Posts filed under 'Science & Technology'

The other side

Look at the jibberish I just wrote in my day job:

public void doTransform(ITransformer Transformer) throws ParseException{

  if(_join != null) _join.doTransform(Transformer);
  if(_condition != null)

That’s the other side of what I do. Is it any wonder that I retreat to writing stories after hours? Makes me feel human again.

Actually, it’s not really jibberish. It’s just a language, called ‘Java’ instead of ‘English’. Its syntax and grammar are suited to communicating with a machine, rather than a person. I used to think that machines were less forgiving than people about incorrect syntax and grammar, but after hearing opinions on writing from beta readers, editors, and authors, it’s clear they can get more heated about grammar than a machine can.

Machines tell you where to get of if they don’t understand the meaning. And even if they do it, and get it wrong, they resort to the child-like refrain of “I only did what you told me to!”

With writers (and readers) it can be less clear what’s acceptable. For people it becomes about a third, softer issue called style. Sometimes those opinions become personal doctrines: “Though shalt remove all adverbs and adjectives.”

Programmers too can get doctrinal about choices in writing code. The bits that the machine really doesn’t care about become grounds for many a heated debate about coding style and readability: “Thou shalt have a comment line for every procedure.”

Languages differ, but people remain the same in any profession – the same in that they differ. The trick is to always look at it from the other side too. The other persons view. You don’t have to agree with them, but as a writer you are obliged to understand them. Surely no one would argue with that!

I think I need to sit down in a darkened room this weekend and write some prose for a while!

Add comment April 17th, 2009

The Death of the Book? – Part 1

Book accessory
Image by Mr. Velocipede

Today is World Book Day (… albeitin the UK and Ireland only – what an oxymoron!)

With Amazon launching the Kindle 2, and sneaking Kindle ebook reader software onto the iPhone, it seems a good time to take the temperature of world opinion on the future of the book form that we celebrate so confidently this day.

Is the poor little book losing its cultural identity or – worse – its cultural significance?

In the same week that research showed social networking sites shortening children’s attention spans, Cory Doctorow warns that this aspect of the twitter generation could transform, if not destroy, the eBook.

What would The Lord of the Rings have become if Tolkien’s publisher’s son had said, “Yes, I love it Dad, and I think you should publish it … but I think he should rephrase it in 140 characters tweets that could fit on my iPhone screen.”

I fear the day when just such editorial demands will be made of authors. My feelings on the prevalent page-turning sentence fragment editorial thriller style is already documented, but how much more destructive will it be for the form when the dictates of the technology determine the style of the writing or – heaven-forbid – the form of the story? How can anything of significance or importance be constructed on such miniscule real-estate? Perhaps, as Doctorow hints, the internet and small-screen eReaders will cause a new renaissance of poetry.

Two years ago I started this blog and with it my journey towards the publishing world. The most important thing I have learned is that the publishing industry is changing – rapidly. Technological shifts combined with recessionary pressures are altering the publishing business of old. My publishing research coalesces my future approach to writing projects and even as I write this, it leaves me wondering am I getting this writing thing all wrong? Should I be reinventing myself as the world’s first haiku cyber-novelist instead?

Perhaps not.

The transformation of the book form may not be all bad. There is hope, but … I’m running out of the necessary cyber-spatial real-estate to complete my point. I’ve kept you here long enough and there are, no doubt, several important tweets demanding your attention at this very moment.

So tune in next time, brave reader, for the concluding bite-sized installment of “The Death of the Book”.

Add comment March 5th, 2009

Kindle 2 Controversy

Not yet out of its box and the Kindle 2 is already causing controversy.

It seems the Author’s Guild considers the text to speech function akin to a public performance of the book, or a publication in a different medium, thus illegally transgressing Amazon’s publication remit..

Will this prevent the launch of Kindle 2? I don’t think so. The battle between author and mighty Amazon rages on …

Add comment February 11th, 2009

Amazon Kindle 2 Released

The new Amazon Kindle will be released in the US later this month.

It can read a book to you, but can I annotate on it with a stylus yet? No. So I won’t be buying this one either.

Maybe Kindle 3.0 … ?

Add comment February 9th, 2009

Evolution is over

The re-write and edit of my novel Broken Evolution is over, and has been sent to an agent who requested it. I hope the improvements will work in my favour, and the five week delay in getting to the agent won’t be held against me!

An interesting little irony – on the week that I finished Broken Evolution, the geneticist Steve Jones gave a lecture, saying that human evolution is over. Am I tapping a vein in the zeitgeist here? I suppose the premise of my book is that, while natural selection might be over, we might be embarking on a lateral step in human evolution instead. The theme came through nicely in the re-write, this time via the plot – where all themes should.

There was also the minor matter of a global economic meltdown during the week.

Evolution is over. Capitalism is dead.

Maybe Douglas Adams was right; it was a bad idea coming down from the trees in the first place. Time to go back up.

I’ll fetch my hammock …

Add comment October 10th, 2008

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