as in 'overseas'.

Q, I'll be talking to the producers sometime this morning. When I have my briefing I'll put a note here. I have no idea whether it's podcast. It should be but, you know, the ABC.

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Naut swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 28, 2009
Robin Masters on Magnum would have loved it. He dictated all his books onto tape which I can only assume Higgins typed up later for him.

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NBlob puts forth...

Posted September 28, 2009
As opposed to a OSS Burger.

Whom we may not talk abbout for operational security reasons.

I may have already said to much.

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NBlob puts forth...

Posted September 28, 2009
WTF?

You are collaborating with the seperatist imperialist running dog Earls on the glorious peoples wireless?

Good Dog man, guilt by association! You'll be branded a counter-revolutionary, then where will you be? It's a slippery slope JB and we, I mean They in the politburo frown upon this kind of fratenisation with the enemy.

Or is it an insidious infiltraion excercise? aah nudge nudge wink wink say no more.

Hope you are calling in the comely favours of miss NatV, she'll sort that bounder in no time.

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NBlob reckons...

Posted September 28, 2009
Unless gooshy Brisbane romance novels are her Kryptonite in which case the whole plan may disintigrate.

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Quokka swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 28, 2009
Yup.

We are particularly fond of watching the ABC TV saturday night weather fuckups.

Whoever is in charge of that weather chart has serious problems. This weekend they put up the little symbol for 'Thundery Rain' beside all of Sunday's forecasts.

Of course it was a lie.

Someone in there just likes to mess with our heads.

PNB I'll try to find a link to the website so you can get in some practice listening in.

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NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted September 28, 2009
Auntie Q.

Go back through the archives on Media watch. About 6 months ago they did a story on the introduction of a whizzo piece of software being rolled out across all ABC metro newsrooms. It was supposed to reduce the number of people required in Master Controll Room when news bulletins are aired. To sugest it has had Teething Issues would be an understatement of galactic proportions. There used to be DA's (Directors Assistants) part of whose job was to make sure the supers (the little text graphic identifying the talking head) was factually correct and appropriatly timed. The DA also made sure that the weather charts were all done correctly and flipped through at the appropriate timing.

The software now seems to be getting it right a lot less frequently than the human. This might be A; because of software glitches or user error or B; someone making a point that theyd prefer a human DA than a inanimate piece of software, as the are far less satisfying to kick in the @rse when things go pear shaped.

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Quokka ducks in to say...

Posted September 28, 2009
http://blogs.abc.net.au/queensland/612_breakfast/index.html

PNB dunno what the time difference is in Davis, but the show starts 5amish our time, I think.

Above is a link to the ABC breakfast show.

Up in the left hand corner there's a 'how to listen' thingy. If you click on it, there will be an option for streaming online.

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Quokka reckons...

Posted September 28, 2009
Aha.

Curious that the worst offences happen on a saturday night, though.

Perhaps the software has a habit of nipping down to the pub at noon.

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Sweet Jane Says ducks in to say...

Posted September 28, 2009
Whatever, Birmingham.... Orin! Yeah, you, Orin! I'm talking to you, Orin. WHAT IS THE BEST NOTEBOOK TO PURCHASE? PLEASE!! Imagine it's for a US federal employee that must research, gather, and send information to over 160 countries in the world. It must be secure and have high storage for visuals as well as documents. Think of something below $1200, Orin.

J.

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Tarl mumbles...

Posted September 28, 2009
Hmm. I'm reminded of advice I read from another author on how to write; among other things the author suggests "turn off all the doo-dads in your text editor". Turn off auto-spell correct, turn off highlighting, turn off grammar checking, turn off everything that might distract you from the process of getting words from brain into text file.

*After* you've had your burst of putting your thoughts into words, you go back and fix capitalization, spelling, quoting, bolding, grammar, and any other problems. That becomes drudgery you have to do, entirely separate from the crucial creative process of formulating the dialog and plot.

It sounds like this software is ideally suited to that process - blather away until you have 4 or 5k words in the notepad buffer, and when you run down, transfer from Notepad to OOo. A burst of a couple of hours of creative work, then several hours of drudgery, rinse and repeat until you have a finished novel.

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Tarl reckons...

