Tag Archives: time

Closing the door on the Noughties

Epitaph for a wrecked and rapid decade

Well, there you have it: 2009 is running on the vapours, and the first year of the second decade of the third millenium is waiting in the wings. Of course, these are all arbitrary numbers, artefacts of happenstance… but one can’t help but get sucked in by the false sense of significance. It’s part of how we’re wired, I think – culturally, biologically. The world turns, and we turn with it, seemingly spinning on the spot but actually moving through space at unimaginable speeds. If we didn’t measure things, we’d go mad. Or maybe madder.

That said, I’m nowhere near as revved up on manufactured significance as I was ten years ago at the turn of the millennium. Despite what I earnestly believed to be a steely cynicism on my own part, the dawn of 2000 was the dampest squib of all… and also for many others, I suspect. This has been the decade when I started to feel like an adult (with all the sense of personal responsibility and existential confusion that implies), and this has been the year when, perhaps, I finally started to act like one. Fake it ’til you make it, as the saying goes. 😉

But why dredge up the past? Forward is a better direction to watch, if only so you avoid bumping into the more visible unexpected obstacles. The changes I’ve made in the last year or two have laid out a route through the future for me… and while no plan ever survives contact with the enemy, it’s good to have a sense of direction, a slice of the compass arc to aim into. I’m looking forward to the coming year, the coming decade – it’s full of dreams to fulfil and promises to keep, and strange new things to learn about.

But looking forward is getting harder, at least in the predictive/speculative sense. It’s almost a cliché to talk about science fiction’s inability to see much further than the end of its own temporal nose, but I think that’s symptom of a more general problem that we have as a species. We’re so much more aware of The Now (and of the failed futures that were imagined in our childhoods, and our parents’ childhoods) than we ever have been. Blinded by the near-infinite array of possibilities before us, we can scarcely guess what’s around the next turn. Obvious guesses will turn out to be naive assumptions; improbable pipedreams and worst case scenarios will become obvious in retrospect. Ken MacLeod hits the nail on the head, saying:

Here in the last day of 2009, I have absolutely no idea what the world will be like in 2019, or what we can expect in the ten years ahead. All I know is that 2019 seems a lot farther in the future than 2009 seemed in 1999.

Yeah, that’s about right. Who knows what the future will hold? But no matter – it’s the sketching/building of the future (one’s own, and that of the whole species) that’s such a curious mix of fun and frustration. But as the late Doctor Thompson used to say, “buy the ticket, take the ride”. I hope you’ll all be along for the journey. 🙂

Books received

And to finish off the year, I’d be remiss not to mention an influx of books to the intray. Two of them were Xmas gifts,and they’re the two non-sf-related titles – namely Richard Wilson’s Can’t Be Arsed: 101 Things Not To Do Before You Die and the latest edition of the Lonely Planet guide to Morocco – but a bunch of other gubbins has tumbled through the letterbox in the last couple of weeks. Let’s see what we have…

Unplugged: The Web's Best Sci-fi and Fantasy 2008

Unplugged: The Web’s Best Sci-fi and Fantasy 2008 by Rich Horton (ed.) [Wyrm Publishing] – the first in what will hopefully be a long-running series, Rich Horton scours the genre webzines and beyond for great stories that were printed in pixels before ink. A very special book for me, as it reprints a story we published at Futurismic (Jason Stoddard’s “Willpower”), but there’s an interesting and well-rounded TOC that I’m looking forward to rattling through some time soon.

Realms 2: the Second Year of Clarkesworld Magazine

Realms 2: the Second Year of Clarkesworld Magazine by Nick Mamatas and Sean Wallace (eds.) [Wyrm Publishing] – does what it says on the tin, a collection of Clarkesworld‘s output from late 2007 to late 2008. Clarkesworld sets a benchmark for quality in web publishing that I dream of matching some day with Futurismic, and it’s great to see a TOC with lots of new names, including plenty of female and/or non-WASP writers included.

The Lights in the Tunnel

The Lights In The Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future by Martin Ford [Acculant Publishing] – a random email query from the publisher offered to send me a copy of this one, rightly assuming that Futurismic‘s editor would be interested to read it. Politics, technology, globalisation, communications, economics, outsoucing, automation… its topics are like a checklist of my geek triggers, and if it’s anywhere near as interesting as it promises to be, it’ll be time well spent.

Do Androids Sleep With Electric Sheep?

Do Androids Sleep With Electric Sheep? Critical Perspectives on Sexuality and Pornography in Science and Social Fiction [RE/search Publications] – offered in the latest titles-for-review list from SF Site, I couldn’t pass up a title like that! A wild collection of essays seemingly rooted in fringe academia, geek and fetish subcultures and the territories of synthetic thinkers, I’m looking forward to seeing what new (or at least new-to-me) ideas this book has to share. To judge by some of the, er, illustrations, it isn’t going to leave many cavities unprobed, so to speak.

