Cheeseburger Gothic

Second draft away, second book underway

Posted October 22, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

At 9.38 last night I hit send on an email which dispatched copies of A Protocol for Monsters to my publishers in New York and Sydney. I spent most of the day doing a final read through, a tweak here, a touch up there, and probably could have kept at it for hours more, if not days and weeks. A book is never really finished, it is merely abandoned.

I can already think of two quite crucial scenes I want to rejig, but the changes won't be structural.

This is where I hope all of the work I've done over the past couple of months, and especially those two weeks in Byron Bay, will pay off. I have most of the books blocked out, with the narrative arcs already laid down in note form and all of the major pivot points in the story settled. I even know how the third book ends.

What happens next is about two months of high intensity 'writing', by which I mean dictation. How many words a day? Depends on how many distractions and disruptions I allow or endure, but even if I'm only at the screen for the duration of the school day, I'll be looking to put down at least five to 6000 words each day. A lot of the time I'm working from detailed notes. A chapter running to 3000 words might already exist in dot point form at a length of 1000 words.

It might seem like a wasted effort, but you can take it from me that nothing accelerates your progress like knowing where the hell you're going and exactly how to get there.

The biggest challenge with these books remains having only one point of view; Dave, the narrator. It's a hell of a different way to tell a story for me. Everything that happens has to happen within his light cone. I have a couple of ways of working around it, which I'm not going to give away here, but I can't overuse them. And even when I do they only solve one very particular set of problems. There's a whole bunch of others that come with singular point of view narratives.

The two most difficult? When you're used to understanding your characters by writing them, by writing from within their POV, when you stand outside and merely observe them from a narrator's point of view you can find yourself as perplexed to their motivations as any other character in the book. I forget which Hollywood mogul said it, but some Hollywood mogul once said nobody knows nothing about anything. That could be an almost perfect explanation for how point of view works. Characters know what they know, and nothing else. They know themselves, and sometimes not even that.

I had a character in this book who'll become important over the course of the series, and I just didn't understand her. I didn't understand her, Dave Hooper our unworthy hero didn't understand her, and most crucially of all she didn't seem to understand herself. All because I wasn't able to write from within her character.

How did I get around this?

In the end I had to write a whole bunch of chapters which I could never use. Chapters which retold the story as it will be published in the book, but this time from her POV. It was only after doing that, and deciding to give her one important personality quirk, that I was able to make her work to my satisfaction.

The other difficulty?

The only action you can directly tell the reader about, the only stuff you can show them, is the action in which your narrator plays a direct role. This becomes entirely problematic when writing battle scenes, or at least it does for me. The bigger and more complex the scene, the more I want to describe it from multiple points of view and angles. But even more complicating was the extreme agency invested in the lead character, Dave. If you have a guy who is effectively a superhero you instantly solve every tricky situation into which you inject him unless he lands on a big pile of kryptonite. You can do that once, but it gets old quickly.

Most of the rewriting of the first draft, a process in which Murph's input was invaluable, had to do with sorting out the battle/action scenes. If you go back through my previous books you will see most of the major conflicts are recounted from at least two or three points of view. And sometimes many more than that. That simply wasn't possible in this novel and many long months went into figuring out how to deal with that.

Anyway, it's all done now I was reading the final scenes yesterday afternoon and was delighted by just how much I enjoyed them. Now it's time to get on and do another two books worth.

49 Responses to ‘Second draft away, second book underway’

Darth Greybeard swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 22, 2013

Always find the mechanics interesting. But like juggling snakes while blindfolded on a tightrope, I'd much rather watch it than do it myself.

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Alison Asher mutters...

Posted October 22, 2013

Hey, Thanks for that JB. I love hearing about how you go about all this. (Especially since I only ever write blogs, so it's all the stuff of my head spewing forth.) Can't wait to see the final, you 6000 a day writing machine.

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JG reckons...

Posted October 22, 2013

Congrats, John. It's interesting to read about how you tackle the mechanics of writing,

I admire that you wrote several chapters from a female character's third POV as part of your research: to get inside her head. It would be hard to write from first person POV for a three-part book series.

I like the way you still experiment and push yourself when you write.

You truly are a writer's dream: a pinnacle of endurance and discipline. Well done, JB.

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Therbs has opinions thus...

Posted October 22, 2013

First person? Is that the first time since the Felafel books? I take your point on the explodey bits being better from a descriptive perspective without one pov. Isn't the narrator's character a lot easier to develop? But then there's the dialogue thing when you need another pov laid out, like:

Greg scratched his greying beard, staring at me through bloodshot eyes, his voice rasping with the strain of the past few days,

"Leave the hobbits alone, Dave." he half choked, adding "Just leave them be."

I had no time for this, the little fuckers needed to die so I let rip on full auto, blasting them out of their horrible, stinking, woolly feet.

"Sorry Greg. They're fucking hobbits. End of."

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted October 22, 2013

Not first person, no. Third person (Dave) but a singular PoV.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted October 22, 2013

I'm a reasonably smart guy, but I don't know what the fuck that means.

Are there monsters? Do the good guys survive near-hopeless odds and win in the end? That's all I understand and care about. Fair dinkum.

Therbs ducks in to say...

Posted October 22, 2013

Ah, singular pov. My bad.

Hey Paul, I understand there be monsters. Berms of dead ones looking like the results of a post-pub exercise by first day butchery students learning their craft from IKEA instructions written in Kanji script.

JG swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 22, 2013

Ah. Third person but singular POV. Sorry, JB. My bad too. Wasn't thinking.

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Lulu mutters...

Posted October 22, 2013

"I forget which Hollywood mogul said it, but some Hollywood mogul once said nobody knows nothing about anything"

MIght not be the one you're thinking of but William Goldman (screenwriter) said "Nobody Knows Anything" in his classic 'Adventures in the Screen Trade'.

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted October 22, 2013

Yeah, that sounds right.

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Legless would have you know...

Posted October 22, 2013

When I read, yesterday, that you were just about to email the final draft off to your publisher I was tempted to fly to Queensland, park a van near your house, hack your wi-fi, take over your router and slurp port 25 and 587....

I *really* want to read this book.......

*Sigh* But I've sworn only to use my powers for good. Sucks to have a conscience

Bunyip would have you know...

Posted October 22, 2013

Legless, it's times like that that one needs to contact Greybeard....

Darth Greybeard would have you know...

Posted October 23, 2013

I don't know what you mean Mr Bunyip. Although I did think it slowed down a bit in the middle and as for Dave's magic axe - pfft.

Bunyip reckons...

Posted October 23, 2013

Bunyip mutters...

Posted October 23, 2013

[hands brown paper bag under table]

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Conspiracy Cat reckons...

Posted October 22, 2013

All the Ira Levin books I've read were written third person/single POV. I found them to be rather stilted and flat in some parts (especially the big fight scene in 'This Perfect Day') without another POV to give the scene extra dimension. I'll be interested to read JB's book to see if his story has the same problem. On the upside, Levin's books translate extremely well to the silver screen.... I, for one, would love to see JB follow in those footsteps.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted October 22, 2013

Me too.

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w from brisbane mumbles...

Posted October 22, 2013

I was thinking that third person single POV was not an uncommon style.
But then, going thru books in my mind, if you go third person, it is normally third person multiple POV or third person omnicient, which can be the same or different. Not that I have a clue.

But anyway, I thought I would reread that excerpt you previously put up, which is a lot of fun. Here is the link, if that is OK?

http://cheeseburgergothic.com/5537

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Trowzers has opinions thus...

Posted October 22, 2013

Can't wait for this book. I've already pitched it to my D&D friends (who were intrigued by the concept) so would be interesting to see how it goes over with the hardcore fantasy readers.

If games like World of Warcraft show anything, it's that fans of the fantasy genre are more than fond of the odd explosion, just that they tend to be magic-based. For all the wussing about with unicorns, there's always a badass necromancer who can explode corpses and looks like Rambo in a robe. And crossovers are all the rage - so IMHO it should go down well.

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HAVOCK21 ducks in to say...

Posted October 22, 2013

Very fkn interesting, certainly from a hacks perspective that is.

I found that whilst I had a plan of action (battle scenes) in my head, planning them out on paper was tenfold helpful. It also opened up other possibility, playing within the arc I would say and yet having the same outcome. I’ll wager, that’s also then assisting the reading if done right in both following the storey and gaining a greater appreciation of the characters and growing closer perhaps too, a very important element I would wager.