Posted September 28, 2009
SJS, I recommend the Corporate Express Steno Book, 6" x 9", green tint and Gregg rule. Staples sells them at $1.59 each.

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lostatlunch is gonna tell you...

Posted September 28, 2009
should have pimped out for the full Borg upgrade.

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Sweet Jane Says swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 28, 2009
Lenovo IdeaPad Y730 - 40532JU? But, not in orange. Too easy a target...

J.

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Sylmobile asserts...

Posted October 9, 2009
Once your wing's healed, I can fully imagine you still using it while having a bath, preparing dinner or knitting.

Question: does speaking to the computer increase or decrease your urge to create podcasts?

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Respond to 'MacSpeech Dictate, a potted review.'

Perfesser B's fan fic.

Posted September 18, 2009 by John Birmingham

AFTER THE WAVE: JIMMY’S TALE

Chapter One:

It happened when Jimmy was in Calgary, rummaging through an alley behind a strip mall on 1st Street: he found a crate labeled “Novelty Nose and Glasses.” Jimmy opened the crate and found it full of rubber noses attached to black plastic horned-rimmed glasses frames. His hands shook as he placed a pair on his face. He ran into an empty store and found a mirror and, as he looked at his reflection, Jimmy suddenly knew what he was supposed to do.

The Wave killed Jimmy’s parents. They were out of town visiting family in Calgary. Jimmy’s parents left him with his Aunt Mona. Then the Wave hit. Jimmy’s Aunt ordered him to stay with her in her house. But when the riots began, Jimmy left, hell-bent on protecting his home. He left his Aunt and ran across town to his house. He used the key hidden in the garden to get into the house and he went right to the closet where his father hid a gun.

“Guns are dangerous,” Jimmy’s father explained. “And no one is supposed to know we have this one. But I want you to know how to load it. Just in case.”

Jimmy loaded the gun like his father showed him and then sat vigil in the darkened house, ready to use deadly force to defend it against anyone entering without his consent. He almost shot his aunt who came by in the morning to make sure he was all right. Three days later he returned to his aunt’s home, taking only his father’s gun and collected ammunition in a brown grocery bag.

Then the Wave vanished, and the need to find his parents overcame Jimmy. He stole his Aunt’s car and drove south on Highway 2, teaching himself how to drive as he traveled.

As he drove, he watched the needle on his gas gage slowly drop towards empty. He stopped at gas stations along the way, but none of the pumps functioned. He ran out of gas near Leduc and hiked back to a gas station he passed just prior to running dry. He found a Mercedes sedan parked at one of the pump islands under the canopy with the pump handle sticking out of the fuel fill tube as if, just before the Wave hit, the Mercedes owner left the pump to go into the mini mart to buy a cup of coffee while the pump continued to gush gasoline into the Mercedes’ gas tank.

The doors was unlocked. Jimmy ignored the crusty piles of clothing in the front passenger seat. By then such refuse was nothing new to the little boy, even if he had not yet completely accepted what it meant.

Food became a problem. The smell of rotting meat and decaying produce made every supermarket unapproachable. Eventually hunger superseded Jimmy’s revulsion, and, after that, it was an endless feast of junk food that evolved into a diet composed primarily of canned goods.

He found companionship. Jimmy stopped at every supermarket he passed and he fed the dogs and cats gathered outside each supermarket’s entrance, drawn to the death stench. There was plenty of cat and dog food in every market Jimmy plundered and, before he drove off, he broke enough windows to let the dogs and cats into the stores to scavenge what they could, delaying the day they would start eating each other.

After two weeks in Calgary, Jimmy gave up searching for his parents. By then he knew they were dead – he knew that everyone was dead – but he kept looking for them, harboring the romantic notion that it was his duty to find and bury their remains. When he could no longer hold onto that illusion, he finally grieved his parent’s death and the end of the world. Great tremors battered his very small, very young mind and body as he sobbed and screamed, completely alone and utterly terrified.

The next few weeks were dark indeed. Jimmy discovered the numbing virtues of distilled ethyl alcohol in many varieties and the incredible pain associated with drinking too much of it. He somehow lived through the ordeal, and slowly began devoting his days to exploring any part of Calgary that caught his momentary fancy and wasn’t on fire.