The Mindscape of Alan Moore

The Mindscape of Alan Moore [Shadowsnake Films] – yeah, OK, so it’s not a book. I very rarely buy or watch DVDs, but when I passed this documentary looking forlorn on the shelf of HMV during the Xmas shopping period, wearing a knock-down price-tag, I couldn’t pass it up. I’ve heard it praised highly by fans of Moore, and it features Moore himself explaining his worldview… and given that I had a pretty serious jones for the occult as a teenager (not to mention for conspiracy theory, mind control and other leftfield stuff as a twenty-something), this looks like a chance to drink direct from the fire-hydrant of weird. Maybe I’ll sit down and watch it tomorrow… after I’ve finished bagging up the rotting cardboard in the cellar, naturally.*

Coda

So, that’s VCTB done for the decade, and all my other duties discharged (at least until the sun rises on 2010). So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go to the fridge in search of a beer… here’s hoping your new year is whatever you want it to be. Take care, girls and boys, and I’ll see you on the other side. 🙂

[ * – There is probably no more damning indictment of my transition from twenty-something hedonist/nihilist to thirty-something cohabiting self-employed writer-nerd than the fact that I’m viewing New Year’s Day as a date whose lack of regular work commitments makes it ideal for bingeing on unpleasant and lengthy household chores. How the mighty have fallen, eh? Happy new year, folks. 🙂 ]

Going solo!

chain and unlocked padlockOK, so I can at long last officially announce what a few of you have known for a while (and some more of you have guessed). Today I went in to my day-job and gave them my notice to terminate my employment with them as of 1st February 2009. From that date onward, I will be a full-time freelance.

You’d be forgiven for thinking I’m quite insane; hell knows I’ve thought it a number of times in the last few months as I’ve considered my options, and the economic outlook at a global scale hasn’t helped dispel that feeling. Leaving the safety of a regular (and very enjoyable) job for the white-water rapids of full self-employment? And doing so at the gates of what is being described as the biggest recession in nearly a century? I must need my head examined.

And yet… and yet. The last three months have been progressively more crazy; as more work has arrived, I’ve run up against the one limit I can’t hack or work around – the limit of hours in each day. Sure, it’s nice to be earning more than you need, but you can miss having a life beyond it. Something had to give.

So I’ve put in my notice – which was rather tough to do, considering I only found out today that our director died of cancer over the holidays – and I’m making the mad leap. This is why I’m not drinking this year: I need to be financially flexible, I need to be healthy, and I need to be productive. I’ve done my budgeting; it’ll be tight at first, but I can survive if I cut back on crap I don’t need.

And what I’ll lose in income I’ll gain in time – time to create, time to enjoy. I want to be able to play guitar every day without watching the clock; I want to be able to write for an hour a day without staying up an hour later than I should to do so; I want to be able to read books for my own satisfaction, as well as for review.

So that’s what I’m gonna do. I’m going to work, and create, and think. I’m going to pare away the junk and clutter in my life and in my head; I’m going to Viridianise myself. I’m going to stop dreaming about the life I’ve always wanted, and I’m going to chase it down with a big pointy stick.

So, welcome to my new life. Doesn’t look too different right now, does it? But who knows what’s just around the corner…

Thanks for listening. 🙂

PS – Many thanks also to all the people who’ve said supportive, encouraging or – in some cases – derogatory things (yes, that means you, Norris), or who’ve sent me work or helped me learn stuff. I owe you one, so make sure you call it in some day.

[image courtesy Dazzie D]

Finally, something good may come from comment spam

Well, not the comment spam itself, but the methods of dealing with it. You know what ‘captchas’ are, right? The words you have to tpye in with a comment to prove to the website you’re not a spambot but a living human being? Well, here’s what the website of an outfit called reCAPTCHA has to say:

“About 60 million CAPTCHAs are solved by humans around the world every day. In each case, roughly ten seconds of human time are being spent. Individually, that’s not a lot of time, but in aggregate these little puzzles consume more than 150,000 hours of work each day. What if we could make positive use of this human effort? reCAPTCHA does exactly that by channeling the effort spent solving CAPTCHAs online into “reading” books.”

Reading books? Que? But there’s more:

“reCAPTCHA improves the process of digitizing books by sending words that cannot be read by computers to the Web in the form of CAPTCHAs for humans to decipher. More specifically, each word that cannot be read correctly by OCR is placed on an image and used as a CAPTCHA. This is possible because most OCR programs alert you when a word cannot be read correctly.”

See? They’re helping to digitise books by making good use of time we already have to expend on squelching spam! I really hope that it takes off – good ideas deserve to succeed.

How much sleep is enough?

Never quite as much as you just had, in my experience. The BBC looks into the theory of there being an optimum length of time for people to sleep each day, and signs seem to indicate that there is no hard and fast rule:

“In a nutshell, if you sleep for eight hours a night go to work and find yourself lolling and drooling on the keyboard, you aren’t getting enough. If you’re sleeping five hours and running the country, you probably are getting enough.”

Six hours a night is about my average, though I tend to catch up at the weekends – but there’s little sign of me running the country yet. Which is something I think we can all be grateful for …

Friday Photo Blogging: the clocktower

Because time has been a dominant factor in my life recently, y’all can have a picture of the clocktower on Castle Road for your Friday fun:

Castle Road Clocktower

The sky was a gorgeous colour that afternoon (though I need to get a polarising filter to really show that sort of thing off), but it was alsoo bloody cold and windy. Photography isn’t so much fun when you can’t feel the buttons under your fingetips. Continue reading Friday Photo Blogging: the clocktower