But its also about pace and building suspense, I guess its not always about the blow shit up bit, not that I am complaining mind you, but let’s face it, short of a fkn genius like me penning it in that matter it aint gunna fkn fly with anybody else, so being able to run it from multi characters perspectives is fkn easier...from a single pov......FARKENHELLLLLL!!!!

This will be an interesting read and I’ll wager, it’s a gamble too at the box office.

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BigWillieStyle has opinions thus...

Posted October 22, 2013

Hang on. You wrote a book? Unaware of the law I passed earlier today, are you? Effective 4.00 this afternoon, books are banned in our Glorious State, as they lead the people to delusions of thinkiness. Now, that will be 50 lashes on your open palms with a bamboo cane, and you will be strung up in King George Square and pelted with rotten fruit for a period of not less than one hour.

JG mutters...

Posted October 22, 2013

Caw. Now JB's an outlaw? I never trusted his black leather jacket. ;)

ShaneAlpha puts forth...

Posted October 22, 2013

Thinkiness?? In beloved Queensland?? I can feel mah neck turnin red at the very thought.

And of course he's an outlaw, being one of them there former uni students I'm sure they can dig out his special branch file. Outlaw...wait.. we passes more laws about them too. GIVE HIM ANOTHER 15 YEARS ON TOP!!

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Sparty is gonna tell you...

Posted October 22, 2013

Trowzers: actually plannig on that scenario next time I run a session (sadly usually twice a year max given how often my group can all get together).

Stargate type set up (using the large hadron collider) have to do a retrieve mission to second edition rules D&D.

Looking foward to 7th level Wizard v Predator drone.....

Bunyip puts forth...

Posted October 22, 2013

Hope you're using GURPS.

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pitpat asserts...

Posted October 23, 2013

I feel sorry for Dave, always on set , never a chance to duck off for a quite cuppa tea and a ciggie. Hope it goes gangbusters JB

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Brother PorkChop ducks in to say...

Posted October 23, 2013

Started saving already. Can't wait for the release.

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drej reckons...

Posted October 23, 2013

Looking forward to it.

Only slight issue I have is the word Monsters in the title. If I didn't know who'd written it, I'd probably skip it on the shelf as I'd wrongly assume it was YA.

Protocol for Evil maybe? I dunno, just my 2c and probably not worth that...

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drej ducks in to say...

Posted October 23, 2013

And Flinthart has a novel out too! Good time to be burgers!

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted October 24, 2013

Yeah, well, it isn't all smiles and sunshine here. Nobody has congratulated me on self-publishing (online) my first novel Sex Slaves of the Congo.

Some people are just more popular than others, I guess...

Brother PorkChop asserts...

Posted October 24, 2013

How were we to know your nom de plume was Fabian Sparkle?

w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted October 24, 2013

Dear PNB

"Sex Slaves of the Congo"
That is such a clever piece of modern genre fiction-making. It is just so franchise friendly. You can knock these things out, one after another, until you run out of places to stash all the royalty money.

Sex Slaves of the Loire
Sex Slaves of the Yarra
etc

Oh yes, you can spin this out for a very long time.
It's better than JB's scam.

Stalin's Hammer: Rome
Stalin's Hammer: Cairo
Stalin's Hammer: Topeka

What would you rather read about? Sex slaves or hardware?

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted October 24, 2013

Personally? I'd rather read about a young girl's coming of age. Something nice. Anne of Green Gables comes to mind. Now that's a lovely series.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mutters...

Posted October 24, 2013

Barnes: I was writing Dinosaur porn before Dinosaur porn was cool.

Murphy puts forth...

Posted October 24, 2013

Topeka is a rather forgetable city.

In any timeline.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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Dirk reckons...

Posted October 23, 2013

Me tips his hat. You can't get away a few months and JB is pumping out books again. Global launch this time, Shock and Awe-style I hope.

So you got a few dates for us calender wise? And what about more Stalin's Hammers? ;) *unracks cold sixpack of Grolsch for JB*

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Once Was Moko has opinions thus...

Posted October 23, 2013

Please God tell me audio book?

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted October 23, 2013

Just signed the contract, actually. So, yes

Once Was Moko ducks in to say...

Posted October 24, 2013

Huzzah!

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Joe is gonna tell you...

Posted October 23, 2013

After the taster I want moar. Is it rude to ask what the eta is?

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan asserts...

Posted October 24, 2013

Yes. Totally rude.

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Darth Greybeard ducks in to say...

Posted October 24, 2013

Joe, are you going to take advice on manners from a man who eats bugs? In public? Ignore Mr Boylan and ask away.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 24, 2013

In public and with gusto. With Tassie champagne, whenever possible.

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Therbs swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 24, 2013

So you told him they were Moreton Bay bugs? Nice one GB. Haven't seen that prank pulled for a long time.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 25, 2013

To quote Andrew Zimmern: if it tastes good, eat it.

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Turns out whiskey isn't such a great lubricant of the creative gears

Posted October 18, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

Becase if you drink too much of it you forget to save the document you worked on for three hours. Or you forget what you did call it when you saved it.

Or something.

Sigh.

11 Responses to ‘Turns out whiskey isn't such a great lubricant of the creative gears’

Lulu reckons...

Posted October 18, 2013

Oh dear. Would some 'hair of the dog' help?

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John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted October 18, 2013

No, finding that edited copy would help.

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w from brisbane puts forth...

Posted October 18, 2013

I assume you've tried looking with Finder
Both in :
Recent documents
and
"Go to the Finder, select Go > Go to folder, type /private/var/folders and look for files named "Word Work File" inside a "Temporary items" folder. Option drag files or folders to the Desktop (or anywhere else) before dropping them on Word's icon. Don't delete anything!"

I don't know much about Macs. I am just copy and pasting.

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MurcanDownunder mutters...

Posted October 18, 2013

I'm not a fanboi, so I don't know how OS X works. Can you search/sort by modified date stamp? How often does Time Machine take snapshots and does it backup personal data or only system state?

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted October 18, 2013

Time Machine backs up every 30 mins. That was my first thought. But then I discovered that I hadn't turned it on when I migrated to this new imac.

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Therbs has opinions thus...

Posted October 18, 2013

Betcha it was a pearler of a document, probably the best ever. Hey! Drink some more whiskey, get into the same condition as when the doc went missing and you might be able to reconstruct what happened. That would be fkn brilliant.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted October 18, 2013

I vaguely recall one joke, one brilliant fucking joke. It was so good I amost tweeted it. But didnt. It is lost.

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Bangar asserts...

Posted October 18, 2013

Whiskey ... good I'm off the hook ;)

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Blarkon is gonna tell you...

Posted October 18, 2013

My live docs sit on my Skydrive folder and I have my auto-backup every 3 minutes write to another folder. I also increment the doc names after I write something substantial - so CH4-a01.docx, CH4-a02.docx and so on. Word autorecovery is usually pretty good, though can get a bit stuck on insanely complicated document formatting especially if you have over 100 figures in a chapter.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted October 18, 2013

I normally have mine in Dropbox, but due to complicated series of misadventures mostly revolving around a five houe taxi driving service I performed on Planet Parenthood yesterday, I didn't.

Wasn't even aware of it being a problem until it was a problem. Wasn't aware I hadn't turned on Time Machine for the new iMac until I realised this morning I hadn't turned on Time machine for the new iMac.

Sigh.

All back up protocols now in place.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted October 19, 2013

That's the reason I gave up mescaline.

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Respond to 'Turns out whiskey isn't such a great lubricant of the creative gears'

RIP Elmore Leonard

Posted August 21, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

6 Responses to ‘RIP Elmore Leonard’

Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted August 21, 2013

I heart The Onion one of my favourite stories was this one.

I guess I should read some Elmore Leonard I've some movies based on his work and the clever shine through.

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Murphy would have you know...

Posted August 21, 2013

Hit Man is the one to start with.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

Barnesm is gonna tell you...

Posted August 21, 2013

Excellent wiill start after I finish operation Mincemeat

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Sweet Jane Says is gonna tell you...

Posted August 21, 2013

I've been mourning the loss of the young, Australian baseball player that came to Oklahoma on a university scholarship. He was murdered by Oklahoma's rabid gun culture. We are a state full of monsters. We are a nation of monsters. Three ignorant cowards murdered Christopher, shooting him in the back while he jogged. I'm ashamed of Oklahoma, and I'm ashamed of this nation. As a teacher, I feel the loss of a bright student, but this feeling cannot compare to the pain felt by his family, friends, and girlfriend.