In an alley behind a strip mall on 1st Street, Jimmy found a shipping crate he decided to open, and when he did he discovered it was filled with novelty nose and glasses. Jimmy never saw such things before, but he wasn’t stupid; he realized they were some kind of joke. He slid a pair from their clear, crinkly cellophane packaging, unfolded the black plastic frame arms and slid them onto his face.

He found a mirror and looked at his new refection. He didn’t notice his filthy skin and ragged, filthy clothing. All he noticed was his eyes staring out from the black plastic frames and the large flesh colored rubber nose covering his.

And, at that moment, Jimmy knew what he was supposed to do. He found a bag and stuffed it with nose and glasses. Then he drove about three miles north on Macleod until he reached those stupid statues.

There, on Macleod, between 5th and 6th, stood ten statues of what looked like people who were starving. They were three times as tall as Jimmy, standing in a circle, holding hands, and dancing. Jimmy hated those statutes. He didn’t fully appreciate the concept of irony, but he instinctively understood what he was too young to intellectually grasp, and that basic understanding encouraged him to hate those emaciated, faceless, tall dancing human caricatures. Every time he drove past them he hated them more, until eventually he worked hard to avoid them.

But now he avidly sought them, and when he found them, Jimmy used a tall ladder to climb up and place a novelty nose and glasses set on each of those ten statutes. And when he climbed down and walked far enough away to see them all standing there sporting his handiwork, he laughed and laughed until he fell to the ground holding his stomach and rolling on his back on the grass. Eventually he stopped, only to start up again. Jimmy gleefully convulsed thus until long after the sun set.

That night, sleeping in a home he chose at random in the bedroom of people who were surely dead, Jimmy dreamed. In his dream he found himself walking down a path towards a shadowy figure sitting on a rock next to a campfire. As Jimmy drew closer he saw that the figure was an old man with shoulder-length hair, a cropped iron-gray beard and wearing old nondescript clothes.

“You’re welcome to share my fire,” the old man said. His voice was like steel-cut rolled oats and reminded Jimmy of his third grade teacher, Mr. Henderson, who was fired after he played the “nude movie star” game with the class one afternoon.

“Call me Wanderer,” the old man said and smiled. “I knew your father.”

“Ed Finklestien?” Jimmy asked.

“What? No, not Ed Finklestien. Mike Havel. Wait – wait a minute - are you Artos?”

“No. I’m Jimmy.”

“Jimmy? I thought –“ The old man stood, reaching into a pocket and removed what looked like a cell phone. He flipped it open and rapidly punched a series of keys on the phone face. The old man peered at the small, glowing display screen.

“Damn it,” the old man hissed and rapidly punched another series of keys, lifting the phone to his ear. “Cindy?” the old man said into the phone. “Yeah, its me. It happened again. No. Listen. Wait… look , I want her fired, okay? It happened again. I know. It’s a hard job. More alternate realities every day. Right. Uh huh. Yeah, the Assiti. Look, I don’t care. It’s the wrong universe again, God damn it. I want a new appointment secretary right away, okay? Okay.”

The old man angrily snapped the cell phone shut, shoved it back into his coat pocket and looked at Jimmy.

“Sorry, kid,” the old man said, “but this mystical experience is over.

Jimmy woke up. He was a little afraid and didn’t understand what happened, but somehow the dream stiffened his resolve to continue defacing statues. He drove back to the alley where he found the packing crate. He loaded up his car with all the novelty nose and glasses he could find and, with a long ladder tied to the car roof, with no regrets, and armored with a sense of purpose, he left Calgary driving south on Highway 2.

CONTINUED

41 Responses to ‘Perfesser B's fan fic.’

aaron swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 18, 2009
i like it!

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Paul Nicholas Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 18, 2009
Thanks, aaron. It is every bit as glorious as I dreamed it would be.

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Brian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 18, 2009
I thnk we may need to be careful with fulsome praise here. We wouldn't want to send Paul into paroxyms of delight . . .sorta author Nirvana. He could check out on us for weeks.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan mumbles...

Posted September 18, 2009
No worries, Brian. I proudly showed this page to my wife to prove that my time online is not wasted. She read it, told me she liked it, but advised me to keep my day job.

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Quokka is gonna tell you...