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Jayanthi's Atomic Cat has opinions thus...

Posted August 22, 2013
Indeed, Jane. Our thoughts are definitely over there too.


Leonard has been on my to-read list forever.


Onion is a fun site. Loved this link under the Leonard obit: http://www.theonion.com/articles/study-all-of-your-memories-implanted-in-you-5-minu,33574/. About how all our memories were implanted like, 300 seconds ago. Explains a lot. Especially Jung's collective unconscious thing.

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Sekret Sekret puts forth...

Posted August 22, 2013

Vale one of the best writers of last century,

Jane, yes,

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Respond to 'RIP Elmore Leonard'

Great opening lines

Posted July 25, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

I love a good opening line. Felafel's is probably my best known, and it is a good'un. Good enough that I fought long and hard against Michael, my then publisher, when he wanted to lift it for the title of the book.

"But you're ruining a perfectly brilliant opening line," I complained. "It will lose all it's impact if we plaster it across the cover".

He gave me two days to come with something better and I failed utterly. I did have suggestions, dozens of them, and I wish I'd kept that list for archival purposes because there were some shockers on it. But in the end he was right and I was less right than usual.

And I suppose it helps that it's not my favorite first line. That'd be from Tassie Babes.

Aristotle said if you hold your farts in you'll die.

I doubt I'll ever do better than that. It pretty much tells you everything you need to know about that book.

There's a nice piece on first lines over at The Atlantic, where Stephen King has been kind enough to make the rest of us feel inadequate by revealing to Joe Fassler that he sometimes works on his first lines for years.

"There are all sorts of theories and ideas about what constitutes a good opening line," said da King. "It's tricky thing, and tough to talk about because I don't think conceptually while I work on a first draft -- I just write. To get scientific about it is a little like trying to catch moonbeams in a jar."

But catch them he does, or at least tries. The opener should invite you into a story. It should hook you and even give you some backstory if possible. There's a bit of chat about James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice, which reminded me of the discussion we had hereabouts a year or so back concerning the great opening lines of Don Winslow's The Winter of Frankie Machine.

It gets really interesting, however, when King moves on from talking about context and setting and style, and begins to ponder the sound a writer's voice in the opening line:

You hear people talk about "voice" a lot, when I think they really just mean "style." Voice is more than that. People come to books looking for something. But they don't come for the story, or even for the characters. They certainly don't come for the genre. I think readers come for the voice...

With really good books, a powerful sense of voice is established in the first line. My favorite example is from Douglas Fairbairn's novel, Shoot, which begins with a confrontation in the woods. There are two groups of hunters from different parts of town. One gets shot accidentally, and over time tensions escalate. Later in the book, they meet again in the woods to wage war -- they re-enact Vietnam, essentially. And the story begins this way:

This is what happened.

For me, this has always been the quintessential opening line. It's flat and clean as an affidavit. It establishes just what kind of speaker we're dealing with: someone willing to say, I will tell you the truth. I'll tell you the facts. I'll cut through the bullshit and show you exactly what happened. It suggests that there's an important story here, too, in a way that says to the reader: and you want to know.

A line like "This is what happened," doesn't actually say anything--there's zero action or context -- but it doesn't matter. It's a voice, and an invitation, that's very difficult for me to refuse. It's like finding a good friend who has valuable information to share. Here's somebody, it says, who can provide entertainment, an escape, and maybe even a way of looking at the world that will open your eyes. In fiction, that's irresistible. It's why we read.

The best example of voice I can recall isn't from a book, though - although originally it was, I guess. It's Harrison Ford's opening voiceover from Bladerunner.

"They don't advertise for killers in the offworld colonies. That's what I was ex-cop. Ex-bladerunner. Ex-killer".

If they gave out Nobel Prizes for opening lines, I reckon that one would have scooped the pool.

70 Responses to ‘Great opening lines’

Jim is gonna tell you...

Posted July 25, 2013

:But then, I'd rather be a killer than a victim" is a cracking second line.

Was always partial to "Call me Ishmael" as an opening

That said, Dickens had "Its was the best of times..." etc

Jim puts forth...

Posted July 25, 2013

On reflection

"We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold"

would have to take the gong for me.

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DNABeast mutters...

Posted July 25, 2013

I always recall the opening line to 'Hitchhiker's'.

  • Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small, unregarded yellow sun.

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Barnesm mutters...

Posted July 25, 2013

Which regretabbly was lost (like tears in rain) when Ridely Scott did the directors cut as he didn't think the voiceover was needed, preferring the visuals to speak for themselves. Foolish man.

Along with the classic "call me Ishmal', "best of times, worst of times" and as an excellent example of setting context "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen" my personal favourite is from Paradise by Toni Morrision "They shoot the white girl first".

Murphy asserts...

Posted July 25, 2013

Harrison Ford hated the voice over.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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Lulu has opinions thus...

Posted July 25, 2013

My favourite first lines are probably from songs, such as: "It was Christmas Eve, babe, in the drunk tank".

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Surtac asserts...

Posted July 25, 2013

Or even:

"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."

Works for me :)

Dick would have you know...

Posted July 25, 2013

Can be substituted for "It was a dark and stormy night"

Barnesm reckons...

Posted July 25, 2013

Ah the timeless work of Edward George Bulwer-Lytton's in his 1830 novel Paul Clifford.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted July 25, 2013

Bulwer-Lytton may have been a terrible writer, but that is the best opening line ever. Only one possibly eclipses it:

"As she fell face-down into the muck of the mud-wrestling pit, her sweaty, three-hundred-pound opponent muttering soft curses in Latin on top of her, Sister Marie thought, 'there is no doubt about it: the Pope has betrayed me!'"

Barnesm would have you know...

Posted July 25, 2013

Oh sure its good but what about Sue Fondrie 2010 winner "Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories".

SamIAmNot has opinions thus...

Posted July 26, 2013

Nowadays, you can't even tune a television to a dead channel. This line's meaning may be lost on children of the future.

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JBtoo asserts...

Posted July 25, 2013

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man, in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Lulu reckons...

Posted July 25, 2013

Two hundered years later, and that's still a great opening.

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TC is gonna tell you...

Posted July 25, 2013

Aligning with both the content of your post and our special guest (comments), my favourite opening line has for many years been:

"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."

I (finally) came up with my own opening line the other night after muddling through ideas for about 7 years, and it's absolutely perfect. Now I just have to work out how to make the rest of the story good and I'll have a winner.

Do you think you can combine an opening line with a tag line of some sort? Say, for example, Star Wars started with "I've got a bad feeling about this" - would it dilute the power of the line in either or both contexts, or would it work to build it up even further? I know that it depends on many things, but do you think it could be made to work well?

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BigWillieStyle mutters...

Posted July 25, 2013

I've always liked, "They're out there", opening line in ...Cuckoo's Nest. Bob Geldof's autobiography, Is That It?, has "Frank Lahiffe loved Mary O'Dwyer as well" as it's opening line. I like that very much.

In movies, my favourite opening line/s is Mr Brown's in Reservoir Dogs. "Let me tell you what "Like a Virgin" is about. It's all about a girl who digs a guy with a big dick."

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BigWillieStyle mumbles...

Posted July 25, 2013

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."

Sadly, that opening line is as good as One Hundred Years of Solitude gets. I remember having a tete-a-tete with Sweet Jane Says on Blunty a few years ago about the merits (or otherwise) of that book.

damian is gonna tell you...

Posted July 26, 2013

I really enjoyed that book actually. The ending creeped me out a bit, of course.

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Rachael puts forth...

Posted July 25, 2013

"Mom and Pop were just a couple of kids when they got married. He was eighteen, she was sixteen, and I was three."

Opening line of Billie Holiday's autobiography "Lady Sings the Blues"

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yankeedog reckons...

Posted July 25, 2013

Best opening line ever?

'Are you religious? Do you believe in the hereafter? Well, then you know what I'm here after...'

What?

Oh. Not THOSE opening lines.

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Brother PorkChop would have you know...

Posted July 25, 2013

Wasted Youth - Meatloaf. " I remember everything I remember every little thing As if it happened only yesterday I was barely seventeen and I once killed a boy with a Fender guitar."

Dick would have you know...

Posted July 26, 2013

Sorry, don't mean to be picky, but that was Jim Steinman, "Love and Death and American Guitar", who wrote most if not all Mr Loafs songs as well.

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Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted July 25, 2013

The incipit of a text, such as a poem, song, or book, is the first few words of its opening line

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bastardfromthebush is gonna tell you...

Posted July 25, 2013

Anthony Burgess from Earthly Powers: "It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me."

Bunyip ducks in to say...

Posted July 25, 2013

Ninja'd. But I'm happy I read through this thread before posting. Nice choice, bfb.

damian mumbles...

Posted July 26, 2013

Yes I actually ran Ctrl-F on "Earthly" to make sure before mentioning it myself. It's a winner, because it has "archbishop", "catamite", and Islamic name and a reference to advanced age all in the same sentence. William S. Burroughs would have bitten off his own left testicle to have written that sentence.

robW asserts...

Posted July 27, 2013

Yes, yes, Earthly Powers was an amazing book. The vocabulary alone was mind bending if not mind stretching. And the narrator's slip 3/4ths of the way through the book when he lit the cigarette with Ali's lighter, which wouldn't be given to him for another 30 years...and his acknowledgement: "I told you I'm a liar."

damian puts forth...

Posted July 27, 2013

It's about 20 years since I read it - must refresh that one of these days. I forget whether the narrator is inserted into the actual plot for Ulysses or just the real-life background to it, for instance.

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Barnesm asserts...

Posted July 25, 2013

I also loved the opening for Michael Herr's 1977 collection Dispatches "Going out at night the medics gave you pills, Dexedrine breath like dead snakes kept too long in a jar".

Not sure what real soldier's like Murphy thinks of the book but as an 14 year old boy with no real experience of life when I was reading it I thought it was fantastic.

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NBlob mumbles...

Posted July 25, 2013
"Dinh Tran's city was dying."
Works for me.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted July 25, 2013

Too sentimental.

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Rob mutters...

Posted July 25, 2013

'Did you hear that? They shut down the main reactor' ...oh wait that's not a book at all. My bad.

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Sparty has opinions thus...

Posted July 25, 2013

Great piece by King.

Strange with the Bladerunner voice over- Ford did it deliberatly disinterested because he didnt want it used - but ironically that fitted the "future noir world weary priviate dick" type thing perfectly and I think really adds to the movie!

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Dino not to be confused with asserts...

Posted July 25, 2013

http://au.news.yahoo.com/latest/a/-/latest/18140258/australian-scientists-join-international-fight-against-the-next-human-pandemic/

Pandemic?

What's that?

Keep ya cordyceps and ya biceps gym junkies cause I am talkin' 'bout viruses and genetically engineered molecules/RNA?

Did I mention the pallet I unloaded by hand today?

Lordy knows what was in dem boxes...

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Kate is gonna tell you...

Posted July 25, 2013

Two of my personal favourites:

"The building was on fire, and it wasn't my fault." Jim Butcher, 'Blood Rites'.

and

"It was the day my grandmother exploded." The late much lamented Iain Banks, 'The Crow Road'.

Jacques Stahl would have you know...

Posted July 25, 2013

Ah, you beat me to to It Kate, I was too busy getting my Moo Brew Stout organised and there you are with Iain Banks! Well done.

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Surtac puts forth...

Posted July 25, 2013

Kate, I agree that's probably Banks' best opening line and it is a cracker.

One of my favourites, because I love the book so much, is this:

'The convoy winked in, the carrier Norway first, and then the ten freighters - more, as Norway loosed her four riders and the protective formation spread itself wide in its approach to Pell's Star.'

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Blarkon puts forth...

Posted July 25, 2013

"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel." - Gibson, Neuromancer.

"This is a story about magic and where it goes and perhaps more importantly where it comes from and why, although it doesn't pretend to answer all or any of these questions" - Pratchett, Equal Rites.

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Dave Sag would have you know...

Posted July 25, 2013

I always quite liked "The sky was the colour of the TV set, tuned to a dead channel," by William Gibson in Neuromancer.

Sudragon swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 27, 2013

And with changes in technology, the colour of the sky changes. When Gibson wrote this a dead channel on a television was grey static. Readers would haver understood overcast, bleak, cold grey conditions, a cyberpunk staple.

Now, a 'dead channel' on a television is 'monitor blue'. And if the sky is that colour, there's probably something really wrong.

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pi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 25, 2013

Hard to go past the opening paragraph of snow crash by Neal Stephenson :

The Deliverator belongs to an elite order, a hallowed sub-category. He’s got esprit up to here. Right now, he is preparing to carry out his third mission of the night. His uniform is black as activated charcoal, filtering the very light out of the air. A bullet will bounce off its arachno-fiber weave like a wren hitting a patio door, but excess perspiration wafts through it like a breeze through a freshly napalmed forest. Where his body has bony extremities, the suit has sintered armorgel: feels like gritty jello, protects like a stack of telephone books.

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Maddoug would have you know...

Posted July 25, 2013

"It is a sin to write this." Ayn Rand's "Anthem"

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Blake has opinions thus...

Posted July 25, 2013

You hear people talk about "voice" a lot, when I think they really just mean "style." Voice is more than that. People come to books looking for something. But they don't come for the story, or even for the characters. They certainly don't come for the genre. I think readers come for the voice...

There's something to that. I put off till recently reading a particaly series of books based ont he blurb indicating that the genr was soem kind of americo centric post apocalyptic thirller thing. "What kind of self-respecting author writes that fantasy Tom Clancy nonsense? Those yanks will swallow anything with a bit of splodey and useless military trivia."

But i was in an airport recently and four book stores later my curiosity got the better of me. Two weeks and three books later....

Turns out the genre snobbery was probably unwarrented, but moreso the voice was what made it enjoyable for me. After all the unlikeable sobs in the bookclub books lately, i'd forgotton how much a series of simple-yet-developed-and-lovable characters could make for an enjoyable read. On the surface, the voice reminded me of an episode of buffy or the star wars extended universe stuff i read as kid.

So yeah now i'm just feeling foolish because i'd spent so long convinced i wouldn't like these books, and yet seem to have time to read pretty much anything else in the same voice....like uh...this blog...for example.

I'm not sure i could sit through any more Clancy or his mates, but the same kind of stuff written in the right voice? Sign me up for the baseball cap and t-shirt i've gone all fanboi on this shit.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted July 25, 2013

Rofling. Yeah. It's funny.. I'm the same way about Abercrombie's series. The voice dragged me in.

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Wayne ducks in to say...

Posted July 25, 2013

The one opening line that I always remember is that of "Lonesome Dove" by Larry McMurtry: "When Augustus came out on the porch the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake - not a very big one."

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she_jedi mutters...

Posted July 26, 2013

My Barbara Hambly fangrrl stripes are showing, but she can do a kickass opening line. Three of my favourites are:

"Had Cardinal Richelieu not assaulted the Mohican Princess, thrusting her up against the brick wall of the carriageway and forcing her mouth with his kisses, Benjamin January probably wouldn’t have noticed anything amiss later on." From A Free Man of Colour

And:

"Sun Wolf’s capture, as Sun Wolf himself reflected at his execution, was sheer, stupid ill luck, which Dogbreath of Mallincore would have told him was only to be expected under the circumstances." From The Dark Hand of Magic

Finally this:

"Had the Icefalcon still been living among the Talking Stars People, the penalty for not recognizing the old man he encountered in the clearing by the four elm trees would have been the removal of his eyes, tongue, liver, heart, and brain, in that order." From Icefalcon's Quest

Lulu ducks in to say...

Posted July 26, 2013

Squee! I love her January series!

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she_jedi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 26, 2013

My Barbara Hambly fangrrl stripes are showing, but she can do a kickass opening line. Three of my favourites are:

"Had Cardinal Richelieu not assaulted the Mohican Princess, thrusting her up against the brick wall of the carriageway and forcing her mouth with his kisses, Benjamin January probably wouldn’t have noticed anything amiss later on." From A Free Man of Colour

And:

"Sun Wolf’s capture, as Sun Wolf himself reflected at his execution, was sheer, stupid ill luck, which Dogbreath of Mallincore would have told him was only to be expected under the circumstances." From The Dark Hand of Magic

Finally this:

"Had the Icefalcon still been living among the Talking Stars People, the penalty for not recognizing the old man he encountered in the clearing by the four elm trees would have been the removal of his eyes, tongue, liver, heart, and brain, in that order." From Icefalcon's Quest

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Shell swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 26, 2013

'Some people find within their fragile, ephemeral hearts the kind of courage it takes to sail around the world in a tiny yacht, alone.'