Posted September 18, 2009
I can't find my frac=jubg glassins...shit. Blind, can't see, but loved your blog site. will return with speciatilc on weeknd

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Brian mumbles...

Posted September 18, 2009
Paul. Wives are sooo . . .(how to put it) . . . .(without unfortunate repurcussions . . . . .) . . . .down to earth? . . .yes . . .that'll do . . . .down to earth.

Seriously though . . .keeping the day job . . . .almost every pro authors mantra.

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savo mutters...

Posted September 18, 2009
Up on the mini-burger now.

Bunch of Californian Chardonney in savo at the moment so I havn't developed a full comprehension past paragraph one. But really good. Held me for much longer than I anticipated it should have. I'll try para two after the end of the Chardy.

cheers

(in the wilds of Canadia - where there ar no bloody bears at all)

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Paul Nicholas Boylan would have you know...

Posted September 18, 2009
savo - I guaranty that the drunker you are, the better the story will be.

Can I repost this at my blog - with illustrations, of course - or do the mini burger rules prohibit it?

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Flinthart ducks in to say...

Posted September 18, 2009
Aha. Well struck, sir.

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Chaz reckons...

Posted September 18, 2009
Paul, it is no less than I would expect from you.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan asserts...

Posted September 18, 2009
In Salt Lake City, Jimmy hooks up with a radical feminist lesbian who is obsessed with putting Hitler moustaches on paintings - and statues. Conflict ensues.

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Trashman is gonna tell you...

Posted September 18, 2009
Meh. Sorry to be the dissenting voice, but it didn't do much for me. Little boy loses his family and then his mind.

Very well written, the descriptions are quite evocative (I liked the description of the supermarkets and feeding the cats & dogs), but the story left me cold.

The 'mystical dream' that refs the 1632 'verse(?) just seemed out of place to me.

Maybe later chapters will grab me.

Sorry!

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horse with no name would have you know...

Posted September 18, 2009
"...He didn’t fully appreciate the concept of irony, but he instinctively understood what he was too young to intellectually grasp, and that basic understanding encouraged him to hate those..."

Jasus!

even in pre-school they teach em to show not tell

dullards

very poor immitation (not emulation) of 'The Road'

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted September 18, 2009
Hi Ho Silver, and AWAY!!!!

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Paul Nicholas Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted September 19, 2009
Trashman - I certainly don't mind a critical review. I don't have a lot artistically invested in this because I am not an artist. Seriously, folks, if you don't like it, fire away.

I had three reasons for writing this. First, the vast majority of WW fanfic is military in nature, and I wanted to explore what the Wave might do to ordinary people. Second, I wanted to tell an elaborate joke (which is all I am ultimately interested in). Although I do make a very tiny reference to the 1632 universe, the dream sequence is a direct parody of a scene from one of S.M. Stirling's "Emberverse" novels. Third, it makes me laugh when I read it. Descriptions like "His voice was like steel-cut rolled oats..." just crack me up.

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John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted September 19, 2009
You see now Paul? You see what this gig is like?

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Tarl puts forth...

Posted September 19, 2009
Hmm - after a year, would there still be cats & dogs gathering around supermarkets? I would assume anything easily plunderable would have been eaten within weeks, and anything not eaten would have rotted/dessicated to the point of not even stinking any more by the time the wave came down.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan would have you know...

Posted September 19, 2009
My eyes have been opened to the horror of it, author dude. I mean, like, nobody got ANY of the puns, or the painfully clear allusions to Paradise Lost and Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. I am deeply discouraged by the patent lack of theology and geometry in the universe.

How do you withstand it?

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Paul Nicholas Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted September 19, 2009
One word, Tari: preservatives. In America (Home of the Free) nothing rots.

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Tarl is gonna tell you...

Posted September 19, 2009
Paul, my refrigerator disagrees with you.

On a slight tangent... I remember when a supermarket in Mexico City went on strike in the early 70's. By law, not even a picket line was needed to keep *everyone* out, and the union, in their wisdom, decided to invoke that clause.

About a week after the strike started, the place stunk up the neighborhood something fierce. By about three weeks in, the stink was mostly gone. But they tore that building down a few months later. I presume the vermin collection they accumulated pretty much guaranteed that building was never going to be a supermarket again.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted September 19, 2009
Would you believe things rot, but veeeery slowly?