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monkeymind reckons...

Posted July 26, 2013

Have always loved the opening paragraph in The Big Sleep

“It was about eleven o'clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark little clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn't care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.”

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted July 26, 2013

Ah, yes, one of my faves too.

damian would have you know...

Posted July 26, 2013

Funnily enough, I am currently re-reading this since I saw the Penguin Modern Classics edition is available to Kindle. Actually got all of Chandler's novels sitting on my Note now, racked up and ready to read.

But yes, one of my favorite openings too.

BTW I still urge all here to take an interest in Crumley. One of his novels, not the best one, starts with: "When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon."

Sekret Sekret would have you know...

Posted July 26, 2013

Oh yeah.Monkeymind, that's one of my all time favourites. It's a killer.
Speaking of killers, JB, about the opener to Blade Runner--- Really? I think that's a terrible line.All subjective, of course.I think it's because of the cult status of the film that people fall for that partiular opening.

damian is gonna tell you...

Posted July 26, 2013

Of course, that novel contains probably at least 5 of my top ten favorite sentences written in English ever, so the opening is just average in that context :/

damian mumbles...

Posted July 26, 2013

I looked down at the chessboard. The move with the knight was wrong. I put in back where I moved it from. Knights had no meaning in this game. It wasn't a game for knights.

Sekret Sekret mumbles...

Posted July 26, 2013

Smooth like velvet.

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Brother PorkChop reckons...

Posted July 26, 2013

It's a poem but still a favourite first line of mine, especially as I do love Christmas.

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

Sekret Sekret mutters...

Posted July 26, 2013

Gotta agree. Magical poem

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LenniMack is gonna tell you...

Posted July 26, 2013

"When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he'd reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him." The Road

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Sekret Sekret swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 26, 2013

Great book, great writer. IMO
My mother is standing in front of the bathroom mirror smelling polished and ready; like Jean Naté, Dippity Do and the waxy sweetness of lipstick. Her white, handgun-shaped blow-dryer is lying on top of the wicker clothes hamper, ticking as it cools. She stands back and smoothes her hands down the front of her swirling, psychedelic Pucci dress, biting the inside of her cheek. ’Damn it,’ she says, ’something isn’t right.’”

Augusten Burroughs, Running With Scissors

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yankeedog has opinions thus...

Posted July 26, 2013

Not a book opening line, but an opening line that I'd bet all of us know anyway.

'Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship 'Enterprise'. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.'

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted July 27, 2013

Call me old fashioned, but I just hate split infinitives.

damian is gonna tell you...

Posted July 27, 2013

"To boldly split infinitives that no man has split before"

NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted July 29, 2013

1st the atom, then the infinitive.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mutters...

Posted July 30, 2013

I suspect infinitives were split long before the atom gave up its radioactive goodness.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 27, 2013

Thank you, Damian. My umbrage feels a bit less solitary.

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AkaSlymann mumbles...

Posted July 27, 2013

I started reading Winnie the Pooh again to my son and thought it was worth a mention:

'Here comes Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it.'

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w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted July 27, 2013

An especially good opening line that gives you a strong sense sense of voice, story and style is the first sentence of Norman Maclean's "A River Runs Through It".

"In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing."

A very good book. You might have seen the 1992 movie directed by Robert Redford, with a cast that included Brad Pitt. I didn't like the movie much. Tried to hard to be lyrical and beautiful. I am a little surprised that it got 83% on Rotten Tomatoes.

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NBlob mumbles...

Posted July 29, 2013
“The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house. All that cold, cold, wet day.”

Acccept no substitutes.

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Respond to 'Great opening lines'

Why I don't have interns at the Burger

Posted July 19, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

Slavery was made illegal once upon a time. But then it became cool again and was called internship. Well, it was cool for the slave owners. Not so much for the interns.

Okay, all right. I’ll dial back the hyperbole. Slavery was probably worse. But then most of the past was heaps worse than the modern world, whatever the engorged longing in the underpants of your Neolithic conservatives for the good old days.

Welcome aboard, summer interns!

Interning, the increasingly common practice of making young people work long periods for free, for the ‘experience’, is a scam that I’ve come to believe should be severely restricted and returned to it’s quaint origins in the old school ‘work experience’ programs.

I know that in writing this I’ll upset a lot of young’uns who see an internship as the first step on the happy staircase to success. I know some will characterise it as the fearful whining of rich, old white man who wants to keys to the kingdom out of young and grasping hands.

But kids, as a rich old white man, let me tell you, we rich old white men are having a lend. We’re laughing at you. You should not be working for months at a time for free. Not the way contemporary interning is currently practiced.

You should never routinely work for free unless, like me, you’re a rich old white man who can afford to take on charity gig every now and then for tax or ego purposes.

Notice the use of the verb, to ‘work’. Increasingly internships aren’t a week of hanging around, ‘learning the ropes’, looking over the shoulders of older, wiser eminences. They’re a rort, a shake down racket.

For a while I looked at the possibility of having interns here at the Burger. After all, I don’t mind running the occasional guest post, and there’s no money in the kitty to pay for them. I also had a ready made supply of interns through my adjunct perfessor thingy with the local university. And I know that the potential interns themselves are among the most fervent believers in these programs. But in the end I decided not to go down that path because I can’t help but feel that modern American-style internships are an opportunity for you to be ruthlessly exploited by a profit-making organisation that well understands the surplus value you are putting into their business, but refuses to pay you a damn cent for it. Because, somehow, somewhere, you got the idea your time, and lots of it, wasn’t worth their money.

This idea, that a recent graduate or anyone, really, a business feels like enslaving, is so worthless, so unproductive, that they are some sort of burden to be endured, an obligation if you will, that the business owner takes on, is pure self serving bullshit. If it was true, interns wouldn't be hanging around for months at a time.*

Sure, you might get something out of sticking your nose in where it’s not wanted at the minimum wage, but only for a couple of days. After that, you’re being shafted.

Whenever I’m tempted to imagine what a feckless, unreliable pack of dilettantes Gen Y can be, I try to remind myself what a ruthless, exploitative and unconscionably greedy pack of bastards they’ve often had to ‘work’ for.

And, by work, I mean slave.

I’d like to turn the Burger into a paying site someday. Even if the payments are minimal. Until then, however, I think I’ll have to struggle along find my own kitteh pics and funny videos.

* My GenX innocence really shone through there. Originally that line read 'weeks at a time'. I've since learned that three months minimum seems to be standard and it's not unknown for some kids to be interning for nearly a year. If I wasn't such a rich old white man it'd make me come over all Karl Marx it would comrade.

43 Responses to ‘Why I don't have interns at the Burger’

Murphy asserts...

Posted July 19, 2013

Once upon a time, a science fiction writer, a fairly prominent one in fact, asked if I'd look at their novel.

The payment? Their gratitude and a note in the acknowledgements.

I'm not going to reveal the name of the writer but needless to say, while I was flattered and thought about it, I knew how well I tended to work when I was being paid with gratitude and acknowledgements.

I passed.

Strange, given the politics of said writer is fairly well to the left, you'd think a bit of money, not much, might have been offered.

Not that I asked. I'd never dream of asking.

Ah, in any case, prior to 2007 I suppose you could have sold me on the shit pay for experience/resume building argument. But then again I've been living in Adjunctland for six years. The general story is that we are used as a means to cut costs of offering courses by paying us McDonald's style wages without any rudimentary benefits.

I stick with the teaching mainly out of love for it, a sign of insanity perhaps, not too far removed from the love I have of writing. On the other hand, I no longer buy the pipe dream of working for low pay/no pay leading to a better job.

As for the work I do take on, I generally get paid what I consider to be a professional rate, adjunctland being the exception. Certainly in lifeguarding I get paid more than most in the local area do.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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NBlob would have you know...

Posted July 19, 2013

After a 5 year hiatus in hospitality (I still fell unclean 15 years later), I just hung around the 7 newsroom @ Maroochydore*, shooting stories, filing archive vision, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes just like a paid camera op until they gave me paid gigs. I established with the Boss of the Newsroom early on that I'd volunteer at my conveniance & a paying gig at 0.0 notice took precedence. If He wanted me there on any specific day, he'd better book & pay. Of course he tried it on a couple of times, but eventually got the message.

After 30 or 40 days "volunteering" across 4 months or so I started getting gigs covering for Barry in Bundaberg, Mikes in Maroochy or Maryborough when they went on leave. After a year or so below the breadline I picked up a full time gig and I was away.

I never could have done it without SWMBO backing me up.

* Where I er, encountered Rosanna Natoli.

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Rob mutters...

Posted July 19, 2013

I got my start in Tv land by working for free, but after a while I got known as the guy who works for free when I was contracting. so basically it was a waste of time and ultimately pointless. Tournament jobs are just full of this bullshit. Jokes' on the employers, They get treated as the employer whether they like it or not, and they are liable for workers comp, insurance, super and tax even if they are a 'voulnteer'. I notice the tattoo industry is similar, work for free and hope you get a break ( or HepC)

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Blarkon has opinions thus...

Posted July 19, 2013

There's a strain of thought in Silicon Valley that a "reputation economy" will supercede the traditional economy. As this myth grows in narrative power, you'll see more people willing to work for free.

damian ducks in to say...

Posted July 19, 2013

People really believe this? Holy moly, it's worse than I thought...

Blarkon ducks in to say...

Posted July 19, 2013

Celebrity doesn't depend on achievement. Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian are examples of having careers that were launched through acts of publicity. The average punter knows people that have worked their arses off and don't earn in a lifetime what Hilton and Kardashian earn in a year.

How many times have you heard "Piracy gives you a bigger audience ..."

So the idea of "Get Reputation" ..... step 2 .... "Get Money" is quite pervasive. It's all Snakes on a Plane (or Sharknadoes) - publicity doesn't equal $. But it will be a long time before we get to that realization because the economy of the internet very much depends on the content generators generating content for free (I mean for reputation) rather than Google(YouTube) having to actually pay them for their time.

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insomniac is gonna tell you...

Posted July 19, 2013

On the other side of the argument, I can spend all day with my thumb stuck up my arse if no-one has anything for me to do.

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I.F. Adams asserts...

Posted July 20, 2013

I'm lucky in that in my field (Computer Science, living right by silicon valley), interns are not only paid, but paid quite well. I had two internships between undergrad and grad and they were both considered relatively low-paying, still throwing out 23 and 35 dollars and hour repsectively. Some of my colleagues (I just finished up in a graduate school lab), made upwards of 50 an hour as interns.

It was and is always shocking to me to see unpaid interns. I think (just my opinion, definitely not a proven fact), that its a combination of factors that cause the unpaid insternship. Oversupply of potential hirees in a particular field, always pushing for better margins, just plain douchebaggery, etc.

And at you Murph, I considered academia after finishing my degree, and I still love teaching, but I couldn't handle the nightmare of applying, let alone the hellish path to tenure. I spent 6 years as a grad student, I don't want to repeat the process... One of my friends in my group, brilliant woman with many publications, sent out dozens of applicaitons and got ONE interview and shot down. Fortunately she lined up a prestigious postdoc (which is another line of nightmare not terribly far from the idea of the unpaid internship...), but its a mess....

I decided to sell out and go to industry and cry myself to sleep with a pillow case filled with money.

Murphy mumbles...

Posted July 20, 2013

I got the wrong degree for the cash filled pillow case option, I am sorry to say. Or I'd sell out too.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted July 20, 2013

Want some swee-et primary sources my man? lookin for historiological context? I can fix you up right here, I got dimes, fitties, I got what you need.

No credit.

I.F. Adams asserts...

Posted July 21, 2013

Yeah, I fully acknowledge I'm incredilby lucky in what I chose rather arbitrarily. My other plan was to pursue history. The fortuitous decision was made by the laziness I had at the time in not wanting to walk to the registrar to change majors.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted July 21, 2013

Oh, Murph. If only you'd been a little bit lazier.

Murphy is gonna tell you...

Posted July 21, 2013

Yeah.

If.

:)

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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pitpat reckons...

Posted July 20, 2013

Work is a four letter word with good reason. You work you get paid is my motto both as employer and employee.

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Conspiracy Cat swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 20, 2013

The one thing that holds true over the years is this: 'It's not what you know, it's who you know'. Internships were a great way to get to know the right people. But now businesses are exploiting interns, this is no longer the case. Not to worry, though. GenY are inventive. They'll soon come up with a new way to shaft each other in the mad scramble for gainful employment.

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Conspiracy Cat asserts...

Posted July 20, 2013

The one thing that holds true over the years is this: 'It's not what you know, it's who you know'. Internships were a great way to get to know the right people. But now businesses are exploiting interns, this is no longer the case. Not to worry, though. GenY are inventive. They'll soon come up with a new way to shaft each other in the mad scramble for gainful employment.

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Rob puts forth...

Posted July 20, 2013

sometimes the law is on the people's side.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted July 20, 2013

I was hoping my son could intern with the Burger.

What the hell. There is always http://www.ellistabletalk.com.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 20, 2013

Ahahahahahaha!

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S.M. Stirling ducks in to say...

Posted July 20, 2013

Nobody will get paid for what other people are willing to do for free.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan reckons...

Posted July 20, 2013

Damn. I really must rethink my business plan.

damian asserts...

Posted July 20, 2013

Paul - I suggest Steve is just showing that he has never had a government contract.

Steve: I actually agree - it's an argument that value is socially/culturally constructed. While markets might make use of value when it exists, they don't actually create it in the first place.

w from brisbane puts forth...

Posted July 20, 2013

Damian
Value may be socially/culturally constructed, if you rightly include advertising in the socially/culturally; but the market prices the value.

damian ducks in to say...

Posted July 20, 2013

w - not disagreeing there.

pi asserts...

Posted July 21, 2013

> Nobody will get paid for what other people are willing to do for free.

If that were the case, there'd be no porn industry.

Dick would have you know...

Posted July 22, 2013

Yeah, but porntube and the likes have made a real dent in that industry

Lulu would have you know...

Posted July 22, 2013

pi - also, no hookers.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted July 20, 2013

I think I understand now. Y'all haven't experienced economic "bubbles" driven by markets that create value from absolutely nothing. The value of bundled mortgages and other derivatives was created out of economic whole cloth by the markets where those imaginary products were bought and sold. Until those bubbles burst, imaginary things were traded back and forth, bought and sold for real money.

Dino not to be confused with mutters...

Posted July 20, 2013

Paul,

Tulip bulbs are not imaginary. They'll come back into fashion and Louisiana will return to 'French' ownership at roughly the same time.

Cheap Real Estate in Motown I hear.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan asserts...

Posted July 21, 2013

"Cheap Real Estate in Motown I hear."

Fuck you. Fuck you and your entire family. Fuck you and the horse you rode in on. And then fuck the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (but for very different reasons).

Everyone is a comedian.

Dino not to be confused with ducks in to say...

Posted July 21, 2013

Paul

There's some squillionare who's buying up Detroit for very good reasons.

He wants to green up the city and make it sustainable and an example of what good urban architecture can be.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted July 21, 2013

You are trying to confuse me with logic. I won't fall for it! But I will retract all comment other than the sentiments I expressed about the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Fuck them and the horse hey rode in on. I am so sick and tired of perfect pitch.

Dino not to be confused with is gonna tell you...

Posted July 21, 2013

OK Paul I'll drop the Tulip Financial Crazy Logic (even though I traded the family home on a particularly rare specimen of bulb, can't wait till it divides, I'll be a squillionarre! Wanna buy into Investment Bulbs'R'S?)but raise you on 'Perfect Pitch' the movie.

Have you seen it? It is out on DVD here and one of the songs made me cry it was so good.

Holy shit!

Maybe Ima Mormon?!

Can I still eat bacon if Ima Mormon?

Mayhem's Mum mutters...

Posted July 21, 2013

No. All ur bacon is belong to me.

damian reckons...

Posted July 21, 2013

(Looks up.)

I'm sure I heard someone mention bacon.

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pi puts forth...

Posted July 21, 2013

Frankly, I think it is despicable. I work in engineering contsruction, and this american system is anathema to me. It even happens in Australia, especially in the architectural design space. If you want to become an architect working on big beautiful things, you work for a couple of years for free getting coffee and picking up dry-cleaning.

I do it the right way... you get a three month probation. If, after three months, you're a complete ass-hat (as in, you can't do the job for which you're being paid), you're out the door. It is one of the reasons I left an employer was because they had this system. It made me feel dirty.

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Anthony reckons...

Posted July 21, 2013

While an unemployed mature age student at university I was asked to do some work on a book my lecturer was writing. I thought great experience for a couple of weeks so I jumped at it. Then I found out I was actually getting paid for it. Even though I was putting a solid effort in, when I realised I was being paid, I'm convinced the quality of my work went up significantly.