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted September 19, 2009
Things from America, rot?

What rot.

Only last night while we were out purchasing sushi (not the food stuff in question) I spotted and procured an unfamiliar bottle, imported from New Jersey.

Black Cherry Soda

manufactured by the Boylan Bottling Co

(a family run business)

Dated 1891

And still good.

Buuuuuurp.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan asserts...

Posted September 19, 2009
Yes. The Boylans are known far and wide for their expertise in manufacturing and distributing carbonated beverages. As legend has it, the founder of the Boylan Bottling Company, James Boylan, stole the recipe for root beer from one Hezekiah Root back in 1891. The rest is carbonated beverage bottling and distributing history.

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damian puts forth...

Posted September 19, 2009
The other things we see a lot of here with the name "Boylan" on them, are plastic temporary road barriers of the type that are put in place, then filled with water while in service, and presumably drained again for transport later. There is so much road construction at the moment that there are countless thousands of these objects on the roads here. I often engage in a sort of whimsical fantasy about what might be built with these giant lego blocks, and I guess that's another elaborate joke for a post wave world (I assume you have such things in the USA).

I liked this, anyhow Paul. Very dryly funny.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted September 19, 2009
Yes. The Boylans are known far and wide for their expertise in manufacturing and distributing plastic temporary road barriers of the type that are put in place, then filled with water while in service, and drained again for transport later. As legend has it, the founder of the Boylan Plastic Temporary Road Barrier Company, Theo Boylan, stole the design for plastic temporary road barriers of the type that are put in place, then filled with water while in service, and then drained again for transport later from one Ernesto Barrier back in 1981. The rest is plastic temporary road barrier manufacturing and and distributing history.

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Quokka would have you know...

Posted September 19, 2009
The only place I've ever found root beer in these parts is at Mrs Flannery's down in Annerley road near the Mater. Damned fine stuff, but I'm guessing its not a patch on anything the Boylan family can produce.

Most soft drinks you find these days just taste like preservatives and sugar. The Bloke was scoffing at me because the Black Cherry soda advertised itself as being 'sweet' and 'tart' and not being a fan of sweet goods he didn't believe you could have both.

He said to tell you, PNB, that he was impressed with your family's work.

We knew it was you because when we peeled off the import label listing a long variety of numbers in the 'Ingredients' list, the bottle itself stated that there was nothing artificial within and it was all good clean wholesome Momma's cooking to be found within.

The Boylan Family Principles were proudly on show.

Hats off.

Oh and I liked the story but felt it could be improved by the addition of roadkill.

I realized this when I read Mr. Ed's comments and was put in mind of the mess that was made last time horses got loose on the Logan Motorway.

I realize that in America most of your native animals may have gone the way of the buffalo but where I live you can't make it to the local bottleshop without running down a brush turkey.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted September 19, 2009
What? Did I leave out the roadkill vignettes? I thought I included a lengthy and detailed description of Jimmy running down animals.

Damn it. This writing thing is SO much more difficult that it seemed. I am just going to stick with what I know. They also serve who negotiate and draft the intellectual property licensing agreements.

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Quokka would have you know...

Posted September 19, 2009
Well I did attempt it late last night without spectacles, which only resurfaced this morning where I have never found them before, inside the spectacle case. So maybe I missed that bit. And said spectacles seem no longer to be serving their purpose, the blame for which lies entirely with damage done in the last week by Fairfax News Ltd.

My own personal joy in the reading of fiction is establishing which character in the story is someone from the author's dim dark past on whom they have decided to enact spiteful retribution for past misdeeds. The same pleasure can be had from watching movies if you have contacts in the film industry and the writer fails to understand the concept of 'Loose lips sink ships'. And songs. I had a friend turn up at a gig and discover that she was the subject of a very unwholesome Love Gone Wrong song. Sadly it never became a hit and the friend, now in her late forties, still laments her one misbegotten chance at achieving international infamy.

I have yet to craft such an entertaining piece of fiction myself, but meanwhile there is some satisfaction to be had from being on the other side of that fence and pointing to such and such a novel and saying 'as you will see, the hateful wench who graces these pages is in fact, yours truly.'