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Spanner swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 21, 2013

Every spring I have to sift though the pile of applications to be my personal slave that are sent in by baby town planners desperate to get their work experience credits up so they can graduate.
I thank all the Universities for the mandatory requirement of work experience for Town Planners. Sometimes I get two of three slaves for the summer.
In reality it is quite a burden on the team and even 4th year students take a huge amount of time to get them capable of wiping their own noses. Some of the best we call back and offer positions. But most are just racking up the time. They don’t really want to work hard because they are not being paid and we don’t expect them to work hard because they are not being paid. We know they have to do it for free, so much of the whole work experience thing is done with a nod and a wink.
A better system is employ them as a Student Planner. Pay them. Assign them a mentor. This intern crap is just that. Crap.

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ShaneAlpha ducks in to say...

Posted July 21, 2013

We, on very rare occasions, have had work experience kiddies during school holidays. I used their time as an object lession in why they should stay in school and not beocme a mininum wage slave in a warehouse. I judged success by the looks on thier faces by the second day. Bonus points if I thought that they had cried themselves to sleep that night.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted July 21, 2013

I think I did my school work experience week in a similar fashion. Oh Ipswich City Council Records Deprtment, you learned me good.

Spanner puts forth...

Posted July 22, 2013

A local government records department is a purgatory for the lost souls of pedants damned to spend eternity not giving out the requested file.

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TC reckons...

Posted July 22, 2013

I still stand by my intent to be your intern, John, paid or otherwise. Although given that my current priorities and time constraints restrict me from reading many of your posts simply for entertainment value (let alone taking a moment to posit my own thoughts), I'm fairly sure that you would obtain the same value from me as I would from you. Which essentially just backs up your argument completely. See how supportive I am?

That said, I'm not the average intern - I'm not young, I make plenty of cash already and I'm not interested in using an internship to widen my network or build my career. I just have a love for the written word that I'd like to both expand upon and provide value to others through. I'm the guy that destroys the dreams of young, enterprising, unexperienced journalists / writers...... or I would be, maybe, if I could actually manage to steal away the nonexistent internship they're so yearning for...

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A sci-fi book I'm not going to write but would definitely read

Posted July 16, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

Still mulling over the whole FTL space flight thing, I pulled up short when I read this piece in Slate about the lessons of the Voyager and Pioneer programs. The article is about true space exploration, 'sending spacecraft to places they have never been before, whether or not with a person onboard' but it was the opening par which hooked me:

The speed of light is inconceivably fast. It is just shy of 300,000 kilometers per second. That is, for everyday purposes, instantaneous. A signal from the space probe Voyager 1, which is investigating the limits of the sun’s influence in the galaxy, takes just over 17 hours to arrive at Earth. Voyager 1 is almost 125 times as far from the sun as Earth is, so the signal is very weak when it arrives. The tenuous radio waves are gathered by antennas of NASA’s Deep Space Network, in the Mojave Desert, outside of Madrid, and in Australia.

It put me in mind of the line in Independence day (probably) about the space lizard invasion fleet being picked up on deep space tracking arrays. They arrived a few hours later. A few minutes in screen time.

But what a great story canvas you'd have if the invasion fleet were true ark ships and began to slow down at the edge of the solar system, taking thirty or forty years before they dropped into geostationary orbit to deploy landers. It'd take years just to sort out agreement on what was coming, or at least enough of a workable agreement to fashion a range of responses.

Plus, if the invaders can't do FTL, then their tech level, with no chance of resupply might be close enough to ours to consider something approaching a fair fight.

46 Responses to ‘A sci-fi book I'm not going to write but would definitely read’

Rob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 16, 2013

Turltedove's World War: in the Balance. There were two fleets 20 years apart, the first really couldn't cope that the humans had developed industrial civilation in 800 years since discovery. And the best bit we had ginger which was like crystal meth for the poor lizards. But then Turtledove never really got into the nitty gritty of how they got from point a to point b except the Lizards were in cold sleep and woke up ready for invasion.

Murphy asserts...

Posted July 16, 2013

Rob beat me to it.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

Raymond Camden reckons...

Posted July 16, 2013

I loved the World at War series at first - especially how even the fight was - but I couldn't stand Turtledove's writing after a few books.

Bangar puts forth...

Posted July 16, 2013

I think I would have enjoyed Turtledove more if I hadn't read you JB.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted July 16, 2013

Ah, but I wouldnt have written alt hist if I'd never read Harry. Hence his cameo in WoC.

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Shifty Tourist mumbles...

Posted July 16, 2013

That would make an intersting story... it reminds me of a book I read as a teenager... so sadly I can't remember the title. The society (who happen to be intelligent dinosaurs) at probably around a medieval tech level, take these pilgrimiges by boat to see the "face of god". The story's main protagonist takes this pilgrimage but comes to the conclusion that its actually another planet, and that their planet is a moon. He also sees the planet has a ring around it, notes the fact that their planet seems very unstable (earthquakes tsunamis etc.) comes to the conclusion the ring used to be a moon and that their planet will similarly be crushed.... he calculates using science that it will happen in about a thosand years but starts lobbying the rulers to start preparing, advancing science, prospecting for resources... etc.

The usual sort of challenges arise, disbelief, accusations of blasphemy, "flat earthers" etc.

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Barnesm puts forth...

Posted July 16, 2013

and don't forget Arthur C. Clarke 1979 novel Rendezvous with Rama where alien star ship, initially mistaken for an asteroid is detected in 2130 while still outside the orbit of Jupiter. The object's speed (100,000 km/h) and the angle of its trajectory clearly indicate that this is not an object on a long orbit around our sun; it comes from interstellar space. Astronomers' interest is further piqued when they realise that this asteroid not only has an extremely rapid rotation period of 4 minutes, but it is exceptionally large. It is subsequently renamed Rama after the Hindu god and an unmanned space probe dubbed Sita is launched from the Mars moon Phobos to intercept and photograph the object. The resulting images taken during its rapid flyby reveal that Rama is a perfect cylinder, 20 kilometres (12 mi) in diameter and 54 kilometres (34 mi) long, made of a completely featureless material, making this humankind's first encounter with an alien space ship.

Though at the conclusion it turns out to have a FTL drive from the narrative stand point there is no reason it needs to be, other than to provide a tighter timeline for the story.

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ShaneAlpha swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 16, 2013

Niven/Pournelle "Footfall"

Intelligent space pachyderms migrating to Earth. Used suspended animation and a ark that does less than 5% light speed. Hid out around Saturn to gear up. Invaded using tech level we've imagined but not developed yet. Defeated by insane monkeys flying an Orion class ship with space shuttle fighters strapped to it.

Wolfcat mumbles...

Posted July 16, 2013

yep, my first though was Footfall as well, and we did win :-) ( South Africa took a bit of beating thought )

ShaneAlpha mumbles...

Posted July 16, 2013

They dropped a kinetic weapon into the Indian Ocean, there's a lot of places that didn't fare too well. Perth and WA coastline are obviously gone.

And don't forget the mass nuking of Kansas, by us, but still.

Murphy is gonna tell you...

Posted July 17, 2013

To paraphrase Blofeld, "Kansas. If I destroyed that no one would hear about it for years."

Respects,

Murph the Missourian

On the Outer Marches

pi is gonna tell you...

Posted July 17, 2013

That's what you get for being late to the party. First book I thought of was footfall.

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John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 16, 2013

Rob, you're right. I'd read Harry's book and forgotten that aspect of it. I tend to remember the world war bits.

Still, I'd pay to read a contemporary version.

Fuck, maybe I'll just have to write it.

Rob ducks in to say...

Posted July 16, 2013

I would totally buy that. although I would also buy a book where Aboriginal Australians develop a civilisation seperately from Europe and 'discover' England, say in 1666.

Bunyip mumbles...

Posted July 16, 2013

You write it, we'll purchase and read it.

Raymond Camden would have you know...

Posted July 16, 2013

No dude - first do the alt-history/zombie thing! ;)

Raymond Camden asserts...

Posted July 16, 2013

No dude - first do the alt-history/zombie thing! ;)

Bunyip has opinions thus...

Posted July 16, 2013

I'd just be happy for it to have a place in the queue..

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Surtac reckons...