Even more fun is to be had from turning up at author events and grinning evilly at said author and watching them blanche in horror as they realize yes, my evil has in fact expanded exponentially over time, and who knows what they can expect from the overweight one armed fat man that now stands before them with the overweight three legged fat guide dog in tow.

My own personal view is that fiction writing is only successful when one includes two or more stinging personal vendettas. Not that the resulting books are at all interesting but speculation about who the author is trying to diss will guarantee word-of-mouth sales.

I say, bring on the critics. They are mince to your grinder.

Carry on.

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Brian puts forth...

Posted September 19, 2009
Ahh . . .love the critiques. I reckon though . . .so long as the story arc is solid, things like punctuation and character development can slip a bit.

Gawd! Number of times I've watched punctuation Nazi's go to town on nits when the point is : "How good is the premise and plot?"

This is why we have editors and first readers.

Slush and fanfic critiques work in that aspiring authors find and make partnerships with worthwhile critics. Good sounding boards are to be cherished.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted September 19, 2009
I would agree, Brian, but I am not an aspiring author and, to be honest, I don't like any of you people, so I don't value any of your opinions. And what the fuck is wrong with my punctuation, eh? EH?? Every mistake I made was intentional! Every misplaced semi colon a work of artistic choice! That doesn't make it good, but at least I thought about it first. That has to count for something.

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savo has opinions thus...

Posted September 19, 2009
Ah yes it is such a pain in the arse when no one appears to catch on the the subtler japes or even the heavily researched pieces that you are just dying for them to ask about. Such is the life of a writer of literature.

As far as puttingit on your own blog hell yes. If you want piccies put on the mini I should be able to do that too if you want.

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Brian mumbles...

Posted September 19, 2009
Christ Paul. What's liking got to do with authors? Almost a trademark in behaviour . . .reclusive, hyper sensitive, eccentric, ego maniacal . . . .hmmm . . . .strike that . . .you may have a future in literature at that. :))

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Paul Nicholas Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted September 19, 2009
Savo - tell you what: I'll post it on my blog with photo illustrations to show you where I want the pics to appear in the story, then I'll email you the link to the pics so you can insert them in the mini burger edition. Then I'll remove the story from my blog (no point in having it in two places).

Where do I send the links to the pics?

Brian - I'm gregarious, callous, pedestrian and modest. But otherwise you make a good point.

quokka - You were drunk typing when you wrote that, weren't you?

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Quokka reckons...

Posted September 19, 2009
Depends what you put in the cherry soda, PNB.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted September 19, 2009
Love. We put love in that soda, dear.

And sodium benzoate.

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HAVOCK asserts...

Posted September 19, 2009
good read, not too shabby at all PNB...EXCEPT ITS GOT NO GUCKING KILLING, BLOWIN SHIT UP, DEATH, spiral dances of figures as they a blown ta fkn bits. UI am so god dam disappointed in ya, its simply not fkn funny, talk about run like fk and NOT take one for the team SHEEEZ!. Get wif da effin program will ya.

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Quokka mumbles...

Posted September 19, 2009
Hav this is why he can't have weapons until he's master balloons.

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Quokka swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 19, 2009
F***ing uselfss goodamned glasses. And no I am not drunk, just legally blind.

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damian reckons...

Posted September 19, 2009
Well if you have any leverage on Theo's money, my good man, use it. The bloke must be worth a fortune, given the number of the goshdurnit things we see around here.

Is that the same Ernesto Barrier who invented the heat-sealed packaging that can't be opened safely without scissors? I loathe the man, and your relation did right in shafting him.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan reckons...

Posted September 20, 2009
Havock - okay, okay. The kid will kill people in the next chapter. And blow stuff up.

quokka - go ahead: blame it on our "glasses."

Damian - that is, indeed, the same Ernesto Barrier. Uncle Theo stole that idea from him, too. However, the lawsuits and resulting monetary judgments against the Boylan Unsafe Heat-Sealed Packaging Company drained all of the profits out of the Boylan Plastic Temporary Road Barrier Company. Such are the fortunes of predatory business practices.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 20, 2009
Savo - I've posted it with some illustrations at http://paulboylan.wordpress.com. Let me know what you think and we'll take it from there.

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Respond to 'Perfesser B's fan fic.'