Posted July 16, 2013
Reminds me of a Larry Niven story too, The Fourth Profession. In this one, aliens travelling slower than light using light sails for propulsion arrive at Earth and want to trade. However interstellar trade is a one-off occurrence, and once it's done, humanity has a choice - either build the orbiting laser-cannon the aliens want to propel them on their way, or they'll blow up the Sun to achieve the same end.

Bunyip has opinions thus...

Posted July 16, 2013

Will hunt that one down; ta muchly Surtac.

Bunyip mutters...

Posted July 16, 2013

Ta again.

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Blarkon swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 16, 2013

Come now, right wingers aren't convinced of Global Warming and now you want them to accept a coming space lizard invasion that no one can detect except for scientists looking for grants from the government. Now you want people to sacrifice resources for what? A bunch of funny rocks that you think are changing speed. Popycock. There's only one way that the world ends and it is detailed in the book of revalation. And the Lord said nothing about space lizards.

Barnesm would have you know...

Posted July 16, 2013

Crap, the Big Space lizard is right.

Rob puts forth...

Posted July 16, 2013

although God visiting the solar system restrained by normal physics would be kinda cool. Surely he or she or Juniper would be bound by the rules created by themselves.

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Shifty Tourist asserts...

Posted July 16, 2013

Similar issues were also raised in Ringworld... essentially Milkyway dwellers notice an awfully big explosion and wave of radiaion emanating out from galactic core which will extict life in the old MW. From memory humanity isn't doing much about it though because it will take a long time to reach earth, but one of the alien races has found a way of shifting their entire planet(s) and are very slowly moving it out to less doomed pastures.

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Barnesm mumbles...

Posted July 16, 2013

Also Tor have just put up an except for a new book Heaven's Shadow by David S Goyer and Michael Cassutt.

In 2016 a pair of amateur astronomers spot an unidentified object—an object one hundred kilometres across and heading towards Earth. As it approaches, NASA and the Russian-Indian-Brazilian Coalition race to land vehicles on the unexplored surface. With power, money and politics behind each mission, both crews have orders to stop at nothing to get there first.

Zack Stewart, NASA’s team leader, is determined to succeed. But as they’re about to land, violent explosions from the meteorite’s surface propel it directly into Earth’s orbit. Analysis shows the explosions were timed and deliberate—but by whom and why? As the world holds its breath, Zack makes a discovery that will change the course of humanity… forever.

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Blarkon has opinions thus...

Posted July 16, 2013

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Dumb_Object (for this branch of science fiction)

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Blarkon mutters...

Posted July 16, 2013

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_the_World has an earth generation ship decelerating into a first contact situation (where they didn't expect anyone to be on the planet that they are arriving at)

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David Bofinger puts forth...

Posted July 16, 2013

In Footfall the aliens hid briefly in the vicinity of Jupiter. Voyager saw their footprint but it wasn't correctly interpreted.

Big problem with Worldwar was that the aliens made no sense in their own terms. For instance: they came expecting to fight knights, but their equipment included anti-aircraft missiles. I would have liked to see an invasion by aliens that had godlike technology but had only brought with them the equipment they expected to need: nation building kit for a world with zero infrastructure and trivial resistance.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted July 16, 2013

That would be awesome. After all, how many times have we sent ill equipped expeditionary forces into the shit?

Rob is gonna tell you...

Posted July 16, 2013

The Race came totally overly prepared as they planned for a cake walk. But their technology was basically our 21st century, so they bought nukes, planes, laser guided missiles, and anything a well planned invasion force might need to fight themselves. They hadnt actually fought a war for centuries and were basically consulting books and references. The story is basically their total inabilty to cope with anything new. But I'm biased because I really like Turtledove. Yes even supervolcano and Hitlers war.

ShaneAlpha asserts...

Posted July 16, 2013

Wrong, it was Saturn (in Footfall), they used the aliens fusion engine to explain the "plaiting" of the F ring. Recently photographed by Voyager 2 just before they wrote the book.

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Andrew McLaughlin swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 16, 2013

You need to read the Hanson Legacy by Vince Massbarger (self published available on Amazon).

It's the first book of a trilogy - interest declaration, have helped proof and edit the first two books, the second of which is due out by Xmas.


JACKET SYNOPSIS

'Cocheta' is a Native American word meaning "That you cannot imagine," an appropriate name for America's "blackest" research facility.

Hidden inside a mountain in a remote and inhospitable region of the frigid Canadian Rockies, the massive complex is a high-tech laboratory for a handful of the most brilliant minds on earth. Together, they struggle to understand and duplicate recovered extraterrestrial technology before America's enemies do... and before an unspeakable horror arrives from beyond the solar system.

Chief Scientific Advisor, Dr. Benjamin Hanson, groomed from childhood to lead an elite team of geniuses, is the project's greatest resource... and a dying man. His ultimate goal: unite the world in developing a defense against what he believes to be a coming invasion. To make it happen, he needs a clever plan. One that will topple a well-established culture of secrecy, allow him to evade those who watch his every move and neutralize a ruthless bureaucrat before the cruel tentacles of incurable cancer rob him of his life.

Hanson's quest begins in glamorous Las Vegas and spans the continent, from the Physics Department at UCLA to the seat of America's government. With enormous resources committed to keeping secret the nightmares concealed inside Cocheta Mountain, will his cunning stratagem tear away a decades-old cover-up and shake the planet to its' core, or take his frightening revelations to the grave?

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PaulC reckons...

Posted July 16, 2013

Hmm. This talk of aliens hiding out in the solar system and waiting to pay us a visit... Makes you wonder if this newly discovered moon orbiting Neptune is really a moon http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23873-neptunes-strange-new-moon-is-first-found-in-a-decade.html#.UeUYT2RRkps

ShaneAlpha is gonna tell you...

Posted July 16, 2013

Iapetius is the already discovered "Death Star".

Surtac mumbles...

Posted July 17, 2013

And don't forget Al Reynolds' novel 'Pushing Ice' from 2005, in which Saturn's moon Janus is revealed to be an alien spacecraft about to leave the Solar Sytem. (that's not a spoiler btw - it's the effective initial premise of the novel).

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Jayanthi's Atomic Cat swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 16, 2013
It's fantastic discussions like this one that keep me coming back. Thanks, folks!

Positively enlightening and a new reading list to boot.

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat has opinions thus...

Posted July 16, 2013
And here on Earth we have the Sharknado. Only a deeply deluded alien race would take us on in those circumstances. Not unless they wanted to be denuded as well as deluded.

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat would have you know...

Posted July 16, 2013
Transmit that in their direction, and they flee in terror and find a less intimidating planet to trample.

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grimjinx is gonna tell you...

Posted July 17, 2013

as above, you write it, we'll pay for it and read it.

But! I'm sure it's not that simple...

What I am annoyed about is that you have flamed the nerd fires in my heart and now they can not be satiated... I need to read this book... or comic... or watch the mini series.

Kickstart it? Sell the idea to Brian K. Vaughn? Crowd source stories from this universe?

I need to know what happens!

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robW mutters...

Posted July 17, 2013

More bibliography. . .And then there are the aliens who take the long, long view, never mind the speed of light:

The Sentinel, Arthur C Clarke (1951)

The short, 30-day view where an alien civilization rises from nothing to beyond advanced (light speed not needed, thank you) in

Dragon's Egg, Robert Forward (1980)

And the long, long sleep:

Who Goes There? John Campbell (1938) -- which metamorphosed into The Thing (1950s) with Gunsmoke's Fes Parker, The Thing II with Goldie Hawn's Kurt Russell, and the endless Alien franchise with Sigorney Weaver playing herself as a teen at the La Costa Country Club.

Finally, there's the 'long and short of it' that is all of the above and none of the above:

Ask Me Anything, can't remember the author (not Damon Knight) but it appeared in one of those 1950s Galaxy Collected Short Stories. The long and short of this story was that an alien race figured out how to have instantaneous travel anywhere in the universe, but the catch was the "process itself" took a near eternity. The unspoken, dark-side suprise to the genie's wish, so to speak. Be careful what you ask for. . . .you might just get what you thought you wanted.

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pi would have you know...

Posted July 17, 2013

Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.

http://www.amazon.com/Footfall-Larry-Niven/dp/0345323440

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Grand Admiral Thrawn puts forth...

Posted July 18, 2013

the book "To Defend the Earth" by william Stoock, it is a series of short stories that follow an event similar to what you describe ranging from discovery of ships enroute and ending years after word.

Andrew McLaughlin would have you know...

Posted July 18, 2013

I read that not long ago....it lost me when they turned former aircraft carriers into spaceships...yes, really!

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